Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Fascist for President

Gotta love the audacity of someone running for president under the Fascist party. I give ten points for honesty. I'm with Brendan. I LOVE the hat.


Eh, sick of this topic by now? Bear with me, this one was inspired by a post of the same name by Octo. The basic gist of it (which you can read for yourself) is an examination of what it means that you've accomplished things in life that others equally situated have not under the context of "privilege." I won't try to paraphrase it further than that. But after reading it, and thinking about it, here's my mental model of what privilege means in the context of one's life.

Think of a runner in a race. Think of the various obstacles that come up in front of the runner as hurdles that the runner has to jump over, slowing the runner down. You can think of those hurdles as "isms" but really they could be anything. Some hurdles could be because of racism, for instance. Another hurdle could be from a missing limb or other disability. Another hurdle could be shyness. Yet another hurdle could be being ugly. Yes, there could even be a hurdle for being an asshole. Maybe more than one. It isn't a one to one ratio of hurdles to problems. Perhaps some obstacles create more than one hurdle at different places. Now you could think of privilege as not having a particular hurdle that someone else might have. The ultimate privileged person would be someone with no hurdles at all. Of course, such a person does not actually exist. We all have obstacles in life.

Ok, have that mental model in place? Now, to fit it to Octo's post. What came to mind after reading it was, no matter how many hurdles you have or don't have, you still have to get up off of your ass and actually run the race or you'll get nowhere, even if you have no hurdles at all. And plenty of people just sit their ass down on the sidelines and don't run at all. Some whine about there being too many hurdles. Others, perhaps, are just lazy and somehow expect the fact that they have fewer hurdles means they don't have to run to get anywhere, and so they go nowhere. I'm sure one could come up with other analogies. What I got from Octo's post is that one should give a lot of credit to those who get up off of their asses and run the race and jump their personal hurdles, whatever they are, and one should NOT denigrate someone who does show the initiative to run just because they might have fewer hurdles than someone else.

With me so far? Ok, now I'm going to expand the model even further. Because there is one big problem with it. Life isn't a race with the same finish line for everyone - because everyone has different goals in life. So instead of a circular track with all of the runners on it, think of many winding paths, some through the woods, some through the desert, some through the city, some winding all across the landscape, each with a different length and a different finish line. Each of those paths is a path a runner could choose to take. Maybe one path ends with being a judge, another ends with being a cyclist in the Tour de France, another ends with taking a modest job but raising a family and spending your time with them. And which path you take depends on where you want to end up. Perhaps you'll take many different paths over your life. And the hurdles on each path also vary, as does the length of the path. Maybe one path you take, there won't be any racism hurdles, for instance, or far fewer. Or there won't be any sexism hurdles. Or some other sort of hurdle that doesn't matter. For instance, not having any legs might be a huge number of hurdles for the bicyclist, but hardly any at all for the lawyer who works from home.

Now, this fits back into the privilege discussion again as one tries to compare and call someone more privileged (or less) - how can you really do that when everyone is on a different path? Some have a shorter path, some lack obstacles others equally situated by race or gender might have. Some paths have fewer isms than others. Everyone is different. To use an example that readily comes to mind, I seem to recall that it used to be that Jews were discriminated against and not allowed to do most jobs in Europe - one of the few jobs they were allowed into was banking. Which was why we ended up with the stereotype of a Jewish banker. Of course there were lots of Jewish bankers - that's one of the few professions they were allowed to do! Obviously, then, if you were a Jew then and wanted to do a different job, one normally forbidden to Jews, you had a long and winding path with a lot of hurdles to jump over. On the other hand, if you were a Jew and it was your dream to be a banker, you actually had fewer hurdles than non-Jews, who did not become bankers because they thought it was a bad profession to be in (thus have the Jews do it). So even though you were in a horribly discriminated against class, one that Europe would eventually try to commit genocide against (well, I suppose they tried this repeatedly), you stll would be privileged when it came to being a banker as compared to non-Jews in the sense that you had a very easy run to that goal.

Where am I going with this? Well, you could call non-Jews privileged over Jews based on that, but when you try to call an individual privileged, then it is shown to be nonsense - because without looking at more than just religion (or race or gender) one really can't make that determination - you need to know what path they are on and all of the other hurdles that individual has before you could actually compare that individual to anyone else. And it may even turn out that an individual Jew is privileged over a non-Jew - for instance, if both wanted to be bankers, the Jew would have an easier time becoming one - the non-Jew a harder time, despite the fact that in general, Jews were the ones discriminated against.

Until you know the path someone chooses to be on and everything else about them that could create a hurdle, then calling that individual privileged is often nothing more than an insult, because really, without that information, how the hell could you know if someone is privileged or not? You can't. So it is just an insult, perhaps to put someone down or make them feel bad about their accomplishments in life as an individual. And that is wrong. Accomplishing anything in life is something to celebrate because no matter how many hurdles there are, if you don't get up off of your ass, you won't go anywhere and you will accomplish nothing. Getting up off your ass is what matters more than any hurdles. We all have hurdles. It is up to each of us to get up and jump them. Whining about them won't get you anywhere. Sitting on your ass won't get you anywhere. Get up and go. The only person responsible for you not moving on your track in life is YOU. And no matter who you are, feel good about getting to your goals. You earned them. No one can take that away from you, no matter how much they whine about the hurdles of others.


