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19 Apr 10:15

Fly Early, Arrive On-Time

by Nate Silver

On Friday, I woke up at 4:45 a.m. to catch a flight home from Toronto. I’m not a morning person, and I forgot which airline I was flying. I went to the wrong terminal. I checked in late. I forgot that U.S. customs is on the Canadian side of the border. I was bumped from the flight. Fortunately, I made it to the gate with a few minutes to spare and was allowed to board as a standby passenger.

So the risk of human error may be higher early in the morning. But it’s the best time to fly if you want to minimize your time in the transit system.

The Bureau of Transportation Statistics keeps on-time data on every domestic flight flown by the 14 largest U.S.-based airlines. I collected summary data for the more than 6 million flights in the database in 2013 and organized them in one-hour blocks by their scheduled hour of departure (for instance, 10:00 a.m. to 10:59 a.m.). Then I looked at how many minutes late the flights arrived on average.


A few notes on this procedure: As should be clear, I prefer to look at delays in terms of time lost rather than a binary definition of arriving late or on time. (A 20-minute delay is nothing compared to a whole afternoon spent in transit hell.) I counted diverted and cancelled flights as equivalent to 120-minute delays. Some versions of the BTS data assign a flight negative minutes if it arrives early; I used a version where the minimum delay is 0 minutes instead.

The best time to fly is between 6 and 7 in the morning. Flights scheduled to depart in that window arrived just 8.6 minutes late on average. Flights leaving before 6, or between 7 and 8, are nearly as good.

But delay times build from there. Through the rest of the morning and the afternoon, for every hour later you depart you can expect an extra minute of delays. Delay times peak at 20.7 minutes — more than twice as long as for early-morning flights — in the block between 6 and 7 p.m. They remain at 20-plus minutes through the 9 p.m. hour.

Very late flights — those scheduled to leave at 10 p.m. or later — are much better. But it’s hard to find these, especially on the East Coast. Late flights represent only 2 percent of scheduled domestic departures.

What causes the accumulation of delays? The BTS data breaks delays down into five categories: aviation system delays, severe weather delays, late-arriving aircraft, security delays and carrier delays (such as those caused by mechanical or crew problems). Here’s the share of delay minutes each type of delay was responsible for:


Late-arriving aircraft account for the bulk of the difference in the timing of delays. Ever have one of those days when you’re 10 minutes late to your first appointment and never make up the time? Airplanes are the same way. Early in the morning, almost all of them are in position from the previous evening. But there isn’t much slack. Once they’re late, their schedule may be off for the rest of the day.

Aviation system delays peak in the mid-to-late afternoon, when the transit system is at its fullest capacity. (The combined number of arrivals plus departures is highest between 4 and 5 p.m.) Weather-related delays are highest between 3 and 11 p.m., when thunderstorms are more likely to form. (These definitions are a little fuzzy: For instance, delays caused by moderately bad weather rather than severe weather are often classified as aviation system delays since they would theoretically be avoidable if the system was getting everything else right.)

Carrier delays are more or less constant throughout the day. Security delays constitute just 0.1 percent of the total — they’re too negligible to plot on the chart, and don’t much affect the best timing for your flight.

Perhaps these differences seem too small to be worth worrying about; a flight scheduled to depart at 10 a.m. is only 2.5 minutes more delayed on average than one that leaves at 7 a.m. But — based on my frequent travels — there are some other advantages to early flights that we haven’t yet accounted for.

Traffic can be much better when getting to the airport. Some airports have shorter security lines early in the morning (there are exceptions). Well-trained crews usually keep cabin announcements and other distractions to a minimum on very early flights, so it can be a lot easier to fall back asleep.

And if you’re like I am in the morning and miss your flight, you’ll be first in the queue for the rest of the day.

21 Apr 21:25

Happy Bob Ross Visualizations

by Walt Hickey

We recently published an analysis of the 403 episodes of PBS’s “The Joy Of Painting,” 381 of which were done by the inimitable Bob Ross. We’ve made the raw data and our clustering code available on GitHub for those who want to play with the data at home.

Some have already taken a stab at it. Here are a few of our favorites.

Jesse Paquette, who created the cancer-research tool EGAN and is developing software for tag-based analysis, sent us this visualization of Ross’s paintings with fences:


And Emre Barut, who has done work in high-dimensional modeling, fit another clustering model, an Isling model, to our set. “Each node is a different object,” he said in an email, “and the edges between nodes represent a level of correlation. Positive correlation is green, and negative is red. The edges’ widths also represent the strength of the correlation.”


Brian Keegan, who has checked our work before, also tried his hand at our data. His analysis of the set is worth a read. Here, he used network-visualization tool Gephi to plot and identify sub-communities from our Ross data.


