Sunday, March 31, 2013

It's the day before Buy a Lot of Cadbury Eggs Monday

Otherwise known as Easter.

My point here is not to put down Easter, any day on which a clucking bunny lays chocolate eggs filled with cream is clearly a wondrous day indeed.  And snide comments about commercialism and religious holidays aside some people that I respect a lot are Christians and I'm not big on looking down on anyone's religion or lack there of.

That said, I am into recognizing that others exist.  Which is why I'm writing this post that is mostly lacking in content.  On a site where I can waste time playing stupid mindless games someone decided it was appropriate to announce to everyone that our lord is resurrected and such and... what is this "our" Kemosabe?

Site for mindless games on the internet, what makes you think everyone is Christian?  "My lord is risen," I'd have no problem with, but to assume all the readers have the same religion as you is less than cool.

The construction "is risen" is, I think, attempting to bring a tense we don't quite have in English.  Ancient Greek had a perfect tense that is different from our own which was about actions in the past with definite repercussions in the present.  Sort of like how, "I've opened the door," implies that the door is still open if not augmented by something else (I've opened the door many times in the past.)  So I read "is risen" which is technically present tense (risen is an adjective here) as an attempt to describe a past event with consequences reaching all the way into the here and now.  Thus an attempt to have a tense that includes past and present to show a causal relationship between a past event and the present situation.  Sort of a shorthand for, "has risen and is still in the resulting state."


Just to have some content, here's an excerpt from a thing on trying to explain Easter in a French class:
Nothing we said was of any help to the Moroccan student. A dead man with long hair supposedly living with her father, a leg of lamb served with palm fronds and chocolate; equally confused and disgusted, she shrugged her massive shoulders and turned her attention to the comic book she kept hidden beneath her binder. 
I wondered then if, without the language barrier, my classmates and I could have done a better job making sense of Christianity, an idea that sounds pretty far-fetched to begin with. 
In communicating any religious belief, the operative word is faith, a concept illustrated by our very presence in that classroom. Why bother struggling with the grammar lessons of a six-year-old if each of us didn't believe that, against all reason, we might eventually improve? If I could hope to one day carry on a fluent conversation, it was a relatively short leap to believing that a rabbit might visit my home in the middle of the night, leaving behind a handful of chocolate kisses and a carton of menthol cigarettes. So why stop there? If I could believe in myself, why not give other improbabilities the benefit of the doubt? I told myself that despite her past behavior, my teacher was a kind and loving person who had only my best interests at heart. I accepted the idea that an omniscient God had cast me in his own image and that he watched over me and guided me from one place to the next. The Virgin Birth, the Resurrection  and countless miracles -- my heart expanded to encompass all the wonders and possibilities of the universe. 
A bell, though -- that's fucked up.
Audio of a shorter version here.  It should at least explain what the bell comment is about.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

My Biblical Argument for Marriage Equality (and against both homophobia and trans*-phobia in general)

Please open your bible to Galatians 3:28:
There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
You might have slightly different translation, for example if you're King James only you'll read, "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus."  The difference in translation isn't important to us at this moment.  The bit about there not being male and female is.

That's the whole of my argument.  Seriously.

Now context, or just reading the last two words of the verse, will show that this is talking about Christians, but since Christians are so concerned about what effect (basically none, for the record) marriage equality will have on Christian marriage they should probably be concerned with what the Bible says about Christians.

Try to say marriage should be between a man and a woman, and only that, without using the concepts of male or female.  It really can't be done.  Strip away the concepts of male and female and, "Marriage should be between a man and a woman," becomes, "Marriage should be between an adult person and another adult person."  A position otherwise known as marriage equality.

Homophobia requires definitions for, at the very least, heterosexual and not-heterosexual (bi-phobia tends to fall under homophobia) but try to define those terms without using the concepts of male and female.  If male and female are treated the same then there's no difference between a man who is attracted to women, a man who is attracted to men, and a man who is attracted to men and women.  And if they're treated the same there's no difference if I substitute the word "woman" for "man" in the previous.

Right now if a woman wants to get married the test in places without marriage equality that doesn't exist in places with it is to ask, "Is her partner male or female?" with the response being, "She can get married," if the partner is male, and, "She can't get married," if her partner is female.  But for Christians, at least according to the Bible, there is no distinction between male and female so that question (Is her partner male or female?) can't be asked.

Transphobia requires one to believe that there are people who should be male or female but are instead acting/presenting as/being/whatevering female or male respectively.  Just try to find a way to argue for transphobia that doesn't use the concepts of male and female.  It can't be done.

