Waiting for our wits to grow sharper? Could be a looong time.

The universe is full of magical things patiently waiting for our wits to grow sharper.
Eden Phillpotts, unattributed internet sources (via Freedom From Religion Foundation).

Looks like the universe is going to have to wait one hell of a long time.

The Cognitive Bias Codex, 2016 is a collaboration between Buster Benson, who recategorized Wikipedia’s list of cognitive biases, and John Manoogian III, who transformed Benson’s work into this stunning image:

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Jerry Coyne at BHA 2016—Part 3: Yes and hahaha no.

UPDATE: WordPress apparently black holed a few of sentences re: Purvi Patel (and some formatting tags). I fixed it—I think.

(Part 1 is here. Part 2 is here.)

[CONTENT NOTE: While this post contains no graphic descriptions or images of violence, it does mention: rape, sexual assault and violent abuse, including against children; mental illness including suicidal ideation; hostility to consent, bodily autonomy and agency; sex- and gender-based discrimination.]

To briefly recap: While atheist Big Willie Jerry Coyne is notoriously prone to poo flinging, he also said some very interesting things in his Darwin Day lecture at the British Humanist Association (and elsewhere). I transcribed a few sections of his talk because I’d like to have a handy link to it to help shut down the font of incoherent nonsense that is conservative movement atheism. I also thought some readers here just might (a) find some of this talk as worthwhile as I do (see Part 1), and/or (b) enjoy my documenting Coyne’s insulting, dismissive, nearly comical obliviousness to his privilege (Part 2).

Part 3 focuses on a section of the Q&A wherein Coyne manages both to say some more really cool stuff, and then go into full mansplain-to-the-feminists mode and pull a classic Dear Muslima.

CAUTION:
POO FLINGING AHEAD.

Continue reading

Oww.

I was all set to ditch you guys, unceremoniously. It’s not that I don’t love my Loyal Readers™—perish the thought! It’s just that I have these…these…obligations every December, and they stress me the fuck out in countless ways, large and small. Though the temperatures in NYC have been downright subtropical these days, I was looking forward to escaping to the actual subtropics, as a reward to myself for not strangling all those Salvation Army bell ringers to death with my bare hands. Well, not too many of them. It’s Christmas ferchrissakes! I’m not a monster, people.

Or maybe I am? Non-holiday related deadlines are now looming: I owe a piece to TPJ Magazine in two days for which I have not written word one, and I’ve also been dragging my ass WAY too long on Secular Woman‘s HerStory Project (I’m sorry Elsa!), for which my only excuse is: you don’t know my family.

Anyway on December 26 I changed my Facebook pic to Vacation Iris, my cover photo to “gone fishin” and offered up my goodbyes, ta-tas, good job on the War on Christmas, Happy New Years, etc. Then I flew to Miami and met my friend Scotty at Yardbird for a fabulous dinner. (FYI: cocktails with friends from NYC always taste better in Miami. TRUE FACT.)

vacationirisVacation Iris.

This very morning I was hiking along the shallow surf of South Beach, taking pictures of my feet in the water (as one does) and gushing histrionically to My Amazing Lover™ that this, THIS, was one of life’s most magical pleasures.

“Are those jellyfish?” he asked of the gelatinous globs sparkling in the sun along the tide line. “I have no idea,” I said. “They seem kinda small for jellyfish? But hey, ocean critters are weird.”

On our way back, I stepped barefoot on the umpteenth patch of seaweed and heard a loud pop. “Hahaha,” I cackled. “That sounded like a balloon!” Within seconds a toe on my left foot was ablaze with pain. I pulled it out of the water and took a closer look: no obvious cuts or punctures. Indeed, it looked perfectly normal, or at least as normal as its doppelganger on my right foot. BUT HOLY SHIT YOU GUYS. Stinging, throbbing, aching, right down into the bone.

By the time I got back to the hotel it had only worsened. The blazing pain had now spread to my big toe and the ball of my foot. “What is this fuckery?!” I whined, and proceeded to google the shit out of this fuckery. “Miami beach pop sound pain” yielded various critiques of Gloria Estefan records, but alas nothing remotely related to my excruciating predicament. (Fortunately, My Amazing Lover’s Google-fu is far superior to mine.)

It turns out those gelatinous blobs strewn along the shoreline looked an awful lot like this:

Portuguese_Man-O-War_(Physalia_physalis)Allow me to introduce you to Physalia physalis, also known as “Portuguese man-of-war.” Interestingly:

The stinging, venom-filled nematocysts in the tentacles of the Portuguese man o’ war can paralyze small fish and other prey. Detached tentacles and dead specimens (including those that wash up on shore) can sting just as painfully as the live organism in the water and may remain potent for hours or even days after the death of the organism or the detachment of the tentacle.

Stings usually cause severe pain to humans, leaving whip-like, red welts on the skin that normally last two or three days after the initial sting, though the pain should subside after about 1 to 3 hours (depending on person).

It’s now been seven hours. A glass of sangria. A bottle of rosé. And counting. The pain is fucking excruciating, and so far shows no signs of abating.

