Thoughts on #ShirtStorm

This blog post should have been about the amazing human achievement of landing a space probe on a comet that moves at 40,000 mph and is located hundreds of millions of mils away from earth. Instead, it is about a nasty woman named Rose Eveleth, a woman who got her panties in a wad when Matt Taylor, an astrophysicist who was part of the team that landed Philae on the comet, wore a T-shirt that was made by one of his friends.

In a nutshell: a brilliant scientist wore a T-shirt made by his friend (a woman, for the record) when he was taped on the biggest night of his life.  It’s a Hawaiian-themed shirt with ’50s-style cartoons of women in bustiers who are shooting guns.  It’s fun and lighthearted, although not exactly professional.  But hey, when you land a rocket on a comet, you can wear whatever you damn well please.

Not all see it this way.  Science journalist Rose Eveleth tweeted out comments about how the T-shirt makes women unwelcome in STEM and “ruined the comet landing” for her, thus turning the EDS achievement into a Rose-Eveleth pity party. Matt Taylor was forced to make a tearful, blubbering apology, which wrecked the greatest week of his life. (It is worth noting that Eveleth is a science writer precisely because she sucks at doing actual science.  In an interview with Scientific American, she said, “It really wasn’t until college when I was studying abroad and doing research that I realized I’m just not a very good scientist. I didn’t really care as much about the data as I did about the stories I could tell about it. “) Feminism doesn’t have to be this way, kids.

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Debunking the “Republicans Gerrymandered their 2014 Win!” meme

As we all know, the Republicans won big last week, taking over 240 House seats and flipping control of the Senate. This has lead to some predictable hand-wringing from the Left, who are all loathe to admit that maybe, just maybe, Americans haven’t been thrilled with their performance.

One meme claims that Democrats actually won the elections on Tuesday, but lost because “gerrymandered” districts pack Democrats into dense urban areas and give Republicans a slight advantage in other districts.  Thus, Democrats received 54,301,095 votes for their Congressional candidates, Republicans only received 53,822,442 votes, and the victorious Democrats lost.  (See article by Ezra Klein.)

The claim to gerrymandering isn’t supported by actual evidence in an actual state of actual districts that have been gerrymandered to Republican advantage.  The claim rests solely upon a straight-up comparison of number of votes received to number of seats won; here is one example of this sloppy thinking.

Let’s start a mathematical debunking of this nonsense.

First point: there are a lot of ways to gerrymander a district, but they don’t involve crossing state lines.

The people who are wailing and gnashing their teeth about Congress have precious little to say about the absolute destruction that was wrecked upon Democrat candidates in the Senate, but focus only on the House.  If the analysis of “more votes but fewer wins because of gerrymandering” were correct, we would expect that the Democrats would have held their own in the Senate.  Senate candidates run statewide, in lines determined decades or centuries ago, while Congressmen run in districts that were redrawn after the 2010 Census.  No such argument was made.  Nor was any argument made that winning states like Wyoming or Montana, which have exactly one ungerrymandable Congressional district, is somehow not fair.

Likewise, the Republican dominance in gubernatorial and statewide elections indicates that the issue is not one of gerrymandered districts so much as electoral disgust with Democrats.  What is Ezra Klein’s argument: we gerrymandered the entire state of Illinois? Maryland? Massachusetts?

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Potatoes: the tubers of death

I’ve always been a dark chocolate person: the darker and richer, the better.  Some ten years ago, science vindicated me: dark chocolate was found to have all sorts of health benefits, ranging from improving memory to lowering blood pressure.  Same thing with red wine – I’m a red drinker, not a white drinker, and the red stuff is what is good for you.

As a lifelong hater of all things potato (I used to flush the things down the toilet when my parents tried to force me to eat them), I’m gratified to learn that potatoes contain carcinogens. (Hat tip.)   The undeniable grossness of the potato is nature’s way of telling us to leave the blasted things in the ground and eat real food instead.


