Shared posts

06 Feb 15:36

What is a prayer?

by PZ Myers

I’ve heard a number of explanations: it’s a private conversation with the supernatural emperor of the universe, or possibly a moment of communion with all-that-is, or even just a quiet personal centering of the self. These are all lies. As we all know, prayer is actually an opportunity to posture publicly, promoting one’s own piety.

We have another example to illustrate the accuracy of my definition. Phoenix had a request from the Satanists to be allowed to give an opening prayer at council meetings, and the council struggled with their decision — whether to allow a Satanic prayer, which would cause a huge outcry from fanatical Christians; to prohibit certain faiths from participation, which would clearly violate the separation of church and state and lead to lawsuits; or to simply stop the prayer nonsense altogether, and instead have a moment of silence, in which individuals could freely have a private conversation with god, commune with all-that-is, center their self, or whatever.

Phoenix wisely went with the moment of silence idea. Seems smart to me; as an atheist, I wouldn’t object, and believers are still allowed to chat with god, commune, center, etc., if that’s what prayer is all about.

The majority of the council seem sensible and are willing. But others are willingly validating my theory that prayer is about loudly and publicly pronouncing the depth of their faith, and are melting down at the idea that they can’t get any more brownie points with the gods by babbling at others.

The objections have been emotional, loud and generally ignorant. Christians are pushing for their right to pray, but they don’t seem to understand the fact they can’t allow their prayers while banning others. The Phoenix council had an option of either allowing the alternate prayers, or banning them while facing a First Amendment-based lawsuit that is practically a guaranteed loss for them. They chose a third option of banning all prayer (the best option) completely. Now they are being threatened with even more lawsuits from Christians that want to insert religion into government – as long as it’s only Christian religion.

You can’t win with these people.

05 Feb 21:54

Clickety–clack, clickety-clack... Choo Choo!

by Jennifer

Current Iron Builder competitor Tim Schwalfenberg is chugging through the competition, having already completed seven builds. His most recent creation is this delightful microscale train scene. That pin connector looks great as a tank car. But I wonder what that tiny village needs two full tanks of. Gasoline? Milk? Mountain Dew Code Red? Tim’s packed a lot of detail into this small build — my favorites, other than the train itself, include the railroad crossing sign and that glorious gorge-spanning bridge.

Choo Choo!

05 Feb 18:38

archiemcphee: Cats + Mathematics = the Furbonacci sequence The...


Cats + Mathematics = the Furbonacci sequence

The Fibonacci sequence is found in many places in nature, including the branching of trees, leaves on a stem, the flowering of an artichoke, or an uncurling fern. But what if you applied this famous approximation of the golden spiral to our feline friends? Suddenly cats become even more awesome than we already thought they were.

Bored Panda is building a large collection of cute kitties demonstrating their mathematical prowess, nearly 40 as of the writing of this post. Click here to view them all.


Photos by thecheat42, Akimasa Harada, songbardbird, jacquiep, naux, and Beverley Goodwin respectively.

[via Bored Panda]

05 Feb 09:09

PayPal Starts Banning VPN and SmartDNS Services

by Ernesto

paypaldeniedPayPal is widely known for their aggressive stance towards BitTorrent sites, Usenet providers and file-hosting services, but VPN, proxy and SmartDNS providers might now suffer the same fate too.

This week PayPal stopped accepting payments for a company that provides VPN and SmartDNS tools, stating that these may facilitate copyright infringement.

So-called “unblocker” tools can be used to bypass geo-filtering blockades which Netflix and other video platforms have in place.

According to the message PayPal sent to UnoTelly and possibly others, these services are against the company’s policies because they help users to bypass copyright restrictions.

“Under the PayPal Acceptable Use Policy, PayPal may not be used to send or receive payments for items that infringe or violate any copyright, trademark, right of publicity or privacy, or any other proprietary right under the laws of any jurisdiction,” PayPal’s email reads.

“This includes transactions for any device or technological measure that descrambles a scrambled work, decrypts an encrypted work or otherwise avoids, bypasses, removes, deactivates or impairs a technological measure without the authority of the copyright owner.”

PayPal informs the affected business(es) that their accounts have been permanently limited and that this decision can’t be appealed. This means that they have to switch to other payment processing providers.

UnoTelly informs TorrentFreak that the decision came as a shock, without any type of prior notice. The company is disappointed and sees the move as a direct attack on open and unrestricted Internet access.

“We are disappointed at PayPal’s unilateral action and the way it acted without prior warning. We provide both DNS resolution and secure VPN services. Our services are network relays that connect people around the world,” UnoTelly’s Nicholas Lin says.

Under PayPal’s policy every VPN and SmartDNS service is at risk of losing its PayPal account. However, it seems likely that the company will mainly take action against companies that market themselves as an “unblocker” service.

UnoTelly, for example, specifically mentions its ability to bypass geo-blocks imposed by streaming sites such as Netflix and Hulu.

PayPal’s actions are not an isolated incident. They come a few weeks after Netflix started to increase its crackdown on VPN services and other unblockers, as requested by copyright holders. It would be no surprise if copyright holders are also behind PayPal’s recent move.


PayPal’s email:

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and ANONYMOUS VPN services.

04 Feb 16:25

Jurassic lacewing vs. modern butterfly

by Minnesotastan
"A study out today in the Proceedings of the Royal Society: B that features IU paleobotanist David Dilcher as a co-author identifies a Jurassic-age insect whose behavior and appearance closely mimic a butterfly — but whose emergence on Earth predates the butterfly by about 40 million years.