I've been terribly irritable lately and I finally figured out why. I've spent the last few weeks worried sick about my wife's pregnancy and my wife. I've spent the last few days worried about my daughter, who has been acting under the weather or irritable herself, not sleeping well at night (and thus I haven't gotten much sleep). And I'm worried about my job, which may not be there in six months (and is guaranteed to end soon after that). And I'm worried about paying for another baby or paying for more daycare, given that, even though we have planned and should be fine, there is always uncertainty. Plus, with my wife pregnant, she can do even less around the house, she often doesn't feel well, so I have her and a toddler to take care of sometimes, and I'm just exhausted and so I worry will this be even worse when baby two is born. I need a vacation or something. At least this weekend is a long one. We will be celebrating my daughter's second birthday. That I know will be a happy time. She's learning so much, she's talking more, she is starting potty training (on her own initiative) at day care. I need to focus on the good things and try to worry less. Sleep would help with that, too. I could sleep all day today. But now I need to get breakfast, get my daughter to daycare and get my ass to work.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

I may be worth something someday...

Looks like the most ugly cars from the 1970's have now become collectibles. Isn't that wonderful? It is comforting for me to know that ugly things from the 70's are now worth something. That means I may be worth something someday, too... Heh.

It's called "Employment at Will"

Here's where the little libertarian in me comes running out. I have seen this story mentioned on multiple pages (ok, mostly feminist pages - I know, I know, I'm trying to quit...)

It has been universally (well, where I looked, which is a small sample) condemned as an example of just how horrid things are and how evil this man is for switching to a coffee franchise that has the women coffee stand employees wear skimpy outfits. All of the women (and they all did) who quit are praised as standing up to this "monster."

But truly, I think that just illustrates that the women were not forced into anything, and that all of them felt quite free to leave when the employment deal was not what they wanted. That's called employment at will. That means an employer can fire you any time just because he or she doesn't want you working there any more and that means an employee can also leave at any time for any reason. People might not like the lack of job security that gives you, but that is also what keeps our economy more flexible than, say, Europe, where employers are very reluctant to hire new workers because they can't easily get rid of them if there is an economic downturn, which potentially would place an entire company at risk. So instead, you have lots of young people who can't get jobs because of this.

And the job in this case, serving coffee, is not exactly rocket science. I'm sure there are millions of other coffee jobs one could get if one does not like this one. Many of the women who left plan on doing just that - getting another coffee job. Many of the customers I'm sure will go with them. Maybe some of the women will figure out that to avoid this sort of thing, the best thing they can do is open their own coffee stand franchise, then they can be the ones calling the shots. But until they have spent the time and money to do so, they are not the ones in charge, and so if they don't like what the owner does, they are free to leave, and they did.

Apparently the owner had no problem finding plenty of replacements for them. And those women are also acting freely. When I pointed this out in a comment I was told that until men are forced into skimpy outfits to work, this is not a good outcome. But truly, I couldn't care if it were men wearing speedos serving coffee or naked women wearing coffee. I would not buy from either because I think coffee is nasty and disgusting, and is simply an evil bean. And so I'm free to take my own business to the hot chocolate stand (with lots of whipped cream and vanilla).

I'm sorry, I just can't get upset about this. And it is not because men aren't pushed into speedos. If anything, women would probably pay men NOT to wear speedos - at least most men. I'm sure I'd be one of them. I would not gain any business in a speedo - I have a horrible body, I'm totally out of shape, and always will be. I'm sure the same is true of most women, who do not have model-like figures - most people don't want to see them in skimpy outfits, either. So really this is only about a small subset of women, those who look good in skimpy outfits. Where am I going with this? Nowhere. I just thought I'd point that out.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Shoving people into boxes

No, I'm not talking about people sneaking into the United States, I'm talking about the near-reflexiveness that many people have to stuff someone into a neatly labled box when having a discussion, rather than actually addressing the merits of what that person has said.

Barefoot Bum has an excellent post on this topic, so rather than repeat it, I'll just link to it and quote the last paragraph:

I'm tired of being called a "lickspittle liberal" or an Islamic apologist because I oppose the war in Iraq. I'm tired of being called a Soviet-style Communist because I think we do have some positive obligations to our fellow human beings. I'm tired of being called an apologist for torture because I loathe Islam. I'm tired of being called intolerant, racist and sexist because I criticize authoritarianism, exceptionalism and irrationality in anyone, male or female, left or right, black or white, gay or straight, Western or Middle-eastern, religious or atheist.


Alberto Gonzales, thug, scumbag, liar, perjurer, and probably the worst Attorney General in the entire history of the republic is to resign today! When I heard that announced on the radio this morning I cheered loudly, probably startling my soon-to-be-two-year-old daughter who was still groggily sitting in her car seat as I drove her to daycare.

I feel like popping champagne. Anyone care to join me?

Friday, August 24, 2007

Oh boy

Well, Wednesday was yet another ultrasound. We are at just over 12 weeks. Measurements were taken, everything looks normal, thus far there are no problems. Oh, and the little fetus was very active, moving all over the place. And in so doing, it revealed it's a he. Looks like baby number two will be a boy.

Thus begins all of the arguments over what names to give him. But it is cool to know now. I was sort of hoping for another girl, if for no other reason than avoiding having to buy any additional baby and toddler clothes (sparkle princess tshirts just don't quite cut it for a boy, sorry).

Speaking of my daughter, she turns two next week, so we have festivities planned for that as well.

It was a bit of a shock to find out it was a boy - I guess the other thing is that we are used to having a little girl, so a boy will make some things different - we'll be starting from scratch in that respect. I guess we'll be set either way for baby number three (if that ever comes to pass).

I've not posted as much lately because I've been somewhat busy with various things, but will probably post more in a few days. I think I spent far too much time reading feminist sites, some of them toxic, and it was nice to get all of that out of my system as well - the toxic ones, that is. I could tell I had read too much when it occurred to me after I found out about having a boy that there is a minority of crazies who would now label this tiny little two-inch long, two ounce in weight little creature a "future rapist" just for having male sex organs, and even if they would not go quite that far, would slap all of the inequities of the world on him (before he's even born), saying it is his fault, he's an oppressor, he's what is wrong with the world. Sorry, I won't let you do that to my son any more than I'd let anyone do anything bad to my daughter.

