Friday, January 30th, 2015 02:00 pm

Posted by Gwen Sharp, PhD

Flashback Friday.

Reader Lindsey H. sent me a copy of a book called Vaught’s Practical Character Reader, apparently published in 1902 and revised in 1907 by Emily H. Vaught, though it’s apparently been reprinted and is available on Amazon. The book can best be described as an application of the theory of physiognomy, which is the idea that you can tell all kinds of things about a “person’s character or personality from their outer appearance” (from Wikipedia). I can only assume it’s closely related to phrenology, the pseudoscientific idea popular in the late 1800s and early 1900s that you could tell things about a person from the shape of their skull. Some images from Vaught’s book:




The book is full of images in which the features stereotypically associated with Northern and Western Europeans, or the mythical Aryan race, are associated with sincerity, honestly, a work ethic, and every other positive character trait, whereas large and especially hooked noses and small, hooded, or almond-shaped eyes were indications of negative traits.

Here we learn that the broadness of a person’s face tells you whether they are vicious or harmless:


The text does not explain whether the implication is that all Native Americans are vicious and all Blacks are harmless, or if these are just examples and those races would have just as much variety as we see among Whites.

For those of you who are considering procuring yourself a wife, Vaught provides some tips on picking out a woman who will be a good mother (the same general head shape indicates a good father as well):


Avoid at all costs a man or woman with this head shape (notice the pointed nose, larger ears, and smaller eyes compared to the image above, in addition to the apparently super-important head protuberance):


Also, based on the illustrations, apparently men who wear bowties are good fathers but those who wear neckties should arouse your suspicion. There is also a section titled “How to Pick Out a Good Child,” which I intend to take with me next time I am child shopping.

The back page advertises other books available from Vaught’s press, including Human Nature Year Book from the Human Science School and the new Text Book on Phrenology, which addresses “Heads Faces Types Races.”

I have seen examples of physignomy and phrenology before, and images of their practitioners measuring people’s heads and facial features, but I have never before seen an entire book devoted to it. These pseudosciences were taken quite seriously at the time, with “experts” showing that Africans and African Americans, for instance, had facial features that proved them to be less civilized and intelligent than those of European descent and that Jews were inherently deceitful.

Thanks a ton for sending it in, Lindsey!

Originally posted in 2009.

Gwen Sharp is an associate professor of sociology at Nevada State College. You can follow her on Twitter at @gwensharpnv.

(View original at

Friday, January 30th, 2015 02:08 pm

Posted by Kate Cronin-Furman

Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe just became chairman of the African Union. That’s right, Mugabe, destroyer-of-hope, wrecker-of-the-economy, thrower-of-extravagant-birthday-parties-for-himself.

You might be thinking: “This man has completely mucked up the one thing he has ever been in charge of [and again, that thing is a country of 14 million people], why would anyone elect him chairman of anything?”

I don’t have an answer for you. But what I do know is that the 1115 year old Mugabe (or 90, whatever) looked “youthful and strong” speaking to press yesterday. Can’t wait to see what he does for his birthday next month.

Friday, January 30th, 2015 02:09 pm

Posted by louisamellor

Caroline Preece Review Jan 30, 2015

The Flash appears to have learnt from Arrow's mistakes, and the result is a show with a roster of great villains and a lot of heart...

Friday, January 30th, 2015 08:59 am

“Do You Want to Do a Remake?”
With apologies to Frozen

Do you wanna do a remake?
Rewrite an eighties hit?
We could do an all new Ghostbusters,
Swap “his” for “hers”
And watch dudes lose their sh*t!

We’ll ruin all their childhoods
Our evil scheme
Will make all the dudebros cry!

Do you wanna do a remake?
It doesn’t have to be a remake…

(“But why should they all be women?”)
(Major side-eye)

Do you wanna do a remake?
Women tearing down the walls.
In truth these changes are long overdue.
It’s not some female plot to
Shrivel up your balls!

(“Oh, my. Maybe the cold does bother you, huh?”)

It gets a little boring
All these male-led films
With just one token female. Why?
(“Save me!” “Tame me!” “Help me!” “Kiss me!”)

“Will there be a female Slimer?”
“Will Ecto-one be painted pink?”
“You feminists will ruin everything!”
“Hollywood’s too left wing!”
“It’s gonna stink!”

The proton packs are ours now.
So just back off, man.
’Cause women can bust ghosts too!

So we’re gonna do a remake.

