Am I reading this right? An inch of snow in Atlanta has resulted in citywide gridlock, people abandoning their cars in the streets, school busses trapped in the streets with students inside for a half a day, students trapped in schools, and residents overnighting in gas stations and Home Depots. Seriously, what am I missing here? If it's really just 1", sure there will be some accidents among drivers who don't know to drive differently in snow, but still, the entire city brought to a halt? For just an inch?

Originally posted on Dreamwidth. comment count unavailable comments there. Comment here or there.
Trigger Warning: vague categories of things which I find triggery right now due to current events are mentioned below. Due to current events, even this vagueness might be triggery for others.

Read more... )

Do not make me give up LJ/DW for the weekend too, or I'll be really pissed and probably cry. So yeah, use trigger warnings, cut-tags, or filters.

Edit: Damnit. I can't go entirely FB-dark b/c I'm coordinating getting tickets to an event on Saturday evening via FB. Fuck.

Originally posted on Dreamwidth. comment count unavailable comments there. Comment here or there.
Okay, here's the skinny on Kepler-62e and f, the latest potential "Earth-like" planets. I'm numbering my points in case you want to refer to them elsewhere.

Enough detail for a science fan, more detail than most news sources will have, not enough detail for an astronomer. )

So that's my summary. If you want to read other articles, here's the Nature layperson's article which does a good job of not overhyping things. And here's the peer-reviewed journal article in Science (really prestigious!, though my dept has a running gag that 50% of Science and Nature articles turn out to be wrong). I believe the Science article is behind a paywall if you're not at a university, so if you want to read it and can't access it, let me know and I can email it to you.

Originally posted on Dreamwidth. comment count unavailable comments there. Comment here or there.

FB TOS

Nov. 22nd, 2012 09:41 pm
So those of you on Facebook probably saw a long gobledygook email about changes to the Terms of Service. Many people are in an uproar over FB getting the right to use your stuff, but that isn't anything new. What they should be in an uproar over is that right now the TOS gives users veto power over future changes to the TOS. The proposed changes removes that veto power.

As much as FB is continually making shitty changes, this one would be even worse than usual.

  • Full text of proposed Statement of Rights and Responsibilities changes
    • Note original and unchanged is in black, original and proposed to be removed is in red and struck out, and new proposed to be added is in red and underlined.
    • There appear to be no changes to the ways FB can use your information or content - you still own it, they still have a license to use it as they wish without charge. (Art 2, page 1)
    • Art 14 (pg 5-6) is where they remove the veto power of the members.

  • Full text of proposed Data Use Policy
    • There seem to be some good points where they remind people that "hiding" is not the same as "deleting", and other clarifying language.
    • The bad point is on the top of pg 14 where they say (if approved) that they can now share your info with their affiliates. Even credit cards let you opt out of sharing your info w/ affiliates, but apparently FB wouldn't.

  • Here's where you can respond
    • Note that many people are going for the following phrase to show a unified front: "I oppose the changes and want a vote about the demands on www.our-policy.org"
    • You have until Nov 28 to comment if you wish to do so.

  • CNN article which tipped me off to the changes


Originally posted on Dreamwidth. comment count unavailable comments there. Comment here or there.
My father's baffled by the gas shortage in NYC, so I cobbled together my best explanation of why, revised below.
  1. Right after the storm, early last week: NY Harbor closed to tankers. Some gas stations had no power so there was less gas to go around. There's a gasoline pipeline into NYC, which may have been barely enough to meet the demand at first. At this time the main demand for gas is to run generators where there's no power.

  2. A day or two after the storm, middle of last week: Those gas stations which did have power began running out of gas without sufficient resupply. Businesses reopen, but much of NYC public transit does not, increasing the usage of gas as people drive to work.

  3. End of last week: NY Harbor opened around Thursday last week, but it takes time for that gas to work its way into the system. Meanwhile, people driving to work are starting to need to gas up.

  4. Last weekend and early this week: More of the same, but panic buying sets in, which more than offsets the reduced need for gasoline for generators.

  5. Middle of this week: The gasoline pipeline into NYC suffers some sort of damage, and I think that was the straw that led Gov. Cuomo to ration gas in NYC and Long Island.

The NY Times seems to confirm aspects of my points 1-4.

