Saturday, September 24, 2016

Skeptical Saturday: Trump's Bogus Murder Rate Statistics Your Aunt Has Probably Also Shared on Facebook

Watching The Daily Show alerted me to this one. Donald Trump retweeted this bullshit infographic a billion years ago (not sure why we're talking about it now but whatever):

And while I'm not thrilled that a presidential candidate does not seem to give two shits about fact-checking, I'm glad he brought this to national attention for other fact checkers and journalists to debunk because I have definitely seen people I know—who would even deny being racist and are just as terrified of a Trump presidency as I am—share this. In earnest.

And to make the point clear, these numbers are completely fabricated.

I guess I could have Googled "Crime Statistics Bureau San Francisco" but you know what? I don't get paid to fact check everything everyone posts on Facebook. The easier thing to do is just to follow Snopes so you get the most egregious stories fact checked before they get to your clueless aunt.

Friday, September 23, 2016

The Friday 5: All Over

First of all, a musical interlude: "Glad All Over," by the Dave Clark 5.


What would you like right now to be coated with?

This is a very bizarre question. I'm pretty good with my skin, thanks. Maybe some kind of magical, always-a-comfortable-temperature air barrier? I don't know.

What’s something you recently slathered on something else?


JV makes a really tasty hummus and he always uses a lot of spices and garlic. Well, we've found out that garlic is not so good for his digestion and so someone had to finish off a fresh batch of extra garlic-y hummus by herself.

I regret nothing.

What’s something you purchased recently whose purpose is to cover something?

The pants I bought from Kobieta Clothing Company cover my butt! And my naughty bits. And my legs.

What do your current bed linens look like?

Sad. Old. Mismatched. We have a queen-sized bed but two IKEA mattress things. My mattress has a blue bed sheet, JV's has a white one, he usually sleeps under a maroon/red duvet and I use a rainbow afghan Lawyer Mom crocheted for me before I went to college.

Under what circumstances did you last wear some kind of gloves?

Cleaning the bathroom, I think.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Friday Find: Kobieta Clothing Company

I have always been a little bit of a tree hugger. Not because I claim any spiritual connection to nature; it just seems to me that the most pragmatic thing to do is to minimize our impact on the planet so we can get as much use out of it as possible. Little me didn't really understand how anyone could not be concerned about making the resources we have last as long as possible.

Ah, the naivete of childhood.

As an adult, it's complicated. I recycle, converted JV to glass straws, and try to be mindful of my water usage, but one of my favorite hobbies (jewelry making) has a really crappy history when it comes to ethics and the environment. Clothing, too: it's very easy to want to buy clothing that is ethically and sustainably sourced. (Especially after watching a documentary like The True Cost. Important to see, but you'll never look at your closet the same way again.) It's another thing altogether to be able to make those choices when you're fat.

After being disappointed with the brands featured in The True Cost (almost none of them offered things over a size 12 or 14), I went digging on Etsy and binge-hearted a bunch of indie organic designers that catered to fat people. And after that long wind-up, here's the pitch: one of them was The Kobieta Clothing Company.

A few months later, I finally came in the way of some extra cash and decided to treat myself (remember my promise to myself earlier in the year to treat myself, and to invest more money in indie biz owners?). Enter The Kobieta Palazzo Wide Leg Pants. They arrived a couple of weeks ago and I AM IN LOVE. 

The Kobieta Palazzo Wide Leg Pants by The Kobieta Clothing Company

First of all, Nikki (the seamstress behind it all) takes custom orders, which is great for someone fat who has short, stumpy legs. Someone like me.

We represent the Lollipop Guild... // Image courtesy MGM Studios.

So to put on a pair of pants and they fit! They don't drag on the floor; I don't look like a little kid playing dress up. Worth it.

I was also pleasantly surprised at the weight of the material, as I have certain expectations about jersey knit. These were heavier—not by much, but by enough that it was clear that 1) they were going to be way more durable than my previous palazzo trousers and 2) they would be warm enough for fall and, with leggings or under armor or the like, even winter wear.

