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November 20 2019

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the Time Before And After Land
According to Google, "the time for Beeland" is apparently whenever you're looking for delicious honey in Spillimacheen, British Columbia or a hexagonal chalet in the Savinja valley in Slovenia.

November 18 2019

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Versus Bracket
Some works didn't make the cut; in "Ecks vs. Sever" vs. the passage of time, the latter seems to have won pretty decisively.

November 15 2019

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Rey and Kylo
We're like 10+ movies in and the focus has been almost entirely on the WARS half.

November 13 2019

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Machine Learning Captcha
More likely: Click on all the pictures of people who appear disloyal to [name of company or government]
Reposted bydiviTamahllllm

November 11 2019

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Transit of Mercury
For some reason the water in my pool is green and there's a weird film on the surface #nofilter

November 08 2019

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Recombination And Reionization
These signals seem to be pre-star-formation but post-Malone.

November 06 2019

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Voting Referendum
The weirdest quirk of the Borda count is that Jean-Charles de Borda automatically gets one point; luckily this has no consequences except in cases of extremely low turnout.

November 04 2019


The Perfect Gift for Someone You Don’t Like Very Much.


How time flies.

Peter Watts is an Angry Sentient Tumor is on the verge of release— Nov 12 according to official schedules, but if past experience is anything to go on it could be on bookstore shelves before then. (It could be on bookstore shelves now for all I know. Assuming there are any bookstore shelves any more. I don’t get out much these days.)  In any event, I’ll either be in Bulgaria or recovering therefrom when that happens, so I might as well post this now.

Another good reason to post is because Tumor just got a starred review in Booklist, which I reproduce in full because it is so packed-to-the-gills with praise that cutting any of it would be a crime against Nature:

“Former marine biologist and Hugo Award–winning sf author Watts has collected over 50 essays from his blog, Crawl, and other sources from as far back as 2004. His writing is irreverent, self-depreciating, profane, and funny, showcasing a Hunter S. Thompson–esque studied rage and dissatisfaction with the status quo combined with the readability and humor of John Scalzi. These thought-provoking essays rail against hypocrisy, question the usefulness of consciousness, and explore counterrhetorical biases and how they impact our society. With intellectual rigor, clarity, and dark humor, Watts covers subjects as widely divergent as holidays, law enforcement and surveillance, homelessness, and the intersection of science and sf in the study of dolphin language. His film criticism covers J. J. Abrams’ Star Trek movies, Blade Runner 2049, and the fallacy of oppression in the X-Men franchise. He shares personal stories, too: a life-threatening illness, the death of his brother. This collection of well-written essays has actual science backing up most of Watts’ opinions about politics and humanity. Give it to readers looking for a deep dive into privacy, antirhetorical biases, and other sociological issues.”

I could nitpick if I had to, of course. This blog is not called Crawl but The ‘Crawl (short for “newscrawl”). “Self-depreciating”, while probably accurate, is also probably a mistake (although not so egregious as that made by one of The BUG’s ex-boyfriends when— eager to impress during the initial stages of courtship— he proclaimed unto her that he was “self-defecating”). (That was probably accurate too, now that I think of it.) The fusion of Hunter S. Thompson with John Scalzi brings to mind some kind of Cronenbergian Brundlefly teleportation accident. But not even I can find fault with “intellectual rigor, clarity, and dark humor”. In fact, if the book is this damn good, you gotta wonder why Tachyon could only find one person willing to blurb it up front.

None of this will come as any surprise to you regulars. You’ll have read a lot of Tumor right here on the ‘crawl over the years (although I bet you  haven’t read all of it, because a lot of it hails from other sources as well). You’ll have to judge for yourselves whether the various B-sides and arcana you haven’t read justify the price of purchase— although I should highlight the awesome little bits of iconography, courtesy of one John Coulthart, that illustrate each of the “over fifty” essays (51, actually— they could have just said that). You can see a few of those just to the right. (I might also add that even if you have read all the content before, this might make the perfect Christmas gift for people you don’t like very much.)

In all honestly, it really is a nice little package. The cover design and internal layout are a delight (and I say this as someone notorious for speaking out when I don’t like the design). If you happen to wander in to the official launch at Bakka-Phoenix during the afternoon of Nov 16th— and if you ask nicely— I could sign one for you.

Hell, if you happen to be in Sofia on Sunday the 10th, I could even sign it before then.


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Software Updates
Everything is a cloud application; the ping times just vary a lot.

November 01 2019

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Screen Time
These new Bluetooth socks are great, but it's troubling to learn that I average almost 14 hours of Shoe Time a day.

October 30 2019


Transitioning to Apocalypse


Meghan Murphy, a radical feminist in the classic Second-Wave mold (that’s TERF to you kids), gave a talk to a packed house at the Toronto Public Library last night. She got a standing ovation inside and hundreds of shouting protesters outside.

I’m giving a talk tomorrow at a different TPL branch, to a smaller (possibly nonexistent) audience— on our current environmental catastrophe, the hardwired impulses that have led to it, and a couple of wildly-speculative thoughts on how we might hack Human Nature to try and fix things. Because my talk is being hosted by the same institution that hosted Murphy’s, my co-sponsors— the Black Museum— backed out of the event just this morning, citing “backlash”. At least one fellow Multiverse presenter has relocated their event to another venue. It’s possible that others will cancel entirely.

I am not among them.

The weird thing is, I actually think Meghan Murphy is wrong.

