Archive for the ‘bullshit’ Category

My Tribe, Right or Wrong

October 31, 2014 - 2:54 pm 46 Comments

So, after what feels like years and has actually been about two and a half months, I’m finally going to talk about Gamergate. I’ve been neck deep in this shit since the first Reddit post went up since it hits gaming, feminism, and has now somehow invaded my gunnie and libertarian circles as well, which means basically every fucking social circle I’m in either directly or tangentially save roller derby is freaking the fuck out about it and I can’t really go anywhere to get away from it without total social isolation. And I only get to skate twice a week right now. So I’m finally irritated enough to Say My Piece. And therefore jump in with both feet. Which means I’m going to be engaging in the Comment Wars for what I consider the stupidest cultural conflict since Chickfildammerung. Yes I am self-aware about this personal flaw.

First off- I agree with pretty much everything Ken said. Therefore I’m not necessarily going to address every point I actually agree with, nor exhaustively source everything as he’s already done most of it and I’m busy as fuck this weekend and can’t spend all day on this. I realize asking you to Read The Whole Thing is unreasonable, but before you launch a broadside at me about uncritically supporting “Social Justice Warriors” or accepting every claim made about threats and doxxing with automatic acceptance rather than sourcing, I’d appreciate it if you’d save us both the trouble of me calling you a lazy dumbass and check to see if the answer’s already there first. Hi Ken. I’m a fangirl.

So, going to go with the Arguments I Have Seen That Make Me Facepalm. If you haven’t made this argument? It ain’t about you. And frankly, most of my objections are political rather than feministy, given my biggest source of incredulity is seeing this from libertarian circles.

1. “Actually it’s about ethics in gaming journalism”

Sorry Cholly but no it ain’t, or at least “Gamergate” isn’t. The whole ridiculous mess started when Zoe Quinn’s angry ex made a post on Reddit about how she was crazy and cheated on him and, this is the important bit, slept with a Kotaku reviewer to get a good review for her indie game Depression Quest. Except this claim is trivially easy to verify as total fabrication, because no one at Kotaku ever reviewed the damn game. This takes about ten seconds on Google to figure out.

Gaming journalism is a fucking joke and could use some ethics. But you know what? This has been true for the entire history of its EXISTENCE. I’ve been seeing banner ads on sites with positive reviews of a game advertising the freaking game, with the ad ON THE REVIEW, for as long as there have been online gaming journalism and banner ads. Every gamer who hasn’t been living in an actual cave knows reviews from any “game journalist” who isn’t completely independent and getting paid nothing are bought and sold, mostly by major gaming companies.

So I think I’m pretty justified in regarding “it’s really about ethics” in a “scandal” that started with a completely bogus claim about a game developer whose game has been free to play since its inception who happens to be female, involves wide-scale doxxing, harassment, and rape/death threats, and not with any element of the actual long-standing problem, as raw steaming bullshit. Sure, some of the people making this claim may be totally sincere. But with respect, y’all have picked the wrong tag and moment in history to attach your outrage to. In theory this maybe shouldn’t matter because the validity of an argument shouldn’t be affected by those things; in practice yes it fucking does. None of us are impressed when an anti-gun advocate chooses the night of a mass shooting, done by a shooter with stolen or illegally possessed guns who was a known nutjob, to rant about legal CCW. And we aren’t wrong to level the blood-dancing charge then.

2. “I haven’t been following anything about this until just now, and I’m not a gamer and don’t play video games, but this is obviously just another case of SJWs picking something to manufacture outrage about”

Hey, thanks for admitting right up front that you have no fucking idea what you’re talking about, then. I’m glad you weighed in to register your literally ignorant opinion! “It must all be stupid bullshit because I think these people are whiny SJWs and some SJWs were mean to me/my friend once” is the definition of reflexive tribalism. Which I loathe.

3. “Women and gay people/minorities should expect this kind of reaction when they invade gaming”

Fuck you. We didn’t “invade”. I’ve got thick calluses on both thumbs, need to replace both of my PS3 controllers because I’ve worn them out and they’re starting to get flaky, spend a lot of time PC gaming too, and I’ve been playing video games since 1988. When I started games were aimed at kids, not young men specifically, and certainly not “straight white dudes”. Somewhere in the mid nineties the gaming industry made the decision that since they comprised their biggest market share so far as they could tell, it was a waste of time to develop and market for anyone else. (You can actually read about the specific market study that they latched onto for this if you Google for a bit.) We’re not newcomers; the gaming industry left us. But we didn’t leave; we just didn’t have much of a voice. Then since that entire generation that grew up gaming with the first home consoles is now old enough to have jobs in gaming and writing about games, we do. The guys that felt gaming was theirs just aren’t able to go through life thinking we don’t exist anymore.

