On The Boring Predictability of Twitter Trolls

Yesterday I once again became the target of a bunch of bottom-of-the-Internet-dwelling Twitter trolls. Because, you know, I am a feminist woman who says stuff she’s thinking out loud.

Yesterday’s out-loud thoughts were about a thing that happened to me in the morning, which wasn’t a big deal, but was a story worth relating (to me). The recap, for those who don’t follow me on Twitter:

On my way to teach my Human Genetics class, I passed two of the senior faculty (both male) in my department, who were chatting, and as I walked by, one of them said (loud enough to be heard as I walked away, but not in an obnoxious way), “Speaking of looking good, here comes Dr. French.”

I tossed back, over my shoulder, with a smile, “Thanks, _________, but I’m not sure how appropriate that comment is.” He laughed, I kept walking, and that was it.

I tweeted this, with the first tweet of a string labeled with the hashtag #everydaysexism.

Because it is. It’s not professional. We work together, we’re both married, and it was basically a catcall in a public/professional space.

It was also innocent, in the sense that the man in question was just saying something nice in an offhand fashion. It was a compliment, and it wasn’t meant as anything else. I knew this, which is why the entire exchange, complete with a gentle reminder that it wasn’t appropriate, was friendly and over in 30 seconds.

Here’s the thing: I am tenured. I am really self-confident most of the time. I know the guy in question and am certain he didn’t mean to objectify me. I know he thinks I’m a great teacher and awesome scientist. So this was a reasonably safe, if possibly inappropriate, thing for him to do.

But the reason I still feel like it’s a story worth telling is this: what if it hadn’t been me? What if it had been our newest faculty member, a woman who is untenured, doesn’t know the guy well at all, and he’s in a position of power over her? (He is; I don’t want to “out” him on the internet, though the colleagues in the department I’ve mentioned it to know who he is.)

She might have taken it amiss. It could have impacted her work relationship with him. It could have made their interactions awkward. Let’s be clear: catcalls in the hall at work, in front of students, aren’t professional, and if you aren’t confident that it was just harmless banter, the outcome might not be great.

So I presented this as an example of a complicated case, where I could both appreciate the harmless compliment, AND feel like it was necessary to point out that it wasn’t appropriate.

And then the trolls landed. Because Law 12 of the Internet says that, if you are discussing inappropriate workplace behavior, no fewer than one dude must turn up to defend the inappropriate behavior.

The first two dudes were concern trolls: pretending they didn’t get it. “How are we supposed to know when something might be offensive and when it’s okay? You said yourself that you were flattered. You can’t have it both ways!”

Well, sure I can. I absolutely can. I did, in fact.

But given that every dude of my acquaintance “got it” almost immediately – I don’t think this is a difficult concept. My husband (who knows the senior faculty member involved), cringed visibly when I related the incident, and then shook his head to say, “what was he THINKING?”. The trolling amounts to, as usual, guys not wanting to be told that they can’t indulge in any behavior they want, any time they want to.

Then there were the OTHER trolls. The ones who just exist to troll feminists because some woman was mean to them at some point in their life. (By “mean”, I mean: wouldn’t go out with them and expressed interest in some other guy instead, or similar. Or possibly told them they couldn’t have a cookie before dinner. Whatever.)

These guys have a pattern which I find exasperating, as well as slightly amusing. They tend to lead by telling me how physically unattractive I am.

So. If you know me (and you do, probably, if you read this blog), you can take a guess at how much I care if Twitter randos think I’m ugly.

That’s right. None. None much.

Let’s clear a couple things up:

  1. I am a 43-year-old woman who has a Ph.D., tenure, funding from both major federal science funding agencies, a husband who adores me (most days), two amazing kids, family and friends who love me…by all of the usual metrics, I am both successful and fortunate. (And modest. Really modest. I’m known for it.)
  2. As mentioned above, I have a fair degree of self-confidence.

So, unless you are my spouse, or…well, actually, unless you’re my spouse, the amount of fucks that I give about your opinion of my physical attractiveness is generally near zero.

Now. Why do they lead with this?

Because they cannot, in a million years, imagine that it won’t be a devastating burn. Women exist only to be attractive to men, right? I am stepping out of line by saying that I don’t want a dude telling me I look good today (actually, I didn’t mind – but still not appropriate), so of COURSE the appropriate punishment is for them to tell me how horribly unattractive I am.

Meanwhile, I’m over here literally laughing. Why?

“Oh, noes! A stranger on Twitter thinks I am unattractive! Whatever shall I do?”

Well, for a start, this is the BEST they can do? Again, no fucks to be given here.

