What I’m Reading, October 21, 2014

Schadenfreude: Not Just For Winners Anymore, Bette Noir, Rumproast, October 16, 2014

Heads are exploding all over the Conserva-sphere, today. Mostly because the owners of those heads don’t read very carefully.

CJ Chivers broke a story, in The New York Times, exposing a Bush administration and Pentagon coverup of the fact that US military troops were, with some frequency, stumbling upon, and in some cases being wounded by, chemical agents while deployed in Iraq.

Just the media source and a little bit of introductory information were enough to get the Right cackling with glee and spewing out delirious Bush Vindication blurbs. They were not all that troubled by the fact that some US soldiers have been damaged for life by their exposure to chemicals, or that those soldiers were sent into harm’s way without adequate training and protection against what the military knew was there. They were just so danged delighted to be able to say “See! Libtards, this is your own lamestream media spilling the story that our princeling was right all along. So bite me!”

Interestingly, a few caught the irony and said “hmmmmm, what’s The Times up to, here.” They were the smarter ones.

Why, Despite the Incredibly Discouraging Crap That’s Been Going On in Recent Weeks and Months and Years, I Still Have Hope for Organized Atheism, Greta Christina, Greta Christina’s Blog, October 15, 2014

There are also lots more women and people of color on the speakers’ circuit. When local groups invite visiting speakers, it’s not overwhelmingly white men on the podiums anymore. And women and people of color aren’t just being invited to speak about gender and race and diversity — we’re being invited to speak about Biblical history, about handling criticism in social media, about coming out as an atheist. Our voices are being heard. When we speak about our experience of our marginalization, and when we speak about our experience and knowledge about atheism or science or history or organizing, we’re being heard.

More importantly: There’s a shift in the activities that these local groups are involved in. There are local atheist groups, both off-campus and student groups, doing fundraising for women seeking abortions. Teaching English as a new language. Organizing protests against the Hobby Lobby decision. Organizing events for parents and families. Organizing events for children. Founding a secular humanist soup kitchen. And I strongly suspect that this shift in activities is at least partly responsible for the demographic shift — and is partly a result of it as well. Like I say when I give talks on diversity: Inclusivity is a self-perpetuating cycle. The more diverse a group gets, the more likely it is that they’ll get involved in projects that matter to a wider variety of people — and as the group gets more involved in projects that matter to a wider variety of people, it draws a wider variety of people. I don’t know this for sure, I’m not even sure how you would test it — but when I ask group leaders, this is what they commonly say. Either they started taking on more diverse projects as their group got more diverse, or their group got more diverse as they started taking on more diverse projects — or both.


What I’m Reading, October 20, 2014

Property Rights, Gin and Tacos, October 15, 2014

It’s equal parts intriguing and disturbing how often men treat women with respect – not invading their personal space or shouting things at them that they would prefer not to have shouted at them – not because they think women deserve to be treated with respect but because they are with a man. The inebriated young men didn’t refrain from making suggestive comments because they realized that it’s inappropriate; they refrained because I was next to her. Old creepers and “pickup artists” do not leave accompanied women alone at bars because they recognize that ignoring all the “please stop” signals is behavior that trends toward Rapey. They do it because the has a Sold tag on her and is already the property of some other man. And many men who would happily treat women with the utmost disrespect would recoil at the thought of disrespecting another man by hitting on his Property.

The right’s Lena Dunham delusion: Anger, misogyny and the dangers of business as usual, Katie McDonough, Salon, October 17, 2014 Continue reading


Basic Market Economics

It seems like this ought to be obvious:

  1. Wage disparity grows.
  2. Most people make less and less money in real terms.
  3. People have to spend a higher percentage of their money on essentials like food and shelter.
  4. People have less discretionary income.
  5. People spend less money.
  6. Retail businesses suffer.

Any questions? (h/t BooMan)


“Alien” Has Nothing on This

Nature can be a real asshole. This video is not for the squeamish:

I’m pretty sure this type of wasp partly inspired the birth cycle of the creatures in the Alien movies. Nature takes it farther, though, in terms of being horrifying, albeit with a certain sense of karma. The narrator notes: “One of the greatest dangers the larvae will face is being themselves impregnated by other species of parasitic wasp.”

Then there’s this: Continue reading



October 16, 1994 was a magical day on the Rice University campus.

You see, nobody beats Rice’s football team 29 years in a row.



I’ll be AFK for a bit

“AFK” means “away from keyboard,” right? The reason being that I’m having a minor procedure tomorrow that will most likely prevent me from typing anything for a (hopefully) short while.

I say “minor” because it’s an endoscopic procedure that they say will only take 20-30 minutes, but it’s really just good ol’ carpal tunnel surgery.

