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Showing posts from October, 2014

### Martin Luther King on the need for restructuring

We all know that Martin Luther King Jr. had a dream. Fewer of us know what he really stood for, fought for and just how radical his views were considered at the time, and even now (the FBI knew, though, thanks to their copious wiretaps and 24-hour spy program in the years following the 1965 bus boycotts).

Here's a side of MLK that most don't know: “Justice for black people will not flow into society merely from court decisions nor from fountains of political oratory. Nor will a few token changes quell all the tempestuous yearnings of millions of disadvantaged black people. White America must recognize that justice for black people cannot be achieved without radical changes in the structure of our society. The comfortable, the entrenched, the privileged cannot continue to tremble at the prospect of change in the status quo.“When millions of people have been cheated for centuries, restitution is a costly process. Inferior education, poor housing, unemployment, inadequate healthc…

### Between two ferns feat. President Obama

I had to watch this twice. The first time I was too surprised that this actually happened! I was like Obama, "Seriously?!" The second time I was over my disbelief and free to just laugh. I'm a big fan of Zach, Between Two Ferns, our president and universal health care. So quad-win!
Between Two Ferns with Zach Galifianakis: President Barack Obama from President Barack Obama

### The Poker Tournament

When I was a graduate student, I started playing online poker and I became a student of the game. I kept detailed logs of the tournaments I played in, key decisions, outcomes, etc. When I wasn't talking about astronomy or basketball, I was talking about poker. I did well online, but my learning really paid off when I was a postdoc at the University of Hawaii Institute for Astronomy (IfA). In Honolulu, I found a vibrant underground poker scene, in which games of all levels, from \$1-\$2 to \$10-\$20, were spread in people's apartments, garages and trailer parks. The games were safe, because at any given moment there was at least 2-3 cops, firefighters or Marines at the table. The people running the games took a percentage of each pot to pay rent, as well as to valet park the players' cars, do food runs and comp drinks.
I did well in Hawaii's poker landscape, typically playing \$2-\$5 no-limit hold 'em. It paid for Marcus' diapers, date nights, and even helped wit…

### If Black People Talked White

I've been told that I "talk white" or that "I don't sound like a Black person." I sense that these comments are often offered as compliments. But if so, a complement for what? My temporary acceptance by a white person? Thanks.

The fact of the matter is that I talk like a person born in this country. I speak English. But there is a way I could actually talk white.

If I wanted to speak white, I'd go around talking about the personal attributes of individual Black people as if they were not individuals, but rather merely representatives of a larger group; as fulfillments or exceptions to my ill-informed conceptions of Black people. If I wanted to talk like a white person, I'd make sure that my comments to Black people remind them of how they are other---non-normative---how they don't really belong to American society, and if they do, they are add-ons. They are options to be checked on a list of extras under the heading "Diversity." If I …

### What would racial equality look like?

In a 2002 Charter Day speech at Howard University, Franklin D. Raines, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Fannie Mae, laid out the raw numbers: We gather at an auspicious time for our nation. After a decade of peace, prosperity, and progress, we are met by an unexpected peril. Not just the peril of terrorism and war. We face a peril of self-delusion as well. A few weeks ago, a newspaper here in Washington carried a four-part series titled, "Black Money." It said that life for African Americans has never been better, suggesting that the quest for racial equality in America was complete. In fact, that is what most Americans believe. In a major national poll last year, a majority said when it comes to jobs, income, health care, and education, black Americans are doing just as well as whites. Well, we looked at the facts. And then we asked, "What would life be like if the majority of Americans were right? What if the racial gaps were closed? What would we gain?" …

### Thursday evening music break: Rega

Because I've been dealing with too much shit today, I need a music break. I present Rega with "agility."
I wonder what kind of asian they are :) I love that they are fusing together two forms of music invented by Black folk---rock and jazz---and infusing it with their own cultural influence. Because diversity = excellence and music is universal.