And secondarily? If you come to my Twitter feed, a complete stranger, all pissy because I think that you shouldn’t catcall your coworkers, and you lead with “you’re ugly”…I know I’ve already won this “argument”. Because you have no argument. You have an ad hominem attack, and not even a very interesting one. You’re all pissed off, and I happen to be an easy target this hour, and…it’s just a bit funny.

Until it gets boring. Because it always does. So very predictable.

So I mute them, and enjoy the visual of them screaming insults into the void.

Okay, I have work to do. My e-mail is not loading for some reason. Bye now. 🙂

 

 

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Gilmore Girls, Part 1: Lorelei

So, if you haven’t watched “Gilmore Girls: A Year In The Life” yet, stop here. Spoilers ahead. Seriously, just stop now. Come back when you’ve finished it. Mom, this means you.

Okay. I’ve been trying to decide how best to organize this post, but let’s be honest: this blog is writing I do for fun, and the organization of posts is minimal. So, stream of consciousness it is, then.

I’ll start with a bit of background: I am a Gilmore Girls superfan. I stayed for Seasons 6 and 7, and even enjoyed them. I love this show. It’s awesome. So don’t expect me to spend a lot of time thinking about whether it’s feminist or antifeminist (it’s not antifeminist enough to offend me), or the fact that it’s just incredibly white (yes, it is. I still like it.).

Gilmore Girls, for those of you who are basically babies, premiered in fall of 2000, in Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s old timeslot. Buffy jumped networks from the WB to UPN (are either of those still a thing?) at the end of Season 5, and Gilmore Girls was its replacement.

Which is to say that I didn’t watch Gilmore Girls until Season 3, because I had another love, and back then I didn’t have DVR. I still did Netflix as discs. I recorded stuff with a VCR in case I wasn’t home when it was on.

Yes. A VCR. Some of you are so very young.

My sister, though, was only a moderate Buffy fan, and she tuned in to the thing that replaced it. She said it was awesome. Me, I had attitude. But eventually, I watched.

Lorelei Gilmore may be my alter ego. I have a BUNCH of pop-culture alter egos (someday I’ll do a post on Temperance Brennan), so that’s no big deal. But she’s my fast-talking, sarcastic, hates the Great Outdoors, coffee-drinking 30-something alter ego. (I was 30 when I started watching Gilmore Girls. I am 5 years younger than Lorelei Gilmore.) We have a lot of personality traits in common.

So, I watched. I was, of course, Team Luke. But I also like Christopher. I was Team Logan, too, once he got his shit together. I hated Jess with a fiery passion (I was never really into Bad Boys with permasneers). Dean was nice enough, but, well…boring. Not smart enough for a girl like Rory.

So. Gilmore Girls ended on a cliffhanger, for Lorelei. She and Luke were…what? What were they? The show’s original producers/writers didn’t get the ending they wanted (they were replaced at the end of Season 5), and neither did the fans.

Which brings us to: now. Nine years later, we get A Year In the Life. Where are they now? Have they grown up? I considered two ways to organize this: by Season/Episode, or by character. I decided to go with character. Like 30 seconds ago, I decided. I’m gonna take each character and their total arc, from beginning (16 years ago) to now.

Lorelei:

Lorelei Gilmore was a teen mother, knocked up at 15 by her boyfriend Christopher, ran away from home at 16 to raise Rory in Stars Hollow. While she is very lovable, she is not always likable. She’s flighty. She’s prickly. She’s immature. Throughout the series, I went from identifying with her to being pissed off that she couldn’t seem to grow up. She did an amazing job building a stable life for herself and her daughter. And her emotional maturity arrested when Rory was born. In many ways, Lorelei kept showing us she was a 16-year-old girl. This is most obvious when she’s dealing with her mother, and with her boyfriends.

Lorelei’s relationship with her mother (Emily) is pretty much identical to what it was when she ran away from home. Emily has fairly fixed ideas about how things “ought to be”, and Lorelei feels like those rules are stifling. Lorelei wants to be sure her mom knows that Lorelei, not Emily, is “the boss of her”. And, in response, Emily spends a fair amount of time trying to control Lorelei. We’ll get to that later. Gosh, is this gonna require multiple parts?

Lorelei won’t take parental money, because if you take their money, they get to have some say in your life. Lorelei resists all attempts by her mother to reintegrate her (and Rory) back into the grandparents’ life. Eventually, this starts to annoy most viewers. For me, it’s mostly: Can’t you just BE an adult? Do you have to keep showing everyone you’re an adult? Just do what you want, and don’t do what you don’t want to do, for whatever your reasons are, and accept the consequences. Maybe, just maybe, if you stop reacting to your mother like a 16-year-old, she’ll stop treating you like one.

Or maybe not. But, regardless, you can only control your own behavior, not that of other people. That realization is one of the key components of adulthood, and we all have days where we’re better at remembering it than other days. Lorelei spends too much of her time making a point to people of how separate she is from her parents. Ironically, this effort just illustrates the ties she still has to them, and the hold they still have on her.

