New oxymoron: Legitimate rape

The outrage following congressman Todd Atkins’ comments about “legitimate rape” was racked up again when he corrected himself (sic):

I was talking about forcible rape. I used the wrong word.

For those latecomers, the controversy began with an interview in which Atkins’ compounded his oxymoronic thinking with the purely moronic:


During the interview for KTVI-TV on Sunday, Mr Akin was asked about his no-exceptions view on abortion, a highly charged issue in the US, and on whether he would like abortion to be banned even if the pregnancy was the result of rape.

He replied: “It seems to me, from what I understand from doctors, that is really rare.

“If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.

“But let’s assume that maybe that didn’t work or something: I think there should be some punishment, but the punishment ought to be of the rapist, and not attacking the child.”

(Source: BBC News, Video courtesy FOX 2 KTVI)

Note that Atkins sits on the House Committee on Science, the one that believes in magical ladyparts and leprechauns.

Atkins’ clarification today is not intended to be a correction in meaning — it’s just replacing one offensive oxymoron with another, possibly worse –, rather it is a crude attempt to reattach himself to Romney leadership that had tried, half-heartedly, to distance itself from his statements. “Forcible rape” was the term used in a bill, co-sponsored by Atkins and (wait for it, Romney VP nominee) Paul Ryan, from last year that in name attempted to block taxpayers funding abortions, but in fact tried to redefine rape by excluding cases where the victim might be under the influence of alcohol or drugs … or be mentally handicapped.

How does one even begin to respond to this?

Perhaps satire is the only way:

The Daily Show with Jon Stewart Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c
Rape Victim Abortion Funding
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Define nitpicky

Of all the Jobs anecdotes doing the rounds from Isaacson’s biography, this one stuck in my mind:


“At one point, the pulmonologist tried to put a mask over his face when he was deeply sedated,” Isaacson writes:

Jobs ripped it off and mumbled that he hated the design and refused to wear it. Though barely able to speak, he ordered them to bring five different options for the mask and he would pick a design he liked.

Read more …


Going beyond the anecdotes, the New Yorker article discusses the influence of tweakers over that of more original inventors, citing examples in England to explain why industrialization first took off there rather than elsewhere. (I thought the enclosure Acts were more of a prime cause.)

What is clear, however, is that Jobs was one nitpicking son of a gun. If he or I believed in an afterlife, then he would be sulking or shouting on his iCloud, demanding they change the colour and make it incompatible with all the other clouds.

Freedom means the right to choose your own truth

I love following American politics. It’s so much more fun than in other countries. I think my fascination comes down to the exceptional degree of chutzpah shown by candidates and commentators, and the almost inevitable exposure of the mismatch between what they say and what they do. Once the flaw is exposed, it is fascinating to watch the public story unravel day by day. In the UK recently, we could enjoy the hilarious backsliding, lies and coverups by the Defence Minister; in contrast, such exposure occurs on an almost daily basis in the US during election period (which is in fact most of the year).

And with the death of one of the most insightful US political analysts, Hunter S. Thomson, I rely on The Daily Show for the most pleasurable way to follow US current affairs.

Last week, however, there was a particularly gob-smacking moment with a send-up interview with Republican Party Consultant and Strategist, Noelle Nickpour, on the subject of the place of science in the US.

Watch it and be afraid. Nickpour is actually serious about what she says!


Nickpour:  It’s very confusing for a child to be only taught evolution to go home to a household where their parents say, “Well, wait a minute … God created the Earth!”

Daily Show Interviewer Aasif Mandvi:  What is the point of teaching children facts if it’s just going to confuse them?

Nickpour:  It confuses the children when they go home.  We as Americans—we are paying tax dollars for our children to be educated. We need to offer them every theory that’s out there. It’s all about choice; it’s all about freedom.

Mandvi: It should be up to the American people to decide what’s true.

Nickpour:  Absolutely! Doesn’t it make common sense?

Come together

Ten days into the summer break and I feel a change coming on: no longer thinking about teaching projects and grading, my mind has been increasingly filled with personal geeky projects, driven in large part by the recent purchase of my first smartphone. I’m not going to give in to the boring clichés (it’s like the Internet on acid!), but it has opened my eyes to the ease of cross-communicating — importing the university contacts list in one click, syncing tweets, news, and of course everything google, could not be easier. The forces of serendipity were also present with the launch of Google+, which I joined two days after its launch (thanks to Gordon).

I’m withholding judgement about G+, although I note that in my G+ stream I tend to be a lone voice expressing doubt among an almost constant gush of positivity.

As if Google wasn’t already expanding its realm of influence ever wider (watch out McAfee; Google has just announced its move into malware scanning), Craig Judd hooked me up with an invite to ifthisthenthat (, which offers a mindboggling range of cross-communication actions. Some of the actions are not especially innovative, for example automatically posting new photos on FB to Flickr, or using the clock feature to trigger reminders. However, there are some really useful / fun combinations. For example, you can set it so that every time my daughter plays a Ke$ha track (scrobbled to my Lastfm account), send me an SMS; or when the temperature drops below 15 degrees celsius, SMS my son to put on his jacket.

You get the idea.

ifttt channels
ifttt channels ... growing weekly

New channels seem to be added very regularly — WordPress being a recent, highly sought-after option — and with more channels, the connectivity possibilities grow enormously.

So tomorrow I’ll start playing around with it some more, immediately after we’ve swapped two kids’ bedrooms — I’ll probably only be able to lift a finger, which is fortunately all you need these days ;-)

Head in the clouds

I recently took advantage of the cheap software available for university staff and ordered Adobe CS5.5 Web Premium, bundled with InDesign and Captivate for … 26 euros … and MS Office 2010 for … 12 euros! I know! GTFOOH, I hear you cry enviously.

I actually hesitated about the second purchase since so much of what I use nowadays is cloud-based: Dropbox, Evernote, Gmail and Google Docs. Yet I almost felt guilty for not buying it at such an absurd price, and I still enjoy the ease of doing precise editing work in Word (currently working on Improved Plantain Production).

The downside is that MS products are infamously bloated (my bundle has 3 DVDs; I’ll only install the basic one) and resource-hungry; even now the installation .exe is pulling down over 90% of my CPU, … actually I think it’s frozen. Bummer.

Google+ logos
New Google hieroglyphs

In the meantime, one letter appearing per second, I’m waiting for my invite(s) to Google+ — launched today — the second attempt by Google to compete with other social networks — Buzz flopped almost before most users realized it had popped up in their Gmail sidebar. I’m intrigued by the circles concept, whereby you can target shared information within designated circles of contacts. This was/is one of reasons I use multiple accounts for FB and Twitter — not everything is for everybody.

I am not sure that the restricted launch of Google+ is the best strategy, however. It worked with Gmail — the user-base gossip generated a massive … buzz — and that works for single-source communication like email; but social networking needs lots of nodes to work, and an exclusive user group cannot go beyond its own limited boundaries. Early users report favorable experience but seem frustrated that they can only connect with other beta testers, and the conversation seems to be, “So now we’re here, what are we supposed to do?”

Steven Levy’s excellent, extended review of Google+ gives fascinating insight into the planning and thinking behind it, and gives details of other innovative features, such as the Hangout, “like a group Chatroulette without nudity and with about 100 extra I.Q. points”. I only hope my laptop can handle the streaming — right now it’s having a hard time playing music from the server downstairs.


Dang! That MS Office install has really hung! Beam me back up to the clouds, Scotty!

Update the day after: Office did finally install last night but is now grinding through15 security updates …