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Accept the answer Fri, Apr 21, 2017
One of my coworkers just said a pretty profound thing.  We were talking about how the Cassini spacecraft used nuclear power, and people at the time were scared of the prospect of a nuclear anything flying over their heads.  Even in the event of a disaster, the amount of radioactive material spread out over the earth's surface would've been indistinguishable from other naturally-occurring radioactive sources.  In other words, it was a non-issue.  I said, "People are pretty dumb."  I corrected myself and said, "But don't be afraid to ask the question."  He responded with, "And don't be afraid to accept the answer." #science

Spring anxiety Wed, Apr 19, 2017
The weather just started to get warm near me, and I have a bunch of outdoor projects in mind.  I find myself experiencing a bit of anxiety each year around this time, because for the past several months I've been doing essentially nothing, and now the weather is nice so I can finally do something.  There's a limited amount of time for planting things or clearing brush, and there are certain things that need to be completed before other things are started (e.g. changing oil before running lawn mower).  I keep waking up on Saturday mornings nearly at a sprint because there's so much I want to get done.  And god forbid it rains. #lifestyle

On trigger warnings Tue, Apr 18, 2017
On the Media did an interview a while back with Cornell professor Kate Manne discussing the positive aspects of trigger warnings: 
KATE MANNE:  Mm, I mean, the reason I give trigger warnings is I'm teaching material that traditionally people have been protected from in the academy. There is very little discussion, say, of misogyny and sexual assault in Philosophy until feminist philosophers began to introduce those topics. So it's not obvious to me that this is really about coddling, so much as that's an expression of resentment to extending basic consideration and kindness to people when, in fact, new and more challenging topics are under discussion.

BROOKE GLADSTONE:  The weird thing is that the banner of academic freedom has been picked up by both sides of this discussion.

KATE MANNE:  Yeah.

BROOKE GLADSTONE:  What I see is the creation of an environment where it is the professors that are being curtailed in their speech.

KATE MANNE:  Yeah, I mean, I think a lot of people who historically have been very privileged are feeling unfree because members of historically subordinated groups are freer to morally criticize their statements.
I haven't encountered trigger warnings in real life, so I have mixed feelings.  But like any issue these days, most people have simply followed the lead of their political party to determine their stance without actually thinking about it.  This interview presented a pretty rational viewpoint. #psychology

Chemical weapons Mon, Apr 17, 2017
This may be somewhat poorly timed, in light of the recent chemical weapon attack in Syria, but here we go anyway:  I don't think chemical weapons are all that bad.  Yes, they're bad when used against innocent civilians.  But I would argue that all weapons are bad when used against innocent civilians.  That's not the issue I'm addressing.  I just don't think poisonous chemicals, when used to defeat opponents in a war, are worse than say the kinetic energy of a bullet or the chemical reaction energy of an explosion.  It's odd to me that we draw the line here.  I'll admit that chemical weapons are generally harder to focus on a small area since their delivery method hinges on poisoning the air.  And it's true that chemical weapons are usually invisible, and that they cause a fair amount of suffering before death.  But I still think it's weird that the entire world gets up in arms at the idea of chemical weapons, but nobody bats an eye when we use chemically-propelled high-velocity chunks of metal to cause tissue damage and blood loss. #politics

Cancel the noise Tue, Mar 28, 2017
I have issues with background noise, especially when I need to concentrate.  In college I used to sometimes wear a set of over-the-ear hearing protection earmuffs when I was studying.  Never outside my dorm room though, because I didn't want to be known as that guy.  Years later I was gifted a pair of noise-canceling headphones, which were pretty awesome except when the battery got low.  Around the same time I discovered the wonders of white noise, or more specifically brown noise which has a more calming tone. 