Dilcher — who made international headlines last year for his role in discovering the mythical “first flower” — said these proverbial “first butterflies” survived in a similar manner as their modern sister insects by visiting plants with “flower-like” reproductive organs producing nectar and pollen."
"The butterfly-like insects, which went on to evolve into a different form of insect from the modern butterfly, is an extinct “lacewing” of the genus kalligrammatid called Oregramma illecebrosa. Another genus of this insect — of the order Neuroptera — survives into our modern era, and are commonly known as fishflies, owlflies or snakeflies...

... another evolutionary innovation found in the ancient lacewing fossils’ wings remained remarkably unchanged over the course of millennia: so-called “eye spots.”

This unique pattern on the wings, arising over 200 million years ago, is nearly identical to markings on the modern owl butterfly. To this day, owl butterflies use these circular marks as a defense mechanism against predators, which mistake the spots as the eyes of a larger, more threatening animal."
Text and images from Indiana University, via Vice's Motherboard.
04 Feb 22:40

Who’s a pretty boy then? This scarlet macaw, that’s who!

by Elspeth De Montes

This LEGO model of a Scarlet Macaw by James Universe is currently being displayed at Dallas Zoo until April 10th 2016. James’ model is just under 12 inches tall and features a “tree stand” for displaying. Dallas Zoo is currently hosting an exhibition called Nature Connects by LEGO Certified Professional Sean Kenney and James’ model relates to this exhibition.

The rainbow plumage on this Scarlet Macaw is wonderful – the LEGO colour palate certainly works well for this species. I particularly love the use of multiple Medium Azure surfboards for the tail feathers.

02 Feb 16:32

Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal - BEES


Hovertext: But, when I look at bees, I don't see caste.

New comic!
Today's News:
03 Feb 18:33


03 Feb 16:39

Bad arguments are bad arguments

by PZ Myers

Amidst all the chaos of the self-proclaimed atheist leaders exposing their flaws, it’s easy to forget that they’re right about atheism. There is no god. The arguments for god are pathetic and silly. Many religious beliefs are self-destructive and poisonous. I’ve been seeing a few articles lately that are basically gloating that atheism is dead or dying because Richard Dawkins said something stupid about women’s equality…but they ignore the fact that he also said many smart things about god-belief, and the regressive nature of one guy’s antipathy towards feminism does not discredit atheism, or provide any comfort to religious advocates. It’s also particularly ironic when Catholics wag a finger at a few atheists who are blinded by privilege, while studiously ignoring that one of the biggest threats to women’s rights in the western world has been Catholic doctrine.

But as far as arguments for religions go, Dawkins doesn’t matter, and neither do the criminal activities of the Catholic church. What matters on the topic of god-belief are the qualities of the arguments. and really, they are appallingly bad. I’m not talking about just the goofy crap that comes out of lackluster minds like that of a Hovind or a Comfort, but the Big Guns of religion, like Aquinas. They are impossible to take seriously, unless one is doped to the gills with bad theology.

People often send me links from a site called “Intellectual Takeout” — there are a lot of Catholics who think I still need to be taken down a peg or two — and they are without exception absurd. The latest that was told would humble me is The Most Famous Proof for God’s Existence, which left me unimpressed. Here it is, in summary:

The “First-Cause Argument”:

– It’s impossible for a thing to be the cause of itself.

– If something is caused by another, then these causes must go back to infinity, or their must be a first, uncaused cause that begins the chain of causes in the universe.

– It’s not possible for causes to go back to infinity.

– Therefore, there must be a First Cause, which everyone calls “God.”

I have two problems with it.

The first is that I don’t know that their initial premise is true. Why can’t a thing be caused by itself, or better yet, have no cause at all? It’s simply an assertion, plopped down at the beginning of the argument, and it hasn’t been demonstrated.

The second is a related problem. What do you mean by “cause”? Just yesterday I was sitting down at a microscope, staring at high power at single cells, and seeing slow bubbling fluctuations in the membranes and the jittering activity of organelles, and also jerky movements of debris particles in the water, and I understood the cause: Brownian motion. This is simply the visible, random motion of ojects in response to collisions with the smaller atoms of water, which are all jiggling randomly with simple thermal energy.

Is that accepted as a “cause”? There is no intelligence behind it. Even if you accept some kind of determinism (I don’t), it’s not causal in the sense implied by Aquinas, who is reading some kind of planned purposefulness to it.

So is “God” just a form of heat?

It generally seems to be true that the deeper we look into things the simpler and more physical their causes appear. You might ask, “Why carbon?”, wondering why there’s so much of it here on Earth. And the physicists will tell you it all comes from nucleosynthesis in stars. Is nucleosynthesis “God”? Are stars?

So even if I accept their first premise, that all things are caused, I see no reason to believe that the primal trigger for all existence was an intelligent being with human-like personal qualities, like love and morality. Quite the opposite actually. This is an argument that leads me far, far away from the typical religious perspective of a deity, and closer and closer to an atheistic, scientific view of the universe.

In this sense, the religious apologists seem to be thrilled with internal dissent within the atheist community, because it is a useful distraction from the bullshit they’ve been peddling for a few centuries.

02 Feb 00:00

Saliva Pool

by xkcd

Saliva Pool

How long would it take for a single person to fill up an entire swimming pool with their own saliva?