And Tom Anson wrote in to call us out on our chimney reporting. Annette Kowalski, the co-founder of Bob Ross Inc., had relayed an anecdote about now Ross avoided painting chimneys because they were more evidence of people than he preferred to have in his paintings. We found a painting with a chimney, but it was hard to do. Anson claims to have found another:

Interestingly enough, I literally just watched Season 4, Episode 1 (“Purple Splendor”), wherein he paints a chimney. I just thought you would like to know that a chimney appears at least twice (given your already noted Season 7, Episode 1).

Thanks to everyone who chimed in. We’ve made such data available with the goal of people continuing to research and expand the set. So interact with it, fork it and edit irregularities you find. If we missed your happy spreadsheet, shoot me an email.

And remember, we don’t make #DIV/0!s, just happy little accidents.

22 Apr 14:30


by villeashell

22 Apr 16:08

The Stork Pharmacy in Stockholm, Sweden

Russian Sledges

via firehose

The Stork Pharmacy in Stockholm, Sweden

22 Apr 17:03

Rocki, A Small Adapter That Turns Standard Speakers Into a Wireless Sound System

by Brian Heater
Russian Sledges

via firehose ("analog-only output $49, digital/analog output $89")


Rocki is a small adapter that turns old speakers into a wireless sound system that you can control with a smartphone, tablet or computer. Plug the device into the speaker auxiliary input via 3.5mm or RCA, connect the Rocki and smart device to your home WiFi network and you can start streaming your music. The device, which was created thanks to a successful Kickstarter campaign, is available for purchase now through the Rocki site.

image via Rocki

via GearCulture, The Awesomer

22 Apr 14:05

Booze News: Powdered Alcohol Loses Government Approval

by Khushbu Shah
Russian Sledges


[Photo: We Oppose Palcohol/Facebook]

Turns out purveyors of powdered alcohol products Palcohol, doesn't actually have government approval for their labels. The AP reports that in an email yesterday, a representative for the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau wrote that "the approvals were issued in error." Palcohol claims on their website that "there seemed to be a discrepancy on our fill level, how much powder is in the bag" and that "this doesn't mean that Palcohol isn't approved. It just means that these labels aren't approved."

Palcohol writes that "they will resubmit their labels" and that it doesn't "have an expected approval date as label approval can vary widely." Robert Lehrman, who runs a beverage law website, said in an interview with the AP, "an oversight of this nature does not ring true to me" and suggests "the bureau may have heard back from lawmakers wanting more information on the powdered alcohols."

Palcohol managed to stir up a media frenzy when it initially used copy on its website suggesting that users sneak packets into venues to avoid paying for overpriced booze. As previously reported, it also acknowledged that snorting Palcohol was a possibility. A new version of the site chalks up the previous claims to "humorous and edgy verbiage that was not meant to be our final presentation" and that the formula has been modified to discourage snorting.

· Powdered Alcohols No Longer Have Label Approvals [AP]
· All Booze News Coverage on Eater [-E-]

19 Apr 00:11


Russian Sledges

via rosalind


15 Apr 00:26

after you beat the end-God at the end of level 3 you unlock five...

after you beat the end-God at the end of level 3 you unlock five new Satanists which I thought was quite generous of the designers

19 Apr 01:00

Name my bar

by russiansledges
Russian Sledges


Need to name your trendy cocktail bar? How about...
21 Apr 05:05

Print-only interactive visualization by The Economist

Russian Sledges

via firehose via rnas

21 Apr 14:46

Russian and American Military Dolphins Might Face Off This Summer

by Polly Mosendz, The Wire
Russian Sledges

via multitask suicide

Dolphins will be testing a new anti-radar system.
21 Apr 20:06

Newswire: Takashi Miike is making a vampire Yakuza movie

by Katie Rife
Russian Sledges

via firehose

With 93 credits and counting, Miike Takashi is one of the most prolific directors not only in his native Japan, but probably the world. Miike has been funding his bizarre passion projects by directing teenybopper flicks and yakuza potboilers since the early ’90s, making it difficult for the uninitiated to distinguish genre masterpieces like Audition and Ichi The Killer from direct-to-video trash. 

Recently  Miike has been making a bid for legitimacy with mainstream hits like the video-game adaptation Ace Attorney and dignified dramas like Hara-Kiri: Death Of A Samurai. But for his newest project, Yakuza Apocalypse: The Great War Of The Underworld, Miike is returning to his exploitation roots. Production began last week on the film, about a yakuza kingpin who has become legendary for his ability to survive any assassination attempt. That’s because he’s a vampire, as mob underling Kageyama (Hayato Ichihara) discovers after being bitten by ...

21 Apr 20:58

Leaked Emails Detail "Secret" Frat's Antics With Drugs, Cops, and Sex

by Adam Weinstein
Russian Sledges

TW: absolutely everything

Leaked Emails Detail "Secret" Frat's Antics With Drugs, Cops, and Sex

They're staffers for influential congressmen and PACs. They work at top international banks and consulting firms. Also, they claim to hit women, lie to cops, chase ass, trade pills and hard drugs, and pour "so much champagne on bitches titties." These are the email confessions of a banned fraternity.