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.

Friday, January 30th, 2015 01:00 pm

Posted by John Scalzi

Look! Greg Van Eekhout is going to quote a famous person at you! For reasons! Oh, and also tell you about Pacific Fire, the follow-up to California Bones, which I liked quite a bit (I blurbed it, you might recall). And don’t worry, that famous person quote has a point.


John Milton writes, “The child shows the man as morning shows the day.” Indeed, one presumes the child shows the adult of any gender. And here I am, kicking off a Big Idea post about a book that features cannibalism and dragons with a Milton quote, not because I’m trying to fool you into thinking I’m classy like that, but because the relationship between the children we were and the adults we become is one of the central themes of Pacific Fire.

I should probably backtrack a bit and put the Pacific Fire in context. It’s the second book of the trilogy that began with California Bones and will conclude later this year with Dragon Coast. These books are about wizards who get their powers from consuming the remains of magical creatures. Eat dragon bones and you get some of the abilities of a dragon. Eat a wizard who’s eaten dragon bones and you get the wizard’s abilities. The world is an alternate California ruled by the most successfully voracious wizards, or osteomancers, and our protagonists are people both magic-using and not who get caught up in the osteomancers’ power struggles.

In California Bones, Daniel Blackland is the son of a wizard and a spy. When his father is killed for the magic contained in his bones and his mother returns to her native Northern California, Daniel is essentially orphaned. He grows up in hiding, trying to avoid his father’s fate while being used by his crime lord guardian for his magical skills. Ten years later, in Pacific Fire, Daniel finds himself trying to father and protect Sam, the osteomantic sort-of clone of the chief wizard of the Southern Californian kingdom and the man who, all those years ago, killed and ate Daniel’s father. In trying to save Sam, Daniel’s also trying to save the exploited and abandoned boy he was himself. But when the powers in charge come after Sam to fuel the patchwork dragon super-weapon they’re building, Daniel sees history repeating itself.

The first book of the trilogy is, among other things, a heist story. Pacific Fire is, among other things, a sabotage caper, as Sam sets out to destroy the firedrake before the bad guys can use it. Daniel, meanwhile, sets out to intercept Sam before the bad guys use him.

And that’s where the Milton quote comes in. Amid the fisticuffs and magical and spider assassins, rock monsters, a narco sub built from the ribcage of a sea serpent, a water mage, a scary chef, and the aforementioned Pacific firedrake, is Daniel’s struggle is to prevent his own childhood from repeating itself in Sam. And there’s Sam’s struggle to become the man he wants to be while knowing he started life as an artificial creation, a treasure to be plundered.

What Milton states poetically boils down to this: adulthood is the consequence of childhood. Osteomancy is the practice of gaining magic by consuming the remains of the past. Our today is built from the stuff of our yesterday. And in their own ways, Daniel and Sam are fighting to craft their own tomorrows.


Pacific Fire: Amazon|Barnes & Noble|Indiebound|Powell’s

Read an excerpt. Visit the author’s blog. Follow him on Twitter.

Friday, January 30th, 2015 12:00 pm

Posted by Phil Plait

For those of you who don’t follow me on Twitter, I recently linked to an article that I think is very mportant. It was written by my friend Hank Green, about the reactions to his recent interview with President Obama.

Hank, as you may know, makes amazing YouTube videos about all manners of topics, with the overarching goal of making the world a better place. This isn’t some treacly greeting-card sentiment; Hank (and his brother John, and their team of amazing young people creating videos) honestly and openly want everyone to be better people. Their motto is “Don’t Forget To Be Awesome”. And they mean it.

Hank, along with YouTube creators Bethany Mota and Glozell Green, interviewed the President, asking him questions that were important to their audience. These included the government’s use of drones, Net Neutrality, Boko Haram, and racial tension. These questions were unflinching, unapologetic, and discussed without the manufactured “both sides” baloney so common in mainstream media.

The reaction to this by some of that same media was as predictable as it was maddening: disbelief and derision. This is what inspired Hank to write his article. I strongly urge you to read it.

Hank calls these older news sources “legacy media”, which is an interesting term. He describes how these current news media inherited their positions of popularity, as opposed to earning it; they’re not the same venues they once were. A lot of their inroads into our society, their ability to get their message out, is based on their past when things were very different.