Most gamers are in their 30s (coincidentally born around that early eighties time!) and nearly half are female. You can sputter all you want about female gamers not playing “real games” (which seem to be exclusively defined by these people as games targeted very narrowly at straight white young men), but we’re just as much the consumers of games as these guys are. We pays our money: we’re the market too. This is how markets WORK- or at least it’s how free markets do.

4. “Getting harassed is just what happens in games, guys do it to each other too, it’s happened to me, harden up”

“Women get disproportionately harassed” != “men never get harassed”. Most female gamers- and for that matter internet pundits- have experience with what happens when they go under an identifiably female identity and what happens when they go under a male or gender-neutral one. (Which, in gaming, is always assumed to be male.) When I’m playing online I don’t go around saying “I’M A WOMAN” or “I’M A DUDE” unless it becomes relevant to some discussion, but I do favor roles and classes that are always assumed to be male. (I play tanks and heavy-armor melee.) There IS a difference, a big one, in how I get treated when I don’t have that “must be a guy” assumption operating. I still get shit-talked and trolled (which I cheerfully hand right back), but it’s not nearly as intense, as personal, or as flat-out mean. All the female gamers I know have had pretty much the same experience, if their experience in gaming and internetting is at all extensive. Because you, the guy, at whom this stuff isn’t directed, have one experience, doesn’t mean yours is at all applicable to someone else, let alone overrides it. (And before it comes out, yes I am aware men have experiences women simply don’t too.)

Can we please acknowledge that though rape and death threats happen to everyone, it’s pretty disproportionately men to women and not the other way around? I’ve never actually seen an SJW do this to a gamergater, but I’ve seen LOTS the other way around. And please call me when there’s a mass shooting of men by a woman outraged about men rather than a man outraged about women and “feminists” shooting women. (Marc Lepine, George Sodini, Eliot Rodgers.)

5. “SJWs are trying to drive men out of the industry/out of gaming and must be opposed at every turn!”

Orly? Show me. I’m quite serious here. I’ve never seen an anti-gamergater suggest that straight white men, or all men, be driven out, let alone advocated for government force of law to step in and help them do it.

Oh, but they’ve called for boycotts, and said some really mean things about those gamers, and stereotyped, and attacked a lot of aspects of the gaming industry as it is? THIS IS HOW FREE SPEECH AND THE FREE MARKET FUCKING WORK! This is my huge political objection, right here. Free speech doesn’t mean freedom from criticism, it certainly doesn’t mean freedom from pointed criticism, it doesn’t mean freedom from mockery, and it sure as hell doesn’t mean protection from social consequences for speech, whether it’s deserved or not. Yes, this applies to the SJWs too.

What it DOESN’T apply to is threats, of organized harassment explicitly aimed at driving devs out of the industry altogether (which as Ken points out has happened repeatedly), and while still well within the bounds of that free speech, pressuring advertisers into pulling out of anyplace that criticizes you kinda skeezy too as a response to criticism. (AGAIN: this applies to the SJWs too.)

And when the people running under your flag are doing this repeatedly, claiming victimhood while they do EXACTLY what they’re (falsely) accusing their opponents of doing in the name of pre-emptive self-defense, and you’re standing by going “well it’s unfair to paint a movement by its extremists” while they’re getting real-world traction enough to drive people out of their jobs or out of their homes and get the FBI involved, twice- sorry but I’m not going to take you seriously. Is this the hill you’re really going to die on? There are no other trenches in your culture war to set up in that don’t contain people fighting a war against women in general in what they think is their domain? When Islamists do this shit we call it terrorism, not trolling.

When female game developers and programmers aren’t a single-digit percentage of the industry anymore, maybe then I might begin taking seriously the notion that they’re “taking over”. Or better yet? Over 50%. You know, reflective of our actual population. (Before I hear about it: NO I am not fucking advocating any sort of intervention to make this happen, I’m just horselaughing at the notion that there’s an actual takeover or persecution campaign against men of any sort.)

I point out: even 4chan has banned gamergate discussions. Why? Because those threads have extensive doxxing and coordinated harassment planning in them. Which is one of those few things 4chan doesn’t permit. When fucking 4chan has disavowed you because of your shitty tactics, it’s time to re-evaluate your life choices and choice of allies in particular.

6. “SJWs have attacked us on x front so we must fight them here too regardless of how it started”

Combined with the above especially, I’m not necessarily going to call you a misogynist unless you otherwise show me that you are, but I am going to call you a hypocrite. As well as point out that this is the “Billy hit me first” school of argument that really we all should have outgrown in middle school.

And as my last salvo: before you pull out “judging by a few extremists”, please direct me to the gamergaters who are taking all of the above seriously and speaking strongly against them. And I really don’t mean Bendilin Spurr, the guy who claimed gamergate was against harassment and also produced the “Beat Up Anita Sarkeesian” interactive web game.