So time to let the toxins slowly wash out and let the fanatics be fanatics - nothing can stop them anyway. If they want to be psychopaths, I can't stop them - I can, however, choose not to associate with them (as they already have done with me in some cases, thankfully).

It annoyed me that such thoughts intruded on what should have been uniformly happy news - a healthy pregnancy. But I don't have to linger there, and I won't.

Now I just need to do some name research to see what I can find. I want something uncommon but which sounds good as a name to be used as a name (I've never understood people who name a kid one thing and then never use that name). Any suggestions anyone? I tend to use lists of names as means of eliminating names - if it is on a top 100 list, I don't want to use it. Unless it is for some other country and those names aren't used here, generally.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Trolls - Overused, Misused, Abused

I think the time has come to re-evaluate the usage of a word that has been overused, misused, and abused, and that is the word "troll" or "trolling" when it comes to describing participants of various internet-based discussions.

The word is used way too often, and usually as an ad hominem, an attempt to shut down discussion or shut up a commentator that does not address anything actually said. One can note with interest that one never sees someone accused of being a troll by someone who agrees with the points the person is making.

First, because this is always fun, just what really is the definition of a troll (on the internet, not under a bridge). Wikipedia says a troll "is someone who intentionally posts messages about sensitive topics constructed to cause controversy in an online community such as an online discussion forum or USENET groups in order to bait users into responding."

But the actual use of the word seems to indicate that the real definition for some is now "anyone who posts something I disagree with" or "anyone who posts something that does not instantly identify me as a synchophant with whatever the local dominant community believes." Which, of course, are bullshit definitions. As Wikipedia points out, it is often used as an ad hominem, noting that "The term troll should be used with attention since it is a very easy way of undermining an opposing point of view. Sometimes, overly using the word "troll" may constitute trolling in itself."

The reason I bring it up is because I've been accused of being a troll, and I've also seen others accused of it, when I thought it was totally unwarranted, most recently in this thread (where I did not comment) and this thread (where I did). In fact, I am hard pressed to recall any instances where someone called a troll actually met the original definition of the word.

As such, I find it terribly annoying to see it used. Either respond to someone's arguments or don't, but unless it is patently obvious, don't just dimiss someone as a troll. (The only two troll postings I can recall on my own blog were basically obviously advertisements, and I simply deleted them). People can be genuinely passionate about an issue and also be on the OTHER side of that issue than you are. Don't mistake someone's passionate, sometimes inept, arguments for a subject to indicate trolldum. I've come to like the other wikipedia definition of a troll now, as mentioned above - the first person to call someone else a troll is the only troll in the conversation.

A Modest Proposal

In this case, not mine, but Barefoot Bum's. We had a bit of a discussion about economics, wealth, and welfare over on his site. I asked him what sort of system he'd set up essentially as his utopia, and this was his response. He said he was inspired by Mack Reynolds.

I find it an interesting idea. I wonder what else one could add to it, or what might be the problems with it, or at least with implementing it.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Dungeons and Dragons 4E

UPDATE: I've now added a detailed post on my thoughts on 4E after reading the rules.

SECOND UPDATE: I've now added my final verdict on 4E after playing the game.

Anyone who cares already knows this, but I just had to say it. It was announced at Gen Con that Fourth Edition is coming out starting May 2008. I have mixed feelings about it. At first, it was shocking, given the statements WotC has given thus far, but I guess I shouldn't be too surprised.

In the end, they had to go there. And it is not like one has to stop playing 3.5E. I am curious to see what they've done with it - it sounds like there will be a lot of changes. I have other thoughts on this, but I'm too tired from chasing around a toddler to type much. (That seems to be the case a lot lately).

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Computer Games I Love

I love Civilization. I've played it since the first edition. I particularly love the latest version, Civilization IV, and its latest expansion, Beyond the Sword.

I love similar space-based exploration games. The ancient original was Reach for the Stars. When I could get it to work without crashing, it was so much fun. Even though it was mostly text based. That didn't matter. It was great fun building empires. Now there is Galactic Empires II and its latest expansion.

I also love WWII simluation games, like the Close Combat series. I do also enjoy fighter simluations, but I like tactical and strategy games better. It is fun to manage an economy and come up with a grand strategy. That makes Hearts of Iron II and its latest expansion a ton of fun.

I just wanted to share. I also want to say that I never really enjoyed arcade style games all that much. Mostly my fingers would just get tired hitting buttons, and while sure it can be cathartic to blow away aliens with guns, that gets old fast. I'd rather do recreational activity where I have to think, plan, get creative, and where my success or failure isn't dependent on how fast I can push some buttons. At least with the fighter dogfight simulations, things are more realistic, and there is a lot more planning and tactics and a lot less dependence on button pushing.

Oh, and X-Com: UFO Defense - that was another great fun game. I'll have to add to this list when I have time.

He Said, She Said Reporting once again annoys the heck out of me

No wonder the media is so easy to manipulate. They NEVER report facts or fact check, they just do everything he said, she said, in some twisted notion of "balance" that gives way too much weight to discredited positions. Politicos, particularly the GOP, know this, and take massive advantage of it at every opportunity.

Today, I heard on the radio reporting about the trapped (and probably dead) miners. And sure enough, it was all he said, she said reporting. The mine owner claims the collapse had nothing to do with his operations or safety failures. He said it was an earthquake. Actual earthquake experts, monitoring actual earthquake detection equipment, said there was no earthquake. But how is this reported? "The mine owner says an earthquake collapsed the mine. But scientist critics claim it was not an earthquake. End of story." AAAAAARRRRRGGGHGHHGH!!!

