Hilarity Ensued: Facebook’s day off

I would imagine most reading FtB had a good laugh about facebook’s farce.

Computerphile’s Steve Bagley ably explains how and why facebook shot themselves in the foot.



What’s also amusing is how facebook addicts freak out about outages.  When it happened in 2019 for a similar length of time, some started calling the cops.  I remember news items saying this happened so often that cops warned people not to do it.  No doubt they put the warning on their facebook pages.

The outage happened just before midnight my time, so I shrugged, kept writing and watching youtube, then went to bed.  Few people I know would have been awake and affected by the shutdown.

Akin To Rape: His words motivate every anti-abortion law today

Todd Akin killed his career in 2012 with one sentence, suffering a political death.  As of today, Akin finally has a legitimate death.  Good riddance.

He didn’t “die of cancer”. He WAS a cancer.

It was Akin who ignorantly said during his 2012 senate re-election campaign, “From what I understand from doctors, that’s really rare [. . .] If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”

Akin may have been the one to say it aloud, but we all know full well that every rightwingnut who is a pro-rape, anti-woman, politician since then who has tried to outlaw abortion (e.g. Greg Abbatoir) believe the exact same thing: “If she’s pregnant, she wasn’t raped.  If she says she was, it’s a false accusation against an innocent man.”

Proving that point, it was today that Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez had to school fools on the realities of pregnancy and rape, on rightwingnuts still promoting the fictions they learnt from Bill Cosby and teenage male bathroom talk.  AOC is more than A-OK, she’s fantastic at exposing those frauds.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Teaches GOP Basic Female Anatomy During Abortion Hearing

“Once again we’re in a room of legislators who are attempting to legislate reproductive systems that they know nothing about,” Ocasio-Cortez said in a congressional hearing about the new law.

[. . .]

“When you are raped, you don’t always know what happened to you,” Ocasio-Cortez said. “And I speak about this as a survivor. … You are in so much shock at what happened to you, sometimes it takes years to realize what actually went on.”

[. . .]

Ocasio-Cortez also pointed out that rapes are “overwhelmingly” committed by someone the victim knows, even though some legislators would lead you to believe otherwise.

“This myth, that it’s some person lurking on a street or in a parking lot waiting to sexually assault you, that myth only benefits the abusers in power that want you to think that that’s how it happens,” she said, peering around the room. “It’s your friend. It’s a boyfriend. It’s a boss. It’s a legislator.”

Akin may not have (as far as we know) raped women himself, but his words empowered those who want to legalize it, to criminalize and imprison women who have natural miscarriages, never mind having an abortion.  His words made it possible.  His words were Akin to legalizing rape.

Paris Parle : Two tales of one city

You can tell a lot about a media’s agenda, who it’s beholden to, which advertisers dictate it’s editorial view by the stories it publishes.

Two items were recently published about Paris after the decision to ban cars from many roads and create pedestrian and bicycle spaces while limit speeds on other roads.  One appeared in the New York Timid Times, the other in Slate (hardly the bastion of objectivity, but the lesser of two evils here).  You can guess how this one is going to turn out.

On Friday, the NYT published this tripes, claiming cyclists are terrorizing public streets and making it unsafe to be a pedestrian.  As if it were safe to walk with cars speeding down alleys at 50kmh.  The US “car culture” mentality and obedience to corporate interests (big three and big oil) are evident throughout.  It’s all unsubstantiated anecdotes and accusations, full of scare words like “socialist”, and sparse on facts.

As Bikers Throng the Streets, ‘It’s Like Paris Is in Anarchy’

An ecologically minded experiment to make Paris a cycling capital of Europe has led to a million people now pedaling daily — and to rising tensions with pedestrians.

By Liz Alderman

PARIS — On a recent afternoon, the Rue de Rivoli looked like this: Cyclists blowing through red lights in two directions. Delivery bike riders fixating on their cellphones. Electric scooters careening across lanes. Jaywalkers and nervous pedestrians scrambling as if in a video game.

Sarah Famery, a 20-year resident of the Marais neighborhood, braced for the tumult. She looked left, then right, then left and right again before venturing into a crosswalk, only to break into a rant-laden sprint as two cyclists came within inches of grazing her.

“It’s chaos!” exclaimed Ms. Famery, shaking a fist at the swarm of bikes that have displaced cars on the Rue de Rivoli ever since it was remade into a multilane highway for cyclists last year. “Politicians want to make Paris a cycling city, but no one is following any rules,” she said. “It’s becoming risky just to cross the street!”

[. . .]

Mayor Anne Hidalgo, who is campaigning for the French presidency, has been burnishing her credentials as an ecologically minded Socialist candidate. She has earned admirers and enemies alike with a bold program to transform greater Paris into the world’s leading environmentally sustainable metropolis, reclaiming vast swaths of the city from cars for parks, pedestrians and a Copenhagen-style cycling revolution.

She has made highways along the Seine car-free and last year, during coronavirus lockdowns, oversaw the creation of over 100 miles of new bike paths. She plans to limit cars in 2022 in the heart of the city, along half of the Right Bank and through the Boulevard Saint Germain.