—Mary Griffin, 9th grade

The average kid produces about half a liter of saliva per day, according to the paper Estimation of the total saliva volume produced per day in five-year-old children, which I like to imagine was mailed to the Archives of Oral Biology in a slightly sticky, dripping envelope.

A five-year-old probably produces proportionally less saliva than a larger adult. On the other hand, I'm not comfortable betting that anyone produces more drool than a little kid, so let's be conservative and use the paper's figure.

If you're collecting your saliva,[1]This question is gross, by the way. you can't use it to eat.[2]I hope. You could get around this by chewing gum or something, to get your body to produce extra saliva, or just by drinking liquid food or getting an IV.

At the rate of 500 mL per day from the paper, it would take you about a year to fill a typical bathtub.

A bathtub full of saliva is pretty gross, but that's not what you asked about. For some reason—I don't really want to know why—you asked about filling a pool.

Let's imagine an Olympic-sized swimming pool, which is 25 meters by 50 meters. Depths vary, but we'll suppose this one is uniformly 4 feet deep,[3]You can read more of the regulations here; a pool with starting blocks does need a slightly deeper bit near each end, but it can be shallower in the middle. There doesn't seem to be anything in the rules about a maximum depth, so I suppose you can make a pool that continues through to the other side of the Earth, but then you run into trouble when you try to follow the instructions in section FR 2.14 about painting lane markings on the bottom. so you can probably stand up in it.

At 500 mL per day, it would take you 8,345 years to fill this pool. That's a long time for the rest of us to wait, so let's imagine you went back in time to get started on this project early.

8,345 years ago, the ice sheets that covered much of the northern parts of the world had mostly receded, and humans had just begun to develop agriculture. Let's imagine you started your project then.

By 4000 BCE, when the civilizations of the Fertile Crescent had begun to develop in modern-day Iraq, the saliva would be a foot deep, covering your feet and ankles.

By 3200 BCE, when writing was first developed, the saliva would creep past your knees.

Around the mid-2000s BCE, the Great Pyramid was constructed and early Mayan cultures emerged. At this point, the saliva would be getting close to your fingertips if you didn't lift your arms up.

Around 1600 BCE, the eruption of a huge volcano in the Greek island now known as Santorini caused a massive tsunami which devastated the Minoan civilization, possibly causing its final collapse. As this happened, the saliva would probably be approaching waist-deep.

The saliva would continue to rise throughout the next three millennia of history, and by the time of Europe's industrial revolution it would be chest-deep, easily enough saliva to swim in. The last 200 years would add the final 3 centimeters, and the pool would finally be filled.

It would take a long time, sure. But it would all be worth it, because at the end of it all, you'd have an Olympic-size swimming pool full of saliva. And isn't that, deep down, all any of us really want?[4]No. It is not.

02 Feb 23:14


by Minnesotastan

Image cropped for size from the original at imgur.
02 Feb 23:23

"Ghastly facadism" decried

by Minnesotastan

Excerpts and a couple photos from an interesting post in Spitalfields Life:
"As if I were being poked repeatedly in the eye with a blunt stick, I cannot avoid becoming increasingly aware of a painfully cynical trend in London architecture which threatens to turn the city into the backlot of an abandoned movie studio..."

I don't know the backstory, but the implication is that local building codes require developers of new properties to retain or install a facade comparable to that of the historic building being replaced.  I'll let the blogger offer the final statement:
A kind of authenticity’ is British Land’s oxymoronical attempt to sell this approach in their Norton Folgate publicity, as if there were fifty-seven varieties of authenticity, when ‘authentic’ is not a relative term – something is either authentic or it is phoney.
Perhaps some reader of TYWKIWDBI can fill us in with some background.
30 Jan 06:51

Staying Classy

by Scott Alexander

Siderea writes an essay on class in America. You should read it. In case you don’t, here’s the summary:

1. People tend to confuse social class with economic class, eg how much money you make. But social class is a more complicated idea involving how respectable you seem, how educated you are, and what kind of family you come from. An assembly line supervisor might make the same amount of money as a schoolteacher, but the schoolteacher would probably seem more refined and be able to access better social circles.

2. Classes are cultures. People in a certain class have their own way of dressing, speaking, decorating, and behaving. They have distinctive ideas and values. This is why a lower-class person cannot simply claim to be upper-class and so gain all the benefits of upper-class-hood; it would be as hard as trying to pass for Japanese. Lower-class people can learn their way around upper-class culture, but it’s a difficult and lifelong project done most easily if you already have upper-class resources.

3. Talking about class is taboo because we like to believe we’re a classless society. We talk about income instead and pretend it’s class. Class breaks through in a couple of phrases like “rednecks” or “white trash” or “white collar” or “coastal elites”, but people use the phrases without usually having a broader idea that it’s class they’re talking about.

4. Class prejudice is complicated. It combines the practical superiority of being upper-class to being lower-class (because you have more money and opportunity) with the very dubious value judgment that upper-class culture is superior to lower-class culture, or that lower-class culture is just people trying to do upper-class culture but failing. But lower-class people like lower-class culture and generally do not want to adopt upper-class culture, except insofar as it’s necessary to advance. Analogies to race and assimilation are obvious.

5. People mostly understand their own class, and the class one step above or below them, but have only vague stereotypes of classes further than that. This limits social mobility; you can’t join what you can’t understand.

