June 21st, 2016

#5243: What is wrong with Mr. Tuvok?

John C. Wright has an excellent piece up today talking about how Hollywood is ruining good hero stories. It's a really good read, and makes a crapton of good points; but then he says this:
...[I]f the writer wants more blacks in STAR TREK, having Spock played by a black actor in the latest remakes would be an insult to the character. Nothing stops the filmmaker from having a dark skinned Mr. Tuvok as in VOYAGER, or a female Vulcan officer as in T’Pol in ENTERPRISE. The difference is that if you make a new character, you have to do something creative to make the character memorable. But Black Spock is as dumb an idea as Girl Thor.
That reminded me of Voyager, which was easily the worst series ever to come from the Star Trek universe. It was the worst because it was the most politically-correct. Tuvok was a symptom; and my discussion here actually dovetails nicely with Mr. Wright's.

"What is wrong with Mr. Tuvok?" He's black. And vulcans can't be black.

"You're racist!" No, I'm not. Look:

40 Eridani A is a K1-class main sequence star about sixteen light years from Earth. It's much cooler than our sun is (our sun is a G2, and spectral classes run from top to bottom O B A F G K M N R S) and its light is more red. It produces less ultraviolet than our star does.

According to the canon of Star Trek, the universe was seeded with DNA by an ancient race and evolution was allowed to proceed on a bunch of planets in parallel. That's why humans and vulcans and klingons and cardassians and bajorans and-and-and can all interbreed. It's why Kirk could have sex with the Orion slave girl.

But all these instances of parallel evolution--while resulting in highly similar species--also resulted in them having great differences. Vulcans, for example, have hemoglobin that's based on copper, rather than iron, which is why their blood is green. (And of course their internal organs are arranged differently, as is the case with klingons.) It's why they can differentiate races, in the show, with different forehead and nose appliques while claiming they also have highly different biochemistries. All these characteristics were due to different evolutionary environments.

So far we're in good shape. There's no reason for life--even life started from the same basic seed--to be the same everywhere; I mean, look at Galapagos, for crying out loud. We've cataloged one planet's biodiversity and we've found that even minor changes in environment can make for big differences in physiology. That's where we have the problem, in fact.

You see, Earth's sun puts out a pretty good amount of ultraviolet light, which is ionizing radiation. There's enough UV in sunlight that life on Earth's surface has to have defense mechanisms against it. We get sunburn if we stay out in sunlight too long; the skin turns darker in response. The pigmentation of the dead epidermis blocks UV from reaching the living cells underneath, which could be harmed by the radiation (and which could become cancerous). But we're not all dark by default, which would seem to be a natural trait in such an environment. Some of us are lighter in color because our ancestors inhabited places which get less sunlight over the course of a year, and defaulting to dark skin is unnecessary. Some of us are darker because our ancestors inhabited places with a lot of sunlight year-round.

But that's for a planet warmed by a G2 star.

For a planet warmed by a K1 star, melanin is much less important. The UV output of 40 Eridani A is less blue, more red, and so vulcan life would have comparatively less UV protection, because it would need less than terrestrial life does. And where there is no need for a trait, it doesn't appear (or rapidly vanishes if it does). That's Natural Selection 101.

You or I, we could walk on the surface of Vulcan all summer long and never need a drop of sunscreen. I'm white as a sheet, near enough, but the melanin present in my skin would be sufficient and I would never get a sunburn there. My skin might darken a bit, lose the pallor due to too many days spent indoors, but I wouldn't get a very dark tan there. I couldn't; there just isn't enough UV in 40 Eridani A's light.

So, why is Tuvok black?

Tuvok is purebred vulcan, so he's not getting his skin color from one of his parents. Vulcan life doesn't need that level of UV protection, so his skin color didn't come from genetics--that's science, for crying out loud--and as far as I can recall he is the only example we've ever seen of a black vulcan.

That only leaves a few possibilities. One, Tuvok lied about his past and is actually a human who had surgery to make him look like a vulcan--but no, he's not trans-species, because he's got the telepathic abilities and everything else that says he's pure vulcan. Two, he had some kind of disease when younger which permanently stained his skin. But if that were so, we'd have seen more like him, wouldn't we? Even if it were rare? Three, he's a mutant.

