“Leading edge”?

There’s this new book out, Life: The Leading Edge of Evolutionary Biology, Genetics, Anthropology, and Environmental Science, which has a number of people rightfully irate that it has 23 authors, not a one of them a woman. I was also astounded to see among its leading edge authors Ernst Mayr, who died in 2005 at the age of 100.

There are no women in evolutionary biology who can compete with the corpse of a centenarian man? That’s pretty bad.

And Kary Mullis? Good grief.

I guess this article wasn’t humorous after all, but dead serious reporting.

What is a “computer”? What is “information processing”?

Just before I left the States, I read this, shall we say, interesting article about how your brain is not a computer. The subhead, which does more or less summarize the content, is:

Your brain does not process information, retrieve knowledge or store memories. In short: your brain is not a computer

Curiously, in order to comprehend the article, I had to retrieve knowledge and stored memories about neuroscience (I have a degree in that) and computers (I worked in the field for several years), and I had to process the information in the article and in my background, and I found that article confusing. It did not compute.

Jeffrey Shallit, who knows much more about the information processing side of the story, also found it somewhat enraging.

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Yesterday, we saw this big green area, Apsan Park, on the map, and it was in walking distance…so we started walking. And then we discovered that the flat oval on the map was actually a mountain. A mountain in the middle of the city. So we gave up and went back to our hotel.

But today, we got a cab and got driven up to the cable car that takes you to the top, so that’s what we did.

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Ban football

It’s the only decent thing to do. It’s a thuggish sport that allows thugs to rise to positions of privilege, and fosters an environment of brutality and viciousness.

Or, if that’s too radical for you, shut down the football program at Dietrich High School in Idaho (warning: tale of gross racism and rape at that link). They’ve lost any right to ever play the game again.

David Silverman understands how codes of conduct work

And DJ Grothe does not. The Reason Rally has a published Code of Conduct, and apparently a few bad apples are protesting that they won’t attend because they don’t want their freedom to harass limited. Dave does a very good job of explaining what they do and don’t do, and why they are reasonable. Don’t read the comments, though. So many people are getting their asses in a wringer because they hate being told that they don’t get to do whatever they want at a public event.

In vaguely related news, Ammon Bundy is planning to sue Multnomah County for violating his right to bear arms in prison.

Stupid people who don’t understand that living among other people compromises your right to have tantrums over your privileges are everywhere.

An excess of optimism

I read this article, Hitchens, Dawkins and Harris are old news — a totally different Atheism is on the rise, with considerable disbelief.

More and more, the strongest atheist voices are talking about nonbelief less as an end in itself, but as part of a larger conversation about social justice. It could hardly be any other way: atheism is growing not only in numbers, but in diversity. When Dawkins, Harris and Hitchens were at their most prominent, a frequent (and credible) criticism was that the faces of atheism were all white, male and affluent. To make the same claim now is to deliberately ignore some of the most vital atheist and skeptic voices that have emerged in the last 10 years.

I wish.

It’s what I want to happen, and maybe I just have a distorted perspective, but when I look at my email and see the hate pouring in, all from atheists who are deeply resentful of women and minorities, and somehow blame me for letting them in (which is twisted enough as it is — these people are so far gone that they can’t imagine this situation occurring without an old white guy being responsible), and I don’t see what change this author is seeing. The same white, male, affluent (or white, male, not-rich-enough-and-hating it) faces are still here, still dominating the conversation, still smugly confident that they are right and in control, still flooding any women or minorities with concentrated bile.

I’m disillusioned. I’m not seeing any substantial improvement at all. And as just another old white guy, there’s not a damned thing I can do about it without getting all the blame/credit from the same old bigots.

OK, maybe I won’t bother to come home

I’m scared, Mommy. I just saw the latest NRA ad, which is a warning to the “ayatollahs of Iran” about what insane, violent, stupid people live in the “heartland of America”. The only true Americans are farmers and miners and policemen in our “urban war zones”.

It’s racist as fuck, and as simple-minded and macho as a fat old white man can be (I can say that, it’s my demographic). And the NRA thinks it is smart and a benefit to their cause to air this absurd ad.

Well, I’m from the “heartland of America”, and I’m a liberal college professor, the antithesis of the NRA, and I’m an American too. Some bigot in a bedazzled coat and a cowboy hat doesn’t get to decree what constitutes a real American.

Is this really what we want people abroad to see as the face of America?

Day one in Korea

We arrived in Daegu at about 3am last night. We were exhausted, but we had to go out for a meal — I don’t know what you call a 3am meal, though. Dinfast? So we popped into a little all night restaurant, took off our shoes, and sat on mats, and ordered something mysterious off a menu in Korean from a woman who only spoke Korean. It turned out to be what can only be called pig spine soup. There was a big bowl, with cabbage and a savory soup, and big lumpy bones, which were vertebrae nicely sawed in half on the saggital plane. Not vegetarian. Oh, well. So we picked off little slivers of meat off the bones with chopsticks and spoons. I also ate the spinal cord, which was a first for a guy who studied spinal cords for so many years. It was tasty. So was the kimchee and pickled vegetables on the side.

Then we got a cheap hotel–25,000 Korean won per night, which was nothing, since once we’d done the currency exchange at the airport, we were millionaires. Big bonus, too–when we checked in, they gave us a bag of special items for our stay, which included condoms. Score! I don’t think we are the usual kinds of customers here.

We did a little sight seeing in Daegu today, but not much, because once we finally checked into the hotel, we slept until 2 in the afternoon.

That’s my excitement so far. We’re talking about going up some nearby mountain or hitting some museums in the next few days, so stay tuned for more thrilling adventures.