I thought I was in hell, but it’s only purgatory

I’m in an airport. I’ve been in an airport all afternoon. Airports are terrible places, vacant and uninteresting, where people only go to get out of them as soon as they possibly can, and the height of misery is being compelled to stay in one longer than planned. But I find a moment of grimdark happiness in reading an article by Laurie Penny, in which she is trapped in an even worse place: a cruise ship. And just to double-down…a cruise ship full of cryptocurrency fanatics.

On this half-empty passenger ship with its swirling ’80s carpets right out of The Shining, there is very little sober talk of blockchain’s obstacles or limitations. Nobody mentions how wildly ecologically unsound the whole project is—some estimates have bitcoin burning as much energy as the entire nation of Ireland for a relatively small pool of users. Instead, the core and only existential question is which of the various coins and ICOs (initial coin offerings) will make you the richest the fastest before dawn.

Freedom here means freedom of money, and only freedom of money—and what freedom of money means is the freedom to amass great stocks of it without being taxed or traced. Occasionally, people even talk about this on panels, though nobody is really here for the conference part of the conference.

At least nobody in this airport is talking incessantly about money…or rather, there are such people, but they roam the place like Martians, easily avoided because they wear bluetooth ear-pieces and their mouths constantly move as they prowl about, focused entirely on the conversation they find so important. Nobody talks to much of anyone here. They move. They squat next to precious electrical outlets. They hover morosely over luggage they’ve been warned will be confiscated if they leave it untended.

Another thing we lack, mostly, in airports is women in obvious bondage.

One of the ways men bond is by demonstrating collective power over women. This is why business deals are still done in strip clubs, even in Silicon Valley, and why tech conferences are famous for their “booth babes.” It creates an atmosphere of complicity and privilege. It makes rich men partners in crime. This is useful if you plan to get ethically imaginative with your investments. Hence the half-naked models, who are all working a lot harder than any of the guys in shirtsleeves.

The cruise’s panelists all tout decentralization’s promises of shared responsibility, community, and freedom, but the version I see here means that nobody knows precisely who is responsible for all of this. It’s nobody’s specific fault that we’re trapped on a floating live-action walkthrough of how un-trammelled free-market capitalism can be bad for women, given that money and power are things women tend to have less of.

See? It could be worse, I tell myself, while checking the clock again for that moment of transition when I get to leave the land of dull carpet and interminable chairs to be confined in a tube with virtually no freedom to move for 3 hours.

48 minutes to boarding, O Blessed Sweet Relief from Waiting.

No, I don’t want a lecture from John McAfee to ease the boredom.

The death of expertise continues apace

We know Donald Trump despises the UN, so I’m interpreting this as an act of spite: he’s appointing to the post of UN Ambassador one of those interchangeable blonde Fox News talking heads, Heather Nauert. She’s not a diplomat, she’s had no real training from the State Department (she has been a spokesman), and she seems to be prone to gaffes. But we all also know what Trump considers “qualifications”.

She has been a strong defender of Trump’s at the podium, something he has clearly noticed.

She’s excellent, she’s been with us a long time, she’s been a supporter for a long time, Trump told reporters on Nov. 1.

Sycophancy has replaced competence as the key requirement for high positions in government. The other day I saw a Jordan Peterson clip in which he was babbling about how Western culture was a meritocracy and how hierarchies in society were a reflection of degree of competence. I laughed. He has no idea at all.

Never admire anyone, ever

I’m looking forward to this new Aquaman movie with Jason Mamoa. It’s about time someone did that story right.

But then I read this anecdote from Amber Heard, his co-star. She liked to read between takes.

“He adopted this method of ripping out the pages of my book so I would pay attention to him,” she said on Good Morning America. “It would drive me crazy because I’d have 30 pages left and it would be gone.”

I literally gasped in horror. Defacing books is an extreme, radical act, not to be done lightly. He was doing it just to get attention, and he was doing it to someone else’s books.

I hope Heard has a big part in the movie, because I’m going to watch it as if her character is the true protagonist, and Mamoa is the nasty big lunk she’s got to work around.

I was born too late

See, I just barely missed my chance to witness an Elasmotherium.

Scientists originally thought that Elasmotherium sibiricum, commonly referred to as “Siberian Unicorn,” died out around 100,000 to 200,000 years ago. But a recent study published in Nature Ecology & Evolution, a peer-reviewed journal, reveals the species was alive until at least 39,000 years ago, a contemporary of both humans and Neanderthals.

Awesome. Although I do have to think about whether it would be a fair trade-off to have been born 40,000 years ago in Siberia in order to see an animal that would stomp me flat.