Speaking of the material, this is your reminder that Kobieta clothing is made exclusively from sustainable fabric: bamboo, organic cotton, beech tree modal, hemp, and organic linen. All of it. By default. 

And finally, these pants are unbelievably comfortable. I have to make an effort not to wear these all day, every day (when I'm not doing yoga or going for runs in my LineageWear leggings, speaking of treat yo' self). I don't think I've ever called a pair of pants cozy before, but there's no other word that really fits. They are cozy, in the way that going into your cave and finding your power animal is cozy.

The next time you need to replace a wardrobe staple, I would recommend saving up a little bit of scratch and splurging on an item from Kobieta. It's worth it, for you and for the planet.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

What I'm Reading: The Great Suppression

This is another freebie from NetGalley, which has been my greatest source of non-fiction recently. So much good stuff coming out!

The Great Suppression is depressing as hell and while I think every American should care about the state of democracy in their own country, I get that lots of people are just not interested in politics, whether because they're largely unaffected by politics, or whether they've given up on a system that doesn't seem to care about them. But calling things "just politics" is I think a misnomer. Nothing is just politics; policy decisions that are made to appeal to certain groups of voters have real life consequences for actual people. Chances are pretty good that one day one of those policy decisions will apply to you. "First they came for the Communists...." and so on.

I think this is an excellent companion to Democracy in Black and that if you read one you should really read the other. In particular, I think The Great Suppression acts as a reply to Glaude's vision of a "what if we just stopped voting" protest. When you see to the extent to which certain groups are taking things just to keep direct democracy out of the American political process (usually to the benefit of an elite group of large corporation owners), it becomes clear how naive a "blank out" would be as a protest measure. At the same time, it's important to understand just how much of the suppression and disenfranchisement Roth describes is explicitly based on race, whether today or two hundred years ago.

The one complaint I have about the book is that it is maybe too dense. This could be a problem of reading it on ebook (or maybe I'm just not that smart!), but I had to go back and re-read certain passages to understand what, exactly, had just happened. It's definitely not beach reading, that's for sure.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Friday 5: Pees

What’s something that recently required perseverance?

Learning to like running. I'm not all the way there yet, but I'm learning to enjoy myself.

What’s something that’s been unpleasantly persistent?

Can I just say everything? If it's not one thing, it's another.

When has practice not proven to make perfect?

Honestly, I feel like no matter how many classes I take or how much I try to practice, my Swedish is just at a plateau f-o-r-e-v-e-r.

Where were you last required to exercise patience?

I forgot just how often a class can be an exercise in patience. More so as a student than as a teacher, it feels like.

How do you feel about peas?

I'll eat them, but they're not my favorite.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

A Very Special Trek Thursday: Happy Birthday!

Image courtesy Ryan Hutton

Today marks the 50th anniversary of the first air date of Star Trek. It's hard to find words for it, though mostly because I am hella busy and not because I'm emotionally choked up. Otherwise there would have definitely been a marathon of my top 5 TOS episodes today.

Confession: I first got into Star Trek after the J. J. Abrams reboot. I won't say because of the reboot—it had been on my "to watch" list for years by that point, since I had missed it on TV in syndication but was geeky enough to know that it was a thing and to know that I would probably like it—but seeing the movie reminded me that I really did want to see the TV show, so I can't say there's no connection, either. (I hear your cries of "ZOMG FAKE GEEK GIRL" "NOT A TRUE FAN!" and idgaf.) I went back and watched TOS in all of its mid-century campy glory and loved it; I rewatched the J. J. Abrams reboot and actually kind of hated it.

For all of the cool whiz-bang tech, for all of the cowboy heroism, for all of the green-skinned space babes, what makes TOS really special for me is the philosophy of it and the willingness of the writers to sit and stew over moral dilemmas. (To an extent. You can't do much stewing in under an hour and still have cowboy fights and green-skinned space babes. But you can do some.) I studied philosophy in college because I liked to think and because I wanted to get at the heart of things; science fiction does much of the same. And not just in the hackneyed "philosophy and pop culture" sense (though considering they've subtitled that one "The Wrath of Kant" I can't even be mad), either. The genre, at its best, tackles real metaphysical (How do we know what exists? How can we objectively measure things like space and time?), epistemological (How can we be sure that we even know anything? What limits are there to what is knowable?), ethical (Are there any truly universal moral imperatives?), and aesthetic (What does art look like in the face of technology? Is there anything like a universal standard of beauty or perfection?) questions. It's kind of why I prefer the older term speculative fiction instead of science fiction. It denotes a little more reflection; boundaries that are a little looser.