### Race and Racism: Why won't you believe me?

"I don’t like using the word racist because if you use it it means you are an angry black person. Angry black people are the old black and everyone knows that’s pathological. The new black is accomplished, assimilated, and integrated. The new black reaches across the aisle. The old black is positioned in a no-win situation where to express an opinion based on what you see, experience, feel or deduce risks falling right into some white folk’s notion of black insanity." An Open Letter, by Claudia Rankine
"A few years back, white Americans were asked whether or not we believe that racial discrimination was still a significant national problem for people of color, or whether it was just a problem, you know, like junk mail...6% said yes, it was a significant problem...In 1962, when Gallup asked, 'Do you think that black children receive equal educational opportunities in your community?' 90% of white folks said yes. Nothing to see here. What is all this complaining? W…

### Tweeting the Kepler Dichotomy, feat. Sarah Ballard

@hubbahubble visited my group back in July and told me about an idea she had to study the multi-planet pop. in the Kepler data #RadIdea
— John Asher Johnson (@astrojohnjohn) October 17, 2014
@hubbahubble proposed using the 5-planet system around Kepler-32 as template for systems around M dwarfs, building on Swift et al. (2014)
— John Asher Johnson (@astrojohnjohn) October 17, 2014
She coined it a "self-similarity study" #AwesomeName. What if 4-pl, 3-pl sys are Kepler-32s tilted just a bit, so only some planets transit?
— John Asher Johnson (@astrojohnjohn) October 17, 2014
So @hubbahubble simulated N-planet systems, with free pars: N pl per sys, with mutual inclinations sigma from Fisher dist #MonteCarloFTW
— John Asher Johnson (@astrojohnjohn) October 17, 2014
was able to match # of observed systems with 2+ planets with N=~6 and sig=~2 deg, but underpredicted # of 1-planet systems #ThePlotThickens
— John Asher Johnson (@astrojohnjohn) October 17, 2014I suggested a mixture mo…

### A brief history of whiteness

This is a brief version of this history recounted in American Freedom, American Slavery by Edmund S. Morgan. He covers the origin of whiteness in the 1600's, the deal with the devil made by working class whites who chose whiteness over wage-worker solidarity, and then takes us through present day debates around immigration and New Orleans. This is anti-racist essayist and activist Tim Wise, leveraging his white privilege to directly assault the structure of racism in our society:

Here's the full version, which starts with this introduction (full PDF transcript): I want to thank all of you for coming out. I want to start off by telling you that I think it is probably a good idea when somebody stands in front of you and is proclaimed by virtue of their bio and by virtue of their curriculum vitae, their resume, that part of which is read to you, by way of their nice comments made of them by others, proclaim to be an expert. Ask yourself why it is that you are listening to that p…

### Happy Kleptocracy Day!

Kleptocracy (n): a government or state in which those in power exploit national resources and steal; rule by a thief or thieves.
Today is what most Americans know as Columbus Day, in the honor of Christopher Columbus. Ol' Chris was a murdering, thieving, trifling, evil little turd of a man who "discovered" the Caribbean Islands. The "New World" that we often think of Columbus of "discovering," namely North America, had been occupied for about 12 millennia---yes 12,000 years---before any European arrived. The first European to arrive in the Americas was probably a Viking, Leif Ericson, about 500 years before Columbus was born. Also, the Earth was known to be round since the time of the Greeks by Erastosthenes; a discovery replicated by Arab scientists hundreds of years before Spainish rule. So, yeah, most of what I learned about Columbus in school was a flat out lie: Columbus didn't discovery anything except a new, quick way of obtaining gold: strai…

### What happens when you just stop and listen to young Black men?

You discover humanity, rather than stereotypes. You find passion mixed with frustration. You find potential inexplicably bottled up. Why can't we do better for the citizens of this country?
This is happening right now. This is in your neighborhood, or more likely the next neighborhood over. This is in your university or school. This is your world.