Friday, February 27, 2015

Health: Somebody Finally Gets It

The Guardian released an article yesterday demanding no less than we have here: caution in interpreting data from studies. Their intended target was the recent rash1, 2, 3, 4, 5 of articles only drawing additional stigma to those suffering from depression, as being more at risk to instigate criminal activity.

Thank you Guardian, you're doing it right.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Entertainment: Grey Can Be A Good Thing


"[T]here is a gray area of ‘fan fiction’ where tributes are made by fans and the studios don’t want to piss off their base by going after these people legally," said an unidentified entertainment copyright attorney according to Deadline.com. He's referring to the new short video tribute "Power/Rangers" produced and written by Joseph Kahn and associates.

The short was posted freely on Vimeo and YouTube, where it quickly went viral. If nothing else, the furor over the rights to fan-base members to produce and publish media (for free or not) helps drive traffic to both the short, independent film and the feature-length studio-produced releases.

Whether the result of the suit against Kahn goes well or not for him, it's safe to say that the video quality isn't subpar. If anything, the choreography may even be a step above classic Power Rangers fight scenes. That makes it more than just a tribute: it helps to drive interest into the story and the world it creates.

Great and marketable things can come out of the artistic visions of one's fan base. It's nearly common knowledge that Fifty Shades of Grey started as a Twilight fan-fiction, and significant parallels can be drawn between the two.

I can confidently tell you there's at least one person who would normally skip over any media bearing the franchise name who not only watched it, but actually enjoyed it.

Weather: One Born Every Minute

Boston, Mass is seeing record snowfalls this year. That's hardly news unless you're in the area or doing business with the area. And due to the snowfall, there's significantly more in the latter category than usual.

The problem with snow clearing is finding somewhere to put it or get rid of it, and melting it down can be an expensive process, even though it would reduce the volume of space it occupies by about one-twelfth.

A local has come up with an entrepreneurial idea: he's selling it.

ShipSnowYo will send you 16.9 oz of "snow" in a standard size water bottle for twenty bucks, with no promise that will still be snow when it gets to you. Because the "product" is classified as a joke or gag gift, Kyle Waring bypasses any quality control or FDA standards when shipping his product. Nonetheless, customer responses are popping up on Twitter and other social media regarding ingesting the liquid.

Whether this ingestion is true and honest, or another joke on par with Amazon's depleted uranium reviews is hard to say, but if you're gullible enough to buy snow from Mr Waring, you might just be gullible enough to think it's just as pure as tap water.

Health: PETA Playing Favorites

The American organization known best for its radical advertising and anti-animal cruelty campaigns (and also for its euthansia policy and support of kill-shelters), PETA, is using the most recent Animal Wellness Assurance report to attack the scientific research industry.

The numbers alone in the report shows an increase in the number of animals used in scientific studies and trials, for the sum of all species as well as for each species alone (except for cats).

The attack wholly subsists on the argument that "like dogs, cats and primates — animals such as mice, rats and fish experience pain, stress and distress, and suffer in laboratories and have complex social, emotional and cognitive lives," according to PETA's Dr Alka Chandra.

I'm not disagreeing with the scientific evidence that shows that animals are just as capable of feeling pain as humans (technically, we're just another species of mammal ourselves), but while PETA may disagree with the use of animals, they still are quite happy to benefit from the results.

Except during times of excessive oppression (like the Holocaust), most medical research uses extensive testing to verify their drugs and tools do what they say they do, and this requires test subjects. PETA members are happy to take advantage of the results of these drug trials, which include both human and animal vaccines.

Until PETA starts taking a Christian Scientist- or Jehova's Witness-like stance on the use of such advances (essentially, declining them), they will be guilty of hypocrisy on a grand scale.

Besides which, there have been recent studies that suggest plants too are capable of feeling pain, but I don't see any over-funded organization, PETA or otherwise, stepping forward to defend them.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Entertainment: Blogger Censorship Not The Same As Facebook Censorship


Google's newest ToS rewrite limits the explicit content that will be publicly available on its Blogger platform, and it has come under fire for Facebook's own recent censorship controls.

So many are comparing the two, except they're so very different situations.

Facebook is a social networking website. It is intended as a networking tool to connect people, not just through the vanilla website, but also through third-party content, which includes games, news agencies, and anywhere else you can find Facebook-integrated widgets.

The Blogger platform is a website-building website. While it can be used for social networking, its reach is so much broader. Where every page on or connected to Facebook is branded with some Facebook-esk insignia, individual websites using the Blogger platform are not. Blogger blogs are each as diverse as the diversity found between the whole range of social networking websites, from Google Plus to Twitter to Facebook to tumblr.

This distinction is important to understand because you can't build a pornography website on Facebook; you could build a tribute page to a pornography website on Facebook (or at least try), but you can't host the whole site there. With Blogger, it's not only possible, it's been done.

