Tree Hugger Squeezes Too Hard and Other Stories

It’s been a busy week; I’ve been shifting around a bit. I expect to be back on track by Monday. Meanwhile, here are some interesting links.

Green Party councillor dies after falling out of tree

From the ever-reliable Daily Mail:

Councillor Gordon was one of our first Green councillors, and along with his then co-councillor Matt Follett brought a fresh approach into the council chamber, championing the cause of recycling both in the city and in the council.

He was an arborist, and had been working alongside our trees and woodlands team for just over a year. He will be greatly missed by them.

I wasn’t going to laugh—promise—until I clicked through and saw his picture. If it helps, I feel badly about giggling.

Office of Toilet Counting

Reader Jack Mosevich reminds us that “House Oversight and Government Reform Committee held hearings Wednesday on the ‘Potty Parity Act,’ a bill that seeks to address the unequal number of restroom facilities for women in federal buildings by requiring at least a 1-to-1 ratio for toilets, including urinals, in women’s and men’s restrooms.”

To which we all say, So what? Let them build whatever they need. Except those that ask for equal bathroom rights aren’t satisfied with the simple logic of parity. They, like all “activists”, feel they must make their case appear as dramatic—even life threatening!—as possible.

Bill supporters say “women forced to wait in long restroom lines are at risk of health issues, including abdominal pain, cystitis and other urinary tract infections.”

Ah, yes. We’ve all seen women dropping dead after waiting in long toilet lines. They positively litter the halls of baseball stadiums.

Representative Darrell Issa (R-CA), a ranking member on the committee, anxiously agrees that waiting on line can cause serious health “issues.”

Elections are coming up, so they obviously convened a public meeting to show how concerned they are with women’s “rights.” They could have just built the restrooms and nobody would have given a damn. But they had to put on a show where they could whine and BS.

But now that they have done so, it makes me want to oppose their bill just so I can salvage my self-respect: I don’t want to have anybody think that I fell for their idiotic complaints.

How much in Washington is like this?

Stephen Hawking Turns Green?

Did you miss this story? Stephen Hawking is asking people to Watch the Skies!

We only have to look at ourselves to see how intelligent life might develop into something we wouldn’t want to meet. I imagine they might exist in massive ships, having used up all the resources from their home planet. Such advanced aliens would perhaps become nomads, looking to conquer and colonise whatever planets they can reach…If aliens ever visit us, I think the outcome would be much as when Christopher Columbus first landed in America, which didn’t turn out very well for the Native Americans.

Rapacious, greedy Western Republicans are, apparently, a natural product of evolution. No doubt some interstellar corporation is on its way even as I write this.

But, say old boy, if those evil aliens can figure a way to generate enough energy—a staggering amount—to make their way across the vast distances between them and us, why can’t they use that energy to feed themselves?

And isn’t the East India Company’s arbitrary rule-by-corporation a better analogy for harmful alien invasion?

Scientist Politicians

Martin Rees, a well known scientist and honcho of the British Royal Society, was heard recently quoting Churchill on scientists: They “should be on tap but not on top”.

Michael Brooks, who bills himself as a consultant, took exception. He says Rees’s point is that “scientists have a duty to inform politics, but they have no special insights beyond that, and must allow politicians to formulate policy based on social, economic and ethical principles.”

I agree with Rees on this. But I do not agree with Rees that scientists should always be listened to, especially when their advice is “inconvenient.”

The problem with us scientists is that we know too much. Or, better said, we know an awful lot about awfully little. What makes us suspect is that our confidence in our ability to do our job—which most of us do well—spills over into other areas, where it is unwarranted.

Put another way: the more we learn about the practical science of politics, the less time we have to devote to our specific studies. We cannot do all things equally well.


  1. Ken

    Stephen Hawking’s outlook regarding extraterrestrial life seems suspiciously similar to that portrayed in the movie Independence Day…minus our ability to defeat such invading technology via a Macintosh laptop–which is to say he’s selling us humans short (at least as long as we have Mac’s).

  2. j ferguson

    No chance his ministrations were rejected by the tree, violently?

  3. Speed

    Briggs said: ” … [scientists] know an awful lot about awfully little.”

    Politicians just know awfully little.

  4. Yooper Paul

    “Politicians just know awfully little.”

    But apparently that does not include the urinary tract health and bathroom habits of the adult human female!