To recap: it’s a movement with a completely incoherent argument started by an obvious lie, infested by doxxers and people doing something we normally define as terrorism when it’s people we don’t identify with in some way, championed by libertarians who apparently don’t see a problem with the fact that the actual “fight” is against people using speech and the free market to advance their interests. For the crime of disrespecting a self-described identity group, whose reaction is incidentally proving that much of what they say about misogyny in the gaming culture is completely correct.

Beautiful. I’ll even hand you a flag to plant on that hill. Defend it to your last breath.

Loch Lurker

April 18, 2014 - 10:19 pm 6 Comments

Dear world,

The Daily Mail and the Loch Ness Monster Fan Club are not credible reporters of whether an aquatic Rorschach blot is a hundred-foot animal. While large animals previously unknown to Western science CAN still be found (though they are generally not remotely unknown by local populations that don’t give a shit about Western science), they are not found in oligotrophic freshwater lakes with frequent surface traffic in the middle of heavily populated-by-Westerners countries. The idea that Loch Ness is inhabited by a breeding population of marine reptiles or similar animals is only somewhat more likely than the idea that New York City is inhabited by pterosaurs.

Firehose Pressure Crazy

March 28, 2014 - 1:19 pm 10 Comments

Ok, you all know the drill. You have open comments, sooner or later you’re gonna get some Weird Shit(TM) in there. Tam has her ghost in the machine poetry, you get the jist (because I’m too lazy to grab other examples). Back when we were still writing more regularly, we got a doozy. I mean, wow. I’ve had this thing sitting in the pending folder for over a year because every time I go to look at it again, I boggle just as hard as the very first time.

It wasn’t even submitted to a post relevant to the crazy. It was on the one about burning more hot dog buns. I mean, dafuq.

With the original well over a year old at this point, I feel it’s safe to share without attracting the attention of yon batshit loon. I mean if he, she, or it does come back, more free entertainment, right? That said, enjoy one of the biggest blocks of crazy I’ve ever read on the internet.

Just as the gods used WWII to justify an influx of new technologies so will they use the impending pestilence which kills over half the world’s population to justify historical medical advances, including the “cure of aging”, initiating the “1000 years with Jesus on Earth”.
We’ve seen this tactic used recently with AIDS, targetted at homosexuals and blacks in Africa.
Then, as promised, The End will come with fire::::Global tectonic subduction.

Anyone the gods role play telepathically or use for positioning in this Situation extensively have a legacy of hurting others. The more they hurt the more eggregious in history their legacy. Considering they tell me my auidence at any one time is nearly half a billion it is not inconceivable Adolph Hitler was reincarnated into the Situation.
Due to the expansive accumulated audience in this Situation these individuals have now qualified for a legacy of hurting billions of people, and as a result own a very exclusive legacy which will qualify them to be used for the pestilence event which kills half the world’s population:::The monsters of tommarrow.

Don’t forget the lessons the ‘ole white preacher taught:::Dancing is a sin, spare the rod spoil the child.
The gods used the liberal tool to ridicule away so many taboos, paving the way for the decay of society and ultimately the End Times::::::
Black behavior was controlled by the KKK. Men’s behavior was controlled by marriage for thousands of years.
When married by 15 men never gained the taste of promiscuity. Once the gods used the budding liberalism tool the men set the tone for the deteriorating enviornment centered around their gross disfavor.
Women’s relinquishing control of pre-arranged marriage will be what costs mankind everything in The End. It’s all their fault. Men are pigs, essentially just primally responsive disfavored beings who if given the freedom will abuse based on the impulses the god’s push them into. Whereas under pre-arranged marriage this behavior was contained now the promiscuous fraternity house epitomizes the pinnicle of what a “real man” should be like. And sadly the women fall into line.

The gods behave monsterously in the course of managing Planet Earth, matching our decay, but they demand people be good if you are to have a chance to ascend as a child in a future life.
Not only is doing the right things important (praying, attoning for your sins, thinking the right way:::accepting humility, modesty, vulnerability), so is avoiding the wrong things important as well:::”Go and sin no more”.
You NEED active parents who share wisdom to have a real chance to ascend into heaven in a future life, and you MUST be a good parent as well to have that opportunity.

As with so many things in this life “less is more”. Sex is one of those things. They used the liberal age to promote casual “free” sex intentionally::Combined with “women’s lib” and their initiation into the “trenches” of the workplace as well as other issues like alcohol consumption the people experienced a mass masculinization of the females.
The gods use sex as temptation. This is why the most disfavored among us are preoccupied with it. While some may feel being well-endowed is a sign of favor the truth is just the opposite. And often the result is misogyny, a belittling of the favored gender, and stagnation of the people as a whole.
Less is more. When young women experience passing thoughts which say you’re doing something wrong instead of fighting or dismissing the thought you should heed the warning. Sadly in today’s world too many experience prolonged periods of promiscuity in their lives, whereas if married by 15 like throughout human history this disfavor was avoided.
Don’t forget:::It is children who ascend into heaven, and the absence of sexual activity is one reason. Their general innocence is another, which should help you see the destructive nature of adult life in today’s society.


