The Mansplaining Conference

I’m not making this up, that’s what they call it: “DESTINED TO BE THE MANSPLAINING EVENT OF THE CENTURY”, as if that’s a great selling point. Only women (but only biological women, they say) will be allowed to attend, all of the speakers are men, and the cost is $1,999. Did I mention that the speakers are people like Mike Cernovich and Stevan Molyneux and Andrew Dream Johnson, who I’ve never heard of before, but who calls himself the president of the Manosphere?

If that isn’t persuasive enough for you yet, the conference also promises to raise your femininity 500%, become the Ultimate Wife, and help you get pregnant and have unlimited babies!

Our speakers will teach you how to have as many babies as your heart desires with the time you have left and bounce back to amazing health and wellness without extreme diets or stress. The clock is ticking and your babies are soon to be kicking!

A sample of the kind of deep, poetic wisdom you will receive at this conference: “If you’re not strong, you’re weak.” Mind blown.

Well, ladies, have you signed up yet? If not, don’t worry, this is the kind of event designed to have your man sign you up to whip you into shape. Just sit back and let him make the decisions.

If you’re wondering what he’ll do during this woman-only event, don’t worry, there’s a parallel conference, The 21 Convention, 2nd Patriarch Edition, happening at the same time in the same hotel, with pretty much the same speaker list, for only $999 more. So yeah, $3000 for a weekend in which bloviating asses tell you what to do to live up to your man’s expectations, and then duck into the adjacent conference room to tell your man what to expect from you. It’s perfect.

Well? Let me know how many of you are going.

(By the way, that “men prefer debt free virgins without tattoos” is one of the slogans they use, and it’s more horrifying than it even sounds. “Debt free” refers specifically to college debt — so their kind of man prefers women who are uneducated and inexperienced and young and trainable.)

Man, I hope some newspaper somewhere ponies up the cash to send a secret journalist to this thing to report on the nonsense they’re going to peddle.

Move over, Santa Cruz

UC Santa Cruz has long held my affections for their mascot, the banana slug. Now the University of Richmond has displaced them: their mascot is a Spider, and it’s been that way since the 1890s.

They even advertise the fact!

The Richmond Spiders are the only spider team in the country. UMM’s mascot is the rather mundane cougar … I wonder if they’d be willing to change it? Maybe if they thought it was a way to get more donors…

Bioethics has teeth

I told you that He Jiankui, the Chinese scientist who had been carrying out gene editing on human subjects, was doing bad science and violating lots of ethical restrictions. I was right, obviously, because he was immediately repudiated and arrested by the Chinese government. You might be wondering what happens if you break the rules of bioethics — isn’t it all just an agreement between peers not to meddle in experiments that might cause trouble for each other? Well, now we know: He Jiankui has been tried and sentenced. He’s being fined over $400,000, and is going to prison for three years. Two of his colleagues are also going to jail. They’re also going to get a lifelong ban on doing scientific research with human subjects.

This isn’t just Chinese totalitarianism at work, either. It’s the same in most places.

Robin Lovell-Badge at the Francis Crick Institute in London told the UK Science Media Centre that a prison sentence and fine would also have been the likely penalties if someone had conducted similar work in the UK.

Maybe not everywhere, though. The people who carried out the Tuskegee syphilis study were not punished; the doctors who were paid to tell the public that smoking was safe were not punished; Andrew Wakefield is still roaming free, and is even making movies to spread disinformation; you can lie all you want about climate change. Jiankui seems to have picked the wrong victims, or lacked the corporate backing, to make his violations of human rights ignorable.

P.S. I think a hefty fine and a few years in prison would be the minimal punishment for Wakefield, who is responsible for the deaths of who knows how many children.

I refuse to be an agent of Ingsoc

Some universities are happily going along with new tracking technology. Let’s turn their cell phones into electronic snitches!

Short-range phone sensors and campuswide WiFi networks are empowering colleges across the United States to track hundreds of thousands of students more precisely than ever before. Dozens of schools now use such technology to monitor students’ academic performance, analyze their conduct or assess their mental health.

