Monday, August 27, 2012

Mitt Romney scares the bejeezus out of me


I think the thing that frightens me the most is the "Just Trust Me" campaign that Romney's running.  Wherein he has explicitly avoided specifying the details of his policies because he knows that they will be widely disliked, and thus cost him votes.

ISN'T THAT KIND OF THE POINT THOUGH

OF THIS WHOLE REPRESENTATIVE DEMOCRACY THING

WHERE WE VOTE FOR PEOPLE WHO WILL DO POLICIES THAT WE LIKE

AND WE DON'T VOTE FOR PEOPLE WHO DO POLICIES THAT WE DON'T LIKE

SO BASICALLY

WHAT HE'S SAYING IS

He knows that we won't agree with his policies.  But he wants to hide that fact from us.  So that we'll vote for him anyway.  SO HE CAN THEN PUT THOSE POLICIES INTO PLACE EVEN THOUGH WE DON'T WANT THEM.

WTF NO NO NO

Monday, August 20, 2012

My intertubes are broken

While I get my intertubes fixed, please enjoy this picture of Matt Smith being sexy.


I hope it's as good for you as it is for me.  /swoons

Friday, August 17, 2012

Things I have open in tabs right now

From my browser to your eyes!

First and most importantly:  ARGHLEBLARGHLE SEASON 7 OF DOCTOR WHO FLARGHWHARRGARBLE

/dies of excitement

Except then the Doctor rebooted the universe and I didn't die, hooray!  (Ahem.  Spoilers!)

A sarcastic apology to dudes who think sexual/ized insults are a cool thing to use in a disagreement with a woman, including some pretty heinous quoted insults.

Some things we could do to actually help prevent rape.  This does not include non-helpful things like "Don't wear heels at night / don't put your hair in a ponytail / don't go anywhere without a male escort," and does include things like "Look after your friends / encourage people to trust their instincts / respect people's right to say no."

Generally speaking, on the difference between creepers, socially awkward folks, and folks on the ASD spectrum in a social setting wherein minor boundaries are asserted.

Last but not least, a perfect metaphor for my Master's thesis.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Unfuckery!


I can't believe I forgot to include Unfuck Your Habitat in my blagroll.

True story, folks:  I fucking hate cleaning.

I grew up in a too-small apartment with too many people living in it, NONE of whom cleaned unless it was an absolute necessity.  It was pretty much always gross.  Not only did I learn nothing about how to clean up after myself, that situation habituated me to a certain amount of clutter and grime.

Then I lived in a series of crap college apartments wherein either I lived with non-cleaning roommates (which led to mountains of grossness), or by myself (the mountains were slightly smaller).

Unfuck Your Habitat is teaching me how to slowly stop failing at keeping an apartment.  I cannot recommend it strongly enough for folks like me who tend to let things slide.  It's going on my blagroll RIGHT NOW.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Repost: Why redistribution of wealth is A Good Thing

Author note:  This was originally posted in October of 2008, though I think it's still plenty relevant.  I'm reposting it now with some minor edits, because I have Things To Do In Real Life sometimes. I may or may not use this for a jumping-off point for something newer, eventually.

I have an hour before my next class, so I figured I'd write a bit about this FoxNews thing I was reading about Obama's plan to distribute America's wealth a little more evenly.

There's this whole discussion about even distribution of wealth not being a part of the American Dream. That it's kind of like a Robin Hood scheme: in the words of the Fox host, "giving a little bit from the rich to the poor".

One thing that people think will happen under this kind of "re"distribution is that companies will move overseas.

A brief reminder about the uneven distribution of wealth in America:
According to Business Week, the ratio of CEO pay to factory worker pay at the biggest 365 U.S. companies was 326 to 1 in 1997, up from 44 to 1 in 1965. In Japan in 1995, the equivalent ratio was 16 to 1, and in Germany, 21 to 1.
Apparently there are no corporations to be found in either Germany or Japan, since these CEOs were getting robbed! Robbed I say! of their hard-earned wealth!  I'm sure they all jumped ship and came to America, where CEOs get their rightful share!

Oh wait... maybe not.

The idea behind Obama's tax schema is this: right now, a very small percentage of people are allotted a very large amount of the nation's wealth, because of the hideously unfair US pay scale. CEOs and people near the top of the company are making ludicrous sums; workers and lower-tier employees are having a hard time with the necessities like rent/mortgage payments, food, and healthcare.