However, the venom can travel to the lymph nodes and may cause, depending on the amount of venom, a more intense pain…There can also be serious effects, including fever, shock, and interference with heart and lung function. Stings may also cause death, although this is extremely rare.

!!! “Extremely rare” is good, amirite?

Physalia physalis features a gas-filled bladder it uses for buoyancy, which I am happy to report (FOR SCIENCE!) makes a delightful “pop” when crushed underfoot.

Also, I will be referring to these creatures as “sea squirrels” from now on. Fuckers.

How To Be a Minimally Decent Human Being 101.

[CONTENT NOTE: racism, sexism, other -isms. names have been changed.]

Longtime Loyal Readers™ may recall that once upon a time, I was a legal secretary. I toiled for years at NYC law firms—and, with apologies to my veteran friends—for what we in the staff ranks called “combat pay.”

The gig pays much better than average in part because it requires a specific skill set that includes fluency in legalese (and esoteric dialects thereof), software proficiency across the entire MS Office suite, superhuman abilities in deciphering truly horrendous writing (“make the edits I wrote with the giant green Sharpie and the smeary red Flair pen, but not the ones in pencil or blue fountain pen ink, plus add the purple crayon edits but only the ones circled with the orange highlighter not the yellow one”), and so much more. But let’s face it: that job pays well because lawyers.

lawyereditsLawyer Edits*
by Iris Vander Pluym
oil on canvas
8½ feet by 11 feet
$10,000,000

Lawyers are the butt of many a nasty joke, and I can assure you this is justifiably so. Quite. Although firm cultures vary and some are better than others, they all were (and still are) strictly dominated by an Old Boys Club. This manifests in various ways, the most obvious being that the biggest rainmakers, their favored protégés and those in firm management with real power are overwhelmingly, indeed almost exclusively, white men. Thus it should surprise no one—and it will not in fact surprise people of color, women and other minorities—to learn that I regularly witnessed sexism and racism (and etc.-isms) more times than I can count. Just off the top of my head:

  • At a group meeting of attorneys that included only one woman, who was not among the most junior people in the room, she is the one asked to get coffee for everyone while the men get down to work.
  • Male lawyers routinely entertaining firm clients at strip clubs on the company dime, thereby effectively blocking client access to their female colleagues.
  • Being expected to cover for men’s extramarital affairs: once after a close call, one Big Willie told me that if his wife ever found out about his mistress it would cost me my job.
  • Male partners regularly returning from lunch completely smashed and saying all kinds of inappropriate shit to the staff, like telling my black co-worker who had a gift-boxed liquor bottle on her desk, “Whoa Yvonne! I didn’t know you were easy! Heh-heh-heh,” and then continuing to “flirt” with her until finally giving up and staggering into his opulent corner office.
  • Senior male attorneys becoming bitterly exasperated because a female subordinate left to pick up her sick child from school, when they themselves had never missed a single second of work in their entire careers due to childcare responsibilities: they had wives and nannies for that.

Most of this crap naturally went unreported; it was clear that except in the most egregious cases, little if anything would ever be done beyond a Very Stern Talking To™, followed by some hearty back slapping and then perhaps some scotch and cigars. But raising such issues could impact the career of the troublesome, humorless and oversensitive tattletale, if not the perpetrator. Only once do I recall anyone receiving serious consequences for inappropriate behavior: it was a senior associate attorney who constantly stared at women’s breasts when he talked to them, although he looked men right in the eyes. It was so flagrant that even d00d lawyers noticed it (Oh man, what’s up with that Dave guy staring at you ladies’ chests?”). After many complaints from women—plus the apparently required corroboration from men that this was (a) really happening and (b) disturbing to them—someone finally gave Dave the Very Stern Talking To™ and told him to knock it off. He didn’t, and eventually got fired. (I just googled him: he’s still practicing law, at a firm where women make up about 15% of the attorneys.)

Also—and this is not just my observation—the kinds of (male) lawyers who go into private practice, especially litigators, tend to be preening, vicious, chest-pounding apes alpha types: domineering, entitled, quick to anger, narcissistic. Many are verbally abusive to those they consider beneath them—which, at the end of the day, is pretty much everyone.

Still, over the course of all that time spent in the trenches cubicles, I met a handful of truly wonderful and extraordinary people, some of whom became very close friends. Including, as fate would have it, My Amazing Lover™. I point this out because a recent conversation led me to write this very post.

PARTNER: I have a mandatory diversity training class tomorrow at one.

IRIS: You could probably teach it.

PARTNER: It seems like they’re always scheduled after some incident happens, not before. More like law firm CYA than “hey, we really want to be more inclusive and here’s how we can do it.

IRIS: Sounds about right. So who failed How To Be a Minimally Decent Human Being 101 this time?

PARTNER: [White male partner.] Apparently he told a black secretary who just had her hair done in short braids that she looked like Buckwheat. 

IRIS: Jeezus fucking Christ.

PARTNER: Yeah.

