Sunday, 24 February 2013

Damn Dunbar!

Robin Dunbar has ruined your life. Well, not him, really. And maybe not ruined, so much as complicated. And it probably isn't your whole life either.

Dunbar's number is an interesting concept, still being refined by scientists, but already useful to think of in vague terms. The basic idea is that there's a finite amount of brain in your head, a finite ability to process thoughts and so a finite portion of that you can spend on interpersonal relationships. So while you may know hundreds or thousands of people, and perhaps have a job that lets you interact with tens of thousands or even more, you probably only have one or two hundred friends you're comfortable and familiar with, really. That number of close friends is Dunbar's number.

And it's been pissing me off for the last few years. The improvement in social mechanisms on the internet has given us the ability to meet many more people than we could using offline methods alone. But this puts pressure on our Dunbar's, because presumably many of us (those old enough to pre-date social media) already had adequate social circles before. So now there's competition between interesting foreigners and convenient locals (I'd even hypothesise that there's probably a fairly predictable rank order most people will apply based on those three factors: interestingness, convenience and localness), and I've found I'm losing touch with great old friends, for no very apparent reason. Dunbar's number seems the most likely reason. I only have so many weekend hours to share, and while my week nights are pretty open, many other people will be more limited there, leaving little free overlap, and so it becomes impossible to fit everyone in logistically, even before they slip out of my brain too. And sometimes the decision of who to share my time with can be pretty petty; if you show me your boobs, for example, there seems to be a strong correlation with that and how much time I'll devote to you. Fucking reproductive instincts...

Now, perhaps this is normal and natural, and I'm sure kids born into such an internetty world will learn to treat it as such much more easily. But for a crotchety old man like me, I think it helps to be more aware of what's going on. I (and perhaps you) need to make a conscious effort to stay in touch with the people I value a lot, but who aren't so easily available or topless. It's a two way street, though, and I can certainly name friends who pushed me out of their lives (maybe intentionally, maybe not) by failing to match the effort I was making to keep in touch and display my boobs.

I guess that last paragraph was the main point I wanted to make. Now, a free bonus thought on how this relates to sex and dating.

What I consider my traditional social circle, basically my old high school friends and the outside friends we all have in common, has always (since 2000, at least) been in the habit of swapping partners. I don't mean we've had an intentional swinger thing going (the closest we ever got to that was Strip Rock-Paper-Scissors night), just that when A&B stopped dating and C&D stopped dating, it was considered perfectly normal for  A&D to have a go next, and B&C too, if they liked. Some outsiders have expressed discomfort with this: Isn't it uncomfortable? Don't people get jealous? Surely that's a sick, incestuous way to do things? Well, fuck you, Mr Judgemental Outsider! But seriously, in hindsight it's worked out pretty well for us. Obviously we're mostly human, and jealousy and discomfort do happen. But like any emotions in life, learning to cope with these in a mature, responsible way makes them tolerable and makes us into better people. The individuals who couldn't adapt like that, whose jealousy and intolerance overwhelmed them, have tended to fall out of the group.

By sheer luck, I think it's also been a very convenient system in terms of Dunbar's number. If you always have to look for new people to date/shag, and friends are always off limits, then you've got to constantly add new people to your list of close people, which will eventually add strain to your older relationships, and now you're fighting Robin Dunbar (with shivs, in a broom closet). Instead, the sharing and re-sharing of genitals means that everyone already knows each other, the numbers remain fairly constant, and Dunbar's bloody cleaver stays out of the picture. I don't think it's at all coincidental that our group stayed close for so many years after school, while everyone else reported losing touch with most of their former social circles quite quickly. If I'm right about this, I'd be fascinated to see how it applies to friendship circles from single-sex schools. (It may also have added incentive to take STD prevention seriously, as anything transferred is going to go to someone you all know and love, not some faceless, distant stranger.)

