[syndicated profile] thewildhunt_feed

Posted by Dodie Graham McKay

CANADA – Last June, an online exchange set the stage for the creation of #HavamalWitches, a campaign that has sparked kudos and controversy in the Heathen community worldwide.

On June 27, Canadian gythia and now activist, Brynja Chleirich posted a meme from the group Feminists United to her Facebook page, which described a scientific study detailing how often women are talked over and silenced by men. Along with the meme she posted the comment:

Because it’s related to how I feel within my Heathen community and I’m gonna just grow a set of fortitude and leave this right here and go ponder or shit. Working with Heimdallr the past several years? This girl. I see.

The frustration that compelled Chleirich to make such a post was the result of being pushed to her limit: “I posted this meme because I reached my ultimate level of “nope.” I posted because it was an absolute reflection of how I felt as a solitary gythia within the Heathen community and ultimately illustrates my perceptions of how we, as women, are (either directly or indirectly) treated within the boundaries of what often seems “Heathenry As Defined By Men.”

[Danica Swanson]

The thread that followed became a discussion and opportunity for many other women and femmes to express frustration and anger. The commentary from these voices inspired Jade Pichette to create #HavamalWitches.

Pichette, who also serves the Heathen community as a gythia and works professionally as an outreach coordinator for the Canadian Lesbian and Gay Archives in Toronto spoke to The Wild Hunt about their motivation:

“I started the hashtag somewhat as just a form of venting,” Pichette explained, “but then we decided it was something that needed to continue.”

Although Pichette can take credit for originating #HavamalWitches, Pichette is quick to extend credit to the network of people involved in spreading the message. ”Quite frankly at this point the key organizers are any woman or femme who takes it up to critique sexism in the Heathen community, the hashtag was created by me, but is owned by all of us who speak up and create space in the face of misogyny.”

Part of Pichette’s day job includes using social media for outreach, so creating and thinking about thought-provoking messages is something that comes with the territory. #HavamalWitches is also in part by the popular “I am the witch the Havamal warns you about” meme.

“But the core was the sexism that I have seen over the years within the Heathen community, and how increasingly women I knew were leaving the Heathen community.” Pichette went on to explain.

The phenomenon of women feeling alienated and pushed out of Heathen communities was also something that Chleirich personally experienced, and was part of why she decided to take a stand and step outside of her comfort zone

“I have, personally, never spoken out about any such ‘political’ issues, especially one of gender,” Chleirich explained. “However, after over a decade of being denied what I feel to be my own personal power of ritual and its subsequent ability to bring to the folk ‘experiences’ of a deeply profound and personal revelation, it is time to speak out.”

“I had been ready to completely walk away from the community who, I felt, should have been a larger support of my Heathen journey.”

[Shane Hultquist]

The action of #HavamalWitches is reaching out of social media and into the physical world. At this year’s Kaleidoscope Gathering, to be held at Raven’s Knoll in Ontario, August 2 -7, there will be a panel discussion featuring Pichette, Chleirich, and Alli Keeley, another original poster of the hashtag.

Anticipation for the discussion is high, and the intention is to open the floor to folk of all genders, and to examine how to create a more inclusive Heathen community.

Keeley says, “(The) panel is to be an open discussion about the inherent misogyny in the heathen community. How ingrained it can be from small comments of ‘Well since Thor is in the Ve so should his wife’ to outright belligerent comments like ‘Viking women should be wearing apron dresses.’ ”

Chleirich also has high hopes for #HavamalWitches in action. “There is an incredible need of the women-folk of the Heathen community both in Canada, and worldwide to be heard, seen and valued for the experiences they have brought not only to their hearths and private practice, but also to those experiences shown and effected within the Heathen public community and ritual experience at large.”

Chleirch is also clear that the definition of “woman” includes any self-identifying/presenting woman.

Despite receiving worldwide support, not all response to #HavamalWitches has been positive, and many supporters have been threatened and abused online for using the hashtag, or posting related memes.

For Chleirich, who was recently the target of a violent assault, this was especially troubling. “I was shocked at some of the backlash purporting men’s perspectives at being made to feel bullied, shamed or off-put due to our obviously shocking statements.”

“The irony knows no bounds in this regard,” Chleirich continues. “One particular statement I received, personally, was ‘When we [men] feel victimized we can get mean.’ As a woman who survived an attempted murder assault Monday, July 10, 2017, this is clearly a trigger on monumental levels.”

The negative reactions have galvanized the need for #HavamalWitches in the eyes of many, as Pichette says.

“Yes there has been backlash. There have been many who have denied that any sexism or misogyny exists in the Heathen community. Some have critiqued the women participating as ‘rocking the boat.’

“In some cases women have actually received threats for their participation, which both concerns and frankly angers me. However, in many cases the backlash helps to prove the point of why #HavamalWitches is so important to our community.”

While the hashtag originated in Canada and has turned into an active topic for discussion on Canadian Heathen forums and at gatherings, the discourse #HavamalWitches is prompting is of value everywhere.

“#HavamalWitches is a global issue, Heathens from all over the world including Canada, US, UK, Italy, Norway, New Zealand, Sweden, Denmark and more have participated.  If you are a woman or femme who has experienced misogyny is the Heathen community, please take up #HavamalWitches for yourself, you own it, we own it. We are the Witches the Hávamál warns you about, and you are not alone.” urges Pichette.

