Monthly Archives: August 2010

Oddity of the Week

It’s the Glenn Beck fashion contest!  These hot new looks were modeled at Beck’s Restoring Honor rally in DC.



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A Bugbear

I haven’t anything important to say this week, except that if one more person in an evolution-related debate says that Galileo discovered heliocentricity, there will be blood and carnage.  This I swear.

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The Politics of STFU

It was a glorious day when the term STFU entered the public discourse (at the hands of Alan Grayson, naturally).  Sometimes people should really just shut up.

Predictably, most people don’t like being told to STFU.  Some of these people have a dim remembrance that there was some sort of rule that meant they could say whatever they want, and they leap on that.  Take this comment from over at STFU, Conservatives.  The blog is just another irritating Tumblr blog, but the comment is fun.  He thinks his First Amendment rights are being violated because a blogger told him to shut up.  The blog, of course, set him straight by telling him to shut up again.

But that’s just a random person.  There’s one in every crowd.  Surely prominent figures would never be so silly as to suggest that one private citizen telling another private citizen to be quiet equals censorship or a First Amendment violation.

I don’t know what the future of our country would be in terms of First Amendment rights and our ability to ask questions without fear of attacks by the mainstream media.  (Sarah Palin)

Palin doesn’t want the media to be able to attack her when she attacks other people.  She’s not alone.  Dr. Laura feels the same way:

I want my 1st Amendment rights back, which I can’t have on radio without the threat of attack on my advertisers and stations.  (Dr. Laura)

And Palin feels the same way about Dr. Laura:

Dr.Laura=even more powerful & effective w/out the shackles, so watch out Constitutional obstructionists. And b thankful 4 her voice,America!  (Sarah Palin)

Those tweets really do make you feel like a mom trying to figure out what her middle-school daughter is saying over IM, don’t they?  So Palin and Dr. Laura either don’t understand the First Amendment, or, more likely, are using it as a stick to beat their critics.  In real life, as you know, the First Amendment only states that government can’t make you be quiet; in fact, the person telling you to shut up is exercising his or her First Amendment rights as well.

Additionally, the First Amendment says nothing about what sort of platform you should be given to express your views.  Dr. Laura has a privileged position on her radio show, so she isn’t being silenced if people pressure her advertisers to sever ties: she’s being reduced to the same level of communication as the rest of us.  She’s free to use whatever racial slurs she desires on a random blog that nobody reads, just like everybody else.  A privilege is earned and can be rescinded.

But while removing someone’s advantaged position is fair game, I don’t believe anyone ought to actually force someone else to be quiet.  STFU is an exhortation, not a mandate.  I’m telling you that you should shut up–but the burden is on you to either accept my suggestion or not.  That’s why I’ve never been impressed with the Anti-Defamation League.  The ADL, which always struck me as an Israel-centric, litigious clone of the Southern Poverty Law Center, seems intent on actually forcing people to be quiet.  That is still not a violation of the First Amendment, of course, since the ADL is not a government agency, but it goes strongly against the spirit of STFUing and of discourse in general.

Finally, STFU is a tool to use sparingly.  The purpose of discourse is engagement, so regardless of how sure you are that you are right, it’s your job to attempt to substantively speak to your opponent.  However, if your opponent has demonstrated an inability to listen, an insistence on asserting his or her position by sheer volume without argument or evidence, and harmful beliefs that will have real negative consequences, then it’s STFU time.

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Folic Acid

A recent post from Echidne of the Snakes discussed a study on women’s fertility.  She expressed annoyance at the number of women’s health articles warning about the dire consequences of letting your biological clock tick too long and ending up infertile, and how you never seem to see similar articles about men, even though their fertility also decreases with age.

Although a salient point, I didn’t pay much attention to the post, never having been a big reader of women’s health articles.  Anyway, there are bigger bones to pick on that topic (getting a great beach body isn’t a health issue, people).

But recently I took an online health survey provided by Jordan’s work, the sort that gives you a small discount on your health insurance based, I guess, on the assumption that you are not lying.  Most of the questions were the diet-exercise-and-family-history things you’d expect, but I was puzzled when it asked me if I was taking folic acid supplements.  In the first place, it seemed presumptuous that the survey would punish me for not taking supplements when I could be getting it from vegetables the way nature intended, but mostly I couldn’t figure out why the survey would single out that particular one out of all the essential vitamins and minerals.  I forget whether there was a separate question about taking multivitamins; it’s odd either way.  For the record, regular multivitamins contain folic acid.

Upon completing the survey, I discovered that I had, indeed, been penalized for not taking folic acid, and I learned why.  Folic acid is important to the first stages of fetal development.  If I was pregnant, I would want to be taking it.  I hadn’t known that, lacking a reason to buff up on my pregnancy knowledge.  Setting aside the detail that this affects the baby’s health, not my health, it’s a good recommendation for someone trying to get pregnant.

