May 15th, 2013


[links] Link salad for another hump day

Biology, Chemistry and Science Pick-up Lines! — Hahahaha! (Via Gabrielle Harbowy.)

It’s Time to Talk about the Burgeoning Robot Middle ClassHow will a mass influx of robots affect human employment?

Synthetic Biology Could Speed Flu Vaccine ProductionAdvanced genetic engineering is already changing vaccine development and could make inroads into other branches of medicine.

The Extinction OrchestraDesigner Marguerite Humeau reconstructs the voices of extinct animals based on speculative extrapolations from their skull structure.

Parents sue South Carolina for surgically turning child into a female — This is about state intervention in an intersexed child's medical care.

How climate change denial worksFox’s broadcast was really quite ingenious. They can claim they presented “both sides,” when in fact there were never two sides to the question. That's the typical conservative response. Their ideas are intellectually bankrupt, so they lie.

RNC Hispanic Outreach Director Becomes A Democrat — What did he expect? He was a Republican. Good for him for finally waking up when his own ox was gored. Like I keep saying, no one likes conservative policies when applied to them personally. (Via [info]shsilver.)

National Security Brief: Poll Finds Americans Aren’t Buying GOP Benghazi Witch-HuntA whopping 41 percent of Republicans polled think the Obama administration’s handling of Benghazi is the greatest scandal in U.S. history. “One interesting thing about the voters who think Benghazi is the biggest political scandal in American history,” PPP adds, “is that 39% of them don’t actually know where it is." Sometimes the jokes just write themselves. Also, Jim Wright with a lot more on the conservative "position" on Benghazi.

When the IRS targeted liberalsUnder George W. Bush, it went after the NAACP, Greenpeace and even a liberal church. Yeah, remember all the Republican outrage back then? Nah, neither do I. Not that this makes what's going on now right, but it certainly underscores yet again the profound hypocrisy of conservatism in general.

QotD?: What's your favorite day of the week?

Writing time yesterday: 1.5 hours (Revision on my novella for METAtropolis: Green Space)
Hours slept: 5.75 hours (fitful)
Body movement: 0.5 hours (stationary bike)
Weight: 248.2
Number of FEMA troops on my block covering up evidence about Benghazi: 0
Currently reading: The Last Hero by Terry Pratchett


[personal] Editorial process on Link Salad

For no particular reason, here is an explanation of my editorial process on the daily Link Salad posts.

I scan 46 Web sites every morning, clustered in bookmark groups I refer to as "Science", "WritingArts", CultPol" and "Ego". I also go through my Google News main page, from which I exclude sports and minimize regional coverage in favor of top stories, international news, and science news. Curious headlines, interesting stories, or anything that falls within a specific range of my interests generally get posted into Link Salad.

As the day goes by, I have a bookmark group called "Reloads" which I check every few hours that I happen to be near a keyboard, time permitting. That's weighted towards politics, where the breaking stories I'm most interested in, tend to happen, but it also picks up some writer and automotive blogs.

People also send me links on a fairly regular basis. I don't always use them, for any number of reasons, but often as not I do.

When assembling Link Salad, I put them together in a loose order. The political stories, including my ranty comments, appear at the bottom. This is so people skimming for writing or science or other news don't have to read them if they don't want to. (Not everyone shares my political views, obviously.) Personal news about writing, awards and cancer go at the top. Everything else spreads in between, usually but not always science, then culture, with miscellaneous stuff inserted where it makes a sort of thematic sense.

I never, ever use stories from FOX News or its affiliates. Anything with the FOX brand. I'm not averse to conservative sources, but FOX's long record of knowing distortion of the truth is extremely well-documented, as is the singularly ill-informed nature of their viewership. I simply assume anything on "fair and balanced" FOX is wingnut propaganda. (I have been known to see a FOX headline and invest some effort in finding the same story from a reliable source.) I very rarely cite The Wall Street Journal for much the same reason. Unlike FOX's nonstop drivel, their reporting actually can be excellent, but their editorial page and policies are the country club version of FOX's trailer park wingnuttia, which renders even good reporting useless. WSJ is FOX's paranoid bigotry and counterfactual fantasies in a nicer suit, basically.

Beyond that, stuff I note or that falls out of the sky on me winds up in Link Salad. If you see something interesting, tip me. I'll credit and link to the first person who sends me something.


[religion] In which we discover that I may be a Wheatonist

Yesterday, Lisa Costello and I were talking about religion, as we are sometimes wont to do. I am somewhat infamously an atheist, from a Calvinist background. She is a serious Shambhala Buddhist, also from a Protestant background.

What prompted the conversation was this comment on my blog, from Stevo Darkly, partially excerpted here:
I suspect Jay is as “saved” as he needs to be. The Catholic theologian Karl Rahner posits the concept of the “anonymous” Christian. Horrible label, but basically it means if a person lives as Christ would like, they are effectively a Christian. [...] Certainly Jay lives a life as loving and tolerant and kind as any sort if Christ or God could want. Better than most self-claimed Christians.

I felt both complimented and amused by Stevo's remarks, and took them in what I am fairly confident was the spirit intended. As it happens, Lisa and I have an ongoing dispute about whether I'm a good Buddhist or a bad Buddhist. Which is also pretty amusing, given my active commitment to atheism. The serious underpinnings of that dispute parallel the comment above, to the effect that Lisa claims I live my life much the way I would if I were trying to be a good Buddhist.

I observed that in simplistic terms, most constructive religious commandments boil down to Wheaton's Law: "Don't be a dick." I'm not talking about the religious commandments about not eating shrimp, or avoiding cheeseburgers, or hating on gay people, or wearing magic underwear, or whatever. Those are tribal in-group signifiers, not moral guidance. I'm talking about the whole not bearing false witness thing, not coveting your neighbor's ass in a non-consensual fashion, do as you would be done by, an it harm none, and so forth. Those are affirmative statements of social principle. (Some of which may of course also be tribal in-group signifiers.)

So I suppose if I were to subscribe to a religion, I'd be a Wheatonist. My religion would have one commandment: "Don't be a dick." That's about it. Seems to cover almost everything what needs covering. Living as a Wheatonist, I could be mistaken for an anonymous Christian or a good Buddhist either one.

I think Wil is on to something bigger than he realizes.

Or maybe he already knows it...