Parisians have heeded the call: A million people in a metropolis of 10 million are now pedaling daily. And Paris now ranks among the world’s top 10 cycling cities.

But with success has come major growing pains.

“It’s like Paris is in anarchy,” said Jean-Conrad LeMaitre, a former banker who was out for a stroll recently along the Rue de Rivoli. “We need to reduce pollution and improve the environment,” he said. “But everyone is just doing as they please. There are no police, no fines, no training and no respect.”

[. . .]

Back on the Rue de Rivoli, cyclists swerved to avoid pedestrians playing a game of chicken with oncoming bikes. “Pay attention!” a cyclist in a red safety vest and goggles shouted at three women crossing against a red light, as he nearly crashed in the rain.

Cyclists say Paris hasn’t done enough to make bike commuting safe. Bike accidents jumped 35 percent last year, from 2019. Paris en Selle, a cycling organization, has held protests calling for road security after several cyclists were killed in collisions with motorists, including, recently, a 2-year-old boy riding with his father who was killed near the Louvre when a truck turned into them.

So the father was at fault for not getting out of the way of the truck, not the truck for failing to obey the law and ensure it could turn safely?  How very auto-cratic of you, Ms. Alderman.

And “everyone is doing as they please with no respect”?  As if drivers ever do.  They act like no one has the right to be outside a building safely except inside a vehicle.

Now compare this with the Slate article from September 15:

The Liberation of Paris From Cars Is Working

By Henry Grabar

Over the past six years, Paris has done more than almost any city in the world to take space back from cars. Mayor Anne Hidalgo has opened linear parks in the old highways along the Seine, phased out diesel cars in the city, opened bus lanes, raised parking meter prices, and plowed bike lanes down hundreds of streets. When COVID hit, Paris eliminated cars from the Rue de Rivoli, its major crosstown thoroughfare. Plans are in the works to pedestrianize the Champs-Elysées and plant thousands of trees to green, clean, and cool the city.

As the adjunct mayor for transportation and public space, David Belliard is the point man for many of these endeavors. His latest projects include establishing car-free zones outside schools and enforcing the capital’s new speed limit of 30 kilometers per hour—a notch below 20 mph.

Earlier this month, I met him in his office to talk about Paris, COVID, and cars. Our conversation has been edited and condensed for clarity.

David Belliard: You want an overview?

Henry Grabar: Sure.

OK, quickly: At the start of the 20th century, in the ’20s, ’30s, the car asserts itself as a travel mode in urban centers, which are transformed. Paris is clearly an old city with many centuries of history with an urban fabric. Even though it was transformed by Haussmann in the 19th century, it has an extremely dense urban fabric with a lot of small streets and a configuration a priori not adapted to the auto. When the car arrives, we transform what we can call public space, and this public space becomes automobile space, with the logical system of the car imposing itself in Paris. And public space is completely devoured, eaten away, and in a certain way privatized to one single, unique use.

Very quickly we see the limits of “total car” in Paris, even in the ’60s and ’70s. We try to say, “How can we preserve this city?”

The excerpts continue below the fold.

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Finally He Retires: But his replacement won’t be an improvement

So Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte is quitting politics after his six year term ends. His legacy will be one of incompetence (not just how he mishandled COVID-19), violence, mass murder, corruption, intimidation and kowtowing to the PRC.  About the only crime that he didn’t commit while president that I thought he’d try was to attempt a military coup.  He probably didn’t have the support, not after how he treated some of the military as “political enemies”.

But just because the Monster of Manila is leaving doesn’t mean the Philippines will be any better off.  The three “leading candidates” to replace him are a long time crony in the Philippine senate, his daughter who is reportedly just as violent, and Manny “Punch Drunk” Pacquiao, a rabid transphobe and homophobe.

Rodrigo Duterte: Philippine president announces retirement from politics

The 76-year-old leader said last month that he would run for the vice-presidency in 2022. The country’s constitution only permits presidents to serve a single six-year term.

But he now says he will withdraw, as “the overwhelming sentiment of the Filipinos is that I am not qualified”.

The move comes amid speculation that his daughter could run for president.

Mr Duterte, a controversial “strongman” figure, came to power in 2016 promising to reduce crime and fix the country’s drug crisis.

But critics say that during his five years in power, Mr Duterte has encouraged police to carry out thousands of extrajudicial killings of suspects in what he has called his “war on drugs”.

Here’s another report from ABC.

I guess I won’t be taking another vacation in the Philippines after COVID-19 is under control.

Can You Guess: What was his skin colour?

If I say to you, “a Florida man shot and killed a cop and was arrested after a five day manhunt”, I’m sure you can guess his skin tone.

At the propaganda conference, one of the cops talked tough, saying, “He crawled out like a baby. Like the coward that he is”.

Funny thing, that’s what I say about every cop that hides behind a badge and is protected by his department and union after murdering an innocent and unarmed Black person.

More below.

