What I’m Reading, February 17, 2015

New Study on Gender and Hot Sauce Has Exceptional Conclusion, Maggie Lange, New York Magazine, February 3, 2015

Just as you hoped, a new study from Penn State researchers titled “Gender differences in the influence of personality traits on spicy food liking and intake” has important information about the ways in which men and women are entirely different sorts of creatures, and how one group might be genuinely badass taste adventurers and one group might not be.

In the study, the researchers conclude that women are more likely to seek sensation from spicy food, while men are more likely to see other extrinsic rewards like praise and admiration.

To put it another way, no one eats Guatemalan insanity peppers because they taste good.


Stop what you’re doing, and GO READ THE BUZZFEED EXPOSE OF A VOICE FOR MEN’S PAUL ELAM. (SPOILER: He’s even worse than you think), David Futrelle, We Hunted the Manmoth, February 6, 2015 Continue reading


He Sees You When You’re Sleeping…..

Have some utterly inappropriate Christmas humor (h/t Lynn), as well as a very happy winter-holiday-of-your-choice.

Christmas Carols for the Psychiatrically Challenged

  • SCHIZOPHRENIA: Do You Hear What I Hear?
  • MULTIPLE PERSONALITY DISORDER: We Three Kings Disoriented Are
  • DEMENTIA: I Think I’ll Be Home For Christmas
  • NARCISSISTIC: Hark, the Herald Angels Sing About Me
  • MANIC: Deck the Halls and Walls and House and Lawn and Streets and Stores and Office and Town and Cars and Busses and Trucks and Trees and Fire Hydrants and . . .
  • PARANOID: Santa Claus Is Coming To Get Me
  • PERSONALITY DISORDER: You Better Watch Out, I’m Gonna Cry, I’m Gonna Pout, Maybe I’ll Tell You Why
  • DEPRESSION: Silent Anhedonia, Holy Anhedonia, All Is Flat, All is Lonely
  • OBSESSIVE-COMPULSIVE DISORDER: Jingle Bell, Jingle Bell, Jingle Bell Rock, Jingle Bell, Jingle Bell, Jingle Bell Rock, Jingle Bell, Jingle Bell, Jingle Bell Rock, Jingle Bell, Jingle Bell, Jingle Bell Rock, Jingle Bell, Jingle Bell, Jingle Bell Rock, Jingle Bell, Jingle Bell, Jingle Bell Rock, Jingle Bell, Jingle Bell, Jingle Bell Rock, Jingle Bell, Jingle Bell, Jingle Bell Rock, Jingle Bell, Jingle Bell, Jingle Bell Rock, Jingle Bell, Jingle Bell, Jingle Bell Rock, Jingle Bell, Jingle Bell, Jingle Bell Rock, Jingle Bell, Jingle Bell, Jingle Bell Rock, Jingle Bell, Jingle Bell, Jingle Bell Rock, Jingle Bell, Jingle Bell, Jingle Bell Rock, Jingle Bell, Jingle Bell, Jingle Bell Rock, Jingle Bell, Jingle Bell, Jingle Bell Rock, Jingle Bell, Jingle Bell, Jingle Bell Rock, Jingle Bell, Jingle Bell, Jingle Bell Rock, Jingle Bell, Jingle Bell, Jingle Bell Rock, Jingle Bell, Jingle Bell, Jingle Bell Rock, Jingle Bell, Jingle Bell, Jingle Bell Rock, …
    (better start again)
  • PASSIVE-AGGRESSIVE PERSONALITY: On The First Day of Christmas My True Love Gave To Me (and then took it all away)
  • BORDERLINE PERSONALITY DISORDER: Thoughts of Roasting on an Open Fire.

The Right-Wing Media Might Just Have Terrible Reading Comprehension

By Kurykh (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia CommonsA putative class action lawsuit in Nevada alleges negligence and other claims against the private contractor hired to create the state’s health insurance exchange. At least two plaintiffs found themselves without insurance coverage, despite paying premiums since last fall. Their attorney says around forty more people have contacted him with similar complaints, and as many as 10,500 could have been affected.

As the people involved in the suit have repeatedly made clear, the lawsuit is about the alleged negligence, etc., of a private contractor, not about the Affordable Care Act (“ACA,” also known as Obamacare). Has that stopped the right-wing media from calling this a lawsuit over Obamacare? Do you even need to ask that question? More on that later.

The state of Nevada hired Xerox to create the state’s health insurance exchange, Nevada Health Link, in accordance with the ACA. A glitch caused some people who signed up through the state exchange to not actually have insurance. The lead plaintiff signed up in November and made his first premium payment on November 21. When he needed triple-bypass surgery in January, however, the insurer Health Plan of Nevada (HPN) had no record of him. The exchange and Xerox had allegedly been sending his payments to Nevada Health CO-OP, a different insurer. Neither insurer had a record of coverage, so the man ended up incurring over $400,000 in medical bills for himself. (On the plus side, he wasn’t left to die.) Continue reading


Memories of LEGO

I came across an eBay listing a few weeks ago, now ended, for a vintage LEGO space set, the Space Transport, model no. 918, from 1978.