…..
…….The Aristocrats!

Flat Dark Earth

January 14, 2014 - 2:02 pm 11 Comments

I know I’m just pissing in the wind for all the effect this will have, but can we please stop playing hard-ass make-believe and just say “tan”? Interior decorators have already come up with a dozen names for this color, calling it “coyote brown” doesn’t make it any more ninja at the end of the day than calling it “taupe” or “latte.” In fact, I encourage all three of you reading this to switch to using interior design color names exclusively in place of these tactical-fluffer color names.

Neo-Luddism Rides Again

November 13, 2013 - 4:56 pm 8 Comments

So, across various sources that I read in the last few days there have come angry reactions to this piece of psuedo-intellectual reactionary bloviation. Which doesn’t usually come hipster-flavored, but hey, it’s the digital age and anything is possible. Except, according to the title and premise of the piece, getting lost. But swiping at low-hanging fruit is still totally possible in any age and with any technology, so let’s give it one more look than it really deserves.

We can’t jump off bridges anymore because our iPhones will get ruined. We can’t take skinny dips in the ocean, because there’s no service on the beach and adventures aren’t real unless they’re on Instagram. Technology has doomed the spontaneity of adventure and we’re helping destroy it every time we Google, check-in, and hashtag.

Actually I don’t jump off bridges anymore (never did, truth be told) because it’s fucking dangerous. Those aren’t high-dive boards, they’re walkways over an unknown depth of water with an unknown amount of places to haul out and an unknown amount of sharp fucking rocks. I’ve done lots of things in various wild waterways, some adventurous and some not, but jumping off a bridge into one was something I recognized as just plain stupid long before I started carrying any sort of personal electronics around with me.

I’ve also never gone skinny-dipping in the ocean, although I’ve likewise spent some time on beaches, both before and after having service there was something it would even have been possible to care about. Why? I don’t like getting arrested, and even if I had a nudist beach available to me I’m entirely too conscious of what lives in the ocean and how much of it actually spends time close to the shoreline to be all that psychologically comfortable naked to it.

You know what has changed about my behavior on shorelines since I started carrying personal electronics any of the time (I do have a smartphone now, which I resisted for years, but I still turn off the ringer and stow it most of the time I leave the house unless I’m waiting for something alone.)? There is now one additional thing I leave wherever I put my wallet and keys. That’s it. That’s all. If you find the beach boring compared to your smartphone, you have other problems that have nothing whatsoever to do with Google or Instagram.

After this bit of inanity follows a bunch of stories about getting lost, some of them adventurous and exciting, and some of them experiences no one should miss unless they’ve suffered a traumatic brain injury. (Like losing his little brother in a busy city- something no parent or guardian would sign up to go through ever again.)

I’ve got a bunch of stories about getting lost, too. I’m one of those unfortunate individuals with no sense of direction whatsoever, a trait I inherited from both my parents, who also had no sense of direction. I don’t find being lost the least little bit romantic, mostly because it was a normal experience to me growing up and not in any way associated with young adult adventure. I’ve been lost in the woods on foot and in a car, stuck in a vehicle in deep mud or snow a couple of times because of a wrong turn taken trying to leave said woods, lost in a strange city on the wrong side of midnight and in the wrong damn neighborhood to be lost in while a young woman, lost in the empty gaps between cities in the West, lost when the weather presented some real dangers of exposure, lost without food, without water, and lost in more entertaining and hilarious settings. Occasionally it ended in a funny story or some bit of unexpected adventure, but mostly it ended with a lot of stress and cold and sometimes that delightful experience when you’re a small child of seeing real fear on your parents’ faces because they know your situation might not have a happy ending. I’ve had a lot of adventures I remember fondly, but pretty much all of them involved knowing at least roughly where I was fucking going and how to leave again.

I’ve also spent a lot of time eating on the road and in strange places. I’ve got stories about terrifying meals, having to pull over to the side of the road during a road trip so someone could puke after eating somewhere no one should, and a much more prosaic story about spending a number of years only eating in recognizable chain restaurants while traveling after hard lessons learned from those earlier experiences, unless I had a reliable voucher from someone local about where to eat.

I had a lot of fantastic experiences eating in small towns and on the road in the gulf coast south during college, because the biology and environmental sciences department, having to go on a lot of road trips for field trip and collection purposes, had an effective word-of-mouth network going for where to find the best hidden gems to eat. I still have memories of some of the best meals of my life from those times. It reawakened my sense of culinary adventure and made eating at chains somewhere new feel like a personal defeat.