Of course, whatever my fortune said, I’m not pregnant.  Nor am I trying to get pregnant.  I’m actively avoiding getting pregnant.  I’m taking birth control.  The odds that I am pregnant are very, very low, low enough that I believe I should be granted the luxury of not worrying about it.  Should I have to keep in top athletic shape in case I happen to need to run for my life?  Should I carry around an AED in case I happen to have a heart attack?  Come to think of it, should I be forbidden from taking the pill because, if I did get pregnant, it could be harmful to the baby?

Not according to that survey.  Indeed, its other evaluations were reasonable and I measured up well, even though I’m no paragon of health.  But apparently if you’re an 18-to-30-year-old female, it’s your job to constantly be prepared to get pregnant at any moment.  I find that irksome.  Don’t get me wrong–getting pregnant would not be the end of the world or anything, and if that happened, I would dutifully take folic acid except that I already get it from multivitamins, so it’s moot.  But there’s an underlying implication there that all young women are latent baby factories.

Pregnancy is treated as a disproportionately important issue in women’s health, even among women who are trying to avoid getting pregnant.  It’s one of those subtle problems that you could never take steps to correct, but remains as one of those reminders that women still get treated differently.


Pictures from Wikimedia Commons.

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Ruminations VIII

It turns out that hamsters, much like most people, don’t like tofu.


If I started a sushi restaurant, I would call it Sushi Maru.


My fortune was “You will soon find more adventure in life.”  Jordan’s was “You will soon witness a miracle.”  I think we’re pregnant.


Oddly, while these thoughts were utterly unconnected and acquired over the past few weeks, they all involve Asian food.


(Don’t worry.  We’re not pregnant.)


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Oddity of the Week

Christopher “Moot” Poole testifies before a US District Court about 4chan.  Who knew anonymous could be so lawful?

Q: Are you familiar with these terms, having been the founder and administrator of the 4chan site?

A: Yes.

Q: What would “lurker” mean?

A: Someone who browses but does not post, does not contribute.

Q: And what about “peeps”?

A: People.

Q: “Rickroll”?

A: Rickroll is a meme or Internet kind of trend that started on 4chan where users–it’s basically a bait and switch.  Users link you to a video of Rick Astley performing Never Gonna Give You Up.

The full transcript (PDF) is here.

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2010 US Open of Surfing, or, Observations about Stoners

If you’re wondering what I, who don’t own a pair of Converse or anything Fox brand, was doing at the US Open of Surfing, three words: free Weezer concert. Jordan and the friend who invited us are the real Weezer heads, or whatever you call their fan base, but they won my undying love with the video of Island in the Sun. Besides, it was a sunny, 80-degree day and I haven’t been to the beach all year.

There were a lot of people there. We ended up parked a good half a mile away, leaving us a good walk to the actual beach, along with a mob so big the city had turned off its streetlights in acceptance of the pointlessness of any attempt to direct traffic. The street preachers and the Prop 19 supporters were both out in force; you can guess which garnered more support.

We could have soldiered for the front lines upon arriving, but we opted to walk around on the beach instead, catching some BMX stunts, quality sandcastling, and a giant stuffed penguin. Jordan commented “That penguin had better not get a better seat than us,” a moment of fate-tempting I doubt he’ll repeat. It got a better spot than us, of course.

When we’d finally waited through the missable opening act by Hot Hot Heat and the interminable-seeming half-hour wait between acts, Weezer made it all worthwhile. Of course our glimpses of the stage were few and far between, but we could hear fine. Weezer is one of those bands with so many hits that they almost can’t play anything else at a concert lest they leave out a thousand fans’ favorite song; this works because their songs are so eminently sing-along-able. And what line did everyone in the audience know? If you guessed “I’ve got my hash pipe,” you’re correct.

Which brings me to my observation about stoners: They’re fun.

Fact: Smokers are no fun to be around. Even when they aren’t actively spreading carcinogens, they smell disgusting. Yes, I have known cool, awesome people who smoked, but it was definitely a case of despite rather than because of.

Fact: Drunk people are no fun to be around. This may fly in the face of common belief, but it’s true. They can be mildly amusing if you’re well separated from them, such as on a balcony, but mostly they’re just stupid and irritating; depending on the individual and level of drunkenness, they can quickly stray into disgusting and/or dangerous territory, too.

But stoners? Their culture is relaxed and fun-loving; the word “harmless” comes to mind, in part because of the impossibility of killing yourself with marijuana. True, you wouldn’t go to them for an intellectual discussion (though they’re conducive to pseudointellectual ones), but they are amicable company for just hanging out. Despite the obviously high level of enthusiasm, they made subdued moshers–so subdued that we nearly missed “Buddy Holly” by failing to achieve an encore-worthy level of clamor–and were a great crowd to enjoy a concert with.

So am I among the Prop 19 supporters? Not really, except through the sentiment that one should be able to do what one likes unless there is a good reason to the contrary.  With my entrenched personal aversion to drugs, I don’t even imbibe caffeine, so I doubt I would join the celebration.  But neither would I begrudge those who did.


Disclaimer: I do not know whether any of the people in these pictures are stoners. I didn’t ask.

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