Via eurobricks.com

Via eurobricks.com

It caught my eye for several reasons. First of all, the eBay listing price was $875.00. Second, this was one of the sets that I knew about in my youth, and it is very evocative of childhood memories. The 918 Space Transport set was actually never available in the U.S., but two similar sets were: the Space Cruiser, sold in Europe as model no. 924 and in the U.S. as no. 487; and the Galaxy Explorer, model no. 928 in Europe and 497 in the U.S.

I had the Galaxy Explorer, which was by far the coolest of the three, but could never find the Space Cruiser—even though LEGO made a point of showing it in their catalog, flying alongside the Galaxy Explorer.

Some of the first Space sets in a catalog from 1979

The Galaxy Explorer was the biggest LEGO set my parents had ever gotten me. I remember that at age 5 or so, it was pretty overwhelming, so my dad helped me put it together. (I don’t have kids, but if you do and you’re reading this, build stuff with them. Lots of stuff.)

That pretty much kickstarted a fascination (obsession?) with LEGO that persisted for years, and continues still to a certain extent. I don’t feel the same sense of wonder when presented with a pile of bricks, which makes me sad, but I still enjoy the nostalgia.

I put together an Imgur album of the three spaceship sets, if you want to relive some memories, too:


The Tale of the Libertarians and the Bitcoins

Charles Stross brilliantly stated what I’ve been thinking about Bitcoin, along with what I’ve long thought about libertarianism (h/t dpm). Bonus points for saying it in a post entitled “Why I want Bitcoin to die in a fire”:

To editorialize briefly, BitCoin looks like it was designed as a weapon intended to damage central banking and money issuing banks, with a Libertarian political agenda in mind—to damage states ability to collect tax and monitor their citizens financial transactions. Which is fine if you’re a Libertarian, but I tend to take the stance that Libertarianism is like Leninism: a fascinating, internally consistent political theory with some good underlying points that, regrettably, makes prescriptions about how to run human society that can only work if we replace real messy human beings with frictionless spherical humanoids of uniform density (because it relies on simplifying assumptions about human behaviour which are unfortunately wrong).


Highlights of Friday the 13th

If you don’t follow John Kenneth Muir’s blog, you are doing yourself a disservice. In honor of today being Friday the 13th, he has a list of 13 reasons why he loves the venerable slasher franchise.

For my part, I do not “love” the Friday the 13th movies in the slightest, nor would it be entirely accurate to say I “like” them. It’s more that I recognize their cultural impact and importance.

Mr. Muir makes a couple of observations that stood out to me. After noting multiple instances of hidden, surprisingly brainy references, like a child reading Sartre’s No Exit during a throwaway scene in Part 6, he devotes a whole item of his list to Ginny Field from Part 2.


Ginny Field (played by the awesomely-named Amy Steel) was perhaps the only character to genuinely outsmart Jason—which shouldn’t be that hard, one might think, but whatever. A Nightmare on Elm Street‘s Nancy probably owes her level-headed handling of Freddie Krueger to Ginny Field’s clever ruse against Jason.

I would hardly call the Friday the 13th series a triumph for women in film, and a few Ginny Field-type characters really don’t make up for the hordes of stupid these movies throw at the screen. It’s also unfortunate that Ginny Field stands out as one of the few heroines who doesn’t get killed in a sequel (like Alice from the first Friday the 13th or the aforementioned Nancy).

Continue reading


Everything floats down here

I’m posting this for one reason, and one reason only. To be mean.

This is embedded from imgur, so it may not be here forever. May your dreams be ruined for as long as it lasts.

There’s also this: Continue reading


Let Freedom Ring All Throughout North Dakota

A bunch of libertarians ranked the fifty states based on “freedom.” Fox Nation reported on the results under the headline “Report: Americans Are Migrating to More Free Republican States.” The article contains gems like:

Americans are migrating from less-free liberal states to more-free conservative states, where they are doing better economically, according to a new study published Thursday by the George Mason University’s Mercatus Center.

The “Freedom in the 50 States” study measured economic and personal freedom using a wide range of criteria, including tax rates, government spending and debt, regulatory burdens, and state laws covering land use, union organizing, gun control, education choice and more.

So, if Fox Nation is to be believed, people are departing oppressive states for places where they can stockpile weapons, miseducate their children, and do with their employees as they please. What magical wonderland is this, I wonder…

The freest state overall, the researchers concluded, was North Dakota, followed by South Dakota, Tennessee, New Hampshire and Oklahoma. The least free state by far was New York, followed by California, New Jersey, Hawaii and Rhode Island.

Oh, I see…

Look, no disrespect to North Dakota, but what. The. F*********.

People are leaving California, New York, and New Jersey for the Dakotas? Does Fox Nation think we’re stupid? Does Fox Nation think at all?

I could link to evidence showing that Californians are not doing a reverse-Steinbeck in droves back to Oklahoma, but honestly, what’s the point?


VP Biden makes a gutsy statement about depression and suicide, but still gets a lot of it wrong

VP Joe Biden gave a speech today to “families of fallen soldiers” where he spoke about his own experiences with suicidal thoughts. If you learn anything from this, it should be that it can happen to anybody:

Vice President Joe Biden, in a moving speech to families of fallen troops on Friday, recounted the dark days following the tragic deaths of his wife and daughter and talked about understanding thoughts of suicide.