I think that a big part of the American dream is fair compensation for your work. If you are working a full-time job, you are contributing "your share" to the economy, and should be able to afford things like basic food, housing, and healthcare... and even an occasional luxury, like a PS2 or a night out with your wife or a six-pack of beer on a Saturday night.  I'd say that a full-time worker - anywhere in the US - should be able to maintain a basic quality of life. (And two full-time workers - anywhere in the US - should be able to maintain a basic quality of life for their family.) This is the whole idea behind that whole union thing that went down in our country during the Industrial Revolution, and we seemed to think it was a good idea then. As a Pittsburgh native, I do remember some of the local history that was taught around them parts.

Seeing as that ideal - of a full time worker being capable of maintaining a basic quality of life - is not exactly working out on its own, we as a society need to fix something.

A more heavily graduated tax plan is one part of this solution. Basically, this means that you tax the rich at a higher percentage than you do the poor.

What's the rationale for all this, you ask?

From a strictly capitalistic, "you pay for what you use" perspective:

The more money someone makes, the more they tend to use the infrastructure of society. If I'm an international banker, my income depends on all of the infrastructure that me and my banks and my employees use - from all the markets that my bank is a part of, to the airplanes I use to travel overseas, to the roads of each city my banks are built in, the public transportation that my employees use to get to work, and much more. If I'm just a bank teller, my income generally depends only on the local infrastructure - the buses and roads that get me from home to work and back, the schools my kids go to, etc. So, since the wealthier people use more of society's resources, they should be more responsible for maintaining those resources than the lower-paid workers, who use much less.

In addition, a small amount of the vast resources at the top will go a lot farther in improving said infrastructure, which benefits those who use it the most (the wealthy).

Plus, if workers have even a small amount of additional resources, they will be happier and healthier and thus more productive.

The following reasons could possibly be labeled "socialist" by Fox-News-ians, so feel free to disregard if you must:

The wealthy are better able to cope with a heavier tax burden (duh). If I'm making a million bucks a year, a 20% tax burden will still leave me with 800K. That's plenty of money. If I'm making $40,000 (which is close to the median family income in the US), a 20% tax burden will leave me with $32,000. Food, transport, utilities, and rent will take up more than half of this in most parts of the country. Add in clothing, car maintenance, regular doctor and dentist appointments, holiday expenditures, and some basic sanity-saving "luxuries" like a phone, internet connection, and cable, and you've taken up all the rest, if not more. Kids? Health problems? Fuggeddaboutit.

Oh, and to quote my bud Tim, "The needs of the many outweigh the wants of the few."

But that's just socialist propagamda, eh?

Monday, August 13, 2012

Creepiness

So the good Captain posted some advice about dealing with creepiness and rapeyness, which are two adjoining spaces on the map of social interactions with a wide and fuzzy border.  Then she posted this really nice bit of advice for avoiding being creepy, which is nice!

I started recollecting on all the times I've been crept on, and it kind of makes me sad.

The majority of my stories can be lumped into one of two categories.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Muse's Best Of: Olympics


SERIOUSLY, AMIRIGHT?  Sheesh, some people.

NPR put out this seriously cool infographic of the physics of olympian bodies.  What kind of physical characteristics make a body better for weightlifting, or marathon running, or rowing?  Very, very cool.  Also cool is this excellent piece by Natalie Reed about defining and policing gender in sports.  Seems to me if we're really caring about "unfair" advantages or disadvantages, we'd be more focused on the differences in the first link than in the second, but human beings are silly.

Hanna Hart, she of My Drunk Kitchen glory, made a really entertaining series of puns about the Olympics, so that's a thing.

I'm running out of things, so I'm going to leave you with Alex Day explaining why you should care about the Olympics, at least to a certain extent:

Friday, August 10, 2012

Psychology is science. Duh.

So, sorry to burst the ignorant haters' bubble, but psychology is indeed science.  All of my lovely and brilliant readers already knew that, I'm sure.  Seeing as brains and minds and behavior are all natural processes that can be studied through emprical means, n'at.  Unlike what FL governor Rick Scott believes, psychology should SURELY be considered a STEM field.

This is something that I used to believe back when I was young, stupid, and just starting my neuroscience degree - as I thought at the time, real science!  And then I actually learned some psychology.