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Evergrande Schemes: It’s more of a bomb than a bubble

As I’m sure most have heard, China’s second largest land developer Evergrande is in dire financial straits.  Evergrande has debts of over US$400 billion (reported as only US$300 billion two weeks ago) that are due immediately, and the company lacks the cash to pay it off.  As of today, it managed to scrape together US$1.5 billion to calm one creditor, but that’s a drop in the bucket.

People are comparing this to the Lehman Brothers collapse, but that’s not the only valid comparison.  This is on par with Enron.  In 2001, Kenneth Lay and Jeffrey Skilling pumped out ENRON shares at $90 and paying themselves millions in bonuses, knowing the company would collapse in a matter of weeks.  Those who “invested” at ENRON lost everything, and only the wealthy were compensated.

Evergrande’s chairman Hui Ka Yan was threatening his workers, telling them to invest their life savings in the company or they wouldn’t get paid their bonuses (and he would know whether they did or not).  Many did, by force and by fear, and now may lose everything if when the corporation collapses.  Meanwhile, Hui paid himself $11 billion in dividends (reported as only US$8 billion two weeks ago).

Where ENRON and Evergrande differ is who loses money.  ENRON only ripped off individuals and investment houses; it was mostly the already wealthy who were hit.  Banks were protected by the FDIC.  In China, many of those hurt will be individuals trying to save and own a home, losing their life savings with no means of compensation; the regime certainly won’t care about how this affects individual citizens unless it causes a revolution.  But just as important, 171 banks (mostly Chinese, some foreign) and over 100 investment firms are on the hook for loans to Evergrande.  If the debts are over US$400 billion, then we’re talking over a trillion in financing.  And unlike the G7 “too big to fail” attitude, the mass murdering PRC government may choose to let it fail unless that takes away their control.  Then it may just seize and nationalize the company instead.

Property giant’s looming collapse threatens to destroy China’s growth model

As the Chinese property titan teeters on the brink of collapse, there are growing fears its ruin could threaten China’s entire economic model.

As the crisis facing the world’s most indebted real estate company rages on, many experts have remained cautiously optimistic that the nightmare was under control.

But there are now growing fears that Evergrande’s potential collapse won’t be able to be contained as easily as many initially believed.

And there’s a reasonable chance it could end up shattering China’s wider growth model along with it.

Evergrande’s troubles began as China’s real estate market soared, with demand for homes in cities such as Beijing and Shanghai sending prices skyrocketing.

The company took out a string of loans and expanded rapidly, snapping up assets and making the most of China’s thriving economy.

But when property prices began to drop in smaller cities, and when the Chinese government rolled out measures to curtail over-the-top property borrowing, via its so-called “red lines” policy, it left Evergrande in the lurch, with mountains of debt totalling a whopping $408 billion.

[. . .]

Despite serious alarm over the Evergrande saga, many economic gurus have clung to the belief the government wouldn’t let the company fail or – if it did – the threat facing the wider economy would be curtailed.

But according to an alarming article by Bloomberg’s Andrew Browne, Evergrande’s “controlled explosion” might not be so easily contained after all.

And Browne argues the nightmare “may eventually blow up China’s entire economic growth model”.

The analysis explains that China’s growth model has long been based on the “doubtful” idea that demand for real estate is “inexhaustible”, which means prices will always rise.

But in reality, “migrant flows are drying up” – a trend exacerbated but not caused by the Covid pandemic – which means there’s nobody to buy all those shiny new apartments.

You can’t have infinite growth in a finite economy or world.  Like all ponzi schemes, Hui depended on a constant influx of new money from suckers.  Now that the public know, they won’t buy apartments even at half the offered price.  And as the money dries up, the inevitable collapse happens.

Because of how the PRC controls banks, most of the debt collapse will be internal to China unless they demand debtor developing nations suddenly pay up.  (Wouldn’t it be fun to see all of Africa and Latin America say “No.” at the same time?)  The biggest international effect will likely be the sudden stop in construction and end of demand for raw materials.

If Beijing was willing to make Jack Ma disappear for three months and throw him into a “re-education camp” (or whatever they did with him), it’s not beyond belief the regime would do the same or worse to Hui if he collapses the entire PRC financial system.  The only human rights that the PRC believe in are the right eye, right lung and right kidney which they can sell to transplant tourists.

Nota Bene: September 28 is International Safe Abortion Day

As the title says, September 28th is International Safe Abortion Day.  I wish I heard about events like these more in advance.


From September28.org:

Statement for International Safe Abortion Day 28 September 2021 :  To the United Nations and all national governments

For this year’s International Safe Abortion Day, we call upon all countries to: remove all laws and policies restricting the right to safe abortion on request; facilitate access to safe abortion and post-abortion care for everyone who needs them; ensure that post-abortion care is available on an emergency basis at community level, provided by midwives trained in MVA and/or with pills; move abortions out of hospitals except for very late and complicated cases; allow outpatient medical abortion in the second trimester, with social distancing in the clinic and without requiring operating theatre conditions; approve medical abortion pills (mifepristone and misoprostol) on national Essential Medicines Lists; decriminalise abortion to the extent possible − raising or omitting the upper time limit, removing barriers and third party approval, aiming to make abortion a woman’s right to choose.We urge everyone to develop vigorous advocacy campaigns to demonstrate to governments and health professionals the safety, efficacy and acceptability of de-medicalised approaches to safe abortion as part of universal health coverage.

