Never trust John Hagee with a secret

He’ll just babble the secret out everywhere and ruin it. He has revealed that the Anti-Christ will make himself known to the world on 30 August 2016. Way to ruin the surprise, guy.

(Warning: what follows is a half hour of stark raving madness. I only lasted 4 minutes.)

Welp, I was going to keep everyone on edge until 11:59 tonight, but I guess I might as well ‘fess up.


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The canonical Nice Guy

Can you stand one more story of men behaving badly today? I promise to stop after this one, but it’s just so classically awful–a nice guy loses it when he’s turned down for a date.

tried being nice. From the time I wrote a MyTake honoring what I love most about women to when I defended older women from the misogynistic charge that they are worthless. I even wrote a letter to my future daughters, because I loved women and delighted in the fantasy of someday raising women of my own as a father. But now things have changed, and changed badly they have.

To those who have been following my recent escapades at work, this is the update you asked for.

Upon receiving my “Yes” and her phone number, I called the girl in question and tried to plan an official date. Not only did she reject me, which is strange after initially expressing interest and volitionally giving me her phone number of her own choice, but she told all of my coworkers that I stole her number off of Facebook and have been stalking her, and that I am a creeper.

She was a lying cunt, simply put, and has completely jeopardized my status in the workplace.

That’s only the beginning. The rest of the monster article is just JRICHARDS1996 raging about evil women who are nothing but whores and how he prefers a conniving prostitute to those wicked females and how he used to be such a nice guy but never again because women are so bad. And he leaves us with a final threat.

As it is, I will never approach another woman again. That nice guy that was once inside of me is completely dead. Dead, and you killed him. You crucified him. You nailed him to the Cross.

Show of hands–how many women reading this are now grieving at the loss of this Nice Guy from the dating pool?

How many of you think it would be appropriate to scoop something out of the cat box and hand it to him, saying “Here’s a cookie”?


Jesus,no. You have to read another article by this guy: In Honor of Femininity: The 5 Things I Love Most About Women. It begins…

I have been accused of sexism and misogyny multiple times by females on this website. And even though those claims could not be further from the truth, I thought it would be in good taste to vindicate myself by composing a tribute to femininity. That is, a celebration of what it means to be a woman. So in honor of femininity, I have taken the liberty of listing the five things that I love most about women.

You can guess what follows. Just to spare you, the five things are:

  • They are Cute. Like, when they paint their toenails or bake cakes.

  • They are Sexy. “Have you seen just how sexy the female form is buck naked?”

  • They are Selfless. They take care of children and clean house for us!

  • They are Nurturing. “Even the most attractive, classiest ones still have a soft spot for crying losers such as myself, and are there to provide comfort.”

  • They are Emotionally Receptive. “Whether it is consoling a man on the verge of a suicide or expressing some little bit of kindness to an addict at rock bottom who needs to feel loved even if by a random stranger, women are capable of understanding emotion and doing what needs to be done.”

To put the W(t)F in awful, the whole thing is illustrated with half-naked pinup pictures.

You’re doing it wrong

Times Higher Education has another of those tedious articles in which some learned academic harumphs that you should not use social media. This one is kind of interesting, though, because his reasons why you should not tell us a heck of a lot about about Gabriel Egan.

How many friends have you got, and how many people do you know? If you use social media such as Facebook and Twitter you can probably quantify these things quite readily, but the answers will be wildly inaccurate as we all routinely overestimate these things.

What is more, the answers will be irrelevant to your work as an academic. We are all quite naturally obsessed with what our friends and acquaintances think of us and we crave evidence of the esteem in which we are held.

In return for feeding our desire for evidence of how we are doing in our social interactions – our narcissistic craving for others’ approval – first Facebook and then a group of other social media corporations persuaded half of humankind to give up their most intimate personal details.

So Gabriel Egan thinks people engage in conversations on social media to run up the score, to get a quantitative tally of how many friends you have? Is that how he thinks?

Gabe, Gabe, Gabe. I know there are some people who think that way, carefully counting their twitter follows and facebook likes, but the people who are really good at social media are using it as a channel for communication and self-expression. They are not keeping score. If you are, and especially if you think that’s the whole reason for using social media (or publishing papers or getting grants), you’re doing it all wrong, and your reasoning about it is invalid.

How to Talk to a Woman Who is Wearing Headphones

angrywalter

Dan Bacon is oblivious. He’s written this longish article explaining how to get a woman to stop what she is doing and pay attention to a man, and never once stops to think about what the woman might want. He seems to think that if he’s cute and ingratiating enough, someone will like to be interrupted.

I have a shorter article explaining How to Talk to a Woman Who is Wearing Headphones, and here it is.

Don’t.

That’s all. Have some respect and understand that other people aren’t necessarily all about you, you narcissistic dork.