6. College is a finishing school for the upper classes. They send their children there to learn the proper upper class values and behaviors. Even if community college does a great job teaching whatever trades it teaches, it will not teach you how to be a part of the upper class, and this will seriously limit your opportunities.

7. Politically, the left pretends class doesn’t exist; the right talks about it, but only to yell at the underclass and say that their culture is wrong. Race is really complicated and will be left out of this analysis.

I notice Siderea is a psychotherapist, which doesn’t surprise me. We in mental health get a pretty good cross-sectional exposure of everybody and get to hear about their lives, and with enough data points the structure comes into sharper relief.

Just to give an example: suppose a lady comes in with really over-permed dyed curly hair wearing several rings, bracelets, and necklaces. Her name is Sherri and she calls you “darling”; she’s also carrying her lunch, which is KFC plus a Big Gulp. Without knowing anything else about her, you can peg her as working class. Maybe she won the lottery ten years ago and is now the richest person in your state. It doesn’t matter. She’s still working class.

Or suppose a thin 25-year-old man comes in wearing glasses, a small close-cropped beard, and a Led Zeppelin t-shirt. His name is Alex and he apologizes for being three minutes late. This guy is probably middle-to-upper-middle-class and college educated, maybe not a great college but still college-educated. And maybe he’s fallen on hard times and doesn’t have a dollar to his name. It still doesn’t matter. He’s still middle-to-upper-middle class.

And you start to learn you can predict things about these people, the concerns they’re going to have, the kind of things that happen to them. Who their friends are. How they relate to their friends: Sherri will expound upon the flaws of every single one of her ungrateful coworkers; Alex will reluctantly say he went through a tough breakup a year or two ago. What kind of drugs they abuse, if they abuse drugs (maybe Sherri has smoking and drinking problems; Alex has probably tried marijuana and LSD but is embarrassed to say so).

But this kind of innate stereotyping is different than a formal taxonomy. Siderea links to Michael Church’s attempt to explain what the classes actually are. This is another piece you should read, but again in case you don’t:

1. 10% of people are in an underclass consisting of “generationally poor” people who may never have held jobs and who come from similarly poor families.

2. 65% of people are in the labor class. They work jobs where labor is seen as a commodity, ie there’s not as much sense of career capital or reputation. They base virtue and success around Hard Work. Its lower levels are minimum wage McJobs, its middle levels are assembly line work, and its higher levels are things like pilots, plumbers, and small business owners. The stratospheric semi-divine level is “celebrities” like reality TV stars who become fabulously rich and famous while sticking to their labor class roots.

3. 23.5% of people are in the gentry class. They fetishize education and career capital. They engage in all sorts of signaling games around “fair trade” and “organic” and what museums they go to. At the lower level they’re schoolteachers and starving artists, at the mid level they’re “professions” like engineering and law, and at the highest level they’re professors and scientists and entrepreneurs. The stratospheric semi-divine level is “cultural influencers” like Jon Stewart or Steven Pinker who become famous and (maybe) rich while sticking to their gentry class roots.

4. 1.5% of people are in the elite class. Although you can be borderline-elite by getting a job in finance and making a few million, the real elite are born into money and don’t work unless they want to. Occasionally they’ll sit on a board or found a philanthropic association or something. They don’t believe in “professional achievement” because working is lower-class; they might compete in complicated status games around who throws the best parties or has the best horses or whatever.

5. The highest class (E1) are insane psychopaths who burn the global commons for shits and giggles. They tend to be drug lords, arms dealers, and morally insane billionaires. Most famous politicians and businesspeople are not of this class and most people in this class are not famous.

6. The three main classes (labor, gentry, and elite) are three different ‘infrastructures’. To be in labor you need skills, to be in gentry you need education, and to be in elite you need connections. There’s no strict hierarchy (eg not all gentry are above all labor), but you can picture them as offset ladders, with the lower gentry being at the same rung as the higher labor and so on.

7. The Elite control everything; the constant threat is that Gentry and Labor will unite against them, which might very well work. The Elite neutralize this threat by making Labor hate Gentry as “effeminate” or “pretentious”; they also convince Labor that the Gentry are probably secretly in cahoots with the underclass against Labor. Elites also convince Labor that Elites don’t exist and it’s Gentry all the way up, which means that “anti-1%” sentiment, which should properly get Labor and Gentry to cooperate against the Elites, instead makes Gentry hate the Elites but Labor hate Gentry. Politics boils down to Gentry being good people trying to improve things, and Elite conning Labor into hating Gentry to prevent things from being improved.

8. While all classes can have good and bad people (except E1, which is wholly bad), Elites have a generally negative influence on society, and Gentry are generally positive. After the World Wars, everybody got angry at the Elites for all the war and killing and stuff, which convinced them to lie low for a few decades and forced the Gentry to take over. This was why the country did so well during the 50s and 60s. Whether the country goes in a good or bad direction now depends on whether the Elites manage to take it back or not. One reason Silicon Valley works (used to work?) so unusually well was that it was mostly a native project of the Gentry that hadn’t yet been infiltrated by the Elites.

