mokie: A package of meat wishes you happy holidays (holiday of the day)
January is full of kings - Three Kings Day, Martin Luther King Day, and the birthday of the King, Elvis Presley.

(And, of course, the Goblin King, but I try to celebrate David Bowie every day.)
mokie: A package of meat wishes you happy holidays (holiday of the day)
On my merry little calendar of daily holidays, today is listed as I'm Not Going to Take It Anymore Day. Given that the past week has been full of reams of legal documentation that is only English on a technicality - not because it's translated but because it's legalese, boo - that is indeed pretty much where my brain is at. "Words? No. No more words. NOPE."

So I took a look at what absolutely had to give today.

Someone trying to squeeze a manifesto into a tagline? NOPE. I can summarize, I can epitomize, I can capture the spirit of the thing, but I cannot take the client's list of eleventy things that absolutely must be mentioned specifically and squeeze it into a five-word tagline.

Glitchy file? NOPE. Pure stupid stubbornness on my part to keep fighting with it this long, instead of asking for help, but that's what legalese does to me - makes me irritable and bitey, even against software.

The flu? NOPE. Okay, it's not that easy. I wish it was that easy.

Maybe this should be 2015's theme song...



(No video embedded above? Sorry, journal sites are inconsistent that way. Try viewing it at Youtube instead.)

A Game of Steves

Thursday, 6 March 2014 07:34 am
mokie: Hannibal Lecter sits on his shiny blue couch (media viewing)
I keep my criteria for characters simple: if they were replaced by a new guy for an episode—a random Steve who had all the skills required of the character for that episode—how much (if at all) would I care?

NBC's Dracula: "Mr. Grayson had to go...uh...do something...yeah. Steve is in charge at the moment."
Sweet, maybe Steve will better less distractable and better at follow-through.

The Blacklist: "Agent Keene can't be with us this week, but Red's willing to talk to Steve."
Then I'm willing to watch Steve. Can Steve do his job without a master criminal holding his hand and making his position in the organization look like some really fucked-up nepotism?

Hannibal: "Dr. Lecter can't make it this week, but you can talk to Dr. Steve, who brought some suspiciously tasty cookies..."
BOO. NO. GO AWAY, STEVE. GO JOIN TOBIAS IN THE NOBODY-WANTS-TO-BE-YOUR-FRIEND CLUB.

Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: "Agent Dude can't—"
Alright, bring on the Steve! Let's see what Steve will do! Don't ever leave us, Steve! I'll even bother learning your name!

Breaking Bad: "Steve, let's cook."
NO. I DO NOT TRUST THIS STEVE. SHOOT STEVE.
mokie: Cartoon Calvin sneezes and checks his tissue (lurgy)
I recently discovered I might not be allergic to coconut after all.

When is an allergy not an allergy? When it's Oral Allergy Syndrome, also called Pollen-Food Allergy Syndrome (along with several other names, because everybody wants to be the one whose name gets used on House M.D.), in which regular nose-based allergies masquerade as food allergies, due to certain fruit and veggie proteins vaguely resembling problematic pollen proteins.

Basically, it's like your body mistaking a dust-bunny for a spider and wigging out inappropriately.

Outside of allergy season the problem food isn't a problem, because your body hasn't been primed by pollen and pushed into kill it with sneezing! mode. The heat involved in cooking and canning can also denature the troublesome proteins, which is how some folks can be allergic to a raw fruit or veggie but able to eat the same item cooked--because they're not allergic to the food itself, even though they are having an allergic reaction to it. Either of these could explain why I've been able to eat coconut just fine until recently, mostly baked in cookies or simmered in soups, but also just noshing on raw flakes without any ill effect. I just happened to do it at the wrong time of year this time.

The upside of this, apart from that OAS usually doesn't cause anaphylactic shock, is that it would also explain why my late winter/early spring allergies have been so bad since moving to this neighborhood: birch.

I used to live next to Tower Grove Park and the Missouri Botanical Garden, two big green spaces dedicated to growing a large variety of greenery, pretty much all of which I tested allergic to back in middle school. Apart from swollen hands when walking past a bushy area on Magnolia Avenue, though, my allergies just translated to a runny nose and some occasional sneeziness--and good luck narrowing down which bit of all that greenery was responsible for which sneeze. (Especially since the allergy scratch test throws a lot of false positives, as dracunculusdracunculus pointed out.)

