Archive for September, 2009

More Like This

September 30, 2009 - 8:04 pm Comments Off

To pluck another string in an ongoing theme of harping, here’s someone studying sex and dating psychology that is actually asking the sorts of questions that should be asked: Study Questions “Selectiveness” Gender Gap.

Much has been made in psychological and evolutionary psychological circles about how women are much more selective than men when it comes to choosing a date or a overnight mate; usually some lip service is paid to the massive cultural reinforcements in this direction just about every man and woman receives from birth before treating the conclusion as though it were simply a biological truism, like “men taller on average than women”. Very, very rarely is anything built into the study to check to see if any other reinforcements besides the Calling of the Chromosomes are working.

These researchers picked a setting that people working in this field love because it makes their job really simple and gives more credible results than self-reporting: speed dating. Neither the participants nor the researchers have to burn much time, it relies almost totally on gut impressions rather than post-hoc rationalization, and it forces the participants into snap judgments, so that you can supposedly study basic inclinations rather than someone’s idea of a checklist. (Unless, of course, that person’s checklist is prioritized as “must be above a six on the hotness scale”.) In order to check the validity of their model, they did what every good investigator should do- shake down the model and question which assumptions are active and whether they should be.

In the case of this particular study, they questioned a speed-dating standard: who sits and is approached versus who approaches someone new every time the clock runs out. Almost universally in such settings, the women sit and the men rotate, which both ensures that everyone meets everyone eventually and matches traditional gender norms. The only variable in the study under discussion was just that: who is approached versus who approaches.

The gap didn’t vanish or reverse under this design, but both groups were significantly impacted by the one small change- women were still more selective than men, but men being approached became more selective, and women doing the approaching became less selective. It’s hardly a nonintutive result; we usually value more that which we expended effort to go find rather than that which was dropped into our lap, and if we anticipate having wide choice for no effort, we tend to place much more importance on the choice. Think of it as the free-pizza coefficient- you’ll have a lot more people eating the same kind of pizza without complaint if you bring one in with whatever toppings you decided to put on it than if you ask everyone what kind of toppings they want before you order it.

At the end of the day it doesn’t validate or invalidate the normal assumption, but it’s the kind of question that really needs to be asked, much more often than it is. If it took until 2009 to get an answer to a question that should be a matter of universal basic psychology in any situation other than one as loaded with cultural gender norming as mate selection, then there’s a lot more work along the same vein to be done.

Trying Too Hard

September 29, 2009 - 5:12 pm Comments Off

Apparently, having been foiled (pardon the pun) once, and doing some paid pro-time in the Navy, the Radioactive Boy Scout is, like the atomic version of a pyro playing with matches, up to his old tricks.

Now I certainly don’t begrudge the man a thing. Nuclear power is just freakin’ cool as all get-out. The fact that he, single-handed, built a nuclear program in his back yard that would make that wacky Iranian Pres. Ahmadinnerjacket weep with envy is outright amazing, and very certainly praise-worthy, if a tad below OSHA standards.

I’ll admit happily I’ve toyed off and on with going a similar route, though for preference with less stealing (since it attracts attention). If nothing else, disconnecting the house from the power co would make those smarmy “green” idjits who are always going on about how wonderful not-currently-viable alternative energy sources are both a) crap themselves with fear and b) at least have to consider the notion that nuclear energy is basically our must-do path forward right now. Mostly A though. I like when stupid people crap themselves in terror.

That said, while a lot of the fear and panic around the term “radiation” is overblown, and OSHA standards are often more than a little excessive, I think there’s one very important lesson to take away from Mr. Hahn: When your face begins to melt off, CHECK YOUR FUCKING SHIELDING!

Edit: Son of a bitch, of course it’s way out of date. My bad.

Sense is Superfluous

September 28, 2009 - 2:40 pm Comments Off

This morning, Tam tossed out a quick list of, according to her, senseless desires. To whit, a current-gen video game system, a double rifle, and one of those popular-as-hell cordless telephones the weenies over at Apple sell, which I will not name specifically lest I attract 5000 spam link-back comments.

First off, how on earth is it not sensible to want a double rifle? I mean, a huge-ass gun designed to put a stop on things roughly the animal equivalent of an armored car? Sure, the price tags are pretty steep but other than that what isn’t to like?