IRIS: Just imagine the kind of fantastic bubble you have to maintain for yourself in order to live and work in Manhattan, and feel free to say that. To a black woman. At her job.

PARTNER: Yeah.

IRIS: Well you enjoy your How To Be a Minimally Decent Human Being 101 Class tomorrow, my love. I hope they bring in a nice catered lunch at least. And I hope it’s all ethnic foods.

[The next evening.]

IRIS: How’d it go?

PARTNER: It was terrible. Really poorly done.

IRIS: Oh no!

PARTNER: I went in hoping to learn something, even if some of my partners probably wouldn’t. For one thing about half the time was taken up by one of my partners who just wouldn’t shut up. He kept interrupting, and talking over people.

IRIS: Let me guess—it was a white d00d.

PARTNER: Why yes it was.

IRIS: And the presenter didn’t put a stop to that? That’s just…bad presenter skills. You have to politely shut that shit down as soon as it starts, maybe repeat yourself once, and then escalate your tactics if necessary—you sure as hell don’t allow it to continue.

PARTNER: They were two women law professors, and they used a lot of jargon and buzzwords that went right over most people’s heads.

IRIS: Like what?

PARTNER: Like “microaggressions.”

IRIS: Very important concept. Did they define them, and show you the research about what happens to people as a result?

PARTNER: Not really. There was a one-page handout with some examples. You’re not supposed to tell women they look pretty, or ask Asians for help with math, things like that. But, we never discussed it. It was as if they were talking to a class that was already familiar with it, so it just seemed…mostly incoherent. And the microaggression thing is just one example. It went on and on like that.

IRIS: Holy shit. What a wasted opportunity. The very people in that room are the people who most need to hear and understand this stuff. Did they cover heterosexism? Or gender? Like trans antagonism?

PARTNER: Nope.

IRIS: WHAT THE FUCKING FUCK.

PARTNER: Yep.

__________

This epic failure bugs me for many reasons, mainly the enormous waste of an exceptionally rare opportunity. Then there’s the fact that when this sort of education is done badly it risks backfiring, and people end up more closed off to learning than open to it. I started thinking about how I might engage that particular audience in a discussion about diversity. I mean besides making that one d00d STFU 4EVAH, obviously. I might even turn him into a teachable moment, by asking everyone to just imagine a woman (or a person of color) constantly interrupting the presenters, talking over everyone else and expecting to be the center of attention at a presentation about diversity. Nine out of ten times (and I think I’m being generous here…) the person who does those things in a diverse group is going to be a white man. Maybe we can all ask ourselves why that is.

I perused the Palace Library and came up with a few resources I would tap into with respect to discussing microaggressions, which seems to me as good a place to start as any.

1. This Psychology Today article. It’s a decent 101-level explanation of microaggressions that summarizes key research findings:

  • although they may appear insignificant or trivial, studies reveal that microaggressions may be more harmful than overtly bigoted words and actions.
  • microaggressions have been found to:
    (a) affect mental health
    (b) create a hostile, invalidating work or school climate
    (c) perpetuate stereotype threat
    (d) create physical health problems
    (e) saturate society with cues that signal devaluation of the group
    (f) lower work productivity and problem solving abilities
    (g) be partially responsible for creating inequities in education, employment and health care
  • most people harbor unconscious biases and prejudices.

2. The Tumblr Microaggressions. There are so many excellent examples here it would be hard to pick just a few, but I would include some of the images from a photography project dealing with racist microaggressions by Kiyun and her friends at Fordham University’s Lincoln Center campus:

normalblackreallyfromcarrieunderwoodeyes2. This 2 page pdf entitled Making the Invisible Visible: Gender Microaggressions (via the University of New Hampshire). It looks like a handout from a (good) presentation. Ostensibly focused on gender, it’s a nice primer on microaggressions generally.

4. As I was thinking about all of this, right on cue came a very interesting article from The Atlantic: The Odds That a Panel Would ‘Randomly’ Be All Men Are Astronomical. Mathematician Greg Martin worked out the odds that speaker panels at tech conferences would be all (or overwhelmingly) men: next to zero. Martin concludes that “any such conference without any female speakers must have come into being in a system that does not treat gender fairly.” He attributes this effect not to deliberate sexism or misogyny, but to unconscious bias. He also notes “how truly dismissive and defensive people get when gender disparity is pointed out.” Martin hopes his work can counter the stubborn illusion of meritocracy with a reality check—or as Lauren Bacon puts it, “Greg has found a way to use the master’s tools to dismantle the master’s house.”