From the World Health Organization’s twitter page:

From the She Decides twitter page:

From the Amnesty Ireland twitter page:

Common Sense Prevails: Taiwan is adopting the Norwegian model

In 2017, Taiwan’s supreme court ruled that there was no argument against marriage equality, a decision which forced the government to write new legislation or marriage equality would become law by default.  While the current legislation is lacking (the only non-cishetero foreigners who can marry Taiwanese people are those whose country has marriage equality), it is being changed.

As of last Thursday, the supreme court has also made the decision that Transgender and Non-Binary people should not be forced to obtain surgery and sterlization in order to obtain legal gender recognition, to change of names and gender on documentation.  This is the law in Norway and a few other places.  Considering the discrimination in housing and employment that Transgender and Non-Binary people face which leads to poverty, it was onerous to demand that we pay for expensive surgeries before being guaranteed human rights protections.

Having full legal human rights protections will help people live more stable lives, get better jobs and earn more if they still or want to pay for surgery.  Or NOT pay for surgery if they don’t want to have it.

The decision is still imperfect, since Taiwan’s identity and documentation system only provides “male” and “female”, when it should include at least a third option that other countries have.  But it’s a big step in the proper direction.

Court Rules Against Laws Requiring Proof of Surgery, Sterilization for Changing Legal Gender

THE TAIPEI HIGH Administrative Court ruled against laws requiring transgender people to provide proof of surgery to change their legal gender this afternoon [September 23]. The announcement was made shortly after 4 PM, with a decision in favor of the plaintiff, known as Xiao E.

Xiao E was represented by the Taiwan Alliance to Promote Civil Partnership Rights (TAPCPR), the organization that represented longtime LGBTQ activist Chi Chia-wei in the case that resulted in the legalization of gay marriage in Taiwan two years ago. Xiao E had filed a lawsuit after she was not allowed to change her gender from male to female on her national ID card without proof of surgery at the Daxi Household Registration Office in Taoyuan. This resulted in an administrative lawsuit being filed in March of this year, with the TAPCPR announcing a petition on the issue on April 1st, timed to coincide with International Trans Day of Visibility. The TAPCPR will hold a formal press conference on the ruling tomorrow morning.

Previous laws required proof of surgery in order to be allowed to legally change one’s gender, which included specifying what body parts needed to be surgically removed to qualify for being able to legally change one’s gender. Transgender women were required to surgically remove their penis and testicles while transgender men were required to surgically remove their breasts, uterus, and ovaries. A mental health evaluation from two psychiatric specialists was also required.

Nevertheless, one notes that ROC law demonstrates a highly biological view of gender, when many transgender individuals may identify as a different gender than that which they were identified at birth but may not wish to undergo surgery. Previous laws also necessitated the sterilization of those that wished to legally change their gender, as well as imposing the cost of surgery upon them.

To this extent, the TAPCPR argued that the surgery requirement was in defiance of international human rights conventions that Taiwan has ratified, such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, International Covenant on Economic Social and Cultural Rights, and Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women. The TAPCPR further pointed to legal precedents elsewhere, such as in the European Union, in which the European Court of Human Rights struck down similar regulations on the basis that they violated human rights protections. For its part, the Ministry of the Interior’s interpretation asserted the right to equality, privacy, and personal freedoms protections with regards to the ruling.

I have a suspicion this ruling will only apply to Taiwanese citizens, not to foreigners with ARCs and APRCs. Even so, I’m happy that people will now have legal protections when it comes to employment, housing and other places they often face discrimination.

New Bloom Mag (a Taiwan LGBTQ+ publication) posted a follow up item on Friday:

LGBTQ+ Groups Celebrate Ruling Against Surgery Requirement for Legal Gender Change

THIS MORNING AT 10:00 AM, the Taiwan Alliance to Promote Civil Partnership Rights (TAPCPR) hosted a press conference regarding yesterday afternoon’s Taipei High Administrative Court ruling against regulations requiring proof of surgical intervention to change one’s legal gender. The historic ruling in favor of plaintiff Xiao E found existing legal gender change regulations to be unconstitutional. Assuming that this ruling does not get appealed, Xiao E will be able to change her legal gender and become Taiwan’s first transgender woman to do so without submitting proof of surgery.

[. . .]

[T]he Taipei High Administrative Court will issue formal written judgments to both parties within two weeks. The Daxi Household Registration Office can submit an appeal to the Supreme Administrative Court within twenty days upon receiving the written judgment. Press conference participants speculate that it is unlikely that yesterday’s ruling will get appealed since government officials have already expressed their support for eliminating the surgery requirement for changing one’s legal gender.

