[ Scene: doctor’s office ]

“There you go, you got your measles shot! Who’s my brave little boy!”

[ Internet commenter bursts in through door ]


“Wait, how did you get in…”


“How does the…”


[ Comments have been disabled ]


What makes a good data visualization?

A good data visualization is, in its essence, one that requires little or no explanation in order to understand.  I’ve made this Venn diagram as part of my (proposed) TED talk to help you understand.


(Fig. 1)

Please let me know if you have any questions, or if you are in any way associated with the TED scheduling department.

None so blind, and none so deaf

“Those who are trying to connect the murders of the officers with the thousands of articulate and peaceful protestors across America are being deliberately misleading in a cynical and selfish effort to turn public sentiment against the protestors. This is the same strategy used when trying to lump in the violence and looting with the legitimate protestors, who have disavowed that behavior. They hope to misdirect public attention and emotion in order to stop the protests and the progressive changes that have already resulted. Shaming and blaming is a lot easier than addressing legitimate claims.”

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, here

Shame on the people who are trying to equate “anti-police brutality” with “anti-police”, on EITHER side of the divide. If you do that, you are missing the point by a margin that can only be achieved by purposefully and willfully ignoring the issue.

An issue that, by the way, a lot of voices are currently, very patiently trying to explain to you, if you chose to listen.

I see way too many people on my social media walls who say things like “they don’t even know what they are protesting”, or “I don’t understand what the fuss is all about.”

If that is your current perspective, you need to be aware is that your confusion is entirely due to your own desire to be unmolested by those who rightfully complain about the privilege you have to NOT understand it. If you lived it every day, you wouldn’t be confused about what “the fuss” is about.

And if you just listen to those who live it every day, you won’t be confused either. They are talking, while you complain about being unable to hear.

If you are interested in learning, you could catch up very quickly just by reading everything Ta-Nehisi Coates has written on the matter, starting with “The Case for Reparations”

Americans Learn To Stop Worrying And Love Torture « The Dish

Yeah, so THIS is disturbing.

Americans Learn To Stop Worrying And Love Torture « The Dish.

Apparently no one actually READ the report, and saw how completely ineffective torture was. And even if they did (which… no, no they didn’t), a vast majority can somehow reconcile their religious beliefs with the torture of other human beings, including acts that resulted in the deaths of innocent people.

Let me repeat that: innocent people were tortured TO DEATH. And for nothing: no credible, actionable facts ever came from that torture. It was useless. No one being tortured has any incentive to tell the truth: their only incentive is to try to figure out what the person torturing them wants to hear, what they already believe, and tell them that as quickly as possible before they DIE.

This isn’t even a debate on whether what the CIA did should be considered “torture” or not: apparently we (for the most part) agree that it was. But by a WIDE margin, those with religious beliefs taken from a peacenik retro-hippie (whose own torture and death led to centuries of hatred, oppression and atrocities committed against Jews) seem to agree that torture is just okee dokee and a fine core value for Americans to support.

Torture destroys the humanity of two people: the person being tortured, and the person doing the torturing. How so many can reconcile that with their religion is just another example of how the “moral absolute truth” that religion claims as its own private domain is nothing more than the world’s most flexible form of self-serving justification for whatever you already want to believe.

And yet those of us on the right side of that chart are the ones with no moral compass.

Anti-bullying time

If we can pass a law that helps to prevent bullying in schools in Minnesota, we can pass a law that helps prevent bullying on the sidewalks in front of women’s health clinics.

Because let me be very clear: bullying is EXACTLY what these people are doing. To call it “sidewalk counseling” as they scream at people, spew bile at the escorts and harass the clinic workers is a blatant example of bearing false witness: a hypocrisy their cherry-picked version of “religion” seems to have no problem with.

The relationship between people who oppose abortion in general and these bullies is the same as the relationship between a normal religious person and a member of the Westboro Baptist Church: the first can include many reasonable people with considered positions, the ability to disagree with others yet still remain civil, and a huge degree of empathy for suffering in others that can move many to action. The second are a fringe group of horrible hypocrites with gnarled, knotted remnants of souls and something black and petrified where their hearts used to be.