And the trust they rely on now has, in many cases, been squandered if not cynically exploited and outright betrayed. The 24 hour news cycle is a huge factor in this, I think; that is a lot of time to fill, and nonsense loves to occupy that space. But corporate ownership is a huge part of the problem, especially when the owners are dogmatic ideologues with an agenda.

Apropos of that, one of my favorite parts of Hank’s article was his response to a tweet by Rupert Murdoch. The head of NewsCorp (the right-wing company that owns Fox News) tweeted this:

Hank’s response was perfect. Perfect.

As Hank points out in his article, the average age of Fox viewers is not exactly young. Young folks in high school and college don’t get their news from Fox (or CNN or even MSNBC); they’re far more likely to get it from The Daily Show, from links on social media, and on YouTube.

It’s incredibly trite, but it’s true nonetheless: The future is online. A big chunk of the legacy media still haven’t quite figured this out. They just slap their printed or TV content online and call it good, but that’s not the way things work (or, at the least, it's not enough). And they’re starting from the wrong premise anyway. Younger folks don’t want to see five old rich white guys yelling at each other about women’s rights. They want a thoughtful take on it, from people who represent them better.

People like Hank, Mota, Green, and so many others have spent a lot of time being themselves online, and have built a huge capital of trust. That’s why their audience numbers in the many, many millions.

It’s not too late for legacy media. All they have to do is win our trust back. But trust is earned, not given, and earning that trust is hard work, something I don’t see too many in the old school doing much of. Resting on their legacy is how they got to this dying cul-de-sac in the first place*.

I have no specific solutions, no road map for legacy media to save themselves. This is new territory, and it's being mapped out as it's being discovered. Maybe we just have to wait for the old media to die off... but that’ll take a while. They still have a lot of money, and a maniacal grip on a lot of politicians.

But there’s hope; the President did speak to this new group, and he did reach their younger audience.

What I can hope for is that an entire new generation will reach their adulthood having grown up under the tutelage of this new wave of media, and absorb those principles. All they need to do is don’t forget to be awesome.

I’ll leave you with this: The Presidential interview. It’s really quite good.

* I’ll note that Slate started as a totally online magazine, which is one of the reasons it’s still going strong, and one of the reasons I was happy to hitch my wagon to them. They understand online culture, and don’t carry the baggage of Old Media.

Friday, January 30th, 2015 12:13 pm
...Did anyone else find that their tea consumption increased whilst they were reading it and/or immediately afterward? I went from 2-3 cups a day to 5-6 in the last week.

The Radchaai drink a lot of tea. :P
Friday, January 30th, 2015 05:30 am
300 mgs of Seroquel seems to be the sweet spot. I slept 6 hours straight. I am still groggy, but not enough to render me completely nonfunctional. I DID, however, experience Restless Leg Syndrome pretty hardcore last night.

Is this normal or it is the vanguard of Tardive Dyskinesia advancing over the horizon? Jesse, once having cared for a child on this med, suggested taking my iron supplement at night. I did so. Is it one of those things that takes time to help?

I'll be off to a'google once more shortly, but I always appreciate people's experiences. Those can sometimes be worth ten thousand medical articles on a subject.
Friday, January 30th, 2015 11:33 am
How to tell your fake boyfriend you would like to become a robot:

1. Tell him, "I would like to be a robot." You can also say, "I am really a robot, not a female-bodied biological machine," because that is closer to the truth.

2. Do not tell him anything. If you do, you will also have to admit that you think about ways to hurt yourself so you have an excuse to replace body parts with machine parts.

3. Besides, insurance is unlikely to cover your transition into a robot.

A Merc. Rustard's "How to Become a Robot in 12 Easy Steps" reminded me strongly of last year's Hugo contender "If You Were a Dinosaur, My Love". Charming, quirky, artfully secretive, and with a similar melancholic emotional pull to Rachel Swirsky's story, "How to Become a Robot in 12 Easy Steps" is for everyone who enjoys literature, robots, and crying in inappropriate places.

Read more... )

"How to Become a Robot in 12 Easy Steps" is available for free at Sciegentasy magazine.
Friday, January 30th, 2015 06:28 am
Colleen McCullough's obituary as horrible example of how mainstream media write about women.

Thanx to Metafilter
Friday, January 30th, 2015 08:47 am
I haven't posted in quite some time, but I have a very good excuse: I made a person!


