Monday, December 17, 2018


I saw the attached pic in a Facebook group, and of course someone cried "sexism!" Someone always cries "sexism" at the sight of the female form, though sweaty images of Conan never elicit the same criticism. Apparently, it's only the sight of women that these people hate. Sexist, indeed. If you think it's sexist that women are shaped differently than men, you should take it up with God... or your psychiatrist.

Of course, they have convinced themselves that the "sexism" is that the women are depicted as having female shapes rather than being hidden under bulky suits. But does that criticism have legs?

FUN FACT: to be effective, a pressure suit does not have to provide air to the skin. It has to provide pressure. The pressure provided by an elastic, form-fitting garment will do. Don't take my word for it; believe NASA. Here's a link to the Bioastronautics Data Book, second edition. 200 mm Hg is barely tolerable; but look at page 5: a properly fitted elastic suit can protect you down to 15 mm Hg.

So, trope though it may be, those tight form-fitting reflective suits of the fiction of yesteryear have a certain plausibility. And of course, we don't know what they're made of, and whether they're constructed of some memory material that's responsive to pressure changes. These are minor advances that are far more believable than, say, the magic gravity deck plating of Star Trek and damned near every other sci-fi darling. Granted, you still have to provide temperature regulation and protection from radiation, but that could be done with a relatively svelte oversuit; you don't really need a huge bulky space suit to do the job. Inside the ship, where the oversuit isn't needed, it would be entirely plausible that the skintight pressure suit alone would be used as safety equipment.

Indeed, it would be somewhat easier to provide said pressure to the female form than the male in certain areas due to the nature of the ... er... "baggage" inherent in the male form. And yes, it may very well have that "thong" to keep it tight. And men's suits would of necessity be constructed a little differently, being bulkier around the nethers. If you'd like to argue that point, I'll happily discuss your own sexism. Even in the future, some men will have balls. Nevertheless, concerning these "space catsuits", where in my youth I might have said, "That's ridiculous," I now know better.

Sunday, December 09, 2018

The Mother of all Weird Dreams

HOLY FREAKIN' MOLEY! I took a nap and had a weird dream that was the mother of all weird dreams. I just now woke up, not because it was a nightmare, but literally so I could say "what the f...."

Way too many details to even write down, but I'm going to put down some of it before it's gone.

It involved my parents selling the farm and buying renovations for their suburban house. It wasn't just that they were alive in the dream. I was genuinely surprised to find them not dead, and they knew they had been, but didn't seem concerned about that. The renovations involved installing sunlamps in the ballroom (which we never had), and the sunlamps making everything grow. And when I say everything grew, I mean everything. The house became a mansion. Not gradually... it had always been a mansion, except that everyone remembered when it became always-been-a-mansion. And somehow we had a verb tense for that. Peanuts became worms, and inanimate objects like furniture became weird living parodies of themselves. Not cute ones, either. They bit and shit and pissed on the floor, and smelled horrible. My little sister (who doesn't even exist) started turning into a bison, and a friend-of-mine-who-I-don't-know turned into a turtle who offered the bison a ride on his back. We tried to get away, but the mountains were right next door, and it would take a week to get there on turtleback. The scope of the renovations had grown as well, and now workmen and painters were balancing on two-by-fours (stood on end), and my parents saw nothing weird at all. They simply insisted that when you do renovations you're bound to have a few setbacks.

This thing was wall-to-wall "Lewis Carroll meets The Sound of Thunder". What the hell did I eat?


That all sounds nice and linear when I read it back, and I'm happy to have the benefit of a moveable cursor instead of quill and ink. In experience, it was anything but linear. And some of it, I don't even have vocabulary to describe. The change to the house was quick, but everything else was gradual, and history kept changing with the physical changes. So in part it was history-changes-reality and in part it was the other way 'round. And you could tell which was which, and describe it, but I don't know whether upon waking I've lost the language of the dream, or whether I merely dreamed its existence and took for granted that the words were there.

Friday, August 31, 2018

100% Your Responsibility

Seen on Twitter:

Let's translated that into English:
"Don't tell us YOU'RE good, because we don't want YOU. We're attracted to the toxic guys. So be a good little pathetic loser and explain to the really hot, dangerous, attractive guy how to be non-toxically hot, since we ourselves haven't the slightest clue as to what that actually means. YOU'RE the nerd... YOU figure it out. Then go way, creep."
Seriously, that's how this comes across to the audience for which it's intended. We've seen it a million times before: women who make poor choices and then complain about their poor choices to the better choices they will never choose. This meme is a silly, puerile demand, and putting it in all caps does not make it so. Let's be clear: no one is compelled to be your Knight in Shining Armor, and your vocal pronouncement of such an onus is an embarrassment to the Feminism you claim to embrace.

