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CRISPR? I hardly knew'er.

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 11.17.17

Whoa.

Last month, Josiah Zayner, a biochemist who once worked for NASA, became the first person known to have edited his own genes with CRISPR.
During a lecture about human genetic engineering that was streamed live on Facebook, Zayner whipped out a vial and a syringe, then injected himself. Now, following in his footsteps, other biohackers are getting ready to take the plunge and tinker with their own genes. ... Zayner's experiment was intended to boost his strength by removing the gene for myostatin, which regulates muscle growth. A similar experiment in 2015 showed that this works in beagles whose genomes were edited at the embryo stage. He injected himself with the CRISPR system to remove the gene.

S'cool.

The rest of the article is paywalled, so we'll never know what happened to this doofus.

Just kidding, I googled, here's a Buzzfeed article, a wikipedia article, his company, blog, etc etc etc

I'm already annoyed with this post and with him, but I wrote it all out, and maybe the thread will go in a fanciful direction where we all share what genes we edited on our SAT.


 

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Friday WTFuckery

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 11.17.17

Mossy Character sends in: DJT jr and Wikileaks.

Heebie's take: And of course since Moss sent that in, Kushner also gets busted.

You know the James-Bond-turned-comedy trope where the villain feels prematurely victorious, and gleefully confesses the full extent of their scheme to the hero, while the hero is tied up and dangling before certain death? Thank god these guys are that kind of numbskull bumbling villains.

I think we may have discussed this when it was written back in 2013, but it's certainly timely to dust off now - that incompetence in particular is a trait of men in positions of leadership, and that's part of the reason there are so few women:

In other words, when it comes to leadership, the only advantage that men have over women (e.g., from Argentina to Norway and the USA to Japan) is the fact that manifestations of hubris -- often masked as charisma or charm -- are commonly mistaken for leadership potential, and that these occur much more frequently in men than in women.
This is consistent with the finding that leaderless groups have a natural tendency to elect self-centered, overconfident and narcissistic individuals as leaders, and that these personality characteristics are not equally common in men and women.

I don't think it's the only advantage, but I'm certainly willing to believe it's a component.


 

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Oh Yes, That Too

Posted by Ogged
on 11.16.17

My theory on the Republican tax bill is that it's their version of working to rule. Their donors have told them now-or-never, no forgiveness; so they're making it a complete rich asshole wishlist, knowing that more they cave to their donors, the less likely it is to pass, and, subsequently, be used against them.

(I don't think this applies to people like Paul Ryan, who is a soulless monster and really believes in this stuff, but most of these guys just want to keep being elected.)


 

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ATM: Eluctable modality of the audible

Posted by Ben
on 11.16.17

E. Messily writes:

My stepdad has a friend ("Smith") who suddenly became deaf recently. Like, over the course of a weekend. He's regained a little hearing in one ear, but not enough to use. This all seems to be the result of some rare form of leukemia, and there's no clear prognosis about the hearing, or, right now, about anything else. So he's dealing with a lot of stuff, and also dealing with it while being newly deaf.

My stepdad asked me if I'd be willing to meet up with him to talk about how to be a deaf person, and my transition from hearing to deaf. What kinds of technology and techniques for doing things do I use, cochlear implants vs hearing aids, learning ASL, learning how to lipread, etc..

Obviously I said yes, but then I started thinking about what to say, exactly, and stalled out a little bit. The bigger topics I'm ready for, but I'm realizing that I don't clearly remember which things that I do are adaptations to being deaf, and which aren't. (The recent conversations about wearing headphones astounded me, for example. You guys don't pay close attention to shadows and light and reflections when you're walking around, and check behind you every once in a while? Huh.) I will ask Smith himself, of course, but I'd like to reduce the cognitive load for him by coming into the conversation prepared.

So, the question is, if you suddenly became deaf, what would you need help/advice figuring out how to do?

I hope everyone caught and appreciated that EM included both a period to end her abbreviation of "et cetera", and then subsequently also a period to end the sentence.


 

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Comedy, Misogyny, and the 90s, and the 80s, and so on.

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 11.16.17

I have a long personal entanglement with humor's intersection with misogyny. It was - no joke - very hard for me to give up the wealth of misogynistic jokes when I had my feminist awakening - being part of the in-group who laughed at such things, getting credit for being able to mock other women, etc. Now I find that pretty embarrassing of me, but then it felt very real.

Now there's a whole slew of articles being written about the grotesque misogyny of comedy - Lindy West, Famous Dicks Are Just the Tip Of The Problem, and this one that talks at length about Richard Pryor's misogyny in the context of Louis C.K.