Even for something as blatently obvious and verifiable as a frickin EARTHQUAKE is reported he said, she said, instead of just, you know, reporting the FACTS. Such as: Fact: There was no earthquake. The mine owner's claims that there was an earthquake are either mistaken or he is lying to cover up the real cause of the collapse. And the lying part is much more likely, given his continued insistence it was an earthquake in the face of the massive evidence there was no earthquake. That would be unbiased, accurate reporting. Sure, it makes him look bad, but then HE is the one who made himself look bad by making such a ridiculous claim. It isn't the media's fault he acted like an ass. But no, they can't do that. That kind of reporting takes effort and research (though very little of it in this particular circumstances). Maybe they are afraid it would set a precedent requiring actual fact-checking in their other reporting. Maybe they are afraid of the (usually totally false) claims of "liberal bias" that has kept reporters from doing anything but this style of reporting. Maybe it is because most of the media is owned by the far-right, and they like being able to manipulate (or outright ignore and alter) facts for stories.

All I know is it totally disgusts me and makes me want to scream every time I see it, no matter what the context. If it weren't for Glenn Greenwald and Jon Stewart, and Stephen Colbert, I'd probably have given up and gone insane by now.

Sitting here and acting like there is some controversy or doubt as to whether or not a frickin EARTHQUAKE happened reminds me of the scene in Erik the Viking where the island sinks into the ocean while they deny it is happening because "don't be silly, the island couldn't possibly be sinking, we have too many safeguards to prevent that."

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

The Gender Politics of Cleaning and Marriage

I've seen various blog postings in various (mostly) feminist sites about how marriage is such a wonderful deal for men and so horrible for women. And central to this thesis was the division of housework, particularly cleaning. My first thought on that subject was, were the posters all smoking crack?? But then that was because in my marriage, I do most of the housework and I am constantly cleaning up after my wife. So the idea that marriage automatically means any particular distribution of cleaning or housework is clearly falsified.

I know, one data point does not a trend make, but what it does demonstrate is that the division of cleaning duties is NOT a foregone conclusion. If a woman marries a man and then is unsatisfied with the housework arrangements, no one is putting a gun to her head to force it to continue. For that matter, women are not legally obligated to marry men who don't pick up after themselves. Don't like a man's cleaning habits, don't get involved with him. The state of his bachelor pad might give you some clues there.

In any case, I had some thoughts on cleaning in general. It really bugs me that I have to clean up after my wife, mostly because she is so much messier than me. At the very least, I would expect that a person would pick up after his or her own personal messes, like the plates used to eat or your own clothes and towels. That, I think, is the primary offense I have a problem with when it comes to cleaning. That is the area where one would most feel like one is acting as a servant to someone else, cleaning up after someone else's mess.

I swear, my wife can use so many dishes just from one meal, by herself, that when I get to the sink it looks like she had six people over for a two-course meal. When I am home alone, I use a fork, maybe a knife, and maybe a plate, if that, for a meal. She can go through half the drawer of silverware and empty the cupboard of plates. Then she doesn't load the dishwasher and sometimes leaves the dishes with food still on them on the counter or table. She also uses up a dozen hand towels a day in the kitchen. I have paper towel there for drying things just to cut down on that. So then I find lots of used paper towels on the floor and counter and sitting in the sink (just used for drying clean hands, mostly, so they aren't really "dirty" but they still are cluttered everywhere). Those I have to throw away. The towels - well, it feels like I'm folding and putting away a dozen hand towels or more for the kitchen (after laundry) every single day or two. And she changes clothes often, so she has a ton of laundry each day as well, as does our daughter, since my wife changes her clothes often as well. In short, cleaning up after my wife's personal messes is a full time job, or at least feels like it sometimes. She grew up this way - her mother and grandmother told her they'd rather she did her homework than cook or clean - ever - so they always picked up after her. This made for some pretty horrible habits. She is better now than she used to be, believe it or not. I worry my daughter will learn bad habits from her. I want my daughter to learn to always pick up after herself. I think she's already better at this than my wife, and she's only 2.

Ok, enough grousing on my wife.

The second area of cleaning is the non-personal clean-up variety of cleaning - things like vacuuming, dusting, cleaning the bathroom. General cleaning stuff that does not need to be done every day. This can get a different sort of dynamic. Some people obsessively dust every few days. Others once a month. There really is not any set schedule for dusting and vacuuming. Really, some things depend on use or other factors. And yet it seems that some people have a different notion about how often these things need to be done. Unlike with dirty dishes or laundry, which require immediate attention, these things can be left for days or weeks with no action at all. And so there is no "right" answer as to how often a bathroom needs to be cleaned or a floor vacuumed. It varies. So here, if one person would rather do it once a month and the other wants to do it once a week, it is difficult for me to say that the once a month person is wrong. Yet the once-a-week person might feel compelled to vacuum once a week anyway. Here, I don't buy the notion that the person with the lower tolerance for dust is being taken advantage of or that the person with the higher tolerance or longer schedule is somehow lazy or not doing a fair share. If your spouse offers to vacuum once a month, take them up on it and let them do it if you don't want to vacuum. But then don't complain about it not being done weekly. Unless there is some special, empirical need for it to be done more often, then it becomes more a matter of personal taste, and one should not penalize someone for a difference in taste. And if in the end, the once-a-weeker cannot take it and just HAS to have vacuuming done every week, well, that's not the fault of the once-a-monther. Certainly the once-a-monther is not pressuring that, content as they are with the monthly schedule.

