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Topics - Mesozoic Mister Nigel

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Aneristic Illusions / Politically Correct
« on: February 14, 2016, 03:19:36 pm »
I saw this cartoon the other day that did a pretty accurate job of summing up my feelings about "Political Correctness".

And then I read this blog, which elaborates further:
“Warning — I’m going to say some things here that aren’t politically correct.”

Or, “Oh, I’d better be careful, I might upset the PC police.”

Or, in response to a complaint about bigotry and discrimination and dehumanization, “They’re just being politically correct, I’m so sick of all that PC nonsense.”

I hear this a lot. I hear it from writers, speakers, politicians, commentators, comedians. And I don’t just hear it from overtly douchey asshats. I also hear it from people who are generally smart, thoughtful, decent, and clearly wanting to do good.

I hear this a lot. And whenever I hear it, it’s like a red flag. It’s like a red flag attached to sirens and klaxons and flashing red lights. It’s like a guy on the side of the road jumping around with a giant sign — a sign that says, “This person is about to say something incredibly screwed-up.”

When you use the phrase “politically correct,” here’s what you’re saying.

You’re saying, “I want to be able to say things that are damaging — and I don’t want to be held accountable for it.”

You’re saying, “I don’t want to have to think very carefully about the things that I’m saying. I want to say whatever pops into my head — and I don’t want to think about whether it’s unfair, inaccurate, bigoted, or otherwise harmful.”

You’re saying, “I want to say whatever pops into my head — and I don’t want to think about whether it perpetuates harmful tropes or stereotypes.”

You’re saying, “In particular, I want to say whatever pops into my head about people who’ve gotten the short end of the stick for centuries — and I don’t want to think about whether the things I say are bashing them with that stick one more goddamn time.”

You’re saying, “When people speak up about bigotry and discrimination and dehumanization, I don’t want to have to think about the actual content of what they’re saying.”

You’re saying, “When people speak up about bigotry and discrimination and dehumanization, I’m not going to engage with the content of what they’re saying — I’m just going to dismiss it wholesale.”

You’re saying, “When people speak up about bigotry and discrimination and dehumanization, I’m not only going to dismiss what they’re saying — I’m going to trivialize the very idea of them speaking about it and asking people to change.”

Alty and I were talking about this the other day; those who demonize "political correctness" are essentially dinosaurs who are angry that their day of glory has passed. They don't want to have to THINK before they speak, and they resent being made to feel bad because they want to call people retarded as an insult. I get it; I grew up in the 80's. Some shitty habits are hard to break, but that doesn't mean they aren't shitty.

The thing is, these people are basically already dead, they just don't realize it. They are clinging with the last of their strength to a time past when they didn't have to think about how their own privilege colors their perception, or why they can't make decisions for everyone. They are intellectually stultified, and can't grasp the idea that other people have other perspectives which can be different from theirs without being inherently wrong. Because they can't comprehend that simple concept, they find any differing perspective a direct attack on themselves. The consider being told that they can't be the decider for other people's lives as offensive as being told that they can't be the decider for their own lives. It makes them feel... irrelevant.

Because they are.

Its too late for them. Their time has passed, and they are simply digging in their heels and trying to screech us back into the 20th century, when women were chicks, blacks were grateful, and retards were retards. Almost all of their objections to what they hatefully label political correctness are just different ways of saying "I DON'T WANT TO LEARN SOMETHING NEW". "I DON'T WANT TO SEE OTHER PERSPECTIVES". "I DON'T WANT TO TRY TO UNDERSTAND".

They are already dead, because living things can change.

Apple Talk / Mansplaining: Why?
« on: December 31, 2015, 08:23:24 pm »
I am eyeballing a refurbished Macbook Pro, and mentioned it casually in a chat I'm in with a bunch of my friends. One friend, who is a delightful and lovely human being, is also terrible about mansplaining allll the time, and immediately after I posted the link to the computer in the chat, he started mansplaining to me about Macbooks, (incorrectly) answering questions I never asked. I know he is a well-meaning, warm, considerate person, but he does this, seemingly compulsively, even with subjects he knows I know far more about than he does.

He's not at all an exception; in my experience, the majority of men do this, and it seems almost reflexive. Not too long ago, I was on the phone with a guy who, when I mentioned that my car is on the fritz again, started mansplaining through a troubleshooting process despite the fact that I had already said that it was an old familiar problem on an old familiar car - one which I have dealt with before.

