mokie: A package of meat wishes you happy holidays (holiday personal)
MERRY CHRISTMAS! In Armenia, at least.

Here in the West, it's Epiphany/Twelfth Night/Three Kings Day, celebrating the day the three wise men visited the newborn Jesus, the official final night of Christmas celebrations, the night on which some poor sod got a drumline as a present, and the start of Carnival.

Or as most people call it, "What?" The times, oh, how they change.

So I'll embrace a couple of holidays that are closer to home for me: the coldest month of the year is also - what a coincidence! - National Hot Tea Month and National Soup Month.
mokie: Original Bad Seed Rhonda is getting upset (womb of doom)
I don't know if I can take another guy saying the Hobby Lobby decision is no big deal.

Let's set aside that the Supreme Court has said it's OK for employers to insert their religious beliefs into an employee's private life, by specifically limiting that employee's options in areas where they should have no say. No, your employer should not have say over your health care decisions.

Let's ignore that the Court has given employers the go-ahead to insert their political beliefs into an employee's medical decisions, by ignoring how certain medications actually work according to doctors, in favor of their own 'interpretation' of how it works based on their political agenda - this even though that incorrect interpretation is still perfectly legal in this country. No, your employer should not get veto power over your perfectly legal health care decisions.

We can even sidestep the fact that the Court has said it's OK for companies to selectively ignore parts of laws they dislike by claiming a religious exemption, even if they're for-profit outfits and not actually people, and definitely not churches. No, your employer's religion should not affect your health care decisions.

Basically, your employer does not own you and should not have control of your private life.

Guys, the Supreme Court has given employers the right to veto preventative care for a specific class of employees.

If a woman gets pregnant and decides to have the child, she's going to see a doctor for prenatal visits, for tests and check-ups to ensure things are OK, and for intervention if things aren't going OK. When time comes to pull a human being out of her body, she's probably doing it in a hospital, and given statistics in recent years, she'll quite likely have surgery. Pregnancy and childbirth involves a chain of medical procedures and is very much a big deal, one that has permanent physical repercussions for the person doing it aside from the impact on their lives in general. That's why lots of women decide not to have the child, and lots more - 99% of American women at some point in their lives - take steps to avoid conceiving in the first place. That's what makes birth control 'preventative care'.

No, Hobby Lobby was not being forced to foot the bill for abortions. Don't forget that employees pay into these packages, which are meant to cover the health care needs of employees, not the political agenda of the employer.

No, it does not matter that Hobby Lobby covers some other types of contraception, because they've opened the door for other employers to deny contraception entirely, which gets us into the sticky fact that, apart from pregnancy being a real risk for some women, 'birth control' often has medical uses outside of preventing pregnancy - treatment of endometriosis, polycystic ovary syndrome, and reduction of ovarian cancer risks, for starters. You should not have to sit down with your boss and prove you're not just horny in order to get medicine prescribed by your doctor, dammit.

No, "They shouldn't have to pay for you to have sex!" isn't relevant, because these insurance packages sure as hell cover prenatal care and treatment for STDs, so by that logic they're already paying for people to have sex.

No, "It doesn't cover my condoms!" isn't remotely the same thing, because even if the condom breaks, that guy is never, ever going to risk having a person pulled from his dick nine months later.

Yes, it is a big deal, because contraception is expensive, but so is getting pregnant, and if you're working retail at the fucking craft store level, in all likelihood you can barely afford either.

Update: Oh look, folks are already trying to use Hobby Lobby's "sincerely held religious belief" precedent to skirt LGBT anti-discrimination legislation.
mokie: A doll with an open torso featuring a diorama (yay for girls)
May started with a terrible essay (broken down fabulously over at Captain Awkward and by Dr. Nerdlove), in which a man tried to shame his ex for refusing to maintain a relationship with him. Not the relationship, but any relationship. By his own account, she had moved on and found someone new, and she didn't want to hang out with him and rehash the drama of their now-defunct relationship over and over. She did not want to be in a relationship with him, and she did not want to be in that dysfunctional not-relationship with him, either, and so she called it quits - except he doesn't think she has the right to do that. He believes he has veto power over an ex-girlfriend's right to decide who she associates with, because he hasn't got closure (read: the change to debate-to-death her decision to end the relationship). His response to her cutting off contact was to ignore it, keep poking, keep popping up, even after being threatened with a restraining order.

And he painted her decision to cut contact with him as abusive. Yes, seriously. He suggested it was abusive of her to expect to decide for herself who she did or did not interact with. He also suggested that abusive men are abusive because they feel powerless, hint hint, ladies.

Y'know, in case you wondered why she threatened him with a restraining order.

Then, less than two weeks after that essay made the rounds, an asshole declared war on women, and a world that would give women to other men but not him. He killed his roommates, grabbed his guns, and set out for "the hottest sorority" on campus, because. Because girls never approached him, and would have rejected him had he ever bothered to approach them. Because girls pick jerks (who actually ask them out) instead of 'gentlemen' like him (who sit around waiting for ass to be handed to them, like Sleeping Booty, and never put themselves out there for outright rejection). Because when he attempted to assault some women months earlier (what a gentleman!), some nearby men had intervened and kicked his ass. Because he was a misogynistic shitstain driven to obtain riches and women, and frustrated with a life that did not magically hand him these things. Because he was an entitled, spoilt rotten adolescent piece of walking, talking crap who'd had everything handed to him, and his response to adulthood and the requirement that he grow up and work for things was magical thinking (use The Secret to win the lottery!) and an inevitable tantrum.

Because girls aren't psychic - but thank God for instinct and intuition.

And the apologists poured out. It wasn't misogyny because look, he killed more men! - despite the videos and the manifesto and forum posts in which he declared his hatred for women and that he was going to kill as many as possible, and the fact that he only failed because he was utterly incompetent even at being a super-villain. It wasn't misogyny, because look, he had Aspergers, and oh why did no one get him treatment! - despite the fact that autism isn't a mental illness, the mentally ill are more likely to be victims than perpetrators of violence, he was receiving help and his family did attempt to get him committed out of fear he was a threat to himself and others. It wasn't misogyny, because he was probably gay! - and what the fuck is in the water over at Fox News? Seriously now.

And worse, there were the creepy comments. "If even one girl had put out..." What? Pussy would have cured him? No. Or the NYPost's naming and shaming of a girl from grade school that didn't even remember the asshole, though her father did - specifically, he remembered him as a creepy little fuck.

May ended with women on Twitter sharing times they were harassed, intimidated or assaulted - and being harangued by men who were upset because this conversation about women being harassed, intimidated and assaulted was not taking place within the context of how it hurt men to be associated with this and discussed this way. They insisted that the conversation must begin with how feminists discuss men, and must include caveats that specifically let certain men (them) off the hook, because somehow, simply saying that a man raped you and the police didn't take it seriously is slandering all men, because this is really all about men's feelings, isn't it?

So let's start June off better, with Your Princess Is in Another Castle: Misogyny, Entitlement, and Nerds, in which a nerdy guy calls out the pop culture nerd narrative as insulting to and unhealthy for nerdy guys and women alike.
mokie: Red-haired punk Vyvyan makes rude gestures at the viewer (snotty)
An odd trend popped up and caught my eye over the last decade: failing businesses requesting donations to keep from going under. I mean donations literally: not an exchange of goods and services, but outright requests for money to pay off outstanding rent and utility bills. They were usually from bookshops under three years old, crossing my path because I am bookish and frequented bookish sites and forums where the requests appeared.