21 Apr 17:00

The Rules of Gender-Variant Chivalry

by Mallory Ortberg

chivalryAn asexual must always open the door for a pansexual.

Trans* men must always assist genderqueers with their luggage if there are no airport personnel available to help.

A high femme must do battle for any androsexual in peril from dragon or Frenchman.

The traditional age for taking up the sigil of gender anarchy and door-opening is seventeen, after four years of apprenticeship under a non-monogendered Master.

Heterosexual cisgender men are the daintiest treasure of all in Gender-Variant Chivalry. They must be delicately swaddled in linens and samite and carefully carried from castle to castle.

All soft butches must be trained in the use of the quarterstaff in close-quarters combat.

Trans* women wear pointy princess hats and feed the poor and lean out of windows calling for bold knights to do brave deeds, unless they don’t feel like it, in which case they can do something else.

Drag kings must swear before their people to protect the weak and defenseless, to give succour to widowers and orphans, to refrain from the wanton giving of offense, to live by honor and for glory, and to perform one Tom Jones song a month.

A queer boi must always stand whenever a bisexual enters the room.

Lipstick lesbians should offer their seat on public transportation to any polyamorous triads.

Every fortnight, all practitioners of Gender-Variant Chivalry must switch roles and identity with whatever knight stands nearest to them.

Read more The Rules of Gender-Variant Chivalry at The Toast.

20 Apr 15:00

This Baker Made a Laser-Engraved Rolling Pin. Now She Has Dino-Cookies!

by Mika McKinnon on Space, shared by Robert T. Gonzalez to io9
Russian Sledges

via firehose

A baker in Poland decided her confections were lacking a certain something, so pulled out her laser cutter to engrave rolling pins with dinosaurs. The result is edible geekiness, and further proof that baking is science for hungry people.


17 Apr 19:04

you know what I loved unicorns when I was eleven/twelve years...

Russian Sledges

in case you were wondering what john darnielle thinks about unicorns

you know what

I loved unicorns when I was eleven/twelve years old and then I learned that it was real soft and nerdy to love unicorns so I checked out of the whole unicorn-liking mindset because I felt a need to be hardening myself and copping a dark-stuff-only stance

then when I was 19 my girlfriend gave me a coffee cup with a unicorn on it and on receiving it I discovered that I had internalized some bullshit anti-unicorn stance and it made me sad

to those unicorns who didn’t get liked by me during my bullshit years: my bad, do you like carrots, I will leave a plate of carrots out by the back door, I also have oats

19 Apr 00:00

Idris Elba and His Girlfriend Had a Baby!

by Callie Beusman

Idris Elba and His Girlfriend Had a Baby!

The World's Dreamiest Man Idris Elba and his beautiful girlfriend Naiyana Garth are parents now, which is wonderful news even though it means you have to quash your disappointment that Idris Elba is not now, and will definitely never be, your boyfriend.


21 Mar 13:46

Typology of vintage potato mashers. Etsy.

Typology of vintage potato mashers. Etsy.

21 Apr 06:45

Invasive Species | Dillon Marsh In 1996 a palm tree appeared...

Russian Sledges

via firehose

Invasive Species | Dillon Marsh

In 1996 a palm tree appeared almost overnight in a suburb of Cape Town.This was the world’s first ever disguised cell phone tower. Since then these trees have spread across the city, South Africa and the rest of the world.

Invasive Species explores the relationship between the environment and the disguised towers of Cape Town and its surrounds.

20 Apr 13:47

Would You Notice Jesus?

by Andrew Sullivan

A statue of a homeless Jesus startles a wealthy community
Religion NewsService (@RNS) April 14, 2014

Jeremy Polacek notes a new and disruptive sculptural incarnation of Jesus Christ:

Lying blanketed and forlorn on a [Davidson, North Carolina] bench, “Homeless Jesus” has inspired a conversation about homelessness in general, appropriate depictions of Christ and at least one call for his arrest. The life-size statue is the work of Canadian sculptor Timothy Schmalz who in his artist statement says he’s “devoted to creating artwork that glorifies Christ.” His “Homeless Jesus” is controversial for many reasons; most importantly because of the pose. The figure depicts Jesus as a man under a blanket, with only his exposed feet, wounded by crucifixation, to give away his identity — a starkly different image than the images Christ on the cross, Christ at the nativity or Chris the redeemer that we are used to seeing.

The idea seems to be catching on:

Davidson’s “Homeless Jesus” is the first “Jesus the Homeless” statue on display in the U.S., but more might be on the way. While not entirely a unanimous opinion (St. Michael’s Cathedral in Toronto and St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York rejected installing the works largely due to cost), a number of religious officials and bodies have expressed interest and support for the work.

Long before it came to Davidson, Pope Francis was presented with a wooden model of the work, which he blessed and prayed over. Catholic Charities of Chicago intends to install the work later this year, while the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C., and the city of Rome have also discussed the possibly. If it so, it would appear on Via della Conciliazione, in sight of St. Peter’s Basilica.