Of course, outward expansion of our network was inevitable once we left school and (in some cases) got jobs. I once drew up a diagram of our whole canoodling network (which caused great unhappiness among those who mistook it for me being judgemental, rather than merely geeky), and while I haven't updated it in years, I'm willing to bet that the friends who've stayed in my life longest are, to some extent and depending on exact definitions, the ones who kept themselves in that network the best. So in conclusion, if you want to be friends with me, we'd better have sex?

Friday, 22 February 2013

Less than a week to throw cash at James Wallis! Hurry!

The blessed James Wallis is at it again! He's Kickstarting a new roleplaying game called Alas Vegas, which certainly looks interesting. I have a small collection of thoughts on the matter:

Alas Vegas Kickstarter

1. I've never supported a Kickstarter thing before. I'm not sure I have the money to now. But maybe you do, and would like to. If so, the deadline is the end of this February.

2. I know nothing about the rules system behind this game. It's dice free, which always makes me uncomfortable. I realise a random deck draw is just as good a random effect generator as a random die roll, but dice are a mark of station for roleplayers, a symbol of glory and honour, and they make nice clattering noises. There's tradition and superstition galore attached to those little polyhedrons, and I don't like the idea of arbitrarily giving them up. Plus, cards almost make it seem like *shudder* Magic the Gathering. (But I always just ignore the dice and make shit up when I'm GMing a game anyway, so it probably makes little practical difference. Shh, don't tell my players.)

3. The idea of a single-use roleplaying setting is, commercially, quite unusually. I've played in games that were either intentionally created to play for short runs only, or improvised on short notice and never re-used. But these were all amateur efforts. The professional RPG writers normally like to leave plenty of room for expansions and sequels, both for their own commercial benefit, and to give players room to take their unique gaming experiences as far and wide as they like. For most games companies, it does make sense to leave things as open-ended as possible. But James Wallis is nothing if not a skilled craftsman, an artist of a game writer, and it also makes complete sense to me that he'd prefer to create a single perfect story and then move on, rather than invest in a vast and endless setting. His unpleasant experiences with the final years of Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 1st Edition may have something to do with that too.

But, compare this with the movie industry. Hollywood currently loves to re-boot, re-use, re-make, re-hash the hell out of anything that was even vaguely successful (explained very nicely by Mr Plinkett as part of his Abrams Trek review), when we'd probably be getting better and more interesting (or at least more varied) movies if plots were allowed to end conclusively and brand new ideas got a chance to bloom in their place. Perhaps roleplaying games have at times also gotten a little too trapped in re-hash mode too? I wouldn't have said so as a general rule, except D&D 4th Ed. and Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 3rd Ed. both seem to fit that description, released more for the sake of having a new release and not because they offered improved new rules or setting content. My earlier complaint about Fantasy Flight's abuse of the Enemy Within campaign name is as stark an example as I can think of.

4. Freaky things happening to confused people in Vegas. Sounds like fun. The flashbacks mechanism is an interesting idea; I hope it works.

5. There's a video on the Kickstarter page, which may be the first time I've ever seen James Wallis's face. He's lumpier than expected, more cube-shaped. Almost Polishly cubic. I'll also be clear that I haven't actually had any direct exposure to any of his so-called Indie games. I only know him from Critical Miss veneration, and from the old Warhammer books, but that stuff's all fantastic, though hard to describe without including spoilers. My Warhammer group has just played its 61st session of the Enemy Within campaign (also including Dying of the Light), nearing the end of Power Behind the Throne, and it's the longest, most successful game many of us have ever played in. That's roughly 300 hours of gameplay so far, and James Wallis takes a fair bit of credit for it. (Note to my Warhammer group: This is the man who burned and sank your barge we're talking about here.)

6. I really like what I'm seeing of the book's artist, John Coulthart.

7. For more balanced views on the matter, here are the perfectly unbiased and objective opinions of Jonny Nexus, of Critical Miss fame, and Kleromancer, formerly the Herald of Spatula, who I know from the Critical Miss Forums.

