Sunday, December 31, 2017

REPORT: 4.1% of U.S. American Adults Are LGBT, Totals 10M


The Williams Institute at UCLA has released another report on the demographics of adult LGBT population in the United States. They also have an interactive website where you can explore this data for yourself.

One key result is that there are well over 10 million LGBT adults in the United States, which is roughly 4.1% of the adult population. However, there is wide variation in the states in which the LGBT population resides. The District of Columbia has the highest percentage of its population self-reporting as LGBT:


Check it out for yourself!

Saturday, December 30, 2017

CRIME: Black Lesbian Couple (And 2 Kids) Slaughtered In Troy, NY


I spent 8 years living in upstate New York attending college at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, NY. So when I see Troy in the news it catches my attention. This week I saw a story about the horrific murder of a Black lesbian couple and their two kids.

The New York Times reported on the story:
The police identified the victims as Shanta Myers, 36; her children Jeremiah, 11, and Shanise, 5; and her partner, Brandi Mells, 22. Jackie Robinson Sr., the pastor of Oak Grove Baptist Church, told The Times Union that Ms. Myers also had an older son who was not home when the killings happened. 
[...] 
The family was found dead on Tuesday afternoon in their basement apartment at 158 Second Avenue, in a neighborhood of subdivided Victorian houses along the Hudson River. Chief Tedesco said the number of victims, their age and the way they were killed — which he declined to describe — made the crime the worst he had seen in more than 40 years in law enforcement.
The latest news is that two suspects have been arraigned in the case: Justin Mann and James White.

I will be following this case closely to find out what the reason for the vicious murder of this family was. The youngest child was 5!

Hat/tip to Pink News

Friday, December 29, 2017

CELEBRITY FRIDAY: Serena To Play First Match As A Married Mom This Weekend


Serena Williams and Jelena Ostapenko are the first women to appear at the Mubada World Tennis Championship in Abu Dhabi, a prestigious and lucrative exhibition tournament that usually features the top male players at the end of the year and signals the beginning of next year's tennis season.

Serena has not played a match since winning the 2017 Australian Open (while pregnant) and gave birth to her daughter Alexis Olympia Ohanian, Jr on September 1 (during the U.S. Open!) and married Alexis Ohanian, Sr in a celebrity-studded event in New Orleans on November 16.

Serena will be playing her first public match as a married mother this Saturday December 30th. She will face the 2017 French Open champion. Serena is expected to defend her Australian Ope title next month.

Welcome back to tennis, Serena!

Thursday, December 28, 2017

BOOK REVIEW: Persepolis Rising (The Expanse, #7) by James S.A. Corey


Persepolis Rising is the seventh book in The Expanse series written by James S.A. Corey. The series has been adapted into a high-quality television series that airs on SyFy, but unlike other well-known speculative fiction adaptations (like Game of Thrones and American Gods) I think that in the case of The Expanse the book version is better than the filmed version. This is probably because the books are written in such a fast-paced, action-packed, visually stimulating way that reading them is basically like riding a rollercoaster or watching a Hollywood blockbuster. So perhaps there is not as much "value added" to adapting The Expanse to television when the words on the page have already (over)stimulated the reader's imagination; However I applaud SyFy for doing so and I am a big fan of the show.

If you have not read these books yet it is hard to know what I can say to convince you to do so without revealing spoilers. The first point I would make is that these books are the very best that the space-opera genre has to offer. The books are set in a future where humanity has made significant inroads into colonizing our solar system, with self-sustaining settlements on various solar objects (Mars, the Moon, Ganymede, multiple asteroids). The second point I would make is that the primary characters that the series are centered around are nuanced, interesting and diverse.

One animating plot development for the series as a whole involves the arrival/discovery of an alien substance called the "protomolecule" which has a destabilizing impact on the fragile power balance between the largest political forces in the solar system: Mars, Earth and the Outer Planets Alliance (OPA).

In Persepolis Rising, the story has skipped ahead 3 decades from the shocking (and thrilling) plot developments in the prior book Babylon's Ashes. Obviously, this time jump has a profound effect on the main characters but there are even more surprising developments in Persepolis Rising which basically re-orders the powers that be in the solar system even after 30 years in which the political calculus had been changing slowly and inexorably in a certain direction.

