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All I want for Christmas

Is this tree.

There’s quite a bit of discussion on the Legos for girls I mentioned earlier.

Best bits I’ve seen:

This 1981 ad for Legos. Based on one data point, we’ve come a long way… backward.

And this article by Tansy Rayner Roberts, with my favorite quote on the topic: “Our girls should have toy options other than ‘everything is pink’ and ‘all the characters are boys.'”

You know, like they did in 1981.

Science and art and nonsense

My friend Tom left this link on a previous post about science and art: Bathsheba Grossman. I’d looked at her work before, but I don’t think I’d posted it. Science, math and 3D printing- what’s not to like?

Another friend, Eric, left an interesting comment on my post about November writing lessons.

Eric’s comment, reprinted to save you from wandering back and forth:

What NaNoWriMo was not good for this year: I did not write anything close to 50k words, generating about 10k if you include a section of notes I drew up.

What NaNoWriMo was good for this year: I figured out some things about my writing and how I ought to be writing, if I can just implement them and make them work. I learned that I probably need to start writing things backwards instead of trying to write one-thing-leads-to-another like George R.R. Martin or someone like that. I learned that I probably need to stop beating myself up if I don’t write any fiction on a day but still managed to leave a long comment on someone’s blog or elsewhere (e.g. a long forum post defending Star Trek, speaking purely hypothetically).

The big one was the “writing backwards” bit, if I can just teach myself how to do it. Though “not beating myself up” may be important, too: I think I’m realizing something similar to what you said about writing every day, and for almost identical reasons.

So I’m sort of feeling like NaNoWriMo was a “win” for me, even if it absolutely wasn’t even close in formal terms.

Eric and I have had long angsty discussions about similar issues before, and especially on the pros and cons of writing every day.

The moral: there’s no one true way.

This is important.

Irrelevantly, and tantalizingly, the day Eric left that comment he also wrote one of the funniest things I’ve read in ages. And no, I can’t share it with you, but if you ask nicely he might be persuaded to revise it for public consumption.

Changing the subject completely, this Counterexamples to an Old Earth came across my internet today, via Cheryl Morgan and several other people.

This is a fascinating and brain-hurting example of cherry-picking facts, extrapolating trends outside their proper bounds, and every logical fallacy known to philosophers. A number of the trends cited as evidence for a young earth are actually direct or indirect consequences of anthropogenic global warming, and thus relatively recent, but are warped into justification for recent creation.

And that’s leaving aside the factual inaccuracies, which are legion.

If I were still teaching, I think I’d use this as class discussion material.

And now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m hip-deep in Django today, and kind of having fun with it. I’m evaluating candidates for the obsolete web application that broke when I upgraded my work server. It looks like it would take almost as much time to fix it as it would to switch to something current. Science involves a lot of background stuff that needs to be done just so you can get to the good bits, and data management figures heavily in that category.

Something else entirely

I was going to write something about National Novel Writing Month and how I’m tweaking the rules this year to get some of the mass enthusiasm without any of the nervous breakdown, but. I saw this instead, and am too angry about it to write about anything else.

Nature, one of the premier scientific journals, regularly publishes science fiction stories, which I think is fantastic. A number of authors I respect have featured in it, and I’d like to do so myself one day.

But this story? Not at all pleasing. “Womanspace,” by Ed Rybicki, was intended as a tongue-in-cheek mostly-true anecdote about two inept middle-aged men (as stated by the author, himself one of those men). That would be fine with me. I know plenty of inept men, and quite a few of them are covered for by incredibly competent women.

Where Rybicki goes wrong is extrapolating from his single data point to ALL men, and particularly ALL women. Men are hunters, you see, and women are gatherers, and as such women have miraculous shopping powers which extend to retrieving goods from parallel universes that men can’t access.

The story buys into stereotypical ideas in other ways: the two men are busily discussing plans for a technical book while the protagonist’s wife cooks dinner. She recalls a domestic purchase that she hadn’t had time to make, and sends the men off to do it. So the woman is in charge of cooking and shopping, except on special occasions where it’s necessary to send the men out for something even though they’re doing something important? The shop staff are of course female as well, as necessary to his point.

Just as aggravating, the story made the open assumption that everyone reading such a prestigious journal would be male, and would have a wife at home.

