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I'm here to denounce the barbaric practice of male genital mutilation. I'll start with facts, then move to opinion, and destroy the myths that most people seem to have, being as ignorant of male genital landscape as they were of the female clitoris a century ago.

First, let's look at why this Semitic practice became a thing in the west: One John Harvey Kellogg.

John Harvey Kellogg (February 26, 1852 – December 14, 1943) was an American medical doctor in Battle Creek, Michigan, who ran a sanitarium using holistic methods, with a particular focus on nutrition, enemas and exercise. Kellogg was an advocate of vegetarianism and is best known for the invention of the breakfast cereal known as corn flakes with his brother, Will Keith Kellogg.

Corn flakes and enemas. Great combination.

And why was he terrified of protein?

His dietary advice in the late 19th century, which was in part concerned with reducing sexual stimulation, discouraged meat-eating, but not emphatically so.

No, he had more emphatic ways of dealing with sexual stimulation:

Kellogg was a skilled surgeon, who often donated his services to indigent patients at his clinic.[9] Although generally against unnecessary surgery to treat diseases,[10][11] he did advocate circumcision, allegedly to prevent masturbation.

He was an especially zealous campaigner against masturbation; this was an orthodox view during his lifetime, especially the earlier part. Kellogg was able to draw upon many medical sources' claims such as "neither the plague, nor war, nor small-pox, nor similar diseases, have produced results so disastrous to humanity as the pernicious habit of onanism," credited to one Dr. Adam Clarke. Kellogg strongly warned against the habit in his own words, claiming of masturbation-related deaths "such a victim literally dies by his own hand," among other condemnations. He felt that masturbation destroyed not only physical and mental health, but the moral health of individuals as well. Kellogg also believed the practice of this "solitary-vice" caused cancer of the womb, urinary diseases, nocturnal emissions, impotence, epilepsy, insanity, and mental and physical debility; "dimness of vision" was only briefly mentioned.

Kellogg worked on the rehabilitation of masturbators, often employing extreme measures, even mutilation, on both sexes. He was an advocate of circumcising young boys to curb masturbation and applying phenol to a young woman's clitoris. In his Plain Facts for Old and Young,[7] he wrote:

“ A remedy which is almost always successful in small boys is circumcision, especially when there is any degree of phimosis. The operation should be performed by a surgeon without administering an anesthetic, as the brief pain attending the operation will have a salutary effect upon the mind, especially if it be connected with the idea of punishment, as it may well be in some cases. The soreness which continues for several weeks interrupts the practice, and if it had not previously become too firmly fixed, it may be forgotten and not resumed. ”

further

“ a method of treatment [to prevent masturbation] ... and we have employed it with entire satisfaction. It consists in the application of one or more silver sutures in such a way as to prevent erection. The prepuce, or foreskin, is drawn forward over the glans, and the needle to which the wire is attached is passed through from one side to the other. After drawing the wire through, the ends are twisted together, and cut off close. It is now impossible for an erection to occur, and the slight irritation thus produced acts as a most powerful means of overcoming the disposition to resort to the practice ”

and

“ In females, the author has found the application of pure carbolic acid (phenol) to the clitoris an excellent means of allaying the abnormal excitement.

He also recommended, to prevent children from this "solitary vice", bandaging or tying their hands, covering their genitals with patented cages and electrical shock.[7]

In his Ladies' Guide in Health and Disease, for nymphomania, he recommended

“ Cool sitz baths; the cool enema; a spare diet; the application of blisters and other irritants to the sensitive parts of the sexual organs, the removal of the clitoris and nymphae... ”

Got that? Butchering the genitals would prevent masturbation!

So, if you're taking medical advice from this child-butchering, vegetarian, god-nut, quack freak, you should probably be killed right now. Oh, he was also a huge racist and proponent of eugenics.

Obviously, this doesn't work, and the practice on females was stopped.

On males, it persists, and there are even people who promote it as improving penile and sexual function.  It's good for you!

Wrong.

It's very common for men with butchered penises to insist they really aren't missing anything, just as good or better, glad they have it.

Wrong.

The most oft-repeated lie is, "The foreskin is basically just skin."

Wrong.

Even if it was "just skin," how would slicing off the skin NOT affect sensation? If you blister your hand, you have less sensation than before, on that "just skin."

The foreskin is just skin on the OUTSIDE. Inside it's a stretchy membrane that covers about 2/3 of the penis. Feel free to measure from the scar up and around, and do the math on how many square inches that is. (And yes, you have a scar. Scars are generally not a good thing for function.)

And you can confirm with just about any intact man that the inside of that membrane is pretty much nothing but nerves. If you have it, you can achieve orgasm with very light fingertip contact just on that skin.

That's not the most important part, though.

You know how when your glans rubs against your underwear it's irritating, then painful, then crippling?

No?

Well, it would be if your penis was properly functional.

That's a mucous membrane, or is supposed to be. By slicing off that "just skin," the sensitive mucous membrane has to become epidermis.

So, first you've sliced off half the sensory nerves, then you've killed most of the other half.

It's a tribute to nature and the human nervous system and its almost cybernetic workarounds that you can orgasm at all. I have no idea how, since you're missing everything I use for the purpose. But I guess the way blind people learn to hear better, something awakens to handle the job in some half-assed fashion.

Really, it's absolute butchery and functionally equivalent to slicing the female clitoris. If you protest one and endorse the other, you're a hypocrite and have no moral standing. At least the Muslims who butcher both sexes are morally consistent, and therefore superior to you.

Now, awareness of this is becoming prevalent, but there are some guys in not only complete denial, but in protest that they're somehow better with half a dick.

~~~

"The glans is more sensitive without skin in the way."

Certainly. The foreskin rolls back. And here's the neat part: ALL THE NERVES INSIDE IT COME INTO PLAY, TOO! If you have so little grasp of anatomy, you shouldn’t be commenting.

As noted above, slicing off the protective skin turns that mucous membrane into epidermis. Your eye will also collect more light if you slice off that silly lid thing. But that may not be a benefit.

~~~

"Oh, so I'm less of a man because I'm missing flesh. Why don't you tell that to the guys at Walter Reed recovering from burns."

Yeah, I'm sure they're all there insisting, "No, I'm glad the skin is burned off. It makes the flesh underneath so much more sensitive!"

~~~

"You're dick obsessed."

Right. You tie baby boys into restraints and slice bits off their genitalia, without anesthetic, while they scream, and even suck the baby dick clean with your mouth (if you're certain sects of Jewish), but I'm the one who's dick obsessed. Cool story, bro. Are you convincing yourself?

By the way, can you name any other surgical procedure you'd perform on an infant, without anesthetic? That you wouldn't expect to get you arrested for child abuse and torture and jailed?

~~~

"It hasn't affected my sexual pleasure at all."

How would you know? Since all that flesh was butchered before you were aware of it, you're like a person blind from birth insisting eyes aren't really important.

Please name any other process where removing healthy tissue doesn't affect function or increases it.

~~~

"Some day, some chick is going to look at your junk and be grossed out."

In 47 years and about 50 lovers this has never been an issue for me. I guess I have better self-esteem and never dated shallow whores. But hey, appeasing a woman's visual senses totally justifies destroying your sexual pleasure, right?

~~~

"It reduces the odds of penile cancer!"

No, actually not at all.

From Wikipedia again:

Penile cancer is a rare cancer in developed nations with annual incidence varying from 0.3 to 1 per 100,000 per year accounting for around 0.4–0.6% of all malignancies.[1] The annual incidence is approximately 1 in 100,000 men in the United States,[2] 1 in 250,000 in Australia, (where there are less circumcisions) and 0.82 per 100,000 in Denmark. (even less) In the United Kingdom, fewer than 500 men are diagnosed with penile cancer every year. (Also a lower rate than the US.)

Circumcision during infancy or in childhood may provide partial protection against penile cancer. Several authors have proposed circumcision as a possible strategy for penile cancer prevention;[1][19][24] however, the American Cancer Society points to the rarity of the disease and notes that neither the American Academy of Pediatrics nor the Canadian Academy of Pediatrics recommend routine neonatal circumcision.

"Partial protection," because the only part of the penis that can't get cancer is the part you cut off…which, if it becomes necessary, can be cut off IF you get cancer. So, your proposal is to butcher the genitals of 999,999 baby boys because it MIGHT help with the one remaining one. This is sort of the inverse of not getting immunized because there MIGHT be a reaction to the serum.

And of course, if I suddenly develop cancer of the foreskin tomorrow, it can be removed easily enough, and I've had 35 years of greater sexual pleasure than you. But, as noted above, this not only isn't an issue, it's less of an issue in nations where they don't butcher their babies.

You may as well insist, "We have formula, so let's slice the tits off baby girls so they can't get breast cancer later in life!" "Oh, nipples aren't very sensitive. You don't need them for sexual pleasure."