Thursday, 21 February 2013

Win for Whales

Interesting news from the waters around the Antarctic: The 5th largest naval battle of the 21st century so far has resulted in zero deaths and zero sinkings. It's a weird story, if you haven't followed the history leading up to it, but on the Blatantly Evil side were vessels of the Japanese whaling fleet, who've been caught on film over the last month or so breaking a number of international maritime and environmental laws, including apparent violations of Australian territorial waters and transferring heavy fuel oil in protected environments. They're not even pretending to be law-abiding good guys anymore. On the other side were the vessels of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society. I've called out the Sea Shepherds here before for selling bullcrap on their site, but I've always been thoroughly damn impressed with their anti-whaling operations, which is and should be their real line of business.

The really short history is that most whale species were almost driven extinct by human activities, so the international (human) community agreed to ban whale hunting. But the few states that made money that way forced in a loophole allowing the hunting of whales for "scientific research", on behalf of organisations like the Institute of Cetacean Research, which is scientific in the same way that the Discovery Institute is a credible research organisation in the field of evolutionary biology, i.e. not in the slightest. Japan, currently the most invested whaling state (though only since relatively recently in history, if Cracked is to believed; Wikipedia suggests it's like that, but more complicated) has made no secret of the fact that almost all the whales they kill are sold off commercially, mostly as "food". (Insert vegan scowl face here.)

"Many nations understand why whale murder is monstrous ... We use the word 'monster' to describe an animal somehow different from us, somehow scary. But who's the more monstrous? The whales, who ask only to be left alone to sing their rich and plaintive songs, or the humans, who set out to hunt them and destroy them and have brought many whale species close to the edge of extinction?"
 - Carl Sagan, Cosmos, part 11, 'The Persistence of Memory'

So, since it's a purely commercial operation in reality, Sea Shepherd struck on the clever strategy of ruining the hunt's commercial value by pushing up the killers' cost per whale killed as much as possible. It took a bit of experimentation, but eventually they found that simply sailing up right behind the whalers' factory ship (the Nishin Maru) they could block the rear access ramp used by the smaller killing ships to deliver their corpses into the mother ship's hold, thus shutting down the entire process. Naturally, the whalers have tried various things (including stun grenades and water cannons against Sea Shepherd crews, and drifting cables to snare up propellers and at least two previous ramming incidents against the Shepherds' ships) to escape this, but the Shepherds got so good at this icy dance that the Japanese (that is, the entire state of Japan, since tax money subsidises the hunters) have made a net loss off the operation for the last few years. And this year, the Shepherds found the Nishin Maru and started trailing it so soon that it was already looking likely to be the best year yet.

This seems to have freaked the captain of the Nishin Maru completely the fuck out, so that he ordered his ship to start ramming everyone else around him, including his fleet's own refuelling vessel, the Sun Laurel. The Sea Shepherd vessels seem to have survived the confrontation adequately, and they're now escorting the also-damaged Sun Laurel out of the area. Since Sun Laurel is owned by an outside contractor, not the Japanese government, they're presumably not terribly motivated to stick around after taking ramming damage from their own employers, but I haven't seen any statements from them at all, so I'm just guessing. [EDIT: Looks like I guessed more or less right.]

Note that all of this is happening while passing through chunks of ice.

I haven't seen the full video yet, so I may be getting some details wrong, but just looking at the picture above, it was clearly some unusually busy, crowded ocean out there. The potential for an accident was already high. But the fact that the Nishin Maru managed to ram 4 other vessels suggests it was intentional, rather than accidental, except presumably in the case of the Sun Laurel. It's lucky nobody was hurt. And it's truly fucking fantastic that the whalers shot themselves in the metaphorical foot by cutting off their own damn fuel supply, effectively ending their operations for this season. I don't think anyone's happy about all those collisions, but the bottom line is, the whales are safe again for now, and the fact that Sea Shepherd managed it with entirely non-violent tactics also sets a fine example.