As for other relationships: Lorelei’s inflexibility and unwillingness to be controlled hurts her there, too. All of her “rules” about men in Rory’s life are fine, I guess, but mostly they appear to be constructed to keep Lorelei, not Rory, from getting hurt. And from having to cede control over any part of her life to anyone else.

Max Medina: Max was a lovely guy, a brilliant English teacher from Rory’s school. Lorelei screwed this one up twice. First, she flipped out because she was too attached to Max and decided to ignore him away (hello, 16-year-old’s method of breaking up). Next, she got engaged to him when she didn’t really want to…why, I’m not sure, but it illustrates a second pattern, which is that she sometimes just wants “normalcy” so badly that she fails to stand up for herself. Almost like a 16-year-old who wants to fit in…anyway, that breakup also went badly. She ran away from her wedding. Just got in a car and drove off. Very mature. Nicely done.

Christopher Hayden: Rory’s dad. Lorelei’s high school boyfriend. He ask her to marry him when she was pregnant, and she said, “No.” And then she cut him out of their lives. People who hate Chris tend to forget this part: Lorelei was the first to cut and run here, to (again) not let anyone have any say in how she runs her (and Rory’s) life. Yes, Chris did disappear. But can you blame him? It wasn’t like he felt welcome.

Lorelei’s feelings for Chris persisted for years – which isn’t a surprise. He’s the father of her kid. He’s her first love. So she fell back into bed (and relationships) with Chris repeatedly over the years. Ultimately, after a heartbreaking breakup with Luke, she married Chris.

Remember what I said, above, about bad decision-making and wanting things to be “normal”? Lorelei never wanted to marry Chris. Just like she never wanted to marry Max. But she did marry Chris. Why? Because she was heartbroken, and here was a guy she loved (not enough) and who loved her (more than enough, if you ask me), and who was her daughter’s father (thus providing an instant intact family). She had been planning to get married anyway (to Luke, see below), and wanted to be married very badly…so she went ahead and married the wrong guy. Understandable, but…immature. Irresponsible. And, ultimately, cruel. She has to leave Chris again, and he has to face up to the fact that he’s not the guy she really wanted to marry. His choices are also poor, but the dudes aren’t the subject of this post.

Luke Danes: Right, yes. Luke. Luke is The Guy. The one who waited for her forever, the one who had us all rolling our eyes and yelling at the screen at her over how blind (and stupid) she was. As a person who has always insisted on dating (and marrying) friends, I was all, “The guy who is your best friend is the one you’re supposed to marry, idiot woman!”

She messed this up, too. So did he, in the much-maligned Seasons 6 and 7, Luke mysteriously went from the guy who tells Lorelei everything to the guy who doesn’t tell her about his surprise daughter. The guy who waited for years for her decides to put off his wedding to her over the aforementioned daughter. That’s not Luke, and that’s bad writing. But I digress…

When Luke discovers he’s got a 13-year-old daughter he never knew about, he freaks out. (Understandable.) He starts shutting Lorelei out (out of character, but possibly understandable). He keeps secrets (out of character, unacceptable). Once she knows, he tries to wall that part of his life off from Lorelei. That’s both in and out of character, depending on what part of Luke’s character we’re looking at. He’s always wanted her input with hard decisions (Jess comes to mind), but he’s also emotionally reserved and tends to keep stuff to himself.

My issue with Lorelei here is this: she knows that Luke is this way. She has much to be upset over, yes. But she’s committed to this guy, unlike the previous Dudes I Want To Marry (but don’t really). She’s decided this is the guy she wants to spend the rest of her life with, right?

If so, then you don’t blow it up over even really big stuff. Luke kept a secret, yeah. It was a mistake. It was relationship-damaging. But it’s either a deal-breaker, or it’s not. Since it’s clearly not, then the right thing to do is to figure out how to move forward from here. It’s NOT suggesting, in a moment of emotional distress, that you postpone your wedding. It’s not stalking the mother of the girl to try to exert some control over the situation.

But what it’s really not? It’s not delivering an ultimatum to Luke that he either elope with you now, or you break up. Yes, it’s been a rough few months. Yes, it’s pretty much entirely his fault. But you either want to get married, or you don’t.

And you REALLY don’t run off right after he says he can’t elope right this second and sleep with Christopher. Seriously, who does that?

So, the relationship with Luke is the strongest of the three, and the most mature for Lorelei, in case you think I’m blaming her for this. The writers had to throw a lot of curveballs to mess it up. But there are still aspects of Immature Lorelei here. For example, her tendency to cut and run when things get hard. Her blowing up that relationship at the end? That was Lorelei cutting and running away. She knew, somewhere, that sleeping with Christopher would be the end. That Luke would change his mind and come running back (he did), and she wanted to just end it all before that.