Similarly for those who don't fall on the gender binary, how would one be able to argue for discriminating against them if there is no gender binary?  If they're Christian than their holy book says that there isn't one.


Secular arguments for discrimination of minorities of a gender related type (non-heterosexual people, non-cis people, non gender binary people) are all crap and fall apart at a glance like the space ships in the abandoned port on Brontitall*.  The religious argument is all people have to fall back on.  Most of those people are Christians.  Yet, if one is a Christian then there is neither male nor female for all are one.  Which, if followed, would make gender based discrimination (whether based on the gender of the people one is attracted to or one's own gender) impossible.

So that's my biblical argument.


ZAPHOD:  Hey. Hey look at this. Look what we found man!
FORD: Amazing!
ZAPHOD: It- it’s a derelict spaceport.
FORD: Looks like no one’s been in for centuries. All these amazing old ships…
ZAPHOD: yeah.
FORD: Just rust and wreckage.
ZAPHOD: Yeah. Spooky man. Like, um… what are those things eggs come out of?
FORD: Birds.
ZAPHOD: No, no, after that.
ZAPHOD: What do they come out of the birds in?
FORD: Eggshells?
ZAPHOD: Ah, that’s it! Just like huge, broken eggshells. And all the dust man, and the huge cobwebs.
FORD: And where you get huge cobwebs you get -
SPIDER: Arghhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!
ZAPHOD: look out man!
SPIDER: ‘Scuse me.
[He scuttles off]
ZAPHOD: One huge spider.
FORD: Polite though.
ZAPHOD: Trans-Stellar Space Lines. Must’ve been real groovy ships once, but now -
FORD: One look and they’d fall apart. I mean look at that one.
[A crash]
ZAPHOD: It fell apart man!

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

This looks like a situation that calls for civil obedience

Hey, I can use the blog for the moment (before I was able to log in, see for sure that I really was logged in, and do absolutely nothing else.)

So here's what I wanted to talk about basically the... how is it that no word comes to mind that covers peeing and pooping?  Toilets in Arizona.  The bill, if passed, would cover public restrooms, bathrooms, showers, baths, dressing rooms and locker rooms, but for the sake of simplicity I want to limit this to access to toilets in public.

The bill, if passed, would make it illegal to access a public restroom if the sex recorded on one's birth certificate didn't match the sign on the door.  Basically.  Heard about it via Ana Mardoll but has since shown up elsewhere (for example on Fred Clark's blog.)

Now the only way to legally enforce such a law would be to require everyone, on attempting to gain access to a restroom, to furnish their birth certificate or a legally recognized copy to show that their birth certificate matches the sign on the door.  If someone didn't do that they'd be detained pending confirmation that they weren't trying to gain access to the birth certificate-not-matching-restroom.  It would have to be done to everyone because of the whole "equal protection" thing.

Laws like this are not made to be legally enforced and they are not intended to take equal protection into account.  They're made to fuck with people the lawmakers don't like.  Only two types of people -- make that three, no one expects the Spanish Inquisition.

The types of people who will be inconvenienced include:
1: People who don't look the way someone thinks a man or woman should look and thus has the cops called on them.
2: People who are trans, and out, but would rather use the correct restroom than the legal one.  Since they're out it's very easy for someone who doesn't like them to call the cops on them as soon as they enter a correct but, under the bill, illegal restroom.
3: People who are transitioned and use the legal restroom.  (Seriously, imagine seeing this woman in the men's restroom, would your first thought be, "Yup, she's in the right room"?  Be honest.)
4: Anyone who isn't comfortable/isn't safe in a situation where a restroom has someone not of the restroom's designated gender in it (and that very much includes the person not of the designated gender) because the bill, if passed and followed, will legally require men to use the women's restroom and women to use the men's one simply because their birth certificate disagrees with their gender.
5: Other people I forgot to mention.  Probably.

In reality enforcement of the law would be on the basis of, "You look funny to me, I'm calling the cops," except in cases where it seriously is as transphobic as, "I know you're trans, I'm calling the cops as soon as you step inside a restroom."

But besides pointing out that the bill manages to be both stupid and evil (so often we're left wondering which, here we can answer, "Both,") what can be done against it?  Well hopefully pointing it out, again and again, everywhere, until anyone who supports it is simultaneously laughed out of the room and not trusted in any capacity that requires basic moral reasoning, will stop it from ever becoming law.

But if it does become law I think an effective protest strategy would be civil obedience.  No, I didn't leave out the first three letters of the second word.  Obedience.