Alex Berezow posted this embarassingly-poorly-researched article, which brought the debate up again amongst some people I know who, unsurprisingly, don't know psychology past the Intro to Psych stage.

Berezow's complaint is that "psychology often does not meet the five basic requirements for a field to be considered scientifically rigorous: (1) Clearly defined terminology, (2) Quantifiability, (3) Highly controlled experimental conditions, (4) Reproducibility, and (5) Predictability and testability."  He goes on to make a strawman argument about some invented version of "happiness research" without citing any sources, because that's how real scientists act, apparently.

The thing is, some of these criticisms are valid of certain psychological paradigms - but psychologists go to great lengths to address these, because that's what the scientific method is about.

For an example of (1), some emotion research does sometimes have trouble with the "clearly defined terminology" thing, because we all know what anger feels like, but defining it in a concrete way involves a paragraph, if not a page.  For a good example of this, check Wikipedia's page on anger.  It's long, and it includes multiple definitions from different scientists, all of which are a little bit generic.  (Of course, that never happens in real sciences like biochemistry, where basic and relatively familiar concepts like the acid-base reaction are clearly and concisely defined.  Ahem.  But I digress.)

So that's a problem, right?  Or at least it seems like one, until you scroll down a bit to the section about the cognitive effects of anger, or the one about the physiology of anger... or go all the way down to the citations and start digging around in the literature.  For such a poorly defined concept as "anger", we seem to have been able to figure out a lot about how it works!

This is the point where I should introduce you to a basic psych research methods concept called operationalization.  And HEY LOOK WIKIPEDIA HAS IT COVERED!  It even uses the example of anger!  So I'm just going to quote it, with emphasis added by me:
In humanities, operationalization is the process of defining a fuzzy concept so as to make the concept clearly distinguishable or measurable and to understand it in terms of empirical observations. ...  For example, a researcher may wish to measure the concept "anger." Its presence, and the depth of the emotion, cannot be directly measured by an outside observer because anger is intangible. Rather, other measures are used by outside observers, such as facial expression, choice of vocabulary, loudness and tone of voice.
So let's say you want to study anger, which is a wibbly-wobbly concept.  You can do something like Alex Berezow proposes, and ask people "How angry are you, on a scale of Piglet to Mel Gibson?"  And yeah, that has problems, especially because psychologists (like most scientists) are boring as fuck, and instead of letting me answer something like "I'm just about at the Doctor at the end of Family of Blood", they make me say something like 8 on a scale of 10.  But also because your "8" and my "8" don't necessarily match up, and neither of those might match up with what the researcher thinks is an 8.

As Alex Berezow points out, we can't use a ruler or a microscope to measure anger.  So instead, we might measure someone's blood pressure.  Or skin conductance, which basically measures sweating.  Or facial expression.  Or we might give them an implicit association task, or a word-stem completion task, and see how much their behavior changes.  Or we might ask them to do a physical task that involves grip strength, punching a bag, or other physical force and see how that changes.  Or we might stick electrodes on their head and look at their brainwaves, or put them in a magnetic field to look at how their brain is using oxygen.

Go back and look at the physiology of anger section on Wikipedia, and you'll start getting a feel for what I mean.  There's a lot of crap that we can do to measure anger or happiness that doesn't involve arbitrary number scales.

And oh look!  In responding to (1), it seems as though I've covered (2) as well.  Five minutes on wikipedia, and I've already dealt with 40% of that bullshit.

Alex Berezow didn't really challenge (3), but in case that's a real issue for you, I recommend using Google scholar and looking at the methods section of any psychological paper.  Here's an example, if you'd like, that I got from the first page of that linked search.  Go on, I'll wait.  Yeah, that looks real uncontrolled to me.  Anyone who is curious can go to their local University, walk into the Psychology building, find a flyer for a psychological study (won't take long), and participate in one.  If the controls aren't obvious to you, you could ask any psychologist what kind of experimental controls are typical in their field.  Or take a research methods class, which is a required major course in every Psych department I've ever seen.  Learn a thing.

As for (4) and (5), I predict that inducing anger will raise participants' blood pressure.  In case you were wondering, I would induce anger in participants by asking their political preferences in two or three categories, then showing them an extended ad for the political opposite of whatever they prefer, then asking them to ruminate for two minutes on how wrong that opposition is.  This is highly testable.  But I don't actually have to test this, because it's already been tested, many times... which makes it highly reproducible as well.