What the requests suggested to me, depending on the details:
- The owner did not have a viable business plan and knew diddly-squat about running a business.
- The owner confused their daydreams about what they'd do with 'the keys to the candy shop' with having a business plan.
- The owner confused being a business in the business of [whatever] with being a church in the service of [whatever].
- The owner confused being a business in a community with being a community center.
- The owner should have started a club instead, as it seemed they wanted a place to hang out with fellow [whatever] lovers rather than a business.
- The business was already beyond saving.

Bookshops aren't really the point here, but they do illustrate it well.

First, more than half of all new businesses fail by their fourth year, simply because new business owners are inexperienced. Successful business owners usually have a few failed businesses under their belt; their failures taught them the pitfalls of business, how to mess up and pick themselves up and eventually succeed. Bookish people who've long daydreamed of having their own bookshop look from a customer's point of view, seeing a lack of bookshops as a need for bookshops, but missing the obvious counterpoint: shops with decades of experience in successful operation were put out of business by Amazon and the chains, and those that survived did so because they had advantages others didn't (like a great walkable urban location) or because they made changes that brought in a wider range of people (like bric-a-brac hunters).

Second, these small business owners overestimated the importance of their interests to the local community, and their role within the community. To bookish folks, a refrigerator is just an appliance, a bath towel just a flop of cloth. They're just things. Books are different, sacred vessels to which we entrust ideas, containers for other worlds and lives. Opening a bookshop isn't just like having the keys to the candy shop - it's like being entrusted with your own church. A church of candy, even. That lends itself to unhealthy expectations, because to the rest of the community, a book is just a thing, and even dedicated bibliophiles are going to have to pay their own rent first.

That's why new and troubled bookshops take to their blogs and Facebook pages, asking for $15,000 in a month to cover their outstanding debts so they can stay in business. They do a little interview with the local paper about how they'll have to shut their doors if the community doesn't come through and show it values its bookshops, and keep Twitter abuzz with updates. They'll certainly get a few more customers, mostly looking for really good going-out-of-business sales, but I haven't seen a single bookshop yet saved by begging the community to keep their dreams afloat.

For some, as the deadline looms, the bitterness creeps in. If all the people offering supportive comments were regular customers... If they were real book lovers, they'd have been there all along, and the shop wouldn't be in trouble. They get huffy at what they see as invasive questions, because who do you think you are, asking them about their business plan and how you can be sure they wouldn't be asking for donations again in a few months? How dare you want to make sure your money wouldn't be wasted? They forget that they run a business, not a charity or a church or a fucking community rec center, and that nobody owes them a goddamn thing - certainly not to be rewarded with free money for their incompetence, no questions asked. "Show us you value our business" is the customer's line.

The community sees a business begging, and a business begging for donations is a business that's bad at businessing. Why throw good money after bad? That hardly gives them any confidence in the business owner's competence.

The community wants to see the business taking steps to fix its own problems, and telling them how they can help - not that it's dead in the water unless its customers come up with a load of cash. People will happily help someone raise money to start a business (and I will, because St. Louis needs Dr. Dan's Pancake Van). People will gladly patronize a business if they like it and it fulfills a need or want for them. People don't want to be blamed for a business they've never heard of going under, however, or shamed for not taking up the flag in someone's personal cause, be it books, raw dog food or organic produce.

To be clear: the point is not bookshops, failing bookshops, how many bookshops turn to donations/crowdfunding, that small businesses should not ask for help, that small businesses should not be given help, or that one should write off troubled businesses as, "Oh well, do-over." It's that the community loves to give businesses support, but asking for charity makes a business look non-viable.

All of which brings us to the inspiration for this ramble!

A local organic grocer's expansion fell through, and now the business is in debt and at risk. Though only five years old, they are pretty well established on the local food scene, and increasing their business steadily. On social media, they're sending a business message that suggests confidence and capability: we're responsible and well-run, not asking for donations but having a sale to raise funds to fix an identified issue. Not a hand-out, just a hand-up - that sort of thing.

It's perfect! It should appeal not just to the organic church and choir, but also to the community. Except, in local print media...
Horine says it would defy the Local Harvest ethos of building a stronger local-food community to close without first turning to that community for help.

"We've always stuck with it," he says. "We believe in what we're doing. It sounds cliché, but we feel like it's bigger than us. So we're going to give the community a chance to try to save it." (Ian Froeb, "Local Harvest Grocery and restaurants face imminent closure, seek help", St. Louis Post-Dispatch 27 January 2014)
Give the community a chance to... Gah!
The Scoop talked with Earnest about her fund raising plans. “What we built the [Local Harvest] model on was building a local food community,” Earnest said. “People will have the chance to say…whether it’s important that we continue to exist. Whether it’s worth it. Whether it’s right for them. Obviously we think so, but do they?” (Ligaya Figueras, "The Scoop: Local Harvest launches community fund raising campaign to avoid closure", Sauce Magazine 27 January 2014)
Whether it's worth.... Gah! 'Cause' wording undermines any sense of confidence and capability. By shifting all action to the consumer, it doesn't tell us how (or if) the business is trying to fix its problem, if there's a plan besides "beg for donations help", if the problem has even been identified or if this is just rescheduling a crisis. It's all just "Support my church of candy! Don't you love candy? Prove it!"

Besides, who says something like that when they're asking you for money? "I need $1000 to pay my rent and heating bill and buy food. You have the chance to say whether it's important to you that I don't freeze to death homeless and starving on the street." And why am I hearing Sarah McLachlan?

To the owners, local and organic is its own little church of candy. To the 'church and choir' customers, it's local, it's organic, but it's also asking for a lot of money, while using language that puts responsibility for its success or failure on the people it's borrowing from. To the community that might have been persuaded to help a local business out, it's a goddamn business, and they do not need to prove any goddamn thing to a goddamn business. The community does not have to prove its love, prove that it cares, prove that it values a certain kind of business. The business has to prove that it's not going to tank and leave people high and dry with worthless gift certificates. Because it's a business, not a cause.

SPACEBALLS: THE CLARIFICATION! (and update): Yes, this entry was edited to clarify the intent (I hope), eliminate some repetition, and address my lack of caffeination when it was written. But more importantly, on February 1st, LHC met their funding goal, and the villagers rejoiced!
mokie: Ghostbusters' Vinz Clortho wears a collander and answers questions (SCIENCE!)
A conversation observed, paraphrased and annotated:

Naive poster: "My friend is a nurse and washes her hands all the time, but I looked at her lotion and it's full of all these chemicals. I'm going to make her some all-natural homemade lotion! With coconut oil, and sunflower oil, and..."

Note: Many medical facilities use latex gloves and barriers. Oil-based products break down latex. This is a bad, bad idea.

Helpful people: "Since your friend works with sick people, sterilizing your equipment and using a preservative is a must. This is usually the problem people run into with homemade lotions."

TRUE. Lotions are water-based, and water-based products are almost guaranteed to succumb to mold and bacterial growth eventually, even with a preservative. Products made without a preservative should be refrigerated and used within a month, and not on broken skin, because seriously y'all, cooties.