The phone… well, I hate phones. When the phone rings here it’s usually accompanied by a verbal response the likes of which are normally heard when one hits ones thumb with a hammer, or stubs a toe with vigor. Ok, fair enough, maybe that one doesn’t make sense.

But the current-gen game system is the real meat of this. Is the Xbox basically an overcomplicated toy? Absolutely. Is it worth picking one up regardless? You better believe it, and here’s why.

Overlord. It’s always the same, you can never find a competent Supreme Bad Guy. The dumbass lets the hero monologue, or shows mercy inappropriately, or simply fails to just be enough of a dick. Overlord is your chance to fix that. Start out the game as your most loyal minion revives you from the last hero to trounce through and raze your castle. From there, you begin building your horde of demons, an army of ambitious go-getters eager to do your bidding and pillage the land. Available in four colors, use them strategically to solve problems and devastate your enemies. We already did a full review on this, but aside from that I’d like to point out just how satisfying it is watching your imp army gear itself up with found weapons and armor, and spotting your seasoned combat veterans come back to kick ass in your name (the flip side being it’s a shame when that grizzled lil’ bastard eventually eats it at the hand of some damn elf that got lucky, or worse, accidental drowning). Sadly, we hear the sequel isn’t nearly as good, but that doesn’t take away from the awesomeness of the original.

Psychonauts. Ok, again we already did the full review thing, and yes this is technically for the original xbox rather than the 360, but any game where one of the take-home lessons is, and I quote, “Shooting things is useful and fun!” is made of win. Absolutely outstanding writing, good gameplay, and you use a piece of bacon as a communication device. Mmm, bacon.

Ghostbusters. We haven’t done a full review on this yet because we’re still playing. I’ll admit we’re biased, both LabRat and I can pretty much recite the movies by heart, but so far this really is standing up to the claims that it should count as the third movie. The combat system is not without flaws, some quite frustrating, but the story and attention to Ghostbusters canon is absofreakinlutely awesome. There are backstories on the ghosts you capture in your own handy portable copy of Tobin’s Spirit Guide, and all sorts of other neat touches. Getting to run around with the guys (and they did get all the original cast to do the voice acting, too) is just icing on the cake.

Dead Rising. This right here is the king of zombie-related sandboxes. The story mode is a giant pain in the ass, but running around taking on an entire mall full of brain-hungry Zack is its own reward. Ok, this one is kind of a flimsy excuse, but I really love killing zombies. A lot.

Mass Effect. Again, full review. In a dollars-per-hour valuation of entertainment, this thing can easily get down into the pennies range. The game is unbelievably freakin’ huge, and even though it isn’t a truly sandbox-world, there are so many side missions, things to explore, and things you have to go out of your way to encounter that it still comes pretty close. The universe is very well fleshed out (too much so for some tastes), and how you go about exploring it is, mostly, up to you. Build your team up of hard-hitting combat heavies and storm through. Swap out some firepower and get some increased electronics support. See your enemies driven before you as you see fit. Amazingly, the AI for your team is actually pretty decent, too. I wouldn’t want them to balance my checkbook, but compared to the usual game AIs you see, of the “HAY LOOK AT THIS WALL THIS WALL IS AWESOME I LOVE IT SO” variety, they’re way above average. I’m pretty sure my first run clocked in well over 100 hours all said and done, spread over a few months. Now that it’s under $20, that right there is some entertainment value.

Cheap high-def. Granted, you’re not going to be getting any movies made after Sony bought blu-ray’s victory about two years ago, but that just means all the movies released on hd-dvd (such as the beyond gorgeous ultimate Blade Runner collection) for prices I believe the technical term is “damn cheap.”

Netflix. $10/month and whatever movie/show you want on demand in high def? Sounds like a bargain to me.

Hrm. Hadn’t meant for this to turn into quite such a commercial. I’m not getting a kickback from Microsoft so far as I know, but I am awfully glad we picked up that senseless geegaw. Maybe this shameless fluff post will inspire The Muse to wander back for something more substantial soon.

Little Rules Of Thumb

September 25, 2009 - 11:58 am Comments Off

If you feel you have to start off a comment on someone else’s blog pre-emptively accusing said blog’s author or commentariat of believing you to be a liar/asshat/(insert political caricature) that will automatically dismiss what you say anyway, this is an autofail. Either it’s true and posting your comment has about as much point to it as lying under an outhouse hole expecting a refreshing shower, or it’s not and you’re just sprinting out of the gate being a passive-aggressive douchebag. Either way, you lose instantly, even before anyone replies and even moreso if no one cares enough to bother.

