Shared posts

10 Dec 12:47


by Robot Hugs

New comic!

In all of my workspaces I have been gendered as a woman, and all of these things have happened to me. . I find the more ‘technical’ or corporate the teams are, the more likely that the responsibility of ‘non essential labour’ in the office falls on women and femmefolk (my current office is actually very good in this respect, which is really refreshing).

For more information on this phenomenon, read through this excellent metafilter thread on emotional labour. 

What is this comic about? Well, generally things like keeping the office tidy day to day, setting up for and cleaning up after meetings, organizing gifts and social events, fundraising, congratulations and condolences ‘from the office’, and administrative work like minutes-taking… pretty much everything that is ‘volunteer’ is likely to fall to women.

Sometimes when people argue that this work is non-essential, and that women only do it because they want to do it (and that, by extension, these just aren’t things that men care about). The thing is, community building is essential work. People who talk about having great work environments talk about things like hanging out with colleagues after work, having summer sport leagues, lottery groups, that time everyone pitched in vacation time during a family illness, that gift card that appeared on your desk on your birthday…that’s all stuff someone thinks about and plans and organizes, and it’s non-billable work, so they often do it for free, and that person is more often than not a woman. And that’s important, vital work, it makes people feel like they can come to work every day and at least not hate it all the time.

It’s completely devalued labour, and it falls in the laps of women to maintain. Sometimes guys think they’re participating by having the idea of the work: “Jim’s mother passed away – maybe we should get a card to pass around for him” – but the idea is as far as that participation goes. The organizing and execution of that ‘nice idea’ falls on someone else entirely.

Stuff like this totally undercuts women at work. For example, any time it’s assumed that I’ll take meeting minutes, my ability to participate fully in that meeting is compromised because I’m taking notes instead of concentrating on my own contributions.

And not doing this work has consequences too. There was a workspace where I was totally watching this happen, so I resolved to act like the men on my team did. I left rooms when they left them (in the condition they left them in), I used the kitchen in the same way, I left my desk in the same condition, but guess who got called out on failing to contribute to the office environment? It wasn’t the guys.

If you’re a guytype and you want to be a good ally in your worplace, be the person who volunteers. I mean it. Look around, see who’s doing the work that isn’t in their job descriptions, and pitch in. Take notes, buy cards, organize drinks, and for goodness sake, tidy the kitchen.  And it’s ok if this social stuff really isn’t important to you, but don’t you dare be the person who says that it’s not important work, and then feels slighted when no one remembers their birthday.

If you’re already doing this, awesome. Keep up the good work.


08 Apr 09:26

heatbug:gingerhaze:crap I should have responded with “Thor’s been a frog and a space horse, I think...



crap I should have responded with “Thor’s been a frog and a space horse, I think you’ll survive”


I think the issue people have with the newest iteration of Thor is the blatant pandering to, and catering of, an audience that may be seen as outside of the normal demographic.

The grandstanding of political issues not relevant to the character as a means to drive sales is disingenuous to the political issues being discussed and further to those reading it. Thor’s opinions have moved to an extreme position and have been praised by the few, but the many have spoken with their wallets.

The series continues to lose readership and, as a matter of course, money from sales. Using controversial political statements to drive initial sales isn’t sustainable, and Thor has proven that.

idk where you’ve been but like

Honestly, for a group of people who claim to be the core demographic there’s surprisingly little understanding of the actual nature of comics. How many times have Thor, Cap, Spider-Man changed identity? Different people put on the mask all the fucking time. This is like, the oldest thing. You think this Thor is the last Thor we’ll ever see? Probably not. Odinson isn’t even gone. He’s still an active part of the series. Comics CHANGE, yo. Comics change OFTEN. If you only want to read one specific kind of comic starring one specific white male character, well, I’ve got good news for you, there’s like 70 years of back issues to choose from. Go nuts! 

And stop being babies.

08 Mar 15:12

Prime time conversations

by Shannon

My husband loves watching television with me. Honest.

Twitter convo about shoes and penguin gifs

Working is a very fluid term.

21 Jan 03:30

Presidential Memorandum Organization of the National Security Council and the Homeland Security Council

by The White House

January 28, 2017
















                  UNITED NATIONS  




                  FEDERAL RESERVE SYSTEM





                  SECURITY AFFAIRS









               THE Deputy Assistant to the President and

                  National Security Advisor to the Vice President





                  SPACE ADMINISTRATION





                  TECHNOLOGY POLICY



                  ADVISORY BOARD


                  MANAGEMENT AGENCY


Organization of the National Security Council and the Homeland Security Council

As President, my highest priority is to ensure the safety and security of the American people.  In order to advise and assist me in executing this solemn responsibility, as well as to protect and advance the national interests of the United States at home and abroad, I hereby direct that my system for national security policy development and decision-making shall be organized as follows:

  1. The National Security Council, the Homeland Security Council, and Supporting Staff

The National Security Act of 1947, as amended, established the National Security Council (NSC) to advise the President with respect to the integration of domestic, foreign, and military policies relating to the national security.  There is also a Homeland Security Council (HSC) -- established through Executive Order 13228 of October 8, 2001, and subsequently codified in the Homeland Security Act of 2002 -- that has the purpose of advising the President on matters pertaining to homeland security.  Each Council is also responsible for the effective coordination of the security-related activities and functions of the executive departments and agencies.