About two years ago, I noticed that I was having numbness in my pinky finger and half of my ring finger on my left hand. My doctor referred me to an orthopaedic specialist, who sent me for nerve testing. I was diagnosed at the time with cubital tunnel syndrome, which involves the “funny bone” nerve that runs through the elbow and affects those 1.5 fingers I just mentioned. We decided not to do anything at the time because it wasn’t that bothersome, and the tests showed that the condition was mild.

Earlier this year, I began to notice that the rest of my left hand was going completely numb at times, especially in the morning, possibly because I was sleeping on my side with that hand folded up under the opposite arm (it’s hard to picture, so I’d recommend you not try.) I went back to the orthopaedic doc (spell check is telling me “orthopaedic” is spelled wrong, but it just looks so dang cool with that “a” in there), who sent me for more nerve testing. The tests involve electrodes and tiny electric shocks. I don’t recommend it. Continue reading


What I’m Reading, October 14, 2014

Denied. Charles Vestal, Medium, October 10, 2014

The law itself says 20 weeks “from fertilization” (vs. “gestational age”), and we’re actually only 18 weeks from fertilization–my amazing wife tracked her cycle to a T. The hospital acknowledges it isn’t against the letter of the law, but it is a grey area their policies won’t let them touch. Too risky, too hot button a topic.

We are denied the opportunity to even make a humane and doctor sanctioned medical decision by a bill that we never thought would affect us. I was there at the capitol, fighting for the rights of women. It never crossed my mind I would be fighting for my own.

No, We Don’t Want Your Apologies (AKA You are not a very good ally if…), Feminace, October 8, 2014 Continue reading


What I’m Reading, October 13, 2014

For Master Thieves, Legos Are the New Uncut Diamonds, Vocativ, Shane Dixon Kavanaugh, August 20, 2014

While Legos aren’t exactly uncut diamonds (they’re not nearly as portable), as far as untraceable commodities go, they’re almost as good. Thieves can sell unopened Lego sets, which are very difficult to track, almost immediately online for as much or more than the retail price. And if they sit on them for a while, it gets even better, because many of the bigger sets rapidly appreciate in value—at a rate much faster than inflation. In other words, they’re money in the bank.

Last week’s back-to-back busts underscore what appears to be a growing awareness among criminals of Legos’ street value. Over the last couple of years, professional thieves and opportunists around the world have turned the Danish building blocks into fat stacks of Benjamins. They’ve included Silicon Valley executives, criminal masterminds in Florida, Oklahoma conmen and even drug dealers in Amsterdam, who have started accepting Lego toys as payment.

Some go for the toy stores, others rob the delivery trucks. Earlier this year, a suspected band of crooks in Australia brandished angle grinders and crowbars to pilfer at least $30,000 in Legos from four different retailers. In England, bandits in Watford Gap and West Yorkshire pulled off Lego truck heists to the tune of $87,000 and $67,000.

The Kraken Is Such A Big Meanie, The Kraken, The Gloomy Historian, October 9, 2014 Continue reading


What I’m Reading, October 10, 2014

Men Have Depended on the Government for Centuries—So Why Shouldn’t Women Do the Same? Rebecca Traister, The New Republic, October 8, 2014 (h/t Echidne)

Where once American women were forced to depend on husbands for economic stability and social and sexual sanctification, they now rely, to some degree, on the American government to protect the rights and benefits that make independent citizenship possible.

But what too often goes unacknowledged is that women aren’t the only Americans who have relied on the government as a partner. Rather, it’s a model of support and dependence that has bolstered the fortunes of American men throughout the nation’s history.

It’s hard to remember that guys did not rise to the top of business and political worlds passively, by dint of their hard-wired inclinations and the gravitational pull of their penises alone. Men too, even the rich, white married ones who vote Republican as reliably as single women vote Democrat—in fact, especially those men—have benefitted terrifically from government policies and practices. Call it “The Wifey State,” and come to grips with the fact that white guys have been taking advantage of it since the founding.

Wal-Mart Advances ObamaCare, BooMan, Booman Tribune, October 9, 2014 Continue reading


This Week in WTF, October 10, 2014

- On the plus side, she’s sure to sell the movie rights: A woman in Spain may be having marital problems, but I’m sure her story will make a profitable—if not actually good—movie.

Some nine months ago, a bride-to-be had sex with a dwarf stripper after a bachelorette party, and this week she introduced a new member of the family to her husband who is likely not the father. Or so the newborn infant’s attributes would suggest.

Inside a hospital in Valencia, Spain, the mother confessed to her tryst with the stripper when doctors recognized the newborn possessed traits related to dwarfism.

Actually, George R.R. Martin may have already thought of a somewhat similar storyline…

This isn’t the storyline I had in mind. It’s just awesome.

- Not quite to Phase 3 yet: The FDA is saying that caffeine-infused underpants probably won’t help you lose weight (h/t Ragen). Continue reading