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The fountain of youth must meet some reasonable expectations

There are two interacting factors I expect of a good scientific explanation. One is empirical evidence, obviously — everyone knows that. You don’t get to sit back in your easy chair and make up ‘evidence’, and it’s unsatisfactory science if you don’t actually have any data to back it up.

unscientific

But there’s another piece that’s hinted at in the cartoon: theory. Without theory, you can’t have evidence; you have a miscellany of disconnected observations that don’t get you anywhere. You need to be able to answer the question “what did you see?”, but you also need to answer “why did you go looking for it?” and “how do you interpret what you saw?” Having an expectation that all of those basic questions ought to be answerable before you accept an idea means, unfortunately, that I have to reject a lot of entirely desirable ideas.

I’d like a fountain of youth, for instance, or at least a pill that would slow down the effects of aging, but that doesn’t imply that I get to have one. There’s a hot new company, Elysium Health, selling a pill called Basis, which is supposed to keep you young longer.

I recently received in the mail a small cardboard box, solidly constructed and colored a subtle metallic gray, from the future. ELYSIUM HEALTH was printed on it in white sans-serif capital letters. Inside, a smaller crisp white box, banded in blue and imprinted with a letterpress E, described its contents as “a daily health product designed to optimize and support your most critical metabolic systems,” including “DNA repair,” “Cellular detoxification,” “Energy production,” and “Protein function.” Within was an elegant pillbox containing 60 capsules. The technical language obscured an arresting truth: Basis, which I had ordered online without a prescription, paying $60 for a month’s supply, was either the most sophisticated fountain-of-youth scam ever to come to market or the first fountain-of-youth pill ever to work.

That is such a hopelessly naive article. That last choice is silly: it’s a scam. The author has no reason to believe any of the claims on that box, except that they sound sciencey. Well, maybe they sound sciencey to a layperson: they all sound like crap to me. “DNA repair,” “Energy production,” and “Protein function” are all routine cellular functions, and I don’t even know how you can “optimize” stuff that has 4 billion years of evolution behind it with a pill, but maybe they have a theory to suggest a strategy? We’ll see. As for “Cellular detoxification,” good gob, that’s a pseudoscientific buzzword — haven’t you learned yet that when someone sells you a detox plan, they’re peddling the purest quackery?

That’s the opening paragraph. So when I read further, I’m going to be looking for two things: I want to see a plausible explanation for how this pill works, and I want to see evidence. It’s entirely possible to have a phenomenon that works that they don’t understand — data trumps theory — but I still will want to see a tentative explanation for what they see.

Sadly, though, the evidence for the effectiveness of the pill seems to be largely built around random anecdotes.

Others who’d taken Basis before me had described effects including fingernail growth, hair growth, skin smoothness, crazy dreams, increased stamina, better sleep, and more energy. Once I began taking it, I did feel an almost jittery uptick in mojo for a few days, and I slept more soundly as well. Then those effects seemed to recede, and there were also mornings where I felt a little out of it. If these were placebo effects, they were weird ones, because they didn’t make me feel better, only different.

There doesn’t seem to be any clinical evidence that this particular pill does anything. In fact, in another telling move, the company has skipped all that horrible FDA approval stuff by marketing it as a dietary supplement. Basically, they’re announcing that they can’t demonstrate any substantial effects, so they’ve chosen a marketing strategy that allows them to claim vaguely beneficial effects without the onus of actually providing any evidence for them.

So what about a theory? Here it is.

Scientists have recognized since the 1930s that calorie-restricted diets extend life in mammals (we evolved, the thinking goes, to withstand periods of famine, downshifting our metabolism in order to defer reproduction until we were again in a time of plenty). Guarente was one of the first to discover a single gene with a linchpin role in the process: in his case, a class of molecules called sirtuins. Now, aging science is in a growth spurt, with an accelerating race to develop compounds that target such master genes. The idea, and the premise of Basis, is that certain compounds might trick our bodies into thinking they’re starving (thereby extending our lives) without our having to feel hungry.

Uh-oh. There is a substantial literature on caloric restriction improving longevity; I haven’t been dazzled by any of it, since a lot of it is on model systems (and as someone who works on a model system, I can tell you that there is a lot of weirdness there), and the effects have been modest and variable. But caloric restriction has real physiological effects, unsurprisingly, and I’m seeing it touted as a treatment for everything from aging to Alzheimers to cancer. It all seems to be wobbling about in the world of straining for good p values, though, rather than the practical world of actually being robustly effective. But hey, we should keep studying it — maybe we’ll find some clear answers. We haven’t yet. We certainly haven’t found a recipe for reliable outcomes.