By the way, the mortality rate for botched circumcisions (Botched butchery, dear God how horrifying is THAT concept?) exceeds the mortality rate from penile cancer. Great job.

~~~

"It reduces the odds of getting AIDS."

Bullshit.

This comes from studies that certain African tribes who practice genital butchery have lower rates of AIDs. They also almost all have either/or, or both, Islam (better sanitation than the animistic savages around them) or better food and cleaner water, so lower incidence of ANY disease.

And even if so, you're again butchering 100K babies against the odds 375 of them (per the CIA World Factbook) will reduce their odds of getting AIDS via that one small part of the anatomy, rather than open sores in the mouth, or the most common method, by receiving anal sex from a carrier. Through the foreskin would require insertion into a carrier, and damage to the membrane both.

And we have these things called "condoms" and "blood tests."

Again, you're taking the short end of the bet, and apparently assuming your boy is going to grow up to be a gay ass-pounder with no self control.

My gay friends resent that characterization, with good reason.

~~~

"It's biblical."

Actually, no. It's Semitic. If you actually read your New Testament, this is much discussed. Jews did it. Greeks did not. One example quote:

Was anyone called while circumcised? Let him not become uncircumcised. Was anyone called while uncircumcised? Let him not be circumcised.

Circumcision is nothing and uncircumcision is nothing, but keeping the commandments of God is what matters. I Corinthians 7:18-19

But unless you're not wearing mixed fibers, not eating pork or shellfish, etc, why would you suddenly escalate to genital butchery?

And if some invisible friend in your head is telling you to slice up bits of your baby, perhaps you should be in some other institution.

If you butcher your kids, you are a vile human being and should have your skull clubbed in like a baby seal.

If you were butchered through ignorance, you have my sympathy and pity, but please don't pretend you're morally superior and it was a good thing that happened.

It's butchery, it's superstitious barbarism, and it needs to be outlawed.

My DragonCon Schedule
Aug 23, 201412:43PM

Category: Writing

Title: OMG, Did He Actually Say That?
Time: Fri 02:30 pm Location: Chastain 1-2 - Westin (Length: 1)
Description: Tedd Roberts interviews author Michael Z. Williamson about writing, shooting, sharp pointy things, and more.

Title: The Cause of the Apocalypse
Time: Fri 10:00 pm Location: Chastain 1-2 - Westin (Length: 1)
Description: A discussion some of the different ways a mad scientist or disgruntled grad student (or medic) could bring about TEOTWAWKI.
(Tentative Panelists: Michael Z. Williamson, Cathe Smith, Philip Wohlrab, Tedd Roberts)

Title:  Autograph session
Time: Sat 12:00 noon Location: The Missing Volume, Exhibit Hall booths 328-330, America's Mart (Length: 1)

Title: Politics in Sci-fi
Time: Sat 05:30 pm Location: Regency V - Hyatt (Length: 1)
Description: How politics of today inform the writers of science fiction.(Tentative Panelists: Michael Z. Williamson, Lee Martindale, S. M. Stirling, John D. Ringo, Dr. Charles E. Gannon, Elizabeth Moon)

Title: Trigger Warning
Time: Sat 10:00 pm Location: Embassy A-B - Hyatt (Length: 1)
Description: Recent events have made some subjects taboo. This panel is not afraid to tackle those subjects.
Panelists: Tedd Roberts and Michael Z. Williamson

Title: The Real History of Science Fiction: Aliens
Time: Sun 10:00 am Location: Embassy A-B - Hyatt (Length: 1)
Description: The history of sci-fi includes robots, spaceships, and aliens. This discussion looks at aliens from a literary standpoint.
(Tentative Panelists: Michael Z. Williamson, Jaym Gates, Diane Hughes)

Title: Apocalyptic Fun: Inventive & Messy Ways of Killing
Time: Sun 07:00 pm Location: Chastain 1-2 - Westin (Length: 1)
Description: Explore the silly side of bringing about the Apocalypse and killing the undead.
(Tentative Panelists: Tedd Roberts, Michael Z. Williamson, David Harmer)

This doesn't include private events I'll be hosting or attending.  I'll have lots of cards with me with my contact info and booth location (45G is the revised and correct one).  Email or Twitter will be the best way to reach me--monitored by my senior assistant.  If it's time sensitive and I don't respond, ping me again.

So, Ted Beale, AKA Vox Day, self-proclaimed genius about everything, has this list of "Questions Atheists Can't Answer."

Either it's a complete troll and he knows better, or he's much less bright than he constantly purports to be.

Below are the questions, and I've provided answers from layman myself (M), a neuroscientist who is also a quite vocal Christian (NEURO), an entomologist whose religious affiliation I do not know (ENT), and a biologist who is an atheist (BIO).

Q1: How do creationists "pose a serious threat to society"?

M: as with any other mythology, they believe things that aren't real, and more importantly, desire to have their myths taught as science with the stated goal of displacing science. Should we also listen to crystal huggers, palm readers, astrologers and UFOers? Also, which creationism? Obviously, Ted and his ilk are hoping for a Christian world, and even state so. But Muslims are working on outnumbering Christians and have their own mythology, anathema to he and his type. With a precedent for teaching myth as science, we would have no ethical standing to stop their "education." And besides, Hindu creation is older, better supported and obviously the correct one. When he agrees to teach it as science, then we can talk.

Of course, since the US courts, composed of judges who are about 80% Christian, based on average demographics, have ruled Creationism is in fact a myth, not science, he can't even claim he's got majority opinion on his side, if the opinion of ignorant non-scientists mattered in this matter, which they do not.

BIO: The threat they pose is dragging us back to the Dark Ages. Most of them deny science in ways far more insidious than “merely” denying evolution. Most of them would happily deny evolution and even the existence of DNA … right up until they needed a paternity test. [This is not hyperbole. I worked with a group of people who did exactly this, until one of their number “had” to fight a paternity suit. He lost. There are reasons I loathed working there.] I’ve gotten to deal with the ones who, even as they work on computers as programmers insist that because “evolution doesn’t exist,” all of our knowledge about chemistry and physics is wrong as well.

NEURO: Response: Creationists pose the exact same threat to society that the IPCC and the AGW crowd does – implying that any scientific inquiry is "closed" and irrefutable. I will be writing an article this summer on "Why Science is Never Settled" in which I look at the historical precedents that the most *certain* scientific (or religious) "fact" is most often found to be wrong.

ENT: And has been mentioned previously, any group that tries to force or establish their dogma as the One True Dogma can be considered a threat to scientific exploration and discovery.

To quote Terry Pratchett, "People think that progress is made by everybody pulling in the same direction. They are wrong. Progress is made by everybody pulling in every direction at once". Trying to channel/fund science that only looks r agrees with the One True Dogma is not going to find as much as if the scientists had been allowed to explore and wander a bit.

Q2: There are an estimated 1,263,186 animal species and 326,175 plant species in the world. Assuming the age of the Earth is 4.54 billion years, what is the average rate of speciation?

M: I don't know whose ass he pulled that number out of, but it's both ludicrously precise and ridiculously low. If he's not even going to pose worthwhile questions or use cites, I don't see much point in responding, but here goes:

Asking the "average rate of speciation" is like asking "how deep is a hole?" The question is meaningless and irrelevant. Beale either knows this (Troll), or has not done his research in the subject to ask a rational question (not as bright as he'd like to hope to think we believe he is).

BIO: Average rates of speciation vary widely between types of creatures – animals, plants, bacteria, and viruses. It’s partly due to generational turn-over – the faster the organism reaches sexual maturity and reproduces (and generally dies) the faster mutation rates accumulate. That’s why there isn’t a single unified DNA “clock” between all organisms. Also, in plants? It’s a lot easier to speciate than it is in animals. Every time a plant’s germ cell fails to perform meiosis correctly, there’s a chance for speciation due to chromosome number changes, particularly in plants that are self-fertile. Bacteria and viruses have it even easier.

NEURO: Response: Average rate of speciation is, as Bio mentioned elsewhere, so variable as to make *this* question the equivalent of "How deep is a hole?" Bio's explanation works very well, and from what we are now learning about epigenetics, it doesn't take much isolation to generate new "sub-species." Keep in mind that the classical Linnaean definition of a species is ability (or lack) to interbreed. Thus all humans are single species (and subspecies are strictly defined by commonly inherited "phenotypes" or visible traits).

ENT: There is no "average rate of speciation". In fact, recent studies suggest that the entire idea of a "molecular clock" is unsupported by genetic evidence. The rate of change at the genetic level is not constant, there will be times of seeming stagnation, and times of rapid speciation.

Also, the number quoted for animals is pathetically low. Insects alone have 900,000 described species.

Which then brings up the headache inducing topic of what a species is.

The old definition of a species, where two individuals can mate and produce fertile offspring has somewhat fallen by the wayside with indications from genetic work that there can be two species that can mate and have fertile hybrids. This happens in plants all the time.

In animals, the difference in eastern and western coyotes is thought to come from eastern coyotes interbreeding with eastern wolf populations.

A Beefalo, a cross between a cow and an American Bison is fertile. And delicious.

Q3: How many mutations, on average, are required per speciation?

M: Again, "How deep is a hole?" This is an attempt to force a respondent to agree with the query. Definite game designer strategy. Unless it's complete ignorance.