I’m willing to give Rybecki the benefit of the doubt here. He and his friend and his wife had a funny anecdote, and were all amused, and he wrote it up without thinking too hard about about. After all, middle-aged males in the sciences are often oblivious to issues of stereotype and discrimination regardless of the number of training sessions they’ve sat through. (He says in his comments that some of his best friends are women “my own (better-paid) professional wife thought it was funny,” which doesn’t really help his case but was enough to pass his own personal filters.

But WHAT were the editors thinking? I expect more thought from the editorial staff, and that’s where I place the major share of the blame here. It’s 2011, and we’re still dealing with outdated stereotypes about the roles and mental processes of men and women, even here among purportedly-enlightened scientists?

Oh wait. I knew that.

NY Rainbow

Empire State Rainbow

Good job, New York.

Straight from twitter

With only the names changed, to protect both the innocent and the guilty.

twitterconservative: RT: President Obama Takes away National Day of Prayer, But we have “Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Pride Month’? God Help Us!

afriend: I can’t find any authoritative information to that effect. I think you were duped.

twitterconservative: yep Guess you did miss it

me: If by “cancelled” you mean “issued proclamation recognizing” then sure.

twitterconservative: so close minded. open ur eyes to the truth and dint try and twist words and be politically correct

twitterconservative: and since ur a scientist as u say I’m sure u don’t believe in God either so that’s why u try and spruce up the cancelation phrase

twitterconservative: nope no confusion.he flat out spoke out and did not allow the prayer on the steps that’s a tradition

twitterconservative: Obama is about as non Christian as u can be and we all know that he lies with every word he says

Let’s see: poor reading comprehension, no understanding of sarcasm, incapable of assessing competing claims, extrapolating wildly without data. I think I had twitterconservative in my intro biology class a few years ago.

It’s okay to be Takei

Why? Because he’s awesome. I have a great deal of respect for George Takei and his advocacy efforts. He’s got such a large platform to work from.

It’s also entirely okay to be gay, straight, lesbian, trans, queer, asexual, neuter, or whatever else you are. Or more than one of those. Or none. And married. Or not. To whoever you love.

As long as you don’t tell anyone else how to live their private lives.

And really, Tennesee, what the fuck?

Got to fly

Need a space program? Start your own!

To add to the cheer, more short-sighted behavior: Governor Corbett’s new Pennsylvania state budget cuts the funding for Penn State and other state universities by over 50%.

Yes, the economy is bad. Yes, the state and nation do not have as much money as they’d like. Cutting education is one of the most short-sighted things that could possibly be done to fix it. Infrastructure is critical. Education is critical.

I want to live in a civilized country, and am willing to pay for it. Education, high-speed rail, health care, police, fire, sidewalks, clean air and water: all marks of civilization, and necessary to if we want the US to be healthy, prosperous, a world leader in more than our own minds. Raise taxes, especially on those who can afford it. Take care of those who can’t afford it. Invest in science, engineering, transport, research, health care.

Be a civilized country.

Combo pack

My internet was full of remarkably cool things today.

  • This is a wonderful illustration of the “bush of life” (a tree is far too tidy). I love depictions of aspects of science that are both beautiful and meaningful.
  • Somewhat related: the history of scientific illustration (15th – 17th centuries).
  • Using graphics to convey relations: the size of Africa in relation to other regions or countries.
  • The HMS Stubbington; or, the origins of my (fake) tattoo.

And moving on from graphic design, this made me laugh.

Say it with a song

Dear Glenn Beck and Tea Partiers,

Words fail me. (Read the comments too..

Lucky for me Lily Allen said pretty much exactly what I was thinking (NSFW), and much more attractively.

In fact, I think I’ll say it twice just in case you don’t catch on the first time. (I love this video.)



Japanese artist Isao Hashimoto has created a video showing all known nuclear explosions from 1945-1998 – 2053 of them. Zipping past at one month per second, it’s a fascinating and disturbing picture of nuclear testing and warfare. It starts slowly, but the 1950s go flashing by. Even if you don’t want to watch the middle, having gotten the idea, do watch the recap from 12:10 to the end.

(via lauriepink)

Wikipedia offers a timeline and more detail on the various national testing programs.