What should really be happening, though, is that one or more national navies or coast guards should be down there, enforcing international law properly, rather than leaving it up to dedicated but not legally empowered private individuals. I imagine one stern warning backed up with the threat of official, legal sanctions (e.g. jail time and impounding of vessels) could have settled this just as effectively as all the years of ballsy blockading by the Sea Shepherds. It might be nice if those stupidly expensive frigates South Africa bought could find some use in policing this sort of thing.

I'll also take a jab at Greenpeace here: They have ships too, but all along have explicitly refused to help Sea Shepherd in any way, or to engage in any similarly helpful anti-whaling operations, preferring instead to waste everyone's time spreading baseless fear about genetically modified crops. <sarcasm>Way to go, Greenpeace.</sarcasm>

Saturday, 9 February 2013

Critical Miss Forums: Requiem for Bollocks

Since 2006, I've had a habit that's been very important to me, but which few of my real-world friends have been aware of at all. The Critical Miss Forums was an old-fashioned php board where I had a huge amount of fun talking about gaming and related matters with a small, elite group of international bullshitters. There were only just over half a dozen of us who regularly used the site, with the owner, his close friends and a number of other users having given up on it very early on, but we've been a close, comfortable, familiar bunch, and it was great to have it there as a constant and reliable source of mostly-human contact with mostly like-minded gamers. I especially appreciated having a place to openly discuss GMing matters with more experienced GMs, with little chance of my players ever stumbling across it and spoiling my plots.

It's hard to explain it all to outsiders - all the spambots and insults and puns and school janitor lifestyle updates - so I won't really try. But you can get some idea of the people who were drawn to those forums from the fact that it was originally intended to serve as a discussion area for Critical Miss: The Magazine for Dysfunctional Roleplayers, a fantastic read launched way back in 1998, primarily written by the very funny Jonny Nexus, who still does things from time to time (buy his novels). We all eagerly await Critical Miss issue #12, due some time around 2033.

Sadly, on 8 January this year, Jonny informed us that he would no longer be keeping his forums running, and that we had a "a couple of days" before it shut down for good. That couple of days dragged on for weeks, and I was even starting to hope that Mr Nexus had changed his mind and not yet told us. But, on 9 February 2013, the Critical Miss Forums finally did shut down. Now I'm sad.

That last month did at least give us time to set up alternative groups to keep the gang together on Facebook and Google+, and I hope the old members who weren't paying attention over the last few weeks will find this and join us there (just let me know what name you went by in the forums, so I know you're really one of us and let you in). We've already got me (Spatula), SIN, andrewthotep and Herald. (And now also Blah.)

May James Wallis watch over us all.

Friday, 8 February 2013

jesus rejects the Death Penalty

I saw a christian guy on Facebook calling for the death penalty, and I sighed so hard I needed an oxygen mask afterwards. It's sad when people are that blind to the core message of their own religion, in this case mercy and forgiveness. Sure, there's plenty of evil, wrong, nasty shit in the bible, enough that I'd disregard the whole thing as a source of worthwhile morality, but I can at least acknowledge that there is a general pattern of niceness and mercy to many of the jesus bits of it. So long as you skip the bits like Matthew 15, where jesus condemns the pharisees for not sticking to the rule about stoning naughty children to death (seriously, look it up). Perhaps my expectations are too simple, but I'd have thought the bulk of christian philosophy would ape the bulk of what's attributed to jesus, not the exact opposite of it, rushing for bloody revenge.