BIO: There isn’t a set number of mutations that would trigger speciation, or even an “average.” Reproductive isolation is one of the major “hallmarks” of speciation, and even that threshold can be debatable. If a single gene mutated such that a fly reproduced either twice as fast or twice as long as others of its egg-mates, it has the opportunity to found a new species. It’d be a derivative species, and the first generations would be crosses with the primary species, but the resulting offspring who mated later (and later, and later) would be more likely to reproduce with each other, while the ones who reproduced sooner would generally reach sexual maturity at roughly the same time and breed with each other.

NEURO: Response: As above – it's not the number of mutations... unless that mutation results in the formation of additional/fewer chromosomes. But that's a "Whole' Nother Thang" that will take a lot more time to discuss than this single [comment].

ENT: Mutation is not the only way to speciate. Behaviour is one. Adaptation (via upregulation or down regulation as influence by environment) is another. So is geographic isolation.

And what type of mutations? SNPs? Gene duplication? Gene loss? Gene birth? Horizontal gene transfer?

To be honest, this question doesn't make a lot of sense to me.[It's not supposed to. It's supposed to sound cool for ignorati who want to think your confused look is some kind of moral score—Mike]

Q4: What scientifically significant predictive model relies primarily upon evolution by natural selection?

BIO: I’m afraid, to me, that question doesn’t make sense. Those who have academic experience may be better suited to answering it, because my response is “Er, evolution as we understand it today.” Evolution, by the way, is a description of a process we know exists. We just may not have all the answers and reasons about how/why it works the way it does. To make that assumption – when we clearly are still acquiring knowledge and information – would be a special kind of hubris. Say, the sort reserved for “climate scientists” and “politicians” (but I repeat myself).

We’ve also (recently) discovered that environmental stress can bring change to how the DNA-assisted protein expression works. In essence, the mutations build up “in the background” because they’re in noncritical areas. Environmental stress causes those parts of the DNA to be expressed, resulting in the potential for rapid, multi-variable mutation expression in just a single generation. The new generation’s members which survive to reproductive age set the stage for the potential speciation.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/12/121206142014.htm

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24337296 (HSP90 as a capacitor for loss of eyes in cavefish; 2013 Dec 13)

Article with a large number of linked/cited articles https://www.simonsfoundation.org/quanta/20140115-under-pressure-does-evolution-evolve/

NEURO: Response: Again, Bio has a great response regarding scientific theories, but I'll go one step further and state that *I* think the scientific model(s) most dependent on evolution and natural selection is the study of epidemiology and disease. There is clear evidence of rapid mutation and "selection" or viruses and bacteria. Human health is highly dependent on inherited traits. BTW, the only difference between natural selection and GMOs is that someone has manipulated the environment to speed up evolutionary process.

Minirant #1: Creationism is damaging to science and society, but Conservative Christians don't have a lock on the principle. Anti-GMO, anti-vaccination liberals are even *more* damaging because they are *directly* affecting human societal health. You can overcome Creationism in time with education. You just don't have *time* to overcome a previously eradicated childhood disease which resurges to kill millions.

ENT: As was mentioned by Neuro, humans and their diseases is an excellent example. The "sickle cell" mutation to help humans survive a malarial infection is one that comes to mind.

Q5: Which of the various human sub- species is the most evolved; i.e. modified by mutation and natural selection from the most recent common human ancestor? Which is the least evolved?

M: Define "evolved." There is no more or less. Andean natives are evolved to survive at altitudes that would kill Hawaiians. Tierre Del Fuegans can survive naked at temperatures that would kill Arabs, and vice versa.

If the question is a timeline one regarding modern humans, then I believe the San Bushmen are closest to our Paleolithic Cro-Magnon forebears, and blond Northern Europeans are the most recent of gross appearance genotypes. But, Northern Europeans incorporate Neanderthal DNA, Asians and Pacific peoples Denisovan DNA, and Sub Saharan Africans do not.

The answer to question as phrased (Because it's a really bad question) is, "Modern humans are the most evolved human species from our most recent ancestor." Denisovans, Neanderthals, and arguably Heidelbergensis and Habilis were all human. Neanderthals certainly displayed considerable behavioral modernity.

Really, is there some point to this? I recall some conspiracy nut trying to prove the existence of a banking conspiracy insisting, "Ask your mortgage holder to sign a statement that the bank doesn't use the same bookkeeping method as if they stole your house and sold it back to you." Naturally, he claimed that refusal to sign it proved his point, and naturally, no one with any brains in the finance sector is going to sign anything not written in legalese and vetted by the legal department.

This question is crap.

BIO: Snark answer: What, is someone needing their superiority complex fluffed up again?

Of the human subspecies we know about, we only have some DNA evidence. http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn24603-mystery-human-species-emerges-from-denisovan-genome.html#.UzvvTqzD9hE indicates we split off from the Denisovans and Neanderthals approximately 400 thousand years ago, and they split sometime after that. The Denisovans then appear to have interbred with an even more archaic population, picking up trace signals from that. Now it appears that some of the African hunter-gatherer groups (who have long been held to be the ‘purest’) interbred about 35 thousand years ago with a different archaic group, which split off from our lineage 700 thousand years ago. (Unfortunately, the papers involved seem to be paywalled, and I can’t get to them directly.) So, how can we even begin to suggest one group is more “evolved” than the other? We’re still figuring out about our own DNA, let alone any other archaic group’s.

NEURO: Response: The most recent common ancestors were omnivorous sub-tropical hunter-gatherers. Based on deviation from the likely *direct* lineage (Fertile Crescent and sub-Saharan Africa), that would make the Inuit and Scandinavians the most "evolved" – The environmental adaptations to cold, lack of sunlight, and a much more heavily carnivorous diet are the most obvious adaptations, but remember, so much of that "selection" and "evolution" is Lamarckian theory which is largely discarded (and I say "largely" instead of "entirely" only because of recent evidence that epigenetic changes can be inherited). In point of fact, the sedentary, obese, urban metrosexual cubicle dweller is the most divergent from human evolutionary paths.

ENT: Again, as mentioned it would be those human populations that have been relatively isolated and become adapted to their environments.

Also, "sub-species"? No one in taxonomy, biogeography, etc., uses that term anymore. It's archaic.

"Which is the least evolved?"

I am assuming that this poorly worded question is asking which of the human populations could be considered the most robust and least modified. The answer is typically the populations from sub-Saharan Africa. As more people get their genome sequenced, this answer may become more precise.

6: Is the theory of evolution by natural selection strengthened or weakened by the claim that most DNA is devoid of purpose?

M: The existence of said DNA has no effect on the theory. Only the utilization of it in mutations would have an effect. IIRC, it was initially understood to be random leftovers, but quickly determined to be a pool of available material to utilize as needed, sort of a garage full of "junk" that includes a motorcycle, tools, cleaning solvent, blowtorches and springs. It's junk when you live in the suburbs with a healthy income. When civilization collapses, it suddenly becomes worth more than gold.

Seriously, when was the last time this guy read a basic science book? 8th grade?

BIO: It’s a claim that DNA has “junk” space in it. Some of it does not appear to code for genes – as far as we can tell. However, see above for the previously-suppressed mutations being expressed under environmental stress. From what we can tell, parts of the DNA that previously seemed to be “junk” may in fact be coding protein structure not just protein molecules.

See: http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/250006.php Quote: “A staggering batch of over 30 papers published in Nature, Science, and other journals this month, firmly rejects the idea that, apart from the 1% of the human genome that codes for proteins, most of our DNA is "junk" that has accumulated over time like some evolutionary flotsam and jetsam.

The papers, representing 10 years of work of the ENCODE ("Encyclopedia of DNA Elements") project, completed by hundreds of scientists from dozens of labs around the world, reveal that 80% of the human genome serves some purpose and is biochemically active, for example, in regulating the expression of genes situated nearby.”

So, based on our most recent and available research, that is a debunked claim (and as far as I know, it was always debated that we just didn’t know the purposes yet). It is meaningless for “strengthening or weakening” the theory of evolution. However, because at least 80% of DNA has some functional ability (and perhaps more), I’d say that means evolutionary theory is pretty robust. If we kept ALL archaic DNA that ever showed up in the genome, the percentage of active processing would be far lower. That’d mean at least most of those viral remnants have been kept … because they were useful.

NEURO: Counter question: Well, is the astronomical theory of a heliocentric solar system strengthened or weakened by the fact that Pluto is not a planet or that the Moon should be?

Response: Frankly, this is a diversion – first it isn't true that most DNA is devoid of purpose. Think of it as not just a computer program, but a complete Operating System, including boot sequence, interrupt vectors and machine-code subroutines. True, a *lot* of DNA is legacy code, but a lot is also structural. In order to "curl" and compact the DNA strands into the structure we call "chromosomes", there have to be specific molecular structures at specific distances along the strand. Hence there are specific structural components and spacing to form the 3-D structure. There's also instructional code necessary for growth and development (analogous to the boot-up sequence) which guides development, then shuts off. There's "subroutines" for immune functions which are only needed to create the specific immune reaction to a disease, there's duplicates of code utilized to repair random errors, there's stop and start codes for transcriptions. Frankly, like any good programming language, there's structural elements that do nothing more than to establish sequence and timing. We now know that there's a lot of old viral code stored in our DNA, it *had* a function at one time, but like MicroSoft, our DNA never throws out legacy code no matter how out of date – after all, our bodies still (mostly) have an appendix, tonsils and redundant gonads.

