Wednesday, September 25, 2013

It's Been A Long Time Coming

Popular Science to Shut Down Comments

And about time, too. I think that in the online, print, and television media that there's been too much credence given to laypeople who have varying (and sometimes whackadoodle) opinions and ideas to give their counterpoint as though they were on equal footing with experts in the field in the name of fair play.

Here's my solution, and I know it's a wild one, so hold on, folks.

If you are going to have someone on to counter the 'experts', take the time and vet them. Are they an expert in the same or related field? Do they have a counterpoint? Great, get 'em on! If you can't find one, say so. Don't invite John Smith or Billy Ray Bob or Preston van Snootworthy III just because they have a different opinion.

No more celebrities on the news sites spouting their harmful beliefs that vaccines cause autism when it has been debunked and discredited over and over again. If you want to have a round table discussion with the AMA, the AAP, the NHS, and the WHO over concerns parents have regarding the course and frequency of vaccines for infants, toddlers, and children, go for it. But to turn everything into a Grand Governmental Conspiracy, when these things are reviewed and revised and re-examined on a regular basis because it's bad governmental policy to harm children, not to mention that this is what doctors and researchers spend the vast majority of their lives being educated on... It's stupid. And it's stupid because it comes from a place of fear and ignorance rather than rationality and education.

Don't get me wrong. I'm a Big Ol' Fan of being a skeptic. I like to think of myself as one on my good days. But part of being skeptical (as opposed to being a pain in the ass cynic) is to question, research with good information, examine the evidence, and make decisions based on logic rather than emotion. And way too many of the comments and counters to experts in their field are based on pathos rather than logos. Appeals to emotion are powerful, that's why they exist, and they make us feel things. Anger, happiness, fear, empowerment... The list goes on. But they rarely coexist with the argument from an educated, evidence based standpoint. If you want to have an emotional argument with your significant other, you might win. And it feels good to vent your spleen every so often. But to create a well reasoned argument takes more time, energy, self-education, and if you're presenting it on the national or international stage, that's the way it should be.

Anything less feels like gossip and fear-mongering.

Be better than the 37%. When presented with something that sounds outrageous, go do your research. Find out if that talking head believes in the outrageous and is the chapter president of the Algerians for Unicorn Reforms. And don't be that person that skims the first three paragraphs of an article and responds.

My comments are open, because everything I post here is opinion of one form or another. The minute I post any self-created scientific research, I'll still leave the comments open, but I will wield the banhammer on anyone that counters without having their ducks in a row.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Fucking Cheery Feet

Last December I joined a sock club created by CookieA. TheBrit bakes, and Cookie includes cookie recipes and I get to make socks so it's a win all around.

So the second session of the sock club was purple socks. Don't get me wrong, I like purple, but Didi of Little Red Bicycle had some bright yellow hanging around from a OOAK dye that I'd fallen in love with and snatched up. Plus, I'd gotten a little purpled out with the clubs I was in and my not-insignificant stockpile of the colour.

Fast-forward to July, when Cookie came to London to teach at Knit Nation. I was working on the Jubilee socks the day of the class, but she had a meetup for her area sock club members where we got to eat cookies and see the next yarn and one of the next socks. (Sorry, I can't tell you anything more than "they were yummy, it was pretty, and I'm looking forward to knitting up the pattern". We were sworn to secrecy.) So I brought my Boysenberry YO socks that Cookie has taken to referring to as my Marmalade YO socks1 and she took a picture of them (and me) for posterity.

And I got her to sign my copy of Sock Innovation, which was well loved and had obviously been leafed through quite a bit. And I plan on taking the information I learned from her Knitting Off the Grid class and taking over the world designing some things.

Rather than just cheerfully yanking the photo (as I did for my project page) to post on the Ye Olde Blogg, I'm being good and asking permission since it is Cookie's photo that she took. So, until I hear one way or the other from her, I direct you to the link for the Marmalade socks above.

1: That's right. Cookie A took a photo of me with socks that she designed and I knit. Why yes, that faint noise is the sound of me still doing the suppressed fangirl squee.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011


Overheard in our house, 02 May.