So what am I saying? I can understand being annoyed about someone not cleaning up after him or herself - I live with that on a daily basis. It consumes many hours of my life each week. But when it comes to general cleaning duties, I just don't see how that even enters the picture unless it is the case that one person absolutely refuses to do any of it. And then one can always hire a cleaning service to come once a month (something I actually won't do because I'd rather clean my own house than pay someone else to do it).

I may or may not post on the general notion that some have that marriage is such a wonderful deal for men but horrible for women. Obviously, I reject that notion. I think there are good marriages and bad marriages and marriages in between, but I don't think any one gender gets the best deal automatically. Even the good ones are about trade-offs and compromises. The trade-off for me is that I clean, take care of our daghter during the week, make sure all the bills are paid and the various household needs are covered, and she makes the money and does the much longer commute and handles more of the childcare on the weekend (which also is when she gets to spend quality time with our daughter (and me - and I get lots of time alone with our daughter during the week). This works out. At times, the mess can be grating, and my wife works on that, but in the end, I know I'll always be cleaning up after her. Is the tradeoff work it? Only we can decide that. Thus far, it works. I particularly hate commuting, so I like that aspect of it. My wife isn't thrilled about it either, but she can tolerate it. I probably could not. Which led to another trade-off - we bought her a very nice car for her commute. My car is more than adequate for me at 9 years old now and I'll probably be driving it for another 15 years with any luck. But then that is also a decent tradeoff, since I am not particularly in to cars. As long as it works and gets the job done, reliably, cheaply, with good gas mileage, I don't much care, and I'd drive it for 100 years if it would keep on running.

We have our disputes, we get snarky, but in the end, it seems to work.

Prosecutors have too much power

Yet another example of how prosecutors have too much power. The guy is barely out of prison on one false charge and the same prosecutor is trying to prosecute him again for the same non-criminal conduct. This just disgusts me so much. I agree with Ed. This prosecutor should be in PRISON.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Christ is Love

Excpet when the wrong genders are involved. I know this is hardly surprising, but it is just another nail in the coffin in the idea that there is anything particularly special or moral about churches or those who practice religion. They say homosexuality is a sin, so they can't have a service there for someone who comitted that sin because otherwise they'd be condoning it. Except that they also say that NO ONE is without sin, so when they single out one sin for exclusion, what they are REALLY saying is they are bigots. Another reason why religion is inferior in morality to non-religion, in my not so humble opinion. Only with religion do people say, with a straight face, that they are doing good as they do immoral acts.

I guess the Christians here can take heart in this - since their god does not exist, they won't have to spend an eternity in hell for their bigotry here.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Unfragging believable

According to this post, care packages are being sent to our soldiers in Iraq that include the Left Behind: Eternal Forces videogame. After my jaw came up off of the floor, well, let me just quote the article:

The game is inspired by Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins' bestselling pulp fiction series about a blood-soaked Battle of Armageddon pitting born-again Christians against anybody who does not adhere to their particular theology. In LaHaye's and Jenkins' books, the non-believers are ultimately condemned to "everlasting punishment" while the evangelicals are "raptured" up to heaven.

The Left Behind videogame is a real-time strategy game that makes players commanders of a virtual evangelical army in a post-apocalyptic landscape that looks strikingly like New York City after 9/11. With tanks, helicopters and a fearsome arsenal of automatic weapons at their disposal, Left Behind players wage a violent war against United Nations-like peacekeepers who, according to LaHaye's interpretation of Revelation, represent the armies of the Antichrist. Each time a Left Behind player kills a UN soldier, their virtual character exclaims, "Praise the Lord!" To win the game, players must kill or convert all the non-believers left behind after the rapture.

(Ed's Comments: Brilliant thinking. Exactly the message we want to send to the Muslim world, that we're on a crusade and that God is on our side in the battle. But
wait, it actually gets worse:)

What's more, OSU's "Freedom Packages" include a copy of evangelical pastor Jonathan McDowell's More Than A Carpenter -- a book advertised as "one of the most powerful evangelism tools worldwide" -- that is double-published in Arabic. Considering that only a handful of American troops speak Arabic, the book is ostensibly intended for proselytizing efforts among Iraqi civilians.

(Ed's Comments: Unbelievable. )

I echo that. Unbelievable. Hearts and minds, indeed.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Why Nerds are Unpopular

I actually read this essay years ago, but it just occurred to me that perhaps not everyone who might read my blog has heard of it or read it, and I just felt like sharing it.

Paul Graham has written a lot of other essays as well, which you can find on the same site. I check back every month or two to see if there is something new. I like his writing.

Monday, August 6, 2007


What exactly is Justice? Rather than go through a dictionary or even wikipedia, I'm going to talk about what it means to me. The first thing that comes to mind when I see that word is fairness. To me to be just is to be fair.

I'm not exactly a crusading sort of person. I'm rather soft spoken, shy, and reserved. But nothing gets my blood boiling and my voice rising like a sense of an injustice being done - an unfairness. Maybe this comes from my experiences as a child being the brunt of what I considered unjust ostracism, taunting, teasing, and sometimes, punching. That must be part of it. I know this because I get that same feeling of injustice when I see such things happening to another person, particularly a child at school or on a playground. I'm not a violent person, not at all, but when I see someone victimized like that, it makes me want to take the victimizers and smash their skulls in. Not that I ever would. (Or could, for that matter. I'd be lucky to break a pencil). But that visceral feeling can come welling back up.

But it goes deeper than that and is not just about playground bullying. It is about an inner sense of fairness that I have that goes off like a fire alarm whenever I see something that is, in one way or another, simply not fair. Sometimes it goes off and I don't fully realize it at first. Other times it is loud and clear. I think the easiest way to describe it (and what sets it off) is to first imagine there is a game, say a board game, with various players. When all the players play by the same rules, that is what makes me feel all warm and gooey inside. But when some rules apply only to some players, but not others, that is what starts to set off the alarm. And this happens on an individual, not a group, basis. If the game was played by teams and team A had four players, three of which were cheating, and the fourth who was not, my alarm goes off for the three who cheat, not all of the team, because for me it is also unfair and an injustice to blame an individual for the actions of others over whom he or she has no control.