I'll close this with...

Minirant #2: Actually – new-age mysticism, "crystal power", Occupy Wall Street, the various forms of environmental luddites, Greenies, people who distrust 'materialist science', race-baiters, Dept. of Education bureaucrats, IPCC, and antivaxxers are THE NUMBER ONE threat to scientific progress. Considering that prior to the 20th century, "scientists" were quite often monks doing isolated work on their own, religion doesn't come anywhere close. Yes, there are abuses today, but frankly, it's largely an excuse and a diversion from the *real* problem.

ENT: Introns are not devoid of purpose.

The 'Junk DNA' seems to have a number of semi-dismantled viruses that are kept around. Some bits seem to be duplicated genes that act as an open lab for evolution to tinker with without having deleterious effects. Other parts could be genes that we've lost the promoter regions to, so they aren't turned on (expressed).

~~~~

Beale admits he couldn’t do the college math for real science, yet arrogates to himself the authority to tell real scientists he knows more than they, because God.

He might want to try pot instead. He'll come up with more rational questions.

These questions are akin to the ones 2nd Amendment activists get regarding, "But 'well-regulated!'" and "assault weapons of mass murder!" and other emotion-begging crap that has no support, but sounds impressive.

Beale is a decent musician (he co-founded Psykosonik), probably a decent game designer (I don't play most games), but as a scientist, he's a pretty good musician and game designer.

I'm going to assume he's just trolling and knows better. If so, he makes a valid point that your typical layperson really doesn't understand science.

On the other hand, he also seems to be stuck in a religious perspective that "science" is like a church and is concerned with comfort and safety and keeping out the infidel. Certainly there are people practicing science who act that way—human beings are flawed. But in contemporary vernacular, the battle cry of a scientist is supposed to be, "CHALLENGE ACCEPTED!" to disprove everything put into the arena. Only that which survives battle is accepted into the category of knowledge known as "theory," which includes thermodynamics, evolution, and gravity.

Using an example where I agree with his statements but for rational, rather than emotional reasons, look at the climate science pages on Wikipedia, then look at the geology pages regarding the future of the Earth. The geologists, thinking in much longer time spans, generally regard the climate scientists as gadflies. There's money in climate science for political ends, as there is in ag science (both ways in each). What there isn't money in is human origin (or geology, unless it's for mineral development, that cursed capitalism). Sure, you can choose to believe in some huge Satanic conspiracy to destroy Christianity, but organized religion seems to be doing the job itself just fine.

But given that Beale's blog has people who believe in mystical crop circles, 9-11 conspiracies, magical auras, and…aw, hell, here's a quote from a few days ago, challenging my "belief" in evolution:

~~~

PhillipGeorge(c)2014 August 13, 2014 8:20 AM

Michael Z. Williamson: just run the abiogenesis experiments and get back to us. Or statistically refute Rupert Sheldrake's morphic fields. Or in the middle of the night without assistance or detection make a crop circle - of the complexity and beauty of those actually occurring in the real world - or neurologically explain memory, etc etc etc. It actually isn't going to happen.

