A Friday Miscellany

By Tim Worstall , written on February 28, 2014

From The News Desk

Stories to start off the conversation at the beer bust this evening:

I can't help thinking that this is rather a First World Problem.

We’re excited to be launching #DoodleUs, an in-depth exploration of the representation of women and people of color in Google Doodles. Collecting this data has taken many months of research, lots of teamwork, and several moments where we were forced to negotiate what, exactly, our ultimate goals were. Because this is such a detail- and data-rich project, we want to be transparent about our process, our decisions, and areas that other activists and researchers might take up next. Even with all the questions and uncertainty we uncovered in this project, we found one thing for certain: an utter lack of any sort of diversity. As the data in this report shows, 2010, 2011, and 2012 all saw zero women of color honored in Google’s Global Doodles. Out of the 445 total Doodles Google created to honor people between the years of 2010 and 2013, a full 74% honored white people. Only 17% honored women of any race. An even more abysmal 4.3% honored women of color. We want to be transparent with our data and process because we want Google to be transparent with theirs. We want Google to be transparent about the fact that since the beginning of the Doodles’ existence, they have been promoting white men’s achievements as the standard for their homepage, and we want them to be transparent about what they are doing to fix that.
Given my patriarchal, nay heterosexist, attachment to things like evidence I can't help noting that Google's Doodles tend to be about some historic figure or action that is celebrated on an anniversary. And, given that (and we are indeed told this endlessly by various campaigners so it must be true) most historical figures are indeed dead white European men the celebration of anniversaries is obviously going to be rather heavy with DWEM. That the world is a vastly better place now that current figures who will in the future be historical ones can and do come from any race and or gender strikes me as being obviously true. But given that our foremothers were mostly staying home to find out which childbirth they died in and most of our tinted ancestors were slaves of one kind or another it seems equally obvious that a celebration of historical figures will tilt heavily towards those who are in fact historical figures. The dead white European males of that patriarchal and racist society that was the past.

A nomination for a law that we definitely don't want:

Today top D.C. lobbyist Jack Burkman released draft text of “The American Decency Act of 2014,” which calls for banning openly gay athletes from playing in the National Football League and fining multi-million dollar fees on teams if they violated the Act.
Loathsome. And American politics is a great deal further into the gutter than I thought it was if someone who proposes such a thing is known as "top" anything. Although I will admit to being very confused by this part of the justification:
“Is it appropriate for NFL players to shower with NFL cheerleaders? Certainly not.,” says Burkman.
I'll admit that my exposure to the rites and rituals of American Football has been through the various teen movies about the high school quarterback but the impression I have gained is that this is indeed the point and purpose of cheerleaders. If we are to replaces the verb "shower" with one more active. seems to have delivered, finally, a decent lesson:

The best quote that every single government on the planet should read:

[...] one lesson of the fall and rise of has to be that the practice of awarding high-tech, high-stakes contracts to companies whose primary skill seems to be getting those contracts rather than delivering on them has to change. "It was only when they were desperate that they turned to us," says Dickerson. "I have no history in government contracting and no future in it ... I don't wear a suit and tie ... They have no use for someone who looks and dresses like me. Maybe this will be a lesson for them. Maybe that will change." That is, government can indeed work but only if it's not operated in the manner that all government is.

And in the increasingly absurd world of government spying on the internet:

Britain's surveillance agency GCHQ, with aid from the US National Security Agency, intercepted and stored the webcam images of millions of internet users not suspected of wrongdoing, secret documents reveal.

GCHQ files dating between 2008 and 2010 explicitly state that a surveillance program codenamed Optic Nerve collected still images of Yahoo webcam chats in bulk and saved them to agency databases, regardless of whether individual users were an intelligence target or not. Umm....

Sexually explicit webcam material proved to be a particular problem for GCHQ, as one document delicately put it: "Unfortunately … it would appear that a surprising number of people use webcam conversations to show intimate parts of their body to the other person. Also, the fact that the Yahoo software allows more than one person to view a webcam stream without necessarily sending a reciprocal stream means that it appears sometimes to be used for broadcasting pornography."
Well, yes. The way I read this is that GCHQ was actually collecting these images so that it could work on the basic problems of facial recognition rather than they were actively using this technique to trace subjects of interest through this program. The problem being that you're not going to learn much about facial recognition techniques in a medium often populated by those waving their willies around. I mean, hadn't anyone looked at Chat Roulette?

Finally, the beard transplant:

The unkempt, hairy hipster look is driving a plastic surgery boom in New York, where baby-faced young men are flocking to doctors for beard transplants that can cost a whopping $8,000.

Facial surgeons with private practices in Manhattan and Florida say they have seen a phenomenal increase in demand in the last five years, and hipsters are leading the way.

No longer the preserve of fishermen or aging academics, beards are the signature look of urbane men in their 20s and 30s who consider themselves witty, creative and politically progressive.

Beards are indeed secondary sexual characteristics so one can imagine that the plumping up of such will move from womens' chests to mens' faces at some point. But given the other marked social trend of recent years, the widespread shaving of genitals by both sexes, I can't help thinking that a more interesting, nay enjoyable, deal could be worked out. A small pot of glue would seem to facilitate the mutual removal and could even become a new method of autoeroticism.

[image via Kevin Dooley on flickr]