You might be surprised at what is computable nowadays

Meet Oliver.

I’m a Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) researcher and programmer living slightly north of Castle Black. I study online communities, focusing on how people consume content, how user behaviour varies between desktop and mobile platforms, and how we can best understand systemic bias in peer-production communities.

He writes C++ and R code. His perspective sounds like the kind of contribution a lot of programming communities need, so I would think it valuable to keep him around. Unfortunately, he has resigned from the R community. He found something simple, obvious, and wrong, so he fixed it and submitted a report. Exactly as you’re supposed to do, right? Only this was the problem:

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I’m going to have to renegotiate my contract

I’m a full time professor of biology, with a Ph.D. I put in long hours teaching 2 or 3 courses a semester for a middle class income.

Marco Rubio dabbled in teaching college, too. He’s got a law degree. He had a part-time teaching appointment — one course — and worked less than 10 hours a week. He got paid more than I do, $69,000. Any adjuncts out there getting by on a few thousand dollars per course? You might want to be pissed off.

There’s more. As is typical for Rubio, he shirked. He missed 30% of the classes. I teach a course 3 days a week — that would be like skipping one of those classes every week. I teach two of those courses this term.

And get this: he wasn’t the sole instructor. It was co-taught with another guy, who did all the prep work.

“We had to prepare 28 new lectures for this new prep,” he said, noting that it usually takes him “3 to 4 hours to prepare a completely new lecture,” and that he’s actually taking time off of teaching next semester to prepare a few new courses for the year.

That’s about right — maybe even a bit on the low side. It’s a lot of work to put together a new course. Rubio didn’t have to do any of that.

And hey, look at this:

And though Rubio helped prepare the tests for the class, Moreno said during the deposition, “I didn’t let him do any of the grading,” joking that, “he’s still a politician, and I was afraid he was going to give everyone A’s!”

He. Didn’t. Have. To. Do. Any. Of. The. Grading. I would be so happy if I didn’t have to do any grading. That’s what I’m going to be booked up doing this weekend.

“How do we justify paying him as much as we do to teach one course?” asked Amy Paul-Ward, an associate professor in the Nicole Wertheim College of Nursing and Health Sciences, according to the FIU student paper. “I know there are qualified adjuncts in our school who we have trouble paying $3,000 to teach a course.”

And those adjuncts would be expected to prepare the content of the course, show up for every lecture, teach it by themselves, and do all the grading.

Hey, if I became a Republican would I get a raise and a reduction in work load? Maybe not as much as Rubio got — I wouldn’t want to be greedy — but it seems only fair.

Those troublesome, shaky X chromosomes!

It’s easy to find lists of dumb things creationists say, and I’m familiar with that lot, but here’s a fun new time-waster: Things Anti-Vaxxers Say. Here’s a beautiful example of something I’ve rarely seen so clearly stated: they get the facts totally wrong, actually the reverse of the actual situation, but nope, that doesn’t stop them from inventing a bogus rationalization around them.

You can do your own research but it comes down to chromosomes -- the X chromosome is shaky, and boys have two of them. So they are quite literally twice as likely as girls to be adversely affected by genetic and environmental factors that can lead to the development of autism -- they are at twice the risk, purely because of their gender alone.

You can do your own research but it comes down to chromosomes — the X chromosome is shaky, and boys have two of them. So they are quite literally twice as likely as girls to be adversely affected by genetic and environmental factors that can lead to the development of autism — they are at twice the risk, purely because of their gender alone.

Uh-oh. I have 22 other chromosomes besides my sex chromosomes (I’ve actually seen them!), and…they’re all in pairs. I’m doomed.

But wait! I only have one X chromosome! I’m saved by the reduction in its pernicious influence!

Stop pooping! You’re killing sentient beings!


In a recent quack conference, Deepak Chopra did his usual thing: taking new science that he understands poorly and stuffing it full of magic bogosity.

According to Chopra, that pesky inflamed microbiome is sentient. The genome, microbiome and epigenome, which the author collectively calls the “super gene,” are referenced throughout the interview. His book, Super Genes: The Key to Health and Well-Being, was published last year.

Oh, no! Every time I use the bathroom, I am slaughtering billions of sentient beings? I’m going to have to stop pooping.

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At least they picked the right place for it

Two men got into an argument over a $25 fee in a gun shop, and what do you know, they all decided to resolve it with — you guessed it — guns. End result: two dead, two in the hospital with critical injuries.

What struck me, though, is where it occurred: Picayune, Mississippi. It seems to me unwise to be selling deadly firearms in a place where you just know petty squabbles are going to flare up all the time.

Anonymous agents behaving underminingly

The stories about prominent harassers in the field of astronomy have been coming out a lot lately, and kudos to the field for taking steps to end a severe and chronic problem that impairs the advancement of half the members of the human race. But of course you knew the counter-reaction was coming. It’s inevitable. Pointing out that prominent men have been doing bad things always leads to defensive shrieks of witch hunt!.

So here it comes: a “group” called Underground Astronomy is very concerned about the well-being of harassing astronomers. The women they’ve chased out of the discipline, not so much.

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Hey, you know who else is camping in a cold remote wilderness?

The Bundyloons, the militia who took over the Malheur refuge. I at least had a pleasant companion in my wilderness adventure, but these guys…it’s turning all Lord of the Flies out there in Burns, Oregon.

Rumors and harsh facts arriving from outside the grounds of an Oregon nature preserve appear to be roiling the armed militants who have taken over a federal building in hopes of sparking an armed confrontation with government agents.

At least one of the militants, Joe “Capt. O” Oshaugnessy, left the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge amid drinking claims after arguing with participants over bringing their wives and children to the standoff, and another — Brian “Booda” Cavalier — left the compound after news reports revealed he had lied about serving in the military.

A former compatriot-turned-opponent claims one of the most prominent militants, Blaine Cooper, sucker-punched one of his friends — sending the counter-protester to the hospital with a concussion and serious facial injuries.

Has anybody thought to send them a conch, yet?