These jolting plot developments make sense, because the authors of the Expanse series (James S.A. Corey is a pseudonym for Ty Franck and Daniel Abraham) have stated that it will be 9 books long, consisting of three sets of trilogies, which would make this 7th book the first book in the final trilogy. Thus it is not surprising that there a lot of things are put in motion in Persepolis Rising which will presumably need to be resolved in future books. (However, there are definitely a lot of satisfying resolutions of sub-plots in Persepolis Rising as well.) Even more important is that we start to get some information about the protomolecule itself (and the creatures who created it) which does give support for the idea that we are hurtling towards the conclusion of the entire 9-book story arc.

Overall, Persepolis Rising is one of the best entries in The Expanse series. It is tautly plotted, incredibly thrilling and emotionally resonant. I knew it would probably be one of my favorite reads of the year so that even though I pre-ordered it for arrival on its day of release, I waited until the holiday season to read the book and ended up devouring it in one day (it was absolutely impossible to put down)! And maybe that's the most convincing thing I can say to encourage you to start reading this incredible series of books. You will NOT be disappointed.

Title: Persepolis Rising (The Expanse, #7).
Author:
 James S.A. Corey.
Paperback: 548 pages.
Publisher:
 Orbit.
Date Published: December 5, 2017.
Date Read: December 25, 2017.

GOODREADS RATING: 
★★  (5.0/5.0).

OVERALL GRADE: A+/A (4.167/4.0).


PLOT: A+.
IMAGERY: A.
IMPACT: A+.
WRITING: A.

Monday, December 25, 2017

EYE CANDY: Chris Jammer (#4)





Chris Jammer is a model who has been appearing here for years (November 11, 2013; April 1, 2013; January 18, 2016) as Eye Candy. His body has changed quite a bit over that time, but is always hot.

Nowadays he is keeping his hair long and clearly getting more built as he gets older. These recent pics were found at his Instagram account (@chrisjammer). Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 23, 2017

SATURDAY POLITICS: Corey Johnson May Become Next NYC Council Speaker


Corey Johnson has been an openly gay city councilperson in New York City representing the 3rd district which includes the gayborhoods of Chelsea, Hell's Kitchen and the West Village along with parts of the Upper West Side since 2013. He replaced former openly lesbian NYC City Council speaker Christine Quinn who lost a Democratic primary for Mayor to Bill De Blasio.

This week comes news that Johnson, who is 35-years-old, openly gay and HIV-positive, may be following in Quinn's shoes to become the Speaker of the New York City council, the 2nd most important and powerful political position in the nation's largest city. Recently re-elected to a second term, Mayor de Blasio tweeted his support for Johnson's bid to become Speaker:
Congratulations to the next speaker of the , Corey Johnson. He’s been a force for the people of his district and I know he will bring that same commitment, passion, and energy to the speakership. I look forward to working with him on a progressive agenda for NYC.
The New York Times also reported that Johnson has the votes in the 51-member council to be elected Speaker in January.

Congratulations @CoreyinNYC!

Thursday, December 21, 2017

BOOK REVIEW: Police At The Station And They Don't Look Friendly by Adrian McKinty


Police at the Station and They Don't Look Friendly is the  sixth (and perhaps last?) book in the Inspector Sean Duffy series by Adrian McKinty. It is quite a corker, and probably the best in this quirky mystery thriller series set in Northern Ireland in the 1980s when "the Troubles" were at their peak. It is a good sign about the quality of these books that I had previously  said that the fifth book in the series, Rain Dogs, was clearly the best. (It was on my list of favorite books read in 2016.) The Duffy books just keep getting better and better!

The book begins with a scene where our protagonist is in such mortal peril that the reader is confronted with reality that this might be the end of the road for our favorite Catholic detective with the snobbish music tastes who has been trying to solve murders in a setting where religious factions (Catholics and Protestants) are frequently torturing and killing each other (and the forces trying to maintain order) with abandon.

However, after beginning with a literal bang, the next chapter is set in some unspecified amount of time in the past where we discover that Sean is living (in sin) with the mother of his months-old baby girl, Emma, and generally bored out of his mind with no murders to solve when a very strange one falls into his lap. (A drug dealer is shot to death with a crossbow, and it's the second time in as many days someone has been shot with such a medieval weapon.)

One feature of the Sean Duffy thrillers is that the plots get unbelievably complicated and they entangle people at highest levels of British and Irish society that one would not think that a local copper in a small suburb of Belfast (Carrickfergus) would have any chance of interacting with, let alone collaring. Another feature is the deployment of mystifying (to American ears and eyes) of Irish slang which gives the series a sense of verisimilitude and exoticism which is both appealing and off-putting (simultaneously!) The amusing titles of the books apparently come from lines from Tom Waits songs.

