Origami: Octopus

An octopus made of paper

Octopus, by Sipho Mabona.  It’s about 2 inches in diameter.

This model is a foray into “one-piece” origami.  Or at least, I like to think of it that way because I usually use multiple pieces of paper.  More specifically, this is the kind of advanced origami where they no longer give you instructions.  Instead, they simply show a square with all the folds (a “crease pattern”).  Check out the image below the cut.

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Toxic masculinity: Basic considerations

I believe in applying feminist ideas to help men. It’s not that feminist ideas need to help men in order to be good ideas; it’s that feminist ideas are good ideas, therefore they are good ideas for men. Feminism is not obliged to help men, since that’s not really its primary goal; nonetheless, applying feminism to help men is a worthwhile project.

One particularly relevant feminist idea is “toxic masculinity”. According to the Geek Feminism Wiki,

Toxic masculinity is one of the ways in which Patriarchy is harmful to men. It refers to the socially-constructed attitudes that describe the masculine gender role as violent, unemotional, sexually aggressive, and so forth.

Toxic masculinity causes harm in two ways:

First, men are pressured to conform to male gender roles. For instance, there is nothing really wrong with being unemotional, and some of us just have more muted emotions than others. However, telling men that they are supposed to be unemotional leads them to be ashamed of the emotions they have.

Second, some of those male gender roles are in themselves bad. For instance, violence is generally maladaptive in modern society. A man who is socialized to be more violent could hurt the people around him, and could hurt himself as well.
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Putting trigger warnings on myself != censoring myself

In recent news, the dean of the University of Chicago sent out a letter to students taking a stand for academic freedom, against censorship, cancelling speakers, and trigger warnings. One of these things are not like the other.

Despite the popular association, trigger warnings have little to do with censorship or academic freedom. Many SJWs such as myself apply trigger warnings to their own writing. SJWs are clearly not trying to censor themselves.

Trigger warnings are similar to NSFW tags in that they advertise content, and allow people to approach it under the right conditions. Perhaps you’re one of the people who never has to worry about viewing NSFW content in a workplace, or who never experiences triggers. Even so, you probably don’t mind the advertisement.

Although the issue of trigger warnings and the issue of censoring speakers are both interesting, I don’t see why they are always considered together. A university could have a sensible policy on trigger warnings while also refusing to ever cancel an invited speaker. Conversely, a university could invite a bunch of terrible speakers, rescind the invitations upon protestations, all while taking a stand against trigger warnings.

Better identity labels

Last month, I said I didn’t care for most atheist models of identity. For example, I hate the “weak”/”strong” atheist distinction. I am not too fond of the gnostic/agnostic atheist/theist scheme. Dawkins’ 1 to 7 scale is okay though.

My views on identity label schemes is largely informed by my participation in asexual discussions. Asexual communities are renowned for making up new words and models. For example, one person might identify as heteroromantic demisexual gray-ace, and another as gray panromantic agender asexual. While these lists are often subject to mockery by Redditors, I find that they are far more intelligible and informative than, say, all the names we have for colors. Also note, for every successful asexual word, there have been many unsuccessful ones.  Everything goes through trial by fire.

The atheist community tends to be a lot less introspective about labels, which results in the persistence of bad identity label schemes. Here I’ll discuss some general qualities that you want identity schemes to have.
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Please don’t pick up the phone

I haven’t entirely been following this, but David Smalley wrote an article saying that petty disagreements were killing the atheist movement. PZ Myers disagreed, and it got hashed out in the Dogma Debate podcast. I have a lot of trouble listening to podcasts, so I mostly heard about it through Trav.

One of Smalley’s points is that we should resolve conflicts more amicably by “picking up the phone”.

Let’s pick up the phone and have conversations when we disagree. If you don’t have their phone number, send them a private message asking to get on Skype to talk it out.

PZ Myers argues that many of our conflicts are too substantial to be resolved over the phone.

My own reaction: calling my phone to talk about an internet disagreement would be hella aggressive. Sending me a private e-mail is also aggressive. I am astounded that people who want more civility sincerely advocate such nasty tactics.
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Bonus: Hillarycare

Following my discussion of basic considerations in health insurance, let’s take a look at some political ads from the 90s.

These are the famous “Harry and Louise” ads, which were used to attack the Health Security Act of 1993 (dubbed Hillarycare by critics). Note that the features they attack in Hillarycare are basically the same as features in Obamacare.

The first ad criticizes Hillarycare for limiting people’s choices in selecting health insurance plans. But is it really about limiting people’s choices, or is it limiting health insurance companies’ choices? Insurance companies were free to discriminate based on pre-existing conditions, and people would just have to accept one of the limited range of offers. Furthermore, some people were offered no insurance whatsoever.
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In praise of the most important relationship

This is a repost of an (only slightly facetious) article I wrote in 2015.

Where much of fiction is devoted to the most tumultous kinds of relationships–those of lovers, family, and enemies–let us never forget that there is another kind of relationship which is much more important, and in fact essential to everyone’s daily functioning.  I speak, of course of the stranger.

I am infinitely grateful for all the strangers in my life, all seven billion of them.  I am enriched by the fact that they don’t know who I am, and waste no time thinking of me.  The great number of conversations we don’t have is a source of great joy.  And it’s heartening to think about how much we care about each other, under a thick layer of distant abstraction.  It’s a special kind of love, the kind that is tolerable in large quantities.

And yes it is true that I don’t mind losing a few strangers, that losing a stranger can even be a happy occasion.  But that’s just the kind of relationship that strangership is.  Another way of looking at it is that strangership is such an abundant gift that it’s no problem to skim a little off the top to form more mundane relationships.

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