Except she didn’t. She wanted to marry Luke. Just…not right in that moment. The show spends the next full year proving that this ISN’T what she wanted. The mature thing to do would have been to wait a day or two, talk it out. Rebuild. Keep what you know is valuable. That relationship wasn’t over, and her way of ending it was incredibly childish.

Something common to all of these relationships: Lorelei is a control freak. Here’s where she’s my spirit animal. How life and relationships are run are based on Lorelei’s Rules, and there are no exceptions. The big, repetitive example of this: she doesn’t want to move out of her house – all men must move in with her. That house is emblematic of Lorelei’s rigidity. She’s stuck being 16, and that house is a symbol of it.

So. My opinion of Original Gilmore Lorelei: hasn’t really grown up, emotionally.

Does she, by a Year in the Life?

I think so, yeah. Though she JUST gets it done by the end.

Lorelei has been with Luke for the past 9 years now. Seems stable, right? In my circle of friends, I refer to this as “married equivalent”. But…this is Lorelei. If she’s not married, it raises red flags for those of us who know her well. Including her mother. Emily makes much, over the Year, of how Lorelei has a roommate, not a husband. And she’s not really wrong.

Lorelei is still keeping Luke at arm’s length, and he’s doing the same thing to her. Their finances are still 100% separate. I know some married couples do this, but for me it’s always been a red flag. Marriage is, on some level, a gigantic leap of faith. You’re promising yourself that this is forever. If you keep your money separate…are you hedging? Making sure it’s a bit easier to get out when and if you need to?

Now, not all marriages are the same, and my “marriage model” needn’t apply to you. YMMV, and all of that. But I think the show intends, here, for my model to apply in this instance.

But we see other things, too. Lorelei is worried that Luke may not be entirely happy. Maybe her intense need to control her life has meant that he’s sacrificed far more of his own control for hers (it has, but, spoiler: he doesn’t really mind). Maybe she should be working to fix that.

Also, she begins to realize that, maybe, her own comfort doesn’t always need to be paramount. Maybe she can suck it up and be what her mom needs her to be once in a while. Maybe she can make some changes in her life in order to keep one of her best friends (Michel) happy. We start to see Lorelei realize that her absolute need to be the center of her own existence 100% of the time may be hurting the people she loves.

And then she flips out. Has a personal crisis and…decides to “Do Wild”. Apparently this is a book of some sort. Okay, I looked it up. The short synopsis: the author’s mother died, and her marriage broke up, and she decided to hike the Pacific Crest Trail alone in the hope that it would help. Sort of a midlife crisis book, though the author was actually quite young.

Lorelei heads for California, leaving Luke (who’s sure she’s REALLY leaving him, again) behind. And, when this happens, we all groan, sure it’s Max Medina all over again. She’s running. Admit it, you thought she was running.

When she gets to California, she finds out what we all knew, which is that her life is actually pretty good, and also that she hates hiking. Instead, she finds a diner, and, while trying unsuccessfully to buy coffee, has her epiphany.

Lorelei calls her mom, and we’ll discuss that in a later post. Then she goes home. To Luke. Who is still desperately afraid she’s leaving him, and who gives the speech we’ve wanted to see forever.

Here’s the thing: she’s not leaving him. She wants to get married. Partly, I think, for him: it’s what he’s always wanted. But, also, for herself: it’s what she wants, too, but she’s been too afraid of giving part of herself away to someone else to do it. Ceding control over her life in any small way. She’s also gonna expand the Inn, to make Michel happy. And she’s going to use the money her dad left Luke, to make her mother happy. (Oh. And she and Luke are going to spend two weeks in summer and a week at Christmas with her mother. Because of course.)

Lorelei does grow up. She manages to realize that not everything is about making the world see that they aren’t the boss of you.

So, Lorelei. Yay. Next time, we’ll talk about Rory. Less yay.

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I Give You Your Faults

I do believe this is the first post in this blog whose title relates directly back to the book the blog is named for.

For the last month or so, I’ve been reading my kids “A Wrinkle in Time”, because it was time to start doing longer bedtime stories, and this is my all-time favorite novel. Who knew that the bits about resisting fascism might actually be relevant soon, eh?

At any rate, we have just gotten to IT. One of my favorite parts of the book, because this is where Meg finally gets to shine. For most of the novel, our hero, Meg, is clumsy and grumpy, stubborn and irrational. Everyone else in the story, even (especially) her five-year-old brother is better at adapting to change than she is. I mean, she can’t even handle a simple tesser through a dark, evil force. Silly girl.