But some professors and education advocates argue that the systems represent a new low in intrusive technology, breaching students’ privacy on a massive scale. The tracking systems, they worry, will infantilize students in the very place where they’re expected to grow into adults, further training them to see surveillance as a normal part of living, whether they like it or not.

I agree with that last paragraph. I do not take attendance in any of my classes — the first couple of days I try to get to know them, but I literally tell them in the syllabus that I do not care if they don’t show up for class, except that I do contribute information that will help them pass the exams, so it’s probably a good idea to show up. We also have occasional quizzes and exercises that contribute to their grades. But otherwise, it is their responsibility to show up for the classes they are paying for.

Wouldn’t you know it, though, part of the drive for installing these surveillance systems is college athletics.

SpotterEDU chief Rick Carter, a former college basketball coach, said he founded the app in 2015 as a way to watch over student athletes: Many schools already pay “class checkers” to make sure athletes remain eligible to play.

Here at UMM, we have an appropriate level of monitoring of athletes: around mid-semester, they come around with a form to report their preliminary grades. That’s fair. More is silly. We also have systems set up where we can inform the administration if a student’s grades are slipping, information which is also passed on to the student’s advisor. I don’t need to know where a student is if they skip out on my class — that is none of my business, or the university’s.

Also, I already know when and why my attendance drops: first day of hunting season, the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, or the Friday before a fall or spring break. If someone wants to miss my scintillating lecture to spend time with family or friends, I don’t begrudge them that at all.

It will still be on the exam.

Or he could switch to arguing that those birds are immigrants, anyway

I’ve always wondered about this — I live in wind turbine country, my university runs a couple of them, and I’ve been out to walk around them, and there’s always something missing. There aren’t heaps of dead birds under them, like Donald Trump claims there are! I wondered if the blades strike these birds and flick their lump dead corpses off into the distance, or if there are thriving swarms of scavengers lurking in the bushes that snatch up the meat bounty falling from the heavens. It turns out I was wrong. wind turbines kill some birds, inevitably, but the real danger is…your cats.

I find it hard to believe MY PRESIDENT lied to me.

I assume that he will adapt to the facts and change his message at campaign rallies to something about how we need to deport or kill all those cats. He could probably put some kittens in a sack and slam it against a wall a few times, and then fling it into a river — his fans will all cheer.

Stay home, everyone

It got a bit icy in Minneapolis today. We had a little bit of road ballet going on.

Unfortunately, the guy recording this had to brag, “My trusty Tesla Model S AWD had no issues getting around so long as you went 5MPH”. No. I don’t care how expensive and shiny your vehicle is, get off the road. These are not safe road conditions.

OK, maybe if you’re driving a tank you could handle it.

Love doesn’t always win in the end, as it turns out

I’m not at all involved in this ongoing meltdown of another organization, but wow, does this account of the chaos at Romance Writers of America sound familiar.

It’s interesting to watch a major organization collapse in real time. I’m not involved, thankfully, but seeing the fall of the Romance Writers of America has been something. Whether it truly does cease to be still remains to be seen—a lot of its members are not on social media, and probably have no idea what’s going on—but for the online writing community, it seems the RWA will come to an end, going the way of all dinosaurs.

But to those authors on Twitter who are aghast—AGHAST, I tell you—that there could racism and bigotry in the RWA, I have to ask: why is this news to you? Courtney Milan has been fighting for marginalized romance authors in the RWA for quite some time. What exactly do you think she’s been fighting against?

Yikes. That link has a comprehensive summary of the events, but in short: the woman who was chair of the ethics committee, Courtney Milan, complains about racism in some of the authors’ works, leading several people to file ethics complaints against her, and then everything blew up with a flurry of resignations, firings, retractions, total chaos. Even now further revelations about bias in the management of RWA are trickling out.

It’s rather obvious that bigotry was rife in the organization (as it is everywhere), and what’s driving much of the meltdown is that some peoples method for dealing with racism is to deny that it exists. Problem solved! I’ve seen the same thing happen with various atheist/skeptic groups, and I rarely see them outright ending, they’re more likely to reconstitute themselves. Unfortunately, it’s 50:50 whether they improve vs. ending up under the sway of the assholes.