Naive poster: "How does a preservative keep someone from spreading infection? Pshaw!"

...ungh.

Helpful people: "It keeps bacteria from growing in the lotion. The lotion she spreads on her hands. The hands she touches equipment and sick people with."

Not at all helpful people:
- "You can just use vitamin E."
- "Or grapefruit extract."
- "I like rosemary oleoresin."
- "Essential oils make great natural preservatives."

Helpful people: "No, none of those things are preservatives. Several are antioxidants. They prolong the life of the oils, but they don't stop bacteria and fungi from growing in the product."

Not at all helpful people: "I don't use water in my lotions, just aloe juice, so it's not an issue for me."

Helpful people: "Aloe juice is water-based. Juices in general are still water-based. Is your lotion made with liquid? Then you still need a preservative."

People who work in an actual medical setting: "Guys, the products we're allowed to use are strictly regulated for exactly these reasons. Also, oil-based products break down latex."

See?

Scoffing scofferson: "Don't all lotions contain oils? Harumph and pshaw."

No. For example, products made for industries that use latex--

Scoffing scofferson: "Sounds like more chemicals to me."

And this is why you should be a little more cautious when buying handmade personal care products, especially from folks throwing around the terms 'all-natural', 'preservative-free', 'herbal', and (especially) 'great for kids': because good intentions are no substitute for actually knowing what the fuck you're doing before you put the health of total strangers at risk.
mokie: Red Dwarf's Rimmer does a very embarrassing dance (people are crazy)
Yes, seriously.

First, there's the very popular "Hitler took everybody's guns! If the Jews had guns, maybe the Holocaust wouldn't have happened!", which Salon answers nicely:
Proponents of the theory sometimes point to the 1943 Warsaw Ghetto Uprising as evidence that, as Fox News’ Judge Andrew Napolitano put it, “those able to hold onto their arms and their basic right to self-defense were much more successful in resisting the Nazi genocide.” But as the Tablet’s Michael Moynihan points out, Napolitano’s history (curiously based on a citation of work by French Holocaust denier Robert Faurisson) is a bit off. In reality, only about 20 Germans were killed, while some 13,000 Jews were massacred. The remaining 50,000 who survived were promptly sent off to concentration camps. (Alex Seitz-Wald, "The Hitler gun control lie", Salon 11 January 2013)
The same article also points out that Hitler did not come for everybody's guns, as the much-cited 1938 law actually deregulated gun ownership for most residents. It restricted gun ownership for Jews, but was just one of many restrictions on the Jews.

(Those wondering when Jews became non-white might as easily ask Google when Italians became white, or when the Irish became white, or ask why some Iranians get upset when referred to as non-white. Race isn't as simple as skin color--it has lots to do with social and historical context and power, us vs them dichotomies, and at times with who is and isn't considered fully 'people' at all. You can find books on it from the Jewish perspective, if you're curious. In the meantime, you can think of it as 'ethnically specific tragedies', if you find that easier.)

Then there's Gawker's story, with a title that speaks for itself: "Al Sharpton Rips Into ‘Gun Appreciation Day’ Chairman Who Thinks Slavery Might Not Have Happened If We Had Just Given Black People Guns"

Yes, seriously.

Of course, it was a different story when groups of black people actually were arming themselves, and the NRA helped to draft gun control measures instead of fighting against gun control. Meanwhile, remember when the neo-cons argued that slavery wasn't so bad, bred mutual respect between the races, and at least kept black families together in 2-parent households? Or when Quentin Tarantino decided he was an expert on history and declared "Roots" 'inauthentic'? Okay, that last one's unrelated...

Except that, for both "Inglourious Basterds" and "Django Unchained", Tarantino has been criticized as exploiting another race's past tragedy and rewriting it as a revenge fantasy, ignoring history and, some believe, implying that the oppressed could have taken care of themselves had they just grabbed those bootstraps and gotten a little more inventively violent.

Huh. Guess it does apply.

And this is just the headline-level racial fuckery emerging from the gun control debate. It's not touching on comment sections, where eyes are rolled, racial slurs are tossed out, and the threatening specter of the gangbanger is waved. It comes together as a disjointed vision of a Mad Max future, in which armed and melanistically-rich criminals roam free and run Bartertown, formerly known as the US of A, and by the way, their ancestors could have saved themselves from us pasty bastards in the first place if only they'd had guns.

Except nobody is enslaving us. Nobody is forcing us into concentration/re-education camps, or sending us off to Thunderdome.* There was a whole lot more going on in pre-Civil War America and the Third Reich than the oppressed parties not having guns, and much of that had to do with those parties being considered barely (or not even) human by the Powers That Be.

Guns aren't what's keeping society from suddenly imploding on itself. Society isn't imploding because, despite all the gloom, doom, school shootings and terrible cable reality shows, it works pretty well for the most part. Rethinking our stance on guns to take military weaponry off the streets isn't going to change that, or leave us bare and defenseless against barbarians at the gate. It might, however, stop a mass-murdering fuckhead or two from donning body armor and walking into a school to make himself famous.

Meanwhile, as some folks are suggesting that the only thing those other folks needed to fix their problems was more guns, completely different folks are uncomfortably wondering exactly why killers who arm themselves and walk into schools almost always turn out to be young middle-class white men. Is it just statistics? A dramatic rise in mental illness, or a dramatic drop in effective treatment? A pathological reaction to stressful times, changing demographics and social norms, and/or loss of status?

This is progress of a sort, given that a decade ago, we were uncomfortably discussing whether these killers were monsters created by video games or monsters created by bullying. Now that bullying is an openly discussed issue, video games aren't just for easily-demonized geeks anymore, and more killers clearly fall outside the stereotype of the kid playing out his revenge fantasy in real life, we can stop asking why that person committed this one horrible crime and start asking what it is about our culture that's incubating this trend.


* I know there's a tangent on the American penal system in here waiting for someone, but I've only got the one rant in me today.
mokie: Earthrise seen from the moon (melancholy)
What can I say that hasn't already been said? News of the shooting was devastating. The national discussions it started on gun control, mental health access and the role of the media have been frustrating, but were overdue. The national discussions some people tried to start using the tragedy suggest that any mental health care reform needs to start with our politicians and celebrities. Please, won't someone think of Victoria Jackson?

On the same day that a man shot 20 children and 7 adults in Connecticut, a man in China slashed at least 22 children with a knife, a man in Indiana was arrested after threatening to set his wife on fire and then shoot up a nearby elementary school, and a teen in Oklahoma was arrested after plotting to lure students and faculty into the school gym and open fire. In the week since, a man walked into an Alabama hospital and opened fire, a Maryland teen was put in psychiatric care after concerned students reported that he had detailed information on the school building and security, and a Utah elementary school student brought a gun to school and threatened his classmates, citing fear of being killed like the kids at Newtown.

Maybe the world is always this crazy, and we just spend so much of our time focused on our own little corners that it's usually easier to ignore.

Mental Health Reform
Yes, please.

Though speculation abounds about the attacker's mental health, his actions point to a larger societal problem, and if we can't see it objectively in our own backyards, we can observe it unfolding in China, where attacks on schools are on the rise. Some experts attribute these attacks to mental illness, while others talk about frustration with rapid social changes, unemployment and general disenfranchisement.

