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Jul. 30th, 2012

There are days when I want to pick up, leave Ithaca and go teach high school somewhere. And they aren't days when I'm sick of my *%&#*&!@ dissertation. Well, not always. )

Nov. 8th, 2011

Science and Plutonium

A political thing that is relatively uncontroversial for your (American) election day. But, first! A story!

So, yesterday folks in my research group were talking about various things, as we do, and somehow the Cassini end of mission plans came up. If you're not familiar with what I actually do, Cassini is the mission I work on, that currently orbits Saturn and has for seven years. We plan on running it until 2017, since outer Solar System missions are pretty hardy, and it'll always be cheaper to use what you got than to build a new mission and wait til it gets out there. Plus, there are other giant planets to visit.

Now, NASA has a thing about space missions near potentially habitable places cleaning up after themselves.  )

Nov. 2nd, 2010

Election

It's Election Day in the US. This means you'll see a lot of folks saying that they voted, or how they voted, or telling people that if they don't vote*, they lose all rights to complain about politics for the next two/four/six years.

I am just amused by the process of how I decide to vote. In general, I figure that, because I am exceedingly liberal even for a New Yorker, and especially for an American, my choices for state and national politics are usually either Green or Democrat** (or protest write-in vote). This is usually based on what the candidates say, but I also have the peculiar constraint of refusing to vote third-party in a close race. Thankfully, I live in New York, where the only way there will be a close race is either:

1. State legislature/senate or county/town level things. Maybe House of Representatives. Basically, anything that doesn't require the entire state of New York to decide something.
2. The New York Republican Party ignores the national level office and runs someone who might actually win.

The reverse happened in Nebraska, where Ben Nelson was about the most to the left one could go, and everyone was kind of shocked when Omaha's electoral college vote went to Obama. I've never really lived in a state with an exciting election, so I have to live vicariously through blogs.

(Though I kind of want to be like John Scalzi, who lived in rural Ohio and talked about how he never saw yard signs because he lived in the most homogeneous region ever, and it wasn't like neighbors saw much of each others' front yards. And then the guy he was voting for for US Representative actually drove out to give him a yard sign.)

That and the only local office under an opposed vote is the sheriff. County clerk even has the same person running under both parties. (This is possible in New York).

--
* And are US citizens age 18 or above. Teenagers cannot be stopped from complaining that Old People Ruin Everything by anything.

** And then which line I want to vote for for the Democrat. New York state law lets people run under multiple party lines, so the Democratic candidate is usually also the Working Families party candidate, and the Republican candidate is usually also the Conservative Party candidate. Though there was some drama when the Conservative Party ran a different candidate (possibly one who lost the Republican primary) in a special election in another district, and the Republican dropped out and endorsed the Democrat.
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Aug. 4th, 2010

Maybe I should change the icon to to 9th District Court -- Fuck yeah!

This afternoon U.S District Judge Vaugh Walker ruled in the case brought before him by lawyers Ted Olson and David Boies, which argued that the Proposition 8 ballot initiative denying marriage rights to same sex couples in California was unconstitutional.

"Let us realize the arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice." -- martin Luther King, Jr.
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Feb. 24th, 2010

But February made me shiver...

Hearing a lot of annoying things in politics today -- like the NPR story on the Texas Primary, about the candidate who is 'pro-life, no exceptions'. When yesterday I read about a woman in Nicaragua who is being denied life-saving cancer treatment because she's pregnant and it will kill the baby -- abortion is a death-penalty offense in Nicaragua, no exceptions. (Never mind that the cancer is doing a pretty good job of killing the mother, which will kill the baby. Did I mention she has a ten year old at home?) Earlier today, I read an article on animal-rights activists stalking scientists to the point of rapping on their home windows periodically and passing out fliers at their children's schools telling them that little Johnny/Janey's daddy kills puppies. And a friend linked an article about how more and more it seems like people treat even facts like where the president was born as subjective facts subject to their own biases. If you show them the sources, they just either deny the authenticity or move the goalposts.

