Archive for April, 2010

VC Friday

April 30, 2010 - 1:55 pm Comments Off

Vicious Circle 48, “Hoochie Monkey”, can be found here.

Theoretical topic is NRA cons. Actual topics include Arizona immigration law and amateur internet porn. This is one to hear with an internet connection going.

Stingray vs. Avatar

April 29, 2010 - 10:21 am Comments Off

So y’all have had a chance to go over LabRat’s more cerebral take on the cinematic wet turd Lil’ Jimmy Cameron plopped out to nearly take Best Picture. By popular request (two people), it’s my turn. Let me preface my review with the note that I was across the room from the screen and (thankfully) couldn’t hear every last syllable over the tattoo machines, and the fact that rather than try to absorb the whole showing of “Fern Gully” I frequently had my nose buried in either a tattoo magazine or a book. So no, I didn’t see the whole thing, in all it’s, um, “splendor.”

And thank fucking $deity for small favors.
(more…)

Of The People, By The People, Unfortunately

April 28, 2010 - 2:50 pm Comments Off

It strikes me that a core breakdown in political logic stems from seeing “the government” as a completely separate entity from “the people”. It’s true that it is, unlike people, an abstract entity whose structure does not depend on the people actually running it, and the people running it tend to develop a certain self-interested detachment in the wishes of the people they have power over.

Problem is, no matter how you move the boxes on the org chart around, the government is always people. Smart people, dumb people, uninformed people, drunk people, blue-nosed people, amoral people, ideological people, apathetic people, people just like the people all around you in your neighborhood and at your job whose decisions you normally wouldn’t give any particular credit. Under this system, we pick special people from the people who volunteer for the process, and in other systems they’re born into it or mostly selected, but at the end of the day it’s still people in the jobs and people picking them for the jobs. Some governments try to get around their people problem by proposing to put God in charge, but either because He doesn’t exist or because He has expressed complete disinclination in micromanaging humanity instead of making them manage themselves, it never seems to work and we wind up with systems every bit as venal and corrupt as we did when the people were reading from a different book. Other governments try to get around it by declaring all the people to be in charge, but when you look at it they pretty much seem to have individual people actually in charge the same way as in all the other systems.

We can’t trust the government to make better decisions than people because it IS people. We do try to put a better class of people in there than we think of when we think of the people that need to be regulated, but since all of us have radically different ideas of what actually constitutes smart people and better people there’s a pretty big cross-section of people anywhere that, when you peer at them closely, look an awful lot like the people around us but with more law degrees and fewer trade skills.

If your plan to improve society depends on the right people being in charge of it and will fail utterly or actually make things worse if the wrong people are, the plan is a conceptual failure out of the gate, because not only will the wrong people eventually be in charge, the chances are that you don’t even have the ability to identify the right people from the wrong people when you see them.

We’ve still got to work with being people, seeing as how nobody has graced us with a second option. This is what civilization, governments, and politics are for. But no law or government will ever be able to get around the people problem- it’s not just a flaw in the system, it IS the system. This is not subject to legislation or philosophy. If you proceed as though it were, the fundamental people nature of the system will reassert itself immediately, often quite creatively.

LabRat vs. Avatar

April 27, 2010 - 5:35 pm Comments Off

So, I finally got around to seeing James Cameron’s shiny, shiny story of awesome blue cat-people in space versus human marines. It would be something of an understatement to say that I did not like it. I will grant it was a rather unique experience in that it made me furious from a diverse array of political perspectives, however.

A disclaimer: Yes, I know it was very pretty, and I probably would have been visually enthralled had I seen it in a theater. I did not see it in a theater. I saw it when the other artist in my tattoo studio decided that that would be what played on the shop TV during my and another fellow’s session, as apparently both he and Jason are of the “works better with something blowing up in the background” school. I sympathize, as I used to do homework with James Bond movies on in the background for this very reason. However, it also turned the experience of the movie from something I watched on a very large screen in comfort with popcorn, which puts me in a forgiving sort of mood, into something I watched on a rather small screen while Jason spent all three hours of it drilling on me, followed by a 90 minute car trip spent brooding on the movie rather than the throbbing in my leg. This did not put me in a forgiving sort of mood.

So, if you liked it, or feel it was awesome just as long as you remember not to take it seriously, this is probably not going to be the post for you, as I am about to take it spleen-bustingly seriously. Archives are to your right.