Does anyone have things I left out, or different explanations?

Originally posted on Dreamwidth. comment count unavailable comments there. Comment here or there.
Anne McCaffrey was my first introduction to Sci-Fan, or at least the first one that stuck in my memory. Lessa and the Rowen were role models for me, showing me strong women who didn't let men stand in their way. Damia working through her pregnancies instead of being forced into some protective feminine seclusion, continuing to work alongside her husband as they raised their children together, this was the norm. Even Menolly's situation was shown as being a throwback to an older and worse time when men didn't think girl children were worth anything, a backwards and backwater way of thinking. I didn't need to be a feminist in my youth because McCaffrey showed me that it was completely normal for women to work alongside men.

And I knew I had finally come of age as a feminist when Kristin Bjornsen's meek acquiescence, nay welcoming, of her own date rape disgusted me and made me turn away from McCaffrey's works.

For a short period of time. I cannot stay away from her works forever. She is -was- the product of a more backwards age, and like Menolly she was always struggling to leave it in her writing. I hope for her sake that she has found a better and fairer place.

Originally posted on Dreamwidth. comment count unavailable comments there. Comment here or there.
Just watched the last Space Shuttle launch, Atlantis, on TV.

In my entire life I have now watched a grand total of three Space Shuttle launches (all on TV):
* Challenger, 1986
* Discovery, 2005
* Atlantis, 2011

According to my recollection, I was in third grade when my teacher decided that we would all crowd around the little 10" classroom TV to watch the first teacher go into space. We all know how that ended. I remember the entire classroom being silent for a long time before my teacher said anything.

For nearly two decades after that I was mostly against human spaceflight. It cost too much money, there was too little return on investment, and it was too risky, said the emotional side of me. The intellectual side said that others found it inspiring so we should continue human spaceflight to drive funding of real astronomy, and I also thought it was important to someday colonize other places than Earth so we must start that somewhere.

2005 was Discovery's "Return to Flight" mission, after the 2003 Columbia disaster. That summer I happened to be teaching astronomy at a nerd camp, so my TA on his own initiative arranged to have the class crowd around a TV screen. He and I stood in the back of the classroom chanting to each other, "I hope we don't traumatize them, I hope we don't traumatize them." Thankfully, we did not.

In 2008 the first teacher to actually go into space, Barbara Morgan, originally a backup for Christa McAuliffe and actually flew on Endeavour in 2007, addressed the National Education Association in Washington DC. I remember little of her speech, other than that it was inspiring.

Today I watched Atlantis launch on TV, the last ever Space Shuttle mission. My heart was in my throat and tears in my eyes, hoping that this would not be another disaster. Atlantis did launch successfully at 11:29am (EST). More than an hour later now, I'm not sure if it's already in orbit, or if it's still climbing.
Bad Astronomy (Phil Plait)'s post on the subject

House Committee on Appropriations post on the subject

Write your own letter to Congress (site via the National Education Association, but you'll be writing your own content and can opt out of sending a copy to the NEA or getting on their email lists)

Model letter to congress on the subject )

New Yorkers

May. 6th, 2011 12:17 pm
Linked by [livejournal.com profile] xoder on Twitter:

@NotifyNYC
Movie filming w/ a simulated explosion at Cedar Grove Bch near Ebbitts St and Cedar Grove Ave (SI) 6P-11P today. FDNY/NYPD on site.
https://twitter.com/#!/NotifyNYC/status/66532543356346368


If anyone goes, I want to see photos. :)
q10 and seekingferret, you'll want to read this.

The US State Department is proposing a new Biographical Questionaire for everyone applying for a passport. The form would require all citizens to provide the name and contact info of all previous employers, the address of all previous residences, and addresses of all immediate family members (parents, step parents, siblings) and their citizenship status. In addition, naturalized citizens will need to provide the address of their place of birth, and anyone not born in a medical facility will also need to provide their mother's residence a year before and after your birth (presumably so the government can track those citizen children of fence-hoppers who wish to travel abroad), and contact info for witnesses (presumably so the government can strip your citizenship if you don't provide the info or if they're illegal immigrants who the government can bully into recanting the story of your birth in the US).