The security threats facing the United States in the 21st century transcend international boundaries.  Accordingly, the United States Government's decision-making structures and processes to address these challenges must remain equally adaptive and transformative.  Both Councils are statutory bodies that the President will continue to chair.  Invitations to participate in specific Council meetings shall be extended to those heads of executive departments and agencies, and other senior officials, who are needed to address the issue or issues under consideration.  When the President is absent from a meeting of either Council, the Vice President may preside at the President's direction.

The Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs (National Security Advisor) and the Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism (Homeland Security Advisor) shall be responsible, as appropriate and at the President's direction, for determining the agenda for the NSC or HSC, respectively, ensuring that the necessary papers are prepared, and recording Council actions and Presidential decisions in a timely manner.  When international economic issues are on the agenda of the NSC, the National Security Advisor and the Assistant to the President for Economic Policy shall perform these tasks in concert.

The NSC and HSC shall have as their regular attendees (both statutory and non-statutory) the President, the Vice President, the Secretary of State, the Secretary of the Treasury, the Secretary of Defense, the Attorney General, the Secretary of Energy, the Secretary of Homeland Security, the National Security Advisor, the Homeland Security Advisor, and the Representative of the United States to the United Nations.  When international economic issues are on the agenda of the NSC, the NSC's regular attendees will include the Secretary of Commerce, the United States Trade Representative, and the Assistant to the President for Economic Policy.  The Director of National Intelligence and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, as statutory advisers to the NSC, shall also attend NSC meetings.  The Assistant to the President and Chief of Staff, the Assistant to the President and Chief Strategist, the Counsel to the President, the Deputy Counsel to the President for National Security Affairs, and the Director of the Office of Management and Budget are invited as attendees to any NSC meeting. 

In addition to the NSC and HSC, there is also a single NSC staff within the Executive Office of the President that serves both the NSC and HSC.  The staff is composed of regional, issue-focused, and functional directorates and headed by a single civilian Executive Secretary, pursuant to 50 U.S.C. 3021, who is also the Chief of Staff.  All policy and staff activity decisions will be transmitted to the Executive Secretary for appropriate distribution and awareness.  The purpose of the NSC staff is to advise me, the National Security Advisor, the Homeland Security Advisor, the NSC members, the HSC members, and others in the White House; to facilitate the implementation of Administration policy; and to help coordinate the national-security-related activities of the executive departments and agencies. 

  1. The Principals Committee

The Principals Committee (PC) shall continue to serve as the Cabinet-level senior interagency forum for considering policy issues that affect the national security interests of the United States.  The PC shall be convened and chaired by the National Security Advisor or the Homeland Security Advisor, as appropriate, in consultation with the appropriate attendees of the PC.  The Chair shall determine the agenda in consultation with the appropriate committee members, and the Executive Secretary shall ensure that necessary papers are prepared and that conclusions and decisions are communicated in a timely manner.  Invitations to participate in or attend a specific PC shall be extended at the discretion of the National Security Advisor and the Homeland Security Advisor, and may include those Cabinet-level heads of executive departments and agencies, and other senior officials, who are needed to address the issue under consideration.

The PC shall have as its regular attendees the Secretary of State, the Secretary of the Treasury, the Secretary of Defense, the Attorney General, the Secretary of Homeland Security, the Assistant to the President and Chief of Staff, the Assistant to the President and Chief Strategist, the National Security Advisor, and the Homeland Security Advisor.  The Director of National Intelligence and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff shall attend where issues pertaining to their responsibilities and expertise are to be discussed.  The Counsel to the President, the Deputy Counsel to the President for National Security Affairs, and the Director of the Office of Management and Budget may attend all PC meetings. 

The Assistant to the President and Deputy National Security Advisor (Deputy National Security Advisor), the Deputy Assistant to the President and National Security Advisor to the Vice President, and the Executive Secretary (who shall serve as the Executive Secretary of the PC) shall attend all of the meetings of the PC, and the Representative of the United States to the United Nations and the Assistant to the President for Intragovernmental and Technology Initiatives may attend as appropriate.

When international economic issues are on the agenda of the PC, the Committee's regular attendees will include the Secretary of Commerce, the United States Trade Representative, and the Assistant to the President for Economic Policy (who shall serve as Chair for agenda items that principally pertain to international economics).\

  1. The Deputies Committee

The Deputies Committee (DC) shall continue to serve as the senior sub-Cabinet interagency forum for consideration of, and where appropriate, decision-making on, policy issues that affect the national security interests of the United States.  The DC shall be convened and chaired by the Deputy National Security Advisor or the Deputy Assistant to the President and Deputy Homeland Security Advisor (Deputy Homeland Security Advisor), as appropriate.  The Chair shall determine the agenda in consultation with the regular DC members, and the Executive Secretary shall ensure that necessary papers are prepared and that conclusions and decisions are communicated in a timely manner.  Invitations to participate in or attend a specific DC meeting shall be extended by the Chair to those at the Deputy or Under Secretary level of executive departments and agencies, and to other senior officials, who are needed to address the issue under consideration.

The DC shall have as its regular members the Deputy Secretary of State, the Deputy Secretary of the Treasury, the Deputy Secretary of Defense, the Deputy Attorney General, the Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security, the Deputy Director of the Office of Management and Budget, the Deputy Director of National Intelligence, the Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff,  the Deputy Assistant to the President and National Security Advisor to the Vice President, the Deputy National Security Advisor, the Deputy Homeland Security Advisor, and the Administrator of the United States Agency for International Development.