How badly will the heads of TERFs and other bigoted scum explode over this one?  Or are they too busy spreading hateful propaganda to notice?

The TERFs and bigots certainly haven’t noticed that all of the known or rumoured sexual predators and rapists in Taiwan (Taiwanese and foreigners) have been cishetero binary males.


Time To Rehash: How and why I choose my sources

A year ago, I wrote a post (“Sources Named: Who I quote and why“) explaining how and why I choose my sources.  I want to know something is an original source, or a retelling or re-reporting.  Sometimes, the source ends up being fifth hand, with very different wording or meaning than the original.  It ends up being a game of telegraph rather than telephone.

I also said I prefer scientific sources or university publication over news sources.  Commercial news likes to embellish, either to sell fear or false hope rather than print boring facts.  When was the last time you saw “study reconfirms theory”?  An item from the past week shows why I do this.



Taiwan News is “journalism” on par with The Express (UK) or “weekly world news”.  I don’t believe anything TN posts, even when it goes back to the original source and its hard to get wrong (e.g. earthquake reports).  So when they published an item last week (9/23) about a “cure for diabetes”, my immediate response was, “Yeah, right.”

Taiwanese scientists discover potential cure for diabetes

Taiwanese scientists have discovered a key mechanism that causes diabetes and developed a new drug treatment that could “fully reverse” the disease, according to reports.

Diabetes has been shown to be caused by the loss and function of Beta cells (β-cells) in pancreatic islets, which are regions of the pancreas that contain hormone-producing cells. Yang Wen-chin (楊文欽) and his team at Academia Sinica’s Agricultural Biotechnology Research Center (ABRC) have discovered through experiments on mice that the protein-coding gene, Pdia4 (Protein Disulfide Isomerase Family A Member 4), is responsible for the destruction of β-cells and that inhibiting this gene can prevent and even reverse the loss of such cells.

The so-called “news” mentions a couple of names, but zero sources.  I’ve been waiting for a better report, and actively seeking scientific papers to see how wrong Taiwan News was.

On Saturday (9/25), the Taipei Times showed why sources matter.  Not only do they more accurately call this a treatment for diabetes, not a “cure”, they also cite the scientific publication where it was published.  Now I consider this a credible story.

Study finds diabetes-linked gene

Taiwanese researchers have identified a gene that they say might help doctors treat diabetes.

A study by a research team at Academia Sinica’s Agricultural Biotechnology Research Center showed that the expression of protein disulfide isomerase family A member 4 (PDIA4) is linked to diabetes.

The research was published in this month’s issue of EMBO Molecular Medicine, an open-source, peer-reviewed scientific journal based in Europe.

Details make a difference – who wrote it, where it’s published, and how to find it and then read it.  The details of the paper are waaayyy over my head (though I’m sure PZM understands it), but you can get the gist of it from the abstract (page 1 of the PDF, and below) and Paper Explained (page 19):

Pdia4 regulates β-cell pathogenesis in diabetes: molecular mechanism and targeted therapy


Loss of β-cell number and function is a hallmark of diabetes. β-cell preservation is emerging as a promising strategy to treat and reverse diabetes. Here, we first found that Pdia4 was primarily expressed in β-cells. This expression was up-regulated in β-cells and blood of mice in response to excess nutrients. Ablation of Pdia4 alleviated diabetes as shown by reduced islet destruction, blood glucose and HbA1c, reactive oxygen species (ROS), and increased insulin secretion in diabetic mice. Strikingly, this ablation alone or in combination with food reduction could fully reverse diabetes. Conversely, overexpression of Pdia4 had the opposite pathophysiological outcomes in the mice. In addition, Pdia4 positively regulated β-cell death, dysfunction, and ROS production. Mechanistic studies demonstrated that Pdia4 increased ROS content in β-cells via its action on the pathway of Ndufs3 and p22phox. Finally, we found that 2-b-D-glucopyranosyloxy1-hydroxytrideca 5,7,9,11-tetrayne(GHTT), a Pdia4 inhibitor, suppressed diabetic development in diabetic mice. These findings characterize Pdia4 as a crucial regulator of β-cell pathogenesis and diabetes, suggesting Pdia4 is a novel therapeutic and diagnostic target of diabetes.

I said nineteen months ago I would amend, update, and link to the 2020 post on the main page.  Oops.

Music Rules: And toxic masculinity drools

Yes, another post about music, but this goes in a different direction.

I love music and musicianship. Some people bristle when I say, “If it’s not made with instruments or a cappella, it’s not music.” I prefer people who can recreate their work live, alone or in a group, not by “scratching” or “sampling”. Because of this, nearly everything I listen to is individuals or groups who play, very little electronica.

Nearly all of the new musicians I’ve started listening to in the last few years are independent groups found on youtube, people creating new work or younger people doing covers of other bands, and they’re genuinely good. Unintentionally, most of them are women, which is even more exciting, seeing musicians who would normally be ignored or mistreated by record companies and the media.  Youtube and other social media lets them find an audience they couldn’t reach otherwise and control their own content and public image.