I think it is important to hold people accountable for what they do as individuals. I think it only leads to trouble when you do otherwise, because ultimately to me, that then becomes about treating someone based on a demographic, like sex or race, and once you go down that road you are down the road of sexism, racism, bigotry, no matter how noble your intentions, no matter what wrongs you think you are trying to fix from the past. Because that is exactly the kind of thinking that was the problem in the first place.

If you take someone as an individual, you have to look at him or her, look her or him in the eye and measure, rather than just ignoring that and taking the easy out, the stereotype, the demographic category, the little box checked off on the census form. That can be hard to do, particularly if that individual shares a demographic of some other individuals that have mistreated you in one form or another. But that is what justice requires. That is what is fair. Unfairness to them does not fix unfairness to you. It just perpetuates unfairness to the end of time. That is not to say that I don't appreciate the notion of poetic justice, such as having an individual who has acted in a certain manner to others having that exact behavior come back to haunt her or him. In a sense, that too is justice. Like having someone who refused to hire women (or men) find out that he (or she) now can't get a job because of his or her gender. But that is on an individual level. Such a refusal against an individual who did NOT so discriminate, is sexism, pure and simple, I don't care what the prior history of the one discriminating is. It does not justify punishing someone who is innocent for the crimes of others.

Another juicy example would be, say, after January 20, 2009, having the new president arrest George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, and Alberto Gonzales and putting them in Gitmo, denying them legal counsel, and holding them indefinitely without charges, perhaps with some waterboarding thrown in. That would also be poetic justice. And it would show them what it feels like to be on the other end of their abuses of power. There is justice beyond the poetic in that. So while I am totally against Gitmo, and all the other abuses of power done by the current administration, to see those directly responsible for it be victimized by it would, at the very least, not set off my unfairness alarm. In some ways, that would be the only fair thing to do. Unfortunately, such justice will never happen.

It is late now - I probably had more I wanted to say on this topic, but this is good for a start. This goes back to why I have a problem with prosecutors as well. I see a lot of unfairness in how the system is set up, how the power within it is out of balance. How prosecutors play by different rules and have too much unchecked power. Unchecked power is also something that tends to set off my unfairness alarm. The power to charge, to plea bargain, to basically bribe witnesses, a power that defense attorneys lack, that alone makes trials unfair where they are present. I could go on and on about that, and likely will soon.

Injustice and unfairness and my extreme dislike of both are what drive alot of my thinking in so many areas, sometimes without my even realizing it. It probably is evident in what I've posted here (and elsewhere). I'm still trying to get my finger on it. I figure this is a good start.

A Happy, Sad Anniversary

Today marks the same point in pregnancy, 10 weeks, where we lost it last time. By a strange but really meaningless coincidence, today also would have been the due date for the pregnancy that we lost the last time. But we make meaning out of it. We probably would have been very sad today, thinking of that, were it not for the fact that today also marks the day we are past where we were the last time, so we have a good bit of hope that everything will be fine this time. Not just because nothing happened today, but because from week 6 til now, we had nothing bad happen, no bleeding, no bad signs at all, so it looks good.

The only downside is that my wife was throwing up rather a lot this morning - this is the worst morning she's had like that, but in a way, that is a good sign.

Today also marks a day for our daughter, who turns 2 this month. She's moving to a new room in day care, the one where they start potty training. With any luck, we'll only have one child in diapers when the second one makes his or her debut.

So today is both happy and sad, but mostly happy. I will focus on the happy.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Friday, August 3, 2007

Anger at Work Double Standard?

This article claims there is a double standard at work, where angry men are tolerated more than angry women. I just have to chalk this up as another thing I just don't get. Why would ANYONE tolerate angry behavior from ANY gender? To me, getting angry at subordinates and yelling or otherwise expressing it is unprofessional behavior that just makes you an asshole, and not someone I would ever want to work with. Putting a penis on a person who acts that way wouldn't alter that conclusion.

Why oh why would anyone tolerate an asshole or think being an asshole at work is acceptable, ever? That would be my number one rule as an employer - if you're an asshole, you're GONE. Bye bye. Go be an asshole in the unemployment line because you're not working for me.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

The Grass is Always Greener

In all of these discussions in various places about feminism, sexism, racism, privilege, and so forth, I'm starting to see a common theme, something I've seen before. Or maybe that's not the right way to describe it.

I am starting to wonder if part of what some call privilege is not really privilege, but just part of the misperception that someone else has things easier than they really do based on the perception fallacy encompased by the old saying that "the grass is always greener on the other side of the hill" or is that fence? Like how when you pick the line at the grocery store, only to see the other line move faster (or appear to) or when you pick one lane of traffic, and the other line seems to move faster. Or when you look at someone's life that seems so wonderful and wish you had their life (though I must admit, I'm pretty happy with my own).

Before I proceed further, let me first make clear that I'm not saying there aren't legimate examples of advantages - obviously, if you are not getting hired or you don't get a promotion because of your race/gender/etc. then that is significant and it isn't just about perceptions. I'm not talking about the big and obvious things here. I'm talking about the subtle things, the things that some would question whether they are even privileges at all. Like saying women are "privileged" in dating because they generally don't have to be the one to make the first move. Or that conversely, men are "privileged" because they can go to a bar and not be bothered and hit on when they just want to spend time with their friends.