More and more I get the impression that people don't think, especially outside their little bubbles. It's depressing and I want to curl up into a ball until people get smarter. (The freezing rain doesn't help. It's easier to feel good about the world when it's sunny out.)

Here, have some happy! )

Also, my birthday is on Saturday. Happy birthday to me -- I turn 26.

Jan. 7th, 2010

Lazy Martyrdom

Today on the news, there was a report of a shooting in Egypt outside of a Coptic Church getting out of Christmas Mass (traditionally celebrated on the 7th, not the 25th as Catholics and Protestants do). Six people died, and more were injured when a riot started when the bodies were picked up from the hospital. In November, there were riots, and the destruction of Christian-owned property. The motive was that a 12-year-old Muslim girl was raped, and the suspect was Christian. The Copts are a minority sect of Christians in Egypt that date back to the early Christian Church, and there have been complaints about discrimination in mostly-Muslim Egypt.

Just now I read a summary of the Christian Anti-Defamation Commission's summary of the Top Ten Anti-Christian Attacks of 2009. You mentally can insert 'Fundamentalist' before 'Christian' in both cases -- they make it abundantly clear that they don't speak for all Christians. I won't bore you with the list, where a dissection can be found here, but allow me to summarize:

1. All events took place in America, a country where at least three quarters of the population, including the politicians, identify as some sort of Christian, and one party seemed to think 'secret Muslim' was enough to persuade folks to not vote for the current president.
2. There is constant conflation of 'Christianity' with 'anti-abortion' and 'anti-homosexuality'. The most egregious example was the listing of Episcopalian Bishop Eugene Robinson's role in Obama's Inauguration Ceremony. For those of you playing at home, the Episcopalians are a Christian denomination that came from the Anglicans. Bishop Robinson happens to be the first (edit: non-celibate) gay bishop ordained by the Episcopalians. So, one of the Top Ten Anti-Christian attacks of 2009... was letting a Christian participate in the inauguration of a Christian President.
3. There are several cases in which something happened but there is no proof (or significant counter-arguments) that the victim's religion played a role. A pastor is shot by a mentally ill man. One victim of a murderer who killed three people was protesting abortion. A woman's child is put into public school after her home-schooling attempts were revealed to be 'sit the kid down in front of a computer in Mom's room' and the child's father was getting upset about this.
4. There's also the standard scare-mongering about protests, like lionizing a man who broke the law keeping all protesters a set distance from health clinics, or complaining about hate-crime legislation.

It just makes me think... Look. We live in a world where six people died coming out of religious services, that they are being harassed because one single person of their religious group committed a crime, and you complain because you can't intimidate women getting abortions and that the president invites gay people to the Inauguration?

I know that there is this idea of being like Jesus -- about caring so much for an idea or a group of people that you are willing to martyr yourself. But bitching about how you have to share your pie with the heathens is not martyrdom, it's whining.

Also, cut it out with the no true Christian crap.

Jun. 23rd, 2009

Open Letter

Dear New York State Senate,

Stop fooling around with party politics and get some work done. If the same-sex marriage bill dies*, or you don't deal with all the other stuff (tax breaks), I will be mighty pissed at you. So get your heads out of whatever orifices you have shoved them, and get to work.

Yrs,

Becca Stareyes

* Again -- last year the bill was never brought out of committee, IIRC. The governor actually said in an interview: 'interesting ideas or controversial pieces of legislation have always come to [the state capital] Albany to die.'
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Jun. 17th, 2009

Real Life, the Internet and Pretty Pictures

Went to the department barbecue, where the traditional dish is butter-soaked potatoes and half-chickens grilled over a firepit. Seriously -- they have these metal grates with handles that are like, 2' x 3', and there's like five of them loaded up with chicken halves and they grill for five hours covered in marinade. And they are delicious and filling -- I ate at 3 PM, and am not especially hungry now. Of course, it might have also been the salad, couscous, and desserts (Laura brought chocolate-chip cheesecake to the picnic!).