Do not be this guy.

I Really Have To Wonder About Mr. Coburn

September 24, 2009 - 4:40 pm Comments Off

Via a chain of clicking initiated by Robb at Sharp As A Marble, we have here an interesting pair of stories about our very favoritest and shiniest alternative to Democrat moonbattery, Republican batshittery:

Tom Coburn’s Chief of Staff Says Straight Porn Will Make You Gay:

Now, I may be getting politically incorrect here. And it’s been a few years, but not that many, since I was closely associated with pre-adolescent boys, boys around 10 years of age. But it is my observation that boys of that age have less tolerance for homosexuality than just about any other class of people. They speak badly about homosexuality. And that’s because they don’t want to be that way. They don’t want to fall into it.”

Schwartz told the crowd about Jim Johnson, a friend of his who turned an old hotel into a hospice for gay men dying of AIDS. “One of the things he said to me,” said Schwartz, “that I think is an astonishingly insightful remark… he said ‘All pornography is homosexual pornography, because all pornography turns your sexual drive inwards.”

There were murmurs and gasps from the crowd. “Now, think about that,” said Schwartz. “And if you tell an 11-year-old boy about that, do you think he’s going to want to get a copy of Playboy? I’m pretty sure he’ll lose interest. That’s the last thing he wants! You know, that’s a good comment, it’s a good point, and it’s a good thing to teach young people.”

Tom Coburn hissownself says there’s a lesbian epidemic in the girls’ bathrooms at Oklahoma schools:

When contacted by the Associated Press for follow-up, Coburn’s spokesperson, John Hart, had an answer. Lesbian debauchery has been allowed to happen, he said, because “our kids are getting mixed messages about sexuality.”

Okay. We’ll put aside for a moment the rather amazing paranoia on display here- and by the way, that latter article is all I really need to hear to know that Tom Coburn, while he might at some time have allowed his precious bodily fluids in proximity to a woman’s ladyparts, he sure as hell has never talked to a woman- and get down to the real puzzler on display here.

Have any of you ever been confused about your sexuality from sheer exposure to other individuals of the same sex with insufficient homophobic conditioning, or just “exposure to the same sex not in a full-body burqa”? I know I was as confused as any kid when it came to sex and romance and all that other fun stuff, but my hormones weren’t exactly waiting around for me to be passively conditioned into my sexuality. They struck me stone stupid on the subject of Certain Individuals and what they had in their pants without any input from me or my parents or society at all, starting when I was twelve or so and my gonads were warming up for Phase Two. I came of age during the period when porn was everywhere on the internet but no one had yet devised any effective means of blocking it, within a household and a church that was decidedly liberal on the subject of sexuality, and so far as I can tell it didn’t alter my sexuality a jot or a tiddle. I looked at, and read, EVERYTHING. Porn that involved things that turned me on, turned me on, and porn that didn’t was morbidly fascinating (inflatable pool animals, really?), but not arousing.

So when these folks seem so utterly convinced that an average teenage boy, after exposure to heterosexual porn, would prefer gay porn to a nice, innocent, heteronormative Playboy, or that teenage girls are really diddling each other in the bathroom rather than gossiping… it really does make me speculate on what their experiences as Youths were.

Since my current job sucks…

September 24, 2009 - 3:19 pm Comments Off

…maybe I should start shopping around for a new one. I mean, I’m sure they wouldn’t exclude me from something good just on the color of my skin, right?

The Beatings Will Continue Until Morale Improves

September 23, 2009 - 7:21 pm Comments Off

Content after the urge to fire various co-workers from cannons subsides.

Rotten Seeds and Political Games

September 21, 2009 - 8:45 pm Comments Off

ACORN, which was in many ways the right wing’s Roadrunner during the last election, has finally been brought down, and by the unlikeliest of hunters: a weedy kid with an anti-big-government agenda and his partner*, who used a shoestring budget, a video camera, and possibly the least convincing costumes in history to get ACORN personnel on tape in five different offices across the nation not only offering to help with tax fraud, but to launder a pimp’s incoming funds, and aid and abet child sex slavery of all things. Karl Rove in his wildest dreams would never have imagined that such a thing was actually possible, which is probably why it took two independent activists to do it and why it wasn’t any media organization, left-leaning or right. In terms of political plausibility, it’s as though a random citizen had suddenly emerged with ironclad proof that not only was Barack Obama not a legal US citizen, he had actually attended Muslim Terrorist School until he was eighteen. It’s cartoonish in its extremity, not only in the amateurism of the investigators, but in the degree of corruption they revealed. It’s enough to seem unreal, which is probably why the majority of the media chose to play dead until dragged kicking and screaming into relevancy by Fox and Jon Stewart, of all people.