I've often heard it said that as a man, I can't evaluate male privilege because I'm a man and I can't see it as easily. But of course if that is true, then the same is true for women not being able to see female privilege as well as a man. But what if what is "seen" by a man in terms of female privilege or a woman in terms of male privilege is really just a case of not having walked in the other's shoes so not really realizing that what is seen isn't a privilege at all. Maybe it is just seeing a difference, and then assuming that this difference favors the other party because "the grass is greener" over there in that other gender. Like my example above. It is two sides of the same coin. There are really pluses and minuses to both situations. Shy women have a massive advantage over shy men in the dating context because of the fact that women don't have to make the first move (generally speaking) while men do. But then the "price" for this is that women also have to deal with a lot of unwanted men making attempts at "first moves" with them. Which side really has it better? Truly, how can you say unless you've been both a man and a woman and experienced both and then could compare? And since really no one could really experience that (or very very few could) - how is one to really evaluate a claim that one is "privileged" over the other. And thus, "the grass is greener" seems to win out and you have both genders claiming the other side has it better. When in reality, who can really say? It is not like it is a mathematical equation you can balance out. There are advantages and disadvantages that vary greatly depending on one's other characteristics (like shyness or one's attractiveness).

I wonder if this is part of why in most discussions I've had about privilege, there seem to be some women who absolutely refuse to acknowledge even one single female privilege, though I suspect it is more complex than that. But it may partially explain the inability of some women to see it.

This phenomenon extends to more than just privilege discussions. I see it when discussing history, for instance, particularly with those of a right-wing bent, but not necessarily exclusively so. In that context, the grass is always greener in the past, better known as idealization of the past. As if we lived in this perfect world of harmony back in the 1950s or (pick your era) and how only today have things gotten bad or kids gotten out of control or whatever. And yet if you read newspapers going back 200 years, you see the same laments there as today - somehow the past is always better and things are always going bad today. And then you go back further, and find the same thing. You go back to Socrates and see him being accused of corrupting the youth. And then you realize that there was no ideal time, that sure, history has its ups and downs, but probably, by and large, things have gotten better in many parts of the world, not worse. At the very least, people are really no worse than we ever have been. People are people. And people apparently can't help but see the grass as greener on the other side of the fence known as the past. We do that with the future as well, imagining flying cars and so forth, though I suppose there are also those with a bleak view of the future - but I think that is just an extension of the past idealization - like taking the imagine graph of "ever worse" from the imagined past and extending it forward.

I don't pretend to claim that this perceptual phenomenon of seeing the greener grass explains a whole lot, but I think it is a factor one needs to keep in mind. I think that if we actually stepped into the shoes of those people we imagined to have life easier than us, we would find out that actually, it wasn't as easy or nice as it first appeared to be. That perhaps we only saw what we wanted to see - or only saw the positive, not the negative that went with it.

Another example of this is the gender/income divide. On the one hand, the higher paying professions seem to be more stocked with men than women. Men making more than women, bad for women, right, good for men? But part of this, perhaps most of this, is from men selecting professions based on income over other considerations, like whether they find the work fulfilling. And I see that as really a detriment for men, who often feel tremendous pressure to make money, sacrificing those things in life that I think matter more, like time with your family. I'd much rather make less money and see my daughter grow up than make millions and miss her childhood and have her be a stranger to me. So who really is privileged from that situation, men or women? Or neither?

In thinking on this, an old SNL sketch came to mind with Eddie Murphy. In it, he did an "experiment" where he put on makeup to look like a white man, then went out in the world and "acted white" and saw the reactions he got. In the first scene, he goes into a store, and everything is normal, until some African-Americans leave, then the white storekeeper just hands him some free merchandise and tells him to take it and go. And so on it goes, all sorts of wonderful things that apparently only white people get that he now gets too because of the disguise. It was funny. It ended on an even funnier and actually somewhat enlightening note - after showing all of the great things white people gave only to other white people, he then showed a long line of African-Americans getting made up in chairs to be white just like he was, with the warning that those perks now could be given to non-whites, so better think about that when giving them out. (Ok, it would be easier just to do a youTUBE link of this than try to describe this all from memory, but hopefully you get the idea).

What made me think of that was the notion that the sketch implied that there are all sorts of benefits that white people get that others aren't aware of - but the reality of it is, they don't; at least, not the perks shown in the sketch. But I wondered if non-white people imagined that there was some sort of equivalent thing going on out there. It would be all too easy, as a minority, to blame discrimination for every thing you failed to get in life. Perhaps it was discrimination in some instances, but what if it was not? I'm white. I have not gotten every job I've ever applied for. I've actually tended to strike out more often than not. There are plenty of other things I've not gotten as well. Were I a minority (which in one sense at least I am), but were I a racial minority, how likely would I right now be attributing all of those failures to my race as opposed to something else? If you are predisposed to see racism everywhere, guess what, that's what you'll see. Even if it isn't really empirically there.

I've often seen it said that certain privileges are "subtle" and unspoken, and that's why you don't see them, but really, how do you know you are really discerning a subtle privilege as opposed to just imagining one because that's what you expect to see? Unless all white men are supposed to be perpetually unemployed, then you can't attribute racism and sexism to all employed white men just for being employed - even absent discrimination of any sort, white men will still get hired for work and promoted and so on.

Ok, now I've wandered all over the place and must get my daughter now. But one last thought, only somewhat related. I've seen it repeated again, on the Alas discussion, how other factors don't matter with "privilege" because all things being equal, a disabled, dumb, or otherwise disadvantaged white man will be in a better position than an African-American with the same characteristics. But again, that misses the point. Some characteristics simply matter far more. For instance, even if you accept for the sake of argument that to be the case, such that a transgendered white man is better off than a transgendered African-American man, odds are, in most job interviews, if the transgender part is obvious, then that is what will make or break the interview, not race. In that case, race would probably often be made totally irrelevant, having been totally crowded out by the much larger factor.