Reaction to Church on the subreddit was pretty negative, but I find it at least a good nucleus for further discussion. The Gentry/Labor distinction is glaringly obvious. The Labor/Underclass distinction also seems glaringly obvious to me, if only because Labor hates the underclass. The Gentry/Elite distinction doesn’t seem glaringly obvious to me, but maybe that’s just because I haven’t met enough elites. In particular, Church’s “E1” seems caricatured and out-of-place in his otherwise sober analysis. Then again, if those people existed I probably wouldn’t know anyway. Then again, the rest of Church’s blog suggests some paranoid tendencies, so maybe the E1 entry is just those coming out.

Siderea notes that Church’s analysis independently reached about the same conclusion as Paul Fussell’s famous guide. I’m not entirely sure how you’d judge this (everybody’s going to include lower, middle, and upper classes), but eyeballing Fussell it does look a lot like Church, so let’s grant this.

It also doesn’t sound too different from Marx. Elites sound like capitalists, Gentry like bourgeoisie, Labor like the proletariat, and the Underclass like the lumpenproletariat. Or maybe I’m making up patterns where they don’t exist; why should the class system of 21st century America be the same as that of 19th century industrial Europe?

There’s one more discussion of class I remember being influenced by, and that’s Unqualified Reservations’ Castes of the United States. Another one that you should read but that I’ll summarize in case you don’t:

1. Dalits are the underclass, made up of homeless people, chronically unemployed people, drug addicts, etc. They tend to have a lot of trouble with the law, go in and out of jail, never really hold down stable employment. Status is “street cred” that you get from being powerful, wealthy, and sexually successful, eg gang leaders.

2. Vaisyas are standard middle-class people who engage in productive employment. They tend to form nuclear families and try to go to church. Status is having a stable job, a stable family, and being well-liked in your church or social club.

3. Brahmins are very educated people who participate in the world of ideas. They range from doctors and lawyers to artists and professors. Access is conferred by top-tier university education. Status is from conspicuous engagement in progressive politics, eg being an activist, working for an NGO, “campaigning for justice”. They are “the ruling class”.

4. Optimates are very rich WASPs concerned with breeding and old money. Status comes from breeding and an antiquated idea of “nobility”. Optimates used to be “the ruling class”, but now they’re either extinct or endangered, having been pretty much absorbed into the Brahmins.

5. Mentioned elsewhere in the UR corpus: politics boils down to Vaisyas being basically decent people trying to lead normal productive lives, and Brahmins trying to create a vast tentacled monstrosity of useless bureaucrats and petty enforcers of ideological conformity to employ Brahmins in the “knowledge work” they feel entitled to and to protect their interests. Silicon Valley is (used to be?) unusually functional because it maintained some Vaisya values separate from the corrupting influence of the Brahmins.

Michael Church’s system (henceforth MC) and the Unqualified Reservation system (henceforth UR) are similar in some ways. MC’s Underclass matches Dalits, MC’s Labor matches Vaisyas, MC’s Gentry matches Brahmins, and MC’s Elite matches Optimates. This is a promising start. It’s a fourth independent pair of eyes that’s found the same thing as all the others. (commenters bring up Joel Kotkin and Archdruid Report as similar convergent perspectives).

But there are also some profound differences. UR says that the Elites are mostly gone, that everything’s ruled by the Gentry nowadays, and that the Gentry are allying with the criminal Underclass against Labor. MC mentions this same picture, but only as the false facade that the Elites are trying to get everyone else to believe in order to keep them divided.

You could reconcile some of the differences by supposing the two models have different cutoffs. Suppose we rank people from 0 (lowest underclass) to 100 (highest elite). Maybe MC draws the Labor/Gentry and Gentry/Elite borders at 40 and 70 respectively, and UR draws the Vaisya/Brahmin and Brahmin/Optimate borders at 60 and 90. If the world’s being run by 80s, MC could be right to say it’s run by Elites and not Gentry, and UR could be right in saying it’s run by Brahmins and not Optimates. If Silicon Valley is run by 55s but being ruined by 75s, MC could say it’s run by Gentry but ruined by elites, and UR could say it’s run by Vaisyas but ruined by Brahmins. But if there’s this much variability in class boundaries, what’s the point in even drawing them in the first place?

But I think the differences are real and political: MC comes from a liberal perspective, UR from a conservative one. MC wants to locate the source of the cancer in the (mostly plutocrat) Elites, cast the (mostly liberal) Gentry as wonderful people who can do no wrong, cast the (mostly conservative) Labor as deluded and paranoid, and cast the (liberal-aligned) Underclass in a sympathetic light. UR wants to locate the source of the cancer in the (mostly liberal) Brahmins, cast the (mostly conservative) Labor as decent salt-of-the-Earth types under threat from the elite, and cast the (liberal-aligned) Underclass in an unsympathetic light.

And the political angle evokes one more system worth adding here: my own discussion of the Blue Tribe vs. the Red Tribe in I Can Tolerate Anything But The Outgroup. I point out that the group sometimes referred to as “coastal liberals” or “SWPL” and so on are marked not only by Democratic Party beliefs, but by a host of cultural similarities including food, dress, music, hobbies, religion, values, art, etc. Likewise, the group sometimes referred to as “rednecks” or “fundies” and so on are marked not only by Republican Party beliefs, but by a similar set of cultural similarities. I call these the “Blue Tribe” and the “Red Tribe” as an attempt to distinguish them as cultures and not just as sets of political beliefs.

These tribes seem closely related to classes. “Blue Tribe” is similar to Gentry; “Red Tribe” is similar to Labor. I won’t say there’s a perfect 1:1 equivalence; for example, I know some union leaders who are very clearly in the Labor class but who wouldn’t be caught dead in the Red Tribe. But the resemblance is too close to miss.