What the old neighborhood didn't have, and this neighborhood does, was a lot of birch trees. Specifically, a cluster of them half a block down from my current apartment.
In springtime, two of the biggest cross-reaction offenders are birch and alder trees. Depending on where you live, anywhere from 20 to 70 per cent of people who are allergic to birch and alder pollens will also have oral allergy syndrome. (Janet French, "Oral Allergy Syndrome: Why do Pollens and Foods Cross-React?" Allergic Living 2 July 2010)
The doctor interviewed in that article pointed out that OAS is more common than the legitimately scary food allergies like peanut, which might explain why so very many people believe they have food allergies even after a smug host points out that they just ate something they're supposed to be allergic to. (And fuck you if you do that to people. Seriously.) The article also mentions a point I regularly make, that chamomile and echinacea cause cross-reactions to ragweed because they're in the same family, which makes it really annoying when every suggested cure for your allergy woes is a nice cup of chamomile and echinacea tea.

The author does lose points for bad editing when she inadvertently (I hope) suggests that honey is somehow a plant related to ragweed, rather than that honey could contain ragweed (or related) pollen. That in itself sidesteps the point that many allergy sufferers intentionally eat honey hoping there's allergy-causing pollen in it, due to the old wives' tale that this will desensitize them. It doesn't work, though, because most of the honey on store shelves is (a) filtered, microfiltered, and then filtered some more to remove all possible pollen; (b) heated and treated till it's thoroughly dead so that it won't crystallize on store shelves; and (c) from China, and thus unlikely to contain any pollens you're familiar with. You could try raw local honey, but as someone who gave it a go, just go take a Claritin and save yourself the disappointment. (And the awfulness that is clover honey. Ugh.)

Back to the point! How vile is birch?

Here is the Wikipedia checklist of foods that are cross-reactive with birch: almonds, apples, apricots, avocados, bananas, carrots, celery, cherries, chicory, coriander, fennel, figs, hazelnuts, kiwis, nectarines, parsley, parsnips, peaches, pears, peppers, plums, potatoes, prunes, soy, strawberries, walnuts and wheat. That's not even a definitive list--other lists add all the tree nuts, and coconuts, and peanuts, and tomatoes, and turnips...

If you Google "oral allergy syndrome" and a food, Google will say, "Birch. It's the fucking birch, man."

Birch will take from you everything that you love.

Apart from a visit to an allergist, the only way to know for certain if my coconut allergy is a real allergy or a birch cross-reaction is to wait till the birch stops its arboreal spooging around June or July, and then nibble a little raw coconut while someone stands by with a heavy dose of Benedryl. A preemptive strike on the trees is out, as they wisely chose to be planted in front of a cop's house.

Sneaky, bastardly birch.

Update: TESTED AND CONFIRMED. The same coconut that made me miserable in April and May caused no reaction at all in June. Of course, now my grass allergies are in full effect, so I couldn't taste the coconut, but still...
mokie: Thelma Harper glares at the viewer (stfu)
I'm medicated, because it turns out I'm allergic to coconut. (Ooops.) It also turns out that Benedryl makes me chatty--more so than liquor, surprisingly. And thus you get the benefit of my doofy wisdom!

#1. Vaguebooking is punishing everyone who reads because one person pissed you off. It's throwing a rock into a group because you're angry and you want someone to pay attention. It's an act of verbal aggression, and should be met with equal aggression--call that shit out when you see it.

#2. I don't mean privately. Those "Are you OK?" private messages and emails are what the poster wants, someone to come and coddle them so they can spread their misery around without actually asking for help or dealing with the person they're upset with. It just feeds that godawful behavior.

#3. I don't mean nicely, either. Vaguebooking is punishing everyone because you're mad at one person. That's not nice behavior and it doesn't deserve a nice response.

#4. At the same time, I know sometimes folks are just looking to vent. They're not trying to passively-aggressively lash out at someone, they're not asking for help, they just need to release a little steam before the auto-smacking starts. The problem really comes in when they fail to notice that all of their blog posts or status updates or tweets or [insert next big thing in social media] are this kind of venting, because they're never actually socialling in their media--they're just sticking anyone who reads in the position of having to be their ear for venting, without ever giving anything but venting.