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The Cruel Paradox of Modern Feminism

I have called myself a feminist since I knew what the word meant.  Back in the day, I was an athletic nerd, a girl who loved to do math and play sports.  Ballet, knitting needles, and dolls just really weren’t my thing.  Those were the times when feminists made a passing claim to stand for the less fortunate, those who had not been anointed as one of society’s chosen ones since birth.  Feminism proudly stated that we need the talents of all people, that everyone has something to contribute to society.

Feminism deserted me.  When Lena Dunham, Wendy Davis, and Sandra Fluke – three wealthy, educated women – parade around their unfortunate circumstances as an excuse for acting like terrible human beings, those of us who believe in equality and justice are left behind.  For those who have missed the news, Dunham wrote a book in which she admitted to basically molesting her baby sister.  Davis ditched her kids to attend Harvard Law, ditched her husband the day after he cashed out his 401(k) to pay off her loans, and became famous by filibustering a bill that would have restricted abortion after twenty weeks.  Fluke firmly believes that it is oppression to buy your own contraception, a burden that justifies overriding the consciences of religious people.

These women are the elites in our culture, from wealthy families or married into wealthy families, with snobby degrees and plenty of connections.  Yet they believe that their “oppression” is an excuse to treat babies, their own children, nuns, and their own siblings like dirt, as if children, women of conscience and faith, and the unborn are not actual human beings who also have rights.

I fail to understand how “feminism” can justify molesting a girl child, or how women who won life’s lottery ought to be crying foul about their circumstances.  Thankfully, not many other people can, either, which is why those three sorry excuses for women have imploded in spectacular fashion this week.  Good riddance.

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Ebola: the Baobabs of Infectious Diseases

In Le Petit Prince, the Prince describes to the pilot why he diligently removed baobabs from his tiny planet:

“That is strictly correct,” I said. “But why do you want the sheep to eat the little baobabs?”

He answered me at once, “Oh, come, come!”, as if he were speaking of something that was self-evident. And I was obliged to make a great mental effort to solve this problem, without any assistance.

Indeed, as I learned, there were on the planet where the little prince lived–as on all planets–good plants and bad plants. In consequence, there were good seeds from good plants, and bad seeds from bad plants. But seeds are invisible. They sleep deep in the heart of the earth’s darkness, until some one among them is seized with the desire to awaken. Then this little seed will stretch itself and begin–timidly at first–to push a charming little sprig inoffensively upward toward the sun. If it is only a sprout of radish or the sprig of a rose-bush, one would let it grow wherever it might wish. But when it is a bad plant, one must destroy it as soon as possible, the very first instant that one recognizes it.

Now there were some terrible seeds on the planet that was the home of the little prince; and these were the seeds of the baobab. The soil of that planet was infested with them. A baobab is something you will never, never be able to get rid of if you attend to it too late. It spreads over the entire planet. It bores clear through it with its roots. And if the planet is too small, and the baobabs are too many, they split it in pieces . . .

Before this year, an Ebola outbreak would stay within the confines of a village or community, killing no more than a few hundred people at a time.  In the current outbreak, more than ten thousand people have been infected and approximately five thousand of those people have died, which is more than the previous thirty-plus years of casualties combined.

If there were ever a baobab that ought not take root, it is the current strain of Ebola.  It seems innocuous now, as the sarcasm and jokes fly about only one person in America dying of it, but we can stop it when only one person has died on American soil.  Once taken root (see the analogy?), Ebola will be almost impossible to quarantine and manage; at best, it will fly through the population until we can find a vaccine, and at worst, it will result in draconian quarantine measures for all citizens.  The push for travel restriction and quarantines isn’t xenophobic; it’s good sense.

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Totalitarian ‘Tolerance’

Study: liberals are more likely to unfriend you over politics, online and offline.  (Hat tip.)