My life, so stressful. )

In something less stress-inducing, I did some Slayers fanart!

Apr. 8th, 2009

'The times they are a changing'

Yesterday, Vermont's House of Representatives overrode its governor's veto to become the fourth* state to legalize same-sex marriage, and the first to do so through the legislative branch. )
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Mar. 3rd, 2009

On the news...

I found out today that some folks in Massachusetts are trying to get part of the federal Defense of Marriage Act overturned. Good on them.

Okay, basically the DoMA was passed in the 90s and said:
1. Even if the state recognizes same-sex marriage, the federal government doesn't.
2. Other states don't have to recognize each other's marriages if both parties are the same sex.

Now, I don't like DoMA... )
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Feb. 24th, 2009

Working From Home Means Political Rants

Warning: the following post contains my political opinion. Discussion is welcome. Flames are not. Most of you folks I like well enough that I trust not to raise a fuss if I disagree with you. And it's more a 'I think about the issues' post than a 'My Thoughts on Yaoi' post.

There is also no Yaoi. The Yaoi is a lie (unless you count the fact I mention a book with a gay couple in it in passing, or my icon that came from a Bad Rpers Suck post). Thank you.

Ranty rant is ranty. And also obviously written by a nerd. )
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Remember: It's Not Okay, Even if They Are On Your Side

I'm surviving without my glasses okay, though I'm getting little actual work done. Boo -- especially since I'm giving a lunch seminar next Monday and have an abstract for a conference due in about a month. Some of that is because the data isn't making sense though. I'll bounce some ideas off of our group on Thursday. Tomorrow, I'll chip away at Hyperion's spin state.

Anyway, something cool. So, I read Dr. PZ Myer's blog, Pharyngula. I don't always agree with it -- I think Dr. Myers does an excellent job blogging about evolutionary biology, and he posts pretty squid and octopus pictures every Friday, but I think he's a little too eager to link all the evils of the world to religion* and somewhat sensationalist. I did see something I liked this weekend in his open post/comments on the Oscars.

Context is Good, right? )

Feb. 11th, 2009

One of the Elite

Let it be said that I despise anti-intellectualism.

So, I'm a fangirl of 538.com from before the election. Now that the election is over (okay, they still haven't decided who has the Minnesota Senate seat, but that is because Norm Coleman is being a jerk and won't just give up), the blog has turned to one part looking at forecasts for the 2010 Senate elections and one part discussing strategy in Washington.

So, one of the bloggers made a post today that pretty much said that the banking bailouts were complicated enough that the only way to have an informed opinion was to be a professional economist or to essentially say 'I think what the expert think'. (I assume this is ignoring things like 'giving the CEOs giant bonuses = not helpful') And then the comments attacked him for being an elitist.

Now, one of the comments had a point is that a lot of economists may have biases based on their political philosophy -- a more conservative economist will be less in favor of government intervention than a more liberal one. That bothers me, in that I can't tell the degree of bias someone might have. (And it's not just a case of 'take the average' -- se King Solomon and the baby for why that's not always a sound policy.)

And, well... consider medicine. I can doctor myself to some degree. I know enough human anatomy and pharmacology to take care of minor illnesses (cold, stomach problems, flu, headaches, cramps) and injuries. I also know enough to diagnose 'emergency' versus 'go into the doctor in the morning'. For more advanced things, I'm going to see someone who has been trained. It's not a matter of him/her being smarter than me, or even that s/he gets drugs I can't get without permission or has a lab to run tests in, but that s/he spent the time I spent learning astronomy learning both the theoretical and practical aspects of medicine, and presumably keeps reasonably up to date on new developments in the field.

Similarly, I know enough economics to invest my own money and understand the newspaper. Whether the country's banking system is going to crash, how bad the fallout will be, and if/how the government can prevent it is just beyond me, and I honestly don't know which way to talk to my Congresscritters about it. (Besides, 'find some good economists and ask them'.)