because, well, mantra me well, scientist.

~~~

I'm sure it feels great to lord intellect over a crowd like that, but it really doesn't take much.

If Beale wants a debate with actual scientists, however, I can arrange it. He obviously hasn't so far. I would speculate that bluster aside, he's terrified that his mythological beliefs are rapidly becoming so quaint they compare to Just So stories and the moon myths of coastal East Africans.

Or he could just be a troll.

I see no indication of any supergenius level intellect, merely an attempt to throw crap against a wall and see what sticks.

Glad we could bring a pressure washer.

In counter, I'd like an answer to the following questions:

The Bible clearly states pi = 3, that rabbits chew a cud, that bats are birds and whales are fish, locusts walk on four legs, and heaven is held up by four pillars and has storehouses of hailstones.

Are these metaphorical or literal statements?

If literal, the Bible is a load of crap from a scientific perspective. If metaphorical, isn't it apparent the entire document is intended to be a guiding principle, not an astrophysics text?

Where in the Bible is DNA mentioned and defined?

Why is the Christian variation of the Jewish creation myth, derived from the Mesopotamian and Zoroastrian creation myths worthy of note as "science"? Why isn't the much more supportable Hindu creation myth preferred?

Misha Collins Scavenger Hunt
Aug 07, 201407:07PM

Category: Writing

I'm here at Pennsic, and this young lady stops by the booth. She says that Misha Collins is organizing a scavenger hunt for fans. One of the items is to have a published science fiction author write a 140 word vignette mentioning Misha Collins, the Queen of England, and an animal that is half elephant and half octopus.

Challenge Accepted!

Here it is, for Medieval Megan:


So, no shit, there I was, thought I was gonna die. I was sitting in the Europa Hotel in Blastfell, excuse me, Belfast.

In comes the Queen of England with her entourage and guards, accompanying some bizarre creature that looked to be half octopus (the top half) and half elephant (the bottom half), and let me tell you, I've seen smaller barstools. He said his name was Misha, but he had a Swedish accent. So, anyway, Queen Liz orders a Tom Collins and Misha the squid boy offers up a toast to Cthulu.

I'm guessing that was a mistake. Next thing, the whole place erupts in hypergolic violence. A flaming penguin arced through the air and impaled a beaver. Really. I got literally peppered with spare punctuation marks. (Sorry.)

Dead serious. I stayed completely sober and the bar got bombed.

 


Feedback to Inevitable comment
Jun 20, 201408:58PM

Category: Politics

Denise Beucler ‏@dmbeucler 4h @scalzi @mzmadmike I'd really love to go a day without men telling me how not to get raped. Details Reply Retweet Favorite

 

I'd really love to go a day without being assumed to be some sort of predatory monster, based on my gender.

I'd really love to go a day without my informed opinion being dismissed because of my gender. 

I'd really love to go a day where facts weren't presumed to have a gender.

I'd really love to go a day where it wasn't assumed that the collators of said facts were entirely male.

I'd really love to go a day without some female chicksplaining to me how I'm wrong, regardless of my training and experience.

I'd really love to go a day where as a male survivor of sexual assault, I wasn’t assumed to be irrelevant to the discussion.

 

So I guess we're both disappointed.

Rape
Jun 20, 201401:48AM

Category: Politics

If you don't believe most people regard rape as abhorrent and vile, don't bother reading further. Subjectivity and objectivity are awkward partners.

 

If you disagree with others on strategies for fighting rape, then we can have a discussion.  We probably should, because people seem to be talking past each other. I've largely stayed out of this, but as of late there are a lot of people with unsupportable concepts that don't rise to the level of hypothesis, much less theory, telling women what the world should do for them to end rape.

 

There are several strategies one should use for dealing with any crime or encroachment.  We'll break this down into PREVENTION, AVOIDANCE and REACTION.

 

PREVENTION:

 

This is a long term strategy to reduce the incidents of attack.

 

Now, it's perfectly valid, and useful, to educate young men as to what constitutes rape.  Yes, getting a woman drunk and taking advantage of her is rape.  Manipulation can be rape.  If you don't have consent, it's rape.  These are problems that have always existed, and were exacerbated in recent decades due to several factors—young adults 18-21 not being able to socialize with adults around alcohol, lack of chaperonage for those learning how to be adults, failures in both parenting and education.

 

We can greatly reduce the existence of these type of rape by ensuring otherwise clueless and unfeeling people get a clue and comprehension.  Especially as you can look back to a number of movies and other media portrayal where exploiting drunk women is seen as humor.

 

Deliberate intoxication reaches another level of intent.

 

Since I can speak as a man who's been sexually assaulted after a doctored drink, it's not amusing.  It's disorienting and terrifying, especially when you realize you're too incapacitated to drive away from the event (after dealing with the attack).

 

This level of intent reaches that where there is an active, hostile threat with violence. There's no moral difference between doping someone's drinks and punching them unconscious.  Only the method is different.

 

No amount of education is going to stop this person because they are a sociopath. They know what they are doing, are doing it with intent, and don't care what society thinks. At this point, "teach men not to rape" breaks down.  You might as well teach rabid dogs not to bite, or arsonists not to start fires.  It's what they do.

 

The arson one is a very useful comparison.  We can teach kids not to play with matches in a flammable environment, educate them as to the impact. We can't teach an obsessed sociopath not to torch things.

 

Getting upset over this reality (as some have) is of no help to the problem, and can, in fact exacerbate it despite good intentions.

 

If you wish to say "X (doesn't) work as a tactic," then you need to have supporting evidence in the form of statistics, experimentation and supporting documentation.

 

Sociopaths exist, and must be treated as such.

 

AVOIDANCE:

 

In a perfect world, one would be able to walk naked to the park, carrying a roll of $100s and gold coins, nap under a tree, legs spread, and wake up, body and property unmolested.

 

I'm going to tell you a disturbing truth:  We don't live in a perfect world.

 

I'm a (Despite health issues) reasonably large, fit, adult male with some training and experience in violence.  I'm generally armed. There are still places I don't go, because it would be unsafe. I use locks as needed, take friends if necessary and possible, and on a few occasions, have in fact drawn a weapon to emphasize my desire to be left alone.

 

It would delight me no end for that world not to exist.  But I'm not going to stick my head in the gutter and imagine that a couple of platitudes are ever going to change anything.

 

Planning to avoid attack is not "blaming the victim."  If someone gets attacked, it is the attacker's fault, the. Fucking. End. The attacker is the agent.

 

We tell kids to watch for cars, even though drivers are responsible for yielding to pedestrians. We tell cyclists and motorcyclists this, too.  A friend of mine died when an SUV knocked his bike under a semi. It wasn't his fault for "not being aware."  We keep fire extinguishers (well, some of us, the smart ones, do).  We recommend not riding bikes down stair railings.

 

Maximizing one's odds is maximizing one's odds. Nothing more, nothing less.  Knowing a threat exists, it is a good idea to try to avoid it. This doesn't mean cowering in fear. It's not an admission of defeat.  It's a tactical decision.  In a perfect world, it wouldn't be necessary. But remember that dark secret? This isn't a perfect world.

 

And if you get attacked by an agent, that agent is responsible for the attack. Not you.

 

Demanding that the world change so victims are never victimized is fruitless and unproductive. It's never going to happen.  It's also ENABLING THE AGGRESSOR.

 

REACTION:

 

First, some cited facts.  Now, this is not to say there are no other facts that can be cited.  I'm making my case.  I'm making it with facts, not emotion.  I'll be happy to discuss other facts found and supported, but am uninterested in hopeful belief without knowledge—we call that religion, and it's not scientific.

 

Peer reviewed, and deemed especially valid, as Drs Wright and Rossi were opposed to gun ownership and use, but concluded their positions were not supportable by fact.  Conclusion:  Guns are very effective as a means of self defense:

 

http://www.leg.state.co.us/clics/clics2012a/commsumm.nsf/b4a3962433b52fa787256e5f00670a71/10498c3a3264be7887257998006fe0d7/$FILE/HseJud0202AttachN.pdf

 

Florida State University criminologist, Gary Kleck, analyzed data from the Department of Justice's National Crime Victimization Survey (1992-1998 ). Describing his findings on defensive gun use, in Armed: New Perspectives on Gun Control, New York: Prometheus Books (2001), Kleck writes:

"In general, self-protection measures of all types are effective, in the sense of reducing the risk of property loss in robberies and confrontational burglaries, compared to doing nothing or cooperating with the offender. The most effective form of self-protection is use of a gun. For robbery the self-protection meaures with the lowest loss rates were among victims attacking the offender with a gun, and victims threatenting the offender with a gun. For confrontational burglarly, attacking with a gun had the second lowest loss rate of sixteen self-protection measures, bested only by another mode of armed self-protection, threatening the offender with a nongun weapon." (p. 291):

 

http://www.guncite.com/gun_control_gcdgeff.html

 

Easy chart here:

 

http://www.guncite.com/gun_control_gcdgeff_table7.html

 

Study:  Violence most effective means of preventing rape: http://sds.hss.cmu.edu/risk/articles/JudgedEffectRape.pdf

 

National Institute of Justice study:

Most self-protective actions significantly reduce the risk that a rape will be completed. In particular, certain actions reduce the risk of rape more than 80 percent compared to nonresistance. The most effective actions, according to victims, are attacking or struggling against their attacker, running away, and verbally warning the attacker.  

In assaults against women, most self-protective tactics reduced the risk of injury compared to nonresistance. According to the researchers, the only self-protective tactics that appear to increase the risk of injury significantly were those that are ambiguous and not forceful. These included stalling, cooperating and screaming from pain or fear.

 

http://www.nij.gov/topics/crime/rape-sexual-violence/campus/Pages/decrease-risk.aspx

 

One study correlated the victim’s success in avoiding rape during an attack with the methods she used to resist:

 

- Victims crying or pleading were raped 96% of the time

- Victims who loudly screamed were raped between 44% and 50% of the time

- Victims who ran were raped 15% of the time

- Victims who forcefully resisted (without a weapon) were raped 14% of the time

- Women who resisted with knives or guns were raped less than 1% of the time

http://medind.nic.in/jal/t07/i4/jalt07i4p99.pdf

 

- See more at: http://www.activeresponsetraining.net/resistance-to-violent-crime-what-does-the-research-show 

https://www.ncjrs.gov/App/publications/Abstract.aspx?id=124969

 

Victims who resisted were less likely to have the rape completed against them than were those who did not resist and not significantly more likely to be injured. Resistance with a gun, knife, or other weapon was most effective in preventing completion; unarmed forceful resistance, threatening, and arguing were least effective, but generally did not provoke rapists to inflict injury.

 

~~

So, there are very good, very strong, very supportable arguments to be made that violence is the most effective response to certain types of rape.

 

It's less effective for date rape, rape involving drugs, marital rape.  It's most effective against direct physical attack, which may or may not be part of the above.

 

If an attack happens, a response results on the part of the subject.  Doing nothing doesn't stop the attack from happening.  This is not "enabling."  It is, however, ineffective at stopping the attack.

 