#5. And who the fuck wants to read a non-stop negativity engine, just churning out nothing but misery and spite? Fuck, at least toss people a cat picture once in a while.

#6. Ironically, this looks very much like vaguebooking. I'm aware of that. Two minutes before I loaded Semagic, the free-form rant flowing through my wobbly grey bits was all about avocados, so at least this is moderately relevant to the medium.

Edited for clarification: I could have also mentioned in #6 that what sparked the vaguebooking rant was some Buzzfeed article in passing, but that would have made too much sense.
mokie: Clue's Ms White saying, "Flames on the sides of my face" (irritated)
"Is that canned chicken?"

With two bowls of slow-cooked and shredded chicken breast in the fridge? No. Why would I open a can of shredded chicken when I already have shredded chicken?

Ugh.

I prefer fresh ingredients over tinned veggies and heavily processed boxfuuds, not out of a puritanical fear of any edibles that come from a container but because I'm cheap: ingredients go farther than prepackaged meals, and I don't have to worry about the sugar/salt/fat tango*, or the corn/dairy industry shoehorning in fillers to earn those subsidies. I keep a good supply of tinned and boxed food on hand for weather troubles and scheduling issues, but generally access to fresh food isn't an issue, since I live within walking distance of two supermarkets and a summer veggie stand. Time isn't even an issue: in the same time it takes a Pinterest mama to pull up a "3 cans + 2 boxes = homemade meal!" recipe, open her boxes, Instagram it and throw it in the oven, I can have my ingredients sliced, diced and cooking.

It just doesn't make sense to rely on boxfuuds in my situation.

If I don't tell older relatives what the meal is made of, it's the tastiest damn thing they've ever put in their mouths. If I reveal that a meal doesn't contain at least one can of Campbell's Cream Of Soup, or one box of Cheezy Noodle Product, they look at the dish like it's toxic. I don't know if it's generally generational or just my family, but there seems to be some kind of deep distrust of, well, cooking. Like it's not food unless someone opened a box.

And forget leftovers. Forget any big meal meant to store or stretch over several days, unless it's boiled (to death) ham'n'beans. "Eh. I'm not in the mood for that." Mood? You don't get to be in the mood to waste $15 of chicken that you requested.

"Is that canned chicken?" Would she know the difference without asking? Nope. And yet she didn't want it unless it came from a can.

No wonder my grandfather was such a cheap bastard, if this was what he was up against.

If you're not quite ranted out after all this, I offer: The Terrible Tragedy of the Healthy Eater


* It's difficult to maintain tastiness in a product meant to sit on a shelf for months at a time. Boxfuuds therefore rely a lot on salt, sugar and fat for flavor. If the box claims to be low in one, look over the ingredients carefully, because it's probably high in one (or both) of the others to make up for the cut.
mokie: Cartoon of an angry tea pot raging (drink tea)
Is there anything more fun than being slammed with a cold/sinus infection and still having work to do? Besides being dangled from a tree like a piñata full of phlegm and hit with sticks by small children, that is. Being sick sends me back to my comfort teas, one of which is Eastern Shore Tea Company's Plum Good, which can be ordered from Baltimore Coffee & Tea Company.

In the Bag:
This tea also sends me back to that problem of unlisted ingredients. The site describes Plum Good as, "Deep, rich, satisfying flavor, highlighted with soft cinnamon, for an intriguing aroma. Flavored black tea. Contains caffeine. Loose tea in 1 lb. (454 g.) bag." It mentions nothing of cloves, which are plain to see, or finely red shredded petals that a recent Steepster review called hibiscus. [ETA: the company confirmed the ingredients by email as black tea, soft cinnamon, clove, hibiscus and plum extract.] Both are ingredients that make people wary--hibiscus is my mortal enemy, for example--and neither is present here in significant amounts, so I can see leaving them out of the tea's sales blurb. Omitting mention of them entirely is a different story.

(Curiously enough, I knew there were cloves in it when I went to order, and was surprised that they weren't listed. It makes me wonder if the 3oz 'ribbon bags' I used to buy locally do/did have a full ingredient list.)

When I open the bag, the scent is a burst of bubblegum. Bubblegum flavor itself is a blend of wintergreen, vanilla and cinnamon (or cassia), so I wouldn't be surprised by a bit of vanilla in the ingredients/flavoring, too, though it may just be the fruity plum and cinnamon scent playing off my mental scent pre-sets.