20 Apr 17:51

▶ Amar Akbar Anthony: My Name is Anthony Gonsalves - YouTube

by russiansledges
Russian Sledges

happy easter

via overbey

Movie: Amar Akbar Anthony Song: My Name is Anthony Gonsalves Actors: Amitabh Bachchan, Parveen Babi Singer: Kishore Kumar
18 Apr 21:39

Bowling for Kittens! Support Team Cat Fancy and help save some animals with us!

by Sarai


Here in Portland, we have a fantastic animal rescue organization call the Pixie Project.

This group does so much for animals. In addition to offering important low-cost and free vet services (including spay and neuter programs), they also work to take at-risk animals from overcrowded county shelters, get them on their feet (er, paws), and find forever families for them. This is an organization that saves the lives of so many beautiful, innocent creatures who might otherwise be killed.

This year, Alyson and I are participating in The Pixie Project’s annual Furbowl bowling fundraiser, and we would really appreciate your support for these animals!

Any amount helps. Here is an idea of how your donation could help:

  • $10 neuters one pixie cat
  • $25 feeds all the pixie animals for a day!
  • $50 spays and vaccinates one pixie dog
  • $100 allows the project to care for one shelter animal for one week
  • $250 opens the pixie low-cost clinic for one day and helps 12 animals who would otherwise go without care (spay, neuter, dental, tumor removal, wound care, etc)

Pretty cool, huh?

Not only that, but I have to point out two more important things:

  1. Donations are matched! That means that every $1 you donate will be matched by a sponsor to make it $2!
  2. Donations are tax deductible.

And finally, the really important enticement…

You may or may not know that Colette Patterns is named after my kitty, the ultra-glamorous (but reclusive) Colette.

If you donate on my page, Colette and I will send you an autographed glossy photo with a thank you note. Isn’t she beautiful? Can you believe that this movie star kitty was herself born on the mean streets (or possibly in a wood pile)?

(That’s a picture of Basil and Colette as wee ones at the top of this post. Still best friends!)


Here’s what to do

  1. Click here to donate any amount to help care for these animals (just click the big green “donate” button on the top right).
  2. Once you’ve done that, click here and enter your name and shipping address where you’d like Colette’s thank you note to go.

Thank you so much for helping these animals find their forever homes and avoid a sad fate!


20 Apr 12:29

Breadcrumb Trail | Brattle Theatre

by russiansledges
Russian Sledges

attn overbey

Throughout the 1980s, a group of friends in Louisville, Kentucky grew up forming bands, breaking up, and reforming in different configurations. They were playing hardcore shows at ages 10-12, touring with Samhain as 14 year olds, recording for Homestead as Squirelbait at age 15, then formed Slint in their late teens and recorded the classic album Spiderland before they were 21. They broke up before the album’s release, giving no interviews and vanishing into their own shadows. Now, two decades later, filmmaker Lance Bangs has assembled unseen footage of the teenagers writing and arranging Spiderland along with the first on-camera interviews with the band members and their contemporaries trying to decipher what they have been through.
18 Apr 10:58

Huginn: Think of it as "Yahoo Pipes" plus IFTTT on your own server

Russian Sledges

via firehose ("hmmmmmmm HMMMMMMMMMMMMM")

Courtney shared this story from Hacker News:
Darius, a new toy


Huginn. Your agents are standing by.

What is Huginn?

Huginn is a system for building agents that perform automated tasks for you online. They can read the web, watch for events, and take actions on your behalf. Huginn's Agents create and consume events, propagating them along a directed event flow graph. Think of it as Yahoo! Pipes plus IFTTT on your own server. You always know who has your data. You do.

the origin of the name

We're just getting started, but here are some of the things that you can do with Huginn right now:

  • Track the weather and get an email when it's going to rain (or snow) tomorrow ("Don't forget your umbrella!")
  • List terms that you care about and receive emails when their occurrence on Twitter changes. (For example, want to know when something interesting has happened in the world of Machine Learning? Huginn will watch the term "machine learning" on Twitter and tell you when there is a large spike.)
  • Watch for air travel deals
  • Follow your project names on Twitter and get updates when people mention them
  • Scrape websites and receive emails when they change
  • Compose digest emails about things you care about to be sent at specific times of the day
  • Track counts of high frequency events and send an SMS within moments when they spike, such as the term "san francisco emergency"
  • Watch public transit
  • Run arbitrary JavaScript Agents on the server
  • Track your location over time
  • Create Amazon Mechanical Turk workflows as the inputs, or outputs, of agents. ("Once a day, ask 5 people for a funny cat photo; send the results to 5 more people to be rated; send the top-rated photo to 5 people for a funny caption; send to 5 final people to rate for funniest caption; finally, post the best captioned photo on my blog.")