Fighting tactics have developed over thousands of years, and the successful ones persist.  Reaction to an attack can take several forms.  One can flee.  One can hold ground.  One can counterattack. 

 

If fleeing is an option, it's often the best choice. One engages the enemy on ground of one's choosing, when possible.  There is no shame, no foul, no moral lack in refusing to give the enemy what he wants.  Run, if possible.

 

Of course, for people with limited mobility (or small children in tow), running may not be possible, and a great many activists forget their able privilege.

 

Holding ground is usually not advisable in this context, because it's usually not feasible. Holding ground is best done with equal force, and attackers tend to seek those smaller and weaker for that reason.  However, if workable, it's an option. Apply force to the attacker at once.  Don't wait for an attack—the attack is already in progress.

 

When outmassed, Sun Tzu advises, "On deadly ground, fight."  If you cannot run, and cannot match, then the choices are to surrender to the attack, or fight a last ditch battle. This 3000 year old advice is still taught, because in extremis, it is usually the only response that MIGHT succeed.  When ambushed, counterattack, fast, viciously, and with no remorse.  Attempt to tear a hole through the attacker using any weapon at hand.

 

Now, here's the part that all these "experts" who don’t actually know how to fight want to pretend doesn't exist:  The cites above prove single most effective means of fighting an attacker is a firearm.  Thousands of tabulated crime reports through the Department of Justice bear this out.  There's no "interpretation."  Attacks committed, attacks successfully defended against, guns are the most effective means.  End.  The cites above are based on years of tabulating actual events.  Violence works, and guns are a device that doesn’t rely on the physical strength of the user.

 

Obviously, odds are better with more training.  But guns don't rely on strength, only on mindset.  If your attacker can literally pick you off the ground, throw you into a wall, and proceed to violate your unconscious person, no unarmed method is going to matter.  There's a reason martial arts have gender and weight classes, and go in small increments--10 lbs or so.  That difference in mass matters. A lot.   

 

It's true that armed force might not matter, either.  But it is has been proven tremendously more effective.

 

Right now, those who don't understand this field are bleating the myth of the gun "Being taken away from you."

 

Please provide a cite on this happening. I'm not going to say it's never happened, but it's a vanishingly rare occurrence. And, even if it were true, if the proven most effective means of defense could be bypassed so easily, then no means of less effect would be of any value at all.

 

In which case, YOU are advocating, "Shut up and take it, bitch."

 

Which IS enabling the aggressor.

 

The solution to violence is almost always more violence, escalated to the point where the attacker decides to disengage.  This is how wars are won, how battles are won, how fights are won, how business competitions are won. When the aggressor finds the payoff to be worth less than the effort engaged, the behavior stops.

 

Is that the world you want to live in?  Trick question. That IS the world you live in.  Pretending otherwise won't change it. 

 

In fact, you engage in that behavior yourself.

 

If you call the police after a crime, they show up to apprehend the perpetrator. If the perpetrator resists, force will be applied by hand, stick, pepper spray, taser, gunfire, until the perpetrator accompanies the officers or dies in the struggle.

 

Congratulations. You have committed violence by proxy, by mercenary, if you will.  You have paid (via tax dollars) someone to do violence on your behalf.

 

There's no moral lack in hiring experts when possible.  There are advantages in that they have training, equipment and neutrality (though that can also work against the victim.  The proxy has less capital invested or to lose).

 

But, morally, if you will hire an expert to commit violence on your behalf, you should have no qualms against committing it yourself. If you will refuse to do so, demanding others do it for you, you have surrendered your independence and made yourself a ward and…dependent. And a hypocrite.

 

The other problem with that is that your minders can't be everywhere, unless you're really rich and hire your own.

 

Engaging in force doesn't demean you or make you a victim.  It expresses your intent more strongly than words alone.

 

Not expressing intent doesn't make you a victim.  You were already a victim.  It means you express no intent, and the attack will be concluded in the aggressor's favor.  Neutral is only (sometimes) effective for a non-participant.  Once you are attacked, you are a participant.

 

Once attacked, you have the right, per 3000 years of common law, to use force against your attacker, deadly force if necessary.  You can choose not to.  There are times when defeat is inevitable, and survival is all one can hope for. This has to be judged on a case by case basis, in the midst of an attack.  It's entirely possible to not choose the best answer under duress, and this is not a fault of the victim. Agency is with the aggressor, always.

 

You also have a duty, if you are able, to defeat or hinder the attacker.  The next victim may not be able to.  You owe it to them to put up the best fight possible, to deter future attacks—we come back around to prevention.

 

There's no moral failure in being unable to. That would constitute blaming the victim (A previous victim, even).  If you can't, you can't.

 

But, while no one can tell you what you should do, it's dishonest to tell others what they shouldn't do, unless there are supportable, documentable arguments for a particular response.

 

"Do nothing and wait for change" is not an effective response.  Worse, it can have negative effect. While you're "educating" rapists not to rape (And murderers not to murder, arsonists not to arson, muggers not to muggle), you are not putting resources into Avoidance or Reaction processes.  There comes a point where you have to realize you've maximized effect in one area, and move resources to others.

 

Men and women should be taught what rape is, and to not engage in behavior that enables it, or conducts it.  Consent is necessary. Without consent, it's rape.

 

Conversely, as I've said and will say again in blunt language:  Violence isn't always feasible, effective or desirable.  "Just shoot him" only works for certain types of attack.

 

And again, these are not exclusive responses.  All of them are good ideas. No one should be attacked for implementing one or more, and none of them constitute "endorsement" of the aggressor.

 

Fighting amongst ourselves doesn't help anyone.

 

Addendum:

 

In the interest of fairness, I'm linking to a post by John Scalzi, who quotes someone who claims to have been a USMC firearms instructor during part of his four year tour.  I'm not entirely convinced of the former sergeant's expertise, because he repeats a lot of untruths and straw men that Scalzi, whose degree, IIRC, is in the philosophy of language (corrected) agrees with, obviously without credentials.

 

But, it's always possible to find someone of some stripe to agree with one's preconceptions.

 

I'll note that those preconceptions are thoroughly smashed by the numerous, peer-reviewed studies of actual incidents above, and hundreds of other anecdotes of people actually successfully using guns in self defense, hundreds of times a day (even The Brady Campaign concedes the number might be at least 100). So to claim that this doesn't actually happen is, frankly, silly.  There are much better arguments he could make. 

 

I urge everyone to be wary whenever anyone argues, "You can't possibly be good enough to defend yourself," especially when the military teaches 18 year olds to do just that, every day of the week.

 

If Scalzi is actually interested in protecting women, I hope he'll link back to this so readers can find a dissenting view to compare, contrast and decide for themselves.  Because in my opinion, what HE is doing is disempowering women, creating victims, and promoting rape and rape culture.

 

Of course, I don’t have a degree in philosophy of language, just decades of real experience with the tools of violence, consults to various clients including the US military, and links to actual studies. 

 

http://whatever.scalzi.com/2014/06/19/a-former-marine-corps-weapons-instructor-on-the-desirability-of-guns-for-self-defense/

 

ADDED

 

Some select comments from Scalzi's twitter discussion, and my responses:

 

Denise Beucler ‏@dmbeucler  4h
@scalzi @mzmadmike I'd really love to go a day without men telling me how not to get raped.
Details  Reply  Retweet  Favorite   More

Invalid comment. Does not add to debate. Men get raped, too.  Including me.
Sexist comment. Pre-empts input from researchers and experts based on their gender.
 
 
Atlee Breland ‏@atleebreland  3h
@scalzi @mzmadmike What all of these articles seem to miss is that "Don't rape" is less about teaching rapists than teaching society.

I covered that exactly in the first part of the post.
 
 

Atlee Breland ‏@atleebreland  3h
@scalzi @mzmadmike Also, I checked sources for "1% knife/gun". Too few victims used weapon for valid stats: Table 1,
https://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/nij/grants/211201.pdf …
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 Atlee Breland ‏@atleebreland  3h
@scalzi @mzmadmike Likely bc logistics of stranger rapes make it v hard to access/use gun. Can't get it out of purse/aim if you get grabbed.

Easy enough with practice, and few > 0.
 
 
John Kelly ‏@netsinger  5m
@scalzi @mzmadmike True we need not choose between "protect yourself, woman" and "don't rape, man": both are valid. But ...

But?  I covered that.
 

Jed A. Blue ‏@Froborr 5h
@scalzi @mzmadmike The biggest point he is ignoring is that by buying a gun you are arming the person statistically most likely to shoot you
Details Reply Retweet Favorite More

 

Wrong. Completely disproven myth.  BTW, what are your credentials? Instructor? Researcher? Or did you read something on the internet?

Fighting a Truck Fire
Jun 06, 201401:04AM

Category: General

 

Yesterday, my daughter and I were alongside a semi that started smoking. The driver pulled off the road onto the shoulder, and as we drove past in traffic, we saw the smoke get heavier.

 

I pulled off to the side and dug for our fire extinguisher. It's supposed to be under the passenger seat or the dead space next to it. This is not my usual vehicle—my van has a large extinguisher under the passenger seat.  I couldn't find one in this car, and about that time, flames started coming out of the tractor's headlight.  I checked the rear hatch of our vehicle, which has cargo straps, saws, machetes, tools, prybars, but no extinguisher.

 

The driver was on the phone to 911, and apparently, another passerby sprinted across 6 lanes of US31 and a block down to the fire station.

 

I improvised with several bottles of water from the flat we keep in back, managing to kill some of the flames on the lamp assembly, tire and fender.  A passenger in another vehicle handed my daughter several more bottles as they drove by. She kept bringing me bottles, I kept squirting them in.

 

Flames under the hood kept spreading back to the surface, and it finally occurred to me I should be using the awl on my multitool to punch the caps so I could spray a stream. This was more effective.  Flames flared up, I got them knocked down.  I put out the tire, the fender and the headlight, which cracked and burst.  I started spraying under the grill.

 

I was having some success, but it wasn't going to be enough.  I could hear sirens.

 

In the parking lot behind me, someone screamed for me to get back.  Why? The fire was nowhere near the fuel tank, tanks almost never explode, and diesel is less reactive than gasoline. I was safe enough.  But that's the effect of too many movies on people's thought processes.

 

Someone else started directing traffic into the other lanes.

 

Under the hood, the fire flared up, while the driver tried to reach his extinguisher, which was locked in an outside compartment.  His keys had remained in the ignition, and he'd left them as he vacated, which was the right thing to do at the time.

 

Two police cars rolled up and blocked traffic.

 

The flames rolled out behind the hood, and there wasn't much more I could do. The fire truck was crossing the highway, and the cops had traffic under control.  One of them pointed at me and the road, I thumbed up and we climbed back in and drove off.

 