"Mutant" checks all the right boxes without checking any of the wrong ones. Lucky for Mr. Tuvok, his mutation is a benign one, one that makes his job (Starfleet officer) a bit easier without causing him any trouble since no one cares about skin color in the 24th century, unless they're aliens-of-the-week who are there to be the foils of this week's morality play.

I don't really care about whether or not there are black vulcans. It's a TV show with a bunch of near-magic technology in it, so one little thing here or there doesn't really matter. What bothers me about Tuvok isn't that he was black, but that they cast a black man to play a vulcan solely because they wanted a black man to play a vulcan. It was a selling point: "And in this series, the vulcan will be black! And it's about time we had a black vulcan. It's a triumph for equal rights!" There was no justification for it other than "The only reason we've never seen a black vulcan before now is RACISS THAT'S WHY YOU BIGOT"

Tim Russ did a great job playing Tuvok; he's a competent actor and he could have done any role on that show equally well. But if we're going to purport to be telling a science fiction story, we need to at least remember the science.

#5244: And people wonder why I don't want to visit Chicago

Denninger is right. The lakefront in Chicago used to be safe; now it's just as crime-ridden as the rest of that shithole.

I don't want to work in the city, I don't want to commute there, I sure as hell don't want to live there. It's not going to get better, either. My desire to avoid Chicago is borne entirely of self-preservation, and I'm in "condition orange" the entire time I'm in the city.

No thanks.

* * *

California's energy policies have led to this. California residents and businesses have been advised that they'd best prepare for blackouts, because California's capacity for generating electricity has outstripped demand for electricity.

No one is allowed to build power plants there. No one is allowed to drill for oil. And so California is now basically a third-world country.

* * *

The liberal establishment refuses to talk about the Orlando shooter's identity. Because he was a gay muslim Democrat, of course. (If he'd been a white Baptist Republican, it would be hammered home in every other sentence.)

The media doesn't like to talk about the seedy underbelly of the gay community. It doesn't fit the narrative; and of course we must never, never, ever be critical of muslims.

Besides, even acknowledging the fact that the shooting was the result of muslim fanaticism is counterproductive to the message, which is that guns cause murder. And the left simply could not wait to start dancing in the victims' blood and trot out the same tired remedy: we must ban guns now. If he shot up the nightclub because he's a self-hating gay and because his religion commands him to kill homosexuals, then the gun was just a tool and not the cause. We can't have that!

* * *

If you don't already know that these power tools are hazardous, you shouldn't even be using scissors. I read this post expecting something interesting, but none of it was, because it's all pretty obvious. I resisted learning to use a circular saw for years because they frankly terrify me. Ditto for chainsaws. Holy crap--human skin is much softer than wood and these things tear wood up, so believe me I have a healthy respect for the damned things.

But the risks of using the tools can be managed, and if you're careful you can do fantastic things with them. And once you've used them a few times you get a better idea of how they work, and how they can be dangerous, and eventually you realize that they're not going to rear back and bite you unless you do something very stupid. (Disabling safety interlocks, for example.) You must pay attention to what you're doing, of course, lest there be an accident, but while these tools are hazardous they are only dangerous if you are cavalier about their use.

What the hell--a steak knife can be deadly. A pencil. It's all how you use it.

* * *

Finished watching the second season of The Knick last night. Mrs. Fungus saw the plot twist coming, I didn't; score one for her.

* * *

Yesterday, I wore shorts to work.

Now, I didn't break any rules; the dress code says we can wear shorts as long as they reach the knee. I just needed to find the shorts I had which do that; most of my shorts end about six inches higher. They're really comfortable but not fit for work.

When I was in the PC Hardware department at Rockwell, in 1998, we were allowed to wear shorts then, too. Mainly it was because our "lab" was a cage opposite the loading docks, and it was frequently pretty warm in there. So I bought a couple pairs of jeans shorts. Mrs. Fungus doesn't like them, so I lost track of where they were, but yesterday I decided I wanted to wear them to work.

Couldn't find them, but I knew I had a pair in the dresser, so I opened one drawer and found a pair of shorts that I'd forgotten I had. They fit and were suitable for passing the strictures of work's dress code, so I put them on; then I thought the better of it and looked in a different drawer to find the pair I'd been thinking of.