I’ve been blocked, unfriended, de-friended, and maligned for being a conservative.  (Add in being a conservative who is also female, highly educated, and unmarried with no kids, and lives in a deep blue state, and it’s a hate-fest.)  On several occasions, I’ve been presumed to be incompetent, stupid, or uneducated because I’m a registered Republican.

Conservatiephvobia is worse than it had been in decades past.  At least ‘back then,’ liberals supported things that were great in the short term and horrific in the long term (e.g. the ‘war on poverty,’ undermining marriage, Social Security, stringent workplace regulations that encourage offshoring, tax systems that create a short-term boost and long-term malaise, abortion).

Short-term pain, and short-term cause and effect, matters a lot.  It’s much easier to at least convince someone that drinking to excess is bad for his health than that smoking is bad for his health; the former will become apparent as he spends the next day dry-heaving and suffering through a splitting headache.  Unfortunately for liberals, their own policies are now blowing up on them in the short term, with no long-term relief in sight.  Whether it be ObamaCare (insuring only a fraction of those who should have been insured, at a cost of about ten times the original price), Obama himself (a failure by almost any standard), the stimulus, or Ebola, it doesn’t take two generations to show them that they are wrong: it’s apparent right now.

As conservatives, who have been vilified as racist misogynists who want people to die in the streets, connect the dots between liberal policies and current problems, there is no buffer of a generation or two, a buffer that would allow them to say things about alternate causes or ‘we don’t really know that’ or ‘it’s the law of the land.’  A mere six years after everyone told us that conservatism was dead, Obama was the best president since George Washington, and only haters opposed his agenda, the liberal ideology collided with reality and left a wreck big enough to shut down the proverbial highway.

Maybe conservatives could be nicer about being right, but given the amount of venom thrown at us, it’s unlikely.  So unfriend away, but understand that the acrimony is mostly your doing.

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Regrets, I’ve had a few

When I was a freshman in high school, I stress-fractured both of my ankles when running cross country and track.  That sidelined me throughout the entire spring season.  With the help of cushion inserts and Sauconys, I launched into my fall cross-country season with renewed vigour.  Unfortunately, I developed pain in my left quad, which turned out to be a femoral stress fracture.  Before I found out it was a fracture, I ran through the pain, at one point running a personal best on our home cross-country course in eighteen minutes and six seconds.  By the time I saw a doctor, the fracture was six inches long and big enough to be seen on an X-ray.

Orthotics fixed the problem well enough for high school, but my leg gives me enough problems to this day that I functionally can no longer be a runner.  Damn, do I miss it, and I would give those high school races back in a heartbeat if it meant I could be a runner now.

Connor Callihan is a high school junior who crawled across the finish line after a stress fracture shattered his tibia during a race.  What a tough, tough kid.  I hope things work out better for him than they did for me; it would be heartbreaking if his determination to finish this season meant that he doesn’t have any other seasons to run.

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Speak Softly and Carry a Big Stick

As #GamerGate and the associated scandals enter their second (third? fourth? this is what I get for working insane hours all summer) month, the commentary from all sides continues.   I found this post by Serious Pony, a feminist in gaming, to be particularly interesting.  She describes online threats, harassment, and an environment that is unusually toxic to women.  (Hat tip.)

As a former R&D engineer, now attorney, I’m no stranger to the plight of women in high-powered and male-dominated professions. Unfortunately, neither am I a stranger to sexual harassment.  (Description of my career path: I needed a lawyer, not to become a lawyer.)  My stepmom, who was the highest-ranking woman in her division of a multi-national bank before she retired from banking, is no stranger to sexist crap.  I have friends who are engineers, PhDs, and private equity rock stars, all of whom face sexism in their industries. Yet what is described by Serious Pony completely eclipses the problems they’ve had.

As one of my former colleagues said about being a woman engineer, “When you’re in college, all the men think you only got there because of affirmative action.  But once you make it through, they know that you’re capable and often respect you even more for doing it despite the hurdles women face.”  With the exception of a few people (although what doozies they were), that is a completely accurate description of my experience when I was in STEM.