We're all doing well and I'm still blearily reading my reading list.
Friday, January 30th, 2015 10:46 am
I was accused of shoplifting on leaving the Asian supermarket across the road from here, where I go all the time and had honestly just been thinking about how great it was. I didn't understand what the guy was saying at first or why he wanted me to follow him back into the store, so he dragged me by my bag, which was over my shoulder so the strap cut into my neck when the guy yanked on it, and had even the pockets of my jacket and my hoodie dug through. Another guy (who I think works the fish market at the back of the store and tipped off the guy who was doing most of the intimidation) came in the little room to "help" I guess, he was totally sure there was something in my bag and they both looked through it repeatedly before admitting that there was nothing there and saying sorry.

I left in a hurry, immediately trying to figure out how this could've happened. The only things I can think of are that I had a bunch of stuff in my bag already (DVDs [personal profile] magister has asked me to pass along to Andrew) or that it took me a long time to find some of the things I was looking for because some of the labels on things are hard for me to read. I couldn't figure out why I was desperate to explain this until I realized that I need to reassure myself that it's safe to go back there. Because I do love that place! Lots of cheap food and stuff that's impossible to get elsewhere, and it's the closest store to my house.

I thought I was fine but I got home and dropped the shopping (I had spent twenty quid in there! usual behavior for a shoplifter I suppose, that) and burst into tears.

Sod's law would have it that Andrew's at work today, when usually he works from home on a Friday, and the nearby people I'd next go to are in York or on their way to Brussels. So I've had to write it out to calm myself down enough to put the food away and do some laundry and all the stuff I want to do today.
Friday, January 30th, 2015 11:00 am
Friday, January 30th, 2015 02:42 am
Last night was the deadline for papers for a certain internal conference. Not the one I'm running, but the hella one that both lb and Purple were planning to submit papers for. lb submitted his in what must have been a sensible amount of time before the deadline. Up past the point we headed out of work last night (and I had occasion to explain Frank Chu very briefly in the parking lot, much to Purple's utter crogglement), Purple's conclusion was a succinct "(conclusion goes here)" sort of affair, which is more effective in a draft than in a submitted paper. I looked it over. I made a few comments, including a tentative go at a framework of a conclusion.

"$WORKNAME is fine, right?" Purple asked me. "For the paper?"

I reloaded the draft in the public folder of his server share and found my work-standardized legal name in the acknowledgements, tucked in with Mr. Bananas, his manager, lb, and a few other people. Yes, $WORKNAME is best because people can look me up by it. He got back online after getting home, and kept working on things.

It makes me quietly happy that I'm developing a few editing shorthand phrases that I can use with Purple. "Yoda" is one of them. Sometimes when he turns a sentence around, it turns out that he meant something entirely different than the first phrasing implied to me. Things like "it" and "this" sometimes have to get explicitly called, and sometimes, yep, different.

Azz: "Sounds good, Unit Test Jesus."
Purple: "I hope I don't find Unit Test Judas."

He got it submitted a comfortable hour-ish before deadline. By the end, I was able to say, "and it does not aesthetically offend me :)" He took that as the compliment it was meant as.

Azz: "unlike that combination of shirts :-P"
Purple: "that was the camel shirt with the fluorescent green shirt right?"
Azz: "yes"
Purple: "Shame I don't have purple pants"
Azz: "... ... ... you fucking eyetroll <3"

I took a long time to get to sleep last night, so I didn't wake up in time for the presentation I wanted to go to. (Purple, for his part, decided that he was going to wake up slowly reading, and then got a fifteen-minute alarm chime for the presentation, so he dialed in because there is no way to physically make it from his place to work in 15 minutes, and in any event he had been in bed at this point.) Then I had to refuel Vash, so that took longer.

Today I remembered to bring the sack of sawed-off pool noodles to work. I debated bringing one with me to lunch for Purple, but instead brought one to the conference meeting for the chairs. I gave it to Researcher Polka-Dot, and told her that it was a sawed-off pool noodle, and useful for keeping order. She was delighted, and toted it with her for the next three hours of meetings.

It was a long day full of meetings. I am really going to have to see if D16 is unoccupied before the team meetings, because going directly from the committee meeting upstairs to the team meeting is really a pain as it is at the opposite end of the building from the elevator. Since my knees and stairs shouldn't even be in the same sentence, you can imagine how well this goes. (Also, I tend to need the bathroom every hour because I drink a ridiculous amount of water to keep everything else happy, especially in meeting rooms which are overheating, which introduces more time between meetings.)