A lot has been written about civil disobedience.  When it works, when it doesn't.  When, where, and how it should be used.  That's not what I'm talking about here.  What I'm talking about is obeying the law, if it becomes law, as written.  Not as intended which is a way to harass anyone who doesn't fit into the lawmaker's idea of proper gender roles, but as written.

No one, with no caveats about how much they may look or act the part, can legally use the restroom labeled as for different sex than listed on their birth certificate.  And since it's tied to birth certificate, not actual sex, drop your pants(/skirt/shorts/dress/kilt/whatever) for show and tell isn't enough.  It needs to be on the document, and the only way to know that it's on the document is to have the document available and read it.

So imagine the law passed and a concerned citizen was worried it wasn't being properly enforced in the Capitol Complex (sounds like a psychiatric condition, I say as someone with multiple psychiatric conditions) in Phoenix, Arizona.  (For those, like me, who don't know such things without looking them up, that's where the Arizona Legislature meets.)  So that citizen goes to the entrances to the restrooms there and requests to see the birth certificate of anyone seeking entrance and, if the person attempts to enter without furnishing such citizen calls security (the Capitol Complex must have security) because the person using the restroom appears to be breaking the law.

That concerned citizen might get kicked out of the building in a hurry, but that would just serve to make other citizens even more concerned that the laws are being broken in that building because the person was only trying to make sure the law was obeyed, and using legal means to do it, so why was the person kicked out?  What criminal activity were they trying to hide?

Only one way to find out: another concerned citizen must step up to take the place of the first one.  And if the second one is kicked out a third one must step up, and so on.  This probably falls under the category of being an asshole, but it's not against the law.  In fact, it would be obeying the law, because a law of this nature can only function if ordinary citizens call security/the cops when someone appears to be breaking it, and since anyone who doesn't show their birth certificate to enter the restroom appears to be breaking it, stopping the members of the Arizona State Legislature from being able to access toilets without first showing their birth certificates isn't civil disobedience, it's civil obedience.  Obeying the law to the letter.

And if the bill becomes a law I think that might be an effective form of protest because I think that after a certain amount of time of that happening non-stop the legislators would get sick of it and want to be able to get to the damn toilets without having to show their papers first.

Of course, that's just how it looks from this angle, and even though I'm closer to Arizona than usual, I'm still far away so this might not be the best angle on Arizona.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Apparently a bus is seven times faster than a pedestrian; or I met Izzy!

So today Lonespark and I met Izzy, it was for too short a time but a great meeting none the less.

Things to come out of said meeting:
-What passes for conventional these days is shape-shifting dragons and Scotland.

-There seems to be a lack of works about the [whatever] apocalypse in which people act like people.  Consider the zombie apocalypse, it's always assumed that those who rebuild in the after time will be the ones who follow a philosophy of, "If things get tough I'll trip you so I can run away while they chow down on you," not, "I don't care that ze can't keep up, I'm not leaving zir.  I'll carry zir if that's what it takes," and the people who side with that person when given the choice.  This in spite of, "We take care of each other," being the more inviting option and the one with the better retirement plan than, "Social Darwinism taken to a literal lethal extreme."

-The fact that there has yet to be a Hitchhiker's Guide/The Hobbit crossover is absurd.  It's not just the actor, it's that he was in his dressing gown when the dwarfs showed up, it's that when you get down to it what Arthur Dent really wants is a Hobbit hole and not to be interrupted by adventures but if Ford/Gandalf gives him a nudge out the door then he's all, "I'm with you.  I'm bloody well with you."

-Vampires are the new Manic-Pixie-Dream-Girls.  See Underworld and Twilight where the vampire is the magic lover that exists to break the ordinary human out of their humdrum lives.

-Squid is best served fried.

-It's been too long since I've been to an actual city (Boston in this case) as opposed to, you know, Portland.  I'd forgotten what a city looks like.

-A possible name for that project would be "The Night Shift".

-And such.


As for the first part of the title, the bus ride home from Boston crossed the path that I knew I'd be walking home, and then took exactly the same route to the station that I'd take back to the spot from the station.  I guessed it would take me half an hour to walk from the station back to the spot.  In fact it took 28 minutes.  It took the bus four minutes to make the same journey in the opposite direction.  Thus, it would appear, a bus is seven times faster than a pedestrian.  At least over the bridge and in the city.  I imagine that on long straightaways it's more than seven times faster.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Selma Botman and the good and bad of Wikipedia

Selma Botman had a Wikipedia page before she ever came to USM and apparently her Senior Advisor was tasked with keeping it up to date for some time.  I question, seriously, whether or not she met the notability guidelines.  The USM Presidents before and after her apparently have not as they have no pages, but that's not why I've started writing here (with two other articles waiting to be finished off in the wings which is not usually the case.)