You discover something truly frightening and revelatory about what humans can become when you repeatedly witness the lightning-quick transition from a facade of caring piety, calling out “we’ll take care of your baby” from behind a tentatively-respected property line, into furiously spitting “YOU’LL ALL BURN IN HELL”, the minute the clinic doors close behind a patient. No one who truly cared about a child would leave him or her for a second with this kind of person, let alone a lifetime. And instead of requiring them to get the psychological help they desperately need, we have no option but to let them expose their twisted version of humanity to women and families seeking medical services.

It’s bullying, plain and simple. We can and have put legislation and programs in place to help reduce it in schools: we should be able to do the same for sidewalks. We can draw a line that protects freedom of speech and reduces this harassment, and for those who think this line is too hard to define or worry where to draw it, I’ll invite you to stand with the escorts for a few days: if you think the line is murky or hard to place or that it’s unclear where it should be drawn, I guarantee that you will quickly discover yourself understanding that there definitely is a line, and the person in front of you yelling hatred is definitely over it.

It’s time for anti-bullying legislation that protects the women and families entering these clinics.

Stop it, brain.

There are two things which my brain is thoroughly convinced I am good at, in spite of the fact that I suck at them both and have never successfully done either in my life:

Tap-dancing and juggling.

But I constantly, CONSTANTLY have dreams in which I demonstrate coolly casual, master-level expertise at both, and when I wake up I do so with the briefly-lived, sincere and complete belief that I am awesome at them. It lasts about 60 seconds.

To this day, I can juggle up to one ball without hurting myself, and tap one foot to a rhythm no more complex than a Britney Spears tune. That’s it. But try telling my brain that: it’s convinced that if I just tried them once more, the latent skills would all come flooding back to me and I would be AMAZING. Because I have all this dream experience, and that’s almost like practicing, right?

So I do. And I look like a dumbass once more.

Goddammit brain: I hate you so much.

And any time it doesn’t use lying to me about my juggling and tap-dancing skills, it spends dreaminding me how crappy and stressful high school was. THIRTY GODDAMM YEARS AGO.

If you feel you are in danger, then leave the danger zone.

If you see people walking into a store or a restaurant with openly-carried rifles and weapons, there is no way for you to ascertain what their intentions are. You can’t tell whether they are a “good person with a gun”, a “bad person with a gun”, or a “generally good person with a gun who could be triggered by some unknown level of confrontation into becoming a bad person with a gun” or anything in between.

The correct action to take is to remove yourself from the situation. Abandon your cart of purchases, don’t worry about paying for food; just get out. It is perfectly rational to feel unsafe, and it’s better to be out of the way in case their (unknown) intentions are not good ones. You should not feel obligated (legally OR morally) to stay and pay for your purchases if you feel your life is endangered. If you are in a restaurant and have already eaten your meal, you can call the restaurant after the fact, let them know why you left, and offer to pay for it over the phone. You may call the store and explain why you left your purchases in a cart in the middle of the aisle. You may also advise them whether you intend to return to the restaurant or store if you do not feel safe there.

It’s a risk with which companies that allow open-carry into their stores and restaurants will have to learn to deal.

Unless you can explain to me why I should always feel perfectly safe when random people carrying rifles walk into a Target store or a Mexican food restaurant or any other place where rifles are not part of the general commercial activities conducting within, then this seems to be a perfectly rational response. This isn’t even a gun-specific action: I would probably do the same thing if someone came into a Chipotle wielding a chainsaw.

Then again, “Stand Your Ground” laws in your state also allow you to take matters into your own hands if you are armed and feel threatened, and act preemptively. I can’t make any recommendation in that situation, but it seems to me that the law would be pretty clearly on your side in those cases.

Excerpt #9

“Have you met the Killersteins? Absolutely lovely couple, quite charming. You’d really like them. Unfortunate last name though!”

“Ha ha, yes. It does rather make them sound like murderers.”

“What? Oh yes, but they are: serial killers, both of them. Quite psychopathic. I meant it’s just so unfortunate to telegraph their intentions quite so blatantly. There’s just no subtlety: it completely *ruins* the surprise.”

– Excerpt from my upcoming book “Murderbia in Suburbia”, available in 2015 through every possible publishing company in the world simultaneously because it’s so awesome and they each felt unworthy to publish it by themselves.