Know what having small portable computers around me has allowed me to do? Repeat that experience everywhere. I can go anywhere there’s good food to be had with a pocketful of recommendations from chow hounds and road food enthusiasts across the nation, and I’m still having some of the best meals of my life that way, or at least something much better than chains and eons and light years better than food poisoning far from home.

I remember the time I picked up my girlfriend from her friend’s house in Massachusetts. She was going to school down in Georgia and this was the first time I’d seen her in months. “We’re back together…finally.” I tweeted, tagging both of our Twitter handles in the status. The flash on my iPhone annoys her and she asks me to put my phone away. I begrudgingly agree and I start to drive. I put my home address into the GPS and follow the voice. She asks me if I want to get lost with her. I ask her what she means and she tells me that she wants to get lost. I ask her where she wants to go and she shrugs. I tell her that there is an interesting looking coffee shop only 2.3 miles away and she sighs. I turn off the GPS and drive. A few minutes go by and I get antsy. I turn the GPS back on and follow the voice, she crosses her arms and is silent all the way back to my house.

Dude. Here is some free advice for you, since you apparently need it. She was not pissed that you didn’t get genuinely, running-out-of-gas, freezing-in-the-dark, scary-goddamn-neighborhood lost. She was pissed you wouldn’t put down your fucking phone and put your full attention on her, and more pissed that you couldn’t do that for even ten minutes without buckling.

You know what’s nice about putting down the damn phone and going somewhere that’s actually new? Being able to, if you need to, pick it back up again when you’re done and find your way back home. If you can’t take step one of that combination, the problem is not the alienating march of technology, it’s your complete and total inability to leave your comfort zone without being forced to by circumstances beyond your control.

I like being part of the most connected generation of all time BECAUSE it allows me to have adventures without major disaster or anxiety attack on the part of my loved ones. (Who tend to, as loved ones do, worry more about me than I do about myself, after experiences of me vanishing from the face of the earth for hours or a day after I said I’d be home.) I love being able to Wikipedia the old building I’m in and find out what makes it special, that I’d never have known otherwise. I love being able to eat truly new things I’d never have tried otherwise- because I’ve had turn-you-inside-out food poisoning while in the middle of a car trip before and IT FUCKING SUCKS.

I suspect what the author really misses isn’t being lost, it’s being young and having a sense of adventure about the world because all of it really is new and having the freedom to explore it at will is too. But I’m me and he’s him, and I can’t speak for him. I can, however, speak for my portion of the same generation, that hasn’t experienced any alienation whatsoever- and is still entirely capable of engaging with non-digital experiences without a competition.

Oh John Ringo… Honey… No.

October 17, 2013 - 3:03 pm 18 Comments

Via Tam, an essay by John Ringo (of modern-day pulp science fiction fame) on, apparently, the coming zombie apocalypse and how it’s apparently going to be precipitated by bitter geeky men with kitchen-table biochemistry kits engineering homemade viruses to turn women (specifically blonde women with big tits) into their sex slaves. If you wish to read for context you should probably read the whole thing. As Ringo tends to be, it’s pretty highly readable.

When I read it initially I was pretty sure this was a troll, and an entertaining one, but I am assured by others he is either serious or may as well be as the distinction is without meaningful difference. The basic premise is pretty sound- the idea that biochemistry and nanotechnology are advancing to the point where homemade and tailor-designed superbugs may well represent a serious threat, one that is more likely to come from the bored, antisocial, and too intelligent for everyone else’s good individual rather than from state-sponsored or radical religious or political entities.

The problem with the article is where he goes with it next. Excerpted, at some length:

The general trend will go like this. Professor Doktor Herr Apocalyptica will invent a virus that can do something to humans. (Well, in fact, it does it to rats. But humans just happen to have the same brain chemistry.) Not just kill them, do something to them. It may, for example, combining the fields of neurology, psychology and virology, cure depression. No more need for Aderol or NoDepressol or whatever. Your neurology is now reset to perfect normal. There will be others that can do other things. Make you smarter, more socially able, less nervous, shy, crowd phobic, what have you. Make you need almost no sleep. (I’d love that one.)

Then some grad student trying to get their masters or doctorate will create a new virus (as many will be created because when you have a breakthrough like that it creates all sorts of easy, for values of easy, graduate projects) that, just for a laugh, makes any girl who is infected fall in love (or at least lust although love is possible as well.) with him. If you DON’T think a biology geek won’t write that one, you don’t understand male bio geeks.

How does that work? you ask, sceptically.