The Executive Secretary shall attend the DC meetings.  The Deputy Counsel to the President for National Security Affairs may attend all DC meetings.  The relevant Deputy Assistant to the President for the specific regional and functional issue under consideration shall also be invited to attend.  Likewise, when and where appropriate, the Deputy Assistant to the President for Strategic Planning, the Deputy Assistant to the President for Strategic Communication, the Deputy Assistant to the President for International Economic Affairs, the Deputy Assistant to the President for Transnational Issues, and the Deputy Representative of the United States to the United Nations, shall also be invited to attend.  Other senior officials shall be invited where appropriate. 

The DC shall review and monitor the work of the interagency national security process, including the interagency groups established pursuant to section D below.  The DC shall help to ensure that issues brought before the NSC, HSC, and PC have been properly analyzed and prepared for decision.  The DC shall also focus significant attention on monitoring the implementation of policies and decisions and shall conduct periodic reviews of the Administration's major national security and foreign policy initiatives.  The DC is responsible for establishing Policy Coordination Committees (PCCs) and for providing objectives and clear guidance.

  1. Policy Coordination Committees

Management of the development and implementation of national security policies by multiple executive departments and agencies typically shall be accomplished by the PCCs, with participation primarily occurring at the Assistant Secretary level.  As the main day-to-day fora for interagency coordination of national security policies, the PCCs shall provide policy analysis for consideration by the more senior committees of the national security system and ensure timely responses to the President's decisions.

Regional and issue-related PCCs shall be established at the direction of the DC.  Members of the NSC staff (or National Economic Council staff, as appropriate) will chair the PCCs; the DC, at its discretion, may add co-chairs to any PCC.  The PCCs shall review and coordinate the implementation of Presidential decisions in their respective policy areas.  The Chair of each PCC, in consultation with the Executive Secretary, shall invite representatives of other executive departments and agencies to attend meetings of the PCC where appropriate.  The Chair of each PCC, with the agreement of the Executive Secretary, may establish subordinate working groups to assist that PCC in the performance of its duties.

An early meeting of the DC will be devoted to establishing the PCCs, determining their memberships, and providing them with mandates and strict guidance.  Until the DC has established otherwise, the existing system of Interagency Policy Committees shall continue.

  1. General

The President and the Vice President may attend any and all meetings of any entity established by or under this memorandum.

This document is part of a series of National Security Presidential Memoranda that shall replace both Presidential Policy Directives and Presidential Study Directives as the instrument for communicating relevant Presidential decisions.  This memorandum shall supersede all other existing Presidential guidance on the organization or support of the NSC and the HSC.  With regard to its application to economic matters, this document shall be interpreted in concert with any Executive Order governing the National Economic Council and with Presidential Memoranda signed hereafter that implement either this memorandum or that Executive Order.

The Secretary of Defense is hereby authorized and directed to publish this memorandum in the Federal Register.

                              DONALD J. TRUMP



# # #


10 Jan 16:55

rewatching s1 for like the 100th time--at what point does all the brilliant animal sight gag stuff (eg the croc wearing crocs) get added? is it like, we need to have a croc wearing crocs, where can we fit this in? or do you start out by needing someone to guard the food and say let's do a crocodile--hey, he should wear crocs? or some kind of total afterthought, or something else entirely? thanks. love the show, my favorite of all time.

Hello! I am going to answer your question, and then I am going to talk a little bit about GENDER IN COMEDY, because this is my tumblr and I can talk about whatever I want!

The vast vast vast majority of the animal jokes on BoJack Horseman (specifically the visual gags) come from our brilliant supervising director Mike Hollingsworth (stufffedanimals on tumblr) and his team. Occasionally, we’ll write a joke like that into the script but I can promise you that your top ten favorite animal gags of the season came from the art and animation side of the show, not the writers room. Usually it happens more the second way you described— to take a couple examples from season 2, “Okay, we need to fill this hospital waiting room, what kind of animals would be in here?” or “Okay, we need some extras for this studio backlot, what would they be wearing?”

I don’t know for sure, but I would guess that the croc wearing crocs came from our head designer lisahanawalt. Lisa is in charge of all the character designs, so most of the clothing you see on the show comes straight from her brain. (One of the many things I love about working with Lisa is that T-Shirts With Dumb Things Written On Them sits squarely in the center of our Venn diagram of interests.)

NOW, it struck me that you referred to the craft services crocodile as a “he” in your question. The character, voiced by kulap Vilaysack, is a woman.


It’s possible that that was just a typo on your part, but I’m going to assume that it wasn’t because it helps me pivot into something I’ve been thinking about a lot over the last year, which is the tendency for comedy writers, and audiences, and writers, and audiences (because it’s a cycle) to view comedy characters as inherently male, unless there is something specifically female about them. (I would guess this is mostly a problem for male comedy writers and audiences, but not exclusively.)

Here’s an example from my own life: In one of the episodes from the first season (I think it’s 109), our storyboard artists drew a gag where a big droopy dog is standing on a street corner next to a businessman and the wind from a passing car blows the dog’s tongue and slobber onto the man’s face. When Lisa designed the characters she made both the dog and the businessperson women.

My first gut reaction to the designs was, “This feels weird.” I said to Lisa, “I feel like these characters should be guys.” She said, “Why?” I thought about it for a little bit, realized I didn’t have a good reason, and went back to her and said, “You’re right, let’s make them ladies.”