[syndicated profile] david_brin_feed

Posted by David Brin

Passing along news for anyone who is heading to Helsinki, for the World Science Fiction Convention. The week before, on 7th of August 2017, the Russian SF community (partly at my urging) is helping to host an International Futurological Conference “Book of the Future” in St Petersburg. "Speakers will discuss the future of literature and the transformation of the book concept because of technological changes in the creation and circulation of literature works and in access to the books, as well as structural changes in information consumption in society. Participation is free, but the organizers kindly request you to register right now." Write to magister.msk@gmail.com

== What is Magic? ==

Over on Quora, someone asked: “What is the most interesting magic system from fantasy, sci-fi or anime?

You are all welcome to chime in! I have spoken about defining both "magic" and "fantasy" frequently. For example here. (I conclude that a sci fi novelist is the greatest magician, ever!)


But this Quora question was about magical systems and methods. So, let’s roll up our sleeves and dive in. Most magical systems rely upon a short list of basic fulcra:

1- Similarity — make something similar to the object you seek to control. A recognizable or realistic voodoo doll of a person. Or a  model of the valley where you want rain to fall.

2- Contagion - add something that was part of the object you wish to control, e.g. add a person’s real hair trimmings to the voodoo doll.

3- True Names. Related to similarity. You gain power if you know the object’s full (or hidden) names.

4- Appeal to powers. Invoke mighty spirits - or God - by offering what they want. Something valuable, ranging from a human sacrifice all the way to promising to be a good boy or girl. (Or try appealing to Tim Powers.)

5- Art. A florid- dynamic-dramatic verbal incantation helps… it is the technique used by cable news and politicians to dazzle millions into magical thinking and hostility to fact-based and scientific systems. Other art enhancements could be visual or musical. Heck, my incantation called Existence uses one million little black squiggles (letters) in a long-winding chain to cast an incantation that takes you on spectacular adventures in space and time!

Note that all of these seemed to be reasonable things for our ancestors to try, even though magic almost never worked in the physical, objective world. Why did they keep doing itthen, in every culture? First, because these are all methods that work… on our fellow human beings! Persuasion uses all of them and other humans are the most important part of the environment. It was just an extrapolation for people to believe they could also persuade the capricious and deadly forces of nature.

Second, pattern seeking. We invest our hopes into an incantation… and shrug off when it fails, but shout with confirmation, if the thing we wanted happens.

All told, magic has been a horrid sickness that hobbled humans for ages, preventing us from honestly separating what works from what doesn’t. But we are all descended from priests and shamans who got extra food and mates because they pulled off this mumbo-jumbo really well. Their genes flow through our brains, today. No wonder there’s a War on Science!

But if you truly want a different system of magic -- one that departs from all of the above -- try my fun novel The Practice Effect ;-)

== More from Quora ==

Another Quora science fiction question: What is the best sci-fi film/television franchise? Please do answer something other than Star Wars — mainly because it is more fantasy than sci-fi, regardless of the midi-chlorians.”

Okay, I'll bite:

Stargate was by far the best and most thorough exploration of a science fictional premise. It was tightly consistent and episodes all correlated with each other in a series of very well-managed plot and character arcs, while always striving to at least nod in the direction of scientific plausibility. It was also successful at engendering massive numbers of hours of diverse stories at a fairly low budget.

A final point about Stargate… it is one of the only SF franchises to revolve around a motif that is essentially optimistic. Yes, Earthlings emerge into a cosmos rife with danger -- but logic and goodwill and courage generally combine well in a can-do spirit that encourages hope and belief in ourselves. 


Of course, the equally good Star Trek had all of those traits, with a bit lower score (though still pretty high) on consistency, with even more hours and even more optimism.

Ranking in the same general area - with similar qualities - would be Babylon Five.

See where I explain why optimism is so hard to do in sci fi, and hence so rare: The Idiot Plot.

An excellent SF TV franchise at the opposite end of the optimism scale would be the remake of Battlestar Galactica. The premise and universe remained kinda dumb. But it had the best damn writing team imaginable. You had to watch.

The new The Expanse has similar qualities. Of course Firefly was wonderful, filled with zest and joy of life.

See where I dive into a lot of similar topics, in articles and postings about sci fi media and dystopias: Speculations on Science Fiction


Oh, and there are other ways to ask me questions, than Quora. (And this blog's comment section.) I give one minute answers - by voice, on your phone - to your questions via the Askers App


== Visions of the future ==

Some of you may have noticed the cool – if somewhat cryptic – advert campaign from Arconic Corp., giving us 60 seconds of lavish-filmic updating of the most famous future-utopian family. The year 2062 reimagined by filmmaker Justin Lin.

If you haven’t seen it, drop everything for some badly needed cheering up about tomorrow… and a glimpse of how advertising oughta be. And more about Arconic.

For a more in-depth exploration, listen to the podcast Novum: the intersection of science fiction and advertising. Best show about Science Fiction out there. Do leave a comment!

How to See Star Wars for What It Really Is: This article from Big Think reprises and discusses my impudent assertion that Star Wars has become relentless propaganda against civilization, in favor of feudalism and demigod-worship. Even the "rebels" buy in to the assumption. In this reflex, Star Wars isn't alone. Almost all fantasy stories before 1800 preached demigod worship, as did the Nazis, the Confederates and (scratching the surface) recent trends in U.S. politics. Certainly almost every single story by the gifted dazzler Orson Scott Card in the last 25 years preaches handing all power over to some mutant chosen-one, as do 90% of Fantasy tales and (alas) a large fraction of so-called "science fiction" stories. 

The contrasting mythos of Star Trek has been a rebel against this ancient and deeply sick meme. But lately, Star Wars is winning. See how the Chinese agree with my interpretation. 