An example of being mistreated is a group I hadn’t heard of until two years ago: Fanny, whose first album came out in 1971, fifty years ago (video: trailer for the documentary about their career). They were a fearsome foursome of women, two Filipina-American sisters and two Americans, with great talent. Unfortunately, sexism in the music industry weighed on them and the band came to an end by the mid-1970s. Listen to a few of their songs and find a new/old instant favourites.

Below the fold is a list new musicians I listen to and links to their music. But it’s not just the music that’s interesting, it’s the response of the public.  It ain’t the 1970s anymore.

“Don’t read the comments” is the universal warning whenever women are writing or talking, but that doesn’t apply when it’s women musicians.  DO read the comments.  Sexist and dismissive comments by men are the exception, not the norm, when women are great players.  (Then again, male music heads are different from typical fanboys.)  And it’s not just sexism that disappears, so does racism; one of them (listed below) is MelSickScreamoAnnie, a teenage muslim from Indonesia (listed below) who plays covers of Death Metal and Thrash Metal.  She’s great.

This is NOT to suggest that women should have to be great musicians or be obviously and visibly skilled in their field to be respected.  That should be the default position, women shouldn’t have to “prove” or be challenged by toxic males in any job or field.  But it does show that men can treat women with respect for their ability, not automatically “challenge” women simply for being.

If a nurse or doctor has a job at a hospital, or teaching at a university, it means she’s qualified, end of discussion. If a woman is doing a public speaking event, it means she has the knowledge and qualifications to get an invite.  And even if she’s working a 9 to 5 sales clerk job, that’s still no reason.

More below.

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Volcanoes Cause And Affect: I never thought about this before

In the post about the Carrington Event, I mentioned the Mount Tambora eruption of 1815.  It was labelled “Year Without a Summer” because temperatures worldwide dropped by half a degree, leading to massive crop failures and starvation in regions with shorter summers (primarily, those north of 45 degrees lattitude).  And yesterday, I mentioned World Car Free Day, which was about encouraging people to give up cars and find other means of transportation that are better for both individuals and the environment.

What I didn’t expect was a link to a post from four years ago, about the 200th anniversary of the Velocipede in 1817.  One item I read pointed out the fact that the velocipede and bicycle may be an indirect result of the Mount Tambora explosion.  It wasn’t just human crops that were affected by the Earth cooling for a year.  Hay and other plants eaten by horses and cows also became scarce, leading to a mass die off of farm and pack animals.  The velocipede was invented (and thus bicycles and perhaps cars too) because people needed a means of transport that didn’t require animals.

A volcano gave us the bike

A volcanic eruption of Mount Tambora in Indonesia was the direct reason we got the bike 200 years ago … Confused? Not after this explanation.

In April 1815, the most powerful volcanic eruption occurred in modern times on the island of Sumbawa in today’s Indonesia. The stratovolcano has today a diameter of 60 kilometers, erupted a powerful fire column and produced violent lava flows.

The eruption led to a lot of deaths and extreme changes in weather conditions around the globe. The crops failed and in the following year – 1816 – and this year became known as the “year without summer”.

“In Europe this followed several years with bad crops. Livestock were slaughtered to prevent hunger death. Also the horses, which were absolutely necessary transport animals, had to die”, explains Reginald L. Hermanns (leader of the Geohazard and Earth Observation team) at the Geological Survey of Norway.

And what happened then …?

The German inventor Karl von Drais took the challange to find something that could replace the horse for transport. In 1817 he introduced “Die Laufmaschine”, the predecessor of the Velocipede. On June 12th, 1817, he undertook an eight kilometer bike ride from Mannheim to the “Schwetzinger Relaishaus” inn.

[. . .]

To put the bike in a larger perspective, Hermanns explains the issue this way:

“As you have read; A local volcanic eruption leads to a global impact on climate. Local reductions in greenhouse gases can also contribute to global effect. When we use the bike, instead of driving a car or using other motorized vehicles, we reduce the emissions of greenhouse gases. By cycling eight kilometers on June 12th, you will reduce the emission of greenhouse gases and make aware of contributing to the green shift. The volcanic eruption in 1815 taught us that there is only one earth”.

The Mount Tambora explosion also reminded me of another anniversary: Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines, which erupted in June 15, 1991, thirty years ago.  It was the second largest volcanic eruption of the 20th century.  Pinatubo stands as an argument for why governments should listen to the scientists and make fact-based decisions.  How many thousands would have died if Ferdinand Marcos were still the Philippine dictator instead of popularly elected president Corazon Aquino, if more than 60,000 people hadn’t been evacuated?  (See also: Cheetolini, Biden and COVID-19.)  Less than a thousand in total were hurt by Pinatubo.

From EOS.org:

Pinatubo 25 Years Later: Eight Ways the Eruption Broke Ground

From the first rapid assessment of a volcano’s history to insights on geoengineering, the 15 June 1991 eruption of Mount Pinatubo changed the way we approach and learn from volcanic hazards.

