liv: cast iron sign showing etiolated couple drinking tea together (argument)
A locked discussion on my reading page reminded me that I've been meaning to talk about this: I basically hate the framing of "punching up versus punching down" as ways of analysing interactions. [ profile] lollardfish expressed my views rather well:
First of all - I don't like punching. Second, I think the simple verticality of power spectra is almost never clear [...] Instead, I recommend thinking about whether a given situation undermines hierarchies and stereotypes or replicates them.
In fact I think Perry's entire piece on public shaming is worth reading.

I don't like punching )
liv: cast iron sign showing etiolated couple drinking tea together (argument)
Politically speaking, I am firmly committed to a body-positive stance. If I want to sum up a fairly complex set of ideas, I would say that means I don't think people should be judged or face discrimination based on what their body is like, whether that's on aesthetic grounds, or health grounds, or (as so often happens) a convoluted mixture where the two are confused or treated as interchangeable. I also am positive about bodies, in that I don't think it's virtuous to mortify one's body for the sake of attaining some higher spiritual or similar goal, I think people are their bodies, and bodies should be treated with respect and care. But that's not the aspect of body-positivity that I want to talk about here.

As part of being body positive, I include fat bodies. There are lots of different groups trying to improve fat people's experience of the world, using labels such as fat acceptance, fat positivity, health at every size, fat pride and so on. And they all have slightly different ideas of what it means to be an activist in favour of fat people. I broadly agree with all of these movements, but I don't subscribe in detail to every aspect of their philosophy, so I don't consider myself as a member of any of the movements supportive of fat people. For me, it's part of my general belief that people are their bodies and people are worthy of respect; there isn't a certain weight or BMI or whatever above which that principle ceases to apply.

discusses bodies and body image, dieting and weight loss etc )

Have I alienated everybody yet?
liv: cast iron sign showing etiolated couple drinking tea together (argument)
Went to a talk on diabetes at the research institute this afternoon. It was generally interesting, covering some evidence implicating a chronic low-level enterovirus infection in acute Type I diabetes in children. (Acute as in most of the kids die within 6 months of diagnosis.)

However, the lecturer, Professor Morgan, decided to give some general background about diabetes. And Type I diabetes is a bit like Type II diabetes, and Type II diabetes is associated with OBESITY. Cue stupid photos, presumably taken from one of those awful mockery web forums, of extremely fat women in bikinis, and giant hamburgers. This produced a mixture of laughs and expressions of disgust from the audience. And there was absolutely no point in the photo, it had nothing to do with the talk at all, just a source of cheap laughs.

Even if the prof had been talking about the actual medical connections between excess weight and Type II diabetes, there was no call for that. I can't think of any other medical condition where researchers and doctors routinely make fun of their patients' appearance and symptoms in this kind of professional context. The worst thing about it is not just that it's offensive, but that it's exactly the kind of thing that strengthens fat-hating associations in people's minds. Plenty of people already believe as a matter of faith that it's "medical fact" that being fat is bad bad bad and causes all manner of horrible diseases and wastes healthcare resources. But this sort of thing almost implies that it's medical / scientific fact that the best thing to do about weight related health problems is to sneer at fat people and treat them as disgusting and sub-human.

It's not the biggest problem in the world, but it really really annoys me.
liv: cartoon of me with long plait, teapot and purple outfit (Default)
I may be turning into one of those American style liberals...

a couple of things from the Berlin conference that seem to fit a liberal frame )

(I stole the subject line from Joanna, by the way...)
liv: cartoon of me with long plait, teapot and purple outfit (Default)
If anyone else today forwards me this festering pile of maggot droppings that makes even spam look good by comparison, there will be violence.

As it is I've already been less than polite to people who don't know any better. And the only thing that has kept me from breaking something so far is that someone who is not an islamophobic, tech-illiterate, credulous moron (and who happens to be rather cute, in fact) sent me gratuitous hugs earlier.