Another Star Wars vs Star Trek contrast – by Manu Saadia (author of Trekonomics, The Economics of Star Trek) in the New Yorker - describes what might be the premise for Peter Thiel’s  anomie versus Trek and his preference for the rule by tyrants and demigods, in George Lucas’s cosmos. (Critiqued in my book Star Wars on Trial.) While Thiel’s devotion to the Randian-Ubermenschian wing of libertarianism is well-established, I think this author may be over-reaching, in this case. Moreover, the notion that a generous and free post-scarcity society will lack competition is a flaw in Saadia’s entire construct. Indeed, no realm of human activity has ever been more competitive than the two that flourish in a Trekkian world – the arts and the sciences. 

Still, one thing is amply demonstrated by this article… the fact that the New Yorker, along with the Atlantic, Harpers and the rest of the New York liter-artsy community, have completely dropped their former, reflexive hatred for science fiction! Back in TwenCen, these zines used to issue hit pieces against SF in regular rhythm. Now, all of that is gone, and no one seems more eager to discuss SFnal concepts, using SF'nal tropes to make comparisons.

If this transition to future orientation would only rise within the halls of literary academe – the English and Literature departments that still fester with resentment toward the most fecund and creative (and most-American) genre – then perhaps the side of our society that dreams of progress will be united at last, and ready to take on the real enemies of progress. 

Sharing my dismay over Lucasian silliness, though for different reasons…. Here’s a fascinating and fun reminiscence by legendary author Michael Moorcock, of his friend Arthur C. Clarke, with insights into the making of 2001: A Space Odyssey. 

And here, we've established UCSD's new Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination, where the sciences and arts come together to explore humanity's most unique gift. 

OK SciFi take yer bows. You predicted this! Giant, Man-amplifying waldo robots are here!

Reality TV with a better than average premise. Contestants try to drop out and hide  as if being hunted… and they are!  By retired or profession cops and such, on HUNTED. Of course science fiction has been there.  

Final note... spread the word to your nerdiest Science Fiction scholars!  Those with shelves that groan under rows of old Astounding and Amazing magazines. Those of you who remember plot gimicks and twists you read as a teen.  Society needs your deep memory of past SF thought experiments!  Stay tuned for something called TASAT ("There's a Story About That.") Your nerdy memories may wind up helping to save the world!

Hey... it culd happen!

Marker Sketch of Fritz

20 Jul 2017 01:33 pm
[syndicated profile] gurneyjourney_feed

Posted by James Gurney



Fritz is an autonomous, sentient drone called a "hoverhead" based on the design of a ceratopsian, from Dinotopia: First Flight (1999). Note that his trim is dented and he's missing the chrome ring around his right eye.

For those of you who like to paint old, dented things, the "Dead Vehicle Challenge" is going strong with lots of great entries already. Deadline is the end of the month. Check it out on the Facebook event page.
-----
Get a copy of the expanded edition Dinotopia: First Flight  which has a behind-the-scenes supplement for no extra charge.

Only one problem?

20 Jul 2017 03:55 pm
[syndicated profile] pharyngula_feed

Posted by PZ Myers

I want to know what is whistling about in a certain orange tyrant’s head. He doesn’t seem to have a good grasp of history at all.

Napoleon finished a little bit bad, the president began. His one problem is he didn’t go to Russia that night because he had extracurricular activities, and they froze to death.

“that night”…what night? Napoleon’s Russian campaign was a 6 month slog with multiple battles, concluding with the loss of about half a million men.

What “night”? What “extracurricular activities”? Inquiring minds want to know.

[syndicated profile] pharyngula_feed

Posted by PZ Myers

Some guy named Sam Clovis. His qualifications:

Sam Clovis, a former Trump campaign adviser and one-time conservative talk radio host, has no background in the hard sciences, nor any policy experience with food or agriculture. Still, that did not stop President Donald Trump from officially nominating Clovis to the position of the United States Department of Agriculture’s undersecretary of research, education, and economics, the agency’s top science position.

You know, the conventional wisdom is that Trump won over all those hardworking farmers in the Midwest (and he did get solid support from them). I wonder if they realize yet that he’s found yet another way to screw them over? Because I can tell you, as someone living in the farm belt, farm policy matters to the people living here. They will probably forgive him, though, even as they’re getting thoroughly screwed, because he’s fucking over those dang pointy-headed liberal elite scientists even more, and that’s all they care about.

Clovis, like so many of the Trump administration’s top policy officials, does not accept the scientific consensus on climate change. In 2014, he told Iowa Public Radio that climate science is “junk science” and “not proven.” He also said in an interview with E&E News in October that the Trump administration would not prioritize climate change or climate science at the USDA — a sharp break from the Obama administration, which made a point of trying to better prepare farmers and the food system for imminent climate-fueled changes like droughts or heavier storms.

If you’d told me that a stint in conservative talk radio, all that ranty angry bullshitting, would be the new entry point into the American civil service cursus honorum ten years ago, I would have laughed. It can’t possibly get that bad, can it?

[syndicated profile] pharyngula_feed

Posted by PZ Myers

I actually listened to Sam Harris’s interview with Scott Adams — with only half an ear, admittedly, while I was doing other things. I will say something I find uncomfortable: I mostly agreed with Harris in the discussion. He was reluctantly (there’s a part near the beginning where he declares he’s a “centrist” and wants nothing to do with the left or right) dragged into conceding that he was strongly anti-Trump, and he was compelled to spend most of his time arguing vigorously against Adams. So that’s good at least (although they did seem to have a few moments of consonance on the topic of immigration).

You also get to listen to the Harris Evasion Tactic played over and over again against Harris — “that’s not what I was saying”, “it’s out of context”, and of course, “I’m seeing things much more deeply than you are”. Harris is clearly frustrated at points.