Other findings that cannot so easily be explained away by those who may prefer to remain in denial about how human culture and human brains work:

5. This is probably a bit advanced for a 101-level presentation, but perhaps it would be worth including either as a handout, or on a list of suggested further reading: White Fragility. DiAngelo, R., International Journal of Critical Pedagogy, Vol 3 (3) (2011). (pdf) If you haven’t seen it, it is a beautifully written, jargon-free academic paper that has received heavy traction in social justice circles since it was published. It occurred to me when I first read it that one could do a search-&-replace with sexist (or heterosexist or virtually any other axis of privilege) terms and the analysis would be just as powerful, interesting and accurate. Really an excellent read. From the intro:

I am a white woman. I am standing beside a black woman. We are facing a group of white people who are seated in front of us. We are in their workplace, and have been hired by their employer to lead them in a dialogue about race. The room is filled with tension and charged with hostility. I have just presented a definition of racism that includes the acknowledgment that whites hold social and institutional power over people of color. A white man is pounding his fist on the table. His face is red and he is furious. As he pounds he yells, “White people have been discriminated against for 25 years! A white person can’t get a job anymore!” I look around the room and see 40 employed people, all white. There are no people of color in this workplace. Something is happening here, and it isn’t based in the racial reality of the workplace. I am feeling unnerved by this man’s disconnection with that reality, and his lack of sensitivity to the impact this is having on my co-facilitator, the only person of color in the room. Why is this white man so angry? Why is he being so careless about the impact of his anger? Why are all the other white people either sitting in silent agreement with him or tuning out? We have, after all, only articulated a definition of racism.

Now that I think about it, opening a presentation with this story or something similar (along the lines of “unfortunately this is what we often hear whenever we talk about these issues with audiences like this one…”) could potentially tamp down this reaction in the first place.

It seems to me that microaggressions would make a very good starting point for a discussion about diversity, before launching into some broader concepts like privilege and intersectionality, and ultimately discussing effective ways to leverage some of these principles in the real world. I wouldn’t expect to have much of an impact in an hour and a half session; for one thing this stuff takes time to process, especially if you’ve never been exposed to it before. And of course there are some people who will never, ever be reached—they’re too closed-minded (fragile?) to tolerate even a hint that their behavior is ever anything less that unimpeachable at all times (despite evidence to the contrary). I have to admit I find it darkly funny that if we take the research findings seriously, my presentation would have the most impact if the person giving it is were a white, straight, fit, able-bodied, heterosexual male. But I do think a reasonable goal would be to get some peoples’ gears turning, such that they take better care with what they do and say, and begin to notice problems and issues that they did not see before. This is especially important, because once you see privilege operating, it becomes difficult to unsee it. I know from my own experience that this awareness is only the start of a personal journey. It will take many, many personal journeys to make meaningful progress.

But if there are people who genuinely want to be part of the solution and not part of the problem—and I believe that there are—they have to start dealing with reality somewhere, sometime. That means they have to be willing to confront facts and ideas that will almost certainly make them uncomfortable and defensive. I figure they may as well start with the kick-ass slides and handouts I would make for my (hypothetical**) awesome and wildly infotaining diversity presentation. I am the fucking Priestess of PowerPoint™. FYI.

Look, I drew a bobblehead of Sam Harris. In PowerPoint. For no reason.

harrisbobbleheadHahaha. I crack myself up.

__________
*You probably think I’m kidding, or at least heavily exaggerating with the image of that draft markup. Nope.

**I’m semi-seriously considering putting something like this together. Thoughts?

The Great Boot Stretching Experiment of October 2015.

TO: Journal of the American Boot

FROM: Iris Vander Pluym

DATE: October 11, 2015

SUBJECT: Research Paper Submission

Dear Sir or Madam:

Attached please find my latest work for consideration by your esteemed publication.

Sincerely,

-Iris Vander Pluym

__________

Harnessing the power of dihydrogen monoxide: A method for gently enlarging a leather boot.

ABSTRACT

A long existing and well known problem in this field occurs when a pair of boots fit comfortably in the store, however post purchase, walking in them for more than a few minutes will produce pain, blister(s) and a general state of intense unhappiness in the wearer (the “pain problem”). An experiment was conducted to determine whether properties inherent in the phase change of H2O from liquid to solid to liquid again could be harnessed to gently and effectively stretch a leather boot. The results were positive and highly encouraging. Although more research is needed, it appears that the new method addresses the pain problem simply, safely and cost-effectively.

BACKGROUND

The pain problem has plagued boot wearers for millennia. Its causes have been variously attributed to a number of phenomena, e.g. manufacturers failing to maintain size and shape consistency during boot production, variations inherent in materials such as leather, naturally occurring asymmetries in the size and/or shape of an individual wearer’s feet due to genetic or epigenetic phenomena, the impact of recent activities known to affect the feet (such as prolonged standing, walking or running) as well as deformative injuries to the foot.

Historically, attempts to address the pain problem have included the strategic attachment of band-aids and/or moleskin, application of liquids and aerosols and inflatable devices of dubious provenance and efficacy, employing any of an enormous array of devices purporting to reshape footwear, and recourse to an industry of professional shoemakers who claim to employ superior equipment and advanced techniques to boot stretching, sometimes at considerable cost. Additionally, a harmful and ubiquitous myth that boots require a “break-in period” persists in the culture at large. In this view, the pain problem is cast as a necessary and inevitable burden to bear in order for an individual to acquire a comfortable pair of boots, wide demand for all of the aforementioned products and services notwithstanding. However, the only thing that typically breaks during the break-in period is the unfortunate boot wearer’s blistered skin.