If you don't think that's representative of psychological science as a whole?  Go educate yourself.  Do some reading - not crap articles by people who don't know a lick of psychology, but actual peer-reviewed papers.  If that's too challenging, take a damn research methods class.  Learn a thing.  It's good for you.

Now, I know I've done a lot of moaning in this about wrongness, and what's the point of that if I'm not going to take some positive steps?  So in the spirit of positive action and learning things, I am going to start a regular blog feature about specific tasks and measurements used in the psychological sciences, with an emphasis on psychophysiological methods, because those are what I think are the coolest.  So if you're too busy/cheap/lazy to actually take a research methods class, just stay tuned here.

For SCIENCE!

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Captain's Log, Stardate holy shit I'm halfway through grad school!

I've been reading back through my archives, taking special note of the personal posts that track my journey from the start of my undergraduate assistantship through my graduation and preparation for grad school, to the many "holy shit guys, grad school is hard" posts that preceeded my disappearance from blogland.

Firstly, I made myself sick of my own excuses while reading through that.  So FYI - if I need to take a bloggy break, I'mma just take one, without all the wah wah wah about how hard my life is.  Everyone's life is hard.  My whinging isn't interesting.

Secondly, as the title suggests, holy shit!  I've just finished my third year here (in what is officially a 5-year program, but I will probably end up taking 6 to finish, because [whinging omitted]).  IT'S LIKE I'M SOME SORT OF WIZARD!

Lastly, I'd like to ask folks who are paging through my archives to be kind.  My first blog post was five years ago, when I was still midway through undergrad.  Ignorant kids say some silly things sometime.  I've grown up a little, and I'll surely continue to grow and change and develop as time goes on.  I'd appreciate you keeping that in mind if you read something I wrote in 2008 and find it obnoxious.

Thanks y'all!  I'd like to tackle something sciencey soon, so look forward to that!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Well-meaning straight people give me a sad

Today I got in a sort-of-maybe debate with someone who is ostensibly on the side of good, about LGBT rights.  Or as this person framed it, "gay marriage".

This sort-of-maybe debate started when this person linked me to a popular lefty comedian riffing on the Chick-Fil-A debacle... and I responded more or less dejectedly.  My exact words were, "the whole thing just really bums me out".

And I guess he thought he'd be cheering me up when he replied, "From a historical perspective, gay marriage is inevitable."*  The sort-of debate proceeded mostly around the proposed "historical perspective", which only really included USA from the 1960's to today.  Y'see, back in the 60's, being gay was a mental disorder, but now we have GSA's in schools, and gay TV characters are portrayed as good people, and "The more people live and work with and are friends with and are related to every day normal gay people, the more this will just go away"*.


I am not the first person to have a problem with this framing, and I surely won't be the last.  As Erica Steckl of Bitch Media tidily summarizes: "The push for gay marriage has led to the false notion that 'full citizenship' for gays and lesbians is just one step away. Marriage is an assimilation strategy into a fundamentally capitalist, racist, and patriarchal structure—one in which queers will never be truly accepted."

You'll notice the focus on "gays and lesbians" there... and how my buddy used the phrase "every day normal gay people".  What about us weirdo non-every-day folks, the misfit queers whose identities and relationships can't be portrayed as basically normal, but gay?  What about pansexual polyamorous folks like myself?  Folks who are trans or genderqueer or neutrois or androgyne, or cis but LGB in a way that doesn't make for a good photo op?  What about the family featured in this post, with seven parents and eleven children? (Which btdubs, how awesome is that family?  SO AWESOME!)

The homomentum pressing our society towards the acceptance of gay marriage is better than the longstanding system where each and every queer could aspire to a closet of their very own, and don't get me wrong, marriage is cool and all for people who are into that sort of thing.  But there's so much variance that "gay marriage" doesn't actually account for, and so much violence and hatred and fear that "gay marriage" won't solve.

That kind of thing is what bugs me about the Chick-Fil-A debacle.  Not that people don't support gay marriage - especially considering how many people I've seen defend their Chick-Fil-A support with "I support gay marriage BUT..."