On 3 April 1991, Sister Emma Fondevilla, a missionary based in a native Aeta village on the flanks of Mount Pinatubo, on the Philippine island of Luzon, led a group of villagers to meet with scientists from the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (PHIVOLCS). Fondevilla and the villagers told the scientists about a series of steam eruptions on the northwestern side of the mountain.

What unfolded next would change history. Somehow, against severe odds, scientists convinced officials to evacuate more than 65,000 people living in Pinatubo’s shadow. Their tireless efforts stand as one of the most successful hazard mitigation efforts of a large volcanic eruption.

On 15 June at approximately 1:42 p.m. local time, Pinatubo erupted—the largest volcanic blast since Alaska’s Novarupta in 1912. Its ash cloud contained 5 cubic kilometers of material—lofted to 40 kilometers high. Because a passing typhoon simultaneously brought heavy rains, fast moving flows of ash, mud, and volcanic debris called lahars rushed down the volcano, flattening towns, smashing through jungle, and smothering rice paddies and sugarcane fields. The water also mixed with falling ash, creating a cement-like substance, and many buildings caved in from the weight. More than 350 people died during the eruption, most from collapsing roofs.

From the USGS, 2016:

Remembering Mount Pinatubo 25 Years Ago: Mitigating a Crisis

Bursts of gas-charged magma exploded into umbrella ash clouds, hot flows of gas and ash descended the volcano’s flanks and lahars swept down valleys. The collaborative work of scientists from the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), and the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (PHIVOLCS) saved more than 5,000 lives and $250 million in property by forecasting Pinatubo’s 1991 climactic eruption in time to evacuate local residents and the U.S. Clark Air Force Base that happened to be situated only 9 miles from the volcano.

U.S. and Filipino scientists worked with U.S. military commanders and Filipino public officials to put evacuation plans in place and carry them out 48 hours before the catastrophic eruption. As in 1991 at Pinatubo, today the USGS is supported by The US Agency for International Development’s (USAID) Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance to provide scientific assistance to countries around the world though VDAP, the Volcano Disaster Assistance Program. The program and its partners respond to volcanic unrest, build monitoring infrastructure, assess hazards and vulnerability, and improve understanding of eruptive processes and forecasting to prevent natural hazards, such as volcanic eruptions, from becoming human tragedies.

The eruptions of Mount St. Helens in May 1980 and Soufrière Hills on Montserrat in July 1995 are examples of what happens when scientists are ignored by people who don’t want to listen.  But with a violent brute like Duterte in power in the Philippines, will he listen if the active Taal volcano is predicted to erupt?  Unlike Pinatubo which is 80km northwest of Manila (the jet stream carried ash north and east across Luzon), Taal is only 50km from downtown Manila, an urban metropolis of 22 million.  Even if Taal has a small eruption radius (say, 10km), there are still millions within the vicinity.

Here are two videos about Pinatubo in 1991.  The first is from PBS’s NOVA, and the second from National Geographic.

Those In Crisis Care: An array of states in states of disarray

Alaska, Idaho, and Montana have all declared emergencies in their health care systems, and enacted Crisis Care rules for determining who gets treatment.

For year, republiclowns lied that universal health care would lead to “rationing” and “euthanasia”.  How will they explain to constituents now that their refusal to enforce mask wearing and discouraging vaccination has now led to rationed care and doctors forced to choose who lives and dies?  There is already one confirmed case of a patient who died from lack of care.  As Rachel Maddow reported on her show (video below), two people in need of kidney dialysis were forced to wait for treatment because hospitals were overrun with COVID-19 patients.  One of the two died.

This will continue to get worse, and continue to spread to other republican states.  How long before trumpkin sycophants and wannabes like Desantis lie and claim “Biden is euthanizing people, don’t get vaccinated!”?

More below.

[Read more…]

Swipe Me: I got the shock of my life today

I went to work today, as per usual.  Unfortunately, I’m still forced to dress “male” to work because I wouldn’t be hired otherwise.  A few Transgender and Non-Binary foreigners are out at work, but not myself.  I don’t know of any Taiwanese people in the ESL field who are out, though I know of some working in other white and blue collar businesses.

I prepared for the day’s classes, then went into the third of the day, and I saw something unexpected.

I saw a child wearing a dress.

This child has always had a boy’s name, and my co-teacher tells me she has a new name.  And I’m spending the next hour distracted instead of doing my job, asking myself whether the little girl knows or has been influenced by me, whether this happened independent of me, whether I should tell her parents, find out if they already know, etc.  There is a lot to process.

This is the first time I’ve seen a child transition at a school.  Thankfully, all the other students treated her the same as before.  And since the entire staff knows I’m Trans and have seen me at social events, it wasn’t a shock to them and they treated her with respect.

But it sure as hell was a shock to me.

As a friend said to me online, “Supportive parents FTW!”