Follow @tectonic for updates as Huginn evolves, and join us in our IRC channel (#huginn on Freenode) to discuss the project.

We need your help!

Want to help with Huginn? Try tackling issues tagged with #help-wanted.


Please checkout the Huginn Introductory Screencast!

And now, some example screenshots. Below them are instructions to get you started.

Example list of agents

Event flow diagram

Detecting peaks in Twitter

Logging your location over time

Making a new agent

Getting Started

Quick Start

If you just want to play around, you can simply clone this repository, then perform the following steps:

  • Copy .env.example to .env (cp .env.example .env) and edit .env, at least updating the APP_SECRET_TOKEN variable.
  • Run rake db:create, rake db:migrate, and then rake db:seed to create a development MySQL database with some example seed data.
  • Run foreman start, visit http://localhost:3000/, and login with the username of admin and the password of password.
  • Setup some Agents!

Note: by default, emails are not sent in the development Rails environment, which is what you just setup. If you'd like to enable emails when playing with Huginn locally, edit config.action_mailer.perform_deliveries in config/environments/development.rb.

If you need more detailed instructions, see the Novice setup guide.

Real Start

Follow these instructions if you wish to deploy your own version of Huginn or contribute back to the project. Github doesn't make it easy to work with private forks of public repositories, so I recommend that you follow the following steps:

  • Make a public fork of Huginn. If you can't create private Github repositories, you can skip the steps below. Just follow the Quick Start steps above and make pull requests when you want to contribute a patch.
  • Make a private, empty Github repository called huginn-private
  • Duplicate your public fork into your new private repository (via Github's instructions):

    git clone --bare
    cd huginn.git
    git push --mirror
    cd .. && rm -rf huginn.git
  • Checkout your new private repository.

  • Add your Huginn public fork as a remote to your new private repository (huginn-private):

    git remote add public
  • Run the steps from Quick Start above to configure your copy of Huginn.

  • When you want to contribute patches, do a remote push from your private repository to your public fork of the relevant commits, then make a pull request to this repository.


Please see the Huginn Wiki for detailed deployment strategies for different providers.

Optional Setup

Enable the WeatherAgent

In order to use the WeatherAgent you need an API key with Wunderground. Signup for one and then change value of api_key: your-key in your seeded WeatherAgent.

Logging your location to the UserLocationAgent

You can use Post Location on your iPhone to post your location to an instance of the UserLocationAgent. Make a new one to see instructions.

Enable DelayedJobWeb for handy delayed_job monitoring and control

  • Edit, uncomment the DelayedJobWeb section, and change the DelayedJobWeb username and password.
  • Uncomment match "/delayed_job" => DelayedJobWeb, :anchor => false in config/routes.rb.
  • Uncomment gem "delayed_job_web" in Gemfile and run bundle.

Disable SSL

We assume your deployment will run over SSL. This is a very good idea! However, if you wish to turn this off, you'll probably need to edit config/initializers/devise.rb and modify the line containing config.rememberable_options = { :secure => true }. You will also need to edit config/environments/production.rb and modify the value of config.force_ssl.


Huginn is provided under the MIT License.


Huginn has its own IRC channel on freenode: #huginn. Some of us are hanging out there, come and say hello.


Huginn is a work in progress and is hopefully just getting started. Please get involved! You can add new Agents, expand the Wiki, or help us simplify and strengthen the Agent API or core application.

Please fork, add specs, and send pull requests!

Build Status Coverage Status Bitdeli Badge

19 Apr 16:38

This video will make you even more reluctant to gate-check your carry-on

by Kevin J. Delaney
Russian Sledges

via firehose

It’s a common experience these days for air travelers to arrive at the gate and be told that they have to check their carry-on luggage. The overhead bins of planes are stuffed on any flight that’s even close to full, as passengers cart on as much as they can to avoid waiting at the baggage claim or paying extra fees to check any luggage.

Now a video shot by an Air Canada passenger this week is likely to increase reluctance to gate-check carry-ons. (Watch for the bags plummeting after being casually dropped from the stairs by the jet bridge.)

Air Canada baggage #fail 20 ft bag toss in Toronto @AirCanada – we had a rough day today. @drvanslyke
Dwayne Stewart (@dwayner9) April 18, 2014

“We are extremely disappointed by the actions depicted in this video,” Air Canada said in a statement. “This clearly goes against our standard baggage handling procedures which dictates that gate-checked bags are to be hand carried down to the ramp. An investigation into this has been launched.”

Checked luggage can get rough treatment. (One anonymous baggage handler says he and colleagues sometimes make a game out of throwing bags around as hard as they can.) But passengers generally expect that their carry-on luggage won’t be subject to that, and put more fragile items such as electronic gadgets in it. In this age of widespread carry-on gate-checking, it’s worth trying to resist it whenever possible and, if that doesn’t work, insist on removing any items that would suffer from rough handling.