I’ll grant you I’m not entirely sure of the approved definitions. I’ve read that, in trans circles, the word “woman” is now utterly divorced from anatomy, genes, and hormones: that if someone simply states that they identify as a woman then they are one to all intents and purposes. If that’s the case I can certainly see why there’d be concerns about such a person competing professionally in “women’s athletics”— but then I’ve always regarded competitive athletics as faintly bogus anyway, no hill to die on. As for the who gets to use which washroom, I think Murphy’s dead wrong— and in any event the whole issue evaporates if you just make all public washrooms gender-neutral.

But as to the question of whether “trans” woman are “real” women? What does that even mean? Call yourself whatever you like, identify however you please; as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone or have an adverse environmental impact, go wild. It’s not science (at least, not until self-identification can be tagged to consistent and objectively observable physical correlates)— but it doesn’t have to be. Ideological construct, political self-model, whatever. It’s a big tent; there should be room for us all.

So I think Murphy’s wrong, mostly. But having read a number of her columns, having read third-party analyses of her positions, having watched interviews in which she’s been explicitly called out for her opinions on trans rights— I don’t think she’s guilty of hate speech. Not even close.

If someone told my Dad that he should be chucked off a bridge because he was gay— that’s hate. But if someone told my Dad that he wasn’t gay, that there was no such thing as gayness and he was just, I dunno, confused— that isn’t. It’s wrong. It’s bizarrely wrong. But it isn’t hate speech. That’s where I see Murphy.

Of course I’m aware of the immediate rejoinders:  the appalling violence and discrimination faced by trans folks, the exclusionary politics which help to fuel it. But I haven’t found any evidence of Murphy advocating for trans folk to be beaten, or fired, or evicted from their homes. She has explicitly repudiated such abuses, in fact. (Compare this to a seemingly-endless stream of Twitter comments explicitly wishing Murphy dead; you want hate speech, you can always count on the Twits.)

I don’t pretend there’s no connection between speech and actions, even actions committed by someone else— any more than can I pretend there’s no connection between the Eugenics movement and Darwin’s theory of Natural Selection. One fed off the other, to horrific effect. I’m still not going to advocate for shutting down anyone who wants to give a talk on evolution, even if I think their take on it is bonkers. (Unless they are a self-declared member of the Eugenics movement, which gets us back into hate speech territory.)

Of course, my take on free speech might be more extreme than most. If you look, you can still find someone on this very blog fantasizing (if you squint a little you might even say threatening) about ripping off my genitals with a rusty meathook. I let that pass. Back in the days of Squidgate some of the most virulent Lock-Him-Up voices were largely restricted to posting on this ‘crawl because they’d been banned everywhere else. I suspect I value free speech more than most would consider prudent.

But in this case it’s not just me. You can be damn sure the TPL had their legal council go over the Murphy thing with a microscope— they knew what was coming— and they decided to let it proceed. My understanding is that the board’s vote was unanimous, even in the face of massive and virulent opposition. Toronto’s chief librarian remains steadfast that the whole point of Free Speech legislation is to protect that which people find offensive; there’s no need to protect words nobody objects to. You don’t get to say Sure, Free Speech is great but I really don’t like what that person over there is saying so it doesn’t apply to them.

I think Murphy is wrong. But I support the TPL’s decision.

It’s gonna cost me. I’m generally not much on tub-thumping so I haven’t pimped my own talk at all,  beyond passing mention in a month-old blog post about the whole “Seeding Utopia” series. It was going to be a small audience at best. Now the Black Museum has caved, so whatever promotion they were contemplating has passed to the winds; and the whole library boycott thing will probably take care of whatever weedy remnants were still planning to attend. I may well end up talking to an empty room.

Which is a shame, because just yesterday Nature published a paper reporting that flooding and sea-level rise due to Climate Change is actually triple what we thought it was. Tribal identity politics are not to be trifled with (they are, in fact, part of the wiring that got us into this mess) but our fucking house is on fire. Maybe we should spend a little more time talking about that.

Reposted bygregorczykm gregorczykm
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Terminator: Dark Fate
I was sent here to stop the robot that was sent here to protect the human who was sent here to protect the human who was sent here to destroy the robot that was sent here to vacuum the floor.

October 28 2019

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I laugh at the software as if I'm 100% confident that it's 2019.
Reposted bysobermemesjaszsamuso

October 25 2019

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Imagine Going Back in Time
I wonder what the trendy adults in 2019 who are too cool for Pokemon will be into. Probably Digimon!

October 23 2019

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Earthquake Early Warnings
I was fired by the National Weather Service five minutes after they hired me for going into their code base and renaming all the tornado warnings to "tornado spoiler alerts."

October 21 2019

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If you'd just agree to hold your meetings in here, you'd have PLENTY of time to figure things out before the deadline.

October 16 2019

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Percent Milkfat
"So what's dark energy?" "Cosmologists and the FDA are both trying very hard to find out."
Reposted byjessamine jessamine

October 14 2019

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Faculty:Student Ratio
They managed to briefly hit the top of the rankings when they rejected everyone except one applicant, published 5 billion research papers that just said "Hi," and hired one of their graduates for $50 trillion/year (then fired them after 10 microseconds.)

October 11 2019

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Chemistry Nobel
Most chemists thought the lanthanides and actinides could be inserted in the sixth and seventh rows, but no, they're just floating down at the bottom with lots more undiscovered elements all around them.
Reposted bysobernodifference

October 09 2019

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How Old
We've met! I remember you when you were thiiiis tall! [*holds a hand an inch above their head*]
Reposted byszpaqus szpaqus
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