Sirtuins are also cool and interesting. These are proteins that regulate cellular pathways…a lot of different pathways. Saying that sirtuins play a role in aging-related metabolic pathways is literally true and wonderfully broad and ambiguous. They also seem to be an important mediator in the pathways stimulated by resveratrol, for instance, so hooray, there is a link between one vaguely beneficial pathway and another vaguely beneficial pathway! What do you mean, if you multiply weak statistical effects by other weak statistical effects, you don’t get stronger statistics?

So the theory behind this pill that has no evidence that holds up in clinical trials is that they are going to activate an enzyme that has multiple roles, but a few of those roles seem to be associated with weak effects on aging in some studies, so upregulating those pathways has to be good for you, right?

I don’t know. Here’s an old computer control panel with lots of switches.

Univac9200b

Somewhere on that box is a switch that, if you flip it on, turns on the whole machine, which is good. Therefore, if there are a lot of switches, it’ll work better if you flip them all to the up position. I don’t even know why they bother with switches at all — wouldn’t it be more efficient to get rid of them all and put everything in a permanent ‘on’ state? Science!

Another bothersome phenomenon: the company’s advisory board is packed with 6 Nobelists. This is more marketing than science; there is no reason to think that having a Nobel prize makes one universally wise, but it does persuade the rubes. Then there’s the disturbing phenomenon of people getting committed to believe in something for the sake of that belief, and their reputation, while not actually being convinced intellectually.

Then again, all these people are financially and reputationally incentivized to believe in Basis. Even Nelsen acknowledged he could be experiencing a placebo effect. I asked other scientists, outside Elysium’s orbit, whether they take the pill. Olshansky told me he takes nothing: He tries to exercise daily and watch what he eats. Kennedy, likewise, takes nothing: “I said I’m going to wait till I’m 50 before I start taking anything. I run, I try to keep my caloric level down, I manage stress.” Kaeberlein takes nothing but says he’s “getting more and more tempted to take rapamycin in a low dose.” Sinclair, who now co-directs a Glenn-funded center at Harvard, still takes resveratrol every day and also takes an NAD booster (he has his own biotech company, currently in stealth mode, focused on that booster).

I have to say, though, these guys are actually saying smart things. Moderation, sensible diet, reasonable exercise, managing stress — these seem to be effective ways to limit the effects of aging. If you’re doing those, you don’t need a magic pill. And if you’re doing those things while taking the pill, the magic pill will look even better.

But if you’re not living healthily, you might want a magic pill that that gives the benefits of a healthy life style. Which means that Elysium Health, like all the quack nostrum peddlers, is going to make money. That’s all that matters, right?

Tom Wolfe’s magic combo move

Here’s a formula for seeming wise: take two complex, deep topics that are individually the domain of specialists, and that may be unfathomable to the general public. Combine them in some arcane way; you can trust that the set of experts who understand both topics will be minuscule, so you’ll be able to get away with a lot of nonsense, because experts in A will be impressed with your knowledge of B while thinking you don’t know squat about A, while experts in B will be vice versa. The classic example of this strategem is Velikovsky, who blended expertise in Middle Eastern mythology with astrophysics. Astrophysicists thought his flying, colliding planets that ignored conservation of energy were ludicrous nonsense, while gosh, there sure are a lot of provocative ancient texts talking about astrophysics, while classical scholars were shocked at all the liberties he was taking with history, but gee whiz, that physics stuff is impressively daunting. Meanwhile, the people who nothing about either were applauding him as a genius.

We have another example, and unfortunately, it’s the brilliant writer Tom Wolfe. He has taken his dilettante’s understanding of two subjects to attempt to fuse them: in this case, linguistics and evolution. One would think those two would complement each other nicely, but not when the author’s preconceptions are simply stuck in human exceptionalism, and his arguments are all about ‘proving’ his assumptions correct, no matter how false they are. And, most unfortunately, it leads him to conclude not that his understanding of linguistics is deficient, but that evolution must be false.

There’s absolutely nothing like it [speech], and I think it’s time for people who are interested in evolution to say that the theory of evolution applies only, only to animals.

He’s also not worried that creationists will love this, because, he says, there’s there’s not a shred of whatever that depends at all on faith, on belief in an extraterrestrial power. Ah. So intelligent design creationism it is, then.

You might want to take a look at this wonderfully entertaining review of the book. It’s an ahistorical mess — Wolfe claims that Darwin was obsessed with proving that human speech was derived from animal sounds, for instance, and that the whole idea of examining the evolution of speech was discarded after Darwin, until Chomsky. He not only gets the history of evolution wrong, he mangles the history of linguistics.

Speech, Mr. Wolfe says triumphantly, gave our species “the power to conquer the entire planet,” “the power to ask questions about his own life,” the power to control other human minds—“a power the Theory of Evolution cannot even begin to account for . . . or abide.” “Speech! To say that animals evolved into man is like saying that Carrara marble evolved into Michelangelo’s David.”