At the same time, I think it's even sadder to mindlessly draw your morality and ethics from a single stupid old book. I prefer to think about the consequences of my actions and decide on the what to do based on that, not follow a scripted "morality" that wasn't written for me, or my culture, or my millennium, or my language. The interesting thing about all the quotes below is that I've actually harvested them from a variety of different versions of the bible, cherry-picking the ones that agree with my anti-death penalty sentiments. Sticking with any one version would, due to differences in choice of words, lead to inherent contradictions and ambiguity. And that's before you go actively looking for the bits of the bible that purposefully say exactly the opposite, like "an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth," or the child-stoning instructions in Matthew 15 and the old testament sources it refers to. It really is a shit source of moral guidance, because it says everything is both forbidden and compulsory. I could just have easily written a piece titled 'jesus accepts the Death Penalty'.

Typically, the theists' response to pointing out these contradictions is that you're not supposed to only read the text as is, but also pray and get extra clarification magically pushed into your head, because that's obviously a far more efficient system, not at all open to misunderstandings and intentional deceit. But even if that really does work reliably, if the moral guidance you're getting that way is, "Kill people. Stick swords in them and throw rocks at their heads," then fuck the nostril-knobbing bagel-fuck out of that shit. That's no "morality" I want any part of.

Anyway, here's my list of bible quotes opposing the death penalty. I doubt I'm the first to draw such a thing up, I realise some are a bit off the mark, and I certainly got lazy after a while and skipped a few at the end of the new testament for being too repetitive. But I'm sure someone can find a use for these, if only to get some christians to oppose the death penalty (for the wrong reason).

Exodus 20:13 - You shall not kill.

Deuteronomy 5:17 - You shall not kill.

Psalm 37:8 - Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fret - it leads only to evil.

Proverbs 11:17 - The merciful man doeth good to his own soul

Proverbs 13:4 - The law of the wise is a fountain of life.

Proverbs 14:16 - A wise man is cautious and turns from evil, but a fool is easily angered and is careless.

Proverbs 14:17 - Short-tempered people do foolish things

Proverbs 24:17 - Don't rejoice when your enemies fall; don't be happy when they stumble.

Proverbs 24:29 - Do not say, "I'll do to him as he has done to me; I'll pay that man back for what he did."

Proverbs 29:22 - An angry person starts fights; a hot-tempered person commits all kinds of sin.

Isaiah 5:20 - Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!

Matthew 5:7 - Blessed are the merciful.

Matthew 7:1 - Do not judge, or you too will be judged.

Matthew 7:12 - Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you.

Matthew 19:18 - And jesus said: Thou shalt do no murder

Luke 6:37 - Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.

John 8:7 - Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone

Romans 12:17 - Do not repay anyone evil for evil.

Romans 12:19 - Do not take revenge

Romans 12:21 - Don't let evil conquer you, but conquer evil by doing good.

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Reply to Owen Swart, sort of

As announced last month, Owen Swart kept to his word and blogged about the evil global misandrist conspiracy, except he didn't really. I was pretty disappointed, for two reasons, corresponding with two different things he posted. The first, his own blog post, was little more than his original complaint on Google+, restated, completely ignoring all the input he'd already had from me there. My main concerns at the time were that Watson's post is pretty ambiguous and not very well written, but all the necessary qualifiers are in there to show that it doesn't actually definitely say what Owen reads it to say. For example, she gives a qualitative description of what she means by 'too drunk', a serious state where clear decision-making is impossible. That alone should have assuaged Owen's concern, if he's so sure about his ex's state of mind. (I'm not sure if this is perhaps a low blow, and it's purely hypothetical and based on no actual knowledge of that relationship, but if he were perhaps not as sure of her soundness of mind as he claims, and felt some guilt over it, then is it really fair to lash out at Watson for reminding him of this?)

But fine, Watson was ambiguous. You have to dig a bit to see it. This is not ideal, but it's not the same as Watson calling Owen a rapist. Ambiguity is not something I'd consider a sound basis for shouty indignation, and the fact that I had already done all the digging for Owen (so he didn't have that excuse anymore) when he wrote that blog post is disappointing. Why did I bother?

As a side issue, I'm curious to know exactly who's accused Owen of being a sexist and a rape-apologist, because it definitely wasn't me, and everyone else was on his side in the Google+ thread and his own blog's comments.

