My Vegan Pizza Order Arrived With Chicken

Life With The Blonde One

Want to know what it’s like being me?

I went to the Middle Eastern grocery store “Adonis” last week, and asked my Significant Other if she wanted anything. She indicated that she would appreciate some baba ganouj, because who wouldn’t? Well, this is how the conversation actually went:

No respect. No respect at all, I tells ya.

Mind you, sometimes the disrespect comes with some affection:

A Return to Facebook

Out of curiosity, I peeked back on Facebook earlier this week. What I saw was a bunch of very smart people arguing pointlessly about a tennis match. I immediately remembered why I’d left Facebook in the first place, and got gone again right away.

And if you’re one of those people arguing about that tennis match, I’m not shitting on you, so don’t take it personally. It’s just not my thing.

Why did I go back to the Book of the Face? Because Herr Zuckerberg had informed me that an image I had posted months earlier was in violation of their community standards. What image? This one:

Yep, this is definitely the time to continue to divest myself from corporate controlled social media. It’s just not fun anymore.

And then there’s this

Hey, wanna see something fun? Here you go:

Take a long look at that image before you go to bed tonight. Do it. I dare you.

My Dear Departed Grandmother

As I’ve mentioned in this space, my maternal grandmother recently passed away at the age of 98. It’s been a busy last few days, as Hindu funerary rites can be unending, especially if a very very large family has to be wrangled into them.

I’ve taken the time to assemble a collage, with the great contributions of my cousin Christine, of photos from my grandmother’s life. I am preserving them here, in case members of my extended family wish to see them. The images are currently public, but I will restrict their access after a few weeks.

Europa Report

It’s a movie. A science fiction movie. For serious space nerds. And by serious space nerds, I don’t mean those idiots who pleasure themselves to the Star Wars extended universe, but rather those of us who care about plausible, accessible exploration of the cosmos beyond Earth.

My review of Europa Report is low live on our sister site,

Decisions, Decisions

I’m on sabbatical. If I were younger, that would mean fucking off to some faraway university and having all sorts of mind-expanding scholarly adventures. But at this stage of my life, it mostly means I get to rest, take care of the dog (who is lying next to me on the couch), and rehabilitating my broken body.

But I still have a hard time saying no to opportunities.

I had committed some weeks ago to attending (an all-expense paid) weekend meeting in Montreal, on union business. And just now I got invited to attend (an all-expense paid) weekend research meeting in London, UK, courtesy of an Ivy League university. The problem is that both meetings happen at almost the same time.

It is conceivable that I could do both, but that would mean relying on flights not to be delayed, and accepting that I would not be able to do any tourist activities, just attend meetings.

And yet my ego and desire not to pass on free things won’t let me remove one event from my schedule. Sigh. What to do, what to do?

Overly Complicated Breakfasts

This is Graham Sanders‘s favourite part of my blog, where I post images of my meals! Whoohoo! Now, there is a reason that I do this. All will be revealed in a few weeks time. But in the mean time, here are the latest entries…

Sep 7. A veggie & tofu burrito from some place in Ottawa:

Sep 8. Once a month, this vegan allows himself some eggs. And today was the day! Huevos rancheros from the Lt’s Pump in Ottawa:

Sep 9. The vegan meal option on Via Rail’s business class, while watching season 2 of Iron Fist. Maybe I will write a review. Maybe:

Sep 10. Cheerios with strawberries, canteloupe, and almond milk:

Sep 11. My own veggie chili with my mother’s casava, plantains, and yam, and a pita:

Why am I doing all this? Hopefully for a good reason. The jury is still out. But stay tuned!

What’s Up With Science?

Today’s serious topic is academic freedom, something that is obviously important to me.

This past week, two academic publishing stories made international news. The first involves a paper in a very good journal (PLoS One) by Lisa Littman about rapid-onset gender dysphoria (ROGD). It was called “Rapid-onset gender dysphoria in adolescents and young adults: A study of parental reports.”

It is irrelevant to my argument whether the paper’s conclusions were correct, or whether or not I think ROGD is a real thing. For my purposes, all I care about is that the paper made some people unhappy.

Originally, Littman’s university (Brown) had promoted her study on its website. This is a big deal. I’ve had two of my studies promoted on my university’s website, and that shit is prominent on my CV: when your university ties its name to yours in such a public fashion, it means they are excited by the work that you are doing.

But after the social media backlash against Littman, Brown took down their promotion and issued statements critical of the study.

And then there’s s this story about a mathematician publishing a meta-study about greater psychological variance among men than among women.

The journal rescinded its decision to publish the paper, after fielding complaints that its conclusions were, in some form or other, offensive to some political sensibilities.

Now let’s be clear her. It doesn’t matter (to me) whether the studies’ conclusions were correct or whether their underlying theories are ultimately proven correct or false. What matters is that independent committees of scientists vetted them and felt that they were worthy of entering the greater global scholarly conversation. And it was only after feelings entered the fray that those decisions were questioned.

While writing this blog post, a friend alerted me to another such instance peer review being under attack. One young professor wrote this paper that explored Rachel Dolezal’s claims of trans-racial identity. It resulted in several other scholars penning an open letter calling for the paper to be retracted.

Let’s be clear on what just happened. Traditionally, when a problematic paper is published, its opponents publish counter-arguments in response. Sometimes those responses are angry. That’s okay.

What has happened here is that the paper’s opponents aren’t just arguing against its conclusions, but are calling for the journal to reverse its peer-review decision and to render the paper effectively nonexistent to the grander academic world.

This is a kind of de-platforming with which I will not hold. Either peer review is independent or it is not. And if it is not, then it is propaganda, and frankly not useful to the scientific process.

It’s like I said last week about Steve Bannon at the New Yorker festival: bad ideas don’t magically disappear just because you shout them into silence. Truly bad ideas will only whither in the light of scrutiny and challenge.  This is why the open scientific communication process exists, so that debate and challenge can render something resembling truth through the ordeal and crucible of peer review.

I’ll even go so far as to extend this philosophy to this guy.

For those of us who publish on controversial topics, it is getting a little scary out there.

And then there’s this