In Police at the Station and They Don't Look Friendly the fine line Duffy has been walking as a Catholic member of the occupying British police force (the Royal Ulster Constabulary) becomes untenable as many mutual enemies (such as the Catholic IRA, the Protestant paramilitaries and the British military establishment) decide the time has come to eliminate their common irritant, our "fenian" [an anti-Catholic slur] hero.

Mckinty pulled off an interesting bit of fore-shadowing by giving the reader a chance to grapple with Duffy's demise in the beginning of the novel before resolving the question of his main character's mortality in a way which is ultimately satisfying. (Yes, I am being deliberately vague to avoid spoilers.)

All of the above being said, if this is the final Duffy book I will not be sad or mad as I think McKinty has managed to bring Duffy through very many improbably survivable situations before and I have enjoyed the journey as long as it lasted. It is hard to see how McKinty could (or can) continue to sustain the increasingly high quality of the Duffy series if it were to continue. However, we will just have to wait and see!

Title: Police at the Station and They Don't Look Friendly
Author: 
Adrian McKinty.

Paperback: 322 pages.
Publisher:
 Seventh Street Books.

Date Published: March 7, 2017.
Date Read: April 15, 2017.

GOODREADS RATING: 
★★  (5.0/5.0).

OVERALL GRADE: A (4.0/4.0).
PLOT: A.
IMAGERY: A-.
IMPACT: A+.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

SATURDAY POLITICS: Poll Shows Close CA-GOV Race Between Newsom and Villaraigosa

There is a recent PPIC poll on the June 2018 primary in California which demonstrates the current state of play in the race for governor (which is open due to term limits preventing 4-term Governor Jerry Brown from appearing on the ballot again) as well as the race for the United States Senate seat currently held by Diane Feinstein.

As in every public poll that has been released testing the California governor's race, Lieutenant Governor (and former San Francisco Mayor) Gavin Newsom is in the lead, with 23 percentage of respondents expressing a preference for him while former Los Angeles Mayor (and former California Assembly Speaker) Antonio Villaraigosa relatively close behind at 18 and State Treasurer and State Controller John Chiang far behind at 9 tied with the highest Republican contender John Cox. In June 2018 all gubernatorial candidates will appear on one ballot and the Top 2, regardless of party will advance to the November 2018 ballot.

In the Senate race it appears as if Senator Feinstein is well ahead of her challenger, State Senate head Kevin de León since she leads by a massive 45% to 21% with "Don't Know" at 33%.
However, as most political pundits know anytime an incumbent (especially one who has been in office since 1994(!)) is below 50%, they should be nervous. That being said it is very likely that again that the two top candidates will now will be the two top candidates in June and thus these races could last until November 2018. This is one of the main problems with state's Top 2 primary (which was put into place by a ballot measure championed by "centrist Republican" Abel Maldonado during the Schwarzenegger era of California politics in 2004). It's very possible California voters will have a chance to repeal the Top 2 Primary system in a November 2018 ballot measure.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

BOOK REVIEW: The Core by Peter V. Brett



The Core is the fifth and final book in The Demon Cycle by Peter V. Brett.

It's been a thrilling, enjoyable ride reading this series; I still remember the excitement as the plot of the very first book (The Warded Man) enfolded and we were introduced to (what we thought at the time were all the main characters), Arlen Bales (the sheltered country boy who dreamed of leaving his small village of Tibbet's Brook and becomes humanity's greatest champion), Leesha Paper (the young apprentice to the village's ancient medicine woman) and Rojer Inn (a talented and creative musician and entertainer).

However in the second book The Desert Spear we were introduced to a completely different culture in Krasia which is clearly based on (or strongly influenced by) Arabic traditions. In this book we were given stories about the lives of Ahmann Jardir and Inevera, Ahmann's first wife (of many) and the love of his life. I can't overestimate how different Krasian society is from the Thesan society we were first introduced to in Book 1. Basically, it's like going from a story set in Iowa to one set in Saudi Arabia. This was a very unusual way to expand the original story but I believe it was an excellent choice. Books 4 (The Skull Throne) and 3 (The Daylight War) involve a clash of civilizations as Arlen, Leesha and Rojer interact with Ahmann, Inevera and Abban (among others).