Unfortunately, you also have to listen to Adams, who is hopelessly obtuse and arrogant. Trump meant to do everything he’s done, he’s cleverer than you think, he’s really doing good for the country. He’s also constantly interrupting Harris, to an annoying degree. It’s also one of those events where you wonder why the hell anyone is having a conversation with this lunatic, kind of like how I feel every time yet another Trump proxy is brought on to a television news show. Aren’t we done with this crap yet?

Adams, of course, thinks he won the argument and is preemptively announcing that everyone is getting him wrong.

The Haters of Imaginary Events are out in force already. They imagine I said objectionable things during my conversation with Sam and they tweet about their hallucinations in anger. So far, no one has accurately stated my opinion before criticizing it. That’s a tell for cognitive dissonance. I’ll be making those monkeys dance today on my Twitter feed

Not recommended. They just kind of weasel around for over two hours, with Adams winning the weasely contest, but losing the reason contest. So…a tie?

Ethereum Hacks

20 Jul 2017 02:12 pm
[syndicated profile] bruce_schneier_feed

Posted by Bruce Schneier

The press is reporting a $32M theft of the cryptocurrency Ethereum. Like all such thefts, they're not a result of a cryptographic failure in the currencies, but instead a software vulnerability in the software surrounding the currency -- in this case, digital wallets.

This is the second Ethereum hack this week. The first tricked people in sending their Ethereum to another address.

This is my concern about digital cash. The cryptography can be bulletproof, but the computer security will always be an issue.

[syndicated profile] seriouseats_recipes_feed

Posted by Emily and Matt Clifton

Crostini With Blistered Cherry Tomatoes, Burrata and Chive Oil
The building blocks of a classic Caprese salad are re-imagined in these summery toasts. First, cherry tomatoes are blistered in a skillet until bursting with juice. Then creamier burrata takes the place of the more standard mozzarella. And in place of basil leaves, a quick and easy chive oil adds an herbal accent. The result makes for a great snack or light meal. Get Recipe!

The Big Idea: Nat Segaloff

20 Jul 2017 01:34 pm
[syndicated profile] scalziwhatever_feed

Posted by John Scalzi

When biographer and historian Nat Segaloff sat down to interview science fiction Grand Master Harlan Ellison for his new book A Lit Fuse, he knew that he was in for a challenge. What surprised him about the process was how much it wasn’t just about Ellison, but also about him.

NAT SEGALOFF:

How do you write something new about someone everybody thinks they already know? A writer who is famous for putting so much of his life into his stories that his fans feel that even his most bizarre work is autobiographical? That was the unspoken challenge in late 2013 when I agreed to write Harlan Ellison’s biography, an adventure that is just now seeing daylight with the publican of A Lit Fuse: The Provocative Life of Harlan Ellison.

I wrote the book because Harlan wouldn’t. He came close in 2008 when he announced he would write Working Without a Net for “a major publisher,” but he never did. Maybe he figured he’d said enough in his 1700 short stories, essays, and articles he’s published over the last 60 years. It wasn’t as if he was afraid of the truth; he always said he never lies about himself because that way nobody can hold anything against him. That was my challenge.

When we shook hands and I became his biographer, I also became the only person he ever gave permission to quote from his work and take a tour of his life. What I really wanted to do, though, was to explore his mind. What I didn’t expect was that, as I examined his creative process, I would also bare my own.

When you sit down with someone for a conversation, it’s fun; when you sit down with someone for an interview, it’s serious. Harlan has been interviewed countless times and he has always been in control. This time, I was. I had to get him to say stuff that was new, and I had to go beyond where others had stopped.

A Harlan Ellison interview is a performance. He will be quotable, precise, vague, and outrageous. He takes no prisoners. He will run and fetch a comic book, figurine, photograph, or book to illustrate a point, all of which breaks the mood. My job was to get him to sit still and not be “Harlan Ellison” but simply Harlan.

Harlan is one of the few speculative fiction writers (along with Ray Bradbury, Isaac Asimov, and a handful of others) who became public figures. Part of this stemmed from the quality of his work but much of it was created by his being, as I kept finding in the clippings, ““fractious,” “famously litigious,” and “argumentative.” Indeed, most of the stories I found during my research could be divided into two categories: “What a wild man Harlan is” and “I alone escaped to tell thee.”

Balderdash. What I discovered was a man who takes his craft seriously and fiercely defends others who labor in the field of words. An attack on them was an attack on him, and an attack on him was not to be deflected but returned in kind. “I don’t mind if you think I’m stupid,” he told one antagonist, “it’s just that I resent it when you talk to me as if I’m stupid.”

Even though I had final cut, I ran whole sections past him to get his reaction. He never flinched. In fact, he challenged me to go deeper. It was almost as if – and don’t take this the wrong way – I was Clarice Starling and he was Hannibal Lecter — the more I asked of Harlan, the more I had to give of myself. Both of us put our blood in the book even though I am the author.

—-

A Lit Fuse: Amazon|NESFA Press

 


It’s Zebrafish Goldschläger!

20 Jul 2017 12:03 pm
[syndicated profile] pharyngula_feed

Posted by PZ Myers

Here’s a clever trick to thaw out frozen embryos: before you freeze them, you inject them with nanogold particles, and then you thaw them out by heating the scattered particles with a laser to prevent local formation of ice crystals.

(Before the cryogenics weirdos get all excited, this only works with transparent embryos, and requires the ability to microinject particles into all of the cells you want to protect.)

[syndicated profile] pharyngula_feed

Posted by PZ Myers

An awesome editorial from Richard Carlson in the Strib:

Jamar Clark in Minneapolis. Philando Castile in Falcon Heights. And now Justine Damond — in Minneapolis, again.