I think she meets the notability guidelines now.  When she became the first USM President subject to a no confidence vote and that got people's attentions at least from the Czech Republic to Chicago then I think she rose to the level of notability that Wikipedia enforces, sometimes with absurd force, in an extremely uneven fashion.

I thought Botman was all in the past, I thought that Botmangate (I hate that name, by the way; there's a reason why I'd rather have an eight word long tag than use the much shorter "Botmangate") was over.

Then on the 11th, my mother's birthday, it reared its ugly head again.  This time with a relative flurry of activity on her Wikipedia page.  It doesn't take much to rise to the level of "relative flurry" because her Wikipedia page generally has exactly zero activity.

It turned out that one of her most vocal supporters decided to try to rewrite history.  It was not the usual supporter, the "Senior Advisor" with Wikipedia name Ptortx, nor did it follow the usual pattern.  In the past the standard method of Botman supporters had been to delete the entire section of the page regarding everything they themselves have not written, that section being known as "Controversy."

Now at this point I could point out that the sections they did write are mired in problems.  First, they are (or were, in the activity that followed  the Botman supporter's attempted redaction of history there has been reformatting) out of order.  Two times the word "Previously," was used to indicate that as you read further forward you were actually going back in time (until you weren't) other times you were just supposed to know by magic what the order of events were.  Second they had no properly formatted citations and the citations they did have were to editorials, the one area of newspapers even less subject to fact checking than the coverage of politics (where it has, only mildly jokingly, been pointed out that if one candidate said the earth was flat while the other spoke the truth the headline would read, "Candidates disagree over shape of world," and the article would never indicate which was right.)  Third they were out of date.  I'm going to have to look this up because unlike Botman supporters I want to make sure things are actually true before I stick them on Wikipedia, but I believe the university was in a state of financial health for all of one year when she was at it.  Yet the Wikipedia article still indicates, with citation, that she restored the university to financial health even though when she left she'd somehow managed to loose seven and a half million dollars (rounding down) with no indication as to where it went thus taking a year that should have resulted in a small surplus (half a million dollars is small when we're talking about the figures involved) based on revenue and operating costs and somehow (I don't think anyone has quite figured out how yet) managed to make it a year with a more than seven million dollar deficit.  That's not exactly restoring it to financial health, even though the Wikipedia page still says she did that.

I'm somewhat worried to point out that it has reached the point where deleting the "Controversy" section no longer erases all record of the no confidence vote as it is now mentioned elsewhere in the article.  Somewhat worried because I'm not sure that Botman's supporters have noticed that it is mentioned elsewhere yet.  (Though maybe that's the reason for the change in tactics.)

I could point out these things, but that would drag me too far into tangent land.  (One of the articles waiting to be finished is about Babylon 5 and the rhetorical technique of, "I could mention this, but I won't.")

What I instead want to focus on is this:

Wikipedia's greatest weakness is that anyone can edit it.  A few keystrokes and Wikipedia says World War II never happened.  Wikipedia's greatest strength is that anyone can edit it.  One person reverting the page and suddenly Wikipedia says we're back in a world where World War II did take place.

This is dangerous and at the same time good.

Selma Botman's supporters can keep on vandalizing the page to make her look like a saint or even to simply muddy the waters.*  That's were the danger comes in, the revisionism.  For example, the section called "Controversy" should have been called "Controversies" from the moment it was added (blame where it is due, fault of the person who added it not Botman supporters).  At some point in the editing history of the page someone removed all reference to the first major controversy to break with respect to Botman from everything on the page but a couple of external links with no mention of why they were there.  (I think the person who added the "Controversy" section didn't know how to cite references and just added their references as external links.  At the time the "Controversy" section was dominated by the pay raise controversy, now it is devoted entirely to the vote of no confidence.)  So we can see historical revisionism at work with regard to Selma Botman's page.

But everyone else (for specific examples:, Foulolron123,,, Namiba, (note that those IP addresses are all different) ***) can set the record straight.  That's it's strength.

Now that editing Botman's page is back on people's list of things to do**, now that her two most vocal supporters (Erickson and Eagan) are both active on Wikipedia with respect to this and it's reached the point of (Erickson) introducing falsehoods instead of (Ptortx) simply deleting the truth, I think we'll probably reach the point of things being quite interesting with regard to the page.  There are already spirited discussions on two talk pages (one on one of the editors', one on the talk page of the article itself.)  The annoying thing is that the facts of the case really aren't in dispute.