  5. j ferguson

    Briggs, have you asked your wife about the potty parity issue? Having years ago been in a position to control head counts for a major transportation company, I was made fully aware of the inequity in building code required facilities. After looking into this, including some surveys, we concluded that generally, but especially in assembly uses, where everyone wants to ‘go’ at once, this isn’t a joke.

    As to the health issues, I don’t have any idea. Again, Briggs, what does your wife think about this?

  6. Ari


    Just going on what a dear friend (with her two years of med school) has to say: women are are, in fact, more susceptible to UTIs and other infections due to the plumbing differences. Holding it in can be more of a problem for them than for men, and this actually impedes their ability to perform long-haul surgeries in some cases.

    Or at least that’s what I’m told.

    Though the language is a bit silly. It’s certainly not some huge civil liberties issue…

    Also, you do know why the aliens will be coming to kill us all, right? It’s for the unobtanium! Duh!

  7. Doug M

    Potty Parity — Separate is inherently unequal! — When I was a student at the University of California, the dormitory bathrooms were gender neutral. I would guess that the same people, who currently complain of their lack of access, would object to my “fair access” policy. However, it does solve our uniquely San Franciscan problem of un-equal bathroom access for the transgender community.

    Scientist Politicians – Brooks argues

    “With so many demands on government cash, science faces stiff competition for funds. If they follow Rees’s strategy of remaining quietly in the background, speaking only when spoken to, funding will fall through the floor.”

    This seems to hit it on the head. Scientists need to be politicians because they depend on politicians for their funding. He never considers that this is anything other than the natural order.

  8. Ari


    UCLA also has shared facilities, mostly in the older dorms. These days, most dorms at the sister school are all suite-style with private or two-room-shared bathrooms, so that fixes that problem.

    I myself never experienced the shared restrooms, but I heard that it really wasn’t much of a problem for anyone. The only real issue came down to having to learn at a tender young age that the fairer sex is the same on the can.

  9. Doug M

    I never had a problem with it. My wife on the other hand, is a nervous producer. She won’t go if there is someone in the stall next to her.

  10. Matt

    I get the Potty Parity issues at sporting events, concerts, amusement parks, etc, but none of those are federal facilities. I suppose this is a reasonable thing when building restrooms at a national park, or similar. But is there seriously a problem in federal buildings in general?

    The linked article doesn’t address that. Whether it is or not, how about an alternative solution? Get rid of federal employees.

    OTOH, I’m always happy to see Congress wasting time with trivialities, when they could be doing important things.

  11. j ferguson

    I’ll try to control myself here as this subject offers more than the usual opportunity for levity.

    To be blunt, poop is not the issue – so to speak. Both sexes use the same fixtures and need similar times for the activity’s accomplishment.

    The issue is urinating and the time it takes for the different sexes. Without going into detail in how the these necessary procedures differ for the sexes or the type of fixtures available, it does not seem surprising that women need more time to deal with toilet compartments, clothes, hygiene, etc. We don’t. You should all know this from first hand experience.

    Although urinals designed for females are available, they are not in widespread use. (Boy it’s difficult to keep this plain)

    The fixture count for each sex has been stipulated in building codes for years. The number of fixtures required varies by the building use – generally following the numbers of people that will be accommodated (urk, there we go again). Unfortunately, the requirements have never really adequately apportioned fixtures for both sexes based on women using the same fixture for both functions and men having a choice. And urinals take a lot less space than toilet compartments.

    The space for these facilities is non-revenue space in most buildings so there is real pressure to keep that area they consume down to a minimum. For some reason, we architects always thought that the men’s and women’s rooms should be the same size and be arranged symmetrically on both sides of the plumbing stack (pipes). This might not seem a big deal, but when you are putting 40 stories of building together it can be a big deal.

    Only problem is that if women are to get adequate timely access in the crunch, the women’s room will have to be bigger than the men’s.

    If you think this is an imaginary issue, look at what happens at the women’s facility the next time you’re at the opera, or ball game if it’s an older park.

    Ask your wives and girlfriends about this.

    Sorry to go on like this, but this whole issue was one of the real aggravations of a career spent designing buildings.

    By the way, a test of an unusually well thought-out facility is can you get out of it without touching a door handle after washing your hands.