The Steepening:
For the first cup, a teaspoon (eyeballed) in a mug with a mesh basket infuser, boiling water straight from the kettle, steeped about 2 minutes, and topped with a small dollop of mixed local and orange blossom honey for my sore throat. (Because I hate having 2 tall jars each with a half-inch of honey left, when I can have one smaller jar with plenty. Also, local honey is clover-heavy, and clover honey is an affront to all that is good and teaful.) For the second cup, the tea resteeped, no honey and untimed because I'm easily distracted. The scent is warm and fruity, all cinnamon and plum, as advertised.

The Verdict:
Not as deep and rich as you'd expect from the description, nor as complex or spicy as you might expect with cinnamon and cloves in the mix, but very satisfying nonetheless--not unlike a tea-incarnation of the Doors' "The End" perhaps. (Sorry, Boomers.) Sure, it's got a little bass and depth, and isn't the high and bright one-note tea many fruit blends are. Its spicy side is nicely warm and mellow and supports that fruity depth like a wonderbra or a really mixed metaphor, where many spicy blends are just heat, or just spice for the sake of being spicy. It plays well with both milk and sweeteners, but has a natural sweetness if you want to forgo the extras.

But it isn't all that deep or complicated, and that's a good thing, because sometimes you just want the tea equivalent of a warm blanket. A warm, bubblegum-scented, 10-minute groovin' Space Coyote blanket. Okay, maybe that last bit's the decongestant talking.

If the red petals are hibiscus, I'm impressed that I don't taste it. I'm used to companies overusing it as filler, and letting it overwhelm the taste of their blends, but if it's hibiscus, it seems to be only accentuating the fruitiness of the plum in this blend. For those suspicious of cloves, they're not a supervillain here either: SeriousEats suggests that clove boosts fruity flavors, adds a little heat and plays well with cinnamon, and it just seems to be doing just that and only that. And adding a little Christmas vibe, but I don't think it can help that.

It's the perfect cup for waking up from an 11-hour nap and considering going back to bed.
mokie: Cartoon of an angry tea pot raging (drink tea)
What's the secret to green tea, mokie?

Time and temperature, mokie. Mostly time.

Experts suggest water heated to 160 - 180 °F for green tea, 190-ish °F for oolong and 212 °F for black, and argue over 140 °F or 212 °F for white, presumably debating whether to lower the temp because of the lower oxidation or raise it since herbals are given a full boil. Herbal experts, meanwhile, huff that just as you can't boil all teas, you can't boil all tisanes. (That's the proper name for an herbal tea, since they don't actually contain, you know, tea.) And yet more expert experts point out that there's a difference between Japanese and Chinese greens, and spring-plucked and summer-plucked greens. All that's before you even get into the Celsius conversions or the debate over whether greens should be steeped just 1 minute or 7 minutes...

And they wonder why green tea didn't take off in the US until Lipton started bottling it.

Let me make your life easier the Chinese granny way: 'shrimp eyes'.

For black tea, your water needs to come to a full raging boil, but when you put on the water for green tea, wait for little bubbles rising to the top, the size of--you guessed it--shrimp eyes. The next two steps up are 'crab eyes' and 'fish eyes', and they're well within the green tea range. If you think your bubbles are too big, or you've just lost track of time and hit full boil, turn the pot off and let it sit a minute or two. With a bit of practice, you'll be able to tell where your water is just by the sound of the kettle.

That said, time is the killer. Water that's too hot may leave you with a bitter green, but most greens, including those you're going to pick up from the shops, also become bitter or astringent if they're steeped too long. Most packaging on green teas is oblivious to this; people from countries that drink sugary coffee milkshakes and sugary milky black tea are told to steep their green teas up to 7 minutes, as if to confirm the healthy benefits of green tea we must first make it taste godawful. Trust me and aim for 3 minutes; if your cup is too weak/strong, you'll at least have a good reference point for adjusting the timing on the next pot.

Now that's out of the way...

What's the biggest problem with flowering teas, mokie?

Time and temperature, mokie. Mostly time.

First, let me explain (finally, halfway down the entry) that flowering teas are whole tea leaves tied together in such a way that, as they steep, they 'bloom' from a hard round ball into a floating 'flower' in the pot, often with actual flowers like jasmine at the center. It's also, according to some, a very pretty way to sell off really outdated tea stock, and I believe it, since I haven't had any yet that didn't taste stale.