The boots used in this experiment were acquired at a Steve Madden store on Bleecker Street in NYC in the fall of 2014 (the “Madden boots”). The wearer got some limited use out of them through spring of 2015, but due to the pain problem specifically with the right boot, she would generally eschew them in favor of wearing less attractive, more comfortable boots, particularly if even a small amount of walking was foreseeable. By the summer of 2015, several pairs of the less attractive, more comfortable boots were in a state such that repairing them would prove impossible or prohibitively expensive. Thus by attrition and default, the Madden boots had suddenly become the wearer’s primary boots for autumn 2015.

Figure 1 depicts the areas of particular concern on the right Madden boot.

Figure 1.

maddenbootfig1Right Madden boot.

THEORETICAL PRINCIPLES.

H2O has a well-known property whereby as it changes from liquid to solid phase at or below a temperature of 32°F (0°C), its volume becomes noticeably increased. It was hypothesized that the resulting expansion could be harnessed to permanently enlarge the right Madden boot such that the pain problem would be eradicated.

MATERIALS AND METHODS.

A one gallon Ziploc® freezer bag was inserted into the right Madden boot and spread fully into the shape of the interior. The bag was then zipped closed except for an accessible opening at the exterior zipper location on the boot. Using a rocks glass, liquid H2O was carefully poured into the opening of the Ziploc® bag until it could hold no more without spilling, and the Ziploc® bag was completely sealed.

The right Madden boot was placed in a standard Whirlpool® freezer on a sheet of Saran® plastic wrap, along with a brightly colored Post-It® note attached that read:

DON’T JUDGE ME!
I HAVE A THEORY
ABOUT STRETCHING
THIS BOOT…
SCIENCE.

Figure 2(a) illustrates the positioning of the boot and the Post-It® note in the freezer along with several other items including ice trays (empty) and a martini glass (also empty). The portion of the Ziploc® bag which was extended outside the boot in order to fill it is also visible above the note.

Figure 2(a).

bootorigRight Madden boot with note in freezer.

This precaution was taken so that should anyone else open the freezer door they would be discouraged from disturbing this important experiment. As a further precaution, Figure 2 was immediately uploaded to Facebook along with a status update:

“Presently, I have a boot in my freezer. FYI.”

Thus colleagues, family, friends and lovers were put on notice about the experiment and provided with documentation about this exciting research project. General merriment promptly ensued on the thread, as well as an important discussion concerning inaccurate wording on the Post-It® note:

Dr. KC: … technically, don’t you have a hypothesis?

Dr. IVP: Yes. But I wasn’t going to rewrite the post-it. LIFE IS SHORT.

Dr. LR: fixed

Figure 2(b).

boothypothesisRight Madden boot in freezer, with proposed edit to note.

Dr. IVP: LOL4EVAR

The right Madden boot was left in the freezer overnight, and removed the following morning. It was placed on a paper towel in a room temperature environment, and complete phase change from solid back to liquid was observed later that day.

Both Madden boots were then worn while walking to dinner at a distance of approximately 3 ½ city blocks from the laboratory facilities, and back again. Figure 3 depicts the Madden boots at the restaurant.

Figure 3.

bootsThe Madden boots after the right boot underwent the experimental condition.

RESULTS.

No pain, blisters or other discomfort were observed by the wearer at any time subsequent to the procedure, and similar results were also obtained during subsequent wearings of the Madden boots. Further research is needed to determine whether and to what extent the effect can be replicated in boots made of other materials, for example faux suede.

CONCLUSION.

The groundbreaking method described herein appears to address the notorious pain problem by expanding leather boots easily, inexpensively, and in less than 24 hours. Also: the author’s Facebook friends are hilarious.

__________

Comments on this post are considered peer review.

Recent reading.

library4

Does Alan Grayson Want War With Iran? Naiman, R., The Huffington Post (Apr. 2015). [Alan Grayson is trying to break up with ME?! WTF. –Ed.]

Scientists: Psychedelic drugs ‘safe as riding a bike or playing soccer’. Richardson, H., Newsweek via Raw Story (Apr. 2015). [Also, IIRC waaaay more fun. –Ed.]

Psychologists Have Uncovered a Troubling Feature of People Who Seem Nice All the Time. Shim, E., Mic (Jun. 2014). (“people holding left-wing political views were less willing to hurt others. One particular group held steady and refused destructive orders: women who had previously participated in rebellious political activism such as strikes or occupying a factory.”) [Don’t get any ideas, people. I WILL TOTALLY FUCK YOU UP!!!11!!! –Ed.]

Researchers Discover Fossils Of A New Species Of Terror Bird. Thompson, B., Daily Science Journal (Apr. 2015). [h/t Vanina]

terrorbirdIris can haz dis terra berd nao plz.

First Hologram Protest in History Held Against Spain’s Gag Law. Baker, J. Revolution News (Apr. 2015). [Wow, Spain. –Ed.]

Meet Walnut, the crane who fell in love with her zookeeper. Hillenbrand, S., The Verge (Apr. 2015). [Awesome weirdness, PLUS weird awesomeness. –Ed.]