I don't think that's an either/or. Dismissing these attacks as mental illness fails to address seriously the debilitating stress that drives people to the point where exploding seems like a solution; talking about them only as frustrated men downplays the value of access to good mental health care in favor of talking up punishment and armed guards. We need a healthy middle ground, where a person doesn't need a diagnosis of mental illness to get serious help, and doesn't feel stigmatized for seeking out the help they need.

Gun Control
Social media has been rife with strife, hasn't it? In one corner, people waving photos of an armed Israeli teacher with her students as proof that we need guns in schools--nevermind that the photo is of a guard, not a teacher, and that under Israel's restrictive gun control policies, citizens wouldn't even have access to as much firepower as the attacker had that day. In the other corner, people pointing out that the 22 children involved in the Chinese knife attack will all survive, so eager to make the point that they gloss over the alarming larger reality that schools are increasingly seen as a viable target by the disgruntled.

To share my biases upfront: my grandfather was a hunter, my cousins still are, and I know people who work in dangerous vocations that have to be armed for their own protection, so I know that there is such a thing as a responsible gun owner. At the same time, I also believe there's no reason for your average everyday citizen to have an assault rifle in their home, and that the discussion about gun control in our country is muddled by an unhealthy combative mindset that has latched onto guns as symbols of power and agency.

Examples of that mindset? Start with politicians pushing to arm teachers, under the assumption that at least one teacher with a gun could easily take out a gunman and reduce the danger. In reality, all armed teachers would introduce to the situation is crossfire: statistics tell us that accuracy drops among trained police officers when shooting moves from target practice to real situations, and psychology tells us that humans are consciously unwilling and subconsciously sabotaged when firing on other humans. (Yes, that's a Cracked article. Their explanation is a more interesting read.)

This kind of thinking is dangerously related to the kind of thinking that says, "I'll get a gun and show them all that they messed with the wrong guy." This kind of thinking isn't the solution--it's the problem. It's the kind of thinking that got an unarmed teenager stalked and shot by an armed junior detective wannabe after the real police told him not to engage, and which had half the country arguing if the wannabe had the right to 'stand his ground' and fire on the unarmed kid that he was stalking through the kid's own neighborhood. It's the kind of thinking that led a grown man to fire into a minivan full of teenagers because their music was too loud.

Whether or not we manage to come to a consensus on the issue of accessibility to guns, we have to address the connection between anger and armament in our culture. We've gotten the idea that waving weapons around is a legitimate way to express our frustration, even to the point of bragging about it on cable news stations. Is it any wonder a segment of the population carries out that threat?

The Media, the Politicians, the Deities and the Wingnuts
By midweek, even the media was questioning its presence in Newtown, and the value of the story vs. the empathy of its actions.

Sadly, some of us have gotten so entrenched in the politics of empathy that we've started to lose hold of the real thing.

Politically and/or religiously-minded individuals tried to stick the tragedy to their favorite hobby-horses. On the right, Mike Huckabee blamed the 'removal' of God from schools (nevermind what that says about attacks in places of worship), Victoria Jackson tried to equate it with abortion, James Dobson blamed it (and everything else) on the gays, and Ted Nugent blamed 'political correctness and moral decline', if you're inclined to take a tongue-lashing about morality from a man who gained legal guardianship over a teenager so he could have sex with her. On the left, there were snark remarks about 'arming those evil union teachers' and a demand to talk gun control before the families even knew if their children were among the slain.

For me, none of that tops Charlotte Allen's error-ridden misogynistic New Review essay in which she blames the "feminized setting" of the school, stating that "women and small children are sitting ducks for mass-murderers," lamenting that there were no men on staff to leap into action, that "even some of the huskier 12-year-old boys" might have taken the attacker out had they not been pushed to hide like scared little girls. It's a batshit revisionist view of events that ignores two brave women who rushed to try to stop him, insults the custodian who saved lives not by flinging a pail at an armed man but by running through the building warning teachers and students to take cover, and denigrates teachers who saved lives by concentrating on getting kids out of the line of fire rather than throwing themselves into it.

And, on the other side, those pointing out that the heroes of Newtown were all women (sorry, custodian!), and waxing philosophical about the differences between the genders, as if male teachers would not have given their lives for their students in the same situation.

But can we say that they're at least learning? Between Anderson Cooper's refusal to use the attacker's name on the air, and the media's greater focus on the victims rather than the gunman, the media seems to have figured out that they don't have to feed that morbid curiosity or give the attacker a posthumous platform. If this holds up, it's already a great step forward.
mokie: A doll with an open torso featuring a diorama (yay for girls)
Feminism exploded all over my Internets from unexpected sources!

The other day, Cracked offered a lesson in tough love with 6 Harsh Truths That Will Make You a Better Person, and in the process nailed Nice Guys: "Don't say that you're a nice guy -- that's the bare minimum. Pretty girls have guys being nice to them 36 times a day. [...D]on't complain about how girls fall for jerks; they fall for those jerks because those jerks have other things they can offer."

Today, Gawker points out [the now-defunct site] "Nice Guys" of OKCupid in all their glorious douchebaggery, complete with a handy flowchart.

I'm surprised. I mean, you expect it of Jezebel, which even offered a field guide to Nice Guys recently, but Cracked? That's dude-central!

Edited for clarification: In much the same way that 'killer whale' as a term refers to a specific breed of whale and not just random homicidal cetaceans, 'Nice Guy' is a term for a specific type of guy engaged in a specific type of behavior, which is described in-depth at the sites linked above.

Essentially, a Nice Guy is a manipulative man who befriends a girl but has ulterior motives in doing so. He has a sexual/romantic interest in her but fears he'll be rejected if he asks her out directly, so instead he attempts to weasel into her circle of friends. There he encourages her to rely on him for emotional support, and often tries to sabotage her relationship by badmouthing whoever she's with ("Why are you with him? He's a jerk!"). The Nice Guy does these things under the mistaken belief that the girl will have a magical epiphany about how great he is, and he'll be upgraded to boyfriend/rewarded with sex. Unfortunately for him, girls can't read minds either, so the object of his affection generally thinks of him as a friend—you know, since that's how he's putting himself out there.

Since he's not actually her friend and it's all a sham, he will eventually turn on her for being a bitch who only likes jerks, and then wander off to whine about friend-zones and how girls only go for assholes who treat them like shit by, oh, asking them out directly and interacting with them like people instead of "machines that you put kindness coins into until sex falls out."

Naturally, Nice Guys don't grasp the difference between themselves and actual nice guys.
mokie: A stack of old letters, tied with twine (dear letter)
Dear World:

I have a terrible sense of humor that skews dark and moody at times--especially in dark and moody times like these. I crack jokes not because I'm a bad person, or an insincere person, or an unsympathetic person, or because I can't take serious things as seriously as they need to be taken. I crack jokes because I can't walk around all gothy with my naked lacerated soul exposed to the salty, lemon juice-covered whip o' fate. I'm not wired for that kind of emotional exposure.

One person's wailing and gnashing is no more or less moral than another person's stiff upper lip, but realize that neither is more or less moral, either, than still another person's daring to crack a joke at a funeral. People cope in different ways.

As if this weren't bad enough, I also tend to slip into thinky-thinky headspace instead of emotional space when emotions are running very high, because I need things to make sense, and in some ways I think my emotions better than I feel them. It's hard to explain, but again, no less legitimate than anyone else's reactions.

