Lego Roundup

Lego Travellers

Credit: Facebook/Lego Travellers

Credit: Facebook/Lego Travellers

A Scottish couple have been posting travel pictures to Facebook under an account named Lego Travellers. As seen above, the pics feature minifigure doppelgangers of the couple and some nice use of perspective and lighting. Their page is starting to garner media attention after chronicling trips to Australia, Malaysia, Vietnam, Laos, Thailand, Scotland, Spain, Portugal, France, and the ancestral home of Legos in Billund, Denmark.


Vatican City

By organizing the teamwork of about 100 amateur builders of all ages, Architect Steven Schwartz was able to oversee the construction of a 400 square-foot model of Vatican City in a mere 90 minutes. The model featured over 25 buildings that exist in Vatican City. Schwartz led a tour of the model after the construction was complete. I wish there were more pictures at the link.


Meandering Recollection

Here’s a fun op-ed in which architect Thomas de Monchaux reflects on childhood under his father’s no-toy-but-Lego policy.


Fantastic Little Creatures

At Smithsonian Magazine, Franz Lidz has a nice essay about how Lego competitions do (and don’t) open children to engineering and problem-solving. Fun quote:

“Children are fantastic little creatures,” Mads Nipper, the company’s marketing chief , has said. “Next to drunk people, they are the only truly honest people on earth.”

Gender in Security Roundup

Sexual Harassment in the US Military

Last Wednesday, the US Department of Defense released its first annual sexual harassment report (PDF with my annotations). Understanding sexual harassment is critical to preventing sexual assault because the two behaviors, though distinct, are intimately connected. A 2012 DoD study found that 30 percent of women and 19 percent of men who were sexually assaulted reported that their attacker sexually harassed them before or after the assault (PDF). In the sexual harassment report, repeat offenders account for 11% of complaints. Upon investigation, sufficient evidence was found to substantiate 72% of these repeat offenses.

The most striking finding is that the report overwhelmingly implicates male non-commissioned officers and senior non-commissioned officers in sexual harassment of female junior enlisted servicemembers. In formal complaints, 95.5% of offenders were male and 52.5% were in paygrades E-5 to E-9 (equivalent to sergeant to sergeant major in the Marine Corps). Paygrades E-1 to E-4 (private to corporal in the Marine Corps) clocked in a distant second at 23.2% of offenders. In contrast, 87% of complainants were female and 62.7% were in paygrades E-1 to E-4. This is what institutionalized sexism looks like.

My only other remark on the report is that the four military branches have been allowed to retain their own reporting and categorization systems for sexual harassment. DoD claims that the report is a baseline for comparing sexual harassment rates in future years but without a standardized DoD-wide reporting policy, this report provides us with an extremely flawed baseline that doesn’t allow for valid interservice or cross-year comparisons.


Canadian Armed Forces

I recently wrote a guest blog for Carrying the Gun on the Canadian Armed Forces (CF)’ remarkably sophisticated gender-neutral occupational standards. These standards were devised following a judgment of the Canadian Human Rights Commission that the CF must integrate women into their combat arms while ensuring that all military occupational standards are based on bona fide occupational requirements.

In accordance with the Employment Equity Act, the CF are required to meet quotas for minority representation in the force. These quotas are quite ambitious: 25.1 per cent of full-time military personnel and reservists should be female; 11.7 per cent should be “visible minorities,” and 3.3 per cent should be Aboriginal Peoples  (i.e., native Canadians). However, despite concerted recruiting efforts, women comprise just 15% of the CF. The Ottawa Citizen reports that the CF are mulling their options in light of their persistent failure to meet the quota.

The Canadian Defence Department, pointing to internal studies, is reportedly considering whether to request reduced quotas of 17.6 per cent for women, 8.2 per cent for visible minorities, and 2.6 per cent for Aboriginal Peoples. Since there appears to be considerable political opposition to such a reduction, CF leaders have little choice but to double down on outreach and recruiting. Writing to his subordinate commanders, Canadian Chief of Military Personnel Maj-Gen David Millar warns of the consequences: 

“If reasonable progress towards these goals is not deemed to have been made, the (Canadian Human Rights Commission) auditors can potentially impose conditions upon the (Canadian Forces) to comply with recruitment of (women, visible minorities and aboriginals) over a timeline and in a manner which would unduly stress our organization.”

This ominous-sounding note suggests to me that Maj-Gen Millar feels the heavy hand of true human rights oversight, so yay for the Canadian government.


Kansas University’s First Female Ground Combat Officer

Female ROTC cadet Madeline Wilcox is set to graduate from Kansas University and enter the US Army as a field artillery officer. Since the Army recently opened virtually all field artillery positions to women, Madeline will be KU’s first female ROTC graduate who can serve in a unit that directly engages in ground combat. Congrats to her.


