My morning so far

  • Cough myself awake. (Fifth cold in the last six months.)
  • Dodge call from collection agent.
  • Make coffee. Note I’m out of coffee, reassess budget for earlier trip to grocery store.
  • Read the below-quoted about myself in comments in this article about divisions in the environmental movement:

    What we don’t know, is how much oil and gas/ Koch money Steingraber and Clarke are getting.

  • Dodge call from different collection agent.

How’s your day going?

It’s Not Just the Internet. It Never Has Been.

What Emily Finke says:

“Oh, the anonymity of the internet makes people behave badly!”

“If we just used real names, there people wouldn’t be as vicious.”

“Oh, that’s just 20-something guys in internet chatrooms. That’s how they all are.”

On the contrary, the viciousness we see, isn’t just a side effect of the internet. It’s a side effect of our culture.

No, I would go beyond that. It isn’t a side effect of our culture. It *is* our culture.

Why would I ever say this? I mean, everyone knows that those anonymous trolls on reddit would *never* act like that in the real world. It’s the structure of the internet that allows them to be assholes. Everyone knows that if we just avoid the problematic sites, like reddit, or the skeptics movement, or, well, anywhere else online, we wouldn’t have to deal with this.


People do act like that in the real world.


(If you don’t know Emily’s blog, you ought to. She doesn’t post often, but what she does post is really good. This one from last year still gets me.)

Here I Stand; I Can Do No Other

I weigh in on Google Glass at KCET.

The gist:

Some of us come out to the desert to escape the Panopticon that life in the city already is, increasingly. In Los Angeles, Google Glass might be just one more increment of invasion in a landscape already thoroughly colonized by surveillance cameras, red light cameras, random private webcams, smart phone videographers and other such prying eyes. But there are places out here that don’t even have 4G yet. In fact — and you might want to sit down here and swallow that mouthful of coffee — there are some places out here where even the 3G coverage is spotty. We are in the back of beyond here in much of Eastern California.

And we like it that way, mostly.

So by all means, come on out and visit the desert. Bring your recording equipment, whether it’s a shoulder-mounted Steadicam or this latest bit of geek lust from Google sitting on your face. Document your hike. Record that coyote begging for sandwiches. Take video of that gorgeous desert bloom backlit by sunrise. The desert needs all the documentation it can get.

But if you’re talking to me, take that Google Glass off and put it away. If I’m speaking in public — which I do from time to time, offering lectures and poetry readings and such — and see you’re in my audience wearing Google Glass and you haven’t cleared it with me first, I will stop what I’m doing and ask you to put it away or leave. If you’re at an adjacent cafe table facing me and recording in my direction, I will write something derogatory in Sharpie on a sheet of paper and hold it up. I may escalate from there. And I’m not alone.

Read the whole thing.

[Read more…]

Gizmodo fails again

There’s a whole lot wrong with this Gizmodo piece on the proposed Palen Solar Electric Generating System. In fact, the fuckup per sentence ratio is higher than in any piece I’ve seen this month outside of The Solar Energy Zone “Initiative” wasn’t “signed into law” by Obama — it was a record of decision issued by the Interior Department on an agency program as the culmination of an environmental assessment, rather than a bill passed by Congress and sent to the President’s desk. (Which means Obama didn’t sign it and it’s not a law.) Palen will very likely not start construction this year: the California Energy Commission is casting a sober eye at contractor BrightSource’s technology on its proposed Hidden Hills project, which is much closer to approval. The towers at Hidden Hills will be just as tall as those at Palen, if either plant ever gets built, and Hidden Hills will likely go up first, meaning that the Gizmodo headline is wrong.

Like I said: many, many errors. But this one’s the worst, and it’s the very first paragraph:

The US government holds vast tracts of public lands—more than a 654 million acres, in fact—for public use such as national parks as well as for military use like test ranges and proving grounds. But most of the time, much of that land is left to rot when it could be producing clean solar energy for our ever-increasing power needs.

“Left to rot.”

By way of comparison

“Left to rot.”


“Left to rot.”


What is it with some of these tech writers? Any landscape that doesn’t look like fucking Trantor is useless to them, sounds like.

Thistle Memorial Heavily Moderated Lounge Adjunct and Hookah Bar


I figure we can all use an extra lounge-type open thread this week, seeing as, well, everything. Consider this Heavily Moderated, as PZ might say. The picture above is Thistle, my rabbit who died a year ago today after a long and adventurous life. Despite being dead, he will be aiding me in moderation as he can still kick miscreant butt. It’s good practice for his War on Easter.

Since this isn’t a continuation of the lounge thread per se, some suggested topics: Rabbits, rats, recipes, the crying need for more threads about Jafafa Hots, the upcoming Doctor Who episode, whether Sherlock and Khan have ever been photographed together, your preferred caffeine delivery method, other animals we might have known who are lovely despite not being rabbits or rats, cupcakes, what superpower you wish you had, or the single most overplayed piece of music you love. Or suggest your own.

It’s nice to see someone willing to live by their own advice

All the scientists and naturalists out there crying foul on behalf of the desert need to hang their intellects up for a moment and spend some time in their hearts for a while.

I get the best rebuttal yet to my piece taking down Allan Savory’s “green the deserts by filling them with cows” pseudoscience.

(And remember, when you hang your intellects up for a moment, to heed Joan Crawford’s timeless counsel.)

An object lesson for those who doubted

About 48 hours ago I posted a link to the Twitter feed of the egregious Michael Crook, who had used that fine microblogging service to share loathsome, horrible, explicitly pro-rape opinions regarding Steubenville.

Within minutes, this clown — in the very first comment on the thread — objected, saying that my calling attention to Crook was “feeding a troll.” Twenty minutes after that first comment, this other clown chimed in.

Both claimed that by calling out an egregious “troll” — not a rape advocate, but a “troll” — I had played right into Crook’s game of trollish 12-dimensional chess. Given him “what he wanted.” etc.

That’s manifestly not true, as it turns out. I don’t know what percentage of the attention Crook got came from my link. Perhaps it was a large amount, given the Pharyngula Phyrehose. Perhaps it was just a couple of percentage points. But Crook got a lot of unfavorable attention from all over the feminist and anti-rape sections of the Webonets. Should have made him utterly gleeful, right? As a ‘troll.”

Crook’s Twitter feed is gone. His website seems to be down. Is it reasonable to conclude that he decided there was too much attention being paid to him? Seems so to me. Though perhaps both Twitter and his web host decided to take him down against his will. Which seems less likely, given that the stuff Crook was saying was merely among the most egregious of the hundreds of rape supporters opining on Steubenville, most of whom seem not to have been censored.

I’m guessing he found the public response unpleasant.

Yes, forestalling further trollish objection, Crook is indeed entitled to freedom of speech. And so are we. It would seem sentiments like Crook’s in favor of rape don’t stand up to actual discussion. If people had decided not to “feed the troll,” Crook would very likely still be spreading his pro-rape views online at the moment. But enough people used their own rights to freedom of speech to let him know they found his views repugnant. If he’d been out to troll, he’d have relished that. If he’d had the courage of his convictions, he’d still be arguing.

But instead, that fearless defender of rapists seems to have shut the fuck up for the moment.

That tiny minority of commenters on that thread who scolded those of us who wanted to call Crook’s garbage out publicly: if we’d all listened to you, the world would be a slightly worse place than it is now. I suggest you go to your rooms and think about what you did.

And for those of you who think your voice doesn’t matter? It does. And thank you.