The relevance to you is that I may respond to long rants about the evils of evil things with something that starts, "Well, technically..." and goes downhill from there.

I'm not trying to pick a fight or piss you off. I'm usually good (I think) about realizing when a rant is a rant and not a dialogue or an opening to a discussion, and staying out of the way. But sometimes my radar on this slips up, and I try to debate when you're trying to stomp, and it gets all fucked up. It's not personal, and I welcome you to tell me you're in rant mode--I'll back off and we'll both be spared some hard feelings.

The one thing I will not do, World, is let you chastise me for how I feel during troubled times, criticize how I express those feelings, or dictate to me the proper way to 'be'. Try it and I'll show you some emotion, starting with rage and ending with my foot up your ass. (It's one of those German emotions we don't have a name for: schoedenrump, the mortification of finding your moral superiority suddenly lodged in your colon.)

In closing, World, I know we don't always operate the same way, but that's the beauty of this whole Earthling experience. Some of us put it into song, some of us put it into action, some of us put it into a pint of ice cream and a sad movie marathon, but at the end of the day, we're sharing it, and that's the important part. Except the ice cream. Get your own.

Yours truly,
the always socially inept mokie
mokie: A doll with an open torso featuring a diorama (yay for girls)
Abusive boyfriends and spouses run in my family. (Usually from the cops.) At one time, I thought it was practically destiny--that as a family, we were so collectively messed up in the head that I just couldn't trust my attractions. I actually warned one boyfriend that, before we got too serious, he needed to know I would kill him if he ever hit me, because I'd decided as a little girl I'd go to jail for murder before letting my man beat me.

Hell, that's still true.

But all of this is not about Chris Brown and Rihanna. It's about us, and how we've framed their story, because it is just a story to us.

We have our villain, the woman-beater. We have our heroine, the beaten woman. The media gathered its torches and pitchforks dutifully. Alas, the heroine refused to follow the script. So we townsfolks gathered around to gossip and berate her.

She ought to just do what she's told. Doesn't she know she's a role model now? That means she can't just decide things on her own. And the girl shouldn't be deciding things on her own anyway--everybody knows beaten women are all Stockholmy and too stupid to get out of a bad situation. She can't just be allowed to make her own decisions. What if she makes the wrong ones? Then all the other girls will get the wrong message.

That message? Sure you're a grown woman who can make your own choices and live your life as you see fit--up to a point. And then you're just a bewildered girl who needs someone bigger and stronger to step in and save you from yourself. You won't know, so we'll let you know when that point is.

And the heroine refused to fall in line, so the media shined its pitchfolks and grumbled. Maybe she's not a 'good' girl after all...

What could possibly be more offensive than Chris Brown beating Rihanna?

A police officer leaking photos of Rihanna's bruised face for money.

The media splashing photos of Rihanna's bruised face everywhere for entertainment.

Every blogging site associated with Gawker online posting rants about how Rihanna needs to get with the fucking program and start acting like a damn role model already, for hits.

That if Jane Doe from Nowheresville, Wyoming, were suddenly splashed across the front page of tabloids as too stupid to get out of an abusive relationship, we would be decrying this invasion of her privacy, the abusive tone of this coverage, and asking how the hell this was supposed to help her.

That people still rant about Chris Brown, but not about the two police officers who sold that photo escaping prosecution, or about the media exploiting Rihanna's abuse for money.

That every blogging site associated with Gawker online is still doing this paternalist posturing, shaking the "Silence is Violence" placard as justification for making this a big public story and ignoring that Rihanna's rights--to privacy, for starters--were merrily trampled along the way to it becoming a big public story.

Sure, silence is violence. Too often abuse is swept under the rug as a 'private matter' when neighbors and family should intervene and tell the young woman she deserves better and they're there for her. But while it's not a private matter, it's sure as hell not tabloid fodder either, and there's a world of difference between a neighbor's offer of support and some blogger's smug headshaking.

Conspiracies 'R Us

Thursday, 15 November 2012 11:52 am
mokie: Red and Kitty Foreman are obviously exasperated (disappointed)
I will not dream about politics tonight. I will not dream about politics tonight. I will not dream about politics tonight...1

But I'll sure as hell write about it. I seem to be writing more about politics now than I did during the year leading up to this election.

For a few minutes this week past, it seemed as if the crazy spell was broken. The shrieking prophets of doom were temporarily dumbstruck. The viewers blinked out the sleepy dust, stretched and asked what time it was. The moderates dared to raise their hands and suggest rethinking the party's policy of political martial law. Everyone took a little step back from the Cliffs of Insanity.

A few folks asked if we could stop catering to the fringe now, and start work on "a message that works for people who represent all of America."2 There were many nods; turning a blind eye to the tinfoil behatted birthers was not only embarrassing, it was also counterproductive in reaching out to "a segment of society whose members have often been discriminated against through the types of disqualification-hunts that [rabid birther] Donald Trump engaged in so vigorously."3 And, as liberal Rachel Maddow pointed out (with only moderate gloating), the idea behind the two-party system is that those two parties come at problems from two different angles and hash it out; it breaks down if one party dedicates itself entirely to keeping anything at all from getting done in the name of destroying the political career of one particular president.

Alas, it was not meant to be. Or at least, not yet.

Despite his attempt at a classy concession speech, Romney threw out a snarky parting shot about Obama winning on the basis of 'gifts' to targeted voters. The gist of the message is common sense: the Democratic campaign tailored its approach to a wide range of voting blocs, emphasizing Obama's stance on reproductive rights to female voters, on immigration issues to Latino voters, on student loans to young voters, etc.--while the Republican campaign seemed to target only angry white guy voters. The language of the message, on the other hand, is loaded with the same angry white guy rhetoric that the party has used for four years to slyly stir Teapublicans into a foaming rage of willful misunderstanding. Off in a family room somewhere, someone's uncle is ranting at his family that Obama literally handed out presents in exchange for votes, and that's the goal of this rhetoric. The stupid, counterproductive goal.

And now the conspiracy engines at Fox News have smelled fresh blood, proclaiming voter fraud because areas of Pennsylvania went 100% to Obama. It seems incomprehensible to them that in predominantly black urban areas, Obama got nearly all of the vote, despite the campaign writing off black voters and urban voters in the first place, and pre-election polls showing Romney's support among black voters to be so ridiculously low that it registered as 0%. But again, beneath the bewilderment that they can't find a single Romney voter in some areas, the message they're sending is one of disenfranchisement: there shouldn't be that many black people voting, and if there are, it must be fraud. It can't be that they were motivated to get out and vote--it must be that they're dishonest and cheating the system.

With the Right torn between those who want to 'double-down' and those who want to pull back to a more moderate platform, I've seen many suggestions that this is not the end of our partisan woes, but just the beginning of the GOP's own less-than-civil war.