By the time we get to the fifth book The Core the cast of characters has literally grown to hundreds and the story has branched out in multiple directions and several locations.

The central plot point of The Demon Cycle is the existence of violent and deadly "demons" which occur in different forms (stone demon, wind demon, fire demon, water demon, field demon, etc) that appear every night once the sun goes down and the moon rises. This means that humanity is basically prevented from leaving their houses at night and are only protected via "wards" which when written correctly on a surface can prevent the passage of the specific Demon it is designed for. Before Arlen, only wards that could be used to protect humans from specific demons were known and the knowledge of the existence of offensive wards (that could harm demons, not just block them) was lost until he rediscovered it.

The plot of The Core is too intricate to summarize here but suffice it to say that there are several developments in the final book that are both surprising and heartbreaking. As with all good epic tales of quests, journeys and battles not all our heroes survive to the end but they (mostly) acquit themselves with glory and honor. Since we know that not everyone may survive all their encounters with peril the reader is really focused on how the story develops and the dangerous situations the characters are in.

I must applaud Mr. Brett for finishing his Demon Cycle series in such a satisfying manner while also providing hope to the reader for the ways the story could continue in the future. In my opinion, the Demon Cycle is one of the best additions to the epic fantasy genre and Brett is a major talent whose work I will be looking forward to for a long time.

Title: The Core.
Author: 
Peter V. Brett.
Paperback: 800 pages.
Publisher:
 Del Rey.
Date Published: October 3, 2017.
Date Read: November 1, 2017.

GOODREADS RATING: 
★★½☆  (4.5/5.0).

OVERALL GRADE: A- (3.67/4.0).

PLOT: A-.
IMAGERY: B+.
IMPACT: A-.
WRITING: A.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

GODLESS WEDNESDAY: Theocrat Roy Moore Loses U.S. Senate Race in Alabama


Hmmm, count one electoral win for the godless in Alabama last night. Roy Moore, an unrepentant theocrat who was twice removed from his elected position as Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court for his refusal to follow the law of the land (once for placing a huge monument to the Ten commandments on state property and once for refusing to enforce the same-sex marriage decision Obergefell v Hodges) lost a special election to Democrat Doug Jones last night.

Born-again and evangelical Christians voted for Moore at the astonishing rate of 80% to 13% while "everyone else" voted 76% to 22% for Jones. How does this voting pattern align with "christian" values?

Other demographics of the vote are also interesting:


This shows that white people overwhelmingly voted for Moore, despite the controversial allegations involving sexual misconduct with minors. It was Black people who were an eye-popping 30% of the electorate and voted for Jones (or against Moore) at the rate of 97 to 3 for Black women and 92 to 7 for Black men.

These exit poll data show the stark differences in the electorate. People under 40 voted for Jones, while people over 40 voted for Moore, but not in as large numbers (and voters over 40 were a large fraction of the electorate, at 75%).

Hat/tip Friendly Atheist

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Netflix's Altered Carbon IS Arriving 02/02/18 (And Looks Awesome)!


The next great television show based on a science fiction/fantasy books is going to be a reality soon! It was announced in January 2016 that Netflix had ordered a 10-episode season of 1-hour episodes based on Richard K. Morgan's Takeshi Kovacs trilogy: Altered Carbon, Broken Angels and Woken Furies. These books are set in the 24th century where humanity has expanded to about a dozen worlds and the most notable technological change is the development of human conscious transfer and storage. One consequence of this is effective immortality because once a body begins to fail, one can transfer one's consciousness into another body. In fact, for the super-rich there's no reason to wait until death to do this consciousness transfer from an , and so the bodies that store consciousness are known as "sleeves."

Netflix has now announced that the series is called Altered Carbon will be available on the streaming service starting February 2, 2018! In addition to announcing the release date, a number of teaser and trailer videos have been released and they look AMAZING!

and
One quibble I have with what I have seen of the show (in the trailers) so far is that in the books Takeshi Kovacs (the primary protagonist) is described as being "of Japanese and Eastern-European descent" but in the Netflix television adaptation he is being played by an actor named Joel Kinnaman who looks pretty fair-skinned (he's a Swedish actor). Kinnaman is quite attractive, but the non-white hue of most of the characters in the books (as far as I remember) was definitely mentioned. I don't think this will become a huge talking point as the series starts getting more prominent public notice, but I do find it somewhat troubling. I believe they will explain it by referring to an original "sleeve" Takeshi had where he is played by a Korean-American actor.