For the record, I want it to be known that I object to being policed this way. As between the Minneapolis Police Department and the civilian authorities in my town, it is the civilians who must be in control, not the police. These days it appears to be the opposite. It is well past time for our mayor and our City Council to assert their authority. They can start by firing our ineffectual police chief. After that, the City Council should take charge of a complete overhaul of the department.

Since the department can’t seem to hire and train anything but Blue Warriors, the council, rather than the department, should set the rules for what qualifies a person to become and remain a Minneapolis police officer. If the council doesn’t feel it has the expertise to micromanage how cops are qualified and trained, it can hire experts from foreign jurisdictions who don’t think of the citizenry as the people of an occupied country. The council should break up the entire command structure of the department, and demote, fire or reassign everyone in management, because these are the people who have stubbornly failed or refused to reform the culture of our paramilitary Police Department despite scandal after scandal.

I make no exception for the innocent, if there are any, because despite their oath to uphold the law, they did not stop the others.

Finally, the council should make it known that it will no longer negotiate labor agreements with the police union (yes, my Carroll ancestors are no doubt rolling in their graves), because for years the union has done everything it could to defend unfit officers and to block reform. If these things lead to expensive litigation by retrograde elements in the department, feel free to increase my taxes to pay for it. It’s time to decide who runs this town — the citizens, or the schoolyard bullies in uniform.

I’d like to think that a thorough overhaul of the Minneapolis Police Department and its policies will not be happening just because this time the victim is a white woman who holds citizenship in a predominantly white first-world country and who was shot in an affluent white neighborhood, rather than a black or American Indian person shot in downtrodden north Minneapolis. I’d also like to think that the police and the city won’t try to solve their PR problem by simply throwing the Somali-American police officer who shot Damond under the nearest bus. But I’m not that naive.

There are more ways for this case to go wrong than I can count. Minneapolis, which prides itself on its liberalism, has in reality led the nation in hypocrisy on the issue of race. I am ashamed of my city, of its arrogant, hypocritical police force, and of its civic leaders who have shrunk from taking on the elephant in the room for fear that they will lose the political endorsements of the all-powerful police union. Included in those civic leaders are the judges and prosecutors of the Hennepin County District Court, who have tortured facts, law and logic to justify almost anything cops chose to do to the people that I spent 28 years bringing before them for justice.

I’ve had enough. Haven’t you?

YES.

[syndicated profile] scalziwhatever_feed

Posted by John Scalzi

The bill for Athena’s fall semester at Miami University arrived a couple of days ago, and we paid it, and I have some various thoughts about that I want to share.

When I went to college, 30 years ago now, I couldn’t pay for it. I did what the majority of people did then and do now — I cobbled together various sorts of funding from multiple sources. A scholarship here, a Pell grant there, a work study job and loans — and still it wasn’t quite enough when one of my funding sources fumbled the ball pretty badly and I had to ask my grandfather for help (which to be clear, he was happy to provide, with the only provision being that I would write him a letter a month, a request very much in my wheelhouse). I graduated with a fair amount of student debt, rather more than the average amount back in 1991, which was around $8,200. I think I was around 30 when we paid it off.

I don’t regret my college debt — I’m of the opinion that my education was worth what I paid for it and then some — but at the time I didn’t really like having the anxiety of wondering how it was all going to be paid for, and my education being contingent on outside financial forces, over which I had no control. I was lucky I was able to find ways to cover it all. I was also lucky that I got a good job right out of college (in 1991, during a recession), and was always financially solvent afterward. That college debt never became a drag or a worry, as it easily could have been, and which it did become for a number of my friends.

I don’t think scrambling for money or paying down college debt added anything beneficial to my life, however. As much as certain people might make a fetish of having to struggle in one way or another for one’s education, and that struggle having a value in itself, I’m not especially convinced that the current American manner of “struggle” — pricing college education at excessive rates and then requiring students and family to take on significant amounts of debt, effectively transferring decades of capital from the poor, working and middle classes to banks and their (generally wealthy) shareholders — is really such a great way to do that, especially since wages in general have stagnated over the last 40 years, the same period of time in which college tuition costs have skyrocketed, consistently above the rate of inflation. Worrying about college funding and paying off college debt isn’t character-building in any real sense. It’s opportunity cost, time wasted that might be productively spent doing something else educationally or financially beneficial.

So: I don’t regret my college debt, but I don’t think it was something that added value, either, to my education or my life. All things being equal, I suspect I would have been better off not having to worry whether I had enough funding for college any particular quarter, or being able to take the monthly post-collegiate debt payment and use it for something else, including investment. Not just me, of course; I don’t think anyone, students or parents (or colleges, for that matter), benefits from the current patchwork method of college funding, or the decade-long (or longer) hangover of college debt service.

We always assumed Athena would go to college; very early on we began saving and investing with the specific goal of funding her education. Along the way we caught the break of my writing career taking off, which meant the account intended for her education plumped out substantially. By the time it was the moment for Athena to decide where to go to college, we were in the fortunate position of being able to pay for it — all of it — wherever it was she decided to go. So, to go back to the initial paragraph, when that first Miami University bill came up, we were able to cut that check and send it off. No muss, no fuss. We’ll be able to do the same for the other college bills over the next four years.

Which is great for us! And not bad for Athena, who will end her college experience debt-free in a world where the average US student with college debt in 2016 was in the hole for $37,000, with that number only likely to go up from here. But let’s also look at everything that had to happen in order for us to get to that point: We saved early, which was smart of us, but we also had the wherewithal to save, which meant we got lucky that Krissy and I both had work, that in her case her gig included health insurance for all of us and that in my case I was in constant demand as a freelance writer, which, I assure you, is not always the case. We got lucky that the books took off as they did; the odds on that were not great. We were lucky that no one of us got seriously or chronically ill, or that other family crises depleted savings. Athena is an only child; that’s not necessarily lucky, but it definitely was a factor when it came to paying for college. We only have to do this once.