Did TOS always live up to that promise? Not always. At its heart, it's an action show, and arguably the whiz-bang of J. J. Abrams is actually a completely appropriate and updated version of the franchise. But TOS certainly held much more space for those questions than the new movies do, and that's why it holds a special place in my nerdy heart.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

What I Read: The Sparrow

Image courtesy Villard
I got The Sparrow in a care package from a friend. I put it away for a while (I had other books to read) and finally picked it up last week when I didn't feel like going to the library. After reading the back and also getting some way into it, I realized that one of the book blogs I followed had recently reviewed it. But I didn't remember which blog, or much of the review (except that it was mostly pretty positive) so it was the best of both worlds: I had heard good things but nothing was spoiled for me! (So if you've reviewed it, send me the link in the comments!)

In a nutshell, The Sparrow is a first contact SF story: in the near future, SETI finally yields fruit and, sponsored by the Jesuit order, off our characters go to harvest it. Things do not go as anticipated.

Thoughts without spoilers:

 I think Russell did a pretty good job in terms of alien world building and race creation. She walked the fine line between overly vague descriptions of the alien races and overly detailed very well, and overall the writing was fluid and free of embarrassing clunky bits. Like, I love John Scalzi as much as the rest of you do, but if you go back and re-read Redshirts, his need to use dialogue tags in EVERY. LINE. OF DIALOGUE. will kind of ruin the book for you. I don't know how Wil Wheaton managed with the audiobook version; just listening to JV read it out loud was jarring. Even today we periodically tack on a "Dahl said" on the end of a sentence as a sort of inside joke. No such clunkiness here. If there were issues with the execution (and there were, for me), the writing was at least enjoyable. The flashback/present day jumps are, in the beginning, a little obnoxious (and the flashbacks could have had some of the fat trimmed, I think) but as things pick up the shifts become quite seamless and build up some amount of dramatic tension.

Russell also had a pretty good sense of what sort of tech we would have in 2019. I got the impression this was a fairly recent release (since I had only heard of it last year or so), but no: this came out back in 1996! I don't know if we'll be mining asteroids by 2019, but SpaceX is definitely picking up the slack when it comes to space travel (even if I think governments should be investing in it, sigh); it doesn't really feel preposterously far-fetched. Meanwhile, in 2016, tablets are already ubiquitous. Good call, Russell!

The only writing-related thing I couldn't get over was 1) her tendency to explicitly mark cultural references as references (in one scene someone quotes Young Frankenstein and someone else replies "I love Young Frankenstein!"; in another there's something like: " ' "We're looking for a few good men," ' Anne said, quoting the old recruitment slogan for the Marines.") and 2) her use of said references, all dating to the 1970s and 1980s, in the scenes set in 2060. Young Frankenstein is a national treasure, yes (RIP Gene Wilder), but whether people will be quoting it 90 years later is maybe not the kind of suspension-of-disbelief-breaker you want in your Jesuits In Space novel. Ninety years is a long-ass time. It takes a special kind of nerd to be under 30 and go and reference the Marx Brothers these days—knowingly, anyway.

Speaking of the Marx Brothers, let's take a moment for some levity:

Beyond writing style, Russell also gave pretty serious thought to the linguistic paradigms of multiple alien races. The world-building overall I think was solid, and I'm very picky about world-building in SF/F—praise from Caesar is praise indeed.

I gave it 3 stars over on the ol' GoodReads (which is a pretty good rating from me). If you stumble across it, and you like SF with a heavy dose of humanities/liberal arts insights (linguistics, anthropology), you'll like this. I do want to talk out the things that downgraded my 4-star rating to a 3-star, and since that all is REALLY SPOILERY (and also touches on some really heavy content), it's after a jump.