I am embarrassed to admit this conversation has happened between Lisa and me multiple times, about multiple characters.

The thinking comes from a place that the cleanest version of a joke has as few pieces as possible. For the dog joke, you have the thing where the tongue slobbers all over the businessperson, but if you also have a thing where both of them ladies, then that’s an additional thing and it muddies up the joke. The audience will think, “Why are those characters female? Is that part of the joke?” The underlying assumption there is that the default mode for any character is male, so to make the characters female is an additional detail on top of that. In case I’m not being a hundred percent clear, this thinking is stupid and wrong and self-perpetuating unless you actively work against it, and I’m proud to say I mostly don’t think this way anymore. Sometimes I still do, because this kind of stuff is baked into us by years of consuming media, but usually I’m able (with some help) to take a step back and not think this way, and one of the things I love about working with Lisa is she challenges these instincts in me.

I feel like I can confidently say that this isn’t just a me problem though— this kind of thing is everywhere. The LEGO Movie was my favorite movie of 2014, but it strikes me that the main character was male, because I feel like in our current culture, he HAD to be. The whole point of Emmett is that he’s the most boring average person in the world. It’s impossible to imagine a female character playing that role, because according to our pop culture, if she’s female she’s already SOMEthing, because she’s not male. The baseline is male. The average person is male.

You can see this all over but it’s weirdly prevalent in children’s entertainment. Why are almost all of the muppets dudes, except for Miss Piggy, who’s a parody of femininity? Why do all of the Despicable Me minions, genderless blobs, have boy names? I love the story (which I read on Wikipedia) that when the director of The Brave Little Toaster cast a woman to play the toaster, one of the guys on the crew was so mad he stormed out of the room. Because he thought the toaster was a man. A TOASTER. The character is a toaster.

I try to think about that when writing new characters— is there anything inherently gendered about what this character is doing? Or is it a toaster?


20 Oct 22:29

ASTRONOMY NIGHTS: Pluto: The Battle for a Planet

Date(s): October 24, 2014

Address: Stamford Museum & Nature Center, 39 Scofieldtown Rd., Stamford, CT 06903.


Head to the Observatory to explore the night sky, planets, stars, and more.

30 Sep 15:26

Fall Colors Arriving

Fall Colors Arriving
A process that occurs on a micro scale in trees shows up on a macro scale in satellite imagery.

27 Sep 23:57

Breaking Bad on the Beach

Breaking Bad on the Beach
Ship-breaking operations along the coast of Bangladesh recycle old vessels into raw steel and marine supplies.

25 Sep 14:02

The Big E 2014 - Observations and Reviews, Part 1

by Dave
The Big E - The Eastern States Exposition - is a six-state state fair where all of New England is represented. It runs for seventeen days in September of every year, and I always try to spend some time there. Tickets are $15 for a single day entry, but for $40 you can get a pass that's good for the full run of the fair so that's what I usually do. I spend enough time there petting sheep, talking to goats, and watching cattle judging that the pass easily pays for itself.

I try to get there early - before 9:00 AM. Most of the exhibit buildings don't open until 10, so there aren't too many people wandering around first thing in the morning. Employees and vendors, mostly. The grounds aren't crowded, but they are bustling. Vendors and hucksters are tidying up their kiosks and trucks roll though with deliveries. Everyone wants to get their supplies laid in before 9:30 when vehicles are banished from the fairgrounds for the day, because anything that needs to be brought in after that has to be rolled in by hand.

I like hanging around the fairgrounds early, because I like to see how things work. There are usually a couple of boom trucks travelling around replacing light bulbs on vendor's marquee signs and crews are coming through toting supplies, making sure trash and recycling containers are set, and making other last-minute preparations.

One of the first places to open up is the West Springfield Fire House restaurant on the northwest side of the grounds between Gate 2 and Gate 4. They serve one of the best breakfasts at or away from the fair - two eggs any style, toast, home fries, bacon AND ham, with coffee, for just eight dollars. (Breakfast sandwiches are also available.) You pick up your food and pay cafeteria-style, and there are plenty of seats in the dining area (a lot of the seating is at big round tables where everyone grabs a seat family-style.) The breakfasts are generous, and I always make it my first stop. It's a lot easier to resist the lure of deep-fried state fair junkfood when there's a decent meal under your belt.

Next to open after the restaurants are the vendors. Many of them are happy to serve customers even while they're getting set up for the day, and by 9:30 or so they're already making sales. I found one cool place selling handcrafted glass spheres in various designs - including huge eyeballs.

Each of the New England states has a building dedicated just to them. Those buildings, highlighting the agriculture and selected industries of each state, open at 10. On our first visit of the year, we usually go to the state buildings right after they open, before the crowds start to pour in. We also make it a point to visit the agricultural exhibits in the morning.

By 1:30 or 2 in the afternoon, the fairgrounds are packed and the experience gets somewhat less fun. That's about the time we head for the car, leaving the crowd behind. It's nice to know that we can come back again when the "rush" is over since we have the passes.