What I am wondering is what drives this? Is it driven by a deep-seated desire to help? Is it an ego thing? An authority issue? Women occasionally do it too, usually older women, but it's definitely far far more of a man thing.

If anyone here has ever caught themselves mansplaining or is aware that they do it, how would you describe the motivation for explaining something to someone who hasn't asked or otherwise indicated in any way  that they need an explanation?

Or Kill Me / Soft, warm little animals
« on: December 12, 2015, 01:33:35 am »
Something old I found while cleaning out my cloud to make room for new things. I don't recall posting it here before, so here it is. Written in 2011.

Dearest Hamish,

The bridges are singing only quietly, as it is summer, and the Dark Empress is the sanest she has ever been, for which the vagrants and hipsters, as well as Her minions, rejoice, even though we find it a bit unsettling. Not once has She visited her subterranean chambers this year, nor so much as opened the drawer in which Her dildoes and whips reside. The people of Portland are reasonably content, with a good outlook through August. Once September arrives, of course, things may change, but we can’t dwell too much on the future, can we?

The Dark Empress still thinks too much about the linguist, and we are eternally grateful for Doktor Howl’s efforts last year in helping lure him into joining with Her for a while. If the attempt failed, it was certainly through no lack of effort on the part of the supporting cabal, and we cannot overstate how much that means to us, even in this time of the Great Dampening of the Empress’ heart. We must be grateful for small blessings, for at least Her Joyful Wrath is stifled and that means many of us are spared Her great Festivities, which upon times would leave us limping and sore, if grateful to be alive.

Just a few days ago, the Empress met a gentleman in the park, and was greatly struck by his story, which She wishes to share. Twelve years ago, he was attacked because his friend danced in the club with a girl with a jealous ex-boyfriend. When they left the club, a group of men jumped them, and hit him in the head with a hammer, crushing his skull, and then viciously beat him, destroying his frontal lobe and leaving him in a coma for ten days. The man’s head does not look right, and is bisected with an impressively horrifying scar from the surgery wherein the surgeons attempted to reconstruct his forehead.  Otherwise, he is remarkably handsome; a gentle Frankenstein with a beautiful face and four young children.

You already know this story. Maybe not this story, but you know this story. These are the things that people do to each other, that make up part of the nature of humanity. There are movies about this viciousness, this terrible cruelty, made mostly by sheltered middle-class Europeans and Americans who find it a great novelty, a misery they can play Peeping Tom to. Some of us, of course, do not need to be voyeurs into the miseries the human ape inflicts upon its own. A book the Dark Empress was reading recently asked, think of the worst thing you can imagine another person inflicting upon another, the most unthinkable suffering. Something unimaginable. She put the book down and has not picked it up since, as there is no human-inflicted suffering that is not imaginable. Her dreams are already full of the Horrible Truth, there is no need to imagine.

Here is the thing; it is the Should Not Have. Because we humans, we blame the victim. The man says to himself, I Should Not Have uttered a racial epithet when I saw the men break my friend’s leg on the curb for dancing with a girl he had never seen before and would never see again. The woman says, I Should Not Have gone to that man’s house when I did not know him very well. The child says I Should Not Have let my friend’s uncle take me for a ride. And yet, they pay consequences that they did not earn. They pay the consequences of human brutality that they could never have earned, just for being human. The child who was molested pays the consequences in a lifetime of being unable to find good love, the man who is in the wrong place at the wrong time suffers mutilation and brain damage, the woman’s husband will not touch her after she is raped, the toddler who was born to the wrong mother is dead in the back seat of a car. How could anyone hold them accountable for the violence done to them? And yet, people do, and these are the gentlest of brutalities compared to what we do to our own. We set villages on fire. We starve children.

People watch movies about these things, for entertainment.

Our species invented evil.

The Dark Empress sees things when She is asleep that no person should see. She knows too many things. She is blessed, because most people see them when they are awake.

If you hold a baby, Hamish, it’s a soft, little, warm animal.

We are all soft, little warm animals.

Apple Talk / Hey guys I made a joke
« on: December 03, 2015, 01:17:55 am »
 What do right-wing Fundamentalists, Libertarians, and Bernie Sanders supporters all have in common?

Apple Talk / Men's lib
« on: November 15, 2015, 05:05:40 pm »
What do you guys think about this?

I can't excerpt it due to some weird issue with my computer that is preventing me from copying and pasting, but it's worth a read, IMO.