18 Apr 16:23

Neil DeGrasse Tyson on Women and African Americans in Science

Russian Sledges

via rosalind

transcript via firehose

"The panel features Richard Dawkins, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Ann Druyan and Victor Stenger.

Moderated by D.J. Grothe (of Point of Inquiry), it took place at the New York Academy of Sciences at a Center for Inquiry conference titled "Secular Society and its Enemies."

The panel discusses atheism versus science, science education, the nature of science, various strategies for advancing society in society, threats to science education including religion and popular culture, racism and sexism in science, and many other topics."


Old White Guy: "The Larry Summers question. What's up with chicks in science?" (audience laughter)

Moderator: "Slightly off topic but nonetheless interesting." (OWG: "It's scientific, eh?") "Does anyone want to field the genetic differences between men and women, explain why more men are in science? Anyone want to touch that?"

A: "I've never been female, (audience laughter) but I have been black my whole life (audience laughter). And, so, let me perhaps offer some insight from that perspective, because there are many similar social issues related to access to equal opportunity that we find in the black community as well as the community of women in a male, a white male-dominated society. And I'll be brief because I want to try to get more questions.

When I look at throughout my life--I've known that I wanted to do astrophysics since I was 9 years old, my first visit to the Hayden Planetarium. I was a little younger than Victor (Stenger) at the time, I was, although he did it before I did (audience laughter). And so, so I got to see how the world around me reacted to my expression of these ambitions, and all I can say is, the fact that I wanted to be a scientist, an astrophysicist, was hands down the path of most resistance through the forces of nature in soci--forces of society.

Any time I expressed this interest, teachers, they, "Don't you want to be an athlete? Don't you want to--" I wanted to become something that was outside of the paradigms of expectation of that, of the people in power. And so, so, fortunately my depth of interest in the universe's so deep and so fuel-enriched that every one of these curveballs that I was thrown in, fences built in front of me, and hills that I had to climb, I just reached for more fuel and I kept going.

Now here I am, one--I think--one of the most visible scientists in the land, and I want to look behind me and say, where are the others who might have been this and they're not there? And I wonder, how, who, what is the blood on the tracks that I happened to survive that others did not, simply because the forces of society that prevented--at EVERY turn, at EVERY turn, to the point where I have security guards following me as I go through department stores presuming that I am some, that I am a thief--I walked out of a store one time and the alarm went off, and so they came running to me. I walked through the gate at the same time a white male walked through the gate, and that guy just walked off with the stolen goods knowing that they would have stopped me and not him. That's an interesting sort of exploitation of this-- (Ann Druyan: what a scam) --what a scam that was! I take it--people should do that more often! (AD: I'm going shopping with you!) (laughter) So, so my life experience tells me that when you don't find blacks in sciences, you don't find women in the sciences, I KNOW these forces are REAL, and I had to survive them in order to get where I am today.

So before we start talking about genetic differences, you've got to come up with a system where there's equal opportunity, then we can have that conversation. (Applause)


Neil DeGrasse Tyson on Women and African Americans in Science:
Buried deep at the end of an obscure panel discussion.  Watch.  As if I needed any more reason to love this man.
18 Apr 21:22

How Nest and FitBit Might Spy On You For Cash

by Soulskill
Russian Sledges

via firehose

Nerval's Lobster writes: "Forbes offers up a comforting little story about how Nest and FitBit are planning on turning user data in a multi-billion-dollar business. 'Smart-thermostat maker Nest Labs (which is being acquired by Google for $3.2 billion) has quietly built a side business managing the energy consumption of a slice of its customers on behalf of electric companies,' reads the article. 'In wearables, health tracker Fitbit is selling companies the tracking bracelets and analytics services to better manage their health care budgets, and its rival Jawbone may be preparing to do the same.' As many a wit has said over the years: If you're not paying, you're the product. But if Forbes is right, wearable-electronics companies may have discovered a sweeter deal: paying customers on one side, and companies paying for those customers' data on the other. Will most consumers actually care, though?"

Share on Google+

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

17 Apr 23:30

Author Gabriel Garcia Marquez dies

The Nobel prize-winning Colombian author Gabriel Garcia Marquez, author of One Hundred Years of Solitude, dies in Mexico aged 87, his family says.
18 Apr 16:08

Patrick Stewart Wants to Ban Strollers in Park Slope

by Noah Hurowitz

Sir Patrick Stewart, Brooklyn's coolest knight, has been doing what he can to fit in as a New Yorker, namely enjoying the sunsets over South Slope and folding his pizza like a true native (although his subway etiquette still leaves something to be desired). But one thing sets Stewart and his wife apart in his Brooklyn neighborhood, and he's had enough of it.

"I think we are probably the only residents of Park Slope who don't have a stroller," said Stewart to Intelligencer on Thursday, at IWC's For the Love of Cinema event. "I'm actually beginning a campaign — well, I actually began it with Mayor Bloomberg — about banning strollers."