Saying that this is a gift to the Right is kind of like saying the current President tans more easily than the last one. From Andrew Breitbart, whose career was just effectively rocket-launched, to Michelle Malkin conservatives are absolutely thrilled about this. ACORN seemed impossible to touch just a year ago; no matter how many voter-fraud indictments they garnered, or obviously and ludicrously faked voter registrations they tossed about, nothing seemed to stick to them in any permanent fashion, and it was equally impossible to stick Obama with association with them no matter how he touted his “community organizer” credentials. Now they don’t just have bad publicity, they have publicity as being perfectly fine with child sex slavery. The only way it could get worse is if the ACORN officers had offered to inject the kids with AIDS just for shits and giggles. The House has voted to yank their funding, California is launching a probe after the most embarrassing tape of all was filmed in the San Diego office, and New York has also moved to suspend all contracts. It remains to be seen if ACORN will truly die or even be substantially crippled by this; if they escape either fate they truly will qualify as nearly untouchable. As it is, they’ve rather hampered their efforts at damage control by adopting the “It never happened, this one guy made us do it, we were misrepresented, we’ll clean our own house, you just hate minorities!” defenses all at the same time, which has come off about as credibly as the same approach usually does with small children and ransacked cookie jars.

In the wake of all of this, an interesting mix of reactions has emerged on the left; the most common has been “Something happened with ACORN? Hadn’t heard it”, which the President himself has adopted. A sadly much less common reaction has been disgust and horror. But the really odd and disturbing one has been various ways of defending ACORN, usually with the framing that this is some kind of nefarious right-wing plot to discredit them. The yeah-but tactics I’ve seen so far include:

“ACORN only gets a little federal money anyway”.

I guess aiding and abetting slavery would be laudably entrepreneurial if they didn’t get any, then.

“Lots of groups/politicians the right likes have been caught out in corruption”

Is there a corruption exchange system? Can you trade a tolerated and federally funded amount of sexually harassing young male interns for a tolerated and federally funded amount of slavery and then everything would be cool?

“This is racially motivated.”

Yes, because child sex slavery run by white people is a treasured ethnic expression of diversity that ACORN was targeted for standing up for.

“One of the activist’s father is a conservative Christian on the record as disliking Obama!”**

Well then, both the tapes and ACORN’S reaction are obviously fake if this is true!

“Why are you so eager to persecute an organization that helps poor minorities afford housing?!”

Because they’re also giving them tips on how to store their slaves properly in the houses they’re advising tax fraud to get?

People are tribal animals, and this tends to show especially starkly in political matters, which are generally about one part ideology to three parts tribal affiliation. Politics definitely has its game-like aspects to it in the way that people manipulate public perception and support, both of causes and individuals championed and those opposed; when people talk about the “right-wing noise machine” or the “liberal media”, they’re not really wrong, although they are talking as though either side had a uniform hold on their particular brands, which they generally don’t. Right-wing and left-wing agendas both exist, and both sides spin their own downfalls as well as they can and the other’s as severely as they can. All of this is true.

However, political games aren’t all there is to life, and politics is not some kind of national team sport. When you fuck up, or clearly and consciously do something morally wrong, whether or not being caught at it would benefit your opponents has absolutely no bearing on the rightness or wrongness or fucked-upness of whatever it is that you did. It doesn’t MATTER that Giles and O’Keefe are conservatives, or that they’re amateurs, or that Giles’s father is a hard right Christian pastor. It doesn’t matter if conservatives are right or wrong about the exact amount of federal dollars that ACORN got, and it also doesn’t matter that conservative-favored groups and individuals have also done wrong things and fucked up in various ways. The right didn’t damage ACORN; ACORN did all the damage to itself when it chose to champion its “clients” no matter what, up to and including giving helpful tips on how to hide slavery in your taxes. All Giles, O’Keefe, and Fox News did was shine a light on it. Likewise, the right didn’t damage Democrats by association; the Democratic Party did that when they chose to keep their ties to ACORN no matter how much evidence mounted that ACORN was corrupt. They almost certainly didn’t realize HOW corrupt, but they also showed zero interest in finding out.