A related issue is my inability to sleep through any type of sound, whether it's talking in the next room or snoring right next to me.  I'm surprised it took me this long to discover, but standard foam ear plugs work wonders.  I end up wearing them most nights just so my stupid cats don't wake me up.  But they're also perfect for hotels and friends' houses with unfamiliar surroundings and unexpectedly early risers.  I wish I knew about these in college; I wouldn't have had to call the cops on the guy down the hall whose alarm went off for seven hours straight while he wasn't in the room. #lifestyle

Labels are language Fri, Mar 24, 2017
I have a straight female coworker who casually mentioned having a girlfriend in college.  I asked her if she considered herself bisexual.  Her response was, "I don't like labels."  Here's the problem with that.  Labels are a component of language.  Human beings created language to describe the things around them and communicate ideas to fellow humans.  A label is like an abbreviation.  Instead of saying, "You're a female in a sexual relationship with another female," we say "You're bisexual."  That's literally what language is and how it works.  "Not liking labels" is stupid. #language

Humancare Wed, Mar 22, 2017
I (perhaps unwisely) posted on Facebook:  "birth control, abortion, health care, or education -- you must choose at least one", trying to prove a point.  All my Republican friends quickly answered "education!" thinking that was the least yucky choice, forgetting that their current Secretary of Education wants to effectively defund public education. 

The point I was getting at was that we as a modern, wealthy society have a moral obligation to care for humans.  We can either pay to prevent them from being conceived, pay to prevent them from being born, pay to educate them, or pay to take care of them on their death beds.  I'll add another option:  Or we can pay to send them to prison.  Either way, we'll pay for something.  Choosing none of the above is delusional and not an option. 

If you're against birth control and abortion, you're pro-birth, not pro-life.  You don't care about saving a life, you just want a child to be born because you think a zygote is equivalent to a human being.  That's fine in a sense, but you can't then throw your hands up in exasperation at the idea of paying for a child's education or making medical care affordable.  If you choose to reject all these options, you're left with the one that can't be avoided, which is paying to send people to prison due to the failure of all of the above. 

You must choose at least one.  My preference would be to choose all of the above. #sociology

Atheism reluctance Tue, Mar 21, 2017
I'm always surprised at people's reluctance to acknowledge their atheism.  Most of my friends and acquaintances have absolutely no involvement in any type of religion, apart from an occasional appearance at a church for an unavoidable obligation.  They have next to no knowledge of what the Bible says, or what their supposed religion believes or teaches.  In fact most of what they believe and think is in direct contradiction to nearly every organized religion's major tenets. 

Yet make the claim that they're an atheist?  "Oh I'm not an atheist.  There has to be something."  Does there?  I feel like that's just a remnant of growing up in a majority Christian nation, likely to Christian-ish parents.  The very idea of atheism is so abhorrent to some people that they won't even consider it as an option.  I understand it can be scary to acknowledge that there's probably no god and probably no afterlife.  But clinging to bits of a secondhand religion while being too afraid or unwilling to come to terms with what you actually believe seems a bit shortsighted.  Admitting to atheism doesn't effectively change your life much, but it's admirable to be intellectually honest with yourself. #religion

Operating temperature Tue, Mar 14, 2017
I like my house's indoor temperature to be 70°F.  There's something special about that number that just feels exactly right.  68?  A little cold.  72?  A little warm.  70 is just right.  I happened to marry a person who has the same temperature profile, so that's good. 

One of my friends likes to keep his house around 62 in the winter.  It's expensive to keep a house too warm, but that's not entirely why he does it.  He's comfortable at that temperature.  In fact, he's comfortable in shorts and a t-shirt in that temperature.  I'll show up in pants and a long-sleeve shirt and have to sit on my hands to keep them warm, and he'll be walking around like it's summertime. 

The point is, different people have different normal operating temperatures.  Some people are warm when it's 62; some people are cold when it's 75.  Putting any two people in a room together nearly ensures that at least one of them will be uncomfortable. #lifestyle

Salespeople at DIY stores Mon, Mar 13, 2017
Like most American males, I was in Home Depot this past weekend buying random household things to replace old or broken existing household things.  And like most times I go to a do-it-yourself store, I was accosted by several different people trying to sell me home services like backup generators and solar panels.  I get that these are viable products that would be expensive or difficult to do yourself, but it just feels like the absolute worst way to sell something like that is to annoy people who are literally doing it themselves.  I don't go to a DIY store to pay someone to do it for me. #business

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