Second, there's the issue of steeping time. A flowering tea starts out as a hard bound ball o' tea, but tea leaves need room to move and infuse--that's why bagged tea is chopped into tiny pieces (more surface area), and why tea balls are great for corralling herbs and herbals, but not so great for actual teas. It can take anywhere from 3 - 7 minutes for the outer leaves of a flowering tea to infuse enough that they unfold, and that means that while the outer leaves are oversteeping, the inner leaves aren't getting much room to infuse and expand at all. You can easily end up with a contrarily astringent cup of weak tea.

Which I did.

In the Bag:
Oh look, the actual review! The brand in the cup today is Primula's flowering green jasmine tea. It has several negative Amazon reviews which mention that the customers' tea arrived already several years old judging by the 'manufacture' date and/or expired. I find this perversely funny, since, again, flowering teas seem to be made exclusively from stale tea.

In the bag, this is a little knobby ball that smells a little dusty. No jasmine scent.

The Steepening:
Took forever.

The unfolding of the leaves and flowers into a little bouquet is the real point of flowering teas (more on that below), but this one underwhelmed me. The leaves are rolled and bound in such a way that it didn't gently bloom into a dainty bouquet, awaiting the oohs and aahs of onlookers, as much as it porcupined out into a delicate tea mine, awaiting passing U-boats.

The scent was also disappointing. The mark of any good jasmine tea is its ability to make you forget you're supposed to drink it, because you're too busy inhaling the aroma wafting off the pot, but jasmine barely showed up to the party in this tea.

The Verdict:
Weak, astringent, and not even particularly jasmine-ish? Blah.

I'll admit that the primary draw of flowering teas isn't the cup but the pot: they're not drinking teas, they're watching teas. If you're hosting a little girl's tea party (raiding party, whatever), and everyone's going to drink their flower tea with a heaping spoon of sugar and a handful of cookies anyway, then it's not a problem. They're also not too shabby for that relative who'll drink it and think, "Ah, so that's what a fancy tea tastes like," and then return to her Diet Coke quite pleased at having had fancy tea that one time.

If you want a drinking tea, though, flowering teas aren't the way to go. And if you want a watching tea, you can certainly do better than Primula's.
mokie: Ghostbusters' Vinz Clortho wears a collander and answers questions (nerdy)
First I flood you with dream entries, then my social ineptness, and now nitpickity book talk. I bet this isn't the exciting chronicle of chronic excitement you thought it would be.

For those who believe there's nothing as boring as hearing someone else's dreams, let me reassure you that I don't usually remember and record them this often, and this recent burst of dream entries probably won't last. For those uninterested in my social ineptness, you and my mother both. For those who don't care what I'm reading, take solace in the fact that I at least cut the spoilers. Unless you're reading by RSS, which I hear ignores cuts, in which case...oops?

Now, onto the nitpickity book talk!

I've made no secret of the fact that I'm twitchy about genres. There are genres for settings (westerns), genres for audience (young adult), genres about types of relationships (romance), genres that include unreal elements (fantasy), genres that include unreal elements that could be real maybe (science fiction), genres about types of relationships that include unreal elements (paranormal romance, though arguably chick lit would fit here too), genres within genres, genres overlapping genres, an entire wide swath of fiction dismissively dubbed 'genre'. It's chaos!

It irks me.

I look upon my shelves of science fiction/fantasy and sigh with relief at the convenient compromise that is 'speculative fiction'. I glance at the horror shelves and wince at the idea of a genre based not on the book, but on how the reader reacts to the book. I organize my nonfiction shelves by the Dewey Decimal System because it makes sense.

So I was happy to stumble on The King of Elfland's Second Cousin's entry "Ephemeral Horror and the Diffusion of Genre Markers" even if it wasn't about ephemeral horror, as I thought, but about horror as an ephemeral genre, which is something of an ephemeral horror. This will start making sense any minute now, I promise.

The following points made my inner M&M sorter very happy:

#1. "[W]e categorize stories based on the conventions they employ and the devices that show up within their texts. Spaceships, time travel, aliens? Let’s call it science fiction. Magic and knights? Let’s go with fantasy. [...] These devices, the objects and tropes of most genres, can easily be slapped on a cover to communicate the story’s category to booksellers and readers."