24 Sep 02:58

Rosco's Fears

23 Sep 04:31

Good Night

23 Sep 04:31

Adventures in pumping gas

by Shannon

We have a fairly comfortable routine when it comes to the College Kid coming home for a weekend visit. I pick him up on Friday, getting an hour of him all to myself, and my husband gets his hour on Sunday when he drives him back. But yesterday my husband took the younger one to the Nascar race, so I made the drive back to campus. As is often the case when my husband has driven the truck, I had to put gas in it. While I was waiting for the tank to fill (it takes a while), the vehicle in front of me pulled away and I saw a small, white car waiting to pull up to the pumps. Because of the angle, I could see there was no gas filler door on the driver’s side, so all she had to do was pull up to the front of my truck and all would be well.

I drew you a picture. Arrow 1 shows the location of her gas cap. Arrow 2 shows the path she needed to take. Also, my ponytail wasn’t that fluffy. (I took the liberty of shedding a few pounds, too.)

Diagram of gas station

She then proceeded to turn her car around in a series of pull forward – back up – pull forward – back up that went on for quite some time. The gentleman pumping gas on the other side of the island and I made eye contact briefly, as if silently asking “Should we tell her?”. Of course not. Once she had totally turned the car around and backed it up to the front of my truck, her male companion got out of the passenger side and walked inside to pay in advance for the gas. As I was getting in the truck, he went to the pump, pulled the handle and…no gas filler door!

I got the door closed in time to muffle our laughter and I said: “He should have looked when he walked by.”

The College Kid said: “She could have looked at the indicator on the dash.”

I looked at him like he was a crazy person. “There’s no dash indicator for which side your gas tank is on.”

He looked me like I was the crazy person. “Of course there is. It’s industry standard.”

There’s an arrow. I’ve had my license about twenty-five years and have owned at least a dozen vehicles and I never knew this.

Arrow next to picture of fuel pump under gas gauge

Who knew?

(In my defense, my husband didn’t, either.)

15 Sep 11:51

Patients Vulnerable When Cash-Strapped Scientists Cut Corners

by Richard Harris

A shrinking pool of grant money for medical research has led competing applicants to oversell weak scientific findings, critics say. The result: Many experimental treatments are worthless.

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15 Sep 00:42

"My Least Favorite Trope (and this post will include spoilers for The Lego Movie, Guardians of the..."

My Least Favorite Trope (and this post will include spoilers for The Lego Movie, Guardians of the Galaxy, The Matrix, Western Civilization, and—cod help me—Bulletproof Monk*.) is the thing where there’s an awesome, smart, wonderful, powerful female character who by all rights ought to be the Chosen One and the hero of the movie, who is tasked with taking care of some generally ineffectual male character who is, for reasons of wish fulfillment, actually the person the film focuses on. She mentors him, she teaches him, and she inevitably becomes his girlfriend… and he gets the job she wanted: he gets to be the Chosen One even though she’s obviously far more qualified. And all he has to do to get it and deserve it is Man Up and Take Responsibility.

And that’s it. Every god-damned time. The mere fact of naming the films above and naming the trope gives away the entire plot and character arc of every single movie.

- Elizabeth Bear - My Least Favorite Trope (via feministquotes)
29 Aug 11:51

travors: Video

27 Aug 11:57

Parking Behavior May Reflect Economic Drive

by Shankar Vedantam

Scholars have long tried to understand how culture affects communities. New research argues that the parking behavior of drivers may tell us something about the economic productivity of nations.

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25 Aug 22:00

"Not Ready to Make Nice: Guerrilla Girls in the Artworld and Beyond"


For my birthday?

Date(s): September 4-Nov. 14, 2014

Address: Thomas J. Walsh Art Gallery at Fairfield University, 1073 North Benson Rd., Fairfield, CT 06824.


Not Ready to Make Nice, a major presentation of the Guerrilla Girls, illuminates and contextualizes the important historical and ongoing work of these highly original, provocative, and influential artists.

23 Aug 15:07

Dog vs. Skunk

by Dave

something to remember, because it's going to happen one of these days

Zim is allowed on the couch when he hasn't been tangling
with polecats.
So I let the dog out last night and shortly thereafter the house started to fill with the smell of skunkfunk. Seconds later, the back door slammed shut and in ran the dog, circling around like mad and licking his muzzle (yeah, the dog knows how to open doors, so he was dragging the smell through the house before I could trap him in the bathtub.)

As much as he hated it, he got a deodorizing bath and now he's (mostly) skunk-free - but I didn't want to get the bath concoction in his eyes, so he's still a little stinky around the top of his muzzle.

If one of your domestic animals (this category includes kids) gets sprayed by a skunk, forget the old saw about washing them in tomato juice. Setting aside the fact that tomato juice doesn't work, think of the cost. You'd need like a dozen cans of that stuff to thoroughly bathe a dog/child. Instead, use this:

Anti-Skunk Dogwash

1 quart 3% hydrogen peroxide
1/4 cup baking soda
1 tablespoon dishwashing detergent

Combine ingredients in a shallow pan and swirl around briefly until the baking soda is mostly dissolved. Apply it immediately to the dog, working it into his fur and giving him a really thorough washing. The combination of hydrogen peroxide and baking soda breaks down the chemicals in the skunk spray and renders them odorless, and the dishwashing detergent helps carry away the residue. Rinse the dog really well and if he's still funky, mix up another batch and do it again.

A couple additional tips:
  • Dawn dishwashing detergent is gentle and very effective for this. But if you don't have it, use what you've got. When your dog smells like a tear gas grenade just exploded at your feet, you don't have time to go running to the store for a special brand of detergent.
  • Try to keep the wash out of the dog's eyes. When I wash Zim's muzzle, I use an old sponge so I can keep the bathwater where I'm aiming it.
  • Mix a batch up fresh when you need it. Don't mix it up ahead of time! The mixture is not stable - it gives off gas when it's blended - and trying to trap it in a closed container will cause pressure inside the bottle to build until it explodes.