Anyone want to restore my faith in humanity? (No, that doesn't mean sending me pictures of cute animals, humanity was the operative word.)
liv: ribbon diagram of a p53 monomer (p53)
I've been annoyed for a long time about the MMR autism scare. Well, annoyed is an understatement; I'm between furious and thoroughly discouraged about humanity at the combination of scientific ignorance and sensationalism which has created a "controversy" where none should exist. The artificial controversy is not just a matter of academic interest, it has serious medical consequences. It has led to an epidemiologically significant proportion of parents refusing to let their children be vaccinated against measles, mumps and rubella, which means these diseases are becoming prevalent again. That means children are at risk of permanent disability and death from a cause which is almost completely preventable.

I can't do anything about this, not even on the small scale where my actions would have any effect anyway. Because the story has been presented as a controversy, anything I might say about the topic is taken as taking one side in a polarized debate. There are plenty of people who feel equally passionately that MMR might cause autism, so people can pick either view based on who has the strongest arguments or the most emotive rhetoric. But the prevalence of the wrong view here is lethal.

Actually, it's worse than I thought )

So, a combination of scientific forgery and unscrupulous media reporting led to a lot of people believing that being vaccinated against measles, mumps and rubella simultaneously would cause autism. As a result, about 1 in 5 of the children who would otherwise have been vaccinated in the last ten years have not been vaccinated. This means that the population immunity is below the critical threshold; unfortunately, this means that even those who are vaccinated are at increased risk because no vaccine is perfect, so you need a big enough proportion of the population to be vaccinated so that the disease can't spread. At least one child has died of measles in that time; maybe he would have died anyway, but no child in the UK died of measles in the decade before the controversy broke.

I think the problem goes deeper than just people holding false beliefs about the vaccine, though. Part of the issue is that people think that measles, mumps and rubella are just minor ailments that lead to nothing worse than feeling miserable for a few days, whereas autism is this big horrible scary thing. I think it's important to emphasize that autism is neither infectious nor lethal, unlike measles and mumps. And that in turn is part of the stigma against mental illness and intellectual disability, which leads to horrors like this. (Thanks to [ profile] rho, for making me despair of humanity even more than when I started writing this post.)
liv: cartoon of me with long plait, teapot and purple outfit (Default)
Grr. I am trying to write an email about a job possibility that I am regretfully turning down because the person offering it isn't going to know definitely for several months, and because I already have a job in Sweden. However, I simply can not find a way to phrase said email that will get past my correspondent's spam filters. I suspect they're aggressively blocking anything that contains keywords like job, opportunity, application and similar. Possibly growth is also a problem (it's a science job relating to studying cell growth).

And yeah, that's a dumb way to write spam filters, but really the people to blame are the evil spammers who have created a climate where it's hard to have any legitimate discussion about job prospects! When I was working at the university earlier in the year, I would have an automatic negative response to any application coming from Nigeria; my first thought would be, Nigeria, oh, probably just spam. Which is very unfair on real Nigerians who legitimately want to apply to Cambridge (happily I didn't have any say in the decisions, I was just filing stuff).

I have known spam filters to complain about an email where I used the words fantasy and adult, in the course of a discussion about fantasy novels for the young adult market. But at least those spam filters only complained, they didn't actually block my email from getting through.

So can anyone think of a way to say
Thank you for offering me a position to work with you on cell growth. Unfortunately the timing makes it impossible for me to take up this offer. I need the security of knowing I have something definite, rather than waiting for the outcome of our grant application before I can start making plans. For this reason I have decided to accept a different job, also related to cell growth as it happens. Thanks very much for all your help and support.
without confusing a stupid spam filter into thinking I am trying to fool gullible people with non-existent job opportunities?
liv: cartoon of me with long plait, teapot and purple outfit (Default)
Just a guide so that you (collectively) will know in future. I don't mean it personally; I do actually know that everybody who did the things I'm listing here meant well, and I appreciate all your good thoughts.

word to the wise )

*sigh* I'm really, really glad I have lots of kind people in my life who care about me. I'm posting this not because I'm annoyed at anyone, but because I assume that people genuinely want to make me feel better, so they will want to know how to do so effectively (and not inadvertently make things worse). The answer is: distract me. Talking to me reminds me that I do have all these wonderful connections with my friends. But talk about something that isn't my problems, politics, what's going on in your life, whatever.