Some final scattered thoughts:

1. All those studies that analyze whether some variable or other affects income? They’d all be much more interesting if they analyzed the effect on class instead. For example, there’s a surprisingly low correlation between your parents’ income and your own income, which sounds like it means there’s high social mobility. But I grew up in a Gentry class family; I became a doctor, my brother became a musician, and my cousin got a law degree but eventually decided to work very irregularly and mostly stay home raising her children. I make more money than my brother, and we both make more money than my cousin, but this is not a victory for social mobility and family non-determinism; it’s no coincidence none of us ended up as farmers or factory workers. We all ended up Gentry class, but I chose something closer to the maximize-income part of the Gentry class tradeoff space, my brother chose something closer to the maximize-creativity part, and my cousin chose to raise the next generation. Any studies that interpret our income difference as an outcome difference and tries to analyze what factors gave me a leg up over my relatives (better schools? more breastfeeding as a child?) are stupid and will come up with random noise. We all got approximately the same level of success/opportunity, and those things just happen to be very poorly measured by money. If we could somehow collapse the entirety of tradeoffspace into a single variable, I bet it would have a far greater parent-child correlation than income does. This is part of why I don’t follow the people who take the modest effect of IQ on income as a sign that IQ doesn’t change your opportunities much; maybe everyone in my family has similar IQs but wildly different income levels, and there’s your merely modest IQ/income relationship right there. I think some studies (especially in Britain) have tried analyzing class and gotten some gains over analyzing income, but I don’t know much about this.

2. I think Siderea is right that the Right thinks in social class terms more naturally than the Left. To oversimplify, both sides use class warfare, but the Left’s class warfare is economic (“the plutocrat billionaires are ruining everything!”) and the Right’s class warfare is social (“the media and academic elites are ruining everything!”).

3. Closely related: Donald Trump appeals to a lot of people because despite his immense wealth he practically glows with signs of being Labor class. This isn’t surprising; his grandfather was a barber and his father clawed his way up to the top by getting his hands dirty. He himself went to a medium-tier college and is probably closer in spirit to the small-business owners of the upper Labor class than to the Stanford MBA-holding executives of the Elite. Trump loves and participates in professional wrestling and reality television; those definitely aren’t Gentry or Elites pastimes! When liberals shake their heads wondering why Joe Sixpack feels like Trump is a kindred soul even though Trump’s been a billionaire his whole life, they’re falling into the liberal habit of sorting people by wealth instead of by class. To Joe Sixpack, Trump is “local boy made good”.

4. The thesis of “I Can Tolerate Anything But The Outgroup” simplifies to “It is a Gentry-class tradition to sweep aside all prejudices except class prejudice, which must be held with the intensity of all the old prejudices combined.”

5. But “I Can Tolerate Anything But The Outgroup”‘s Grey Tribe sits uneasy within this system. It doesn’t seem to be a class. But it also seems distinctly different from ordinary Gentry norms. And what about minorities? What about the differences between farmers vs. factory workers? If different classes are equivalent to different cultures, well, there are a lot of different cultures that don’t fit easily into the hierarchy. Maybe class is one factor among many that can create a different culture, but other factors can be stronger than class in some groups?

6. Siderea doesn’t want to get into how race interacts with class, and that seems wise. But a related digression: lots of people complain about social justice being classist, in that it’s hard for anybody who hasn’t either gone to college or at least spent a lot of time hanging around social justice people to keep track of which words, opinions, and causes are okay versus will render you radioactive. On the one hand, this is probably true. On the other, it’s probably true of everything, with social justice as an unexceptional example. Yes, the way you refer to trans people shows what class you’re from, but so does the way you order ice cream.

7. Siderea admits she is classist and not ashamed of this. I have a hard time understanding what she means, but I can try to explain my own classism: I think classes probably sort on important qualities and reinforce those qualities. For example, the Underclass and Labor class people I know are much more likely to have high-conflict styles of interaction: if they feel offended, they’ll yell at you and maybe even fight you. Gentry class people would be horrified at the thought; they might respond to the same offense by filing a complaint with Human Resources. I think there are two equally correct ways to interpret this. Number one, people with the maladaptive behavior of starting physical fights don’t make it very far in life and so end out in lower classes, and insofar as these behaviors are either genetic or learned within the family, their families stay in lower classes throughout the generations. Number two, the lower classes have a culture where you defend your honor by fighting people who offend you, and the upper classes have a culture where you defend your honor by submitting complaints, and although in a cosmic sense both of those styles are equally valid, and although indeed a thousand years ago the fighting might have been more adaptive, in today’s society the complaint-submitting is more adaptive and the lower classes are screwed unless they unlearn that behavior – which they probably won’t, because unlearning class is hard. But this means that classism is at least kind of justified – if you want to hire for example a schoolteacher, you might want to look for people who show all the signs of Gentry rather than Labor class to make sure they’re not going to get into physical fights in the classroom.

8. Cellular automaton theory of fashion likely relevant.

9. Siderea’s idea of college as finishing school for the upper classes is interesting, and her own experience is a window into something I never thought about before. But I’m not sure how typical she is; I think most colleges admit students who are already members of the classes their graduates end up in. I felt like I didn’t learn any class culture during my own college experience at all – which isn’t surprising since I was born the son of a doctor and ended up as a doctor myself. I think my story’s probably more typical than Siderea’s, though other people can prove me wrong if they’ve seen differently.