But on Camazotz, Meg shows us why she’s the hero. Mrs. Whatsit says to her, “Meg, I give you your faults.” Meg’s faults are what she needs to get her through what’s going to happen next. Meg’s faults are what she needs to survive the darkest experience of her life. Her stubbornness. Her refusal to just take other people at their word. Her persistent need to win an argument. Her inability to just be a “nice girl” and “try to get along”.

Today, FOR THE FIRST TIME, I saw the message about what it means to be a woman. It was there, looking at me, for 38 years (This book was first read to me when I was about 5 years old, and I read my first copy until it fell apart, then bought another), but I needed to be a pissed-off 43-year-old woman who thrives due to her “faults” to see it.

Meg’s faults are all those things that make it hard for her to fit in. She won’t lie down. She won’t do as she’s told. She refuses to accept that the world isn’t fair. She keeps fighting. She knows that like and equal are not the same thing at all.

The way it goes down is this: Three witches/goddesses/former stars/angels come to take Meg and her brother (and, incidentally, Calvin), to enlist their help in saving the universe from Evil. Along the way, these three women give each child a gift, something to help them to prevail in the battle ahead. Meg’s gift from the youngest of the three is something she already has: her faults.

The message? To prevail in the battle to come, as a woman, you must embrace those things that everyone tells you to strive to “fix”. You must learn to argue. You must be stubborn. You must refuse to shut up. You must not give up.

And then there’s one more gift. Later. After she learns to use the first one.

Spoiler alert: Meg wins. Meg is the hero. She uses her innate stubbornness, her argumentativeness, and her refusal to submit to defeat IT, save her father, her brother, and the universe. And she grows up in the process.

It’s a story about what it means, as a woman, to survive, and to grow up.

It speaks to me because a lot of my success comes from aspects of my personality that piss other people the hell off. I’m argumentative. I’m opinionated. I’m pushy. I’m persistent (ye gods, am I persistent). All of these are things that people have tried to train out of me. All of these are things my husband and I have had arguments over. And all of these are also  things my husband loves me for, and things that have resulted in a fair amount of success in life.

This week, I feel like we need to remember that our greatest faults can also be our greatest strengths. One of my faults is a tendency to let relationships that are bad for me deteriorate and NOT feel bad about it. I know, it doesn’t sound like a fault…but tell that to family you’ve decided you just don’t want to be family with anymore. THEY think it’s a fault, for sure.

This week, though…I think this is a strength. There’s been enough pretending that unacceptable behavior is tolerable just to preserve relationships. I mean this on every level: family relationships, friendships, political relationships. Some things are not okay. Some things are worth ending relationships over. Sometimes it’s okay to decide NOT to bridge a gap.

Reread your favorite books. You always pull something new out of them.

I give you your faults.

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Debate as martial arts

So.

Last night, Hillary Clinton debated Donald Trump for the first time. It was infuriating. It got my blood pressure up. It caused me to say (and type) “FUCK” several times.

And it was glorious.

Let me explain. Hillary Clinton just gave a masterclass in using your opponent’s strength against him. Sort of, anyway. At a minimum, she played him like a violin, using the absolute most infuriating thing about him – his incredible misogyny – to destroy him.

Here’s what I saw. Your mileage may, of course, vary. People coming into the debate with different starting opinions will come away with different impressions, yadda yadda yadda. And yet:

Trump came into this debate as a classic example of the  Dunning-Kruger Effect, enhanced by a baseline misogyny that makes him think he is, by default, superior to all women. He thought he could just walk into that room and say whatever came into his head, so he didn’t prep. (If he did prep, Goddess help us all.) He didn’t practice. He thought he didn’t need to. Because of the ease with which he put his sad little Republican opponents down, he thought he had this in the bag before it even started.

So she let him talk. She let him act like a buffoon. She waited while he didn’t finish sentences. She let him accuse her of having ineffectively fought ISIS for her “entire adult life”. She let him say, “Why not?” when she said that, by the end of the debate, she’d be blamed for pretty much everything. She let him lie about things we all know are true, while letting people know that he was being fact checked in real time.

When she talked, on the other hand, she was focused. She was relaxed. She was unflappable. She called him “Donald” (which was clearly a well-planned and effective microaggression). She laid traps that she’d clearly planned in advance. She got him to admit to, and BRAG about, paying no taxes. She knew her stuff, and she made sure he knew it.

He couldn’t take it. He couldn’t STAND to be on a stage with a woman who is both smarter than him, AND who did her homework. He tried to hit her on taking some days “off” this week…she hit back with, “It sounds like you’re criticizing me for preparing for this debate. You know what else I prepared for? I prepared to be President.” He had…nothing. She pointed out that the bully hadn’t done his homework, and he just had to take it.

He started to lose his cool within 15 minutes. He started to shout. He stopped being able to complete a thought.

She kept on doing what she came to do.