It was 30 seconds later I realized something, opened the console, and found the extinguisher in its fitted compartment within.  It wasn't my usual vehicle, so I hadn't instinctively known where it was, and I hadn't remembered.  Would the extinguisher have been enough?  Maybe, though with flames under the hood it might not have mattered if I couldn’t reach them.  I'd definitely slowed the fire down, which counted for something.

 

On our way back a half hour later, I stopped to talk to the driver.  The engine compartment was burned, and the front body gone. The cab was largely undamaged. The rest of the truck was fine.  It looked repairable, since it didn't seem to have suffered any structural damage.

 

I'm very irritated that I didn't remember where the extinguisher was, and that I'd forgotten the trick of making a spray bottle by punching a hole.  I've done that before, but not recently.  We responded, and were helpful (no one else stopped for several minutes, and no one else had an extinguisher), but were not optimal in our efficiency.

 

From this I learned to have more drills with our own vehicles.  Skills are perishable and must be practiced.

 

I use old extinguishers with low charges to practice on burning brush.  I need to add response drills in each vehicle to the drills we do in the house.  That $10 extinguisher would have made a difference, if used as well.

 

For Memorial Day
May 25, 201411:02PM

Category: General

My grandparents, as told by my mother:

My father, Ernest F. Stephens (always called "Steve") was born in London, January 1909, the son of a Welsh coal-miner turned construction worker and an Irish farm girl who went to London and worked as a domestic servant in an upper-class household. Dad was the youngest of seven children (4 girls, 3 boys, in that order.) He completed high school at 14 but college or university was not available to him so he joined what was then the Royal Flying Corps intent on improving himself. (1923) He became what was called an "aircraft fitter" which was in essence a mechanic, and learned to fly in a Sopwith Camel. In 1928 he considered returning to civilian life but the depression had started and his father, brothers and brothers-in-law were all unemployed, so he re-enlisted and was promptly posted to the Middle East and bounced around that area from station to station for several years, during which time he learned Arabic and Farsi as well as French, and learned as much as he could about the history and culture of Persia (now Iran) Iraq, Lebanon, Syria and the Holy Land. He even read the Quran. He also went India returning to England in 1935. By then he was a sergeant in what was now called the Royal Air Force. The same year he met my mother and they married in February 1936.

My mother's name was Dorothy May Maidlow, although she was always called Shirley by her siblings, and her parents were refugees from Europe (German father, French mother) who came to England in 1915. My mother was actually born in Lugano, Switzerland, (May 1915) as her parents were on their way out of Europe. She was also the youngest child of her family, the 13th. Her father died when she was only eight and her mother when she was 15, so she went to live with one of her older sisters who was married. She had no formal education beyond high school but was very bright and a fine pianist and water-colour artist. When she married my father she did what was considered normal at the time and became a full-time homemaker. Told that she could have no children, in 1937 she and my father adopted my older brother, (also nicknamed Steve when he joined the Royal Navy at the age of 15).

In 1938 when Nazism was making life very difficult for German Jews, my parents fostered half a dozen Jewish refugee children who had been separated from their parents. (Luckily, in the end, all were reunited) When WW2 began in 1939, my brother was one of thousands of children from Britain's main cities who were sent to live in Wales to keep them safe from expected air-raids. (As it turned out, he was cared for by a family who spoke no English so when he returned home he spoke only Welsh and had to learn English all over again.)

At the time the war began, only officers could become RAF pilots, and to be an officer you had to have a university education and/or come from the moneyed classes. However, due to the shortage of skilled pilots, it was decided that sergeants could be trained and put into action. Thus my father became one of "The Few", the pilots who fought the battle of Britain in 1940, who beat the much larger, more experienced Luftwaffe. At this time, my mother joined the Women's Royal Air Corps in what was basically a secretarial position, but due to her above average intelligence she was recruited to work at Bletchley Park where she became one of the "girls" who eventually broke the Enigma code, along with other codes in use by the Germans.

After the Battle of Britain, my father was posted to a number of bases both at home and abroad, where he worked in his capacity as an aircraft mechanic but also took advanced courses that qualified him as an aeronautical engineer. While stationed in Gibraltar he was in charge of cannibalizing the remains of 250 aircraft that were damaged in the North African campaign - he built 50 complete airplanes from the pieces and parts. He was also stationed briefly in Malta, which was horribly bombarded by the Germans, in Libya and Egypt, and in 1941 he was sent back to Persia where he witnessed the coronation of the Shah of Iran. He was sent to Italy (Sicily) in 1943. There, he learned Italian and in 1944 he was on the Italian mainland when Vesuvius erupted and he also visited Pompeii and Rome.

In my father's absence my mother continued her work at Bletchley, and then (I'm not sure of the date) got my brother back from Wales. In 1943 she returned from work one day to find her house (and the entire block on which it had stood) destroyed in an air-raid. The only surviving item was a souvenir cup from 1911 commemorating the Coronation of King George V and Queen Mary which had belonged to her mother and is now in my possession. (It's a little chipped and scratched) In 1944 my mother lost another house to a V-1 rocket, while she and my brother were actually in it! She and my brother took shelter under the stairway, curled up tightly, and survived, only slightly injured, to find that the stairway was the only part of the house left standing.

In 1944 my father went to work with the French Resistance in Occupied France, a period which he did not discuss with us. The only story I heard was that he was responsible for the discovery of a German spy, posing as a member of the Maquis but felt rather badly because the young man was only 19 and was later executed.

At the end of WW2, the Royal Air Force decided to allow non-commissioned officers to go through a training programme that would allow them to become officers. My father was in the very first group chosen, and became a Flying Officer in 1946, about eighteen months before I was born in October 1947. My earliest recollections are from when I was about three, when we lived on an RAF station on Thorny Island, off the coast of Hampshire (Southern England) It was part of Coastal Command. They used seaplanes for patrolling the coast and I remember sitting on my father's lap and flying above the chalk cliffs. Since that day I've always loved aerial views of the land. In 1952, shortly after the birth of my youngest brother, my father returned from a posting in Bulawayo (now Zimbabwe, Africa) which was then part of the British Empire, with the news that the whole family was going be able to go and live there for the duration of his posting.

After we returned to England my father was appointed as the Commanding Officer of an RAF station near Liverpool, Northwest England, which was his last posting. He retired after 38 years of service. His experiences in the Middle East and Italy gave him an interest in archaeology and ancient history. He also loved gardening and until we went to live near Liverpool, he and my mother grew all the vegetables and much of the fruit that the family consumed. A couple of times a year, my father would travel to London for a meeting, and usually he took me with him. We would stay with his oldest sister and her family, and I got to see all the great sights of London, and then on the Monday we would go to a building in Whitehall, where I would sit in the lobby and read until his meeting was over. I was never told what transpired at these meetings - he just said it was related to his service in the RAF. When I was in my thirties, while visiting my parents in England, I saw a documentary on the BBC about Britain's MI5 and MI6 - and recognized the lobby where I used to wait for my Dad! Even then, my father told me nothing, other than to agree that I was right about that being the place!

For his service in the RAF my father was awarded the WW2 Service Medal, The Distinguished Service Order, (for his work in Gibraltar) The Africa Star, The Italy Star, The Long Service and Good Conduct Medal and the 1939-45 Star. My mother won the WW2 Service Medal and the 1939-45 Star.

My father passed away 12 April 1992 at the age of 84, my mother on 19 October 1995, aged 81. Had she lived a few weeks longer she would have been able to tell me the details of what she did at Bletchley and what my father did for Military Intelligence, but, having signed the Official Secrets Act she was sworn to secrecy until 31 December 1995 - and she took her oath very seriously.

I am immensely proud of both my parents. And I remember telling my father that I thought he was a remarkable person, to which he replied that he was not remarkable, that he was an ordinary man who had had a remarkable life.

Archon and Racism
May 22, 201411:39AM

Category: General

I'm going to preface this by saying I DO NOT blame Archon's concom (yet).  They got handed a bag of feces and really don't have any options.

It started when Tim "Uncle Timmy" Bolgeo was invited as Fan Guest of Honor.

Some anonymous (of course) hero read through his newsletter The Revenge of Hump Day to find a racist comment, out of context, copied and pasted from another source.  Apparently, said crusader wasn't bright enough to realize that the phrase "tacky alert" is the intellectual and non-pussy little bitch version of "trigger warning." (Oh, did I offend you?  That's nice. Fuck off, pussy.)

So, it was a race-oriented joke in poor taste.  What kind of monster does that?

Other than every comedian in the country and half the internet?

"ZOMG!  What would happen if the press found out we invited A RACIST!!! To our convention???"

Honestly, the press could give two shits about something like Archon.  It's not ComicCon, not DragonCon, not even a horror con.  I'm sure they have better things to do than troll through old internet posts looking for tacky jokes of someone they've never heard of attending a thing they've never heard of. Don't give yourself too much credit for relevance.

And then EMCS or whatever his name is spit his binky, shit his diaper, screamed for mommy, and demanded Uncle Timmy be stricken from the list.

Lots of other sandy genitalia piled on, in an orgy of bliss. AHA!  We have someone to hate!  Life is good!

The Gold Medal goes to the person whom I won't embarrass by name, who said, "Well, I don’t know who he is or what he said, but I guess this is for the best."

"Liberal" "Tolerance" in action. Someone said he said something bad, BAN HIM!

BTW, the ORIGINAL source of the tacky joke seems to be Saint Louis' Craigslist. Guilty consciences?

I commented that Mel Brooks certainly wouldn't be welcome, with his jokes about Jews, gays, blacks and rape.  I got snidely reminded that "You do realize that Mel Brooks is Jewish, right?"

Oh, right. That TOTALLY justifies racist, homophobic and rape culture humor.  Silly me.  So, what jokes can blacks tell? What jokes can gays tell?  We already know white people can't tell jokes at all (even if the Klan DID go after Tim's Catholic, Italian ancestors). 

I got no answer.  Apparently, it's okay to make offensive jokes if you're something, but not if you're something else, because racist.

Predictably, that thread turned into…a thread of racist, sexist and homophobic jokes.  Last I checked, it was still there.

So, Archon has no problem with that kind of humor.  Though it's possible the mouthpiece in question hasn't brought it to their attention yet.   So, what's the problem with Uncle Timmy?

Probably because he's conservative and Catholic.  The commentary does in fact suggest frothing religious bigotry and political bias. 

"Tolerance."