There are other interesting tidbts about the show in this Entertainment Weekly article: the pilot was directed by Game of Thrones alum Miguel Sapochnik (S6E09: The Battle of the Bastards) and the budget is rumored to be the biggest ever for Season 1 of a show (and remember House of Cards had an estimated budget of $100m for its first two seasons, or approximately $4.5m per episode).

I can't wait see this show on February 2, 2018!

With Game of Thrones probably off the air until the end of 2018 at the earliest and Season 3 of The Expanse shot but no airdate released (but expected to be sometime in 2018) we are living in the golden age of television based on speculative fiction classic works (by George R.R. Martin and James S.A. Corey, respectively).

Monday, December 11, 2017

EYE CANDY: Adrian Conrad





Adrian Conrad has more than 100,000 followers on Instagram (@adrianconrad). I think you can see why! This is his first appearance on Eye Candy but will definitely not be his last!

Saturday, December 09, 2017

SATURDAY POLITICS: Toni Atkins, 1st LGBT and Female CA Senate Leader


Toni Atkins, former Speaker of the California State Assembly, has been announced as the next leader of the California State Senate when current Senate president pro tem Kevin De Leon steps down in early 2018. When that happens Atkins will become the first woman and openly LGBT person to head the United States' largest state's upper legislative house.
De León, a Los Angeles Democrat who has served as Senate leader for nearly four years, is stepping down from the leadership position as he runs against Sen. Dianne Feinstein in the 2018 election for her seat in the U.S. Senate.
“Four years ago, our caucus elected the first Latino leader in over a century to lead the California state Senate — and, next year, Sen. Atkins will become our first ever woman to be elected Senate leader,” De León said in a statement. 
“Toni is a leader of great experience, achievement and integrity, and I have every confidence that she will lead America's most accomplished legislative chamber to even greater heights,” De León added. 
Atkins, 55, brings leadership experience to the job, having previously served as speaker of the state Assembly. She will be the third person to serve both as Assembly speaker and Senate president pro tem and the first leader of the state Senate who has come out as gay. 
“Today, I am humbled by the trust my colleagues have placed in me, and I intend to earn that trust every day by working tirelessly and inclusively to keep California a place of opportunity for everyone,” Atkins said in a statement.
Congratulations to Toni!

Friday, December 08, 2017

Lost Einsteins: New Report Demonstrates Variation In Innovation Opportunity by Class, Race and Gender


There’s an interesting new report (from Stanford’s Raj Chetty) showing how lack of diversity in STEM is leading to reduction in the number of innovations being created in this country, even by low-income children who would be expected to be inventors due to their proficiency in math in school. (Generally proficiency in mathematics is a predictor of patent filing.) The report calls the result of this gap “Lost Einsteins.”


The researchers worked with the Treasury Department to link the tax records with patent records. Doing so allowed them to study the backgrounds of patent holders (and the study focused on the most highly cited, significant patents). The researchers — Chetty, Alex Bell, Xavier Jaravel, Neviana Petkova and John Van Reenen — were also able to link these records to elementary-school test scores for some patent holders.
Not surprisingly, children who excelled in math were far more likely to become inventors. But being a math standout wasn’t enough. Only the top students who also came from high-income families had a decent chance to become an inventor.
This fact may be the starkest: Low-income students who are among the very best math students — those who score in the top 5 percent of all third graders — are no more likely to become inventors than below-average math students from affluent families.
Here is a graphic which demonstrates the difference in patent-holding by income level.


Of course there is also variation by race and by gender as well:



This report explains why broadening the participation in STEM is so important. As Chetty says "There are great differences in innovation rates. Those differences don’t seem to be due to innate ability to innovate.”

Our goal should be to make sure that the difference in innovation rates are not related to race, gender or income.

Wednesday, December 06, 2017

#AD51: Carrillo Wins Assembly Seat Over Lopez 53-47 (900+ votes)

The special election in my Assembly District was held yesterday and the results are in: Wendy Carrillo, received approximately 1000 votes more than Luis Lopez in a very low turnout election (estimated to be 7.6%). Carrillo took an early large lead when absentee ballots were tallied.


This means that Carrillo will be the newest member of the Assembly.

Friday, December 01, 2017

2017 World AIDS Day

Today is World AIDS Day. It is the 29th annual recognition of the impact on HIV and AIDS organized by the United Nations.  This year's theme is "Increasing Impact through Transparency, Accountability, and Partnerships."

