Link Roundup: April 2021

How Facebook got addicted to spreading misinformation | MIT Technology Review – Since Cambridge Analytica, Facebook has made efforts to make their algorithms more responsible.  However, it seems they ended up focusing on AI bias, which is surely a worthy problem, but distinct from the problem of Facebook feeding polarization and extremism.  The problem is that fighting polarization and extremism is anti-engagement and anti-growth, and simply not in Facebook’s interests.

There’s also an interesting bit discussing different kinds of fairness, such as equality in moderation standards, vs equality in moderation outcomes (the latter favoring conservative viewpoints more).  That just puts in mind a twisted version of one of those equality vs equity memes (which TBH I do not care for).

Transsexual, Transgender, Trans… and that damn asterisk | Pervert Justice – Last month, I had some tangential discussion of “trans*”, which had briefly become popular in the early 2010s, and suffered backlash after a few years.   Crip Dyke explains how its history goes much further back to the 1990s.  And indeed, the term did make more sense at the time, when transsexual and transgender were more distinct categories, and more care was needed to navigate trans* politics.

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Origami outtakes

Here’s a collection of experiments, mistakes, and other odds and ends among my origami photos

Tarantula outtakes

Tarantula outtakes

These were my first two attempts to make a tarantula (final version here).  I didn’t expect to get it right the first time, this is all part of the process.

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Game Diary: March 2021

This is a little series where I talk about games that I’ve been playing lately. I had this series on Pillowfort, but moved it here while Pillowfort is down. I haven’t decided whether I’ll keep it here when Pillowfort returns.

This month: two narrative games, two automation games, and two puzzle games.


Spiritfarer is a game about death. Your role is to ferry the dead to their final rest, listening to their stories and completing tasks in the mean time. The impact of death is also mechanically enhanced by having each character teach you some new mechanics, which continue to be associated with that character even after they are gone. I explained this premise to my husband, and he balked. “Sounds horrible.”

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The pandemic: 1 year later

This month, we passed our pandemicversary, or as I like to think of it, our annivirusary. This occurs on a different day for different people. For me, it’s when March Meeting, the largest physics conference in the world, was cancelled on March 2nd. The pandemic caused major changes in many of our lives, often not for the better. But, I’d like to reflect back on the lighter and more positive aspects.

1. I started exercising. At first, it was because my husband could no longer use the gym, so he bought some home gym equipment. Later, my mother started teaching Zumba online.

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Link Roundup: March 2021

The monthly link roundup is just a few links this time.  But first, a plug to the journal club that I organize monthly.  Last month, we read an article about incels and asexuality, and I thought some readers might enjoy that.

What it was like to be a doctor during the AIDS crisis | Psychology Today – Alan interviews a doctor.  I’m way too young to remember the AIDS pandemic (ongoing though it is), but its impact on gay culture is immense, so I value these primary historical accounts.

Tracing the Roots of Pop Culture Transphobia | Lindsay Ellis (video, 59 min) – Isn’t it odd how transphobes fixate on this narrative of trans women assaulting women in bathrooms?  I mean, it’s not impossible, but it’s a rather unrepresentative view of oh wait they got it from the movies, didn’t they?  I remember when vomit reactions to trans women was a common trope.  And when I remember this, I think, fiction is such bullshit, we should stop making fiction forever.

Old Scott Alexander email links him to the alt-right | r/sneerclub – It’s drama that you’d only care about if you’re familiar with the Rationalist community.  There was a hullabaloo in the Rationalist community because the NYT published a mediocre article on Scott Alexander.  Then someone leaked a private e-mail from Scott Alexander in 2014 where he expresses his belief in HBD (what we’d call race science), among other ridiculous things.  I thought we already knew Scott was into race science?  My favorite part was where he says he can’t dismiss things that sound absurd, because he believes in cryonics!

BTW some FTB oldtimers may recognize the recipient & leaker of the e-mail under a different …uncredible… name.

The contentiousness of womxn

cn: It’s about language, so don’t complain to me about wasting time with pointless semantics, it was your choice to read onward!

“Womxn” is a term that was intended to be more inclusive of trans women, nonbinary people, and women of color. It recently entered the news when Twitch used “womxn” in a tweet. This resulted in backlash, with people accusing the term of being transphobic. It is a term that inspires, shall we say, conflicting viewpoints.

I first heard about “womxn” in the context of TERFs complaining about it. I don’t exactly watch TERFs, but my husband, you see, likes to argue with TERFs on Twitter. Yes, yes, there’s no accounting for taste. In any case, TERFs would complain endlessly about “womxn”, seemingly in disproportion to its actual use. This is common practice in TERF communities, to highlight something said somewhere by some trans person, and amplify everywhere as an example of why the TRAs (their term for trans activists, intended to parallel MRAs) are bad.

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Poe’s Law is and always was bad

It’s time for another trip to the ruins of New Atheism, to scavenge for clues about its downfall. Today we examine the Poe’s Law, an adage that states that there is no parody of religious fundamentalism so extreme that it won’t be mistaken for the real thing.

This episode was inspired by a video by Sarah Z (1 hr), about a seemingly unrelated topic: made up stories on Tumblr. The central thread in her video is an obviously fictional story on Tumblr about a woman giving money to a homeless man, and being interrupted by a fedora’d dipshit. And with one thing and another it ends with a Gangnam Style dance number.

This tumblr story was posted to Reddit, where it was a joke about tumblr SJWs make shit up to reinforce their own persecution complex, and have so little attachment to reality that they believe their own nonsense.

The story isn’t just fake though. It’s a fake fake story. The story was not created by a tumblr SJW, and was in fact never posted on Tumblr in the first place. The screenshot was engineered by an apparently anti-SJW redditor who habitually created fake screenshots along similar lines. So in truth, it’s a story about how anti-SJWs make up shit to reinforce their own worldview, and have so little attachment to reality that they believe their own nonsense.

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