Then, in the last few minutes, as he was approaching Maximum Misogyny, she hit him with her best shot: she called him out on the misogyny. In front of at least 80 million people (that’s just the TV numbers; I watched via Twitter), she called him out. Reminded him of his fat-shaming of a former Miss Universe by calling her Miss Piggy.

And what did he do? How did he respond? He spluttered, he denied, and then he, weirdly, decided to attack Rosie O’Donnell. He wasn’t even sure, you see, WHICH woman she was referring to (despite the fact that she, in a brilliant stroke, said the woman’s name out loud). He’d lost the ability to remember what, exactly, he was even responding TO at that point.

She took his misogyny, his complete inability to accept that a woman could be better than him, and used it to wipe the floor with him. He finished the debate by saying he had planned to say something “really rough to Hillary and her family”, but it wouldn’t have been “nice”…but she hasn’t been nice to him. NICE. Seriously, he finished by whining that people aren’t nice to him. Nice show of strength, there, Donnie.

And today? He’s reverted, at least temporarily, back to Old Donald. He’s out there doubling down on “Miss Universe got fat” and saying he wishes he HAD said that thing about her family. (Newsflash: we all know her husband cheated on her. And it’s a classic tool of misogyny to blame that on the woman.) He’s complaining that the moderator was biased against him. He’s whining that his MICROPHONE was defective.

So weak. Sad.

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On Reviewing Manuscripts

Update: Donald Trump is still Donald Trump. So, two weeks more and he’s still…bad at this. And has doubled…tripled…quadrupled(?) down on being bad at it.

In other news, this is my last week of summer, and on my to-do list today was a manuscript review for a journal in my field (the second for this journal this summer). The first paper was, if not a delight to read, at least readable and, I thought, publishable, and I said so. Ultimately, the journal agreed and the article was accepted.

Today’s paper was…less so. Far less so. The science wasn’t good. It wasn’t awful, either, but it was incomplete, inconsistent, and underinterpreted/underexplained. It didn’t make sense, and the paper didn’t really try to make it make sense. It felt like a summer student’s project, honestly.

But to make the pain even worse, the paper wasn’t in English. I mean, ostensibly it was, but in practice, it was a grammatical disaster. I know that this is due to language differences, but it’s irrelevant. In the long run, if it has to be published in English, it has to be written in English, too.

As I started to read it, I started to get irritated, and asked my Twitter followers if they’d ever considered rejecting a manuscript due to bad writing. The general answer was, “No, but usually the science isn’t great if the writing is that bad.”

Okay. Let me unpack my philosophy of manuscript review for you:

First, I try not to accept more reviews than I can do well. I accept everything sent by my society journals, and anything requested by certain colleagues (there are probably 10 or so people on that list, maybe a few more). Otherwise, I accept if it’s in my wheelhouse (meaning I should be reviewing it) AND I have very few other reviews in the queue. And by “very few”, I mean “less than two”. I don’t allow myself to have more than two unwritten reviews sitting on my desk.

Part of this is because I have learned, over the past decade, to triage brutally for my own sanity. And part of this is because the authors of a manuscript deserve reviews that are both thoughtful and prompt. You can’t do that if you’ve got 15 of them due in the next 21 days.

So, when I do sit down to write a review, I try very hard to really understand the data and the conclusions. Even if the writing is hard to parse. I don’t want to reject someone’s manuscript because it irritated me. Or because it was hard to understand. What if the science is REALLY good, but they simply didn’t have the ability to pay for copyediting in another language?

So, this manuscript was nearly impossible to parse. I spent more time than I usually do on a paper, both in the reading and in the writing of the review. I was irritated and having to push it back to get the job done. And, ultimately, in this case, I think I was right to be irritated.

It was a reject. For sure. It was also a massive waste of my time. I felt like I owed it to the authors to do a good job, but they appear NOT to feel they owe the same to the editors and reviewers at the journal. Not to put too fine a point on it: this manuscript was NOT a manuscript. It was not ready for prime time. It quite obviously should never have been submitted, and the editor should have seen that and not sent it out for review. I’m really not sure why they did send it out. And it took me extra time to figure this out.

The upshot is this: I will be far less likely to trudge through a hard-to-parse manuscript in future. Which may be a good thing. I will bounce it back to the editor with a note reading, “I will be happy to look at this again in the future, once it’s had extensive copyediting.”

So, what’s to be done? The editor was probably just REALLY overwhelmed, and this one slipped through the cracks. But, please, editors – don’t do this. Don’t subject your willing (and prompt!) reviewers to papers that shouldn’t be released into the wild.

And authors: don’t do this. Please don’t submit papers that you know aren’t ready. I get the pressure to publish, I really do, but this was egregious. I can’t imagine the senior author really thinks it’s a good piece of data, let alone a good story. It could be part of another story. One with another three figures’ worth of data.