Sometimes, in my flailing about order and chaos and systems for big cohesive pictures, I lose sight of the tiny common sense trees--namely, that 'genre' is just a fancy French word for 'kind', and is not, never was, and never will be some high and mighty literary infrastructure. It's just a big mental box into which vaguely similar stories are tossed so that the stuff you like is near the other stuff you like, so you can find more stuff you like.

#2. "Horror lacks the constraints that more solidified genre conventions impose. We can write a horror story – like Shirley Jackson’s classic 'Flower Garden' – without a single element of the supernatural or the inexplicable. [...] This freedom means that – in order to be effective – horror must sneak past the reader’s natural defenses, must directly speak to the reader’s perceptions, values, and fears. This is the kind of deep-seated, emotional and perceptual communication that the literary fiction genre has traditionally claimed for itself. But where literary fiction uses such emotional and philosophical intimacy to explore comfortably distanced morality, horror uses a highly sensitized point-of-view to get as close to the nerve as possible, to map even the most painful experiences from the inside."

It's a fantastic parallel: like a good horror story, the horror genre is about wandering into the dark and unfamiliar room to check out that bump you just heard.

I've argued the merits of horror with haters before, and pointed out that like fancy pants literary fiction, good horror says something about the viewer and society (and not just "We watch movies with naked co-eds taking a hatchet to the face"). To play on our fears, horror has to be able to get into our heads and push the buttons it finds there.

#3. No quote here, because it's a bit too spread out, but the point is brilliant: there are (of course) horror tropes, except when we become too used to them, they stop being horror tropes.

When horror begins relying on tropes to define it, those tropes cease to be scary, and in a fundamental way, the works that feature them stop being horror. Once the tropes are no longer new and unsettling--once we know them by heart--we begin to redefine and re-imagine them. We turn vampires into moody romantic leads, disfigured undead serial killers into comedians, and the lonely werewolf from an alienated loner into a member of a highly organized underground society of walking AIDS metaphors.

It won't make me change how I organize my reviews, but it does have me rethinking the horror movies of my youth.
mokie: A girl in a bathtub wearing a snorkel (hair)
'OM-bray' is Spanish for 'man' (hombre), from the Latin root hominem, and has nothing to do with hair.

'Om-brr' is French for 'shade' or 'shadow' (ombre), from the Latin root umbra (which also gives us the color umber), and is used to describe a hair coloring effect featuring gradation in shades--usually dark roots with lightened tips as if a dye job is growing out, but sometimes a dip-dye of less natural colors.

'Om-brah', spelled ombré, is not a real word, and people should stop using it.

Update: Okay, I'm wrong, it is a real word (French for 'shaded') and not just people slapping an accent mark onto a word because they think French words all have those. Though the French term for hair is used in plural (les cheveux), so wouldn't the adjective also be used in plural (ombrée?), and unless I'm mistaken (again) still not pronounced 'OM-bray' or 'om-brah'? Oh, but it doesn't matter--all of this is entirely irrelevant, because Google suggests that the actual term used in French for this trend is, in fact, shit thee not, not cheveux ombré(e) but simply ombré hair.

It's a bit like finding out that chop suey is an entirely American dish, and Chinese restaurants are just humoring us.
mokie: A patriotic squirrel holding an American flag (politics lol)
Courtesy of The Riverfront Times: Missourians File Petition With White House to Secede From Union (Leah Greenbaum, 12 November 2012).

Well, not quite: "The Missouri petition was filed on Saturday and currently has 2,231 signatures (a great number of them from out of state)." (Emphasis mine.) I'm going to cry foul though, not because lol, rednecks!, but because Get in line! St. Louis has been trying to secede from Missouri for a while now (and regain control of its police force from the state government), and I think that should be settled before the red bits of the state decide to go gallivanting off.

Though I think we're in line behind Puerto Rico, so this may take a while...
mokie: Cartoon of an angry tea pot raging (drink coffee)
The climate is changing, and the important issue isn't whether this change has been caused by man or is merely influenced by human activities.