So today was the off-week for the team meeting, but our (gulp) acting director tracked down one of the higher-ups steering one of the products the team does a lot of work with, and he introduced himself and had some things to say, and the team had questions.

I am not freshly up on all the latest testing methods and also jargon, but the guy said a thing about a testing strategy which I had never heard of before. I wrote it down, resolved to google it later, and asked what his thoughts/familiarity with unit testing was. He had no thoughts, being zero familiar. I hoped that we had not just met Unit Test Judas.

After all that, the (fairly substantial) committee set off for the location where we are to hold the (small) internal conference. Since we were leaving from the ass-end of the building, we went down the stairs. That was two stairs today. I am bad at stairs. Madam Standards looked for me and waited for me to catch up. She is beginning to doubt the concept that I just ~*appear*~ everywhere. I explained the usual method.

Shenanigans resulted in some running around where Madam Standards went off with the people who were going UP the STEPS, despite her plan to walk back with me because she'd forgot her badge. Then she went back but by that time I'd already gone up in the elevator, then we were headed back but she wanted to scope out the power outlets, and so we went back...

By the end of all that, I'd exceeded my steps by a few hundred. I complained to Purple a bit. He was ... "helpful".

Now that I was back at my desk, I shared the hope that this guy is not Unit Test Judas. We all googled the test thing that he had mentioned. Purple, who knows more about testing ideologies than I do, declared that it wasn't quite even a buzzword, as one of the major requirements for a buzzword is buzz. This testing ideology had about as many other supporters besides the clickbait bingo bandits who have their writeup paywalled off as there are other plaintiffs in Frank Chu's labor dispute against the 12 Galaxies.

Eventually it was time to go. This time, I was the holdup -- I'd decided to go ahead and book the conference room we were planning for the green room. It didn't say it was restricted in the calendar system, so I set up an appointment. Then I got the rejection message -- it was restricted after all. Drat it. So I would have to file two tickets: one to ask for the room, and one to ask that the room be named to reflect its status (in accordance with the standards).

I filed the ticket to book the room. In doing so, I discovered that there were two ranks of tickyboxes, none of which were relevant to my needs in booking, but both of which were required, with no 'n/a' selection. So I would have to file a third ticket about that. Then, upon submitting, I saw that the terrible green UI showed up blank, although the terrible blue and white UI showed the details. Fourth ticket.

Again, I was still swearing when Purple came to retrieve me. I thanked him for being supportive and listening while I wrestled with the fucking thing. We headed out by way of the kitchen -- I had grabbed some toast and hot chocolate earlier, and had a plate and cup to drop in the dishes -- but the kitchen floor was being actively washed. I left the plate on a nearby table, as this was the lesser inconvenience.

He didn't see my car at first. "Where did you park?" "Near you." We rounded whatever it was that was blocking the view, and he saw the little white sedan in the space right next to his car, and he mused that he had in fact been in to work a little later than he'd planned on, due to the presentation that morning.

We chatted for a while in the parking lot.

Purple: "And the guy was -- what's-his-name, British, in a lot of romcoms..."
Azz: "...Alan Rickman?"
Purple: *doubles over laughing* "You're certainly watching different things than I am!"
Azz, slightly defensively: "The only British [male] actors I know are: Alan Rickman, Bendydick Cummerbund, Sir Ian, Sir Patrick... Oh! And John Cleese! Eric Idle! Eric-the-half-a-Bee!"
Purple, howling with laughter: "ERIC THE HALF A BEE IS NOT A REAL ACTOR. HE'S A BEE. HALF A BEE."

Somehow (via "Bad Touch") we got onto the time I sprayed myself in the face with glitter, twice, as a result of being too tired to play with physics.

We hugged goodnight. We still had a few words left. Then I bent over a bit, exposing the top of my head to him. He scritched me gently on the head, then told me I was weird. :)
Friday, January 30th, 2015 04:37 am
 [personal profile] dialecticdreamer has two posts about character morality and development.  "Hero or Villain?" looks at the moral spectrum.  "Build a Better Villain" shows how a villain's background influences their plot potential.
Friday, January 30th, 2015 08:51 am

Finished The Countess Conspiracy yestreen.

I can live with the sciency stuff being not what actually happened, because makes good story, raises awareness that there were women Doing Science at the period (and it was probably easier if you were Mary Anning, rather than in High Society), etc.

My big, this question has not been addressed, WHUT -

was I suppose I had better cut for spoiler for people who have not read it? )

Or is all this Just Me?