In the end, I think we all need to realize that no matter how good we think someone may have things, unless we walk in his or her shoes, we really don't know what his or her life is like. It may be far worse than we think, and even far worse than our own life. What seems like a great perk may, in actual practice, be a penalty or a detriment. Or may at the very least have other side-effects you don't consider unless you have that particular attribute. That's why I try to take everyone as an individual and why I get so annoyed when I see people taken more for their demographics than for who they are as individuals. I'm sorry, you can't just look at a person and decide whether or not they are privileged knowing only their sex or their race. You need to know a lot more about them. To reduce someone to just their gender or their race is the problem. No amount of fancy redefinition of words can change that.

Oops, I'm late.

Lego Aircraft Carrier

Wow. I love Legos (especially the classic Space Legos). I also love aircraft carriers. This has got to be one of the coolest things I've ever seen.

What is the definition of racism?

I know I've touched on this topic before, but in a discussion on Alas regarding a cartoon about whites who are apparently racist but in denial about it, I had some questions, mostly regarding just how many white people are not actually racist.

Obviously, no one can give an exact number for such a thing, but one could make a ballpark guess. The only answers I got were basically that almost all white people were racists. This differs from my discussion at TG's, where the answer there was that all white people were racists, by definition.

But what I'd like to ask is, if not all, then who isn't a racist who is white and what makes a white person not a racist? Then I was thinking more about it last night, and, back to my original question, you really can't answer it without having a definition for racism.

I looked it up again, and again, the definitions for the english language for racism don't match how the word appears to be used in the discussion on Alas. So they have their own, new defintion. So - where did that definition come from? And what is it, exactly?

This is what Karpad there had to say about it (forgive my formatting):

The overwhelming majority of people are not consciously racist. but there
are multiple layers of racism. There’s the “Send the darkies back to
africa” layer, which has more than you would probably guess right off, but still
very very few.there’s the layer of deliberate acts, that are possibly, maybe
probably but not necessarily consciously racist. This is the source of illegal
traffic stops, clerks following people in stores, and educational double
standards. much more common. utterly mundane, even. It’s banal.Then there’s the
layer of simply operating without interaction. Suburban flight is racist, but
the overwhelming majority of participants would never think of it in terms of
race.Then there’s one last kind of racism, which is basically “not noticing that
the cops never pull you over for speeding, or the teacher gives you a better
grade than the black kids, etc etc.”
point is: Racists are people who
actively believe in a philosophy of racial supremacy. Racism, on the other hand,
is a systemic problem that can manifest in people who are perfectly nice people,
and who actually genuinely believe in racial equality.

* * *

being racist, and suffering from racism are not the same thing.a white
person who drives 10 miles over the speed limit and never gets pulled over who
has any awareness of racial profiling (like knowing the phrase is enough) who
doesn’t reflect on that privilege is benefiting from, and exhibiting racism.that
entire category is “ignoring your own privilege,” which is racism.
still treating racism like it’s inherently conscious and evil. it CAN be. it’s a
behavior pattern, to be sure, but if often develops unconsciously. accusations
of racism are NOT invective. They’re statements of perception of your behavior.
“You’re racist” for the most part, and certainly within the context I’m talking
about, is no more an ad hominem than “You’re mispronouncing (word X).” The
proper response is to consider why the accusation was made, and amend behavior
as necessary.

Now, I see a problem with this definition of racism. It uses the word to describe people who don't actually do anything racist other than passively benefit from other's active racism. In other words, one can be racist based not on what one does, but on what OTHER people do. Seems rather strange to me.

By that definition, if all the active racist acts stop, then suddenly other people are no longer racists (because there is no more overt racism - no one is getting pulled over for race, so there is no benefit for race with regards to getting pulled over). But then tomorrow, one person decides to act racist overtly, and suddenly, everyone else is racist again. All based on the actions of someone else. That is problematic for a definition of a word that seeks to describe someone. Particularly when that word has very strong negative connotations.

I won't rehash the general problem with redefining such a strongly insulting word - I've been over that before. Suffice it to say, I'm still utterly unconvinced that the unilateral redefinition is valid. But moving on.

Something else occurred to me last night. I hear it repeatedly said that only the group with power can be racist. Thus, goes the argument, African-Americans cannot be racist, by that definition, no matter what they say or do, because they allegedly have no power. This, of course, ignores that all power is relative, and if you are, for instance, looking to get hired for a specific job, and the interviewer is African-American, then they DO have the power in that situation, so even by that definition, they could be racist. But somehow that doesn't get addressed or is whisked away by some statement about how it is societal power as a whole that matters, not any individual power. Fine, let's leave it at that, for the sake of argument.

Here's where the problem comes in. Say I'm out in the street, screaming racial insults. Say I have a gun and I scream how I'm going to kill everyone of a particular race and send them back to their alleged country of origin. By this new definition of race, you can't conclude I'm a racist until you know what race I am. If you find out I'm white and I'm shouting the n-word, now you can call me a racist. But if I'm African-American and I'm shouting about white people, you cannot, because no matter what I do, I'm not a racist.

Now here's where it just gets strange. Say you find out that I'm Egyptian - with skin darker than any white person and dressed in a turban. And I'm shouting the n-word and telling all African-Americans to go back to Africa. Well, last I checked, Egyptians did not have power in this country. So by the same definition, an Egyptian could not be a racist either. No matter how many African-Americans discriminated against, no matter how many even outright killed, no matter how many times the n-word was uttered, nope, no racism there.

Obviously, the "new" definition of racism needs some work.