(more…)

Boobquake Repost

April 26, 2010 - 2:29 pm Comments Off

In honor of Boobquake, which surprisingly enough seems to have produced results contra to hypothesis, I’m reposting probably the first thing here to ever get widely linked, from just about exactly two years ago. Stingray’s contribution repost can be found below.

*

It seems that if I’m going to go with the will of the people, I have no choice but to write about the all-time most popular search string we ever get. So be it.

boobies

Although they have been a truly enduring fixation of humanity, the presence and purpose of the female breasts remain something of a puzzle and a source of speculation to evolutionary biologists and anthropologists. While all mammals have mammary glands and most of them have nipples that swell into teats when there are nursing young, the female human is the only one that has permanently swollen teats from puberty on. There are plenty of reasons for women NOT to have breasts; they’re unwieldly, metabolically expensive (as completely unnecessary fatty tissue), and when they’re particularly large, they cost their owners a good deal of pain due to the back strain of having what amounts to a pair of weights up front day in and out. They don’t even need to be larger than average to make running more problematic for a woman than they are for the average man. What’s even worse, they’re prone to cancer- and there isn’t even a nursing advantage for offspring in large breasts; it makes things only more awkward for the infant and mother alike. The question of why we’re saddled with them is therefore more compelling than it would be for a feature with fewer costs. It’s trivially obvious that breasts carry a large sexual selection advantage for the female, but why?

great tits

(more…)

Boobquake Repost Pt. 1

April 26, 2010 - 2:28 pm Comments Off

Lacking the appropriate equipment myself to contribute to the testing of whether immodest women cause earthquakes, I felt it appropriate to bring some extra science to the party. I’ve yet to receive any grant money to tie the tests on the Higgins’ Bosom particle in with plate tectonics, but I do have some ideas that just need some hands-on attention to bring everything together. In the mean time, and because I’m too busy trying to reconcile the theories, please enjoy this blast from the past, my original post on the Higgins’ Bosom particle.

Since Tam was curious and asked “What is it CERN is looking for again? Higgins’ bosom?”, I thought I’d help out and explained in her comments what they were questing for. To wit:

“Higgins’ bosom, or the fundamental breast particle, is a theoretical massive particle (as opposed to a massless one such as the Obaman-Honesteon) which gives suppleness and curvature mathematically defined as pleasing to the female breast.

In 2009, CERN will attempt experiments to isolate this particle by using high-energy magnetic fields to affect the wiring in a super-dense brassiere sample (density in excess of 30000 DD/m^3 – cup sizes per cubic meter). It is hoped that when the magnetic field is properly aligned, the underwiring will lift, separate, and support the Higgin’s Bosom particle, which will be recognized by all male physicists in the room staring slack-jawed and proclaiming “Damn!”

Critics and others without the necessary math and physics background to understand the experiment have voiced claims that isolating this particle would be dangerous in that the realignment of the underwire in the bra sample (or BS) could potentially reconfigure the matter into a permanently menstrual Barbra Streisand (again, BS – conservation of bras).”

Now since it was just a comment, I left a lot of ground uncovered, and I wouldn’t want folks to think this breast particle lacked proper support, so I thought I’d expand a bit here as to the nature of the Higgins’ Bosom particle and some of the history and science surrounding it.

Scientific historians frequently cite the original proposal for a fundamental breast particle as coming from every teenage male ever. They are wrong. The first to propose the Higgins’ Bosom is in fact the last girl in school to need a bra herself, and the particle was named of course for that bitch Mary Ellen Higgins who’s already up to a C-cup. I bet she’s a slut, too. From then on, the notion of a subatomic massive particle producing supple curves has been a favorite hobby-horse research field for the millions and millions of voice-cracking males normally credited with the theory.