I finished Zim off with a peppermint soap shampoo. Now he's ashamed to go out and meet other dogs because he's afraid the big bulldog up the street is going to call him a sissy.
11 Aug 23:18

Pancakes with Penguins


Squee :)

Date(s): August 17, 2014

Address: Mystic Aquarium , 55 Coogan Blvd., Mystic, CT 06355.


Why not spend breakfast with the penguins at Mystic Aquarium? Starting in August, you are invited to Pancakes with Penguins, a fun event to kick-start your day. Your morning will include a visit by South African Penguins and our mascot “Petey the Penguin.” Breakfast  includes pancakes with assorted toppings, scrambled eggs, sausage and various beverages. Reserve your table now or choose your seat when you arrive.

10 Aug 01:47

ryannorth: There’s a Boom Studios Humble Bundle going on right...


There’s a Boom Studios Humble Bundle going on right now and it’s NUTS.  Pay what you want for TONS of rad comics, but if you pay $15 or more, you not only get the COMPLETE Midas Flesh series, but also Lumberjanes, Bee and Puppycat, AND Bravest Warriors!  ALL OF THESE COMICS ARE GREAT.

My name is Ryan North and I have an opinion on what you should spend $15 on today.


31 Jul 04:23

A Flowchart


A Flowchart

What toddler truisms are we missing?

27 Jul 23:36

How Do You Lose A Half-Million Birds?

by Adam Cole

For the past 25 years, a giant flock of purple martins has gathered in Lake Murray, S.C., in late July. This year, they didn't show up.

» E-Mail This

25 Jul 11:37

Free State Parks Weekend

Date(s): July 26-27, 2014

Address: Statewide, CT 06105.


To encourage everyone to visit a state park in this Centennial year, fees at state parks will be waived this Saturday and Sunday. There will be no parking fees and no admission fees at state park museums.

23 Jul 00:33

Fizzy Fruit -The Ideal Summer Refreshment

by Creamright

1 Cup of Fresh juicy fruits

Fill the dispenser with fresh, juicy fruit (or vegetables) and screw on the head. Screw on 1 C02 soda charger. Carefully turn the bottle so that the fruit is distributed evenly inside. Leave in the refrigerator overnight to create an especially fizzy effect. Shortly before serving, press the lever and release the pressure. Unscrew the head and serve.

Serve as fruit salad, on ice cream, as a garnish, or even in a cocktail. For an especially fizzy effect, use juicy pears, grapes, pomegranate seeds, and any other fruit with a high water content.

22 Jul 13:57

"We often talk about the “leaky pipeline of STEM” as a way to talk about how women and people of..."

“We often talk about the “leaky pipeline of STEM” as a way to talk about how women and people of color drop out of STEM careers at alarmingly high rates, but it is time to abandon that language. We’re not talking about a passive system here, where people just happen to drip out of the pipeline. No, we’re talking about a system that actively creates pressure. If you take a large pipe, attach it to a smaller pipe and then a smaller one, while still pushing the same amount of water through, what’s going to happen? Either your pipe is going to spring pressure-driven leaks or you’re going to have to have holes drilled to relieve it. We’re not talking about a leaky pipeline of STEM, we’re talking about a gorram sprinkler system, actively pushing out people who were set up to fail from the beginning by the very system itself.

There are very real problems in the sciences. But right now the field is caught in an auto-catalytic cycle, where people point out ways in which we’re failing at outreach, the people in positions of power dig in their heels with cries of “but *we* weren’t offended!”, the same people then wring their hands and wonder why there isn’t more diversity in science… and continue to ignore us when answers to that question are given. And if we keep making excuses for the smaller things that hurt various groups, it’s never goin to change.”

- Skepchick | Science has an Image Problem (via brutereason)
22 Jul 01:01

"The Bison: American Icon"

Date(s): June 28-Oct. 18, 2014

Address: Mashantucket Pequot Museum & Research Center, 110 Pequot Trail, Mashantucket, CT 06339.


This exhibit explores the dramatic changes that occurred to bison and its habitat, and to the people who depended on it for their daily experience.

19 Jul 21:24

In Tracking Bats, It Helps To Find Them Adorable

Julia Hoeh is a bat tracker. For $350 a week plus basic housing in rural Tennessee, she stays up long after midnight to affix radio trackers to bats and collect samples of their DNA.

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18 Jul 11:38

Bobbins for July 18th 2014

18 Jul 00:59

Young Scientists Say They're Sexually Abused In The Field

Heading off to exotic locales to conduct research is one of the great joys of science. But many young scientists say they have been sexually harassed or assaulted by superiors while out there.

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17 Jul 13:50

Guest post: Vaccines and “Unavoidably Unsafe Products”

by Tara Haelle
Have you ever heard the term “unavoidably unsafe,” especially as it relates to vaccines or other pharmaceuticals? In this guest post by Dorit Reiss, this technical legal term is explained. This post is a bit different than the usual fare here, delving into meanings of a law, but it’s very important by those who misunderstand the term. A version of this post first appeared on the Moms Who Vax blog. Dorit is a professor of law and vaccine advocate, and a member of Voices for Vaccines’ Parent Advisory Board.


