Link Roundup: August 2020

Last month, I relaunched the Ace Journal Club.  We discussed a psychology paper, and next month we’re discussing a gender studies text.  Not of interest to most readers, but it’s a thing that is happening.  I also started a series about split attraction models on The Asexual Agenda.

Also, in case you missed it, Crip Dyke was at the Portland protests!  You can start here and go forward.  Or if you read just one thing, you can read about the worst night.  Summarized in five words: Tear gas, lots of it.

‘Mum’s day off is it?’: what adopting as a same-sex couple taught us | The Guardian – This article is less about same-sex parenting, and more about the disproportionate labor that mothers perform.  When a kid has two fathers, they’re often presumed to be straight men supporting their wives, and they get praised for doing ordinary parenting.  File this under “Are the straights okay?”

The Women’s-Only Spaces Myth | Reprobate Spreadsheet – HJ examines the history of the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival, infamous for excluding trans women.  The leadership believed they were protecting attendees from sexual violence, but in fact most attendees did not agree with the decision, and the leadership was guilty of covering up sexual violence perpetrated by cis women.

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I read popular physics: Quantum Leap

This is an entry in my series where I read physics articles in Scientific American, under the theory that having a physics PhD will save me.

This month’s article is “Quantum Leap” about the theory behind the quantum hall effect. Out of all the articles in this series so far, this is the closest to my actual field of study (I was a condensed matter experimentalist who studied superconductors). But I positively groaned when I saw it. It’s bad.

But before I get to the main attraction, I have some general commentary on the August issue. After two months of putting the coronavirus on the cover, SciAm’s cover has finally moved on, now featuring a story about oak trees. The columnists are all still talking about the virus, one about racial health disparities, one about masks, one about science denial. I think these articles are written 1-2 months in advance, so they’re a bit of a time capsule. Wait, aren’t we still talking about all the same things?

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I read popular physics: The darkest particles

This is an entry in my series where I read physics articles in Scientific American, and pretend that my physics PhD is useful.

A letter

This month, we have an article called “The Darkest Particles“, about sterile neutrinos (sorry, this one’s paywalled). But before I get to the main attraction, I’m excited because we have the first letter from a responding to an article that appeared earlier in this series! Science writing isn’t just about the cutting edge, it’s also about following up with critical discussion and further research. These letters give us a small taste of critical scientific discussion.  Although, many of these letters are written by non-experts, so it’s not quite the same.

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Link roundup: July 2020

Only two links this month, I guess I just didn’t spend as much time collecting them.

Bo Ruberg | Keywords in Play (Podcast, 22 min) – An interview with Bo Ruberg, author of Video Games Have Always Been Queer and The Queer Games Avant-Garde.  She talks about the queer theory perspective on video games, degamification, regamification, speed running, and walking sims.

As I share this podcast, I’m thinking back to my own initial reaction, when I started hearing about queer theory in relation to video games back in 2013.  I initially found it offputting how little relation it had to conventional discussions of queer media, spending very little time on queer characters, and much more time on whatever they considered to be queer themes, the queerness of which is often quite tenuous.  Well, the discussion has grown upon me a bit.  The more I read and talk about queer representation, the more I desire different perspectives on what that even means.

OTF (One True Fandom) | osteophage – Coyote discusses a certain view of fandom, which emphasizes transformative works, especially fanfiction, as uniquely progressive and the most essential expression of fandom.

While I have been a fan of many things, I rarely participate in fandoms because that just seems like an awful lot of commitment to one thing.  Nonetheless, I’m presently part of two fandoms: for the card game Dominion, and for xenharmonic music.  Neither of these lend themselves to fanfiction at all, which suits me just fine.  In my few interactions with more prototypical fandoms, I’ve definitely encountered many of the attitudes Coyote describes, and it’s such a narrow understanding of fanning.

I read popular physics: A planet is born

This is part of my series where I read physics articles in Scientific American, and offer commentary as a former physicist.

I’ve had the June issue around for over a month, but I procrastinated too much and here we are in July. I’ll try to keep it short this time so I can move on to the next one.

The June issue is when COVID-19 really hits Scientific American. The cover says in big letters: “The Coronavirus Pandemic”. I already got the July issue, and the coronavirus is on the cover of that too. But, the cover notwithstanding, there are still physics articles, and that’s my area of expertise. This month’s article is “A Planet is Born“, by Meredith A. MacGregor.  This one isn’t paywalled so you’re free to read it yourself.

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The Black Lives Matter protests are about systematic police brutality and racism. In the face of such weighty issues, it seems petty to talk about mere language, potentially even a drain on activist energy. Nonetheless, I personally find language to be a stimulating topic rather than a draining one, and it can be used as a lens to engage with larger issues.

The larger issue here, is the relationship between anti-racism, and Asian Americans. Anti-racism in the US has largely focused on anti-Black racism, and to a lesser extent anti-Latinx and anti-Indigenous racism. Asian Americans–as well as people of other ethnicities/races/nationalities–tend to throw in some nasty complications, mucking up the clean generalizations people would often like to make. For example, asking people to recognize their White privilege just falls flat when the audience is simply not White.

And you should know, I’m not deliberately trying to trip up anti-racist activists. It’s not a gotcha. It’s just a fact about me, that I’m mixed race Asian American, and my list of privileges is somewhat different. The differences are sometimes important, sometimes not.

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Legalistic fixation in atheism

Something I’ve observed among atheists, is a narrow legalistic stance informed by separation of church and state. For example, saying religion is 100% fine until you bring it into government policy. Or, religion is completely acceptable unless you’re forcing it upon other people. This stance does not seem at all consistent to me, and it was a perpetual annoyance back when I participated in the atheist movement.

And you know, who cares anymore, the atheist movement is dead.

Nonetheless, it’s a pet peeve of mine, especially when I see the same reasoning applied other realms. Say, statues memorializing racists. Can you imagine believing that racist statues are 100% fine unless they’re on public property?

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