This is what the new ToS is intended to combat. It's not about censoring personal, educational, or artistic expression, it's about stopping the people and organizations who take advantage of the Blogger platform to run illicit services.

How do I know all this?

I went and read the fine print. I did that, not for this article, but because I received email from Google HQ warning me that one or more of the websites I run on their Blogger platform might be affected by this change. But I won't be; my mature content creation is limited to creative artistic expression, not to sell or publish illicit content and services.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Health: Anti-Cannabis Rant Offers Little Science


There's a big difference between causation and correlation, but the Daily Mail's Peter Hitchens seems to be ignorant of this fact.

He argues:
    ...Lee Rigby’s killers, who underwent violent personality changes in their teens after becoming cannabis users. ...The recent Paris killers were also known users of cannabis. So were the chaotic drifters who killed soldiers in Canada last year. So is the chief suspect in the Boston Marathon bombings of April 2013. ...Jared Loughner, who killed six people and severely injured Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords in Arizona in 2011, was also a confirmed heavy cannabis user... the pointless killing of Sheffield church organist Alan Greaves, randomly beaten to death by two laughing youths on Christmas Eve 2012. Both were cannabis smokers. ...the link is interesting. I wonder how many other violent criminals would turn out to be heavy cannabis users, if only anyone ever asked.
He goes on to draw unstated conclusions from an earlier article published by the Daily Mail, but unlinked in his article (presumably, it's this one), which stated little more than"The findings of the six-year study, ...suggest strong forms of cannabis can lead to serious mental illness."

Mental illness is not a precursor to criminal behavior. Many criminals may suffer from one form of mental illness or another, and there may be significant correlation between the two, but little in the way of scientifically proven causation.

It's even entirely possible that Mr Hitchens has it all backwards. It might be that those inclined toward criminal activity are more likely to use drugs, including cannabis, instead of the other way around.

Furthermore, Mr Hitchens disregards other articles also released in the past week1, 2, also from the Daily Mail, that offers a supposedly scientific study which shows both alcohol and tobacco are more dangerous than cannabis.

I wonder how many of the criminals he mentioned above ingested alcohol.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Celebrity: Beauty Is In The Eye of The Photoshopper

Beyonce fans were in an outrage this week as non-digitally altered pictures from a L'Oreal photoshoot were released on TheBeyonceWorld.com. This mob-minded behavior is contrary to other recent photoshop-snafus, in which the fan-following rage was fueled by digital altering, not the lack thereof. 1, 2, 3

Despite the uprising, fansite visitors seem to be perfectly content with unaltered candid shots of their star, appearing with far less glamour.

Education: Lawmakers Embarrassed By Bad History Make More


An Oklahoma lawmaker is pushing to stop Advanced Placement History classes because, as he says, "[the class focuses on] what is bad about America."

Rep. Dan Fisher (R) doesn't seem to understand that he's making history of his own, and is a blemish in and of himself. We can only hope he lives long enough to petition his own ignorant actions be struck from the record.

House Bill 1380, which can be found in full text here on ok.gov, is designed to limit what can be taught in the AP courses to Fisher's propaganda-like beliefs, or remove them altogether.

AP History is not a course required for high school graduation, nor is it offered in all schools across the state; it is an optional advanced (thus the "A" in AP) course intended to provide high school students the opportunity to earn early college credit and participate in a higher standard of learning.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Celebrity: More Crass Than Madonna

We talked about Madonna a few days ago, in reference to Fifty Shades of Grey. Now we have another celebrity who's taken it a step further.

Instead of insisting her opinion is more important than forming your own, Lolo Jones is trying to suggest that her God is the only one that matters, that S/He has spoken to Ms. Jones, and the message is that God doesn't approve of FSG.

Not only does Ms Jones think her opinion is more important than anybody else's, she's also claiming to be God's spokesperson.

I repeat again what I said last time: She's welcome to express her opinion, but by no reason should you allow that to (a) decide whether or not you should see the movie, and (b) how you feel about it. 

Even if you happen to believe in the same God as Lolo Jones, that doesn't mean she's God's heavenly appointed spokesperson.

God could not be reached for a statement regarding his new appointment, or Hers/His stance on nude modeling for ESPN.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Entertainment: Sometimes It Just Clicks

With one letter on the board, a Wheel of Fortune contestant guessed the correct phrase.

For reasons I don't understand, the internet seems to think this is a fluke or "magical."

What really happened is... he just got lucky. After Pat says the magic words, "Time has run out, I'm going to give the wheel a final spin,..." everybody always spends their turns guessing possibilities out loud and hoping something they say is right. The guy wasn't gifted, he wasn't brilliant, he didn't even do anything special.

He just got lucky. It happens. Puzzles in the show's final round have been solved with just as few letters, but nobody seemed to make a big fuss about those, so why now?