Tried them on, could not button them. Well, it's been thirteen plus years since I last wore them; I consigned them to the "donate" pile and put on the other pair. They were very, very comfortable.

That's the first time I've worn shorts to work since 2009.

The interesting thing is, for the first time in my life I work in a place where even I can get chilly. That's never happened before; everyplace else I've worked, the thermostat has been adjusted for the thin-blooded. Like my father before me I run about five degrees hotter than everyone else, and when most people around me are complaining about how cold it is I'm wishing I had a fan.

But several times in the past month or so I've found myself wanting to be a little warmer.

I don't know why. I've heard some people opine it's for the computers, but that's not so; the typical desktop computer will function just fine with an ambient air temperature of 90°F and in fact the CPU tends to run even hotter than that. My thinking is that it's mainly because the thermostat is controlled by people who work in the offices around the periphery of the call center, and the ventilation in those rooms isn't as good as it is on the floor, and so the thermostat must be down rather far for those offices to be at a reasonable temperature.

I'd bet on that, in fact.

#5245: The stuff of legend!

Not really. Today I finally got the pine needles vacuumed up from the living room, though.

Pine needles clog our regular vacuum cleaner. I had to get the shop vac from downstairs. I turned it on and it blew a huge cloud of dust out, so I took it outside and cleaned it before trying again. This time I was able to vacuum up the Christmas tree needles without creating a smokescreen.

Worked up a sweat doing it, despite the AC, because there's no circulation in the living room and I was manhandling a shop vac. Oh well.

* * *

Why the hell does anyone care what Kim Kardashian thinks? She's disappointed because the Senate voted down four Democrat blood-dancing gun control bills.

Kim Kardashian is famous because she's famous and her family is famous: her father was a friend of OJ Simpson. That's the sum total of her contribution to society; she didn't invent anything or build anything or create anything. Absent the furor around the OJ Simpson trial no one would ever have heard of this useless extrusion.

Yet here I am, commenting about it. Yeah.

* * *

Wow, kid is arrested for rape, then released, and a week later kills two other kids. Local cops say "gang activity"--want to bet on what kind of gang it is? It couldn't possibly be composed of illegal aliens, now, could it? The article carefully does not say.

* * *

Heavily armed people arrested in Holland tunnel.
One of the suspects allegedly told authorities the trio was en route to Queens to try to save a friend who is on heroin and being held against her will. Police are looking for the possible woman in Queens.
Sure they are, now. It speaks volumes that people have to take matters into their own hands like this.

Or maybe someone's been watching too many movies.

Or something.

* * *

This is the sort of thing that occurs to me whenever Arse Technica and the rest of the global warmenation crowd start talking about how there's no money in climate research, and it's just about the science, blah blah blah etcetera.

If it were actually about science, the climatologists would welcome people who point out the flaws in their research. The point of actual science is to get the right answer.

But that's not the point of climatology. The point of climatology is to convince everyone that climate change is man-made and must be stopped by restricting human activity. Climatology is about protecting the rice bowls of the climatologists, which is why any dissent whatsoever is treated harshly. There may not be huge, "Now I have two Ferraris!" money in it, but there is nonetheless plenty of grant money to be had. You won't live like Bill Gates, but you will live a decent upper-middle-class lifestyle, much better than seventy percent of Americans do...and without having to work all that hard. You even get to attend a conference or two per year, some in exotic locales. Spend a few hours per week teaching a class (or, more likely, working at your computer while one of your grad students teaches the class) and write a dozen papers per year, and dutifully submit your grant applications on time--you have it made. Certainly you don't have to get your hands dirty.

It's just a racket. That's all it is. And anyone who threatens the racket must be destroyed, hence this "not displaying responsibility in respecting the reputations of other colleagues" horseshit.

Michael Mann--if he worked in an actual scientific discipline rather than climatology--would have been ridden out of the field on a rail for faking data the way he did with his hockey stick graph. It's telling that despite the demonstration that the whole thing was fake, he instead is still a prominent figure in climatology.

* * *

As for me, I have other chores to do. It's looking like the lack of rain over the past couple of weeks has left the lawn dry; I may mow it to reduce the shagginess but it hasn't really grown enough to be worth mowing otherwise.

It's cooler today than it was yesterday, and it's supposed to be even cooler tomorrow. And then Thursday it's back to work. *sigh*