A lot more info is available here, including the full form and links to submit comments:
http://papersplease.org/wp/2011/03/18/state-dept-proposes-biographical-questionnaire-for-passport-applicants/

The comment I submitted:
The information requested by this document is ridiculous, and the gathering of the information is prohibitively difficult to obtain.  I am only 33 years old, but I have had six employers in five different states and it would take me around an hour to track down all their contact information. In addition I have lived at somewhere between 10 and 20 different residences and it is not possible for me to find all those addresses.  This high number of jobs and residences is primarily a result of my being in academia, and this form is systematically biased against academics and will stifle international cooperation and research as a result.  In addition, it will seriously hurt naturalized citizens and US-born citizens with foreign parents.  There is no need for this level of detail unless the government is deliberately attempting to prevent the movement of it's citizens, in violation of the UN charter of basic human rights.  

Edit: There is some question about whether this policy might only apply to people unable to provide traditional forms of proof of US citizenship, or whether it would really be all US citizens looking for a passport. There is also some question about the validity of the supposed form hosted at the above link. Unfortunately the .gov website doesn't actually contain any information about what it is we're supposed to be commenting on - what is the form, who would it apply to, etc.
Apparently the Tea Party supports Governor Walker's union busting. I don't get this at all. I thought the Tea Party was a conservative libertarian group. Shouldn't they resent the government interfering with and attempting to regulate how workers interact with employers? Or is their fiscal conservatism trumping their libertarianism?
NASA's big press release today was that a new form of DNA was discovered in a type of bacteria living in Mono Lake, California. DNA usually requires phosphorus to hold together the different "rungs" of the "ladder". On the periodic table of the elements, phosphorus falls directly above arsenic, meaning they have the same number of electrons in their outer shells, and therefore act similarly in forming molecules. This is the very reason that arsenic is well-known as a poison: it is easily incorporated into human (or animal, or plant) chemistry, it replaces the phosphorus, but it does a crappier job than phosphorus and even though it can form similar molecules they easily fall apart.

Apparently this bacterium has not only overcome that - there are many bacteria that can live in an arsenic-rich environment - but it even uses that fact. This bacterium can apparently switch between using phosphorus, and using arsenic, depending upon which is available in its environment.

NASA press release

A very slightly more technical article, including a description of tests used to determine that the arsenic is actually incorporated into the DNA.

And a couple blog posts, one from a science writer Ed Yong, one from astronomer-turned-science-writer Phil Plait.
asterroc: (xkcd - Fuck the Cosine)
Less than 1% of oiled birds survive. Somebody want to explain to me why? What actually kills them? Is it predators? Ingestion of oil (and if so, is the oil toxic or does it disrupt normal digestion)? Temperature regulation? Insufficient buoyancy? What?

Edit: The correct answer is, (E) All of the above.
Yay Prescott AZ is letting the kid's faces stay unwhite! http://bit.ly/9N8moy
And more K-12 too. An elementary school mural w/ faces of black and latino kids who attend the school, is going to have the children repainted as white "to avoid controversy".

http://wonkette.com/415809/arizona-school-demands-black-latino-students-faces-on-mural-be-changed-to-white

Way to teach the controversy, conservative dudes.

Arizona

Jun. 4th, 2010 09:52 am
asterroc: (xkcd - Fuck the Cosine)
In case you missed it the first time, Arizona education is going down the drain, and now there's a second reason. I worry for the baby of a couple friends of mine who live in Arizona.

1) K-12 teachers with "accents" will be "removed" from the classroom. This is based on a misinterpretation of federal law requiring teachers to be "fluent" in English.
http://languagelog.ldc.upenn.edu/nll/?p=2365

2) A new law bans ethnic studies classes, claiming they "promote the overthrow of the U.S. government, [and] promote resentment of a particular race or class of people".
http://www.cyberdrumm.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=26:welcomeunderachieving-schools&catid=6&Itemid=40

I'm looking forward to visiting Arizona in the future, where I'm sure the children will be learning proper British English due to removing all teachers with American accents, and where their minds will not have been sullied by all those White Studies classes. </bitter>
As if Arizona's immigration law weren't bad enough, now they're removing K-12 teachers with foreign accents. First reported by Fox, of all places, though that article apparently has some errors (like the date of NCLB).
What do I need to know about the version passed last night? And what happens next to make it law?

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