Thursday, November 30, 2017

BOOK REVIEW: Ash and Quill (Great Library, #3) by Rachel Caine


Ash and Quill is the third book in The Great Library series by Rachel Caine. The characters from previous books heroes are in dire straits as this book begins, after surviving a harrowing need to escape from England due to the events in Paper and Fire only to end up in America (Philadelphia to be exact) where the rebellious (and often violent) Burners are ascendant. The Burners reject the ideology of the Great Library which has promulgated the idea that books are more important than human lives (primarily because the knowledge in a book can outlast a human lifetime). The Great Library is the manifestation of what happens if the Great Library of Alexandria was never destroyed and ended up monopolizing the archiving and distribution of information and knowledge in the form of books.

In Ash and Quill, our main character Jess Brightwell takes an even more central role in the story since the fact his father and the Brightwell family run one of the most significant book smuggling enterprises in the world becomes more important and relevant to his survival and that of his friends in a setting where they are surrounded by enemies.

As in the first two editions of this series (Ink and Bone and Paper and Fire), action is also a strong feature of Ash and Quill. This time the action is not usually involving the High Garda, the troops of the Great Library, but new and different adversaries, who in other circumstances could have been allies.

The series is definitely YA, as the main protagonist (Jess Brightwell) and the majority of the important characters in the story are all teens: Morgan, Jess's love interest, Brandon, Jess's twin brother; Thomas, the genius inventor; Dario, the spoiled but cunning frenemy; and Khalila, the brilliant scholar. Often a YA label signifies the presence of teen-age love triangles and emotionally driven angst but for most of the book this is avoided (sadly, not entirely as Morgan and Jess' relationship gets more fraught as the danger to the group increases).

The book ends on a decided cliffhanger with Jess having made an improbably risky move that appears to be a betrayal of his friends but is actually an attempt to try and end the conflict with the Archivist Magnifex, the evil head of the Great Library.  This will all presumably be resolved in Book 4 of the Great Library series, Smoke and Iron, which is set for a summer 2018 release.

Title: Ash and Quill (The Great Library, #3).
Author: 
Rachel Caine.

Paperback: 368 pages.
Publisher:
 Berkley.

Date Published: July 11, 2017.
Date Read: November 11, 2017.

GOODREADS RATING: ★★★★½☆  (4.5/5.0).

OVERALL GRADE: A- (3.67/4.0).
PLOT: A-.
IMAGERY: A-.
IMPACT: B+.
WRITING: A.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

GODLESS WEDNESDAY: Dawkins Scale of Godlessness

I must confess than even though I own the book The God Delusion I have not read it, so I was unaware of author Richard Dawkins' "spectrum of theistic probability." It is more commonly known as the Dawkins scale, somewhat reminiscent of the Kinsey scale, which posits that sexual orientation exists on a spectrum where 0 is completely heterosexual and 7 is completely homosexual (I'm a 7 on the Kinsey scale). The Dawkins Scale can be summarized as:

  1. Strong theist. 100% probability of God. In the words of C.G. Jung: "I do not believe, I know."
  2. De facto theist. Very high probability but short of 100%. "I don't know for certain, but I strongly believe in God and live my life on the assumption that he is there."
  3. Leaning towards theism. Higher than 50% but not very high. "I am very uncertain, but I am inclined to believe in God."
  4. Completely impartial. Exactly 50%. "God's existence and non-existence are exactly equiprobable."
  5. Leaning towards atheism. Lower than 50% but not very low. "I do not know whether God exists but I'm inclined to be skeptical."
  6. De facto atheist. Very low probability, but short of zero. "I don't know for certain but I think God is very improbable, and I live my life on the assumption that he is not there."
  7. Strong atheist. "I know there is no God, with the same conviction as Jung knows there is one."
I don't think that I am actually a 7 on the Dawkins scale, I would definitely say I am at the very least a 6. Dawkins himself says that he is a 6.9. Take the survey!

Where are you in the Dawkins scale?
Create your own user feedback survey

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

TENNIS TUESDAY: WTA & ATP Year-End Rankings; France Wins Davis Cup


FRANCE WINS DAVIS CUP BY DEFEATING BELGIUM 3-2
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Lucas Pouille, Richard Gasquet and Pierre-Hugues Herbert all contributed to France's win over Belgium in the 2017 Davis Cup final. The most important win was Pouille's over Belgium's Steven Darcis in the live fifth rubber after David Goffin defeated Gasquet and Tsonga in the singles matches but Herbert and Gasquet teamed up to win the crucial doubles point. This was France's 10th Davis Cup win and its first since 2001 after losing in the final in 2010 to Serbia and 2014 to Switzerland.