All of which is to say that Athena will be getting out of college debt-free partly because we planned early but mostly because of factors that we had only some control over, and over which she had almost none. She didn’t choose her parents or her circumstances; she got what she got. And in this case, she got lucky.

That’s fine for her. But it’s not a very useful strategy for paying for college. “Get lucky picking your parents” should not be the determining factor for whether you leave college debt-free, leave with tens of thousands of dollars of debt, or can’t afford to go to college at all. Every single one of those circumstances can have a substantial effect on how the rest of one’s economic life will go — and how the economic life of how one’s children will go. There’s a reason why in the United States, home of the “American Dream,” it’s actually pretty difficult to move up the social ladder. Yes, I did it, but I also don’t pretend I didn’t get lucky — a lot — or that my path is easily repeatable. Take it from someone who is living the American Dream: It stays only a dream for most of those dreaming of it.

I’m proud that we can pay for our daughter’s college education. I’m also well aware how many things had to break our way to be at this point, which just as easily could have gone another way. It would be better to live in a world where luck, one way or another, is not a salient, determinative factor for whether one can afford college, or whether one can graduate from college without debt. In fact, that world does exist; just not here in the US. College tuition in most developed countries is substantially less than it is here, including being basically free in places like Germany and France. We could do that here, for state schools at least, if we decided we wanted to.

But we don’t. I know we have our reasons. I just don’t think those reasons are very good.


[syndicated profile] thewildhunt_feed

Posted by Cara Schulz

BELLE PLAINE, MN – After The Satanic Temple offered to create a monument for inclusion in the city’s free speech area at Veteran’s Memorial Park, the City Council voted unanimously to eliminate the area, bringing an end to a year of controversy.

Just under a year ago, a two foot high sculpture entitled “Joe” was installed at the park. The sculpture shows a soldier kneeling before a cross shaped headstone.

In January, the city removed the sculpture, concerned about potential lawsuits as the park is owned by the city. Concerns were raised that having an explicitly Christian monument could be seen as discriminatory toward other religions.

Area Catholics protested its removal and demanded the monument be returned to the park. Then, in April, the city council voted to create a free speech area in the park and the monument was returned to its location.

Rendering of TST monument [Courtesy TST website]

It was at this point that The Satanic Temple (TST) of Salem, MA petitioned the city for permission to install a monument to honor non-religious service members.

The Satanic Temple (TST) has a history of challenging governmental actions that they see as discriminatory toward atheists and minority religions. Last year, TST created After School Satan clubs to challenge Christian evangelical groups who host after hours clubs inside public schools.

The proposed park memorial was a black cube inscribed with pentagrams and topped with an upside-down soldier’s helmet. A plaque on one side would reportedly read:

In honor of the Belle Plaine veterans who fought to defend the United States and its Constitution.

TST’s monument plan was approved by the city council and would have been the first of its kind installed on public property in the United States. Lucian Greaves, TST’s spokesperson, said Belle Plaine officials didn’t “offer any resistance, to their credit.”

TST said it was creating a monument that would genuinely honor veterans and not designed to simply shock or offend.

[Matt Kowalski]

However, the park’s memorial controversy reached a boiling point Saturday, when dueling protests took place at the venue. An estimated 100 people attended a “rosary rally” organized by America Needs Fatima, a Catholic nonprofit. They prayed and held signs decrying the proposed Satanic monument. Less than ten supporters of the Satanic monument were on hand.

Also attending were area veterans. “I don’t know who’s speaking for the veterans. I don’t know who’s speaking for us. We got no problem. We fought for this country for everybody,” said one local veteran in a video by RUPTLY.

Prior to these protests, the Christian monument was removed from the park by the family who donated. The family members expressed concerns that it could become damaged during the protests.

[Matt Kowalski]

In reaction, Belle Plaine city council voted Monday to rescind the free speech area. The park will now be free of any monuments.

Belle Plaine city officials released a statement Tuesday morning:
Last night, the Belle Plaine City Council voted to rescind a resolution enacted in February, 2017, that allowed individuals or organizations to place and maintain privately-owned displays in a designated space of the city-owned Veterans Memorial Park.

As called-for in the resolution, owners of all privately-owned Park displays currently located in the Park’s designated space are now being given 10 days’ notice to remove the displays. Our local veterans organizations are supportive of this action.

The original intent of providing the public space was to recognize those who have bravely contributed to defending our nation through their military service. In recent weeks and months, though, that intent has been overshadowed by freedom of speech concerns expressed by both religious and non-religious communities.

The debate between those communities has drawn significant regional and national attention to our city, and has promoted divisiveness among our own residents.

While this debate has a place in public dialogue, it has detracted from our city’s original intent of designating a space solely for the purpose of honoring and memorializing military veterans, and has also portrayed our city in a negative light.

Therefore, the Council believes that it is in the best interests of our Belle Plaine community to rescind the resolution, and bring this divisive matter to closure.

In a comment on TST’s Facebook post, announcing the council’s decision, Adam Nagel said, “Funny how Christians and Conservatives tout themselves as champions of the constitution, yet have such a hard time with free speech and separation of church and state.”

I live!