Tech: New TLD Might Not Be For The Better

Betanews issued a statement last week that the new top-level domain (TLD) dot-LGBT is "a step closer" to equality.

No it isn't. It's actually a step closer to reverse discrimination, since there's no proposed release of an exclusively-heterosexual TLD. While admittedly, there are a host (pun intended) of other TLDs that LGBT-critical organizations and private citizens can use, suggesting that an exclusive domain name for non-hetero webpages helps the inequality problem is a mistake; it may be a minor one, but it's still a mistake.

In addition, unlike the dot-BIZ TLD, there doesn't appear to be any legislation regulating the use and ownership of dot-LGBT domains. In other words, there's nothing stopping website that advocate hate crimes and discrimination against members of the LGBT community from buying a domain under the dot-LGBT umbrella.

If there is and I'm just missing it, (1) please let me know, and (2) that only makes my claim of the TLD promoting reverse discrimination stronger.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Sexuality: Advice Column Has Borderline Insulting Advice

This past week, UK's Mirror released an "8 Things You Should Never Say To A Bisexual Woman." While the article may be intended to be educational to those who have misconceptions about bisexuality, it also paints the picture that bisexuals need special pampering to get along with.

In truth, all eight items on their list are things you really shouldn't say to anybody, regardless of their sexuality.

Sexuality: Closeted Professionals Comes As No Surprise

According to The Independent and Union NASUWT in the UK, about twenty-five percent of non-straight teachers are closeted to their students and coworkers.

As one of the leading homophobic arguments against LGBT-equality is that same-sex practices are gateway behaviors, leading to incest, bestiality, and pedophilia (which they're not!), this should be an obvious discovery in an educational setting.

In the US, we're no stranger to teacher-student sexual relations, but the high and distant majority of these cases are heterosexual, a female teacher with a male student or a male teacher with a female student. If anything, their argument could be reversed, that opposite-sex practices are gateway behaviors, but we're more interested in equality all around than turning the tables and promoting reverse-discrimination.

The Independent goes on to list more released statistics, but they all tell the same story.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Health: No One Size Fits All For Depression

Charlotte Reed's claim that social media helped her fight depression is a vicious contradiction to many studies that show that social media can actually worsen your depression. She posted daily positive messages reaffirming good health, optimism, and a good attitude.

She's using social media wrong. It's not intended as a soapbox, but as a place to connect with people (thus the "social" part of social media). Writing a daily positive quip and trying to live that through the day is a standard Cognitive Behavioral Therapy practice, but shoving the propaganda on your network is just selfish, regardless how much they want you to get better too.

She's collected her two-cent clich├ęs into a book entitled "May The Thoughts Be With You: Ideas and Wisdom To Inspire Your Days," a self-help-esk book deserving of the 2011 rash of critiques that self-help books hurt more than heal.1, 2

You'll have to dig through the links to purchase a copy of the drivel for yourself, I won't post it here.

Crime: Background Checks Are No Minority Report

"[Richard Nielsen] had nothing in his background that would have issued any red flags or they would have pulled…[his application] when he applied," said Sgt Jerry Brewster to WBTV 3 in regards to the murder-suicide who purchased the gun only an hour before the act.

You've read too much Philip K Dick or watched too many Spielberg movies if you think background checks can predict future crimes. They're only intended to stop known criminals, mentally unstable citizens, and illegal immigrants from legally purchasing a firearm, nothing more. All those people are still capable of purchasing knives and non-projectile weapons and hazardous chemicals.

I'm not saying this means the system needs to be revamped or enlarged to cover these obvious gaping holes. I'm just saying that background checks aren't an end-all solution.

Personally (and this will not make me many friends) I'm not an advocate on increasing gun and weapon control. If someone wants to commit a crime, they're not going to let a little thing like the illegal possession of a weapon to stop them; it's just one more charge on the rap sheet. Gun and weapon control does two things: it makes acquiring a weapon for a repeat offender more difficult (but not impossible), and it makes it more difficult for an innocent and healthy citizen to acquire the means to protect themselves.

Background checks, while I agree they are a necessary bureaucratic evil, they aren't intended to fix the problem. Only rehabilitation programs can do that.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Sexuality: The Best News Is No News At All

While I think it's great that there is an openly bisexual govenor in Oregon, that's not what the best news would be.

According to USA Today, "[Kate Brown's] sexuality has never been a prominent issue in Oregon," and that's how it should be. Sexuality may help define a person, but it shouldn't be used to define your opinion of them or their politics.

But the best news... The best news would be if there was no furor over it. A constituency elects an official, and their sexuality never enters the conversation.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Celebrity: The Only Opinion That Matters

"Madonna, who wrote the book on sex, thinks 'Fifty Shades of Grey' is 'Not very sexy,'" according to HuffPost. Really, that's what they said, and apparently they think that's such a clincher, it's worth being the title of the article.