It's the stuff that comes after the "but" that really harshes my mellow.  It's the people who no longer feel safe in their communities that breaks my heart.  That's not going to be changed by gay marriage.

I am actually hopeful for progress, and I derived a lot of comfort from Deeky's post here, which basically had a lot of the same content that I think my friend was aiming for, but from a perspective of someone who's also suffering because of how hard it is right now, instead of a well-meaning outsider trying to smooth over my pain by pointing out that some gay people are probably going to get some legal rights sometime soon.



*Quoted phrases are verbatim.  Consent to blog about this was granted before writing began!  Hello, sir,  if you are reading this!  I hope that this explains my less-than-happiness during our conversation!

Monday, August 6, 2012

MARS

HOLY CRAP FOLKS


Check nasa.gov/mars for all the shiny technical stuff!  Seriously, it's super rad!

XKCD did an awesome strip today about it, including a URL for a torrent of the first images if you'd like to download them.  I also recommend reading the XKCD strip about the previous Mars rover, Spirit.

If you don't understand why this is so exciting, you should read this Cracked article, which will explain (with jokes!):  http://www.cracked.com/blog/5-reasons-you-should-be-excited-about-mars-today/

If you're already excited about this (and you should be, because OMG WE JUST PUT A SCIENCE ROBOT ON MARS SERIOUSLY Y'ALL), and if you want to see more stuff like it, visit http://penny4nasa.org/ and press your congresscritters to increase NASA's budget.

http://penny4nasa.org/

Do it.

DO IT!

PLANETARY EXPLORATION YOU GUYS COME ON

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Night Owldom

For the longest time I've felt like my circadian rhythm is more like 20 hours awake, 10 hours asleep.

According to Coturnex's post Everything You Always Wanted To Know About Sleep (But Were Too Afraid To Ask), that might actually be an accurate description.  My circadian rhythm has a long period.

It's not laziness, it's BIOCHEMISTRY!  Now if I could only get that pesky Earth to rotate just a little bit slower, my life would be aces.

This might be the thing that gets me into supervillainy.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Chick-Fil-Assholes

In case you were wondering why you too should be boycotting Chick-Fil-A, this piece spells it out for you.

http://www.owldolatrous.com/?p=288
In 29 states in America today, my partner of 18 years, Cody, or I could be fired for being gay. Period. No questions asked. ... In 75 countries in the world, being gay is illegal. ... In 9 countries, being gay is punishable by death. In many others, violence against gays is tacitly accepted by the authorities. These are countries where we would be killed. Killed.

Two organizations that work very hard to maintain this status quo and roll back any protections that we may have are the Family Research Council and the Marriage & Family Foundation. ... Chick-Fil-A has given roughly $5M to these organizations to support their work. Chick-Fil-A’s money comes from the profits they make when you purchase their products.

This isn’t about mutual tolerance because there’s nothing mutual about it. If we agree to disagree on this issue, you walk away a full member of this society and I don’t. There is no “live and let live” on this issue because Dan Cathy is spending millions to very specifically NOT let me live. I’m not trying to do that to him.
And in case you're all frothy because someone pointed out that your support of Chick-Fil-A is some serious bigoted bullshit, here's another piece for you.

http://freethoughtblogs.com/blaghag/2012/08/so-you-were-just-called-a-bigot/

Happy reading!  I'm off to McDonald's to get me a non-hateful chicken club.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Yep, I'm back!

I've updated my blagroll and everything!

Here are some reasons why I've been gone so long:

  • Grad school is hard
  • No, seriously, it's really fucking hard
  • Even when it's not hard, it takes up a lot of time
  • I got into one of those relationships where everything else falls by the wayside
  • That relationship exploded in a giant fireball and everybody died
  • The breakup precipitated a major depressive episode where I stayed in bed for about two months, except for when I went out and got drunk, during which times I was a sloppy obnoxious mess and cried in public a lot
  • Grad school didn't get any easier while I was depressed
  • Recovering from that ish also takes a lot of time
I've since clawed my way back to being a somewhat normal human being who doesn't cry in public nearly so often anymore.  The major reason I'm returning is that the internet is my home.  And I figure it's better to throw my linkdumps and SIWOTI rants into this space, instead of subjecting my Facebook friends to it.

Plus it's election year again, so I want to add my voice to the Vote For Barry chorus.

P.S.  Romney really sucks a lot!  Vote for Barry!