19 Jul 2017 06:39 pm
loganberrybunny: Drawing of my lapine character's face by Eliki (Default)
[personal profile] loganberrybunny
Public

Not a lot going on at the moment, beyond the usual everyday stuff. I tend to put that sort of thing on Twitter (@louderyay). One exception is that I've just bought a second-hand PC base unit to replace my slowly dying current one. This new(er) one is in no way a current model, but I'm hoping it will last for a while until I can afford to get another newer(er) one. It's just been marked as dispatched by the seller, but I'm feeling superstitious and so I won't be giving any details of the computer until I have it working!

It seems pretty bad already

19 Jul 2017 04:27 pm
[syndicated profile] pharyngula_feed

Posted by PZ Myers

So I’m not pleased to see a report on sexual harassment by faculty titled Worse Than It Seems. It summarizes the results of a survey of harassment in academia, and takes an objective, outsider’s look at the problem.

A Systematic Look at a Serial Problem: Sexual Harassment of Students by University Faculty” seeks to cut through the noise with data, analyzing nearly 300 faculty-student harassment cases for commonalities. The study, which focused on complaints by graduate students, led to two major findings: most faculty harassers are accused of physical, not verbal, harassment, and more than half of cases — 53 percent — involve alleged serial harassers.

Data “confirm that faculty harassment of students is more widespread than many may appreciate” says the study, forthcoming in Utah Law Review. Perhaps most importantly, it says, a “disturbingly high proportion of available cases indicate evidence of higher-severity sexual harassment that includes unwelcome physical contact and/or a pattern of serial sexual harassment of multiple victims by the same faculty member.”

In other words, data challenge what the study calls “stereotypes” about sexual harassment, including that the current reporting environment has compromised faculty members’ academic freedom.

That last bit is also surprising: treating students and colleagues with respect compromises academic freedom? Who claims that? It’s a new one to me, although given the stupidity of so many arguments from affronted men, I guess I should expect it.

It’s also eye-opening to get the perspective from the inside, close-up: read about Gina Baucom’s informal query about “what’s the crappiest thing you’ve heard said about a woman academic?” It’s horrifying.

The worst thing I’ve personally and directly heard? She’s an Asian girl, they’re always so good with their hands followed by a snigger and a leer. And my decision that I wasn’t going to work with that guy. That was in my first year as a grad student, so I got disillusioned early.

Password Masking

19 Jul 2017 03:35 pm
[syndicated profile] bruce_schneier_feed

Posted by Bruce Schneier

Slashdot asks if password masking -- replacing password characters with asterisks as you type them -- is on the way out. I don't know if that's true, but I would be happy to see it go. Shoulder surfing, the threat is defends against, is largely nonexistent. And it is becoming harder to type in passwords on small screens and annoying interfaces. The IoT will only exacerbate this problem, and when passwords are harder to type in, users choose weaker ones.

The Big Idea: Cassandra Khaw

19 Jul 2017 12:37 pm
[syndicated profile] scalziwhatever_feed

Posted by John Scalzi

Identity issues can sometimes be a bear, as the protagonist of Bearly a Lady finds out — in no small part because author Cassandra Khaw experienced something similar in her real life.

CASSANDRA KHAW:

The first time I came out as bisexual to a partner, it was a mess. What was a passably tolerable relationship became a wasteland of conspiratorial winks, elbow nudges, and endless attempts to convince me to have a threesome with someone, anyone, just pick an attractive person of the same gender.

Thing is, I don’t blame him.

Bisexual representation in media is a fraught topic. More often than not, bisexual people are characterized as wild, promiscuous individuals with thrilling sex lives, perpetually ready to jump into bed with whomever they find attractive. (Not necessarily untrue or even wrong, but that’s a conversation for another space.) Consequently, we end up with people like my ex, who begin quivering with lascivious curiosity the moment they so much as hear the hum of that first syllable.

But we are getting better at it. Crazy Ex-Girlfriend has one of my favorite bisexual characters of all times: Darryl Whitefeather, a middle-aged divorcee who comes out mid-season and proceeds to have a stunningly healthy relationship with his new boyfriend. (That show has its problems, but I will forever love the writers for making sure the queer couple is the happy one.) And genre writing is even further ahead in that department. Take Kai Ashante Wilson’s work, for example, which remarks on polyamorous queer relationships without even the barest breath of hesitation. After all, in a world of dragons and technical-minded gods, what is there to fear about a man who loves a man and also a woman?

I’m digressing.

With Bearly a Lady, I’m hoping to build on that canon. Zelda McCartney is a complicated character, for all that she might sometimes appear like an airhead. She’s been out for a long time; this isn’t a self-discovery story. Instead, the book, which goes into some dark places between the lines, interrogates the idea of expectations, labels, and toxic relationships.

And that is because she is a werebear in a human world, a woman endlessly bombarded by external forces, all looking to chip at her self-esteem for the sake of a quick buck or someone else’s emotional fulfillment. It’s no surprise that Zelda has only half an idea as to which box she belongs. Honestly, a lot of people don’t figure that out. Especially those raised outside of liberal communities.

I’d know. For the longest time, that was me.

(Except for the werebear part.)

So, that’s one of the Big Ideas behind Bearly a Lady. I wanted my main character to be full of internal conflict, certain in her identity but uncertain of the words that one might use to define oneself. A mess of paradoxes and imperfections glued together by bad sitcoms and ice-cream. I’m hoping that, one day, Bearly a Lady might be part of some bisexual teenager’s library, another piece in the puzzle as they figure out who they are. Maybe, Zelda will be an example of who they hope not to be. Maybe, they’ll see a bit of themselves in her. Who knows? That’s not up to me.

Bearly a Lady might be a queer paranormal rom-com with werebears, vampires, and billionaire fairies galore, but it’s also a look into the life of a queer woman who doesn’t always get it straight.

—-

Bearly a Lady: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo

Read an excerpt online. Visit the authors site. Follow her on Twitter.