Long-Awaited ‘Jump’ In Global Warming Now Appears ‘Imminent’. Romm, J., Think Progress (Apr. 2015) [Today in WE ARE SO FUCKED. –Ed.]

Boycott, Divest and Sanction Corporations That Feed on Prisons. Hedges, C., Truthdig Apr. 2015). [h/t SJ]

U.S. secretly tracked billions of calls for decades. Heath, B., USA TODAY (Apr. 2015). [GTFO. –Ed.]

Fracking Town’s Desperate Laid-off Workers: ‘They Don’t Tell You It’s All a Lie’. Nieves, E., AlterNet (Mar. 2015). (“The boom and bust in North Dakota has trapped people there, with little hope of work or escape.”) [But…but…JOBS! –Ed.]

28 Majestic Owls Caught On Camera. Earth Porm (Apr. 2015).

owl-photography-27__880Yes.

Racism at Core of Native Teen Suicides in Pine Ridge. Fenton, D.A., Colorlines (Apr. 2015). (“Let’s be clear. These events tell Native children one thing: “Your lives are not valued. You do not have a place in the world beyond the reservation.”) [Fucking hell. –Ed.]

6 Ways to Keep Terrorists From Ruining the World. Wong, D., Cracked (Jan. 2015). [Suggested re-title: “6 Ways to Keep EVERYONE From Ruining the World.” –Ed.]

Thousands dead, few prosecuted. Kelly, K. and Kindi, K., The Washington Post (Apr. 2015). (“Among the thousands of fatal shootings at the hands of police since 2005, only 54 officers have been charged, a Post analysis found. Most were cleared or acquitted in the cases that have been resolved.”) [TW: police violence.]

A letter from Mary Lucia. Lucia, M., The Current (Apr. 2015). [TW: stalking and harassment.]

VeinViewer Means No More Poking People Relentlessly to Locate Veins. Goyal, N., Industry Tap (Apr. 2015).

veinviewerIris can haz dis vane veewer nao plz.

Bystander Effect Also Found Among Five-Year-Olds. Jacobs, T., Pacific Standard (Mar. 2015). (“Little kids will help an adult, but if they’re in a group, they’ll wait to see if someone else volunteers first.”)

Hundreds of illicit oil wastewater pits found in Kern County. Cart, J., Los Angeles Times (Apr. 2015).

The dystopian lake filled by the world’s tech lust. Maughan, T., BBC (Apr. 2015).

13 Outrageous Acts By Drug War Cops Just This Week. Smith, P., AlterNet (Apr. 2015). [TW: police violence]

Guatemalans deliberately infected with STDs sue Johns Hopkins University for $1bn. Laughland, O., The Guardian (Apr. 2015). [TW: human rights abuses, hostility to autonomy and consent.]

Tales from the Trenches: I was SWATed. Harper, R., Randi-io (Apr. 2015). [TW: harassment and abuse.]

235 Anti-Choice Bills Proposed in State Legislatures Since January. Wilson, T., RH Reality Check (Mar. 2015). [*spit* –Ed.]

The “Special Snowflake” Syndrome of American Conservatives. Rachel191, Daily Kos (Apr. 2015).

How the U.S. spends more helping its citizens than other rich countries, but gets way less. Swanson, A., The Washington Post (Apr. 2015). (“Premature death for women in the U.S. is about on par with Mexico, which spends just $858 on health care per capita compared with nearly $8,000 per capita in the U.S.”) [VERY interesting. –Ed.]

__________

PLZ NOTE: Acquisition of links and/or bon mots for the Palace Library does not imply the Palace’s 100% agreement with or endorsement of any content, organization or individual.

Great news, or greatest news EVER?

AMNHlogo

 FTW.

Loyal Readers™ will no doubt recall that it was exactly one year ago today that we sent our research proposal to tardigrade expert Professor Bob Goldstein at his lab at UNC, requesting his urgent assistance in confirming my paradigm-shattering theory that if I consume enough of them, then I will become a virtually immortal extremophile like the tardigrades:

Dear Professor Goldstein:

I am a New York City-based columnist and blogger who usually writes about sex (I’m for it!) as well as politics and religion (I’m against ’em!), and who finds herself weirdly enamored with tardigrades. I also write to promote science, skepticism, and the sheer transcendent joy to be found in discovering the wonders of the natural world. To that end I maintain a virtual zoo on my personal blog, in which I have a tardigrade specimen named Schnoot.

If I sound like a kook so far, well you’re probably right but I hope you will bear(!) with me.

____________

Professor Goldstein, have you ever eaten tardigrades?

If yes:
What do they taste like?
Do you have any good recipes?
What wine pairing would you recommend?
Are you now immortal?

If no:
Are they poisonous or otherwise dangerous to eat?
Would you recommend that I cook them (over 303 degrees F of course!) before I eat them, or do you think I have to eat them live in order to become immortal?