(I'll also point out that I'm deeply, deeply disappointed with Owen for combining a Captain Sulu quote with an image of the Enterprise. I would have accepted either the Excelsior to go with a Captain Sulu quote, or the Enterprise with a Lieutenant/Lieutenant Commander/Commander Sulu quote. I mean, this is basic shit.)
Obviously two very different things.

Let's ignore the above and assume Owen's interpretation is accurate, though: Rebecca Watson called him a rapist, because of any booze at all. That would not be good, certainly. But therefore misandry? Therefore pseudo-feminism? Therefore a grand conspiracy of shit? Hardly. One thing that can't be denied is that Watson was careful enough to keep her entire post perfectly gender-neutral. Owen's leap to misandry is entirely in his own head. Which I told him, weeks before he repeated this claim. Again, why did I bother?

Previously, his response to this was, "yes, but it fits the broader pattern," which is exactly what I then challenged him to show. I have not seen this general pattern, and as I stated in last month's post, I expect people to be able to back up their claims. Instead of writing something to that effect himself, he re-posted a piece from Freethought Kampala (in the G+ group, not in his own blog), and this is the second major disappointment for me, because it's a pretty weak set of arguments. Allow me to pick at it in time-saving point form:

  • The line: "But what happens when skepticism becomes more than a way of thinking, such as a movement in and of itself?" raised a red flag for me. There seem to be people who've conflated the general term 'politics' with the stereotypically negative behaviour of politicians, and treat politics as an inherently dirty word, something to distance yourself from as much as possible. This reveals only a total lack of understanding about what politics is and how inevitable, pervasive and even useful it is for all of us. It does not inherently, automatically imply that reason and evidence have been sacrificed, and it's ironically irrational to insist otherwise. I think that's definitely a factor here, but more specifically, it's quite counter to the skeptical activism (as opposed to skeptical arse-sitting) that I know Owen supports and engages in, and also the apparent goals of the Freethought Kampala movement. So are they hypocrites, or is there more complexity to what drives civil society than this article acknowledges? Perhaps a bit of both.
  • "Arbitrary Rules" - I kind of agree that the street crossing thing is probably overkill most of the time. But a suggested guideline is not a tyrannical "rule" that we have no choice but to accept, and it's not especially arbitrary either; the logic behind it is explained clearly enough, and the only thing lacking is a sufficiently valuable outcome to make it worth putting into practice. But if we take it in the full context of "the sort of behaviours that can be worth considering more deeply", as a suggestion of style rather than a specific, compulsory prescription, then it's not so silly as it seems in isolation. (I've just noticed there's a comment by Greg Laden expressing the same thing.)
  • "On When To Proposition Women" - Holy fuck-knuckles, I can't believe this one has to get dredged through again. Under the title of When To, he posts a PZ quote about How To, and then goes on to talk about the matter of If. How did we make that massive transformation in topic, doubting whether women should be propositioned at all? Nobody outside of this article is saying that romance is forbidden except where colour-coded labels are used, or any crap like that. The only concern has ever been that really creepy attempts at romance/sex should be discouraged. It must take a massive effort in self-deception to stay blind to that.
  • "On Making People Uncomfortable" - This is a subtle one, which mainly just over-simplifies what is meant by 'uncomfortable' in each case, but it's logically fallacious because it ignores both how and why people are made uncomfortable. First, how: Doing something to yourself that makes others feel uncomfortable but causes them no direct harm is not the same thing as doing the uncomfortable thing to them directly. You might not like to see me picking my nose/eating my wafer, and I might choose to put you at ease by avoiding that if I like you enough, but in a free society, it's my nose/wafer to pick/eat. However, that doesn't give me the right to pick your nose or eat your wafer or grab your arse. Not complicated, is it? Second, why: It's a much less important point, but I don't think "because I horny!" is as good a reason to regularly challenge anyone's comfort zone as "to improve society for all" is. And to be clear, I do feel that a more casual and free approach to sex would improve society, but I'm not going to campaign for that one cheesey pick-up line at a time. Calm, rational discussion while everyone's still focused above the eyebrows will do fine.
  • "Anecdotes Now Count As Solid Evidence" - Oh, for fuck's sakes. Straw man in aisle three! What's happened here is that one specific incident (the elevator one) has been cherry picked for its lack of concrete evidence, and he's using this to cast doubt on the whole topic of feminism, ignoring the fact that we've actually seen pretty solid evidence for most of the subsequent incidents. It's ridiculous, I struggle to see what rational alternative the article expects. Should Watson have video recorded the entire thing she wasn't expecting to happen in the first place? Should she have opened a formal criminal case against the guy who didn't technically break any formal law, just so she could use the police's evidence to explain to her internet audience why it was a socially unwise attempt? Or is there seriously a suggestion that Watson made this whole thing up, downplayed it at first, intentionally hoping that this would lead to a big kerfuffle she could practise her puppeteering on? Or what, exactly? I love my evidence as much as anyone else, but prior probability is also worth considering. Does Mr Occam suggest that it's more likely that this really happened, or that Watson has orchestrated a campaign of entirely feasible lies that she could easily have substituted with thousands of similar true stories? This casting of aspersions seems to me a lot like the common creationist tactic of not actually proving any of their own claims, but just casting as much doubt as possible on evolution. It's dirty and unsciencey.

