The sinful tech of hair coloring?


Oh, great. Breitbart has created a new “Tech” section, to be run by non-techie, non-gamer, non-competent poser, Milo Yiannopoulos. The only thing I can imagine even close to that miscasting was the Discovery Institute’s appointment of the young gerbil, Casey Luskin, to write science articles.

Well, I’ll give ’em a chance. I took a look at Breitbart Tech. First article that caught my eye: APOSEMATISM MAY EXPLAIN WHY SO MANY ANGRY WOMEN HAVE BLUE HAIR. Oooh! Science!

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Those dangerous black children at Spring Valley High School

What are you doing reading me about that incident? Go read Sikivu Hutchinson.

Whenever there’s a black girl on a school campus wielding a dangerous weapon like a cell phone, white macho can always be counted on to come to civilization’s rescue with the full force of fascist violence. These days, unarmed black children rank higher than mass murderers with semi-automatic weapons as public enemy number one on American school campuses.

Now there’s an interesting contrast. We can ban cell phones, but we are somehow incapable of regulating those semi-automatic weapons even a teensy-tiny bit. A black girl takes out a cell phone and a policeman slams her to the floor and beats her up, a white boy murders nine people and the police take him to Burger King. It’s almost as if we aren’t seeing appropriate responses to the danger or severity of the crime, but instead the police are reacting to the color of their skin.


Don’t you just hate it when the answers aren’t clear-cut? And I’m not going to give you any.

Two recent cases bring up conflicts.

My personal feeling is that Greer really is saying hateful crap, and my sentiment favors booting her antiquated butt off the campus. But the women speaking out against harassment are in the right, and SXSW shouldn’t boot their SJW butts out of the conference. Universities should take responsibility for what views are presented in official events, but also, SXSW is a commercial event and they should also have control over what they offer, and they have every right to be craven dipshits. The real arbiter of who should speak on a campus are the students, but students are often naive — they’re there to learn, and I wouldn’t stand for them dictating to me what I should teach. A commercial event like SXSW should follow the demands of the market if it expects to remain economically viable, but popularity for the masses is often a recipe for mediocrity, and also, market forces are biased against the underprivileged, so that would reinforce a discriminatory status quo.

Universities should encourage open discussion of a wide range of views, but maybe we should recognize that some views have fallen completely off the map of reasonable positions, despite the fact that some people continue to hold them, sometimes fiercely. Does the university have an obligation to let students hear advocates for the idea that the earth was created in a week, 6000 years ago? Should we bring in representatives of the KKK to explain how our black students are subhuman? I don’t think so. But universities, as public institutions, do allow groups to rent an auditorium for an evening, and the kooks do take advantage…so they should allow, but not endorse, lunacy and nastiness, as long as they aren’t expected to pay for it (and actually, if the loons have to pay for the privilege).

We should be open to good ideas, but not to wrong ones. The hard part is deciding which ideas are wrong enough that they should be excluded.

Universities have ideals and goals, and we should be able to say that some things are not at all conducive to learning or social progress. SxSW is a different beast: it’s a music festival which has branched out to cover all kinds of completely unrelated phenomena. Is there even a coherent mission that could be used to guide what kinds of events are appropriate to their program? How does anyone justify a statement that SxSW ought to have a panel on online harassment? Shouldn’t the ultimate argument be that they will do whatever appeases the sponsors?

So no, I don’t have a pat answer. I might give different answers to different situations, too. I think what I’d want is a clear statement of the long term goals of the institution, so that we could judge whether a specific action is likely to serve that goal or not. In the case of SxSW, I think they’ve betrayed the attendees vision of what the conference is all about, but they could be wrong — maybe the conference organizers’ vision is one where Monster Energy Drinks and McDonald’s continues to give them lots of money.

Similarly, I have rather idealistic views on the purpose of the university, but I suspect it would often be at odds with the views of the regents, who, as recent cases in Iowa and North Carolina show, might be more business-oriented and regressive than I’d like.

Did they have to make it so pretty?

The NY Times has put together a lovely illustrated story about data collection on Greenland. The story is prettily terrifying, though. The ice is melting, and forming lakes of liquid water on the surface of the ice cap, which then drains away in fast-running rivers that cut deeper into the ice and then drain into holes that run even deeper into the glacier — it’s a dangerous place, and if you fall in, you’ll be swept away and instantly dumped into a pit. It also means the ice sheet is porous and riddled with rot already.

In addition to the personal terror for the researchers, this work is about a process that’s going to affect us all.

But Mr. Overstreet’s task, to collect critical data from the river, is essential to understanding one of the most consequential impacts of global warming. The scientific data he and a team of six other researchers collect here could yield groundbreaking information on the rate at which the melting of Greenland ice sheet, one of the biggest and fastest-melting chunks of ice on Earth, will drive up sea levels in the coming decades. The full melting of Greenland’s ice sheet could increase sea levels by about 20 feet.

Is that scary enough for you yet? Hang on, there’s worse: our Republican congress.

But the research is under increasing fire by some Republican leaders in Congress, who deny or question the scientific consensus that human activities contribute to climate change.

Leading the Republican charge on Capitol Hill is Representative Lamar Smith of Texas, the chairman of the House science committee, who has sought to cut $300 million from NASA’s budget for earth science and has started an inquiry into some 50 National Science Foundation grants. On Oct. 13, the committee subpoenaed scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, seeking more than six years of internal deliberations, including “all documents and communications” related to the agency’s measurement of climate change.

I find the behavior of these Republican science-deniers unbelievable. There’s the obsessive derangement rivaling the Benghazi hearings, the appointment of unqualified know-nothings like Lamar Smith and Darrel Issa to play obstructionist games over scientific issues, and the abuse of legal strategies to harass scientists. Someday, we’re going to look back on this time as a period when the American government basically committed global crimes against humanity, as smiling rich fucks did everything they could to impose their ideological delusions on a dangerous reality.

But do read the NY Times article. The aerial views and maps of the ice sheet are gorgeous, and the field scientists are bravely carrying out important work, while the cowards and crooks of congress close their eyes and try to undermine that work.

Need entertaining podcast recommendations


I’ve been increasing my daily penance of exercise by a considerable amount, and am now spending an hour or more a day making my brain send electrical impulses to large muscle groups generating somewhat rhythmic motions. This is not fun. I’m only doing it because the technology has not yet arrived to allow me to discard the decrepit husk of flesh supporting me, and place my brain in a vat with a nerve bundle connected directly to the internet. So it goes.

Anyway, what I’ve been doing to make it tolerable is hook my auditory nerve, via a sensory transduction interface made of meat, to a device that feeds my brain podcasts, downloaded off the internet. I know, you peons who have been chained to long commutes in a vehicle are already totally familiar with this medium, but my commute is about one minute long, and involves crossing the street. So until now I haven’t had much opportunity to soak in soundwaves long enough to get past the introductory title, but that’s changed.

Give me ideas! I’ve been listening to Welcome to Night Vale, which is nice, because here in Minnesota we’ve long been habituated to this form of entertainment by Prairie Home Companion, but this is like PHC as written by HP Lovecraft with a heart transplant from a gay socialist.

Need more. Light, weird, entertaining is best — heavy, too distracting stuff might get me run over by the massive farm equipment on our roads. Also, soon enough I’ll be bundled in layers and freezing in icy blizzards while walking, so it’s got to be amusing enough to motivate me to brave the winters.