B: I have a couple of questions for you.
Ryn: Ok...
B asks two questions, Ryn responds.
Ryn *stares at B*
B: What?
Ryn: What's the third question?
B: I said "a couple", that requires two.
Ryn: Ahh. I always screw myself up with this. When I was little I was convinced that because few rhymes with two, they were connected.  And a couple was always three or more in my head.
B: You had poly tendencies from a young age, didn't you?
Ryn (distractedly): Yeah.
B: Hmm
Ryn: What? Oh. No, "yeah" still stands.

Monday, October 18, 2010

How not to be a freak...

First, let me say I have NO idea how to do this. I either recognize people that are various levels of celebrity or I completely space who they are. When I recognize them, I go through the mental "oh my god, holy shit, they're a real person and they're close enough for me to talk to, am I cool enough to even address them, fuck me I'm in high school all over again" panic response. I wish I could be one of those people who just have that innate "fuck you, I'm awesome!" persona.

I don't. I am forever that geek that learned how to code before computers were "cool" and have the social awareness of a gecko. I can do small talk (yay for being in a social business setting for ages) but I absolutely fail at the graceful exit from small talk.

Here's where it all started for me this weekend. I attended TAMLondon and met people that I follow on Twitter/have only seen on stage with their stage personas in full form. Cue my brain going into overdrive. The conversation went something like this...

Ryn's Id: Look, it's someone you appreciate. Because you appreciate them and "get" them, you have something in common with them. Go up. say hi!
Ego: Is that really wise? They're people just going about their day.
Id: Oh, c'mon. They have to expect this on some level...
Ego: They are not going to magically become your friend. They will not remember you in 24 hours. Or even six.
Id: C'mon, it's all in good fun. Roll with it!

Eventually, the id wins out and then the nerves kick in. So far I've been fortunate enough that upon opening my mouth I have not said "You cool. Like. Wow. Shiiiiiiny." But it usually is something along the lines of "please allow me to tell you something about a way in which you have impacted my life that you may not have known about and likely will see as being somewhat creepy when I mean for it to be complimentary and oh god please something make me shut up and run away any time now I can't stop talking and if I don't breathe soon I will pass out I wish I could disappear where is the nearest black hole?"

I know, in my heart of hearts, every single one of us has done this at one point in time or another.

Here's the flip side.

After Saturday at TAM, I was stuck at Charing Cross waiting desperately for a taxi to take me home since the trains had decided that running as late as normal was just not on that day. I am quite (85-95%) certain that the nice man behind me in the queue for the taxis was Damian Lewis. A clot of us chatted while in queue and it wasn't until the next morning that I realized who it was in the nice overcoat. Had I known at the time, I would have been a stammering fool because I have used Band of Brothers as a teaching tool.

If my brain doesn't twig on some manner of fame (I do it in more niche areas of my life as well), I am fine and chatty and do the polite "stranger chat" thing with a willingness to let it taper off.

Back to TAM...

I'm fine if I can just go up to the person, say my little "you're brilliant!" or "thank you for [insert thankable offense here]" and run away. Much like going up to someone in elementary school and saying "I like you!" and running away (a la Eddie Izzard). And for the most part, people were willing to do that. But then you get people like Iszi Lawrence... Lovely woman. And tall. I rushed up to her outside and said "I follow you on Twitter, I think you're brilliant!" or something similar and was ready to walk away again and she Started Talking To Me.

In fairness, it was quite pleasant. Definitely one of those people that I felt like "yes, I'd like to buy you a pint and do things with your brain" but I also know that I am not the only person out there that feels that way. In fact, I bet if you follow people on Twitter, there are a lot of them that make you think that you have a "connection" with them.

That's because they are very good at interacting with people. As Stephen Fry wrote in the foreword to The Salmon of Doubt, "[t]he stranger might laugh and seem to enjoy the writing, but you hug to yourself the thought that they just didn't quite understand its force and quality the way you do..."

I have my list of people that I think "I would love to be friends with that person" - it's not written down because that would be a little obsessive and creepy. But I also try to maintain the grounding in reality (hard to do at a convention where things are a bit heightened by the "I've found my people" sensation) that I/they don't have to be friends with everyone and that again I am not the only person out there that feels that way. And I just don't have enough of the narcissistic tendencies to think that I am just that awesome.

But what I'd really like to know is what the celebrity-types think about it when they are approached by the hoi polloi (of which I am an imaginary-card carrying member) and aurally accosted with praise and gushing admiration.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Everyone's a little bit racist, sometimes...?