And here my pen dropped onto the bonded-vinyl flooring. I stared at the page with a slack, dopey expression. I scratched my fuzzy head. I just did not understand. Even if speech were entirely due to culture, why is this some sort of victory over evolution? Why the boosterish chest-thumping? No biologists think that the great creations of our species— Mozart’s symphonies, Katsura Villa, the Mahabharata, integral calculus—were due to natural selection. None believe that today’s languages evolved from some unknown ape tongue. Meanwhile, everyone who accepts evolution at all—including, I had thought, Mr. Wolfe—knows that the larynx evolved over time, as did the pharyngeal cavity, motor cortex and the rest of the mechanism of speech. Geneticists have turned up a library of genes involved in language. Zoologists have found that animal sounds are more complex than previously believed (most are “non-Markovian,” in the jargon). To all of these people, the arrival of language is not a matter of abrupt on-and-off, like a light switch, but more a subtle accumulation, like a dimmer switch. Co-evolution, as Darwin hand-waved at the beginning. But even if there were an exact line to draw, as Mr. Wolfe contends, why would shifting it here or there reflect better on our species? Why does it matter whether Mr. Wolfe used a product of nurture or nature for his razzle-dazzle prose? Either way, it’s all his.​

It’s all very sad. Wolfe will use his considerable talents at writing to successfully peddle nonsense to the public, doing harm to public education, giving me yet another line of babble to refute which will be smugly thrown at me for the next several years, and the only gain will be that Mr Wolfe will be able to buy a few more white suits while his bullshit rises on the NY Times bestseller lists.

Man, maybe I ought to do some retirement planning. What two subjects do I know very little about (that part’s easy, most of the subjects), but can profitably merge to sound innovative and insightful? Everyone goes for the obvious one, quantum physics, so I think that’s played out. Hmm. Photonics and immunology? Gravity and time travel? Indian cooking and renewable energy? I’m sure all I have to do is find the right catchy combo, and then I’ll be on all the talk shows.

On the fritz

My lovely little PowerMac Pro is having conniptions — I suspect a bad connection to the display, because intermittently the screen will decide that white will be displayed as purple, and everything else as shades of green and yellow. It turns out that that color scheme is really hard to read, and writing is even harder. I’ve checked the obvious — like that it is one of the display options I can configure, and it isn’t — and will test it later today with an external display to see if it’s the logic board or the display board.

Writing today will depend on how long it can stay in a normal, healthy, readable mode — I don’t feel like blogging by doing the equivalent of fingerpainting in Fruit Loops tinted vomit.

Perhaps this will make an interesting plot twist in the next Jurassic Park movie

Jack Horner, the paleontologist who was the model for Dr Alan Grant in the Jurassic Park, has been ‘forced out’ of his position at the Museum of the Rockies, and is now working at the Burke Museum in Seattle. Good for the Burke, was my first thought, but the second was, “Why is the Museum of the Rockies kicking out their most famous scientist?” Then I read the story.

First reasonable reason — he’s 70. That’s a good age to step back from the grind…but ask me again in 10 years.

The second reason Horner gives is politics. The second reason is that museum director Shelley McKamey, the museum director, is married to Pat Leiggi, director of paleontology and exhibits. He says they’ve had it in for him, and criticizes the fact that their marriage creates an automatic alliance that overpowers other obligations. He’s basically objecting to the marital status of other people at the museum, claiming it gives them an unfair advantage. Which answered nothing — why would the fact that a couple of museum directors are married mean he’d be squeezed out?

And then Horner himself explains why they opposed him, and my sympathy evaporates.

The problem started in 2012, Horner said, when he married then 19-year-old undergraduate student Vanessa Weaver. He “adored” Weaver, but the marriage was their way of telling the university — she wasn’t one of his students — to butt out of their relationship after Horner was instructed to officially disclose the nature of their relationship and was told they would be scrutinized.

“And then they could check on it and they could decide on it. They could come say anything they want, so we got married so we could do anything,” Horner said. “And through the whole thing she had a boyfriend. There wasn’t like something nefarious going on. I adore her. She’s adorable, obviously we really like each other.” They’re divorced now, but still friends.

McKamey and Leiggi “went apoplectic” over the marriage, Horner said. “Before that happened they were my best friends. They basically haven’t talked to me since.”

Welp.

OK, so he was fooling around with a student who was less than a third of his age, and thought he could legitimize it with the university by entering into a sham marriage? I don’t think university’s objection would be to sexual activity out of wedlock — this is the 21st century, and as we all know, universities are bastions of liberalism — but to sexual activity with a student. Trying to get around that problem with what he openly admits was a fake marriage makes the problem worse.

And now he’s divorced? Does that mean he’s going to be looking for another sweet young thing?

Now I’m wondering if the Burke Museum is keeping an eye on him.