No, friends. The issue is how do we save the coffee?
Running Arabica’s chances against three emission scenarios, over three timescales (2020, 2050 and 2080), and with a geographical resolution of 1 Km for the plant’s Ethiopian homeland, the models “showed a profoundly negative influence on the number and extent of wild Arabica populations”, Kew says. (Richard Chirgwin, "Coffee next on climate chopping-block: The looming ARABICA APOCALYPSE," The Register 10 November 2012)
This is how the zombie apocalypse starts.

Or the Rage virus pandemic, because I will surely beat someone to death without coffee.
mokie: A patriotic squirrel holding an American flag (politics lol)
I anticipated trouble voting yesterday. I've never had trouble before. Hell, I've only even had to wait once, because my old neighborhood was apathetic and my current neighborhood seems to be full of 9-to-5 types who vote before or after work.

But news stories reported that some groups were challenging voters' registrations in liberal areas, so I worried until I received my spankin' new permanent voter's card. Then there was all the hubbub about requiring a photo ID (mine is expired), so I was relieved the card had a list of valid IDs and a big, bold and underlined statement that photo ID was not required.

But mostly, I worried because I've never tried to vote with green hair before. I look pretty solidly and disarmingly South St. Louis normally (albeit with dubious fashion sense), as hoosier* as a hand-me-down pick-up--until you get to the green hair.

I'll be honest and admit that I've received remarkably less grief over my occasionally odd hair colors and clothing than many other people do. Since middle school, and outside of cracks from my family, the closest I've come to negativity was a guy on the bus a few years back who said people with weird hair colors were freaks, but it looked good on me and did I want to go back to his place? (No. No, I did not.) That's the closest I've noticed, anyway; being generally oblivious to other people has its benefits.

So I packed my ID, my expired photo ID, and my voter's card, and trekked out to do my civic duty. They asked to see exactly none of it. After a brief wait, I had voted and was on my way out the door, where I helped someone find their line, answered a question about the wait time, and heard not a single word about my fuzzy hoodie or green hair.

I'm proud of my little slice of the city for not being as uptight as I'd feared it might be.


* St. Louis definition, 'urban redneck'.
mokie: A big red dinosaur says, "Make me a sandwich" (cynical)
In November 2007, Malcolm Gladwell wrote in The New Yorker:
In the mid-nineties, the British Home Office analyzed a hundred and eighty-four crimes, to see how many times profiles led to the arrest of a criminal. The profile worked in five of those cases. That’s just 2.7 per cent... ("Real psychics: Criminal profiling and the F.B.I.")
The point Gladwell makes is that criminal profiling, despite its high profile in recent years, and maybe despite the best intentions of the profilers themselves, is nothing more than the old-fashioned cold reading practiced by psychics and televangelists: a few reasonable deductions mixed with a handful of okay assumptions and a lot of iffy guesses, couched in language so vague as to be realistically useless.

I mention this first because it's interesting, and second, because as a new friend (hi!) pointed out, the profilers have gathered around the Aurora shooting, all twitching and bitching. They're having trouble working with the reality they've got--the kind of profile they would come up with if they were looking for a suspect doesn't fit the suspect they have at all, and he's not giving them anything to work with. No blue collar job, no criminal history, no masturbatory basement lair. He doesn't even have a Facebook account! (Gasp!) Someone even brought up the tried-and-true boogeyman of video games, but the killer's game of choice was Guitar Hero.

So here's my profile on the killer:
  • He's an average student in a tough field of study. He wants to make a name for himself, but it's not going to be in neuroscience.
  • He claimed to be the Joker, but in red hair and body armor. He hasn't actually seen the recent Batman movies, but is aware of the popularity of Heath Ledger's Joker, and the controversy around the character. He wants to make a name for himself, and latching onto that image is, he thinks, a good way to start.
  • He may have the The Dark Knight's Joker confused with Batman Forever's Riddler. That is both sad and hilarious at the same time. If true, this suggests that he is not a nerd or a geek, as they would be aware of this difference, but that he would pretend to know such things if it got people to pay attention to him. In other words, he is a douchebag.
  • He allegedly asked one of his jailers how the movie ends. This has been interpreted by the media as a sign of how mentally out of touch he is. If we examine the question in the context of a screenplay, however, you see that it would play well as an action movie one-liner. From this, I suspect the killer really wants the world to think of him as a bad ass, and, based on that, it must really chafe his ass that the line did not play the way he anticipated. (Well played, media.)
  • Who tries to pull off action movie one-liners in real life? Douchebags.
  • According to his jailers, he's now claiming amnesia. I think we can look at this as, "This really didn't work out the way I wanted, I don't want to play this anymore."
In summary: I think he's just a douchebag who wants to make a name for himself. But it's just a guess.