  • "On ‘Sexualising’ Women" - This is an interesting one. As a frequent porn flyer and a feminist, I'm certainly eager to find a happy medium, where everyone's in it voluntarily and well paid, and the audience doesn't get any dodgy misconceptions from it. But that last part, at least, is very tricky. So we could have a very interesting discussion about this. Instead, Freethought Kampala's writer reduces it down to "if I don't get to sexualise you, you don't get to sexualise yourself either!" And that's just stupid, because it ignores freedom of choice, self-expression versus imposed identity, and context. Regardless, it's worth noting that Watson has since said she considers the Skepchick calendars a mistake, not to be repeated, which renders this specific criticism moot. People can change their minds, right?
  • "‘Twatson’" - Yeah, I'll agree with this one. I like my swear words and won't accept any censorship of them, so I can hardly impose the same on others. Is it at all helpful or mature to turn someone's name into an insult? No. But sticks & stones.
  • "It Only Matters When Women Are Victims" - There are two errors here. The first, comparing Watson's and Dawkins's experiences, seems to misinterpret what Watson was saying about Dawkins's death threats. I take it as praise for him and how unusually well he stands up to it, and as a way of saying, "look, we're in the same boat," to illustrate why atheists and feminists should want to work together. Second error, nobody's saying men receiving death threats is an acceptable thing, nor that we should just have to tough them out while the ladies get all the protection. It seems to me that what's being suggested is that death threats or lesser harrassments are bad (shocking!) and that nobody should have to have to respond to them with unusual Dawkinsian coolness. The fact that the author doesn't see why feminism might have any overlap with atheism or skepticism merely reflects a terribly narrow, old-fashioned point of view.
And that's it. That's all Kampala has for us. I think it's a load of shit, as you might have noticed from the discussion above. I'm going to give Owen the benefit of the doubt and assume he didn't really read that properly (same as he clearly didn't read that Watson article as thoroughly as he could have), and so didn't notice how poorly this serves as his best possible argument for a grand misandrist agenda. Now that he's seen how easily it can be dismissed, I'm sure he and the rest of the Gaunteng Skeptics will come around and forget they were ever seriously worried about this. Because really, why would they be?

Then presumably that's the end of that. I have shown that the fear of misandry is pretty badly misplaced, based mainly on miscommunication, blind conjecture and some ill will. Lessons have been learned and we're all better people now. I can't think of any reason I should ever have to write about this ever again. *glower*