Normally, the existance of a fundamental particle is a hotly debated subject. The battles fought in journals over quarks alone are staggering, and yet with the Higgins’ Bosom particle, nearly all parties agree that the theory is sound. No, the most divisive fights concerning this bit of research come in concerning nomenclature. The notation of DD/m^3, for instance, at one point led to a physical fight (pun, for once, not intended) at a conference in Paris when after a great many drinks, Dr. Alan Guth of MIT and Dr. Brian Greene of Columbia University took their disagreement over whether or not the DD cup size was too infrequent in unaugmented states to merit being the official unit of measurement outside to settle it. I assure you, if you have never seen two drunk physicists trying their best to fight like grown men, it’s a spectacle well worth the price of admission. (Dr. Guth won)

The exact mechanism by which the Higgins’ Bosom increases size, suppleness, and overall aesthetic remains murky at this point. Originally it was theorized that it was a massless particle, like a photon, as the positive effects of large concentrations was seen to decrease over time; however it was quickly pointed out that a massless particle would not be easily affected by any levels of gravity short of a singularity and as such we would not see as much sagging. The best supported current theory for how the particle actually improves a young lady’s bust is, refreshingly, reasonably simple to explain without an advanced math degree, at least to get the basics. In short, the Higgins’ Bosom is a multi-dimensional particle, existing in both our observable, measureable world, and another plane which we understand to require a lower base energy for the particle to exist. As a Higgins’ Bosom particle exists in our world, it essentially decays, and this emitted energy stimulates the mamary tissue, similarly to a helium tank filling a balloon. Once the particle no longer has sufficient energy to remain in our world, it returns to a base state in a dimension made entirely of Really Awesome Tatas** (which many researchers have taken to calling “heaven”). There, energetic interactions will occasionally bounce a Higgins’ Bosom back to the higher energy state, and back into our world where it can again do its great work.

*Further ensuring that 90% of our search traffic will involve some variant on “boobies.”
**This is not an oversimplification. Sometimes physics is weird.

Now With Rails on the Memory Hole

April 25, 2010 - 2:37 pm Comments Off

I present for those who may not have seen it, the cover of this month’s “American Rifleman” from the NRA:

(Click for big)

Thank goodness it has always been tactical to fire your heater from a rotated position, as the alternate sights are installed above. Otherwise there might have been some oddball organization, the name of which escapes me, advocating some unorthodox method of tactical firing, such as a non-canted weapon grip. And that would just be silly.

Update: Since it has become painfully clear from the comments that nobody is bothering to get the joke on this, let me spell it out so you can all stop frothing on your keys. Yes, I know this is real, and useful, and perfectly viable. And since y’all are such experts at doublethink and have made clear just how awesome it has having a second sight canted off the side, I look forward to the next round of “ha-ha, that dumbass in the movie is holding his gun sideways” come action movie season.

Wow.

April 23, 2010 - 4:17 pm Comments Off

Courtesy of FarmDad via Gunblogger Conspiracy, I ran into one of the coolest websites I’ve seen in quite a long while. It isn’t the usual “bacon, guns, beer, boobs” model that normally piques my cool-o-meter, so if you’re looking for the low-bar I usually set around here, keep moving.

Instead, the site is a travelogue of a Russian biker-chick’s travels through Chernobyl. For fun. No, really. The English is a little broken, but perfectly readable, but unfortunately the site exists as one of those “This is here for me ’cause I think it’s cool” things, as disclaimed on the first page, and is prone to not loading quite as reliably as the for-profit parts of the web. The descriptions of the environment, the places still standing, and the few brave or stupid inhabitants still in the area are compelling. And the exquisitely refreshing part where the author realizes that a) not all radiation is created equal, and b) what kinds and levels of doses will do what to you instead of just ZOMG TEH READIATIONS! doesn’t hurt either. The pictures, interesting in and of themselves simply because of the magnitude of what took place, capture an amazing open-air time capsule to 1986, when Communism was not hyperbole thrown around every other sentence, and Thought Police really did exist, willing and capable to murder someone for having the wrong opinions with the full blessing of the state.

There’s some light explanation on what went down in the days surrounding the disaster, and though nothing one couldn’t pick up from a history book, the boots-on-the-ground point of view brings a lot to the party. Naturally, going sight-seeing through one of the worst nuclear disasters in history isn’t the safest of hobbies, but the author knows her stuff, knows how to stay safe, and to my mind has a very healthy attitude to the whole endeavor. I may not ever find myself in Russia, but the notion of taking a trip like that, to a place so utterly and completely empty, and yet so potentially dangerous, is fascinating.

The full link, in the event that the site is inaccessible for a while, is http://www.kiddofspeed.com/chernobyl-land-of-the-wolves/author.html . If it’s down, save that link for later, it’s well worth catching when it’s up.

When Is A Woman In A Criminal Trial Visible?