END OF YEAR ATP RANKINGS



END OF YEAR WTA RANKINGS

Monday, November 27, 2017

EYE CANDY: Adrian Conrad (black/white)





Adrian Conrad is a fitness model I discovered from Pop Glitz and then checked out his Instagram (@adrianconrad_) feed, which is followed by more than 125,000 users. In 2016, Adrian said on Model Mayhem is 23 years old. This is first appearance as Eye Candy but I am very confident it will not be his last!

Sunday, November 26, 2017

REPORT (NPR): LGBT Discrimination Is Pervasive


A new report on LGBT discrimination was released recently by National Public Radio. It was conducted jointly with Harvard Chan School of Public Health, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and NPR. The main result is that discrimination against LGBT people is pervasive in the United States.

The primary conclusion (on page 29-30 of the 64 page report) is excerpted here:
LGBTQ Americans report significant personal experiences of discrimination related to their sexual orientation or gender identity. In the context of individual or interpersonal discrimination, a majority of all LGBTQ people have personally experienced slurs (57%) or offensive comments (53%) about their sexual orientation or gender identity. Furthermore, a majority of all LGBTQ people say that they or an LGBTQ friend or family member have personally experienced threats or non-sexual harassment (57%), sexual harassment (51%), or violence (51%) because of their sexuality or gender identity, and 34% say they or an LGBTQ friend or family member have been harassed or questioned about their presence in a bathroom.  
In the context of institutional discrimination, at least one in five LGBTQ people report being personally discriminated against because of their sexuality or gender identity when applying for jobs (20%), when being paid equally or considered for promotions (22%), or when trying to rent a room or apartment or buy a house (22%). More than a quarter of LGBTQ people say that they or an LGBTQ friend or family member have been unfairly treated by the courts (26%) or by the police (26%) because of their LGBTQ identity.
I encourage you to read the entire report, "Discrimination in America: Experiences and Views of LGBTQ Americans," for yourself.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

SATURDAY POLITICS: #AD51 California Assembly District Race Heats Up!


I am a homeowner and voter in Northeast Los Angeles and thus the last year has involved participating in numerous elections (five lat last count). Due to the 2016 election which resulted in then-Attorney General Kamala Harris going to the U.S. Senate, my congressperson Xavier Becerra was appointed to replace her and then my Assemblyperson Jimmy Gomez won a special election to replace Becerra in the 34th Congressional District. Now we are just a few weeks away from the Tuesday December 5th election to replace Gomez in the Assembly.

The two candidates for the 51st Assembly district are Luis Lopez and Wendy Carrillo. Lopez has run for this seat before (losing to Gomez in 2012) and lived in the District for decades while Carrillo moved into the district when she ran unsuccessfully in the #CA34 special election.

Interestingly, despite the carpet-bagger concerns Carrillo has been endorsed by several Democratic Party establishment figures, including now-U.S. Rep. Gomez, California Senate Majority leader Kevin De Leon (who represents the area in the California Senate) and Jose Huizar who represents sections of the assembly district in the Los Angeles City Council.

As an openly gay man running for a state legislative seat, Lopez has been endorsed by several LGBT organizations (Equality California, HONOR Pac, the Victory Fund and the California LGBT Legislative Caucus).

Lopez and Carillo have faced off in multiple debates around the district. There doesn't appear to be any public polling in the race. I have already voted for my preferred candidate by mail. The election is Tuesday December 5th.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

BOOK REVIEW: Paper and Fire (Great Library, #2) by Rachel Caine


Paper and Fire is the second book in the Great Library series by Rachel Caine. It's a well-written YA (Young Adult) fantasy series with a hefty amount of action, a great premise and (happily!) very little teen emotional (does s/he like me?!) angst.

