A music post for 2018

So, I’m disappearing for the rest of winter break.  I leave you with my annual music post, where I share a few bits of music that I enjoyed in the past year.  See you in 2019.

1. The Mercury Tree & Cryptic Ruse – The Cold Flame Burns

You know how earlier I was talking about microtonal (or xenharmonic) music? Well here it is, the best xenharmonic rock.  In general, I think both Mercury Tree and Cryptic Ruse are the best current xenharmonic artists.

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The “Santa is real” narrative

This is a repost of a short article I wrote in 2012.  Yes, at one time I wrote short articles.  Enjoy.

Last year, I talked about how lots of kids actually believe in Santa.  This was surprising to me, because I  previously thought Santa-belief was a just as much a myth as Santa.

In particular, I remember lots of Santa-related movies, where the kids believe in Santa but the adults do not, and it’s the kids who are right.  This is mostly a general impression, but to name a specific example, I watched The Santa Clause (starring Tim Allen) several times when I was young.  These movies did not strike me as strange at the time, but they strike me as strange now.

The moral of those movies was essentially, “Santa is real, and you kiddies should believe in him.”  It just seems like a rather wacky moral to me.  It doesn’t seem like the kind of thing which is appropriate to kids.

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A slow-burner

This article was written for the Carnival of Aces, whose theme this month is “Burnout”.  I have also cross-posted it to my other blog.

I think I might experience burnout differently from the rest of you, and that’s why I’m here.

Case in point, one of the big events in my college years, was getting involved in atheist student groups. These groups experienced very quick turnover, with people often disappearing after their first year or two of participation. But I stuck with it an unnaturally long time, longer than any of the other students could imagine. 9 years! And I didn’t quit because I was burnt out, I quit because the group dissolved. And it’s not like I was happy with the group; on the contrary, I was perpetually annoyed with them. When I finally left, it felt long overdue.

So you might say I have a problem, and the problem is that I don’t burn out. At least, this is my worry. If I notice that I’m tired of an activity, I wonder if that means I’ve been tired for a long time, and if I should have just stopped a long time ago. As a result, the way other people discuss burnout, and the way I personally think about it, are incompatible. Whereas other people seek the strength to continue doing something they want to do, I seek the strength to realize that I want to stop.

Aside from the student groups, another thing I have done for a very long time is blogging. I’ve been blogging for over 11 years. No, I’m not about to announce the end of my blogging! I really like blogging, if you couldn’t tell.

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Call your congress critters on SESTA/FOSTA

Remember when Tumblr decided to ban adult content? Well one thing I learned from all of that, is that it’s traceable to a specific set of laws, passed earlier this year, and which will begin to be enforced in January. I’m referring to SESTA & FOSTA.

I don’t really need to explain it, since Vox has already done a good job, and there’s a website dedicated to stopping SESTA & FOSTA. Here I give the short version.

SESTA & FOSTA are a pair of laws intended to fight sex trafficking. Under previous law, websites with user-created content could not be held liable for the civil wrongs of its users (however they are liable for federal crimes and intellectual property laws). SESTA & FOSTA add an exception, making websites liable for sex trafficking and sex workers who advertise services. Lumping together sex trafficking and sex work does not make sense.  And arguably this does not stop trafficking or sex work, but rather makes things less safe for sex workers and trafficking victims.

In any case, the proof is in the pudding that SESTA & FOSTA are too broad and vaguely written. Many tech companies, including very large ones that can certainly afford liability insurance, now think it’s too risky to host content that has even the vaguest resemblance to sex work. I mean, Tumblr banned illustrated porn. Facebook’s new content guidelines are so vague that they could include solicitations for dating, or even private banter between couples.

The upshot is that this passed congress without any significant opposition. The Senate voted 97 to 2, and the House voted 388 to 25. Clearly most of congress didn’t understand the implications of what they voted on. Call your representatives and let them know.

The skeptical mythology of postmodernism

Ever since I started blogging in 2007, one of the boogeymen of the skeptical movement was so-called postmodernism. Postmodernism, as skeptics understood it, was an ideology where anything goes. It was extreme moral relativism. It was the idea that truth itself was a social construct. It was the idea that no one could know anything, and yet people could have their own personal truths, which may differ from one another. In short, it was one of skepticism’s antitheses.

Transcript: You have your truth, and I have mine. All knowledge is theory-laden. All perception is internal to the perceiver. There is no meaningful "reality." In the shadow cast by this knowledge, I decide for myself what is good and what is not. Caption: Postmodernism is the only explanation for black licorice.

Source: SMBC. I think the best way to describe the skeptical concept of postmodernism is by showing how skeptics choose to portray it in parodies.

Even in 2007, this seemed kind of sketchy to me. I recall writing a post titled “What’s with postmodernism?” wherein I complained that the term was inconsistently defined, and trusted sources offered a completely different picture of what postmodernism really was. Now that I have more experience in academia, and a much greater degree of cynicism about the skeptical movement, I feel more confident in simply calling bullshit. Postmodernism is a villain invented by skeptics, originally based on a real thing, but so far abstracted from reality that it may well be called mythology.

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Link Roundup: December

Poisson has blessed me with many links this month.  I’ll start with a few plugs and followups.


The Ace Community Survey Team (which I co-lead) released our big report on the 2016 Ace Community Survey, alongside a shorter report on the 2015 survey.  If you’re interested in data, or want to know about the kind of diversity we talk about in ace communities, please take a look!

I wrote a summary of a scholarly article on asexuality and race.  Yep, I’m reading about critical race theory now.


After I wrote about the Tumblr ban, there were several other takes in my circle.  Brute Reason talked about how awful this is for sex-positive communities.  And Marcus Ranum put it in context, as an example of a cloud service exercising monopoly power.

I was saying over on Tumblr, that the widely mocked “female presenting nipples” is strangely appropriate.  There’s no way to tell someone’s “real” gender, you don’t know how people identify, and you’d like the policy to depend on whether the person wants to appear female or not.  On the other hand, “female presenting” is ambiguous whether it refers to intended appearance, or simply appearance (and the latter is likely more accurate to their real policy).  Anyway, they clearly put some thought into it, and the problem is that it’s attached to a discriminatory policy.

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Classifying sexual violence

Readers may recall earlier this year, when I wrote a practical guide to sexual violence terminology.

Now I’ve written another article, as part of the Ace Community Survey Team, explaining how sexual violence is classified by the CDC.  Go take a look.

Although the CDC’s definitions of sexual violence are publicly available in the NISVS report, few lay people would sift through over a hundred pages in order to find them. The lack of easily accessible information concerns us, because it deprives some victims of tools they need to understand their own experiences. The goal of this article is to explain the CDC categories and their use in the 2018 Asexual Community Survey.