One proven aspect of male/female sexual interaction, especially (at least so far) for women, is pheromones. All people emit them and they have various effects most of which researchers are still trying to sort out. The geek identifies his specific suite of ‘love’ (lust because they are alot more about reproduction than permanence) pheromones. Then writes a virus that does a series of actions. First it only affects women. (He can, of course, narrow this down if he’s good enough. Only ‘hot’ babes for values of ‘hot.’ And I’m assuming, possibly a bad assumption, that the grad student is a he.) Second it does a series of things. It rewrites them to ‘like’ his pheromones. When sensing his pheromones their libido is enhanced. If he’s smart, their capacity for long-term critical decisionmaking is degraded (as it is in males by sexual cues.) If he really wants to fuck with them (not just…) it triggers massive release of oxytocin and vassopressin (look them up.)

So when a woman gets a whiff of the guy, they can’t get enough. They act like twilight fans seeing a sparkly vampire. Sex must occur and they must have him FOR ALL TIME.

OK. There’s more explanation of how this scenario is meant to work, with a lot more background detail of genetics research*, but given that arguing with a science fiction author about the plausibility and accuracy of future technology is like arguing with an impressionist painter about color fidelity, it’s not really worth picking at. The big, glaring, plaid elephant in the living room here is pheromones, whose use in this piece really demand a Morbo.

DOES NOT WORK THAT WAY

The only aspect of human pheromone research that is “proven” is that they have been proven to affect the vomeronasal organ in humans (but not the olfactory tissues- we really are relatively smell-blind, at least to effects that subtle), and some of them have been proven to have gender-specific effects. (My personal favorite one is the male pheromone that gets other men, but not women who remain oblivious, to avoid particular restroom stalls.) There’s a pretty good, and pretty exhaustive, review of the literature on human pheromones and sexual attraction here; if you are interested in the subject I highly recommend it, as it’s a good primer on what’s been done so far and what the strengths and weaknesses of the obtained results are. The upshot is that some strong evidence of pheromone effect on menstrual regulation has been found, but the sexual attraction results are either negative, inconclusive, or positive but riddled with methodological issues. If one were to apply the same tactics to researching the arousal potential of Nora Ephron movies, one would likely find a similar or stronger correlation.

The thing of it is, though, that if human pheromones really worked like Ringo seems to think they do, it would not be an even slightly mysterious phenomenon or a recent discovery. This would be a gross, obvious effect that everyone had known about since the beginning of recorded history. The only animals that pheromones actually work this way on- provoking strong, reliable sexual attraction that produces an immediate behavioral effect- are, for the most part, insects. If humans worked like butterflies and flies do Ringo’s scenario would be tantalizingly plausible; but they simply don’t, and we know this not because of the research that’s been done on pheromones so far, but because no known humans actually act like this, nor have they ever that anyone’s ever reliably witnessed. Even mammals for whom definite and strong pheromonal signaling effects are known don’t work like this; for mammals, pheromones seem to play a strong role in estrous and menstrual cycles (and indeed, that’s the only effect in humans that convincing and reliably reproducible evidence seems to come for), but not so much in direct sexual attraction and mating.

Boringly, it just doesn’t make any evolutionary sense for a mammal to work like this, especially not a mammal like humans that lives with lots of other members of the same species and has a wide pool of mates to choose from at any given time, and whose true reproductive bottleneck isn’t mate availability or quality but the sheer amount of resources that must go into raising each and every offspring. When your reproductively mature life stage lasts only days or even hours, it makes sense for mating to be a powerful overriding drive that completely hijacks all of your behavior and is controlled primarily by chemical signaling; the life history of insects that work like this is driven by very brief periods of frantic activity with the nearest available mates that result in big population booms of which only a few will survive, by good luck, to reproduce themselves. If you invest years of your own life and massive amounts of energy and nutrition merely to raise a single offspring to reproductive maturity, it makes no sense at all to be chemically compelled to fling yourself at the nearest correctly-smelling mate- especially if you are surrounded at nearly all times with a wide variety of perfectly workable options. This isn’t a barrier that Moore’s law can overcome; in order for increasingly precise and powerful technology to be viable, the underlying structure that it works on has to exist in the first place. Ringo’s scenario is no more plausible than the idea that it’s possible to engineer lobsters into an army of coordinated stealth underwater computer hackers.

What’s worse, the only thing individual about pheromones that we’ve really found is the major histocompatibility complex; even if one were to target that in their “love virus”, the only thing it would actually accomplish is making the targets particularly interested OR particularly DISinterested in you depending on their current phase in menstrual cycle and whether or not they were on hormonal birth control at the time.