It's no use trying to blend in with the baby-pushers, either. "It wouldn't work. Look at me," he said. "We do eat a lot of kale, but we don't have a stroller."

Read more posts by Noah Hurowitz

Filed Under: party chat ,oh brooklyn ,patrick stewart ,kale ,strollers ,park slope ,neighborhood news

04 Apr 19:08

“I F*cking Hate @RuPaul”

by Andrea James
Russian Sledges

via multitask suicide

Normally, a journalist making this pronouncement wouldn’t also report “objectively” about RuPaul that same day, but editors at LGBT website think this lack of ethics and professionalism by writer Parker Molloy is A-OK. It perfectly summarizes the current state of post-disruption journalism and its unhealthy addiction to Twitter, as well as the brain drain that has happened in LGBT media.

When not expressing hate for subjects of her reporting, Molloy is part of the eyeroll-inducing “hashtag activist” movement currently infecting the internet. Rants and beta male humorlessness once limited to blogs and social media are now creeping into other outlets. In a sign of the times, The Advocate, a venerable and respected LGBT print magazine founded almost 50 years ago, is now a separate entity from The website is overseen by a separate editorial team who favors bloggers and tweeters like Molloy over journalists; quantity over quality. Molloy’s specialty is trafficking in outrage, the basest coin of the internet, and is harnessing Molloy’s background as a search engine marketer in its current deathmatch with HuffPo Gay Voices.

Why does Molloy, who is transgender, fucking hate RuPaul? Ru used the word “shemale” recently on RuPaul’s Drag Race and has unapologetically used a number of other taboo words over several decades, like “tranny” and what-not. Imagine that, a drag queen breaking a taboo! Any entertainer deals with hecklers, and Molloy is one of RuPaul’s. Heckler culture has grown stronger as we devolve into a society of media consumers, where everyone is a critic. The only difference between a heckler and a critic is manners, and now hecklers are apparently considered journalists.

Disdain for drag in general and RuPaul in particular has occasionally flared up from folks who transition from male to female with the zeal of a religious convert. They often dabble in online heckling like this before they inevitably flame out. The internet allows these shut-ins to spend their waking lives online, agreeing with like-minded victim cultists who share their views of acceptable transgender thought and behavior. These trans folks have developed their own pseudo-academic jargon like cis-het, which means “cisgender heterosexual,” which itself means “non-transgender straight person.” Most trans folks throwing around cis-het would have been labeled cis-het themselves a few years ago. It’s noteworthy that the most vocal anti-RuPaul hecklers are trans women who are primarily attracted to women. These newly-minted queers are derided as Social Justice Warriors (SJWs) by the anti-heckler movement. The burgeoning backlash forming on 4chan and Reddit mocks SJWs as privileged pseudo-activists who seek to hurt others using the hard-earned weight of actual political movements.

Bret Easton Ellis calls these online hecklers Generation Wuss, oversensitive precious snowflakes raised on smugfuckery via LiveJournal, Twitter, and Tumblr. They exist in every subculture and demographic, and these internecine battles rarely move beyond a community squabble. In the LGBT community a hallmark of this online “activism” is little direct face-to-face interaction with the larger community or our critics. Their primary idea of activism is insulting someone they don’t like with a tweet or post involving the crutch word fuck. So fucking brave! Like all hecklers, their attention-seeking behavior helps these self-haters feel better about themselves.

While experienced activists seek to build bridges and establish empathy between cultures, these elitists’ ideas of success involve extracting apologies from media figures for perceived slights. This just drives intolerance underground, where it manifests in more pernicious ways, winning very few over to a new way of thinking and entrenching everyone. Witness #CancelColbert.

Long-simmering anger about RuPaul hit a boiling point this month. Ru had been getting away with a different “You’ve Got She-Mail” gag on the show for a long time, but a recent episode aired a “Female or Shemale” segment, asking participants to guess whether a closeup was a drag performer or a non-trans woman. This evoked a sordid history of similar media, like Maury Povich episodes and websites presenting similar quizzes to identify the trans woman among non-trans women. In trans-land, shemale is probably the most taboo of the taboo words in the lexicon. It was popularized through its use in the most transphobic book ever written, The Transsexual Empire: The Making of the She-Male.

The term has come to be used almost exclusively in pornography and sex work. It easily beats out tranny, he-she, shim, and a host of hilariously offensive rhyming slurs like chicks with dicks, dolls with balls, sluts with nuts, or guys in disguise. I have personally expressed my concern about the term shemale directly to the Drag Race producers. They have issued an apology. Remarkably, the hecklers also sought to extract concessions from LGBT media watchdog GLAAD for not acting quickly enough. Effective activism takes time and involves negotiation, and I was amazed to see that GLAAD felt they had to defend themselves for not racing to Twitter and “solving” things there.