Right now I am most grateful to [ profile] usuakari and [ profile] tooticky who organized an extremely pleasant and distracting evening on Thursday when I was reeling from bad news. It's great to meet new people, and they were really sensitive even though they'd never met me before, and generally wonderful. Also to MK and family with whom I had an absolutely wonderful, relaxing, happy weekend. Settlers of Catan is a top-notch distraction, and I find it impossible to be upset when I'm being smothered in affection by the Most Adorable Boy in the World. Not to mention lots and lots of good food and cute fuzzy animals... just try staying in a bad mood while watching platypuses playing or tickling a wombat's tummy.

I've extended my stay in Australia for another week. There are various reasons for this which I shan't go into in a public post, but the main thing is, expect me to continue more or less incommunicado until 30 November. I need to post properly about everything I've done since Wednesday, and a review of The Worm Ourobourous, and probably some more detail about the thing I was upset about on Thursday and what I'm doing about it.

And thank you all for being good friends to me, (even if some of you haven't quite got the sensitivity thing down). Now a few days have elapsed I'm revisiting people's comments and actions and feeling loved instead of my initial reaction of feeling annoyed and upset.
liv: cartoon of me with long plait, teapot and purple outfit (Default)
Short review: MSN Upwords sucks.

Why? The interface is ugly and slow, all special effects and no usability. The AI is dreadful, with no idea of strategic play even on the high levels; the only difference between low levels and high is that it's tuned so that the average AI score is higher as you go up. It's completely uncustomizable (other than the ability to set the AI level). It has no facility for human versus human play. You can't turn off the 'offensive words' filter; you can set it to 'lenient' rather than 'strict', but even the lenient version disallows such words as dork, popish and is generally annoying with its prissy little error messages. Oh, and it has a weird bug so that it quite often mis-calculates whether you have used up all your letters or not, and as Upwords penalizes very heavily for letters left in the rack at the end, this often makes the difference between loss and victory.

But the suckiest of sucky things about it is that it uses the Encarta dictionary. The Encarta dictionary is a second-rate dictionary to start with, and it's particularly bad for word games. It doesn't include most of the standard 2lws. And more to the point, because it is designed for looking words up, rather than word games, it doesn't have most variants of words listed as separate entries. So it can usually cope with plurals, but not with adding -er, -ed, re-, un- etc to even the most common words. And since prefixes, suffixes and 2lws comprise most of the strategic basis of Upwords, the game is nearly unplayable.

The reason I'm particularly annoyed with how bad this version is is that Microsoft, being Microsoft, have done a pretty thorough job of killing off every other online or downloadable version of Upwords on the whole internet. There used to be a good online verison at, and I miss that. Yes, I know Hasbro owns the licence to Upwords and they're entitled to restrict distribution of it to Microsoft if they want to. But I'm still very annoyed about the Hobson's choice between paying $20 for a really crap version of the game, and no game at all. And the only way to play networked games is via MSN messenger, same crappy version and requiring a fairly hefty monthly subscription. Grrr.

Oh, and from my last post, there seems to be a consensus in favour of the purple version of my journal, so it's purple for a while. The font is quite small but it's scalable if you don't like it.
liv: ribbon diagram of a p53 monomer (p53)
DNA sequencing is not magic.


This comment prompted by a combination of:
– an otherwise good novel in which the simple fact of sequencing the human genome, described in mystical terms, is enough to propel the world into an SF future.
– a death penalty debate where it is suggested that now we have DNA evidence, we can execute people in good conscience.
– general frustration with scientific illiteracy.

I shall now return to my regularly scheduled thesis writing (in which sequencing DNA does not magically solve any problems, and in many cases does not in fact give any useful information about biology.)


Miscellaneous. Eclectic. Random. Perhaps markedly literate, or at least suffering from the compulsion to read any text that presents itself, including cereal boxes.

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