The great premise in Paper and Fire is that the Great Library of Alexandria was never sacked and destroyed by Roman conquerors and thus continued to be a source of enlightenment and knowledge. Unfortunately, the Library has used its ever increasing power to maintain a stranglehold on technological developments and important information that has resulted in a severe stunting of the societal advancements that we are used to in our world, like the Internet, electricity, the gas combustion engine and modern medicine. In this version of the 21st century the Great library series is set in it is illegal to possess original copies of books. All books are in The Library and most citizens are only allowed to magically obtain copies of approved texts in things called "blanks" for fixed periods of time.  The text of the book appears in the blanks and then goes away after a certain time. The Library enforces its edicts and protects its branches through the use of violence and force. They have animated mechanical beasts called automatons which are usually in the form of deadly Lions or Spartans who regularly kill innocents as collateral damage to enforce the Library's policies. 

The first book in the series, Ink and Bone, involved a diverse group of teens who are competing to enter the service of The Library as either Scholars (people with access to the original books and the ability to do research and make discoveries) or Soldiers (the military wing of the Library is called the Garda and keeps the peace and enforces the Library's hegemonic control of society). The Library's ideology is distilled into the phrase "life is short but knowledge lasts forever" which basically means that books are more valuable than human life. This actually raises interesting philosophical questions about the permanence of knowledge and the meaning and value of human life. (Are people more important than their intellectual products?)

 Paper and Fire continues the story of Jess, Morgan, Glain, Khalila, Dario and other  main characters from the first book Ink and Bone. They are trying to discover the secrets of The Library and rescue their missing friend Thomas whom they were told was killed in an unfortunate accident after he invented a device that threatened The Library's monopoly on information (a printing press).

One attractive feature of the series as a whole is the diverse cast; a gay couple plays a central role  in the plot (consisting of a Scholar and a Garda Captain). In fact, skin color and other features  are often described explicitly (e.g. Khalila is Muslim and wears a hijab).

The main character in the Great Library books is clearly Jess Brightwell, who is from London and has joined the Garda but is basically in Alexandria to gain access to the Library to assist his family's book smuggling enterprise.  (As one would expect in such a world where book possession is banned, the black market sale and trade of books is rampant, lucrative and dangerous.) One aspect of the book that I found problematic is the heroic and near-omnipotent status given to Jess. He is able to escape all sorts of dangerous situations through "luck" and good fortune in ways which beggar belief.

There is an organized resistance to the Library, called the Burners who reject the philosophy that a book is worth more than a human life and who use something called "Greek fire" to burn books and symbols of the Library as often as possible. The Library is portrayed primarily as a source of great evil, but even though the Burners oppose the Library it's not clear the adage "the enemy of my enemy is my friend" applies here. The plot is further complicated by the fact that we the reader get access to communications between people at the highest level of the Library (the Archivist Magister, the Artifex Magnus and the Obscurist Magnus) in "ephemera" that are provided between chapters. These excerpts are very enlightening and a strength of the books.

Overall, Paper and Fire was an excellent entry into The Library series, an action-packed fantasy thriller with engaging if somewhat simplistically drawn characters that raises interesting questions about how far one would go to fight in a world with a hegemonic monopoly on information and knowledge.

Title: Paper and Fire (The Great Library, #2).
Author: 
Rachel Caine.

Paperback: 365 pages.
Publisher:
 NAL.

Date Published: July 5, 2016.
Date Read: November 7, 2017.

GOODREADS RATING:  (4.0/5.0).

OVERALL GRADE: A- (3.67/4.0).
PLOT: A-.
IMAGERY: A-.
IMPACT: B+.
WRITING: A.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

GODLESS WEDNESDAY: Another Survey Confirms Increase In Godlessness In United States

Another study of Americans has documented the rise in the "religiously unaffiliated" which we like to call "godlessness" at this blog. The Houston Chronicle reports about a study commissioned by the Desert News (a Mormon-affiliated publication) and  the Center for the Study of Elections and Democracy at Brigham Young University which documents that a plurality of Americans (the largest group in the survey) respond "None" when asked their religious affiliation.
34 percent of respondents said they had no religious denomination, compared to 33 percent who identified as Protestants and  21 percent who said they are Catholic.
[...]
Baptists made up the largest Protestant group, at about 32 percent, with 19 percent saying they belonged to a non-denominational or independent church. Twenty-eight percent of those surveyed consider themselves "born-again" or Evangelical Christians.
Thirty-seven percent of respondents say religion is very important in their lives, but only 24 percent say they attend religious services one or more times a week. Fifty-four percent said they seldom or never attend church.
Of those polled, 21 percent said one of the most important issues facing families is "decline in religious faith and church attendance.
Interesting results, eh? I wonder when public policy and politics will start responding to how Americans actually live their religious lives, instead of how people "wish" (or "believe") they do.

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