We have many thousands of years of experience with a singular Human truth: the only person uniquely qualified to turn a man into a good man is a good woman. As uncomfortable as you may find it, there are differences between men and women. The vast majority of men and women are both cognizant of and comfortable with those differences. If you are not, the fault lies not with the differences themselves: it lies within you.

There are people who have trained themselves to believe that simply because our technology has changed, we have changed as well. Humans of millenia past have written on subjects that we ourselves find relevant and fresh today. They were by no means even the slightest bit less intelligent, emotional, logical, or insightful than we are now. In the meantime, our technology has progressed to the point where many of the divisions of labor that were created in prehistory are no longer applicable. It does not follow that our brains have changed apace. A bird, without instruction, is capable of weaving a nest. Very complicated behaviors are hard-wired into the complex meat-computer in their skulls. Do you think that you were spared that? Why? If you have any genuine respect for the science of Biology whatsoever, you must surely realize that the chance of your position being true is infinitesimally small.

The mere fact that a man is a man doesn't make him "toxic". Or, put another way, the fact that you're not a man doesn't make your selfish demands that the world bend to your will any less toxic.  Fair treatment is for everyone. But fair is fair. It is the sole responsibility of each of us to look at ourselves and our surroundings; to objectively assess what and where we are; and to know our own desires. In so doing, sometimes we find that what we want just isn't out there. But that doesn't mean that it's someone else's responsibility to fashion it for you. Just like the inventor who creates according to his or her need, you have the tools and responsibility to create what you need... or to make do. Is that fair...? Yes, because we're all in that boat. It's called being Human.

A Strange Game...

To repurpose a quote from WOPPER (War Games, 1983), Social Outrage is "A STRANGE GAME. THE ONLY WINNING MOVE IS NOT TO PLAY."

Wil Wheaton Driven Off Social Media By ‘Very, Very Angry’ Social Justice Warriors

How about a nice game of Chess, Wil?

And in your downtime, you might consider whether all of the people you've attacked and/or supported the attack of were any more fairly treated than you feel yourself to be now.

Saturday, August 11, 2018

Scalzi's Logical Fallacy

I'm going to take just a bit of time to illustrate for you a particularly prevalent celebrity logical fallacy.

If you're old enough, you may remember commercials like this:

"I'm not a doctor, but I play one on TV..."

This is called a false appeal to authority. It's when someone presents an opinion by someone else who is in turn presented as a "trusted source"... a source who by education, training, and/or experience can give accurate information. In the advertisement above, Peter Bergman is not a doctor. Whatever the benefits of the product are, he's no more qualified to expound on them than any other paid spokesman or consumer. The qualifications he assert ("I play [a doctor] on TV") are irrelevant.

In the Vicks 44 commercial, Peter Bergman did not make that false appeal: the ad writers did. They chose a spokesman that many people in the audience would have seen in a medical setting, acting like a competent doctor. Bergman is there to gain the trust and acceptance of the audience due to this familiarity. Fundamentally, a false appeal to authority is an emotional appeal, not a logical one.

More and more, we've seen celebrities set themselves up as "authorities" on various subjects upon which they are no more competent than any interested amateur. This is a bit distressing, as it's one thing to point to a false authority, and quite another to set yourself up as one. You should, at the very least, know your own limitations...

...which brings me to John Scalzi:

Now, what he says about healthcare and a space force may or may not be true. It's not the purpose of this essay to determine that. What I am addressing is the fact that Scalzi is no more qualified to say it than you are.  The only part of this statement upon which he's an authority is "I FEEL".

Scalzi is indeed a science fiction writer. He has indeed won a Hugo award. It is not my purpose here to criticize his writing skills. But those skills do not translate into real-world expertise in either healthcare or military matters. Nor does his non-fiction writing give a hint of any hidden qualifications in these matters. And if he'd stuck to his qualifications and simply said, "I feel that the United States needs quality health care for its people far more than it needs a 'Space Force'", I wouldn't be writing this post.

