Trump blames self for fires

Around here, the big news is that everything is on fire!

Well, the fire is a bit too far away for me to personally to be in danger.  Nonetheless, it’s impossible to ignore.  See, the air quality took a sharp downturn.  You can smell it in the air, see it in the sky, and people roam the streets with N95 masks.  Businesses are all proceeding as usual, but personally, as an asthmatic, I’ve been trying to avoid going outside.  My partner and I decamped from our bedroom because something about the ventilation is allowing dust particles into that room.

I don’t know what to say.  People died, and cities were burnt to the ground.  Not much entertainment to squeeze out of that, except maybe a few sad puns about Paradise lost.

Oh I know, we could look at what horrible thing Trump has said.  Maybe that will brighten things up.

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Link Roundup: November 2018

Honestly I wasn’t paying that much attention this month, so there aren’t too many links.

The 2018 Asexual Community Survey was released.  If you can spare 20 minutes or so, please take the survey!

Fellow FTBlogger Great American Satan needs some money, and is taking art commissions!

Asexuality in Japan: An interview (video) – Vesper has a great interview with a couple asexuality activists in Japan.  Interesting tidbit: what we call “asexual” in the English community is usually divided into two groups in Japanese, with “asexual” referring to aromantic asexuals, and “nonsexual” referring to romantic asexuals.  If that interests you, watch the interview to learn more.

Catfishing and Conspiracy in Groves – This is a human interest story about a very young openly gay councilmember in a small town in Texas.  Someone got their hands on some nude photos that he exchanged consensually on Grindr, and released them to the media.  Other councilmembers filed a petition to get him recalled.  The town comes off looking rather bad.  And the pastor who insists that it’s not about homophobia gives the most unbelievable excuse.  I looked up the outcome later; he was recalled.

Pronouns (video) – Contrapoints offers analytic arguments for why calling a trans woman a “he” is just false, and not merely rude.  If I were to address the topic, I would probably not make much in the way of analytic arguments, I would just say I’m not having any of it.  Well, I’m glad we have Natalie around.

What does a DW-NOMINATE score of zero mean?

In an earlier post, I talked about the asymmetrical polarization of US congress, and how DW-NOMINATE is used to quantify it. In this post, I’m going to discuss more technical details.  I’ll explain why I was initially skeptical, and why I came to accept the argument.

But before I get into the math, I should first emphasize that there are many arguments demonstrating that the US congress has become more polarized, and that the Republican party in particular is more extreme. I think those arguments stand on their own, with or without using any evidence from DW-NOMINATE. You can read some of those arguments here, or watch the Vox video I linked last time. It’s not just liberals who are saying this–one of the big proponents of asymmetrical polarization theory is Norman Ornstein, member of the conservative think tank American Enterprise Institute;

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The math behind political polarization

The asymmetry of US politics

Vox recently had a good video talking about “asymmetrical polarization”. Basically, this means that the two political parties in the US are moving further apart, and this is mostly driven by the Republican party, rather than the Democrats.

There are many aspects to this argument. Republicans have been more obstructionist than democrats, less likely to negotiate or compromise, and more likely to use filibusters. Their agenda has become more extreme over time. Democrats have also moved further left (despite complaints hereabouts that Democrats are too moderate), but in a way that trails the motion of the Republican party.

These many arguments stand on their own. But I want to address the very first argument that Vox presents, which comes from the following graph:

A plot showing the ideology of congress over time, on a scale from liberal to conservative. The two major parties are color coded, it is clear that the parties have moved further apart since the 50s.

Image credit: Voteview. I abridged the graph to only show history after 1900. Red dots represent Republicans, blue dots represent Democrats, and the solid lines represent party medians.

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Origami: Star with spirals

star with spirals

Star with Spirals, designed by Meenakshi Mukerji

Meenakshi Mukerji featured some of my origami on her guest gallery page, including this model.  Then I realized I hadn’t posted this one on my blog yet, so here it is.

Regular readers have probably noticed that I feature an awful lot of models designed by Meenakshi Mukerji.  That’s because I have four of her books!  The Star with Spirals is featured on the cover of Origami Inspirations, which I would say is the best of the four.  Although, if you’re reluctant to commit, you might consider one of the Exquisite Origami books, which are cheaper because they’re in grayscale.

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That time IFLScience wrote about my field

As you can see, I took a brief blogging break… and during Asexual Awareness Week too.  But I don’t believe in apologizing for that sort of thing.


Two years ago, I spotted an IFLScience article about my particular field of research.  The article’s title?  Crucial Superconducting Theory Confirmed.  I remember chortling over the absurd idea that superconductivity would be solved, and that the first place I’d hear about it would be IFLScience of all places.

As I read the article, I realized how familiar I was with the research being discussed.  I knew Chandra Varma, a famous superconductivity theorist.  I had already read the scientific article they were talking about.  And one of the authors on the paper was a close colleague.  Small world, eh?

Anyway, I found the article interesting as a tiny little case study on science popularization.  Let’s go through the article, starting with the title.

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Just how bad is evolutionary psychology?

This is a repost of an article I wrote in 2012.  This is one of the things I had in mind when I recently wrote “So you want to discredit an academic field“.  It’s super old, so I felt it needed some light editing for clarity, and to remove references to old drama nobody cares about.

Both critics and defenders of evolutionary psychology (henceforth EP) agree that popular EP is terrible.  The question is, how deep does it go?  There are four possibilities:

  1. Journalists are misinterpreting and exaggerating studies.
  2. Journalists understand correctly, but pick out terrible studies from a generally reputable field.
  3. There are large sections of EP which are just bad, but attract more media attention.
  4. EP is rotten all the way through.

Case study: Argumentative Theory

The trouble is that you can hardly talk about EP without talking about specific examples of EP.  And if you only have a few examples, people can accuse you of not having a large enough survey.  But it’s hard to investigate more than a few examples, because we’re lazy and/or have jobs.

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