  12. Nope. Not funny. Woods work, including arborculture, is difficult and dangerous. I don’t care if the fellow was goofy looking, or what his politics were; when a fellow woods worker gets killed in the line of duty, it is no laughing matter.

    Arborculture includes removing trees and limbs around homes for safety reasons. Large trees and limbs can be blown over in storms and kill people. Please be advised that if you have large trees next to your home, you and/or a family member could be injured or killed by falling limbs and trees. You should consult a professional arborculturalist to determine the degree of hazard and what mitigation actions they can take on your behalf.

    Please check their credentials and always use a professional. Please make sure they use all necessary safety equipment. Please pay them promptly for their services, knowing that your life may be saved through their actions.

  13. Marty

    “How much in Washington is like this? ”

    All of it. 100.0000000…%

    As for the toilet parity, apparently it’s too much to require the architects and GSA to consider the peak numbers of men and women expected to be in a building, based on its intended use and foreseeable alternative uses, the mean frequency with which each gender needs to relieve itself, and the mean time it takes… that would make a lot more sense, even promulgating default standards for those criteria, than saying “minimum 1:1.” But gov’t really just can never get anything right.

    There are probably some buildings where women’s facilities may legitimately be a small fraction of men’s, based on need. But there will be others where women’s facilities should far outnumber men’s.

  14. jack mosevich

    First there was pay equity. Now there is pee equity.

  15. Ron C

    My first thought: Sounds like an invention opportunity – double the number of opportunities for female potty production while not impacting the current number of opportunities for male potty production. Optimizing the space and flow (so to speak) of people moving into and out of the facilities is another area for improvement. None of these require removal of urinals OR indeed any modifications to the male restroom facilities. Maybe now the government will sponsor some research projects or fund other work necessary for these invention.

    My second thought: The female facilities need improvements. Fine. Now go find the money to do that without raising everyones* taxes.


    *everyone here refers to that ever-shrinking-proportion of the population who is a net positive producer of tax revenues towards the government.

  16. Two of those stories share another irony. Neo-green Stephen Hawking writes a book called “Watch the Skies” and – a drum roll, please – dear departed Councillor Gordon then falls from a tree. Is this evidence of some new variety of eco-precognition?

    I agree with Mike D. the death of a woods worker is no laughing matter, but when I first read:

    and had been working alongside our trees and woodlands team for just over a year. He will be greatly missed by them.”

    my cursor was resting over the word “team” and I failed to notice that bit and take it into account. The result was a spewing moment and I now have frappacinno all over my keyboard. Time to power down.

    But before I go, I also tried not to grin whilst viewing his portrait. Really, I tried. But his own party’s  website had this to say after his election to the city council in 2007:

    “……….we’ve been able to bring a smile back into politics.”

    . So Matt, its OK.

  17. Doug M

    Why do I suspect that the solution to the potty problem will be the removal of urnials from men’s rooms?

  18. BTLizard

    Here in the Antipodes our much-maligned politicians just executed a last-minute save of the nation from the global warming poverty track thoughtfully laid down for us by the scientists/bureaucrats/environmental activists/climate cabal.

    I suspect that politicians of both parties now have a fairly clear idea just how they’ve been led down the garden path by the scientific establishment.

    When all’s said and done, Western-style democracy has been proven to work and (pseudo)scientific theocracy has not.

  19. Bernie

    In fairness to Matt, and with full recognition to the skills need working in and with trees, the picture of Phil Gordon looks like he was in no condition to be on a bar stool let alone a tree!!

    I had a bunch of work done on some big trees last year and I was very impressed with the skill and speed with which the team of guys did the work. The notion that any of them would be doing it without being fully alert is a scary thought.

  20. John Galt


    I know it’s sad, but you’re right, that guy looked like a good candidate to remove himself from the gene pool.

    As to the Hawkings comment, I thought the same thing when I heard it. The amount of energy to reach a significent fraction of the speed of light is beyond any technology we have. You’d need matter anti-matter conversion or a captured black hole or something we can’t imagine. With that technology, the aliens would be building Dyson rings around their sun. Also, space is full of all sorts of asteriods and uninhabited planets, why bother us? I’d think if you were cruising by Jupiter, you could shop around it’s moons and find anything you needed.

  21. Ron C

    @John Galt –

    a) I always wondered who you were.
    b) The one thing unlikely to be found on the moons of Jupiter are liberal politicians.

    Ron C

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