02 Feb 17:54

profeminist: Source

02 Feb 18:04

kethera: thefingerfuckingfemalefury: ayellowbirds: thesylverli...






i put the pics i used for inspiration side by side with mine and. … holy shit

I’m… this is… well yeah, ‘holy shit’ indeed

#also my brain just went ‘LAL IS ALIVE AND FOLLOWED IN HER DAD’S FOOTSTEPS’#so there is that LMAO

Please cast her in the new Star Trek series as the adorable android offspring of Data

I AM CRYING omg this is the best thing ever ever

01 Feb 16:06

Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal - Divine Intervention


Hovertext: I eagerly await your email about how, actually, the rock must contain radioactive elements.

New comic!
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01 Feb 09:43

02/01/16 PHD comic: 'Gravitational Waves Explained'

Piled Higher & Deeper by Jorge Cham
Click on the title below to read the comic
title: "Gravitational Waves Explained" - originally published 2/1/2016

For the latest news in PHD Comics, CLICK HERE!

01 Feb 13:56

Running "rm -rf /" Is Now Bricking Linux Systems

by timothy
An anonymous reader writes: For newer systems utilizing UEFI, running rm -rf / is enough to permanently brick your system. While it's a trivial command to run on Linux systems, Windows and other operating systems are also prone to this issue when using UEFI. The problem comes down to UEFI variables being mounted with read/write permissions and when recursively deleting everything, the UEFI variables get wiped too. Systemd developers have rejected mounting the EFI variables as read-only, since there are valid use-cases for writing to them. Mounting them read-only can also break other applications, so for now there is no good solution to avoid potentially bricking your system, but kernel developers are investigating the issue.

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02 Feb 00:01

aceofheartsu: I CANT BREATHE Moleman just needs some solid...



Moleman just needs some solid dick.

01 Feb 17:16

micdotcom: Canadian PM Justin Trudeau’s popularity has been on...


Canadian PM Justin Trudeau’s popularity has been on full display at Davos — especially among millennials. There are three specific reasons young people love him so much — and his physical appearance isn’t one of them. 

01 Feb 14:12

The social justice balancing act

by PZ Myers

Ally Fogg makes a very good point.

The first recourse of the racist fearmonger has always been to point to one atypical incident, a riot, a murder, a rape, and hold it to be typical, to be both representative of an entire population and the responsibility of that entire population. The left cannot win by pretending there are no criminals, no thugs, no rapists, no damaged people among the shifting sands of humanity. We can win by unequivocally condemning inappropriate and criminal behaviour while simultaneously and correctly insisting that we will not allow ourselves to judge the many by the sins of the few. We will not allow ourselves to be distracted and diverted from our humanitarian obligations by fear, because history shows us where that leads. We will not allow ourselves to turn our backs on those in desperate need, because we are smarter than that and we are better than that. That is the only way the argument can be won.

I would add that one thing that’s become obvious is that if you hesitate to condemn an act because the perpetrator is a member of an oppressed group, the racist fearmongers will then turn around and use that to condemn the entirety of the left of conspiring with the group that they hate. It’s what they do, and they’re very good at it — you might even say it is the dominant trait of fearmongers, that they’re adept at smearing everything into a giant category of blame.

It’s one of the things that makes addressing them difficult: anything you do will get you swept up into the burning shitpile of hatred they keep aflame. So you might as well just do the right thing.

01 Feb 14:28

Taiwanese LEGO fan uses 15000 bricks to build 4½ foot long SHIELD Helicarrier

by Iain

The most anticipated LEGO set of 2015 was the enormous Avengers SHIELD Helicarrier. As we highlighted in our extensive video review, there was a lot to like about that set, except for the relative scales of the carrier, the microfigs, and the quinjets. And while some builders have explored more ambitious LEGO Helicarrier designs within the confines of a computer screen, no-one has dared tackle the challenge of building a more properly scaled and movie-accurate version of the Avengers’ flying fortress using actual LEGO bricks …until now!

Working with nothing more than reference photos from the 2012 Avengers movie, Taiwanese builder ZiO Chao and a his friends Dada, Kimura, Kuan-Wei, Stephanie, Tiger and Will from the Formosa LEGO club spent a month and a half (and many sleepless nights) constructing this enormous and fully detailed model of the iconic Helicarrier. At 140cm x 80cm it’s twice the size of the official LEGO set, and contains five times as many pieces. At last, those “swooshable” little quinjets now actually have room to move around!

Regarding the build process, which he photographed in great detail, ZiO told The Brothers Brick: “Before I started to build it, the most annoying thing was collecting parts and classifying them. Then we used Technic beams to sketch out the skeleton of the carrier, which needed to be strong enough to hold everything together. Technic beams were also a great solution for the supporting yellow columns, the front of the carrier, and the four turbine engines.”

“Another challenge was the flying deck, built from lateral-facing plates to make it glossy and detailed; it looks simple, but was a large math task to calculate how to match the pattern on the real thing.”

This impressive model is currently on display in a LEGO store in Taipei. ZiO tells us: “I had design to it to be easy to assemble and disassemble, so it would be easy to transport. For large creations, transportation is always an big issue. Therefore I built it in modules. For example, the body of carrier can be separated into three separate sections. The entire carrier is made up of 14 sections.”