It’s a fun scenario. Given that Ringo tends to be infectiously readable, and he’s right enough about the nature of male biogeeks (which is why there’s two to three times as much research on the response of women to male pheromones as the other way round, even though the research on men that’s been done has shown as much measurable effect), I’d probably read it, though maybe not pay money for it. But as a “I’m totally not kidding, this is how the zombie apocalypse will happen” scenario… sorry John, blonde cheerleader sex zombies are no more plausible now than they were in seventies exploitation drive-ins.

*Although the one human genetics researcher of my actual “I can just ring you up and explain my latest wild hair” acquaintance ranted for several minutes on the subject of RACIAL GROUP GENETICS DO NOT WORK THAT WAY! as well how pretty much everything Ringo’s describing as target traits are massively polygenic affairs that simply can’t be targeted that way or any other remotely plausible virus-engineering way. So, you know. Take with an entire pillar of salt.

A Simple Request

November 26, 2012 - 12:41 am 10 Comments

Now that the stupidest part of the year is well upon us, I have a request for those of you who must endure the bullshit that is air travel in the US this season.

If the blue-gloved stasi at the metal detector/lookey-loo machine tries to touch you, insist on fresh gloves.

In my wildest moments of optimism*, I can hope that this will catch on like gangbusters and be a lever applied at the fulcrum of budget as the demand for more and more gloves skyrockets, and the TSA comes crumbling down and joy returns to the land and nobody demands papers please and….

Yeah, and maybe I’ll get that letter of marque, too.

More realistically, you’ll at least have the peace of mind that the dimwitted goon about to grope you didn’t just grope Brittni Ambir’s active herpes outbreak ’cause hey, look at the cans on that one huh with the same gloves, and cause them some annoyance in the process.

*Usually called “christ, cheer up once in a while would you?” by friends

Targeting Fail

October 25, 2012 - 5:16 pm 6 Comments

So once again learning from the pros at Popehat….

Hey Atomic Nerds,

I have been following your blogs for a long time and I am a huge fan. Anyway, we just came out with a product that I think you both would get a kick out of. It is a baby outfit that is actually part mop that cleans your floors as the baby crawls – perfect for lazy parents. http://www.retardedshitanybodywhohasabraincanseeisdumberthanboiledfuck.com/dieinafire.html

Check out our site and let us know if you want anything. We would love to send you some samples of our products.

Your product is fucking stupid and if you think we’re endorsing anything baby related you’ve very clearly never read our blog.

I should’ve looked into the option for a pony. I could’ve named it Adhesive Intoxicant. Or Huffer Sparkle. It’s a glue joke, son, work with me here.

I Declare Jihad

October 10, 2012 - 9:49 pm 53 Comments

Look, you hopped up pretentious fuckskids of inferiority masquerading as trendy, there is one goddamn thing that has been utterly fucking pivotal to the advancement and continuance of human progress in the history of the fucking world, eclipsed in importance only by beer, and I am utterly fed the righteous fuck up with every half-wit with an art history degree and a pot of boiling water fucking it up.

Coffee is not this fucking hard, people.

I may be biased by a recently uninterrupted string of bad experiences, but the continued existence of Starbucks backs my claim that shit-awful coffee is still way too common. What’s worse, Starbucks has been the model for every hipster-filled pretentious nouveau-trendy hole in the wall with shitty parking designed only to be accessible to people who’s job consists of carrying an ipad around all day and pretending they’re worth a tin shit in a gold mine. Over the last few months, I’ve been to more than a handful of coffee establishments, ranging from “Gimme some fuckin’ bean juice and get me out the door” to “Our organic free range fair trade cruelty free salmon bagel won best of the block for food served next to a tattoo parlor!” and a good chunk in between.

You know who had the best coffee out of the lot? The goddamn Obligatory Cow Reference in Secret Location, CO at Blogorado. The greasy fucking spoon. Was it great coffee? I don’t know if I’d go that far, but it’s pretty damn good. Fellow coffee snob MattG insists that a good portion of this is due to the company we always have at the Obligatory Cow Reference, and I’ll allow that does bring a good bit of leniency to the standards, but that aside, the coffee is still pretty un-suckful.

The reason for this trend of bad coffee is that, probably thanks to the Seattle Shit-in-a-cup, burnt beans and overextracted brew has become way too accepted as “good coffee,” and it absolutely ball-shreddingly cunt-staplingly IS NOT GOOD.

Let’s take the first problem first: burnt coffee. Unless you fell out of the monkey tree yesterday, you’re probably aware that coffee beans have to be roasted before they can be ground and brewed. A few special cases aside, this happens between 375 and 425F, and can take from 90 seconds to 15 minutes. It will be a smoky process regardless, but apparently every goddamn roaster with ironic glasses has decided that more is more in terms of smoke, and the ideal output product from a coffee roast should look more like the trash can from Auschwitz than a small brown pellet. The fucking goal is to cook out the moisture, and break down the proteins, sugars, and phenolic materials into something complex and delicious. It’s fundamentally a Maillard reaction. That’s an art to do well, I will grant, but it’s not fucking rocket surgery.