1 I wrote this bit last night, and it worked! I didn't dream of politics! I dreamt of editing text...
2 "David Frum: Why Mitt Romney Lost the 2012 Presidential Election (VIDEO)," The Huffington Post 14 November 2012.
3 John Dickerson, "Why Romney Never Saw It Coming," Slate 9 November 2012.
mokie: A big red dinosaur says, "Make me a sandwich" (cynical)
In November 2007, Malcolm Gladwell wrote in The New Yorker:
In the mid-nineties, the British Home Office analyzed a hundred and eighty-four crimes, to see how many times profiles led to the arrest of a criminal. The profile worked in five of those cases. That’s just 2.7 per cent... ("Real psychics: Criminal profiling and the F.B.I.")
The point Gladwell makes is that criminal profiling, despite its high profile in recent years, and maybe despite the best intentions of the profilers themselves, is nothing more than the old-fashioned cold reading practiced by psychics and televangelists: a few reasonable deductions mixed with a handful of okay assumptions and a lot of iffy guesses, couched in language so vague as to be realistically useless.

I mention this first because it's interesting, and second, because as a new friend (hi!) pointed out, the profilers have gathered around the Aurora shooting, all twitching and bitching. They're having trouble working with the reality they've got--the kind of profile they would come up with if they were looking for a suspect doesn't fit the suspect they have at all, and he's not giving them anything to work with. No blue collar job, no criminal history, no masturbatory basement lair. He doesn't even have a Facebook account! (Gasp!) Someone even brought up the tried-and-true boogeyman of video games, but the killer's game of choice was Guitar Hero.

So here's my profile on the killer:
  • He's an average student in a tough field of study. He wants to make a name for himself, but it's not going to be in neuroscience.
  • He claimed to be the Joker, but in red hair and body armor. He hasn't actually seen the recent Batman movies, but is aware of the popularity of Heath Ledger's Joker, and the controversy around the character. He wants to make a name for himself, and latching onto that image is, he thinks, a good way to start.
  • He may have the The Dark Knight's Joker confused with Batman Forever's Riddler. That is both sad and hilarious at the same time. If true, this suggests that he is not a nerd or a geek, as they would be aware of this difference, but that he would pretend to know such things if it got people to pay attention to him. In other words, he is a douchebag.
  • He allegedly asked one of his jailers how the movie ends. This has been interpreted by the media as a sign of how mentally out of touch he is. If we examine the question in the context of a screenplay, however, you see that it would play well as an action movie one-liner. From this, I suspect the killer really wants the world to think of him as a bad ass, and, based on that, it must really chafe his ass that the line did not play the way he anticipated. (Well played, media.)
  • Who tries to pull off action movie one-liners in real life? Douchebags.
  • According to his jailers, he's now claiming amnesia. I think we can look at this as, "This really didn't work out the way I wanted, I don't want to play this anymore."
In summary: I think he's just a douchebag who wants to make a name for himself. But it's just a guess.

[Related posts: We never learn. / Let's play Armchair Profilers!]

We never learn.

Sunday, 22 July 2012 08:10 am
mokie: Notebook paper with a message, "Abort mission, destroy phone" (media mistrusting)
A couple of quotes from Charlie Brooker's Newswipe seem particularly relevant right now.

First, the host: "Repeatedly showing us a killer's face isn't news, it's just rubbernecking, and what's more, this sort of coverage only serves to turn this murdering little twat into a sort of nihilistic pin-up boy."

And I agree.

Second, from the same, forensic psychiatrist Dr. Park Dietz:
We've had 20 years of mass murderers, throughout which I have repeatedly told CNN and our other media, 'If you don't want to propagate more mass murders, don't start the story with sirens blaring. Don't have photographs of the killer. Don't make this 24/7 coverage. Do everything you can not to make the body count the lead story, not to make the killer some kind of anti-hero.

Do localize this story to the affected community and make it as boring as possible in every other market, because every time we have intense saturation coverage of a mass murder, we expect to see one or two more within a week. (Charlie Brooker's Newswipe, 25 March 2009)

Update: The experts may expect to see one or two more attacks within a week, but I think we all underestimate how many plain old-fashioned assholes will pop out of the woodwork.

[Related posts: We never learn. / Let's play Armchair Profilers!]
mokie: Text, "Fuck politics, I just want to burn shit down" (politics)
The upside of getting steady work is that it means steady pay.

The downside is that, because it's writing and editing, by the end of the day I don't feel like doing more digging and sorting and taping-together of meaningful words. So I piece together a few notes for a post or a rant, and vow to come back and flesh it out the next day. A few weeks later I spot the file, when the world and I are both out of steam on the issue.

For example, the whole contraception kerfluffle. Who said anything about asking taxpayers to pay for birth control? Most people just want their own insurance, insurance that they pay for with their premiums and their co-pays, to cover their medical needs adequately. And contraception is medication: forms of contraception are used to treat a variety of medical needs of which birth control is indeed one, but only one--and not a damn one of those medical needs is anybody's business but the patient's and her doctor's. For that matter, neither is her sex life. No woman should be obliged to give her employer her medical records and full disclosure of how much dick she is or isn't getting to justify receiving medication that her doctor prescribed.

Why should anyone's employer get a say in their medical care anyway? Who made CEOs experts in health care? Would a Muslim employer get to override a heart transplant if doctors decided that I needed a baboon heart? Would a Jehovah's Witness have a say in whether I received a vital blood transfusion? Would a Scientologist get to nix my prescription for antidepressants and send me in for an 'audit' instead? Would I have to sit down in a Christian Science prayer circle and hope that fixed a cancerous mass instead of seeking actual medical attention? If it's all about not asking an employer to violate his 'morals and beliefs', will racists be able to dictate that their employees only see white doctors? My freedom of religion should include the right not to have my employer's religion dictate my health care choices.

But I'm all out of rant about it. Now it's just a sad resignation to the idea that some people don't get how contraception works or why it's necessary.

Or the whole SOPA/PIPA debacle. I saved a lovely quote from TechDirt just for the occasion, but even with Obama hinting at another round of that inanity, I can't work up the oomph to do more than nod:
"What they might not have known -- because the RIAA never wants to admit this -- is that the overall music industry is growing, not shrinking. Sure, the dollar value of music sales has shrunk, and perhaps it's because of file sharing, but the overall music industry -- including things like concerts, licensing and publishing -- has continued to rise, quite significantly. More importantly, these are the parts of the business where artists actually keep a much larger percentage of the money -- meaning that artists are significantly better off today than they were in the past, contrary to what Sherman and the RIAA will tell you."
For example: Bandcamp and Noisetrade. Go forth and support an artist on their own terms.

But I digress.

Now that work has quieted down some and I can think up words for fun and pleasure again, I've found I'm pretty much out of things to apply them to.
mokie: A tiny, sad cardboard robot walks in the rain (sad)
Happy holidays, you crazy cats! I've not forgotten about you, I've just been buried under work, and unable to muster many big words.

So, did you guys know that I have a livejournal and a deadjournal and an insanejournal and a dreamwidth journal? They're all really the same journal, and all mokie. I mirror like a mofo, because I believe in the fundamental ability of websites to disappear without warning. But anyway, if you intend to bail on LJ and would prefer I read/comment at another site (when I dig myself out long enough to read), etc., feel free to say so.

For those not in the know, Livejournal has revamped the way its comments work, which is causing some consternation.

Some of it is trifling, like the font. Yes, there are people saying, "You bastards! I hate that font! Change it back NAO!"

Some of it is fair but still a little dramatic, like removal of subject lines and comment managing bits. I know these things have legitimate uses, especially in some contexts (like very talkative communities), but calm and clear feedback on why these things are not 'clutter' and are valuable is probably more helpful than screaming like someone murdered the kitten Jesus.