The last one is the best, I think, for dissecting the misogyny of comedy - the ways in which comedians hone their reputations as sage truth-tellers but are actually masterful at creating the truth that they want. It particularly drew me in to recalling what comedy was like for decades :

I kept every Pryor album meticulously arranged in my little Case Logic cassette case, just as I did tapes of raunchy comics like Eddie Murphy, Sam Kinison, and Andrew Dice Clay. All of those men not only complained about women, but made it a centerpiece of their act. Eddie Murphy Raw is basically a 90-minute screed about greedy women, and how you can tame them by making them come hard. Kinison had a bit where he sought out a dude in the audience who had been wronged by a woman, and then would phone the woman, live on stage, to call her a bitch and a cunt. Listen to Kinison's act today and it basically sounds like a Reddit MRA forum turned into a stage show. But I remember being drawn to all those guys because 1. They cursed, and 2. I thought they were being brutally honest.
But they weren't. It was always a bit suspicious that Kinison never got a busy signal when he called. And even though Pryor would incorporate real personal tragedies into his act, he wasn't always 100 percent forthcoming. He used to tell a famous joke about his dad dying during sex. "He came and went at the same time," was the line, and it's a good one. But Pryor carefully stripped the whole event of context. In real life, Pryor's dad reportedly died of a heart attack while molesting his own 13-year-old daughter, Pryor's half-sister. A lot of times, you're getting a presentation of the truth from a comic but not the real thing.

There was one other article, about up-ending the sacred genius of comedy because all they want is to chase laughs, and it's a pellet-bar addiction that sacrifices everything to get a room to laugh at you, but I can't find the link now.

Anyway: I love, love, love having people laugh at my jokes, and feel like I've gotten burned my whole life and discounted for not being male. I also identify a whole lot with this:

There are a number of older male comedy "greats" that I've never found funny, because the world they write about is not the one I live in.

(from the second link, above.)

There are a shit-ton of men, especially in real life, who have reputations for being hilarious and they do seem to crack everyone up, but their jokes just aren't...on par with how they're being received. Everybody buys into the idea that this guy is hilarious, and that elevates his mediocre jokes to supreme status, and that bugs the fucking shit out of me.

One final note about the ubiquity of misogynistic humor and culture: Pulp Fiction came out my senior year in high school. It was a big hit with kids in my group.

I fell asleep watching it in the movie theater, which made it unbelievably confusing, as you might imagine. What I remember specifically from this first viewing is this: Quentin Tarantino is super mad that he has some guy's brains splattered all over the back of his car, and he doesn't want the body stored at his house:

Jules: But Jimmie, we ain't gonna store the mother****er--

Jimmie: No, no, no, no, no, don't you ****ing realize, man, that if Bonnie comes home and finds a dead body in her house, I'm gonna get divorced? All right? No marriage counseling, no trial separation, I'm going to get ****ing divorced, okay? And I don't want to get ****ing divorced! Now man, you know, ****, I wanna help you, but I don't want to lose my wife doing it, all right?

Jules: Jimmie, Jimmie, she ain't gonna leave you--

Jimmie: Don't ****ing "Jimmie" me, Jules, okay?! Don't ****ing "Jimmie" me! There's nothing that you're gonna say that's gonna make me forget that I love my wife, is there?! Now look, you know, she comes home from work in about an hour and a half. Graveyard shift at the hospital. You gotta make some phone calls? You gotta call some people? Well, then do it! And then get the **** out of my house before she gets here!

I was completely dumbstruck by the fact that Jimmie invoked his love for his wife there, as the reason he didn't want her to find the dead body. I was so trained and used to the idea that you don't want wives to find the dead body because the wife will scream at you, because she's a shrew and she won't understand, because your wife makes everything difficult and you resent her or put up with it for the sex.

I turned that line over in my head for a long time, and concluded that the wife must be an astonishingly awesome, amazing person. Really some sort of magical unicorn personality.

Sad!


 

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Guest Post - The Banality of Good

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 11.15.17

Mossy Character writes: NATO is boring:

As a young Pentagon staffer, I was seconded to Brussels for a few months in 2003 to work at the U.S. Mission to NATO.
[...]
I can still conjure the anxious pride of sitting behind the placard stamped "United States" for the first time. This was a dream. About 20 minutes later, it literally became one. I had to repeatedly stab myself in the leg with a pen in order to prod my jet-lagged body into consciousness. I could not have imagined, until that moment, how detailed and dull the daily discourse of NATO often is.
[...]
At its core, NATO is a culture of intensive, banal cooperation.
[...]
It is a collection of customs and habits that dictate how decisions will be made when the balloon goes up. It prescribes where to meet and the rules for discussion. It ensures that you can trust the colleague next to you because you've worked with her in such a setting a hundred times before. It structures discourse and operations such that, by ritualizing behaviors and in making a thousand minor decisions, you build the blocks of strategic dexterity that NATO sometimes demonstrates.