Hooters Announces Its Intention to Profit from National Observation of Our War Dead by Objectifying Women and The Military in General

We’re supposed to take this for a news article but it’s obviously sponsored content from Hooters of America.

Veterans Day, Hooters. That’s the day when it’s logical to objectify women and the military for profit. Still a blight on our cultural landscape, but at least not profiting from death itself.

Gender in Security – Inaugural Post

I’ve been wanting to make a regular practice of writing about gender issues in security. However, regular readers will know that my promises to write about a given thing rarely pan out.

So I’ve decided to start doing a recurring roundup of issues that deal with gender in security but with no claims to regularity or comprehensiveness. I know myself enough to know that promising either would make the whole thing just another source of stress and no fun at all. When other refuges have come and gone, this blog will remain the place where all that I don’t feel like doing can go directly to hell.


Submarines

The UK Royal Navy announced on May 4th that it has admitted its first three women sailors on board a submarine. Another milestone for a social movement that is rapidly changing the face of military affairs:

Second Sea Lord Vice Admiral David Steel said: “Women have been serving in ships at sea with the Royal Navy for more than 20 years and integrating them into the Submarine Service completes their inclusion into all seagoing branches.”

The Royal Navy first allowed women to go to sea in 1990.

The US lifted its ban on women in submarines in 2010. While fourteen of the US Navy’s 70 submarine crews are integrated at the officer level, enlisted submarine integration is still waiting on a task force to “develop details” (PDF). Integration of future submarines is limited by the additional cost of constructing permanent female-only berthing facilities on board. This is the classic integration problem for naval forces that won’t simply live in coed circumstances.


Afghanistan

Local Afghan police leaders met with officials in Victoria, Australia to discuss the protection of women after the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) withdraws from Afghanistan:

Najibullah Samsour, the chief of police of a part of Kabul known as District 10, said the goal was to win the support of the Australian government in combating an expected increase in violence against women after the forces withdraw. 

I’m actually a bit surprised to hear that an Afghan official would go out of his way to deal with such an issue. Hopefully their discussion was a serious one–Western reports do not bode well for the future of women’s rights in the country.


 Transgender Service

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has gone on record stating that the US military’s ban on service for transgender individuals “continually should be reviewed.” Secretary Hagel went on to state that “every qualified American who wants to serve our country should have an opportunity if they fit the qualifications and can do it.” Hagel’s point may sound obvious a cool two centuries after the Age of Enlightenment, but to hear a defense secretary embrace equality of opportunity would have been unthinkable a few short years ago.


 Women Veteran Services

Finally, Stars and Stripes reports that women veterans are under-seeking Veteran Affairs services relative to their need. This is another classic problem faced by government service providers–just because the resources are there doesn’t mean people use them or are even aware of their existence.

Lego Roundup

Buildies are giant cardboard Legos used for making a play fort. They’re great for people with kids and disposable income and lots of room in the house. Kickstarter here.

Think Geek has developed shot glasses that feature fully Lego-compatible exteriors. I think making a game out of drinking liquor is silly at best and dangerous at worst, but I’m not your father….

I’ve had the Lego VW camper for about a year now and I love it.  Paulo Rafael Subido noticed that the Lego version’s engine closely mimics the real thing. Cool. 

Good Training

Last night I was watching videos of Laura Phelps-Sweatt, the strongest woman powerlifter and one of the strongest humans in the world, training with Gracie Vanasse, and it made me want to move. Problem was that it was 11 o’clock at night, so my options were limited. I call these “girlfriend pushups”:

Watching the video, I realize that I need to focus on keeping a neutral head position so that I don’t cheat off the last couple inches.

Here’s Laura and Gracie doing box squats. Laura stays well below her competition max of 670-775 pounds, so my guess is that she’s training for explosion (with more weight on the bar than my max record in the same weight class, plus green bands for progressive resistance):

Women in Combat: Already Done It.

My guest blog on the Women in Combat symposium of May 1-2 2014 just went live on Carrying the Gun. Check it out. 

Lego Roundup

Military Training

I’m in the middle of writing a guest blog for Carrying the Gun on my experience at the Women in Combat symposium held this week in Washington, D.C. The symposium featured speakers from the militaries of the US, Canada, Norway, Sweden, and the home of everyone’s favorite building toy, Denmark. One of the most important subjects covered was the gender-mainstreaming of military physical fitness tests to reliably measure occupational competence despite the subtle biological differences in the average man and the average woman. I was researching more about Denmark’s physical fitness test when I found this.

Lego CEO

CNBC interviewed Lego CEO Jørgen Vig Knudstorp on the viability of the company’s new factory near Shanghai, China. It’s an interesting window into how the company navigates a ruthless business world guided by Nordic values. Also, the interviewer mentions that Lego has never had to recall a single brick, which I hadn’t heard before. 

Sandcrawler

Lego outdoes itself again with its intricate version of the Sandcrawler (video), the famous Star Wars desert vehicle.

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