And some of it sounds trifling, like the new color combo, but is very much not, since the complaint is that it triggers migraines. Not migraines in the sense of drama queens who can't just have a headache, they have a migraine (though some jerky commenters on the news page are treating it like such), but migraines in the full medical sense, with nausea and hypersensitivity to stimuli and a crushing immunity to most painkillers. Gotta love a headache that brings its own 2-day hangover.

(If you're wondering: it's the new blue. It tricks the eye into reading the screen as washed out and much brighter than it actually is. Even users who don't get migraines are still getting headaches and reporting eyestrain. If you're sensitive to such things and have a paid account, I'd recommend viewing pages in your own style for a while, by adjusting your management settings and/or sticking ?style=mine onto the end of links. Don't trust Greasemonkey to customize things for you--I've seen a few users saying the site change has borked it.)

The much bigger problem is that this change to the comments appears to be the beginning of a site overhaul, in the same color scheme. So, that's fun.

Yet another LJ exodus is underway, and for good reason--if folks can't even read their comments without a headache and a hangover, then the site is fundamentally broken for them. Dreamwidth has open registration until the end of the year, and if any of my lovely readers need an invite for Deadjournal (or DW later), I'll share. Online journals with no commenting haven't been fun since '97.

I do hope LJ takes this one seriously. I know the userbase pitches a fit whenever a pixel is moved, but this is more in line with, "Hey, your cartoon causes seizures in certain percentage of small children." You fix that shit on principle, y'know?
mokie: A Japanese lantern in front of lush green bushes (thoughtful)
Some people know exactly what they want from the time they can speak, and they pursue that want like it kicked their dog and owes them money.

Most of us know what we want, but our wants change because our lives change. None of us are the same people at 50 that we were at 25. None of us are even the same people at 25 that we were at 15. We grow with life and experience, and some of the things we want remain while others change. Some become less of a priority, some are relegated to official daydream status, and still others completely flip-flop.

This is a good thing. We'd be pretty crappy people if we never grew, and many of the things we wanted at 5, 15, 25, whatever, are not right for who we are now. And that's why the Rolling Stones should retire already. That's life, and we shouldn't be afraid to change, to grow, and to admit that what we wanted way-back-when isn't right for us anymore.

Unfortunately, it can be difficult to separate what we know we'll want forever from what we just really really really want right now. We can be swear-onna-Bible certain that we'll always want it, and then five years later, hideously embarrassed because, well, Whitesnake? Really? Yay for tattoo removal!

And unfortunately, there will always be that person who points and says, "I told you that you'd outgrow that phase," or "I knew you'd change your mind." Sometimes they're jerks trying to imply that they're smarter than you--so smart they knew you better than you knew yourself. Sometimes they're family members who still think of you as a little kid, and their told-you-so's are personal reassurances that you didn't fall all that far out of line with their idea of your future. And, sure, sometimes they're family members who are just jerks, because that happens too.

There's a point here, I swear.

If you have a young relative who has declared that they don't want kids, ever? Great! Don't knock it! Support their decision, because nuts to 'ever'--they've chosen not to get knocked up now, and that's a good thing. If it's age-relevant and not creepy uncle-ish, ask them how they're preventing pregnancy and give them the, "Pulling out doesn't work, stupid!" talk. Let them know you support their decision to take responsibility, because this choice involves behaving responsibly and you should support that.

Sure, they may change their minds when they're older. So what? Some childfree folks decide later that this is no longer right for them; the diehard childfree will give them grief enough for everybody, so lay off. And your young relative may be one of those who are happy with their decision all their lives. Buy their cat a Christmas present and get over it.

We should be able to admit that people make choices or change their lives even in ways which we don't personally understand, but which are right for them.* If you can be the person who gets that, instead of the jerk who says, "You'll want one, just wait!", then maybe you won't have to be the person in the hospital waiting room a year from now laughing and telling their parents, "Well, you told her she'd change her mind..."

* The mysterious tranformation of Stephen Baldwin into a way right-wing Republican, for instance. What the hell, Doyle?
mokie: Ghostbusters' Vinz Clortho wears a collander and answers questions (nerdy)
Time Magazine (yes, again) discusses why the rich shoplift more than the poor, but doesn't ask why store employees are still following poor people around the aisles instead of more affluent customers (answer: management doesn't care about pissing off poor people), or even when $70,000 a year became "rich," because isn't that closer to "middle-class" and doesn't that put a somewhat different spin on this?
In the book, you cite a study that finds Americans with incomes of $70,000 a year shoplift 30% more than those earning up to $20,000. Why is that?

Entitlement is certainly a factor. Rage is a factor. A lot of people feel that they are the victims in whatever way — whether it’s their life circumstances, or that they’re the victims of a larger economic plot — like Bernie Madoff. There’s this idea of avenging yourself on an impersonal entity, like a store. You see what others have — like on TMZ — and you think, ‘What difference does this make?’
mokie: A tiny, sad cardboard robot walks in the rain (sad)
No matter how much they act like they want to discuss the Casey Anthony verdict, people are lying. They want to gnash their teeth over the lack of justice and commiserate with others, and that's okay, but it's not the same thing.

They have no interest in an objective discussion of the high burden of proof for murder, why it's an uphill battle even when there's plenty of evidence, and how little actual evidence there was in this case.

They don't care about the legal difference between murder and manslaughter, despite its obvious bearing since the state had to prove that Caylee was intentionally killed (murder), and eliminate the possibility that Casey accidentally caused her daughter's death (manslaughter) and covered it up, or simply discovered the death and disposed of the body callously after the fact. In fact, just pointing this out is somehow proof to them that you've bought the defense's claim of a family conspiracy, even if you're simply pointing out the salacious suggestions that Casey doped her daughter so she could get away for a bit (which, again, would be manslaughter) or how cause of death can't be determined and leaves the door wide-open for reasonable doubt.

They don't want to talk about reasonable doubt at all, or what the state did or did not prove or the holes that allowed reasonable doubt to poke its head through. They hear "reasonable doubt" as "I think she's innocent!" rather than "There is a definite non-magical, non-crazy chance she didn't intentionally kill the kid, and that means we can't say 'guilty of murder'."

Suggest that being a skeevy person and a bad mother are not in and of themselves proof of murder, and they throw their hands up in frustration. And why shouldn't they? That was the crux of the prosecution's case--she's a lying liar who lies and she got rid of the body, ergo she obviously killed the girl. Personally, I think had they not muddied the water with murder charges that the evidence didn't support, and tried to stretch Internet searches on a shared computer into a smoking gun, they might have gotten a conviction on manslaughter--not because my armchair legal expertise is Harvard-quality, but because like everyone else, the jury wanted to see someone held responsible and Casey Anthony does come across as skeevy and a bad mother. It's easier to suggest that a shitty mother caused her child's death by being a shitty mother than to suggest that a monstrous mother intentionally killed her child when she could instead have just dropped it off with Grandma and Grandpa and taken off.

But anyhow, I should have realized this, because this is the same thing that happens every time a kiddie murder makes the news.

At least I'm not the only one: The Casey Anthony Verdict: The Jury Did the Right Thing [Time Magazine]

ETA: And now that infamous 84 Internet searches for "chloroform" is under fire. The former policeman behind the software used to come up with that number has come forward to say it's wrong--there was only one search, he contacted the sheriff's office and a prosecutor to give them the corrected information, and yet it appears prosecutors deliberately withheld that information from the defense.