“It was the first time in my career, in my life, I realized someone could go out – and I probably shouldn’t say this with the press here, but no, but it’s more important, you’re more important. For the first time in my life, I understood how someone could consciously decide to commit suicide,” he said. ”Not because they were deranged, not because they were nuts, because they had been to the top of the mountain, and they just knew in their heart they would never get there again.”

Biden was 29 and had just won his seat in Congress when his wife and daughter died in a car wreck in 1972.

[h]e said well-wishers would express their condolences and often tell him that they knew how he felt, something he resented.

“You knew they were genuine. But you knew they didn’t have any damn idea, right?” Biden told attendees at the TAPS National Military Survivor Seminar and Good Grief Camp in Arlington, Va.. “That black hole you feel in your chest like you’re being sucked back into it.”

He found a way out of his grief. Not everyone finds that.

I don’t appreciate the suggestion that people who commit suicide are “deranged” or “nuts.” It took tremendous courage to say what Biden said, but he still had to preface his words with assurances that he’s not one of the crazy ones. For having the courage to speak out about this issue, I applaud VP Biden. For still linking suicide to “craziness,” he can bite me.

He is absolutely right that the rest of us cannot fathom how the pain of his loss felt. No one can truly understand another person’s pain, so it is disappointing that he would write it off as “deranged.”

People contemplate suicide for an infinite number of reasons. In a period of six months in 2011, I lost two friends to depression. It scared me, not because it didn’t make any sense, but because it sort of did. For some people, the dark times are bad enough that they will try anything for relief, and no one else can fully understand. All the rest of us can do is live well and try to help our friends who struggle to do so too.

It’s not always a “crazy” thought in and of itself, but unless you’ve experienced depression, it’s impossible to describe or explain. A close friend once described the circumstances and thoughts that led to his suicide attempt: “Let me be clear: I don’t want to die. I just need it to stop.”

Until we can accept that people can have those types of thoughts without calling them “crazy,” this won’t get better.

(For the record, I haven’t had thoughts like that in a long time. But you never forget.)


What’s capital punishment good for, anyway?

The Blog Elayne Boosler: Execution Etiquette The Huffington Post

So I’m reading about the execution of Saddam Hussein, and it strikes me as odd that everyone is concerned about “taunts” leveled at him during the run up to the actual hanging. As if recording the execution for later broadcast isn’t bad enough, people have to remind him he’s about to get whacked. I should note here that I personally am 100% opposed to capital punishment, not out of any particular concern for the rights or dignity of mass murderers, but because (a) I don’t trust government to get it right 100% of the time and don’t like them having the power of God; (b) I don’t buy any of the theories as to why capital punishment is necessary; and (c) even if the rationales offered are true, most executions really don’t fit the crime anyway. Those reasons are ranked in approximate descending order of importance. My libertarian side doesn’t like letting prosecutors and juries have the power of life and death, and death is often too good for the worst of the s***heads on death row. Take Tim McVeigh–the architect of the then-worst terrorist attack on American soil was strapped to a gurney and, as far as we know, given a sedative to go to sleep followed by a chemical cocktail to stop his heart. That was in the summer of 2001, meaning the trousersnake didn’t even live long enough to see his masterpiece get bested by a bunch of Arabs that September. I have no idea, actually, if McVeigh was actually a racist or a white supremacist, but I’m sure it still would have burned to get overshadowed in the history books (damn hindsight). I guess the question is whether executing him or leaving him in jail to face eventual historical irrelevance is the better punishment. I have something of a modest proposal to offer…

Near as I can tell, there are two main rationales offered for capital punishment: deterrence and retribution. As far as McVeigh is concerned, deterrence didn’t seem to work, as there are still white guys trying to blow shit up in the U.S. So how about the retributive theory? Well, if achieiving closure and healing for the victims of a murdered, tyrant, terrorist, etc. is the true goal, how is it really healing to allow someone to relatively peacefully pass into the beyond? McVeigh basically fell asleep, and Saddam Hussein probably only suffered for a second or two (I haven’t seen the video, and I ain’t gonna). If we really want justice, how about this: (1) equip some Kurds who survived the original gas attacks in the ’80s with chemical suits and lock them in a room with Hussein and a canister of nerve gas; or (2) at a pre-announced time, fly McVeigh in on a helicopter to the site of the Murrah building, hover about ten feet up, toss him out, and let the Hobbesian theory of society take over? This latter idea could even have an additional societal benefit, as whatever pieces of McVeigh’s body could be recovered could then be auctioned off to benefit the victims!

On the other hand, maybe we just keep executing people because no one has the cojones to take a stand against it.

Now, this entire post may blow up in my face. It may turn out that the majority of our society thinks this bit a facetiousness is a great idea, and we see a new reality show in which contestants, all victims of violent crime, are given thirty minutes to torture, main, dismember, and otherwise brutalize their assailants in the name of justice. If that’s the case, then at least we’d all be more honest about why we have capital punishment.