Those of us engaged in vaccine-related discussions online often hear vaccine critics claim the Supreme Court has declared vaccines “unavoidably unsafe” and thus incredibly dangerous. The critics are doubly wrong. First, the Supreme Court has said no such thing. Second, in the law’s eyes, an unavoidably unsafe product is not a “super-dangerous” product.  Quite the opposite, an unavoidably unsafe product is a product whose tremendous benefits justify the reasonable risks it poses.

What is an “unavoidably unsafe” product?

Normally, in the United States, a person only has to pay damages if they caused harm to someone else with fault—in other words, if they acted negligently or intentionally. In the area of products liability, however, the United States adopted a different approach.

In 1965 the American Law Institute published the Restatement (Second) of the Law of Torts, §402A. A “restatement” is an essay of sorts written on specific legal subjects by experts. They usually summarize and explain existing law, but they can also suggest reforms or rethinking of it.

Understanding how the law uses precise technical terms can prevent misunderstandings about those terms. Photo by Marcelo Gerpe

Understanding how the law uses precise technical terms can prevent misunderstandings about those terms. Photo by Marcelo Gerpe

In this case, Section 402A, was an attempt by the ALI – a nonprofit organization of lawyers, judges and academics – to rationalize a growing number of court decisions that held manufacturers and sellers of defective products liable to the consumers that their defective products injured.  Section 402A adopted a standard of liability without fault when a business sells a product “in a defective condition unreasonably dangerous to the user or consumer or to his property.”

The qualification was important: not every product that causes harm is defective.  Well-made knives can cut fingers, and even the best whiskey can get you drunk!   To be defective, a product had to be unreasonably dangerous, either because it was poorly made, or because consumers weren’t aware of its dangers, or because a different design could have made the product safer.

Restatements are very influential (though not binding), and section 402A was quickly adopted by pretty much every state.

The Restatement’s drafters wanted to provide certain products with additional protection against liability because, although those products carried risks, they provided especially high benefits as well.  The Restatement’s drafters expressed this idea in a comment to section 402A, namely, in comment k:

“Unavoidably unsafe products: There are some products which, in the present state of human knowledge, are quite incapable of being made safe for their intended and ordinary use. These are especially common in the field of drugs. An outstanding example is the vaccine for the Pasteur treatment of rabies, which not uncommonly leads to very serious and damaging consequences when it is injected. Since the disease itself invariably leads to a dreadful death, both the marketing and the use of the vaccine are fully justified, notwithstanding the unavoidable high degree of risk which they involve. Such a product, properly prepared, and accompanied by proper directions and warning, is not defective, nor is it unreasonably dangerous.”

The last sentence is the important one: A vaccine whose benefits outweigh its risks is not unreasonably dangerous or defective – even if the risks are as frightening as those attributed to the Pasteur vaccine, let alone modern vaccines, with their much lower risks.

In retrospect, the Restatement’s drafters could have chosen better language to capture the idea that a product or a drug can be valuable even it if poses some risk to its users (and indeed, the drafters of the Restatement (Third) of Torts: Product Liability did away with the “unavoidably unsafe” language while preserving the same idea).

Saying a product is “unavoidably unsafe” makes it sound like the product is a bad one, when what the drafters meant was precisely the opposite: the comment was meant to apply only to ethical drugs or vaccines. That is, products where the benefits outweigh the risks.  But courts understood.  Some courts (California, New York, Alabama) adopted comment k wholeheartedly, exempting all properly manufactured prescription drugs and vaccines from strict liability.  Others (Idaho, Colorado, Hawaii) applied comment k selectively, requiring a case-by-case determination that there is no safer alternative design for a drug or vaccine before finding the risk unavoidable.  Some courts, inevitably, are unclear or take an intermediate position (Florida, Georgia, Indiana).

The message comes through clearly: these products are beneficial enough that society wants to encourage their manufacturing. Therefore, while strict liability would be applied to most products, a manufacturer that prepared a drug or vaccine carefully and warned consumers of its risks should not have to pay for the side effects of a drug or vaccine whose benefits outweigh the risks unless that manufacturer can be shown to have been negligent.

In other words,  “unavoidably unsafe” is the opposite of “unreasonably dangerous” in the Restatement’s categorization. It justifies a more favorable treatment because of those products’ extraordinary benefits.

What Did the Supreme Court Actually Say?

Regardless of the real meaning of the term “unavoidably unsafe,” it is understandably disturbing to parents to hear that the Supreme Court described the vaccines given to their children using that scary term. Fortunately, it didn’t.

In a case from 2011, Bruesewitz v. Wyeth , the Supreme Court discussed whether the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act of 1986 (NCVIA) preempts tort suits for product design defects at the state level. In other words, they were trying to determine whether the NCVIA prevented consumers from being able to sue manufacturers for harm caused by their products – if it did, that would be something new in the way law was applied. The NCVIA created an administrative compensation scheme, in many ways quicker and easier than a court procedure. The question was whether a plaintiff who claims that she was injured because the vaccine was designed in an unsafe manner is limited only to the special compensation scheme, or whether she could also sue in state courts. (Specifically, the plaintiff claimed that she should have been given the shot with the acellular pertussis vaccine, rather than the whole cell pertussis vaccine).

While section 402A did not distinguish between types of defects directly, the thinking in today’s law regarding product liability is that the law distinguishes between three types of defects a product might have: manufacturing defects, warning defects, and design defects.