So even if she hadn't been found not guilty, she would have walked.
mokie: A tiny, sad cardboard robot walks in the rain (sad)
First, I completely fail to see how invested the other person is in the topic. Then I find the hole in their argument and poke at it, because that's how I think at things: But what about... Part of this may include playing Devil's advocate and presenting the opposite side for consideration, because that's also how I think at things: On the other hand, we can't forget about... I'm trying to be logical in context and thorough, because that's what examining the holes and holding the topic up to peer at all sides is about, being logical and thorough. This generally means I come across as far more invested in the topic than I usually am.

And then somebody sighs and shrugs and walks away, because I'm being obnoxious. And I am, but I'm working on it, honest.

Or somebody tells me I'm scaring away other participants by refusing to allow them their opinions. But I'm not--I just tackle their argument the same way I'd tackle my argument. I'm learning to point out where they make good points, and to bolster those, before I poke their holes.

Or someone takes up 'my side' and presents an argument with holes, and I point out the holes, maybe even swap sides (the slightly less devilish advocate?), and everybody gets very frustrated because how do I feel already?! and I explain that I don't necessarily feel one way or the other, I think, and I'm more interested in a full and interesting discussion than taking a side and defending a flag.1 And they get offended, because to them it's not about a full and interesting discussion but about being right, and they feel my stance mocks or belittles that. I understand completely--I just can't do anything about it.

Or somebody blows up, because the topic steps on one of their triggers and they didn't really want to discuss it as much as rant about it, and I'm frustrating them by sticking to the discussion at hand. This is why I'm wary of talking to atheists/agnostics about anything pertaining to religion, because for many any discussion of religion always becomes their own personal boxing match, relived over and over and over, regardless of the actual framing and context of the current discussion.

Or somebody blows up, because the subject doesn't jibe with their world view so they don't really want to discuss the issue brought up as much as they want to discuss their world view as it relates to the subject, and I'm frustrating them by sticking to the original issue. I've seen a Southern Baptist try to sit through a class on Judaism and fail miserably because he couldn't step outside his world view and see the course material from its own context.2

Logic-in-context protip: if you sit down in a circle discussing the significance of Catholic iconography, and someone asks what the symbols associated with St. James are, and you respond with, "It's all a tool to manipulate the masses"? Not logical in context, because the context is not whether you believe. Also, you're being an asshole.

But anyway: I've got to learn to ignore that little voice that squeaks up from the back of my head, "But what about...?" It's never as interesting to me as it is frustrating to the other party.

1 If it's an issue I have strong feelings about, I'm probably not going to engage in debate about it much, precisely because it's a big issue to me and I don't like feeling like it's being reduced to two sides defending their flags, and don't want to get tetchy at someone who is, like I do, just trying to explore all the facets of the discussion. (Told you I understand.)

2 To be fair, it's very likely that he intentionally enrolled to be disruptive and evangelize to us poor kids being led astray by a damn liberal college, so I don't feel all that bad about the rabbi accidentally making him cry.
mokie: Ghostbusters' Vinz Clortho wears a collander and answers questions (nerdy)
Ready? Okay!

- I recently did some work on ad copy for a line of toys.* Next Christmas, you should expect to see me in the local toy store, laughing maniacally at my newfound power over the minds of the young and innocent.

- Just found out that the host of Adagio's webcast reviewing custom blends is apparently a well-known and much-travelled public speaker who appears all over yon webbish TV/*cast enterprises, especially tea-related ones. Oh, and he's a Mizzou student. Queue Cue conflicting feelings of, "Oh, hey, Columbia!" and "Oh, God, how old is he?"

- Somewhere along the way, I stopped spelling it 'cue' and started spelling it 'queue.' I don't know when or how to stop.

[On a queue, for a cue, on a queue, for a cue--I will remember this!]

- Current brief obsession under investigation: streaming music. What are the real differences between Pandora and Rdio and Last.fm and so forth? I will not rest until I find out! Or lose interest! [Done!]

- For those who haven't heard, from Time.com: Why Have Hackers Hit Russia's Most Popular Blogging Service?

Short answer: probably a politically-motivated attack to silence dissent. If you haven't been able to access Livejournal, this is why.

If you're feeling anxious and would like to back your journal up, you can do that, but bear in mind that it adds to the strain on the system and that LJ's probably not going anywhere. You might consider instead signing up for one of the alternate sites (read: LJ clones) until the dust settles--just update to the new site and, when LJ's back up, copy and/or crosspost. It's also a generally convenient way to mirror your journal so people in your particular hobby/interest-based community can keep up with you no matter what site they prefer.

As for the clones...

There's DeadJournal, which is the granddaddy of the clones and thus lacks some of the later LJ functionality (and accompanying glitches). I've had an account since LJ's 2001 growing pains, and never noticed any technical problems. I've noticed that the user base skews a little dark and gothy, and it's not really a hopping joint, so if you're looking for lots of Golden Girls fandom interaction, it might not be the ideal destination for you

There's InsaneJournal, which became fandom's favorite once the creator of GreatestJournal flipped everyone the bird and let it die. It could simply be growing pains, but IJ is very prone to technical troubles of its own, and if everyone rushes over when LJ's down you'll probably see that in action. If you're looking for active community action you'll find it, but if you're just looking to post something while LJ's down, you may want to look elsewhere.

There's Dreamwidth, the idealistic newcomer. They started out with some very specific goals and intentions (see the guiding principles and diversity statement), they've expanded with fandom and roleplayers in mind, and they've taken the open source part of LJ's code and done very interesting things with it--including things that LJ users have been dreaming of for years. (Hello, in-line cut expansion!) Unfortunately, things are still a little quiet at DW--its slice of fandom consists mostly of the serious discussion of issues folks (see the guiding principles and diversity statement?), while the icon-making squeefuls are happy enough camped out at IJ. You may not find the activity you're looking for.

In other words, pick your high school lunch buddy: the antisocial kid in black who doesn't mind loaning you a buck for the jello cup but won't keep up conversation, the comedian who's great for a laugh but will flake out on you at the drop of a hat, or the very reliable junior feminist who will tell you all about the new club she's starting to save marmosets. DJ and DW both require invite codes and I have some to share, because I was down with all the cliques in high school, donchaknow.**

Alternately, you could just update LJ via a client like Semagic, which can queue posts for later if LJ happens to be down. That's why it's magic!

* No specifics. You never know where I'll strike.
** Well, not so much 'down with' as 'oblivious to.' Also, there were only about 2-300 kids in my entire high school.***
*** Yes, I was the flake. Still am, to tell the truth.

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About dream/reading tags

y-* tags categorize dreams.

For types: beyond the obvious, there are dreamlets (very short dreams), stubs (fragment/outline of a partially-lost dream), gnatter (residual impression of a lost dream).

For characters: there are roles (characters fitting an archetype), symbols (characters as symbols), and sigils (recurring figures with a significance bigger than a single dream's role/symbolism).

x-* tags categorize books.

Material is categorized primarily by structure, style and setting. If searching for a particular genre, look for the defining features of that genre, e.g. x-form:nonfic:bio, x-style:horror, x-setting:dystopian.

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