I was speaking with a friend a while ago and we got on the topic of race and tribe-association.

(I should probably explain "tribe-association." When I get to know someone well enough to call them a friend, they become part of my mental tribe, because when I called them "my people" some outsiders got offended that I was trying to "own" my friends. Anyway...)

The friend in question is Asian-American. From comments she has made, I think she is Taiwanese and white as far as her ethnic recipe goes, but I'm not 100% on that, mainly because I don't think that it's that crucial to either of us for our friendship. She's ethnically Taiwanese, as she has just clarified for me. She grew up on the East Coast of the US and I asked her when she got to know people, do they change ethnicity in her head?

Even that's not wholly accurate. It's not so much that I look at my friends that are black or native or whatnot and they "turn white" in my head, but that they become that most horrible of cliches... I stop seeing their "race." They become more "like me" and I'm not sure how that works with the ethnicity aspect. I wish someone that has explored the psychology of this could adequately explain it for me.

So I asked my friend when she gets to know people, do they somehow become more like her, and whether that becoming more like her means that they are identified as slightly Asian to her in her head. I was told that those people generally are seen of as more white to her, rather than more Asian, even though she self-identifies as an Asian-American.
I've asked her to read this post and let me know if I was talking out of my ass. Apparently, I was a bit. Here's what she has to say:

I don't think that people change race, exactly, when I get to know them more? But I'm pretty sure I don't see them as more Asian, either.I think perhaps because I meet a lot more non-Asian people than Asian people, it doesn't really ever go away, the "not-Asian" bit... but at the same time, I don't think it's very important most of the time.

Does anyone know what this is, psychologically? I'm assuming that it's something that helps us to identify friend as "same" and "safe" and stranger as "other" and "possible threat." Is it as simple as a psychological evolutionary protection mechanism?

Does this mean that the dominant culture (or ethnicity) becomes the "same" benchmark?

Was 'Avenue Q' right, we're all a little bit racist, and it's just ingrained in our psyches?

And is this a bad thing? Is it good? Or is it just what it is, a development of our brains used to protect an individual?

Or, do I just get to ask these questions as a result of my white privilege?

The more I talk with people about this, the more I realize that race/ethnicity/culture issues are insanely complicated. Every seeming answer leads to four more questions. So far, I've discovered that sometimes people in the non-dominant demographic have expectations of people that are from a similar background as they are, but not always, because of the expectation of commonality.

They intertwine with class, geography, education, religion, and a myriad of other things that I can't even seem to grasp.

I'm actually starting to question how it is that I could have married a British man when I'm American. It seems like our main point of commonality is that we both speak English, but even that is different dialectically.

I suppose it only proves the need to get to know people individually and determine the personality compatibility based on that interaction rather than a perception based on a cultural stereotype. Or, as George Carlin said, "I'd like to get to know you so I can find something to really hate about you."

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Reprint/blog from NYT

I want to make this. If anyone else has made this, please let me know how it turned out! (I might make it and bring it to the in-laws for Easter celebrations.


Adapted from Kaori Endo at Rose Bakery, Paris
Serves 10-12

1 heaping cup flour
½ teaspoon instant yeast
½ teaspoon salt
2 heaping tablespoons matcha green tea powder (see note)
¼ cup unsalted butter
⅔ cup crème fraîche
3 eggs
3 egg yolks
1¼ cups sugar
¼ cup raspberries (can use frozen).

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a medium bowl, mix the flour, yeast, salt and matcha powder. In a small pot, melt the butter. Add the crème fraîche to the butter and whisk; remove from heat.

2. Using electric beaters or a food processor, whip the eggs, yolks and sugar until the mixture is white and thick. With a spatula, gradually fold in the dry ingredients. Then add the crème fraîche/butter mixture. (If the result is very thick, don’t hesitate to reheat it a tad.) Pour half of the mixture into a buttered cake pan. Distribute half of the raspberries into the batter. Pour the rest of the mixture into the pan, then the second half of the raspberries, using your finger to press them just below the surface.

3. Bake until lightly golden and a knife inserted comes out clean, 40 to 50 minutes.

Note: Matcha powder available at Asian supermarkets, such as Sunrise Mart.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

London Food Update!

Attention, all Americans living in the UK and wondering where to get garlic powder... Asian markets. There's two that I went into in Chinatown (London:Soho) that had big bags of it for sale.