Krugman + Schneier + Cracked

Someday, the people in power (who will not be Republicans) will accept the wisdom of an economist, a security expert, and a humor site. I’m not holding my breath, though.

But our job is to remain steadfast in the face of terror, to refuse to be terrorized. Our job is to not panic every time two Muslims stand together checking their watches. There are approximately 1 billion Muslims in the world, a large percentage of them not Arab, and about 320 million Arabs in the Middle East, the overwhelming majority of them not terrorists. Our job is to think critically and rationally, and to ignore the cacophony of other interests trying to use terrorism to advance political careers or increase a television show’s viewership.

That’s harder than playing Pick the Bad Guy, though.

This is why I’m an atheist

There’s this new movie coming out, Gods of Egypt, which looks like a horrendous fecal splatter of CGI with Egyptians played by Canadians and Scotsmen. I’m serious. I expect poutine and bagpipes, with pyramids in the background, and testimonials from Ben Carson on the historical accuracy of the movie.


Gotta love those activist students

Even when (especially when?) they make us uncomfortable. Our students have just noticed the dirty little secret of a lot of universities: we pride ourselves on the diversity of the student body, but when you look at the faculty and administration, a whole lot of that diversity magically pales to white. So they’re having a rally tomorrow at 1:30, meeting in the Science Atrium and migrating towards the administration, to demand more equality in our hiring practices.

And look, they’re smart and all empirical and everything!

faculty ratios

I’m so proud of them.

It’s a real problem. We have a mostly white faculty, so hiring committees are mostly white, and somehow, miraculously, they always seem to find that the very best candidates are also always white. Weird, huh?

Before I get accusations that I, rabble-rouser, put them up to it, I had absolutely nothing to do with this event — it’s entirely our students paying attention and figuring out what’s going on. But I’ll be there in support!

The Huck is full of…

It’s always fun when a Republican jerk opens his mouth to say something stupid. Here’s Mike Huckabee, arguing that we shouldn’t accept Syrian refugees because Minnesota is cold.


If you ever get a chance to fly into the Minneapolis/St Paul airport, take a look around you: most of the service jobs are held by formerly Somali people. When you take a cab, you’ll probably have a Somali driver (there was some conflict a while back where Muslim drivers objected to transporting alcohol). There are Hmong areas in town — I’ve had a fair number of Hmong students over the years.

It seems to me that the problem isn’t the temperature of the climate, but the temperature of the citizens, and that human beings are fairly adaptable and capable of living just about anywhere. But none of them can thrive living anywhere near a reprehensible scumbag like Mike Huckabee.

There’s also some implicit racism in his remark. We aren’t surprised that white people live in both Alaska and Florida, and take for granted that we can live anywhere; why should we look at the color of someone’s skin and decide that they’re limited to living in just one kind of environment?

WTF is wrong with you?

First thing in the morning, every morning, I diligently check my multiple email accounts, the social media accumulation, the general chaos of inputs into my digital world, and every morning I am mostly saying “WTF?” and working my delete key hard. But this morning even I, hardened, thick-skinned, and cynical as I am, had to stop and wonder. Why would anyone think these contributions to the discourse are at all a credit to the sender?

Here, for instance, is an image some chortling fuckwit sent to me, apparently thinking it will teach me a lesson, or make me feel bad, or harm me somehow. Allow me to describe it. It’s a picture of me sitting at Skepticon with my iPad, and someone has put a thought balloon above me. What am I thinking of? Why, according to the ‘artist’, I am daydreaming about a prominent woman skeptic, who is naked and wrapped up in tentacles. Here it is, although I’ve edited it myself to cut out the face of the real woman that was pasted in there.

I don’t get as much sexual objectification and harassment as the women I’ve talked to, so this was weird: some asshole decided to sexually objectify and demean a woman for my benefit, and thought it would be an effective insult to pretend I was the one doing it. That’s just twisted and stupid. And the guy who sent it to me thought it was a marvelous zinger.

Then there’s this.

Why couldn’t #ISIS have attacked #Skepticon 8 instead? #justdesserts #madeforeachother

Ladies and gentlemen, our opposition, true skeptics and atheists all.

Gaining a daughter!

That’s good news, right? I can’t be sure because the one we’ve had is an independent-minded troublemaker. Anyway, #2 Son Connlann has announced his engagement to Ted Bear. No date has been set yet — there are a few hurdles to leap over before an American serviceman can marry a Korean citizen, but eventually…and then Mary and I are planning to fly over and visit South Korea for the wedding.


Maybe they’ll schedule it to fall during the Chicken and Beer Festival?

Constructive pessimism

I approve of Kim Stanley Robinson’s message: interstellar travel, and interstellar colonization, are almost certainly impossible. He breaks the obstacles down into 5 categories, physical, biological, ecological, sociological, and psychological (wait, since when is ecology not biological?) and explains how unlikely we are to overcome them. We’re part of Planet Earth, and nowhere else.

This may sound like terrible news to people weaned on Star Trek and Star Wars, but I prefer to think that closing off the fantasy alternatives helps us focus on the realistic ones.

Oh no! For some people this is a disturbing and deeply pessimistic conclusion to come to. Then when you combine that new judgment with the recently discovered problems concerning the plan to terraform and inhabit Mars (presence of perchlorates and absence of nitrogen), and we come to an entirely new realization about our species: there is no Planet B.

Earth is our only home.

Oh no again!

This conclusion, startling to some, obvious to others, has ramifications that are worth pondering. If it comes to be a generally agreed on view, it might change how we act as individuals and a civilization. These changes in behavior might turn out to be crucial for our descendants. So although this entire discussion consists of speculations about hypothetical futures, which is to say, science fictions, still they are worth thinking about, as useful orientations in our sense of our own history as a species.

I like that. It’s not a bad thing to take a sober look at what we’ve got (which is a pretty danged sweet planet) and maintain and enrich it, rather than neglecting it for a dream of building a hermetically sealed dome on a hostile planet far, far away.

Something else I like: Robinson has just written a novel about…humans colonizing a planet around Tau Ceti, titled Aurora. He doesn’t condemn the genre, which is good, since I like reading space opera of various sorts, but is asking us to recognize that it’s no more realistic than fairy stories. Which are also fun.