One, while Madonna may have written a book on sex, she didn't write, say, I don't know... The Kama Sutra, which, if there's a singular book about sex, should be it.

Two, this is following the assumption that everybody has the same tastes on what is good, what is bad, and what is sexy.

Three. another assumption: that celebrities know best. Just because she may have lived a particularly raucous lifestyle doesn't mean she's a confirmed spokesperson for the topic. She's welcome to express her opinion, but by no reason should you allow that to (a) decide whether or not you should see the movie, and (b) how you feel about it.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Weather: Pointless Lawsuits Stand Aside

There's a new waste of taxpayer money in town!

According to the CS Monitor, New Hampshire police have issued a warrant for the arrest of a local rodent for being a witch.

"Punxsutawbey Phil," as the marmot is called, is being blamed for the surplus of snow that has fallen on New Hampshire this winter. We warn our readers not to repeat his name too often or too quickly, lest you summon his wrath to your own metropolitan area.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Sexuality: Alabama State Employees Are Practicing Cowardace

With the expiration of the federal ban on same-sex marriage licenses expiring earlier today in Alabama, a number of courthouses have closed their issuing-departments instead of issuing or refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.


It's Valentines Day week, and if somebody finds that highly coincidental, I can't tell you who to blame.

Entertainment: Agency Doesn't Understand Laws About Its Own Business

According to HuffPost, WME Entertainment has blacklisted the University of Oklahoma for releasing "private information," that is actually public information. under the Freedom of Information Act.

FOIA is a federal piece of legislation that allows private individuals to request and obtain certain federal document (with some exceptions), including educational entertainment contracts, such as those involved in this debacle."

WME's complaint demands that the U-of-OK adapt its policy to contradict both the First Amendment and the FOIA legislation, and blaming the lapse on the school paper instead of the federal government.

More information regarding the Freedom of Information Act can be found at FOIA.gov.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Health: Stupidity Is Making People Sick, Again

A rash of health warnings have erupted from the UK, from news outlets and Twitter.

The Welsh national flower, shelved in close proximity to food aisles, has confused some grocery patrons. The daffodil is unfortunately not intended for human ingestion, unlike the Chinese onion, which it closely resembles.

Members of the populace are up in arms against governmental attempts to separate the flower from the fruit-and-veggie aisles, and return it to the gardening department. While there is significant objection from the smart-enough citizens, governments are, unfortunately, obligated to create legislation to protect the less intelligent from themselves.

Dandelions, on the other hand, are perfectly healthy for humans, and a welcome addition to your garden salad.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Finance: We're Just As Gullible As Ever

According to the Dublin Patch this week (that's Dublin, CA), and the Better Business Bureau, the top scam to be concerned with in this upcoming year is a false arrest call. While many scams and cons have a relatively recent history, the "Spanish Prisoner" dates back to the late 16th century.

Isn't it sad that we still haven't learned?

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Education: Elementary Weapons of Mass Destruction

A nine-year-old in Texas has been suspended for bringing a weapon to school and threatening a classmate with it.

The weapon, according to Odessa American, was a circular piece of bronze-colored metal less than an inch across, hanging on a chain and imbued with the power to make people disappear. Additional descriptions of the weapon suggest it may have looked something like this (not shown actual size):

According to the child's parent, the device was suspected as part of a terrorist threat on the school. No information has been released regarding the child colluding with caped figures, the smell of brimstone, or the ability to make victims reappear by re-administering or removing the weapon.

Politics: The Only Time You'll Hear Me Compliment A Republican

"You've taken something and you've twisted it," Rand Paul said, in a television interview with CNBC's Kelly Evans. "You were argumentative and you started out with many suppositions that were incorrect."

During his interview he eagerly shushed the reporter for making ignorant claims based off of faulty information, and later went on to talk over her. Ms. Evans is guilty of being more of a rabble-rouser than a reporter, and her behavior is more appropriate for propaganda than actual news reporting.

While I disagree with some of Sen. Paul's politics, the interview is about him, and not about Ms Evans. If she wants to grandstand, she can do it on her own time.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Sexuality: Bisexual Writer Promoting False Homophobic Concern

It's long been a concern of the homophobic agenda that opening up marriage to same-sex couples would start a ball rolling to opening marriage up to other sorts of "perversions," including legalization of contracted partnerships with minors, cross-species  relations, and inanimate objects.

A writer for the Montreal Gazette incautiously broaches a fourth area of concern: polygamous marriage.

It's a misconception of the homophobic agenda that the majority bisexually-oriented individuals are perpetually and simultaneously attracted to both sexes, and while Ms. Page may be in the minority, she should probably be more careful in putting forth that perspective.

It only takes one poorly aimed misquote to ruin all the ground we've gained.