A beautifully told story with colorful characters out of epic tradition, a tight and complex plot, and solid pacing. -- Booklist, starred review of On the Razor's Edge

Great writing, vivid scenarios, and thoughtful commentary ... the stories will linger after the last page is turned. -- Publisher's Weekly, on Captive Dreams

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Thursday, February 16, 2017

The war on science continues some more: A tale of two headlines

"California Drought Is Made Worse by Global Warming, Scientists Say."  -- NYTimes Aug 2015
Global warming caused by human emissions has most likely intensified the drought in California by 15 to 20 percent, scientists said on Thursday, warning that future dry spells in the state are almost certain to be worse than this one as the world continues to heat up. . . .  The paper provides new scientific support for political leaders, including President Obama and Gov. Jerry Brown of California, who have cited human emissions and the resulting global warming as a factor in the drought.
"A Climate Change Warning for California's Dams."  -- NYTimes Feb 2017
Scientists have said for years that a warming atmosphere should lead to more intense and frequent storms in many regions. 
So the theory predicts that California will become drier and that it will become wetter. Is there nothing this theory cannot predict, at least after the fact?

The war on science continues

This study explored the gendered nature of STEM higher education institution through a feminist critical discourse analysis of STEM course syllabi from a Midwest research university. I explored STEM syllabi to understand how linguistic features such as stance and interdiscursivity are used in the syllabus and how language and discourses used in the syllabus replicate the masculine nature of STEM education. Findings suggest that the discourses identified in the syllabi reinforce traditional STEM academic roles, and that power and gender in the STEM syllabi are revealed through exploration of the themes of knowledge, learning, and the teaching and learning environment created by the language used in the syllabus. These findings inform and extend understanding of the STEM syllabus and the STEM higher education institution and lead to recommendations about how to make the STEM syllabus more inclusive for women.
No foolin'. People get degrees for stuff like this, complete with the pseudo-scientific jib-jab intended to make it seem as if the conclusions were dispassionately arrived at. But does anyone suppose the "researcher" approached the subject with no expectation of what the "findings" would be? 
Of course, the author is not in university, but in the universities School of Education, which hardly counts as such. (/snark) 
Initial exploration of the STEM syllabi in this study did not reveal overt references to gender, such as through the use of gendered pronouns. However, upon deeper review, language used in the syllabi reflects institutionalized STEM teaching practices and views about knowledge that are inherently discriminatory to women and minorities by promoting a view of knowledge as static and unchanging, a view of teaching that promotes the idea of a passive student, and by promoting a chilly climate that marginalizes women.
IOW, there was no actual sexism in the course syllabi, so we have to read "deeper" in order to discover it, because the author dang-well knows it got to be there.
Instead of promoting the idea that knowledge is constructed by the student and dynamic, subject to change as it would in a more feminist view of knowledge, the syllabi reinforce the larger male-dominant view of knowledge as one that students acquire and use make [sic] the correct decision.
The idea that objectivity and scientific rigor are somehow beyond the women (and minorities, we are assured) is the most insulting and sexist comment TOF sees in the paper! How the student constructs the knowledge of, say, topological function spaces or particle dynamics is left as an exercise to the reader. Well, if there's no such thing as objective truth, then Nelly bar the door.
What's next? Creationists get to construct their own truths about biology?  Pfui, sez TOF.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Rule of Law

PROLEGOMENON. Once upon a time, TOF noted that Jerry Falwell had accused the Inquisition of killing several millions of heretics during the Middle Ages. TOF merely observed that this now-forgotten figure would have meant the slaughter of virtually the entire population of the continent, despite the Inquisition not being present in about half the countries. (There was no Inquisition for example in England, Scandinavia, most of Germany and northern France.) Falwell's figures were therefore being used as exclamation points rather than as actual historical estimates. 

The response by far too many commentators was to accuse TOF of championing and supporting the Inquisition. It was as if some who had said "No, Hitler's minions did not kill 100 million Jews as you claim; it was closer to 6 million." And the reaction would be "So! You are defending Nazism!" 

But criticism of an argument is not a defense of the matter being argued. 

Given this caution, let us continue.  

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Fake News of the Day

NBC (and one supposes, other outlets) reports that Kellyanne Conway, apparently a flack with the current administration, committed a serious breach of ethics by endorsing a product. She is reported to have said on a TV news show, "Go buy Ivanka’s stuff!" referring to a clothing line that uses Ivanka Trump's name for marketing. Nordstrom's, which had recently dropped the line, said that their decision was a purely business decision, and this claim was repeated without being verified.

There was no mention of the vociferous boycott movement initiated late last year that targeted (among others) Nordstrom's precisely because they carried good bearing Ivanka Trump's name.…/…/14/boycott-targets-trump-retailers/

Noting the propensity of news shows to quote only isolated sentences or even one or two words, clipped and pruned, and often distracted by graphics-in-motion on the screen, it may be useful to look at Conway's entire statement. Finding people who speak in whole paragraphs is unusual enough, since thoughts are carried in paragraphs, not in individual words, that we should treasure the occasion. TV news evidently prefers the micro-sound bite because it leaves more time for shampoo commercials and other important stuff.

In the interview, Conway said in response to Nordstrom's action:
“I do find it ironic that you have got some executives all over the internet bragging about what they have done to her and her line, and yet, they are using the most prominent woman in Donald Trump’s, you know, most prominent his daughter, using her, who has been a champion for women empowerment of women in the workplace, to get to him. I think people could see through that. Go buy Ivanka’s stuff! I hate shopping, and I will go get some myself today.”
This sounds a bit different than a product endorsement. It sounds more like a defiance of the calls to boycott someone's wares because of what someone else (her father) has said or done.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

The Feast of St. Thomas

Today, 28 January, is the Feast of St. Thomas Aquinas, translated. Do something logical in his honor.

His feast had been set originally on 7 March, the day of his death, as is customary. But it fell within Lent too often and so was shifted in 1969 to 28 January, when his remains were removed from Naples, where he had lived, and reburied in the Church of the Jacobins, the mother church of the Dominican order. This process is known as "translation." During the Revolution, the church was vandalized by the Enlightened: the stained glass windows were smashed and the medieval murals painted over with whitewash. The building was converted into an army barracks. In the early 20th century, the building was restored bit by bit and functions now as a monument and museum. It was called the Church of the Jacobins not because the leftist armies had vandalized and occupied it, but because the Dominicans had once been headquartered in Paris on the Rue St.-Jacques.

To celebrate the day, TOF will try briefly to recap one of his famous metaphysical demonstrations in as modern a lingo as possible; to wit, the Argument from Motion.¹

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Apparently, Russians are getting a laugh out of the whole thing.

"Nightmare of Obama"

Caption was: "Come on Lyudmilla! Hack those Yanks!"

Caption: Typical Russian Hacker