__________

With many thanks and kind regards,
-Iris Vander Pluym

Inexplicably, as of this writing we still have not received a reply from Professor Goldstein. It’s like he doesn’t even want to share the Nobel prize with us. ?

tardigradeScnoot, Palace Zoo resident tardigrade.

But in a spectacular “coincidence” that can only be a sign to us from the Tardigrade Goddess herself, the American Museum of Natural History’s Life at the Limits exhibition opens today, featuring—you guessed it—tardigrades!

I feel quite optimistic that unlike that big meanie Professor Goldstein, the exhibition’s curators Mark Siddall and John Sparks will feel honored and humbled to participate in the Palace’s important work on obtaining immortal extremophile superpowers for myself. Now I don’t want to blow their minds with too much too fast, so please keep this to yourself: I am also working on a rather promising inquiry into the youth-regenerating properties of axolotls. Two of these amazing neotenic creatures currently reside in the Amphibian wing of the Palace Zoo; unfortunately, I cannot in good conscience eat them as they are a critically endangered species. That’s where my new BFFs Mark Siddall and John Sparks come in: to help me establish a wild breeding population on the Palace grounds.

Because SCIENCE, motherfuckers.

[h/t Mr. Born]

Reads.

library4

10 Situations Where Christian Bakers Should Refuse To Bake Wedding Cakes. Corey, B.L., Patheos (Mar. 2015). (“we need to have the courage to radically expand our discrimination as we apply the Bible to everyone but ourselves.”) [No cake for you! Or you! You either! –Ed.]

CIA Torture Whistleblower: Wake Up America, You’re Next. Abby Martin interview of John Kiriakou, Media Roots (Mar. 2015). (VIDEO)

Costa Rica is now running completely on renewable energy. Epstein, A., Quartz (Mar. 2015). [Yes we can’t! -Ed.]

Starbuck’s CEO Just Made A Shocking Announcement That Has Christians Standing Up For Their Faith. Rachel, Q Political (Mar. 2015). [Shocking. LOL –Ed.]

Forget terrorists — be terrified of Harperites. Siddiqui, H., The Star (Mar. 2015). (“Stephen Harper’s government wants us to be terrified of terrorists, niqabis, criminals, thieves, etc. But it’s the Conservatives we should be scared of.)

Women on 20s. (“It’s our mission to generate an overwhelming people’s mandate for a new $20 bill, to be issued in time for the 100th anniversary in 2020 of the Constitutional amendment giving women the right to vote.”) [What are you doing lounging around the Palace? Go vote! -Ed.]

“You Grow Up Wanting to be Luke Skywalker, Then Realize You’ve Become a Stormtrooper for the Empire”. Crimmins, D. via Garret, Upriser (undated). [An amazing piece of writing from an Iraq veteran. -Ed.]

Scientists have discovered a simple way to cook rice that dramatically cuts the calories. Ferdman, R.A., The Washington Post (Mar. 2015).

France decrees new rooftops must be covered in plants or solar panelAgence France-Presse via The Guardian (Mar. 2015).

If Motivational Posters Were For People Who Hate People. Bailey, L., BuzzFeed (Feb. 2015). [I hate people, and I can attest that these posters are totally for me! -Ed.]

everyoneistheworstEven in nursing, no equal pay for women. Rapaport, L., Reuters (Mar. 2015).

Virtual reality is coming to sex, sports and Facebook. della Cava, M., USA Today (Mar. 2015). [h/t SJ]

Big Bank’s Analyst Worries That Iran Deal Could Depress Weapons Sales. Fang, L., The Intercept (Mar. 2015). [OH NOEZ!!! –Ed.]

Amazon’s trees removed nearly a third less carbon in last decade – study. Mathiesen, K., The Guardian (Mar. 2015). (“Fall in amount of carbon absorbed by rainforest means even greater cuts to manmade emissions are needed to combat climate change, warn scientists.”) [Today in We Are So Fucked. –Ed.]

Mother-Daughter Duo’s Photo Project Features 5-Year-Old as Iconic Black Women. Gilchrist, T., For Harriet (Mar. 2015). [Amazing and adorable. -Ed.]

If Purvi Patel delivered in hospital she could have declined neonatal care, but she delivered at home so faces jail. Gunter, J., Dr. Jen Gunter (Mar. 2015). (“So to be clear, had Ms. Patel delivered in a hospital she could have declined neonatal care had her baby been born alive. But because she delivered at home she is a criminal. Now tell me this wasn’t a reproductive witch hunt designed to both test the limits of Indiana law in curtailing reproductive rights and score points with pro-life donors and voters.”)

This Woman Says She Had A Miscarriage. Now She Could Face 70 Years In Prison. Culp-Ressler, T., Think Progress (Mar. 2015). (“Critics say there are a lot of issues with the way Patel’s case has unfolded over the past two years. For instance, Patel was first questioned in her hospital bed without a lawyer present. Expert witnesses could not come to consensus about the gestational age of her fetus. The prosecution relied on a highly unscientific method to try to determine whether her fetus was born dead or alive.”) [UPDATE: Purvi Patel was just sentenced to 30 years, with 10 suspended. -Ed.]