I’m either going to get flagged for porn or disappoint a lot of new readers

Gaze on this erotic image.

The current state of computer detection of pornography is a bit primitive: it keeps mistaking desert photos for images of naked people. If I stare hard at it for a while, I guess I can sort of see it — it’s all those reclining curves, I think.

From this we learn that AI is not only unable to distinguish people from bags of sand, but also that it’s more than a little racist.

Charleston sees the light…or the oncoming legal sledgehammer

I mentioned that it was odd that the Charleston, Illinois Parks & Rec department was sponsoring all these evangelical Christian events, including a trip to the Ark Park. Well, they aren’t anymore: The FFRF slammed them for unconstitutional religious advocacy, and they canceled.

When it comes to the secular U.S. government, the City of Charleston has acted in an unconstitutional manner to endorse any religious mission facilitated by such attractions. The government cannot organize, fund, or sponsor any trip to either the Creation Museum or to Ark Encounter. Ryan Jayne, the FFRF staff attorney, sent a letter to Rachael Cunningham, the City Attorney, stating the government is actively doing an unconstitutional action by advertising and organizing any trip to religious attractions like a Christian museum and a Christian theme park. Funding such activities also go against the United States government ethos. The letter continued saying although it is a laudatory aim to encourage citizens to attend a recreational event, pushing a religious attraction alienates those who are not Christians and belong to any other faith or to no faith. “Surely there are appropriate secular activities, in addition to the planned trip to the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Gardens, that would not attempt to convert attendees to a particular religion.”

I imagine some people in Charleston are seething right now. Good.


Now there’s another one.

Now a fourth woman has told BuzzFeed News her experience of sexual harassment from Tyson. In January 2010, she recalled, she joined her then-boyfriend at a holiday party for employees of the American Museum of Natural History. Tyson, its most famous employee, drunkenly approached her, she said, making sexual jokes and propositioning her to join him alone in his office. In a 2014 email shared with BuzzFeed News, she described the incident to her own employer in order to shoot down a proposed collaboration with Tyson.

Uh-oh. And in summary:

All three of these women say that Tyson’s behavior toward them was not simply inappropriate or clumsy; it was harassment. Their stories, they said, which all took place in professional settings, show a clear abuse of power. And his response, they said, ignored the real pain and discomfort that he caused under the guise of playfulness and goodwill.

How will I satisfy my fetish for “female-presenting nipples” now?

As you may have heard by now, Tumblr has announced new community guidelines that prohibit nudity, sex acts, and of all things “female-presenting nipples”. You might be wondering why. That’s easy. I pulled out the relevant lines from this long article about the decision.

in June 2017, Yahoo was acquired by Verizon for its ad business

Simon explicitly said that Black Lives Matter was an opportunity to [make] a ton of money.

the real problem was always that Verizon couldn’t sell ads next to porn.

Porn on Tumblr is something Verizon needs to wipe out if it’s going to make any money off what it thinks is actually valuable about the platform

I think the most important point is that they can’t sell ads next to porn, which is any public portrayal of or discussion about sexual activity (and given how random the algorithms they’ve devised to detect “porn” are, it seems to be anything vaguely like people doing anything), or anything Verizon can’t figure out how to monetize. They seem to be pouring more money into sanitizing Tumblr than they ever did on just maintaining the site, and right now there are all kinds of people sadly announcing that their blogs were shut down or photos were flagged or that they’re suddenly finding themselves censured for building fandoms of consenting adults because insurance companies and auto dealers don’t want to advertise on their sites.

Their unique brand was that they allowed sex workers, women, LGBTQ folk, and random niche fandoms to thrive, and yet recently people were getting concerned about “what they were going to do about the influx of alt right users, pedophilic users, and inappropriate bots that would appear in tags that were meant to cater to underage users,” so what did the staff do? They lashed out at the sex workers, women, LGBTQ folk, and random niche fandoms, rather than the alt right users. Curious. They’re willing to take draconian actions that alienate the people who’ve been using their medium for years, and have been investing resources in scrubbing out “female-presenting nipples”. Which raises a significant question.

Why aren’t any of the major social media sites taking similarly severe action to purge their sites of Nazis?

I mean, they always make excuses about free speech and not wishing to antagonize their dedicated user base. But porn is also free speech, and Tumblr is certainly turning away a significant number of contributors (to the point they’re going to destroy their own niche), so none of those excuses is operative. If the choice is to keep nipples or Nazis, wouldn’t most people choose nipples?

I guess Nazis are easier to monetize.