Daily Archives: October 22, 2012

Mentally Ill, Criminals, Obama, Olivia, Guns

I am uncomfortable discussing ableism and related topics linked to mental illness for several reasons. One is that I don’t know enough about it to ask people to pay a lot of attention to what I have to say. Despite the whingings of my many detractors, I actually do tend to know a fair amount about the stuff I do talk about, such as race and racism, issues of gender related to both biology and politics, evolutionary biology, human foragers, and climate change. Indeed, I wrote my theses on these things. Well, some of them. But when it comes to mental illness outside of issues related to interesting things the brain does (I know something about brains) and certain cultural aspects (I’ve looked into so-called “culture bound mental illness”) I’m out of my league.

So why am I writing about it now? I’m not, as you’ll see. This post started, as so many things have lately, with a post over on the Future of Skeptics venue, Teen Skeptics. There, Olivia took issue with a certain thing a certain person said (we’ll get back to that) and from that starting point provided an important discussion about the equation of mental illness with criminality, or more exactly perhaps, the equation of mentally ill persons and criminals. Continue reading Mentally Ill, Criminals, Obama, Olivia, Guns

Do wireless routers degrade over time, and if so, why?

I really dislike the commentary on Slashdot. It is worse than reddit in a way. Well, not really, but it is very annoying that an interesting question can be raised, and then seven thousand geekoids feel that it is very important for the world to read their own stupid little joke about the question. If someone provides actual information or rephrases the question usefully or anything like that, then it is lost in the sea of irrelevant yammering that is Slashdot.

So, yesterday or so, acer123 posted this:

“Lately I have replaced several home wireless routers because the signal strength has been found to be degraded. These devices, when new (2+ years ago) would cover an entire house. Over the years, the strength seems to decrease to a point where it might only cover one or two rooms. Of the three that I have replaced for friends, I have not found a common brand, age, etc. It just seems that after time, the signal strength decreases. I know that routers are cheap and easy to replace but I’m curious what actually causes this. I would have assumed that the components would either work or not work; we would either have a full signal or have no signal. I am not an electrical engineer and I can’t find the answer online so I’m reaching out to you. Can someone explain how a transmitter can slowly go bad?”

And we learn that it is actually the expansion of the universe, we hear some of the usual algorithm jokes, and so on…Well, maybe there is some good discussion in there, but it is hard to find.

Anyway, what is the cause of wireless degradation, with the first sub-question clearly being: “Does it happen?”

Should we submit this one to the Mythbusters? Is there a reason to blow up a wireless router? Probably not…

Greedy Lying Bastards

Check out this film trailer. Description below.

Wildfires in the West. “Brown-Outs” in the East. Farmers losing crops to the worst drought since the Dust Bowl. Climate change is no longer a prediction for the future, but a startling reality of today. The U.S. Pentagon believes it to be a matter of national and international security. Yet, as the evidence of our changing climate mounts and the scientific consensus proves a human causation, there continues to be no political action to thwart the warming of our planet.

“Greedy Lying Bastards” investigates the reason behind stalled efforts to tackle climate change despite consensus in the scientific community that it is not only a reality but also a growing problem that is placing us on the brink of disaster. The film details the people and organizations casting doubt on climate science and claims that greenhouse gases are not affected by human behavior. Filmmaker and political activist Craig Rosebraugh documents the impact of an industry that has continually put profits before people, waged a campaign of lies designed to thwart measures to combat climate change, used its clout to minimize infringing regulations and undermined the political process in the U.S. and abroad.

Millions are spent each year by oil and related interests to fund the think tanks, groups, scientists and politicians waging what the film deems a campaign of deceit regarding the science of climate change and its dire impact on the planet. Between 1998 and 2012, “Greedy Lying Bastards” reports ExxonMobil spent over $25 million to dispel claims of global warming. The Koch brothers, who run the conglomerate Koch Industries, also provide significant funding. From 1997 through 2012, they spent over $60 million.

A far different story about climate change is told by the residents of Kivalina, a small Alaskan island above the Arctic Circle. Over the last fifty years, winter temperatures have risen nearly seven degrees and the ice that once protected the land is not forming properly leading to increasing erosion. As one tribal administrator notes: “The debate is over, we are dealing with the realities of climate change.”

“Greedy Lying Bastards” also presents a shocking analysis of the U.S. Supreme Court decision, Citizens United. According to the film, not only did this 2010 ruling pave the way for unlimited corporate contributions to political campaigns, but additionally it highlighted the blatant corruption of the country’s highest Court and its cozy relationship with top corporate interests. These interests include Mitt Romney’s campaign for presidency in 2012.

Filmed in the US, Tuvalu, Peru, England, Uganda, Kenya, Belgium, Denmark and Germany, “Greedy Lying Bastards” includes interviews with scientists, industry experts, international political delegates, and people impacted by the changing climate as well as deniers. Among them: UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon; Rep. Henry Waxman (CA); former EPA head Christine Todd Whitman; top U.S. climate scientists Dr. Pieter Tans (NOAA), Dr. Mark Serreze (NOAA), Dr. Kevin Trenberth (NCAR), former President of Copenhagen Climate Summit COP15 Connie Hedegaard, UN Environmental Program Executive Director Achim Steiner, and leading climate science deniers Myron Ebell, Christopher Monckton, and Jay Lehr.

Lance Armstrong and Arthur. What to do?

Do you know the TV show Arthur? It is a very good kids show on PBS, involving anthropomorphic animals (including Arthur the Aardvark), most of whom are middle school students, who face the daily struggles of life with families, schoolyard dynamics, difficult teachers, etc., and learn lessons and and all that stuff. One of the more memorable episodes is the one where the beloved Cafeteria Lady, Mrs. McGrady, has cancer and Lance Armstrong, with bunny ears (everybody has to be an anthropomorphic non-human animal), comes to town and helps make everybody feel better. Here’s the trailer for that “special” episode, in which Armstrong himself plays the role of, well, himself.

Madam Agathe Charbonneau resting after being awarded her Tour de France medal.
Now, it is known that Lance Armstrong not only used steroids to gain an advantage in his bike racing, but that he has steadfastly refused to acknowledge this, and many of his co-competitors have done the same thing. So, when they go to strip Armstrong of his medals, and then go to give the medal to the next guy down the line, that guy will not be worthy of it because he also used steroids, and the next guy and the next guy and the next guy, until finally the Tour de France medal for a given year is going to be awarded to some lady who was walking down the lane to the bakery shop to pick up a loaf of bread and the race happened to be going on and she was the only one not in the race and not standing there watching the race so she gets the medal. Good for her.

I’m imagining a new Arthur episode in which Francine (the jock) is caught using steroids in preparation for the Statewide Kickball Tournament, but refused to admit it despite overwhelming evidence, and then Lance Armstrong comes along and … well …

What do I do, Mr. Armstrong? Get a lawyer or just come clean? What did you do?

But seriously, what are they going to do? I suppose they can’t show that episode again. It seems to me that Lance Armstrong should cover the cost of replacing it with something different. What do you think?

“Photo” of Lance and Francine from PBS. Photo of french lady from flickr user elderc.