It's a really weird article; it started with an oddly combative tone, with the phrasing that women are "competing" with men and men have to "adapt". It also came across with a heavy dose of "ugh, I guess men will be forced to to women's work" . It managed to almost completely avoid addressing the fact that many men WANT to take more nurturing roles, or that men love being engaged and loving fathers and caregivers. The suggestion that "nurse" be changed to "health attendant" for gender neutrality is absurd, because "nurse" is already a gender-neutral word and any gender associations it has, we are imposing on it due to our own tendency to associate "nursing" with "women" and our social stigmatization of traditional women's jobs. The interesting thing about this article, though, is that after the oddly combative beginning and shortly after the suggestion to change "nurse" to "health attendant", the tone shifted, and the entire latter half of the article is, IMO, quite good and very valid.

I think the premise of the entire article is quite sound, it's really just the creepy, MRA-like "war of the sexes" wording of the first half that I have a problem with. Perhaps that was a deliberate attempt to pander to men who resist the idea of role parity.

Apple Talk / So, Nassim Taleb is a giant douchebag?
« on: August 15, 2015, 02:49:41 am »
I've never read his books, but they were on my list. However, I am not so sure I can trust his analyses, considering his apparent behavior toward people with whom he disagrees.

Communicating science to people who aren’t scientists is very hard to do well. Nassim Taleb should be very good at it, based on his enormous book sales and even more enormous opinion of his own skills. But we all have our demons, and Taleb has succumbed to his. Rather than encouraging a healthy discussion about science, he’s picked a side and declared all-out war on the people who disagree with him. Taleb even admits that his strategy is to prevent conversations from happening by abusing and insulting people who question him, and encouraging his followers to join in. What’s the point of that strategy? It doesn’t help communicate science, resolve legitimate questions about the facts, or even address the supposedly evil motives of his critics. All it really does is feel good. Nassim Taleb has chosen self-gratification over real engagement. Let’s talk about why that’s unproductive and unethical.

Taleb has been kicking up the dust lately on Facebook and Twitter, encouraging his readers to not even listen to people who disagree with his beliefs about GMOs. I caught an edge of it when I saw his contemptuous remarks about a scientist I follow, Kevin Folta:

Another example:

Actually, when I saw this, my first thought was to investigate whether it was true; apparently, it is. Or, perhaps, Taleb is embarking on some sort of new experiment. So I looked for some other sources:

If you think the headline of this blog is unnecessarily inflammatory, you are right. It’s an ad hominem way to deal with public discourse, and it’s unfair to Nassim Taleb, the New York University statistician and risk analyst. I’m using it to make a point–because it’s Taleb himself who regularly invokes such ugly characterizations of others.

Taleb rocketed to seer and cult celebrity status after his 2007 book on extreme risk, The Black Swan, was followed serendipitously by the 2008 global market crash and Great Recession.

Taleb has recently become the darling of GMO opponents. He and four colleagues–Yaneer Bar-Yam, Rupert Read, Raphael Douady and Joseph Norman–wrote a paper, The Precautionary Principle (with Application to the Genetic Modification of Organisms, released last May and updated last month, in which they claim to bring risk theory and the Precautionary Principle to the issue of whether GMOS might introduce “systemic risk” into the environment. Taleb portrays GMOs as a ‘castrophe in waiting’–and has taken to personally lashing out at those who challenge his conclusions–and yes, calling them “imbeciles” or paid shills.

Watching Nassim Taleb, author of The Black Swan and other books, engage on twitter, is like being ringside at a verbal boxing match with the intellectual equivalent of Clubber Lang, the snarling, contemptuous boxer played by Mr. T in Rocky 3. In the movie, Clubber Lang was so mean and nasty the performance was almost a parody.

When you see Taleb go ballistic on Twitter, as he often does, you wonder similarly if the guy is truly an angry asshole of the highest order, or if it’s just some performance schtick by an egghead scholar trying to liven up his day. Then again, he can’t seem to help himself: The guy did get into it one time with a parody Twitter account. As one observer noted:

Taleb has a propensity for being quite combative on Twitter, on topics ranging from bonds to GMOs, and Taleb will fight with just about anybody.

Yeah, you could say that again. Some people, such as the economist Noah Smith, make allowances for Taleb’s bad behavior:

Nassim Taleb is a vulgar bombastic windbag, and I like him a lot.