Almond Flour Shortcakes

19 Jul 2017 01:00 pm
[syndicated profile] kingarthurbakes_feed

Posted by PJ Hamel

Almond Flour Shortcakes via @kingarthurflour

Strawberry shortcake is to summer what apple pie is to fall: the season’s quintessential dessert. But once field-fresh strawberries have come and gone, is shortcake season over? Perish the thought! Peach or nectarine shortcake are July favorites, with blueberry/blackberry taking over as July gives way to August. Fresh fruit shortcake is always in season — […]

The post Almond Flour Shortcakes appeared first on Flourish - King Arthur Flour.

Mort Drucker: "No Shortcuts"

19 Jul 2017 09:07 am
[syndicated profile] gurneyjourney_feed

Posted by James Gurney

Illustrators Quarterly is a UK magazine that focuses on historical and contemporary illustration worldwide, kind of a European equivalent of Illustration magazine here.

The current issue spotlights Mort Drucker (born 1929), the movie satirist who worked for Mad Magazine for more than 50 years.


Correction: Ray Walston as Poopdeck Pappy
Robin Williams as Popeye by Mort Drucker
Drucker's movie satires had to capture the look of all the stars from various angles and in various expressions. Even more remarkably, he had to recall the faces from memory, because in the years before the Internet, it was virtually impossible to find movie stills, especially of a movie that was in the theaters.


The article includes about 50 large images of Drucker's work, mostly reproduced from the original, so that you can see the pasted-up text as if it is on the page in front of you.

The article is written by David Apatoff, author of the popular blog Illustration Art. David is a close friend of Drucker and was with him recently at the Society of Illustrators in New York, where Drucker received a coveted Hall of Fame award.


Drucker was self taught in art: "School didn't do much for me," he recalls. "I had no schooling. I didn't know the first thing about drawing and had to learn it all by myself."


He continues: "I wanted to be as good as I could possibly be. No shortcuts. If you had a problem with something, attack it. Like hands, for instance.... Some artists drew hands in pockets or behind their backs and you knew those artists didn't want to have any part of drawing hands. But I always thought that if something's difficult, don't hide, don't run away from it. Learn to master it. That was my philosophy. And so I'd draw hands as if my life depended on it. If you can't draw hands don't look at how somebody else draws hands, study your own hand, do things so that you personally get to know and appreciate hands."
-----
You can get this issue of Illustrator's Quarterly at Bud's Art Books.
Books on Drucker: MAD's Greatest Artists: Mort Drucker: Five Decades of His Finest Works
Familiar Faces: The Art of Mort Drucker
David Apatoff is also the author if the recent book The Life and Art of Bernie Fuchs.
[syndicated profile] pharyngula_feed

Posted by PZ Myers

The price? $10! The buyer? Well, it’s … Ken Ham. That’s right, Ken Ham sold his theme park to himself for a sawbuck. You will not be surprised when you learn that this pointless shuffle was done for the purpose of scamming the government out of taxes, so it wasn’t pointless at all. It’s all part of a long con.

On June 29, Williamstown city attorney Jeffrey Shipp sent a letter to the biblical amusement park Ark Encounter, rejecting its request to be exempted from a new safety tax because its is a religious organization.

Shipp said it was clear that Ark Encounter is a for-profit entity, which is how it has been listed with the Kentucky secretary of state’s office since 2011.

But the day before, Ark Encounter LLC sold its main parcel of land — the one with the large-scale Noah’s Ark — for $10 to its nonprofit affiliate, Crosswater Canyon.

Remember way back when Answers in Genesis was begging for all this support from Kentucky, claiming it wouldn’t be an endorsement of religion, because it was going to be an economic boon to secular businesses in the region? It should be treated as an amusement park, not a church. So they got their breaks and the state improvements in access roads, etc., but now that’s not enough — so they’ve flipped it back to the control of their religious non-profit side, because they’re irate about a tax that would pay for fire and emergency services to their park.

The tax would have been about fifty cents on each grossly over-priced $40 ticket. They simply refuse to pay that pittance.

And that makes we wonder how solid AiG’s finances are. They seem awfully desperate to avoid losing that 1.25% of the ticket price to essential services. It’s only the beginning, too.

That’s the latest salvo in an escalating dispute between local officials and Ark Encounter, but some people are worried that Ark Encounter’s maneuver is a precursor to declaring itself exempt from all taxes, including property taxes that help finance Grant County schools.

“I believe this is the first step,” Williamstown city councilman Kim Crupper said. “The impact would be far larger than just Williamstown.”

It’ll happen, and Williamstown and the state of Kentucky will get the screwing they deserve for propping up this shambles. Everyone who has been following Ham knows what to expect.

He got his start working with Carl Wieland of Creation Ministries International, was sent off to manage the American branch of that organization, and then absconded with their mailing list and split off to start his own circus. There was much acrimony and howling and furious lawsuits between the two. And don’t forget the time Ham was kicked out of a homeschooling conference over his nasty and intolerant behavior.

The one thing you can rely on is his greed. If you just look for the choice that will line his pocket the most, you can predict Ken Ham’s behavior perfectly.

Williamstown is so screwed.

Hey, how about if we end that religious tax exemption everywhere and for everyone?

[syndicated profile] seriouseats_recipes_feed

Posted by Michael Harlan Turkell

Adobo-Marinated Grilled Pork Chops
Filipino adobo is a classic dish, usually of stewed chicken or pork in a tangy, flavorful sauce made from cane vinegar, soy sauce, and aromatics. But the building blocks of the adobo sauce also make a great marinade for grilled meats, like the pork chops here. Get Recipe!

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