And please, please, get someone to copyedit in the language of the journal you’re submitting to, if you can. It’s really hard to write in a language that’s not your primary mode of communication, and it’s even harder for reviewers to be rigorous about the science when reading such a manuscript.

Okay. Here endeth the rant.

Make sure you register to vote, and check your registration if you haven’t lately. 😉

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Great, kid. Don’t get cocky.

I think this’ll be a short one. Let me start with this: I honestly thought Donald Trump would be better at this. No, really. How hard can it be for a rich guy to hire people to dress him, write speeches for him, tell him who to flatter, send him to the right places, etc.? How hard can it be to prep for the questions you’re apt to get, especially since the press had been giving him SUCH an easy time for months?

But, damn. He’s AWFUL at running for President, isn’t he? Dude can’t keep his mouth shut, appears unable to just NOT RESPOND to every slight, real or imagined. I mean, he started a flame war with the parents of a dead soldier. Who DOES that?

It appears Donald Trump does that. He also doesn’t know that Crimea was already annexed by Russia (okay, he knows that NOW, but it would have been good to know it before the Sunday talk shows, amirite?). He also seems to have thrown a baby out of a rally for crying, and is trolling both John McCain and Paul Ryan over endorsements. Really, the GOP candidate for President is openly mocking the GOP Speaker of the House and refusing to endorse him. Oh, and he’s trying to wriggle out of the debates and claiming the election is going to be “rigged”. (Read: “If I lose, I didn’t REALLY lose.)

So, as of right now, Republicans who still have souls and spines are jumping ship, there are rumors of the RNC trying to figure out who they’ll replace him with if he bails before September, most of the Bernie die-hards have come around to Hillary, and the polls, which gave me a minor heart attack after the Republican National Convention, have swung dramatically Hillary’s way. She got a hell of a convention bump, by modern standards.

Having said all that, don’t get complacent, people. Ohio is busily purging voter rolls of “infrequent” and “inactive” voters, and it appears most of those are Democratic voters. Volunteer. Get out the vote. Drive folks to the polls (Warren Buffett will help you out if you need it). Call people in battleground states and remind them that Hillary Rodham Clinton is the only thing standing between us and the abyss.

If you think I’m being overly dramatic, well, maybe. But…sit back and consider what Donald J. Trump might have done, had he been President after 9/11.

Then consider whether you want to risk it. As my officemate Katie was saying yesterday – Trump is making George W. Bush look presidential. Sad!

Or, as stolen from Kevin M. Kruse on Twitter:

Arnold-Schwarzenegger-Saying-Come-With-Me-If-You-Want-to-Live-Terminator-2

Source: GIF: “Come With Me If You Want to Live” (Terminator 2) | Gifrific

 

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Electoral Math

So, last night, after Herr Trump finished his speech, I tweeted that I did NOT want to hear from anyone about voting for Jill Stein. To start with, full disclosure and all that, I am voting for Hillary Clinton, because I want to. Happily. With enthusiasm. I have done so before (in the 2008 primary). So I wouldn’t be voting Green regardless.

That said, the reason I don’t want to hear from people voting Green out of “conscience” because lesser of two evils, blah blah blah, is this: it is incredibly unethical, even immoral, to do so if you: 1) Believe that Donald Trump should be allowed nowhere NEAR the Presidency, and, thus, would never vote for him, and, 2)Live in a state where the election will be even remotely close.

Yes. Voting your conscience can be immoral. Because, well, math.

If you are not a Trump voter (and if you’re reading my blog, you’re probably not, unless you’re a masochist of some sort), I can see only four reasons to vote 3rd party. I’ll take each in turn:

  1. You live in a state where it won’t matter and want to cast a protest vote. For example, if you live here, with me, in sunny California, where Clinton averages a 20-point lead over Trump, then, yeah, your protest vote will be lost in the sea of Clinton votes, and, hey, whatever. You do you. I don’t care, really.
  2. You believe HRC is just as bad as Donald Trump. Okay, if this is you, you’re flat-out wrong, but you’re also so disconnected with reality that I know better than to try and convince you otherwise. A reasonable, rational person comparing the two party platforms will see the obvious differences. That same person knows that platforms matter, because parties matter, and what the party says they want should be taken seriously. The GOP platform is incredibly regressive. It calls for making abortion illegal, rolling back marriage equality, allowing conversion therapy of gay children, and repealing Obamacare. But, sure, HRC is just as bad. We just witnessed what may be the most racist and hate-filled political convention this nation has ever seen, but HRC is just as bad. One of last night’s speakers thinks women having the vote was a mistake, but HRC is just as bad. Whatever. If you think they’re the same, then we’re done talking to one another. For real.
  3. You know that Trump is a fascist strongman, that he’s WAY worse than HRC, but you don’t like the Democrats, either, because they haven’t successfully changed the reality of American politics enough to suit you, so because you think both sides are corrupt, you think, “Let’s just burn it all down and start over.” If this is you, then, seriously, fuck you. That’s an incredibly privileged position to take. It pretty much says, “I am in a secure enough position in society that this result, though it will suck, won’t be all that bad for ME, personally, and I’ve decided not to care what the end result will be for all the not-white, not-male, not-straight folks mentioned above.” Well, great. You can roast marshmallows over the dumpster if you want. The rest of us will be working on trying to prevent the actual end of freedom in America. And, no, after last night, I don’t think that’s all that much of an exaggeration.
  4. You think that it’s morally correct to vote your conscience, and you think Jill Stein would be a better president. Or you just CAN’T make yourself vote for HRC, because feelings. This I’m a little more sympathetic to. Honestly, I would hate to have to vote for Bernie Sanders (but I would, if he was the candidate). But I’m here to tell you that this is NOT the morally or ethically correct choice. Because, like it or not, one of these two people WILL become POTUS. There’s no way around that. It’s Trump or Hillary. And while a vote for Stein isn’t directly a vote for Trump, it IS a partial equivalent of a vote for Trump, mathematically. Because it: 1) reduces the overall number of votes that actually count towards the election, and 2) shifts the balance of those votes towards Trump. Period. It does. And you should know this.

So, the math. Many of you know all of this, but it bears repeating:

We don’t elect a president directly. We elect electors to the Electoral College, and THEY elect the President. There are 538 electors: one for each Congressional district, and two for each state, plus three for Washington, D.C.

Electors are awarded on a winner-take-all basis for all but two states (Maine and Nebraska, which between them have 9 votes). Meaning if a candidate wins the popular vote for that state, they get all that state’s electors. In Maine and Nebraska, electors are awarded by Congressional District, plus two for the popular state vote. So…of the 538 electors, 98% are elected in a winner-take-all fashion, and for the 2% you’d still have to win at least one Congressional District to win a single electoral vote. No 3rd party candidate is polling above 9% in any Congressional district, as far as I know, and certainly nowhere near the number needed to win a district. Anywhere. (And it’s not Jill Stein. It’s Gary Johnson, when it’s near 9%. Stein is polling so low that 538.com doesn’t even include her in their models.

So, math, Part 1: no 3rd party candidate has a reasonable chance of winning even a single elector this year. So any vote for them is, truly, a protest vote.

Next: to win the Presidential election in the Electoral College, a candidate must get an absolute majority of the electoral votes. That’s 50% +1, which is 270 votes. If no candidate gets 270 votes, the election is thrown to the House of Representatives to decide, where each state delegation gets a single vote. All states are equal. All pretense of caring about how many people voted in each state disappears.

What that means, right now? There are at least 31 states where there is a clear majority Republican delegation in the House. There are 11 with a clear Democratic majority. 8 are split more evenly. So…best-case scenario, then, is that 31 votes go to Trump, and 19 go to Clinton.

So. Say you get a 3rd party candidate who does well enough to win some states, and thus get some electoral votes. If that results in a true 3-way race, odds are nobody gets 270 votes, it goes to the House, and, hey, Trump. Because, don’t forget: Congressional delegations are NOT voting for a Green party candidate. Once it’s in the House, it’s a two-party race no matter what it is on the outside of the House, at least in America this year.

So: your 3rd party candidate either throws the race to Trump by competing really well and winning states, OR your 3rd party candidate has no chance and just shifts the balance towards Trump. These are your options, as predicted by math.

So. Realistically, if you’re in, say, Ohio, and you vote for Jill Stein, what you’ve done is: reduce the overall number of votes that count for anything (because your vote will NOT count, fair or not, if you vote 3rd party, not in America in 2016, because of the Electoral College). You have also shifted the balance of the remaining votes towards Trump, because, as I established above, you are a not-Trump voter making a protest vote for someone other than HRC. You have moved a fraction of a vote away from her, and towards him. In Ohio, that fraction is a LOT bigger than it is in California.

Given this math, it’s actually not ethical, if you know and admit that Trump is basically a neofascist (and aren’t okay with that), to vote for any 3rd party candidate. And the math is the same if you sit the election out, too. You’re not changing the system. You’re just helping the wrong side. And that’s why Bernie endorsed Hillary. Because he knows how the math works.

Yup, Nader voters ARE partially responsible for George W. Bush. It’s just a fact. I get why they don’t want to admit or believe it, but these people made a “principled” choice that was founded on mistaken principles.

The math is what it is. The two-party system is baked into the Constitution. You have to get rid of the Electoral College to fix it. We won’t be doing that before November.

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