I guess the problem is that, in this case, not all opinions are created equal. In a democracy, the public should be able to set what is a priority and what isn't, but implementation is best left to the experts. (Heck, one reason I vote is so I don't need to know everything required to make a government managing 300-million-plus people work. I trust that my various representatives take my lists of 'these are important to me' and the occasional more specific opinion, and turn it into something that works. And if they don't do that, I vote for someone else and also yell at them.)

Blogging a lot today. And mostly about politics. This is unusual.
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Two Things

Saying "It's only a theory" with regards to science is the equivalent to saying "It's only Manhattan" with regards to superhero-power accidents -- it just makes you look rather foolish (or, at best, ignorant) to anyone who does understand the scope of things. That was my random observation yesterday.

Now, something that has me angry, from [info]tammy212. This news article tells the story of Amy Brian, who served in Iraq, and returned home to be part of the Kansas National Guard. Except now she can't, because one of a civilian co-worker told the Guard she was a lesbian, and so she lost her job and the pension and benefits she got for being a convoy driver in a terribly unstable region. Yeah, some way to appreciate the service of the troops.

"Don't Ask, Don't Tell" is in serious contention with my undergrad university's "Dry Campus" program as 'the biggest joke of a policy I've heard'. The 'dry campus' thing might win out, if only because 'don't ask, don't tell' actually hurts people*, which is less funny. The article itself notes that discharges for homosexual conduct have gone down since we started fighting in Afghanistan, so you just get situations where they'll ignore you being gay if you're risking your ass in combat**, while if you're serving at home or in a safer spot, you'll get discharged. That's really respecting our troops, huh -- gay people can risk their lives for their country, but when they get home, they lose their benefits if they kiss someone while checking out groceries at Wal-Mart.

* Okay, the dry campus thing might be hurting people who don't get help for their friends' attempts at self-inflicted alcohol poisoning out of fear of getting in trouble.

** Technically speaking, women in the military are not assigned to combat positions. This is also a joke, as there are plenty of nominally non-combat positions that may involve getting shot at.

Don't Ask, Don't Tell bothers me for that reason. It's still discrimination, and, worse, it can be used like this, which almost feels worse than just not allowing any GLTB person in in the first place.

Oct. 6th, 2008

Western Nebraska and politics

This isn't strictly about the 2008 election, but it does concern USA politics.  )
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Sep. 11th, 2008

And, I was having such a good day...

Well, aside from the fact the department cannot keep a color printer full of ink. I had gone to a nice colloquium and had a successful group meeting. More on that later, though.

Then I come home, and after a game of Katamari Damancy, I log on and start reading Livejournal.
Lots of bile here )
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Sep. 4th, 2008

This is my country too

Politics depresses me. Perhaps moreso because my own conscience won't let me slide into the Benjamin-esque sentiment of 'things will continue like they always have -- badly'. I want to do something, to encourage the evolution of a system in the way I want to to go, or at least prevent it from getting worse. I just don't know how to go about doing this.

Warning, political talk ahead )
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Jul. 7th, 2008

Political Musings...

There's always this question, if someone -- say, George Washington, or Thomas Jefferson -- ran for president of the US today, would they win?

Thinking Aloud... )
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Jun. 7th, 2008

A serious political post (Really? No, not really.)

So, back in 2000, when I was but a wee Becca Stareyes (read: I hadn't graduated high school), one of the big internet memes* was the HamsterDance. Soon, everyone was making pages full of dancing .gifs of cute animals, Jesus, and even the people in Election 2000.

Technology has advanced since then.

* Before anyone but the informational theory geeks knew what a meme was.

Feb. 20th, 2008

Stephen Colbert was Right!

Last night I had a dream that there was a bear in my bed that was threatening to break my arms and legs if I didn't vote for the right person. (I don't think it liked my answers.)

Stephen Colbert was right about bears...

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