Why didn’t the Democrats smell the shit before it got on them in such a public way? Probably they liked ACORN’s get out the vote efforts too much to turn away, even though they were often being cheated themselves by them. (Most of the voter fraud ACORN’s actually been convicted of has been of the “pretend to do work and get paid for it” variety.) Probably they really enjoyed seeing their opponents angry and frustrated and didn’t care to do anything to validate them. Probably they agreed with ACORN that they really were untouchable. Probably they were just arrogant and lazy, but no matter what the reason, ACORN’s corruption behaved like all ignored political problems; it appeared to go away, but that was just because it was getting behind the Democrats for a better angle to bite them hard in the ass. In any case, if the left wants someone to blame for any political damage done to them, that’s where the blame belongs- the right could never in their most orgasmic fantasies invent something as toxic as a prominent leftist organization agreeing to abet child sex slavery on tape. Five times in five different major offices.

Lastly, it doesn’t matter how much good work ACORN has ever done; it mattered that they had so fully embraced the “team sport” of leftists and minorities versus everyone else that they were willing to consider aiding their clients in anything, no matter how morally repugnant. When you do something monstrous, that defines you as a monster, and all the non-monstrous things you’ve ever done cease to be as relevant as the monstrous thing. You’ll hear some conservatives lament about the tragedy that Nixon’s entire career was defined by Watergate, and maybe he wasn’t such a terrible executive, but that’s not what’s most relevant about him; the relevant thing was how far he went to lie, cheat, steal, and cover with the full power of the White House. After that it wouldn’t really matter if he had ended the Cold War personally, he would still be primarily defined in history as a power-mad and criminal executive.

I hate to keep pounding on the word lest it be even further drained of its meaning, but the relative frequency of this reaction means I need to: ACORN was caught out as being systematically willing to endorse and support slavery. Not wage-slavery, real life honest to god ownership of children to be used for sex. If you find yourself defending them or feeling sorry for them in any way, shape, or form, no matter your politics: you need to step the fuck away from the game and live a life entirely divorced from politics for awhile. When you stop being able to politically object in the strongest possible terms to slavery, with no caveats or yeah-buts or but-theys, then you’re already heading down the road as being as soul-dead and corrupt as the ACORN officers.

*Originally I said “girlfriend”. Where I got this idea I’m not sure, except possibly “embarrassingly sexist assumption”.

**Sadly, this one is from the fucking Washington Post, as is the “but they get less money from the government than conservatives claim” defense. Sad, no?

Brief Sunday Filler

September 20, 2009 - 7:14 pm Comments Off

Things have been… “fun” around here this weekend, ranging from brief periods of actual fun to fully delving into the depths of construction fail that the previous occupants of this house perpetrated. Ask Stingray about the way they hung the blinds someday after he’s calmed down and it has a chance to seem funny in retrospect.

Anyway, via Odious and Peculiar, the Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab has embarked upon an… interesting new line. BPAL is well known within certain circles, as they make roughly ninety skillion different fragrances, and a lively subculture has sprung up for the purpose of trading collections of BPAL bottles around by mail to find out what works and what doesn’t. Given that any perfume or cologne will smell different on different people depending on their individual skin chemistry, and BPAL’s products very often fall outside the tried and true “universal donor” scents of perfumery, this is an important question to answer before you plunk down your cash.

The newest collection is “A Picnic In Arkham“, a collection inspired by H.P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu mythos. Some of them sound as unfortunate as their inspirations- for example Cthulhu’s personal blend, described as “A creeping, wet, slithering scent, dripping with seaweed, oceanic plants and dark, unfathomable waters”- but I think I’d actually wear the Miskatonic fragrance.

To Abuse Your Ears…

September 18, 2009 - 11:41 am Comments Off

…feel free to download and enjoy the efforts of four idiots and LabRat discussing the US Constitution on the latest Vicious Circle. Also covered: ACORN, mainstream media’s extreme suck-fu, and a guest appearance by Phlegmmy near the end.

Update: No Phlegmmy, ’cause Alan sucks and hates us.