Two Cops Arrested for Beating 3-Month-Old Into Vegetative State; Baby Not Expected to Recover. Fairbanks, C., The Free Thought Project (Mar. 2015). [h/t Tony] [I can’t even. –Ed.]

Black Woman Locked In Psych Ward For 8 Days Because Cops Couldn’t Believe She’s A Businesswoman. Kerry-Anne, Addicting Info (Mar. 2015). [I. CAN’T. EVEN. –Ed.]

One Model Tried On 10 Different Pairs Of Size 16 Jeans And This Is What They Looked Like. Ospina, M.S., BuzzFeed (Jan. 2015).

This Photo Was Removed By Instagram. The Owner Writes A Powerful Open Letter In Response. Rupi Kaur via Chaudhary, S., Scoop Whoop (Mar. 2015).

Trillion Dollar Fraudsters. Krugman, P., The New York Times (Mar. 2015).

Shakespearean Insulter. [“Thou clouted fly-bitten boar-pig!” Hahaha. -Ed.]

Stunning Photos Reveal Beauty in Medicine. Live Science (Mar. 2015).

She’s back! Arizona legislator suggests church attendance should be mandatory. Mother Mags, Daily Kos (Mar. 2015). [Okay, player. –Ed.]

__________

For the Quote Collection:

I think America has the best assholes in the world. I defy the Belgians or the Japanese to produce something like a Donald Trump. –Matt Taibbi

Women have always been an equal part of the past. They just haven’t been part of history. –Gloria Steinem

__________

PLZ NOTE: Acquisition of links and/or bon mots for the Palace Library does not imply the Palace’s 100% agreement with or endorsement of any content, organization or individual.

Reading.

library4An Ex-Jewish Camel’s Sad Epiphany on Israeli Fanaticism. Centre, B., Atheist Camel (Mar. 2015). [h/t SJ]

5 Near-Identical Jesus Myths That Predate Jesus. Richard, L., Liberal America (Mar. 2015). [h/t Ian]

Researchers may have solved origin-of-life conundrum. Service, R.F., Science (Mar. 2015). [The headline overreaches, but the science is interesting. -Ed.]

Nightmare in Sin City: How a Rumor Sent a Teen to Prison for Murder in Vegas. Smith, J., The Intercept (Mar. 2015).

27 Black Women Activists Everyone Should Know. Foster, K., For Harriet (Feb. 2014). [h/t Sally]

Humanism and the #BlackLivesMatter Movement. Kirabo, S., The Humanist (Mar. 2015).

Support for government help has fallen among those who rely on it most. Ehrenfreund, M., The Washington Post (Mar. 2015). [Deja vu. *yawn* –Ed.]

Teaching Doubt. Krauss, L.M., The New Yorker (Mar. 2015). [h/t SJ]

Anti-Abortion Website Whines About Being Bombed… With Glitter. Merlan, A., Jezebel (Mar. 2015). [Hahaha. The fine folks at Glitter Bombs for Choice are clearly kindred spirits, although I prefer to mail coat hangers myself. –Ed.]

The Cops Don’t Care About Violent Online Threats. What Do We Do Now? Merlan, A., Jezebel (Jan. 2015).

Woman killed by flying plywood from NYC construction site. Rosario, F., et al, The New York Post (Mar. 2015). [The luxury condo construction at the site of my former neighborhood hospital now has a body count. (For background see here.) –Ed.]

Bad News for Those of You Who, Like Us, Drank Cheap Wine Each and Every Night of Your 20s. (Mar. 2015). [SPOILER ALERT! Arsenic poisoning. Which sounds almost as bad as the crap wine. –Ed.]

Intersex advocates correct and clarify Nightline news report. Murray, R., GLAAD (Mar. 2015). (with VIDEO)

How activists are responding to the NYPD’s attempts to thwart Black Lives Matter. Rugh, P., Waging Nonviolence (Feb. 2015).

How Prison Stints Replaced Study Hall: America’s problem with criminalizing kids. Owens, J., Politico (Mar. 2015). [An excellent piece on the school-to-prison pipeline by the managing attorney for the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Mississippi office. -Ed.]

Obama’s Trans-Pacific Partnership Promises Echo Clinton’s On NAFTA. Johnson, D., Campaign for America’s Future (Feb. 2015). [Lying liars lie: film at 11. –Ed.]

__________

PLZ NOTE: Acquisition of links and/or bon mots for the Palace Library does not imply the Palace’s 100% agreement with or endorsement of any content, organization or individual.

Boner flowers FTW.

naked-man-orchid-orchis-italica-1Alrighty then.

Orchis italica, commonly known as the naked man orchid or the Italian orchid, is a species of orchid native to the Mediterranean. They are widely popular for their petals looking like naked men. O. italica grows up to 50 centimetres (20 in) in height, with bright pink, densely clustered flowers.

20 inches?!!! Jeezus. Won’t someone think of the Mediterranean children?

orchis-italica2 orchis-italica3 orchis-italica4 orchis-italica5Hahaha. Awesome.

[h/t Kim]