~~~

Andy Hamilton

53 mins

so many sad old white people grasping at straws! I'm glad this controversy happened so that all of the closet Archon racists have come out of the woodwork, and will I know who to avoid or mock in the future, if I ever do come back to the con. A lot of you probably don't realize your own racism and are simply old and out of touch conservatives, frightened by the rapidly changing world and the looming end of white privilege, and I feel sorry for you. I'm consoled by the fact that most of you are of an aging generation that will be dying off in the next few decades. anyway non-PC jokes are one thing, but the quotes from uncle timmy's newsletter to the effect of 'black people don't learn the same way whites do' are beyond the pale (no pun intended) and Archon did the right thing by uninviting him. Now it's just a waiting game while the rest of y'all old racist a-holes die off so we can move forward as a species.

Michael Z; Williamson:  "sad old white people" is ageism.

John Mitchell And oh yeah, thanks for rubbing my nose in my own mortality by reminding me I'm part of "an aging generation that will be dying off in the next few decades". Bonus point for sensitivity...

13 mins • Like • 4

Andy Hamilton your the one defending a racist. i have no obligation to be sensitive to anybody's stupid beliefs and i dont have to tiptoe around the issue. you're basically already dead. deal with it.

Michael Z. Williamson:  Wow. What a tolerant little fuck.

People Who Like This

Chad Amberg

Mike Evans

Andy Hamilton

Get that?  HE LIKED my comment.  He's proud of it.

By the way, Andy is not racist—his wife has a black cousin.

Now, Brad Torgersen has a black wife, and he's racist (per the SJWs).  Tom Kratman has a Panamanian wife and he's racist. Larry Correia has Portuguese (Latino) ancestry and he's racist. Sarah Hoyt is from Portugal itself and is racist. And of course, since I'm white, I'm totally identical to American whites, and therefore racist.  As long as you're a conservative, or even worse, a libertarian, you're racist.  A liberal can have black friends to prove they're not racist, but a conservative, well, you're racist, because you just are.

Oh, did you note that Andy isn't even coming to the con?  So what's his point?

Oh, BTW Andy:

"but the quotes from uncle timmy's newsletter to the effect of 'black people don't learn the same way whites do' are beyond the pale (no pun intended)"

Well, Andy, you should probably contact the Dept Ed, George Mason University, and the NYT and tell them how racist they are, for saying that people of different ethnicities, cultures and languages learn differently:

http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/news/opinion/forum/story/2012-05-01/education-achievement-gap-blacks-hispanics/54668664/1

http://hnn.us/article/226

http://www.nytimes.com/1988/06/24/nyregion/do-black-and-white-children-learn-the-same-way.html

So it turns out you're ignorant, stupid and full of shit as well as a racist, ageist, fat-shaming "tolerant" "liberal."  Whose wife's cousin is black, thus proving you're not racist.  Or something.

The entire wall is full of frothing vitriol, hate, racism, ageism, fat shaming, anti-Christian sentiment, anti-conservative sentiment, threats of violence, threats of harassment, and god knows what else. From "tolerant" "liberals."

Way to be tolerant and diverse, "liberals."  You make me proud.

I draw attention to this comment:

Christopher D. Cyr Just harass him a bunch. Then when he reports you, say he's lying. Then security will escort him off premises. Yesterday at 10:20am • Like • 5

~~~

This violates the Archon harassment policy, to whit:

“All attendees at Archon are expected to treat other attendees, guests, staff, and the general public with respect. Harassment of any kind, including physical assault, deliberate intimidation, stalking, unwanted photography, or unwelcome physical attentions, will not be tolerated.

Any attempt to have an innocent person removed from the convention by falsely accusing him or her of threats will be itself treated as an act of harassment and will be dealt with appropriately. The responsibility for settling interpersonal disputes lies solely with the individuals involved, and Archon will not tolerate being used as a leveraging point in such disputes.”

I do expect Archon to ban this Christopher D. Cyr from the con AT ONCE, since he's stated an intent to cause trouble, harass people, and violate policy. (Got a screenshot, btw, in case anyone wants to claim I'm making it up.)  Unless they're lying hypocrites who don't actually have an harassment policy, and endorse such behavior.

Also, I can't help but notice that every crusader I see is…a middle class white person. No doubt fighting for those poor minorities who just aren't capable of comprehending the slight done to them.

Oh, it turns out that several people of various racial and ethnic makeups went to bat for Uncle Timmy.  Guess what? Yeah, they're racist, too.  This was libsplained to them.  Denying you're a racist makes you a racist.  White people know this (if they're liberal).

What seems obvious to me is:

Archon's attendance, management and guests are overwhelmingly (90%+) middle class white people born in the US.

They feel guilty about this.

Rather than do anything about it, they're attacking a third party to try to prove they're not racist.

Cool story, white guys.  You've definitely made the case.

 

 

You bigoted fucks.

So I'm looking at the teacup tempest in response to the petition to SFWA to stick to the business of writing and ignore the politics of the writers.

http://voxday.blogspot.com/2014/02/sfwa-petition.html

He links to response here:

http://radishreviews.com/2014/02/10/oh-dear-sfwa-bulletin-petition

[Image]Steven Saus saysFebruary 10, 2014 at 12:15 pmThis is really easy for me: As I posted on Twitter, all parties who have signed that petition can go ahead and recuse themselves from any projects (including paying ones) that I control. If they haven’t yet violated my respect policy as a publisher, they will soon enough.They’ve just put themselves on the list of “people whose opinions I can safely ignore”.

Let me explain something here:  When Harlan Ellison, Mercedes Lackey and David Gerrold are your hateful rightwingers...you're doing it wrong.  Also, I doubt Harlan even knows you exist, much less gives a shit. And I'm sure you can't pay enough to interest him (even on your paying projects…seriously, did you say that?).  You're a "micropublisher," an utter fucking nobody who can't even qualify for the most rudimentary of Wikipedia mentions for your "business."  And "If they haven't violated my rules yet, they will."  So, thoughtcrime, and prior restraint.  

However, I'd be happy to host or publish you in any of my debates or publications, because as an actual liberal, I'm tolerant of differing viewpoints and respect diversity of opinion, even if it's opinion I disagree with.

I look forward to the right-wing name calling in response to my position.

So, if SFWA is only going to represent certain SF/F writers (They call this being "inclusive"), shouldn't they change their name?

The Tolerant, Liberal, Open-Minded Fantasy Writers of America?

As I noted elsewhere--I can think of two dozen writers off the top of my head--including several of various genders and relationships--with over 1000 publication credits between them, who want nothing to do with SFWA.

It's quaint to sit there and insist you don't need those people, but the fact is, they're the ones the publishers might listen to, which, at one time, was the purpose of SFWA.  If you can't take money away from them, they have no reason to care about you.

As to the OP's background, she seems to be some sort of barely known blogger who's moderated a couple of panels.  Publication credits?  Editorial work?

All I can say is that if this person I’ve never heard of [this was addressed to someone else.  Mr Nobody hasn't heard of someone else, so they should feel slighted] hasn’t heard of, say, our gracious host Ms Luhrs, that’s his loss. The many people who’ve heard of Ms Luhrs, know and admire her as a blogger of sense and considerable knowledge. Some people may even be curious enough to read all about her here.

My name is Natalie Luhrs and I was the senior science fiction and fantasy reviewer and section coordinator for RT Book Reviews from early 2005 until November 2012. During my tenure, I reviewed over 550 books, attended three RT Conventions (and met lots of great people!), and generally had a wonderful time. I’ve also been a program participant at Readercon and moderated a panel at C2E2 in April 2012. As of January 2013, I am also the acquisitions editor for Masque Books.

"Coordinator" of what? and a panel moderator! ZOMG!  Wow.  This person is definitely a key player in the publishing industry, or literary end, and should be listened to at length!  Only benefit can befall your career from the wisdom she will dispense! 

Yes, Masque Books is an imprint of Prime Books, a noted independent publisher with several credits, and some Phil Dick reprints.  Fair enough.  But being the acquisitions editor for a subsidiary imprint of a small press is not exactly a John W. Campbell, a Hugo Gernsback, or even a Martin H. Greenberg.

Oh, RT is legit, but I would like to draw attention to this:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Romantic_Times

Romantic Times is a genre magazine specializing in romance novels. It was founded as a newsletter in 1981 by Kathryn Falk. The initial publication took nine months to create and was distributed to 3,000 subscribers.[1] In 2004, the magazine reportedly had 150,000 subscribers, and had built a reputation as "Romance's premiere genre magazine".[2]

Since 1982 the magazine organizes the "Romantic Times Booklover's Convention."[2] Several thousand people attend the convention, which features author signings, a costume ball, and a male beauty pageant.[3]

Wait, define "Male" and "Beauty."  This sounds like cisgender hetoronormative sexism.  Shouldn't all right-thinking liberals be boycotting such an organization and distancing themselves from it?  Not boasting of association?

Oh, and Sarah Hoyt and Larry Correia? Yeah, they're legally Latino.  In fact, Sarah still has a Portuguese accent.  So stop with the "White supremacist" horseshit on Twitter. Neither one would be allowed within 50 miles of a Klan gathering.

Once again, the "tolerant" "liberals" prove themselves to be racist, sexist and hypocritical.

I guess I'll never publish anything for Mr Whatsisname.  Not a problem.  I doubt he can put enough zeros on a check to attract my attention, and I'm a lot cheaper than Harlan.