So how can a presumably intelligent human being make such a mistake? I can speculate about two reasons. One is subliminally disingenuous. He is trying to persuade, and if a reader is balancing on the fence, perhaps adopting a false air of authority will pull the reader to his side. The second is that he may actually believe himself to be an authority. Reality can be a dangerous thing for fiction writers. It's not their stock in trade. They make up the technologies they write about. They make up the aliens, the politics, the conflicts, the resolutions. They may write on behalf of characters who are flawed but the authors themselves control those flaws... and strengths. A fictional character achieves what the author wants him to achieve because the author wants him to achieve it. Even the physics of science fiction bend to the will of the author. Whenever a science fiction writer utilizes "technologies" such as faster-than-light travel, he or she displays a willingness to set aside reality for the purpose of telling a story.

That's a lot of control. It's a lot of power. It's certainly seductive to imagine that one has as much control and power over the real world. Unfortunately the real world is not as accommodating as a word processor.

Scalzi does correctly state that his actual qualifications are that he writes science fiction. We know that this indicates a willingness to set aside reality for the purpose of telling a story. We also know that a false appeal to authority is an emotional appeal. And we know that intelligent people know their limits. I'm giving Scalzi the benefit of the doubt when I assume that he chose to step outside those limits. Whether what he says here is correct or not, such "qualifications" cannot gain him non-skeptical agreement on logical grounds.

By the way, this isn't the only logical fallacy present in this tweet, but I leave it as an exercise to the reader to identify the others. You shouldn't need an expert, as logic is something that can be practiced by any competent human brain.

Monday, June 25, 2018

Supreme Court: Free Speech Means Free Speech

A year ago, Emily Jashinsky reported in The Washington Examiner:
It's a little puzzling that this was reported in the Opinion section rather than as a straight news, because it's mostly straight news, and the small bit of opinion at the end of the piece is easily edited.

In summary, the case "Matal v. Tam" concerns a dance band ("The Slants") whose application for trademark protection was denied under a Lanham Act provision prohibiting the registration of trademarks that may “disparage ... or bring ... into contemp[t] or disrepute” any “persons, living or dead.” 15 U. S. C. §1052(a).

In a unanimous decision, the court upheld the First Amendment and declared the clause unconstitutional. The court unambiguously declared, "We now hold that this provision violates the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment. It offends a bedrock First Amendment principle: Speech may not be banned on the ground that it expresses ideas that offend."

Here's the court's actual decision [PDF]

Never mind speech that might offend. Unambiguously offensive speech is protected.

And that's how it should be. As has been mentioned before, popular speech needs no protection, and cannot be the reason for the existence of the Free Speech clause of the First Amendment. As stated by Justice Kennedy:
"A law that can be directed against speech found offensive to some portion of the public can be turned against minority and dissenting views to the detriment of all. The First Amendment does not entrust that power to the government’s benevolence. Instead, our reliance must be on the substantial safeguards of free and open discussion in a democratic society."
In their decision, the court holds that the trademarks people choose for their businesses is private speech, not government speech; and that it does not become government speech due to the issuance of a trademark. It is therefore protected, and the disparagement clause of the Lantham Act is therefore unconstitutional.

The court further opines, "We need not decide today whether respondent could bring suit under §43(a) if his application for federal registration had been lawfully denied under the disparagement clause." This is because the disparagement clause itself is unconstitutional and may not now be used as a reason for denying a trademark. In other words, the issue is moot.


What the Examiner's story fails to mention is that the members of The Slants are Asian Americans who chose the name to "reclaim" it and strip it of its negativity. In my own opinion, denial of the trademark itself constitutes the government telling a group whether or not they should be offended by the labels they apply to themselves. I see this as being blatant patronizing. Can you imagine telling a Black rapper he can't use the "N" word because he should be offended by his own usage of it? Same thing. 

Thin-skinned opponents of Free Speech should count their blessings. Many countries, including Western societies such as those of the UK and Australia, have no such Constitutional guarantees of protection.

The defense against offensive speech are two-fold: 1. You don't have to sit and listen to it, and 2. You have the same right to voice your own dissenting opinion. Opponents of Free Speech would do well to heed the words of an English author on this subject (often attributed to Voltaire):
"I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it."
-- Evelyn Beatrice Hall (1906)
I myself spent seven years in military service voluntarily defending this and other unalienable rights for people with whom I disagree on a great many things, so it warms my heart to see the Supreme Court affirm something that has been well understood from the very inception of this country until it was forgotten by ignorant academics who, to their everlasting shame, should know better.

As I mention above, this was decided and reported a year ago. So why am I blogging about it now? Because many of the people who were ignorant a year ago are just as ignorant now. And if it was shameful then, it's a bloody disgrace now. It's time to speak up and let others do the same.