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Starships, swords, and the faded grandeur of science fantasy

An annotated bibliograpy of sorts, of the role fantasy plays in science fiction. My recollection of ThunderCats, however, doesn’t quite match the author’s:

Surprisingly enough, one of the most successful and fully realized science fantasy properties of the late ‘80s wound up being the ThunderCats cartoon. With supple, vibrant animation, a diverse cast of characters, and a mythos that wasn’t wholly prefabricated, ThunderCats came on strong, reveling in all the possibilities of both technology and magic — even though it served as the last whimper of the silver age of science fantasy.

Not surprisingly, Star Wars is the banner-carrier and ultimate downfall of outright science fantasy.

A different cluetrain

Charlie Stross asserts “some axioms about politics”:

13 - Security services are obeying the iron law of bureaucracy (4) when they metastasize, citing terrorism (6) as a justification for their expansion.

14 - The expansion of the security state is seen as desirable by the government not because of the terrorist threat (which is largely manufactured) but because of (11): the legitimacy of government (9) is becoming increasingly hard to assert in the context of (2), (12) is broadly unpopular with the electorate, but (3) means that the interests of the public (labour) are ignored by states increasingly dominated by capital (because of (1)) unless there’s a threat of civil disorder. So states are tooling up for large-scale civil unrest.

And

Some folks (especially Americans) seem to think that their AR-15s are a guarantor that they can resist tyranny. But guns are an 18th century response to 18th century threats to democracy. Capital doesn’t need to point a gun at you to remove your democratic rights: it just needs more cameras, more cops, and a legal system that is fair and just and bankrupts you if you are ever charged with public disorder and don’t plead guilty.

Silicon Valley Could Learn a Lot From Skater Culture. Just Not How to Be a Meritocracy

Kathy Sierra responding to the latest cultural model hyped as the savior of silicon valley:

The last time skateboarding was a healthy model, the Macintosh did not exist. Skateboarding was my life. And in 1983 skate culture drove a stake through my heart.

Skateboarding can teach Silicon Valley what not to do, like a message from the future warning, “Here’s what happens when a domain in which women once thrived decides women aren’t worthy.” Yes, it’s complicated and yes, the sport became more extreme, but there’s a world of difference between a sport that says, There aren’t many women and one that adds … we made sure.

In the ‘80s, skate culture devolved from a vibrant, reasonably gender-balanced community into an aggressively narrow demographic of teen boys. If you think tech has sexism issues, skate culture makes tech feel like one big Oprah show.

ISAAC ASIMOV: A lifetime of learning

An illustration of a quote from Isaac Asimov about continuing to learn and create throughout one’s life. I read the Foundation books and everything else I could find by Asimov when I was younger, and recently picked up Foundation again. It’s no exaggeration that those stories about science and science fiction hugely shaped my interests and life story.

Nuts

Dr. Drang’s response to the report that feeding peanuts to infants may reduce likelihood of developing peanut allergy captures my own mix of interest, encouragement and caution. My son has a number of serious food allergies, including peanut, and it’s not easy to manage. We would certainly wish to have been able to prevent these allergies from developing, and I watch research about potential desensitization very carefully. What people living with life-threatening food allergies need are good strategies and high levels of awareness among the public, and less misunderstanding of the severity of allergies. Dr. Drang writes:

In fact, I don’t believe the reported study turns conventional wisdom on its head at all. Most of the people I’ve met who don’t have a child with peanut allergies were already certain that the problem was, if not entirely in the heads of a group of Munchausen-by-proxy parents, then certainly due to kids being raised in environments that are too clean, too safe, and too antiseptic. For these people, it’s obvious that exposure to peanuts will toughen up a kid’s immune system, and it’s about time doctors recognize that.

A critical part of the study is the screening criteria that included only infants already at a high risk because of existing egg allergy or exczema, and that 76 screened infants were excluded because they already had strong skin test reactions. So this study tells us something, but not the whole story, about one path through which this particular allergy may develop. Unfortunately, just as Dr. Drang predicted, there are already responses like the following (from a self-identified physician) on the NEJM study:

As each of my five children has progressed through school we have seen tighter and tighter policing of what you are allowed to include in your own child’s lunch box. The research of the LEAP study team is wonderful as it may mean, as I have long suspected, that all of this molly coddling of our children’s diet has not only not made things better but has in fact made things which worse.

Not helpful.