Just as gay people can be homophobic, trans people can be transphobic, and it’s not just limited to RuPaul’s recent controversy. One of Molloy’s other targets is my friend Calpernia Addams, one of many trans entertainers who came up through working in clubs as showgirls before making a gender transition. For much of the 20th century, this was the trajectory of most trans women, working alongside drag performers, but living full-time as women outside of work. As trans people become more visible and come out sooner, we have many more employment options. Recent transitioners like Molloy, who did not identify as gay before transition, are more likely to have other options, but they also often have a disdain for gay and drag culture. This is nothing new. Christine Jorgensen, who transitioned amidst an unprecedented media frenzy in 1952, was virulently homophobic and sought to distance herself from being associated with gay people. This separatism between drag and trans persists, similar to separatism some seek between crossdressers and those who live full-time in their chosen gender. Trans separatists like Molloy also spend a lot of time fighting online with lesbian separatists, some of whom reject trans lesbians the same way these trans lesbians want little to do with crossdressing or drag. The internalized transphobia behind this separatist impulse happens in any community that is finding its voice, and it’s flaring up again in the trans community.

Among the most problematic behaviors by trans separatists like Molloy is use of the term drag queen as a transphobic slur against other trans women whose politics they don’t like, including Addams and trans model Carmen Carrera. Carerra appeared on RuPaul’s Drag Race prior to transition, so she is compromised and complicated from a separatist’s point of view. After I complained privately to editor Lucas Grindley about Molloy’s recent deliberate slurs against Calpernia, Grindley claimed Molloy’s attack was merely an “error.” Calling assimilated transgender people drag queens or crossdressers is a transphobic slur as time-honored as using their old names or former gender pronouns as insults. As I patiently explained to Grindley, if I publish a piece reporting that “Parker Molloy is a self-hating skin transvestite,” then tweet a half-assed non-apology, my use of a transphobic slur is not an error. It would be neither journalistic nor ethical, and more reputable editors would consider it a firing offense. Grindley has refused to speak with me by phone, and has refused to meet with me in person, and has refused to let me run an op-ed (hence this piece). I tried every avenue to resolve this dispute like professional journalists. Grindley is apparently too busy heckling Calpernia on Twitter about "Ugly Hearts,” her typically sweet and quirky song about internet bullying. Turns out Grindley is just further evidence of the heckler-as-journalist trend.

So now this professional dispute is public, and the dirty laundry is getting aired. The usual suspects are trolling on Twitter, and no one is really listening to each other. I used to spend a lot of time arguing on the internet. I came to see it as a form of procrastination. A search of USENET will find the exact same arguments getting rehashed by trans people since the dawn of the internet. Each new wave of users has to develop their views and voice by whatever technology is ascendant at the time, but arguing on Twitter is like debating via bumper stickers. It’s the worst of two worlds: heckling and gotcha-style journalism.

LGBT reactionaries have been throwing drag performers under the bus since the movement’s origins. You’ve seen them; elitists in our community upset at flamboyance at Gay Pride parades and so on. Transsexual women in the media who step outside the lines of “acceptable” behavior and language get the same transphobic shaming. Respectability politics will always be in conflict with drag, an art form with countercultural subversion at its heart. When these parvenus create new taboos around language, they’re practically begging drag queens and kings to violate these taboos. If it’s a choice between siding with the language police and siding with offensive artists, I’ll always side with the artist willing to risk the consequences of making an offensive joke. The right to offend people is a cornerstone of the LGBT movement, and I will always defend anyone who offends our community’s finger-wagging schoolmarms. Every movement and community needs jesters.

A few years ago I helped restore Queens At Heart, a rare color documentary of pre-Stonewall Manhattan LGBT social life. There was no separation of drag and trans, nor was there 25 years later in Paris Is Burning. We’re all in this together. Some elitists have even proclaimed that RuPaul isn’t trans. Guess I’d better burn my first edition of Leslie Feinberg’s seminal work, Transgender Warriors: Making History from Joan of Arc to RuPaul. My transgender tent proudly includes crossdressers like Dennis Rodman, or drag queens like RuPaul, or people who identify as shemale, or those throwing around the word tranny, or those whose antics anger or embarrass me. They’re still part of my trans family.

For the record, I don’t fucking hate @RuPaul. I’ve respected and admired Ru for a quarter century. I also respect and admire everyone at World of Wonder, who have created more positive transgender media depictions than any production company in history, from Transgeneration, to Becoming Chaz, to Drag Race, to my own work with them. They have been honored by the industry and the community time and again for their unwavering commitment to covering overlooked segments of the LGBT community, like their remarkable Big Freedia: Queen of Bounce, currently nominated for a GLAAD Media Award for Outstanding Reality Series.

Speaking of peanut butter, this week I picked up the new RuPaul candy bar, because proceeds benefit our local LGBT shelter. Then I picked up some Viva Glam lip color at MAC, which has raised millions for AIDS research since they took a risk and made Ru their face 20 years ago.

I fucking love RuPaul. I fucking love drag. I fucking love everyone, even fucking stay-at-home transactivists and fucking unprofessional journalists.