Forty Days To Go: For me, Hallowe’en starts today

The worst day of the Salem Witch Trials came on September 22, 1692, three hundred and twenty nine years ago today.  Twenty victims were murdered by religious fanatics between June and October that year, eight of them on a single day.  It likely would have continued had Governor Phips not had his Joseph Welch moment, a moment that made everyone stop and look at what they were doing, the harm they were causing.  The trials ended by October 29, 1692.

I hereby declare that as soon as I came from fighting … and understood what danger some of their innocent subjects might be exposed to, if the evidence of the afflicted persons only did prevaile either to the committing or trying any of them, I did before any application was made unto me about it put a stop to the proceedings of the Court and they are now stopt till their Majesties pleasure be known.

The title is because September 22 to October 31 is forty days inclusive.

History.com: Salem Witch Trials

Smithsonian Mag: A Brief History of the Salem Witch Trials

Salem.org: Witch Trials of 1692

Is there really any difference between the rabble that wanted to burn witches centuries ago, and the rabble today that want ignore scientific reality, actively seeking to spread a preventable disease?  The violent and fanatics of today may not be spreading fire, but they’re just as damaging with their spittle.

According to The Lancet, well over a million children worldwide have been left orphaned (both or their single parent dying) due to COVID-19, and over half a million more lost one parent.  And that’s only from official estimates; unofficial tallies from India suggest five million more people died than official figures, not counted because they didn’t die in hospitals.  They make Desantis’s fake numbers in Florida look like a minor bookkeeping error.  How many more million innocent victims will die and be left orphans before the pandemic starts to slow in 2022 or 2023?



In 1918, Sara Teasdale wrote and published a poem entitled, “There Will Come Soft Rains”, about the end of World War I.  While she was writing about war, she could have as easily been (and likely was) talking about the millions killed by the pandemic.  It seemed fitting, even if it has nothing to do with Hallowe’en.

"There Will Come Soft Rains"

There will come soft rains and the smell of the ground,
And swallows circling with their shimmering sound;

And frogs in the pools singing at night,
And wild plum-trees in tremulous white;

Robins will wear their feathery fire
Whistling their whims on a low fence-wire;

And not one will know of the war, not one
Will care at last when it is done.

Not one would mind, neither bird nor tree
If mankind perished utterly;

And Spring herself, when she woke at dawn,
Would scarcely know that we were gone.


Stop Driving, Walk And Ride Instead: It’s World Car Free Day today

September 22 is World Car Free Day, a day and a movement to encourage people to walk, ride bicycles, and take public transit instead of driving wasteful single person vehicles.  There’s a myriad of good reasons to stop driving: it’s cheaper than owning a car, better for the environment, less wasteful, makes streets safer, less weight on crumbling infrastructure, among others.

As twenty months of COVID-19 have shown, bike riding had many positive effects on cities around the world.  Many are creating new bicycle routes or closing off large areas of cities to cars, returning public spaces to people that should have always been theirs.  New York’s mass of business closures due to the pandemic freed up streets, and Paris has enacted strict 30kmh speed limits throughout the entire city, excluding major thoroughfares.  If only more cities had the courage to try it as London and Brisbane have done.

World Car-Free Day 2021: History and Significance

World Car-Free Day, as the name suggests, is an opportunity to highlight the benefits of going car-free. The day is celebrated every year on 22 September around the globe to encourage motorists to give up their cars for a day.

According to the official website of United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), “the event highlights the numerous benefits of going car-free to citizens—including reduced air pollution and the promotion of walking and cycling in a safer environment.”

World Car-Free Day: History

Multiple informal car-free days are being organized in countries like Iceland, UK, etc., since 1990s. However, the campaign went global with the World Car-Free Day launched by Carbusters (now World Carfree Network) in 2000.

From Living Streets UK:

World Car Free Day

22 September is World Car Free Day, when all around the world towns and cities allow people to experience streets free of motor traffic.

It’s a great chance to re-imagine our streets around people.

Car Free Metro DC:

What is Car Free Day?

Car Free Day is a free international event celebrated every September 22 in which people are encouraged to get around without driving alone in cars and instead ride a train, bus, bicycle, carpool, vanpool, subway, or walk. For those that have the ability to work from home, telework also counts. Car Free Day is open to all people in the Washington metropolitan area. To participate in this fun and worthwhile event, just fill out the pledge form, then go car free or car-lite (carpool, vanpool) on Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Not Just Bikes is a youtube channel made by a Canadian living in the Netherlands.  He talks about how rideable Dutch cities are by design, how bicycles and cars run parallel to one another in separate transportation systems that occupy the same space.  This shows that it can be done, but the problem is the obsession with “car culture”, and how cities are beholden to corporations and bad design based on gentrification.

ZDF Magazin Royale is a very popular German TV comedy/news show, in the vein of Daily Show and Full Frontal.  I don’t speak German, but the automatic translation subtitles on this video are good enough to understand the comedy.  And you understand the point the video is making about how governments and economies prioritize cars over human beings.

I expected comedy to bite at Angela Merkel, but I spit my coffee and almost dropped it when he called her the “stasi chancellor”.  I know she was born in East Germany, but smoley hokes, that was rough. ^_^