The most poignant example I can point to of NATO's potential is its mission in Afghanistan. Over 15 years, and two distinct American administrations, the United States, through this tool called NATO, coaxed more than a quarter of the world's countries[*] to participate in a far-flung and elusive mission that had nearly nothing to do with their own national interests. That political feat, however, is rivaled by the operational one, where NATO allies and partners sustained overlapping security, capacity-building, and counter-insurgency missions across an enormous geographical expanse for nearly a decade and a half.[**]
[...]
you begin to understand Vladimir Putin's hostility toward the alliance -- of what it is and what it could be should it ever have occasion to turn its withering gaze to Moscow.
[...]
consider again the 2 percent issue. In a world obsessed with image and status, any number of European defense officials fight to maintain the target because it is useful for keeping pressure on their own parliaments and politicians for increased defense spending. That is, the alliance chooses to look impotent in an attempt to do the right thing rather than revise its blueprint to look better. NATO, bless its heart.
*Per wiki, about half of those were non-NATO, and most of the contingents were tiny; but all of NATO went, and I agree that that is very significant.
**This operational accomplishment was of course strategically fruitless, as we discussed in the Nixon's army thread; another case of aimless leadership riding on the inertia of past achievements.

Heebie's take: This fits in nicely with the banality of the USDA. Good institutions are so fragile and rest so heavily on good culture and design!


 

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All Together Now

Posted by Ogged
on 11.14.17

I'd never read Zadie Smith, but this piece about urban community was smart and broad-minded.

It also reminded me of a college lecture, lo those many years ago, in which the prof took a bit of extra time at the end to lay out his theory that since Aristotle we've been expanding the definition of a "thing," particularly as it relates to boundary and time, such that we can conceive of something being a thing even if--like the community that springs up after a mishap in a city--it only lasts a short while, and its boundary (whoever happens to be around! anyone can join in!) is porous. It did seem like Smith was arguing that yes, this is too a real community.


 

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Guest Post - USDA

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 11.14.17

Ydnew writes: This seems to be making the rounds.

Best quote of the entire article, from Lillian Salerno:

"I had this conversation with elected and state officials almost everywhere in the South," said Salerno. "Them: We hate the government and you suck. Me: My mission alone put $1 billion into your economy this year, so are you sure about that? Me thinking: We are the only reason your shitty state is standing."

Read her section, on Rural Development, if nothing else (it is long). I've been reading about the current administration's dismantling many key departments, but this reinforces my theory that Trump's legacy will be hobbling civil service for a generation, if not more. I think this might, to me, be the worst part of the whole horror show. Obama worked so hard at restoring function to bureaucracy and making government work, and everything he built is being razed.

I know this administration is actively breaking State, EPA, USDA, and they've made progress on the rest. Unfortunately, all of these disasters are harder to see than the more immediate damage.

Heebie's take: it is very very long. I did end up skipping to the Rural Development section as recommended.

Everything is the worst.


 

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Gross daily grievances.

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 11.13.17

I bet Bret Talley will not become a judge, but they'll get someone equally toxic. The federal judges thing - filling all of Obama's vacancies - makes me so irate that I have to compartmentalize and not think about it very much. Also Gorsuch.

I bet Alabama will still elect Moore even though polls show the race closing up. What's that thing when people are embarrassed to tell the truth to the pollster? That. The Republicans will always pull the lever for the Republicans, and the Democrats can only win by increasing turn out and enthusiasm, and I don't think this increases turn out and enthusiasm, nor decreases turnout among Republicans. Hopefully I'm wrong!


 

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Rebecca Traister On The Weinstein Aftermath

Posted by LizardBreath
on 11.13.17

In The Cut. It's long, but it's excellent -- on how the pervasiveness of harassment affects everyone: women who were harassed and protested; women who were harassed and rolled with it; women who weren't harassed and feel complicit because of it; women who weren't harassed and wonder if they were excluded because of it; men who didn't harass anyone and didn't get how common it was; men who aren't sure, in retrospect, if they did harass anyone.

There is another realm of anger here, arising from our knowledge that even the long-delayed chance to tell these repugnant truths is built on several kinds of privilege. As others have observed, it matters that the most public complaints so far have come from relatively affluent white women in elite professions, women who've worked closely enough with powerful white men to be available for harassment. Racism and class discrimination determine whose stories get picked up and which women are readily believed.

That reality fogs some of the satisfaction we feel in watching monstrous men lose their influence; we know that it's a drop in a bottomless bucket. "Maybe we can get another two horrible people to have to step down or say they're sorry," one Democratic lawmaker told me, "but that helps only 20 people, and it's 20 million who need things to change. Plus, you're a farmworker? A lady who cleans offices? You're a prostitute or an immigrant? You're not going to tell your story."


 

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