But Taleb is more than just a venomous, preening, brawler. It’s not enough for him to slug it out with real and imagined adversaries (including journalists). He has to smear their reputations with innuendo. I learned this myself when I engaged with Taleb some months ago. I saw that he was circulating a paper on GMOs and I asked to interview him. He declined and then asked:

!! RT @nntaleb: @keithkloor BTW do you get (indirect) funding from GMO corporations? Can you state this here (which is on the record)?

— keith kloor (@keithkloor) August 13, 2014

What the hell, Taleb? Is he trying to coattail on Dawkins' enormous success at being a complete asspipe?


At least, not in the way  the question is most often posed. In many psychology books, operating on a philosophy that is straight outta 1896, you will see again and again statements like "This makes humans unique among the animals of the world". This statement is almost always unequivocally false.

There is no one thing, no great difference, that makes humans different from other animals. Nothing that is biologically derived, anyway; you could argue that no other animal wears pants, and you would probably be correct, but given Nature's history of proving us wrong, eventually we'd probably discover some small Amazonian beetle that weaves pants for its young out of caterpillar silk. Other animals have culture, other animals have language, other animals use tools, other animals have enormous frontal lobes. There is simply no one thing that is so special about humans that we can hold it up like a trophy, some sort of divine symbol that we stand apart from all the other species. In all ways, our differences are emergent and in measures of degree, using different versions of the same structures present in other animals in ways that make us unique-- just like all the other animals.

I would like to see the "What makes humans unique and different from all other animals?" question put to bed forever. It is an irrelevant question, it asks nothing useful and there is no useful or enlightening answer. Seeking one fundamental difference, something which we share with no other creature, is a philosophical and scientific dead-end; and at this point, philosophy has nowhere to go if it fails to embrace science. "What makes us different from all the other animals?" is a question as deep and as elucidating as "What makes a horse different from a badger?"

If we can't be satisfied with that, we probably aren't ready to move forward in asking the more significant question, not of what sets us apart, but of how we fit in.

Apple Talk / The Portland Airport Carpet Project
« on: July 12, 2015, 06:39:14 pm »
I don't know if any of you guys are familiar with the slightly baffling love affair that Portlanders have with the absolutely hideous PDX airport carpet, or the outcry and grief  that has ensued over the fact that it was recently replaced, but I just found out that there is an art gallery exhibit honoring and eulogizing the iconic carpet of PDX.

I can't say that I completely understand it, but there you go.

« on: June 29, 2015, 03:02:11 pm »

It’s a remarkable performance

...about says it all.

« on: June 24, 2015, 03:22:01 am »
It turns out that on September 8th, I will be in Mexico City overnight; my plane comes in in the early afternoon and I fly out the next morning at 7 am. It seems like it would be a shame to be there and not try to meet up with you! I also wondered if you could recommend a safe but cheap place to stay?

« on: June 10, 2015, 08:05:31 pm »
In July 1976, Tureaud's platoon sergeant punished him by giving him the detail of chopping down trees during training camp at Fort McCoy in Wisconsin, but did not tell him how many trees, so Tureaud single-handedly chopped down over seventy trees from 6:30 am to 10:00 am, until a shocked major superseded the sergeant's orders.

In 1987, he angered the residents of a Chicago suburb, Lake Forest, by cutting down more than a hundred oak trees on his estate. The incident is now referred to as The Lake Forest Chain Saw Massacre.

What the hell does Mr. T have against trees?


« on: June 05, 2015, 04:19:30 pm »

Apple Talk / Facebook is dying
« on: June 03, 2015, 05:38:58 pm »
About six months ago, I noticed something about Facebook: it was slow. I don't mean that I was getting fewer "likes" or that I had less crap in my feed; those things haven't really changed. But conversation in groups has dropped off sharply, and most telling, popular groups that had been gaining new members daily -- sometimes by the hundreds -- started having slower membership gains. Then they plateaued. And now they are declining. Post reach dropped precipitously, I suspect as part of Facebook's efforts to convince group and page owners to pay for visibility. It's funny that after all these years, they still don't understand  how the internet works.

I've seen this before. I saw it with dialup BBSes, and with newsgroups, and with pay-per-month web services, and with free webforums. I've been waiting for it, because frankly, Facebook is a shitty, shitty platform for online discussion, and discussion has always been my main motivation for being online.

I went looking to see what the Web had to say about Facebook's user numbers, and found these:

I can't say I'll be sorry to see it go.

Apple Talk / Faust, this one's for you
« on: May 30, 2015, 07:24:14 pm »

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