Manufacturing defects are situations where the product is not up to the standard set by the manufacturer itself: when it deviates from its intended design. In the vaccine content, an example is the infamous Cutter Incident, in which a polio vaccine supposed to contain an inactivated virus ended up containing a live virus, paralyzing 200 children and killing ten. The product was designed to have an inactivated virus; it had a live one; the manufacturer did not meet its own standards. For manufacturing defects, the courts apply strict liability. Applying “strict liability” means that a plaintiff does not have to show that a manufacturer was negligent to successfully sue for damages. If harm was caused, even if the company was trying to be safe, the plaintiff can still win.

The next type of defect is a warning defect. A warning defect, for example, would be not warning that a product needs to be stored in a certain temperature or not warning against a risk. These are handled under an area of law called  “negligence principles.” Explaining these would take us down a rabbit hole, but suffice it to say it requires the consumer to present a different kind of proof.

The last type of defect is a design defect. Under this theory, a plaintiff must prove that there is an alternative design that is safer than the current design. In the vaccine context, a plaintiff may claim that using the Oral Polio Vaccine (OPV) that includes a live virus and carries a small risk of paralysis is less safe than using the Inactivated Polio Vaccine (IPV) which does not carry that risk. While some courts still talk about strict liability when handling these kinds of suits, these are also currently handled under negligence principles.

The NCVIA clearly allows children injured by a vaccine to sue the manufacturer in the regular courts if the vaccine was poorly made or lacked appropriate warnings. However, does it also allow consumers to sue in state court if the vaccine was poorly designed?

To answer this question, the Court needed to determine how to interpret §300aa-22(b)(1) of the act, which says the following: “No vaccine manufacturer shall be liable in a civil action for damages arising from a vaccine-related injury or death associated with the administration of a vaccine after October 1, 1988, if the injury or death resulted from side effects that were unavoidable even though the vaccine was properly prepared and was accompanied by proper directions and warnings.”

The plaintiffs – and two dissenting Justices – argued that when Congress used the word “unavoidable,” it meant to invoke comment k’s concept of the “unavoidably unsafe” product, as interpreted by courts applying it using a case-by-case approach.  Under this approach a product isn’t unavoidably unsafe if there’s a way to design the product that would eliminate the risk of side effects.  Therefore, the plaintiffs claimed Congress meant for plaintiffs to have the opportunity to sue a vaccine’s manufacturer if they could prove that an alternative design would have eliminated the risk of harm.

The Supreme Court ruling found that individuals could not sue vaccine manufacturers for design defects. Photo by Robert Linder

The Supreme Court ruling found that individuals could not sue vaccine manufacturers for design defects. Photo by Robert Linder

The majority of the Supreme Court, in a five-justice decision written by Justice Scalia, however, disagreed.   What Congress meant when it said manufacturers are not liable for side effects that were “unavoidable,” the majority said, was that manufacturers are not liable for the side effects of vaccines that are properly prepared and accompanied by proper directions and warnings.  As Justice Breyer explained in a concurring opinion, Congress deliberately decided that if plaintiffs could sue manufacturers over the way vaccines were designed, drug manufacturers threatened by frequent lawsuits would stop making needed vaccines. Congress was not willing to accept that result.

The majority opinion in Bruesewitz expressly rejected the idea that by using the word “unavoidably” Congress meant to invoke comment k: “… there is no reason to believe that [the Act] was invoking [comment k]. The comment creates a special category of ‘unavoidably unsafe products,’ while the statute refers to ‘side effects that were unavoidable.’ That the latter uses the adjective ‘unavoidable’ and the former the adverb ‘unavoidably’ does not establish that Congress had comment k in mind. ‘Unavoidable’ is hardly a rarely used word. Even the cases petitioners cite as putting a definitive gloss on comment k use the precise phrase ‘unavoidably unsafe product’; none attaches special significance to the term ‘unavoidable’ standing alone.”

The court is very clear: it’s rejecting the application of the term “unavoidably unsafe” to the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act.  Neither Congress nor the Court thinks vaccines are “unavoidably unsafe” in the sense that these products are “super dangerous.”

Conclusion: Comment k does use the Pasteur rabies vaccine to illustrate what it means by “unavoidably unsafe,” and the dissenters in Bruesewitz v. Wyeth do rely on comment k to argue that Congress meant for plaintiffs to have a chance to prove that an alternative design would have made a vaccine safer. But the majority ruling means that courts do not even have to give a plaintiff the chance to petition the court regarding a design defect of a vaccine.

Meanwhile, what the vaccine critics have missed  – as Justice Breyer’s concurring opinion in Bruesewitz explains – is the principle behind comment k.  If a product – like a vaccine or a drug – is “unavoidably unsafe,” the product is NOT defective, and the product’s manufacturer is not liable for the product’s inherent risks (though the plaintiff may still be eligible for compensation through the administrative program). “Unavoidably unsafe” products are products that are so valuable – have so many benefits – that the risk associated with their use is justified.  If the Supreme Court had applied this term to vaccines, it would have reaffirmed what most scientists and doctors know: the benefits of vaccines far, far outweigh their small risks.

Author’s Note: I am very grateful to the people who read my post for accuracy and for grammatical edits: Marsha Cohen, David Jung, David Levine, Kathy McGrath, Paul Offit, Robert Schwartz, Madeleine Ware, Alice Warning Wasney and Kelly Wessel. All errors are, of course, my own.