A woman in STEM.  As Serious Pony, aka Kathy Sierra, wrote,

There is only one reliably useful weapon for the trolls to stop the danger you pose and/or to get max lulz: discredit you. The disinformation follows a pattern so predictable today it’s almost dull: first, you obviously “fucked” your way into whatever role enabled your undeserved visibility. I mean..duh. A woman. In tech. Not that there aren’t a few deserving women and why can’t you be more like THEM but no, you are NOT one of them.

“A woman. In tech.”

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Hey, #ThankAFeminist peeps, stop trying to take credit for my life

There is now a #ThankAFeminist hashtag that encourages people to thank a feminist for whatever has gone right in their lives. Apparently, I’m supposed to thank Amanda Marcotte and Jessica Valenti, who partied and slept their way through college, for my engineering degree. According to this hashtag, I owe a big thanks for my car-repair skills to women who can’t tell the difference between a fuel pump relay and a timing belt.  My law degree? Some co-ed with a  twitter handle made that happen.

Really, ladies, stop trying to take credit for my life.

To the extent that I owe people for my engineering career, that would be my parents, who paid the bills for university; my grandfather, who first floated the idea of engineering school; and my former manager, who got her PhD from MIT in the ’60s and is a great role model. I owe no thanks to the chickies with Women’s Studies degrees. They weren’t pulling all nighters studying quantum mechanics and differential equations so that I could get my beauty sleep; I was the one studying my arse off while they partied.

We owe particular feminists for the right to vote and own property, the 1963 equal pay laws, and the ability to get an education. But those feminists are long dead, and the proper way to thank them is to vote, work, and study hard.  There’s no reason for us to grovel at the feet of third-wave fauxminists who haven’t done a damn thing besides lobby Congress to force nuns to buy their birth control. (One particular female political figure did inspire me to get involved in politics, but we’ve all seen how modern feminists treat Sarah Barracuda.  #ThankAFeminist for destroying the most inspiring female politician in a generation…?!)

Am I getting worked up about this? Sure. But every high achieving person I know says that their successes have taken a lot out of them as people.  The long hours of work, lack of sleep, delay in starting a family, not seeing the kids, not spending time with friends, missing weddings, moving anywhere in the country for school or a job. They made the sacrifices, and it’s insane to imply that drunken Lena Dunham did the heavy lifting.

They deserve better. We all deserve better. #ThankAFeminist for disparaging every meaningful thing in your life.

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Girl Power: Car Repair Edition

A few weeks ago, my check engine light came on.  I got myself to Autozone, had the codes scanned, and found out that my upstream oxygen sensor is on the fritz. (The person at Autozone told me that it was “bank 1, sensor 1,” and that I have four oxygen sensors; however, extensive examination of my undercarriage revealed that I only have two oxygen sensors – one upstream, one downstream.)

Autozone wanted $313 or so for the sensor, but I found one on for less than $150. After some more research (thanks, Matthew’s Volvo site!), I found that the procedure for replacing an oxygen sensor is as follows:

  1. Put car up on car ramps;
  2. Once engine is cool, douse oxygen sensor in PB Blaster or WD-40 and wait about ten minutes;
  3. Using special oxygen sensor wrench, remove oxygen sensor;
  4. Unplug other end of oxygen sensor (note: in Volvo V70s, the upstream sensor has a black plug and the downstream sensor has a grey plug);
  5. Install new sensor.

Bizarrely, it was almost that easy. Mr. Velociraptor’s dad has car ramps and an oxygen sensor wrench, so we went to his place for the repair. (Confession time: when I described the exhaust system, I said something about the engine leading to a metal piece that is the ‘size and shape of a doughnut.’  Mr. Velociraptor and his father were entirely confused until the latter said, “You mean a flange?”  I also described the catalytic converter as ‘something that looks like a giant metal slug.’  For those trying this repair at home, the upstream sensor is right near the doughnut, and the downstream sensor is plugged right into the giant metal slug.)

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