31 Jan 15:35

Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal - Human Testing


Hovertext: Anyone wanna teach an ethics class called And Why is *This* SMBC Wrong?

New comic!
Today's News:
01 Feb 04:44

beckylouisethompson: unfuckyourhabitat: fernbabie: I turned...




I turned my frustration with myself into art.

I feel like this is really important for people to see. I’ve been saying depression and mess go hand-in-hand for years, but so many people feel like they’re alone in it. You’re not.

I always get criticised for this - more people need to recognise this as a symptom of depression

01 Feb 01:23

I can’t take no more

by PZ Myers

I finally unfollowed and blocked Richard Dawkins on Twitter. He retweeted this, and that was just the final straw.

It’s two photos, one of Matt Taylor and his inappropriate shirt (and I suspect Taylor would rather his pals would stop showing it), and the other is of a Muslim woman being executed by a roadside, which is why I’m not posting it directly here, and why you may not want to follow the link. It has a caption: One of these two pictures upsets Feminists. The other one shows the execution of a woman.

It’s a lie. It’s a patently dishonest misrepresentation of feminist views, and it uses the murder of a woman to make a phony criticism of feminists. I can’t imagine how someone could be so insensitive to the crudity of the message and so oblivious to its rank deceit to consider it a worthwhile contribution to any discussion. He’s taken “Dear Muslima” and amplified it with a graphic image and an even more odious comment. And he’s still completely unaware of what’s wrong with it.

Done. No more.

At least it settles one thing: I won’t be attending the Reason Rally. Any movement with that man as its figurehead does not represent me.

01 Feb 01:56

What will he do?

by PZ Myers

I think I know the solution. Alternate pushing both buttons without thinking. It’s what they always do.

31 Jan 18:33

archiemcphee: The Department of Phenomenal Pencil Art is proud...


The Department of Phenomenal Pencil Art is proud to introduce its newest member, Taiwan-based artist Chien Chu Lee, who often makes use of entire pencils to create incredibly detailed sculptures, including miniature replicas of real bridges. Lee uses colored pencils instead of graphite when the bridge he’s currently recreating has a distinctive color. He carves other awesome architectural wonders in this full-pencil style as well, such as the Great Wall of China:


Of course Lee is also masterfully skilled at carving pencil tips too. Follow Chien Chu Lee on Facebook or Instagram to check out more of his amazing pencil sculptures.


[via Design Taxi]

31 Jan 17:15

warrenellis: so the system Facebook uses to conduct user...


so the system Facebook uses to conduct user surveys is just as creepy as you would expect

EIGHTY ONE THOUSAND people thought that installing this spyware was a good idea.

31 Jan 17:59

Default Human Being

by PZ Myers

I am not at all a fan of anime (don’t judge me, I just never got interested in it), but in my passing glances at it I had casually wondered why the characters never seem to have any of the attributes I associate with Japanese people. I can’t say I’d ever thought about it much until now, but now I know why: because I have a lot of implicitly racist assumptions.

Why do the Japanese draw themselves as white? You see that especially in manga and anime.

As it turns out, that is an American opinion, not a Japanese one. The Japanese see anime characters as being Japanese. It is Americans who think they are white. Why? Because to them white is the Default Human Being.


If I draw a stick figure, most Americans will assume that it is a white man. Because to them that is the Default Human Being. For them to think it is a woman I have to add a dress or long hair; for Asian, I have to add slanted eyes; for black, I add kinky hair or brown skin. Etc.

The Other has to be marked. If there are no stereotyped markings of otherness, then white is assumed.

Americans apply this thinking to Japanese drawings. But to the Japanese the Default Human Being is Japanese! So they feel no need to make their characters “look Asian”. They just have to make them look like people and everyone in Japan will assume they are Japanese – no matter how improbable their physical appearance.

Oooh. Processing. Consciousness raised. Will try to adjust perspective from now on.

Whoa. This affects a lot of things, not just anime that I never watched much anyway.

30 Jan 22:54

Life-size LEGO BB-8 from The Force Awakens built from 11,000 pieces

by Andrew

Norwegian LEGO builder Henrik Lorentzen has built a life-size LEGO model of the wonderful droid BB-8 from The Force Awakens. Though not quite as adorable as a pug dressed in a BB-8 hoodie (which I saw at the dog park today), this LEGO BB-8 has all the charm of the droid in the movie.

LEGO BB-8 head on Flickr by Henrik Lorentzen

Henrik started planning and designing his LEGO BB-8 last April, using Bruce Lowell’s sphere technique and Bram Lambrecht’s sphere generator. The finished model uses about 11,000 LEGO pieces — including a thousand white 2×4 bricks and three thousand white 1×2 plates — and weighs 10 kg (22 pounds).

LEGO BB-8 on Flickr by Henrik Lorentzen

With a LEGO event at his local theater in November and the movie coming out in December, Henrik gathered all the parts he needed in September and began building, finishing it just in time for the event on November 6.

LEGO BB-8 is composed of six curved panels that fit together.

LEGO BB-8 work in progress

The interior is braced with a lattice of Technic beams.

LEGO BB-8 interior

After the event at his theater, Henrik designed a smaller BB-8, seen here chilling in the snow.

LEGO mini BB-8 in the snow

You can build your own BB-8 by following the instructions in this video:

Read more about both of Henrik’s LEGO BB-8 models in his post on, and check out his album on Flickr.