Sugars go first, into formic, acetic, and lactic acids, which are responsible for tart flavors. As the roasting continues, acids and astringent phenolic stuff (like chlorogenic acid) are broken down to reduce overall acidity (this can be fucked up later even if done correctly here, don’t worry aspiring trendwhore baristas). This is, counter-intuitively, also where the bitterness starts to ramp up, and where we start running into that choking on a burnt log flavor, since the byproducts from the Maillard that cause the browning of the bean start to ramp up as the bean darkens- or in layman’s terms: IT’S FUCKING BURNT YOU GODDAMN BOIL ON THE ASS OF DECENT CAFFEINE DELIVERY. Body is shot like a car in Fallujah, and the only flavors left are hate and failure.

There’s an argument to be made that I should be pissed off about how they’re grinding the beans, but really, the brewing process is more at fault in any of these cases than grain size, from what I can tell, so I’m going to skip it. Ideally, you want to extract about 20% of the overall coffee solids to make a full, balanced cup of brew. To do this, you have to first get the proportion of coffee to water correct (Hint: You need more coffee than you think!) and second, you need the correct fucking temperature of water. Amazingly, we have had the technology to heat water to specific thermal levels for… let me check here… ah, right, THE LAST FUCKING CENTURY OR SO. Coffee water needs to be heated to between 190F and 200F. DO. FUCKING. NOT. FUCKING. BOIL. THE. FUCKING. WATER.* Higher temperatures extract more bitter compounds. Hence, over-extracted. Some drip machines are slapdash affairs, and compensate for inadequately heated water by leaving the water in contact with the coffee for longer. This is popular with conical filter machines. This also leads to over-extracted coffee.

The starting point for coffee to water ratios should be no lower than 1:15. Most of the old Better Homes and Fuck Dens from The Good Ol’ Days are actually not terrible on this point- one of my grandmothers of the “It was good enough before the darkies could vote, it’s good enough now!” mold insisted on 1.5 Tbs coffee per mug in the pot (using the average 11 oz mug). This gave a ratio better than double the starting point for standard American drip coffee to not suck, and it has served me well. Remember, it is always better to use MORE coffee in the brew; you can dilute if it’s too strong, but you can’t fix too weak.

The Obligatory Cow Reference has an old(er)-school basket type jumbo brewer. It’s got enough ass to get the water hot enough, they use enough coffee for the water, and the basket filter doesn’t leave the water in the grounds for too long. End result: Pretty damn good coffee, unfucked by some shitskid with a fixie.

Look, good coffee is a high art. It does take some practice. But you know what it also takes? Having a fucking example that wasn’t made from the ashes of Juan Valdez’ donkey brewed for half an hour at 212F as a starting point to judge your own output by. Are clove cigarettes really that damaging to the palate? Jesus, people.

So with the explanation out of the way, here’s what I’ve come up with as a rule of thumb. Call it Stingray’s Law of Brew Selection, or Stingray’s BS: If you see more pump bottles full of flavor shit by whatever brewing device is in operation, just get a glass of water and snort a rail of ground-up No-Doz, because I swear on a stack of dead civets that if I get one more shitty cup of mud from a fuck-leaving with a neck tattoo and a hole the size of a golf ball in the ear** I’m going to solve the problem with ten gallons of diesel and a fucking road flare.

*Unless you’re at an altitude where water boils pretty close to 200F instead of 212. Here at 7200′, small quantities will boil around 203F, larger batches where the weight of the water brings some pressure to the party will go higher, up to the 206-208 range. If you try to use a pressure cooker to get the temp higher without boiling, I will hunt you down and do violent things to you. Like make you drink your own coffee. There is a specific style that does this, and brews around 230F, but, uh, damn.
**Some days I’m really tempted to keep a nice, super-heavy Masterlock in my pocket for these special snowflakes, and then when the coffee sucks, beckon them in close, lock it through the ear and run like hell.

In A Similar Vein

May 31, 2012 - 10:18 pm 14 Comments

Tam has gone all observant and noted that “Ey, youse gotta be tough in New Yawk” is in fact bullshit.

As it turns out, there’s a similar problem elsewhere. “Don’t mess with Texas!” “Wild West, etc!” You know the song. As we have driven our way through the perfectly flat monotony to Deepinahearta, TX to visit friends, a curious condition was observed. Nobody would set one lead foot even a mile per hour over the posted speed limit. For good reason too, as given the non-stop squealing of the fuzz-buster on the dashboard, LabRat and I soaked up so much radar that we now have either cancer or superpowers. But yeah, when your local 5-0 inspire this sort of thing, let’s get a little ego check on that “Don’t mess with” attitude, hmm?