[Related posts: We never learn. / Let's play Armchair Profilers!]
mokie: A tiny, sad cardboard robot walks in the rain (sad)
Unless you want to. But I wouldn't recommend it. There's a lot of yelling, and you've pretty well sorted out the sides within the first few minutes. Really, I only read up for about ten minutes before going off to play with kittens instead. But there was an interesting thing, so let's get to that!

A friend linked a blog rant about sexism in the atheist community, inspired by a recent teapot tempest. The saucers flew when one woman vlogged about having given a talk on sexism only to later find herself followed into an elevator at 4am by a convention attendee who asked her to come back to his room to chat over coffee. She told the story to point out that, to a woman, being caught alone and propositioned late at night in an elevator by a stranger was creepy, and "Guys, don't do that."

(And a sad bit of brain sighs and points out how many guys I've known who would conclude that a woman who talks about sex at a convention must be a woman who puts out... Hey baby, how about some coffee?)

Guys flew into a rage. By God, they had the right to flirt and women needed to just man up and get over this silly male-phobic paranoia of theirs!

Gals sighed. Which is it? Are women overreacting when they get creeped out by a guy following them late at night, or are they not careful enough if they get raped by a guy who followed them late at night?

Men huffed. He probably didn't intend to 'corner her.' All he did was ask if she wanted to go back to his room! If a man can't even ask a woman out...

Women huffed. It's the situation. You don't follow a woman at 4am to an isolated spot and expect her not to find that creepy! You don't corner her alone--however briefly, however large the hotel, whatever the statistics on stranger rape and elevators--in an enclosed space late at night! And furthermore, had she agreed to this offer and he did turn out to be a creep, society would have said she was asking for it, because society says, "Coffee in his hotel room at 4am? Yeah, he meant 'sex,' and you should have known that."

Men huffed again. This guy didn't rape her! He didn't lay a hand on her! He asked her out, she shot him down, and that's all! She assumed he might be a creep based on anti-man prejudice just because he followed her onto an elevator!

Women facepalmed, because society gives women endless grief and lecturing about exactly this sort of situation. "It's your job to be aware of your surroundings and not put yourself in risky situations!"

At best, with the biggest possible benefit of the doubt forwarded to him, this guy was completely oblivious to their surroundings and the context they lent his actions. Perhaps not an active creeper, but like the guy who walks up to the widow at the funeral and says, "So, you're single now, right?" Do you have the right? Sure. Is it still creepy? Fuck, yes! It's just not the right time or place, dude.

Anyhow, I spent ten-odd minutes flitting through this morass and encountered the most terrible, wonderful, and sad wording I've seen to describe the female dilemma: Schrodinger's rapist.

That guy who very obviously wants to talk to you as he follows you across the parking lot after the store closes? He could just want to talk. Or he could be a rapist. You can't know until...

Society wants to maintain women in a similar state of possibility. If he does nothing, you are obviously a paranoid and over-reactive girl who's just prejudiced against males. If he assaults you, you are clearly a careless and stupid girl who doesn't pay any attention to her surroundings. You must give men the benefit of the doubt, but if he's proven guilty, it also proves you were stupid enough to give him the benefit of the doubt.

Meanwhile, there is a simpler, more objective take on this, completely separate from exclamation marks and discussions of privilege and sexism. Off to the sides of this hubbub, I saw men and women agreeing that this was creepy simply as a breech of Small Enclosed Public Space Etiquette: face forward, no conversation, keep any necessary requests brief and to the point, and pretend you smell nothing. This is the etiquette for tight halls, restrooms, urinals and elevators alike.

And that's where I stand, because nobody who walks up to you in a small enclosed public space at 4am wanting to chat is ever not creepy.
mokie: A Japanese lantern in front of lush green bushes (thoughtful)
Time Magazine has published a serious article on fan fiction.

As with all things Internetty and/or geeky, that's either a sign that it's finally big enough to be recognized by the non-nerdly press, like lolcats and rickrolling, or a sign that it's hit oversaturation, like lolcats and rickrolling.

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mokie: Earthrise seen from the moon (Default)
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