April 22, 2010 - 1:37 pm Comments Off

There’s a link to a sad and disturbing story about a woman who starved her one-year-old son to death on the behest of a cult leader, over at Dr. Helen’s. The deliberate overlooking and suspension of consequences of violence and predatory behavior in women, which serves both traditional sexist stereotypes and the more twisted expressions of modern feminism, is an issue of concern I share with Helen, which is why she’s on my blogroll.

The article itself is pretty sad. The mother comes off as convincingly crazy, whether the cult itself made her so or merely provided a bonsai-like shaping of her existing pathologies. I’m not sure that anybody should ever be deemed somehow not really responsible for standing by and watching their child die in order to extinguish a “spirit of rebellion” in a one-year-old, and I’d sure as hell have liked to see some form of addressing the question of whether this woman, just crazy or murderously crazy, will ever be in a position of having another human life dependent on them ever again. I don’t really disagree that had the genders been reversed, a father who did the same would have been convicted- though I’d also add the observation that when it comes to crazy religious cults, complete passivity is a great deal more expected of one sex than the other. (Complete obedience combined with willingness to kill is what’s usually demanded of the men.) At the very least the judge’s “you had no idea what was happening, you poor thing” comes off as condescending.

The theme of the blog post is a straight “female killer held not guilty”. The comments are full of discussion of the gender politics of the issue and the judge’s masculine “chivalry” toward the feminine killer.

However, I find it… interesting… that nowhere in either the blog post or the comments themselves is any mention whatsoever of the fact that two other women, the cult leader and her daughter, were convicted as being responsible instead. There was one man involved, who recieved an identical conviction and sentence to the two women- second-degree murder, sixty years in prison.

Kind of knocks a bit of skew into the whole “murderer gets off only because she’s a chick and the judge feels sorry for chicks” frame.

The Venn Diagram of Familiarity and Contempt

April 21, 2010 - 4:53 pm Comments Off

It occurs to me in that “no supporting evidence but my own observations” way that there is a distinct pattern in which people develop their prejudices and bigotries large and small, one that revolves around the degree of experience that person has in interacting with an identified group.

If it’s a group you have very extensive experience with and know very well, real bigotries don’t develop because you know that group too well; either you identify with the group yourself, or you simply have enough broad experience within it to know that the people making it up vary a tremendous amount and developing hard-and-fast good/bad stereotypes is not only undesirable, but pointless. You might know that group’s usual foibles and good and bad tendencies and have opinions about those aspects of the group, but you don’t think about them in terms of “(group name) are (adjective)”.

If it’s a group you don’t know and have no experience with, then you generally don’t have bigotries about them because there’s no *point* in developing much in the way of stereotypes about a group you don’t interact with. You might have some hilarious misconceptions or simplified mental pictures of them just because you lack information, but they’re not typically value-laden unless and until you mentally sort them into same basket as some other group you DO have experience with in order to integrate/simplify your worldview a little more. No American would have reason to be bigoted against, say, members of the Kikuyu ethnic group of Africa, but they might fold them into a broader group of “black people” when attempting to create a Grand Unified Theory of Race to justify his stereotype of the black people he’s familiar with. Americans generally have no stereotypes about, say, ethnic Mongolians at all, simply because they have no reason at all to.

Prejudices positive and negative, as well as real bigotries, tend to develop in that area of overlap between “people I identify as part of my world” and “people that are strange to me”. It’s easiest to observe in areas where a particular prejudice isn’t broadly socially unacceptable- witness the incest and stupidity jokes that come out of the woodwork when an urban liberal is discussing anything that poor white Appalachians or Gulf Coast southerners do. People that wouldn’t dream of doing anything but respectfully studying the culture of any group seen as “foreign” enough feel more than free to paint a group they see as an unfamiliar aspect of their own culture in cartoonish stereotypes- up to and including ones they see positively. Noble-savage stereotypes about American Indians are typically rooted in exactly the same mental processes as the cousin-humping redneck ones, they’re just colored by admiration rather than contempt.

Racism tends to work this way as well; whatever immediate experiences you have of it tend to go along the lines of the larger minority groups in your area. If you live in the Southwest, hispanics are the “relevant” ethnic group, and most of your experiences of racism probably relate to them, but not as much if at all to black people. If you live in the South, the opposite is probably true, and if you live in Alaska, the experience most likely shifts to natives. Only the people rubbing up against you, but not closely enough to be seen as “family”, are relevant enough to be worth bigotry.