This isn't conclave the rules to force a referendum are in the Faculty Senate Bylaws, freely available online, the rules for what constitute a passing vote on matters that require the intervention of the Chancellor and/or Board of Trustees (like, say, getting rid of a sitting president) are laid out very clearly (a two thirds vote of those voting) in the university's Governance Document/Constitution (which supersedes the bylaws.)  Nothing should be complicated or controversial.

One thing that interests me is whether the other things will come out/come back.  The Pay Raise Controversy, for example has been excised from the page, will this new attention on the page get it put back?  The Rosetta Stone Controversy probably doesn't have sufficient sources (as I noted in a footnote it's here and on the blog of one of her supporters and apparently nowhere else) to every make it onto Wikipedia, but various other things might.  The broken promises, the financial distress, the vindictiveness, the daycare, so on.

The day care is interesting because if you look back through the news it turns out that her position completely changed.  Find a news article from when she closed it and you'll see her saying what a heart wrenching decision it is but the money saved will go to supporting academics (most commonly cited broken promise: "The money we save via this painful cut will go to supporting academics," the cut is made, the money never shows up.  At least on the academic side.)  Find reports from the time of the vote of no confidence (I don't know if you can or if this was done entirely verbally) and they'll say that she got rid of the daycare because she thought no one was using it.  (It was always full and had an absurd waiting list.)

I'm trying to remember now whether the shit list was the work of Botman or the person before her.  If it was her then that should definitely make it onto the page, but likely won't.

The shit list happened thus:
Administrator 1: We're tight on money, we have to cut.
Administrator 2: Who should we cut?
Administrator 1: I've got an idea (esoteric formulae unrelated to anything relevant) These people!
These people: Uh... you do realize we're profitable, right?  So cutting us will lose you money, not save you money.

But there seriously was a list made up of, we don't have enough money so we'll have to cut programs, we've used these (not money related) criteria to make up a list of potential programs to cut.  What?  They're all profitable?  Who cares.

Thankfully, if I remember correctly, nothing ever came of the shit list.

I wouldn't put it passed Botman, but I think the shit list was in the previous regime.  Some vague sense of what preceded what leads to that (if it was in her regime it would need to have been right at the start) as well as the fact that the previous regime was best known to me for its leader needing to be taken aside so it could be gently explained to him that, "Yes, this program costs a million dollars a year and so cutting it will mean you're spending a million less, but it makes two million dollars a year.  Two is bigger than one.  Twice as big in fact.  Cutting the program will leave you with a million dollars less, not a million dollars more," which seemed to indicate the same kind of thinking that was behind the shit list.

Then again, Selma Botman shared in that form of thinking.


* Some of the edits were to change the date of the no confidence vote, meaning that if anyone tried to get more information on the no confidence vote that took place that day they'd find out that there was no no confidence vote on that day.

It is sneakier than outright deleting it.  Instead it just makes all information on the page about the no confidence vote suspect because it's like getting a history book that says World War II took place in 1832.  How much are you going to trust the rest of the "facts" presented when you start with that?

No, the edit didn't change the year, it changed the month, indicating it took place in the first third of the year rather than the second and that it took place on one day rather than two, and that it took place before the petition forcing it to take place was delivered (mind you the edits also eliminated any mention of the petition.) And eliminated any reference to the almost month long process in which those tasked with organizing the vote tried to get input from all of the faculty (not an easy task since they numbered in hundreds) and constantly worked hand in hand with Selma Botman, the person the vote was about, to create a fair process.

It also indicated that there was no dispute as to the outcome of the vote, where in reality the dispute was never settled and has since become moot.  (It doesn't matter that it passed while Selma told every news source that would listen that it failed because a little over two months later, after talks with the guy in charge that were kicked off by the vote, She resigned.  Sort of.  She resigned in a way that didn't count as quitting and thus kept her huge salary while losing all the responsibilities that were supposed to have come with it.)

** I was going to do a major edit.  I was tracking down every news source including one that thought the vote was part of some grand conspiracy for world domination, and incorporating the reliable ones.  Learning how things are cited in Wikipedia (my only previous involvement in Wikipedia**** had been reverting malicious edits.  Like someone who replaced the definition of tool with the name of a person they didn't like.)  Putting things into order, tracing rumors to their source, finding out that the Rosetta Stone controversy stayed almost entirely word of mouth and never made it into a cite-able source unless you count this blog and the blog of one of her two most vocal supporters, and so forth.  But then my computer managed to crash in a highly unusual (for it, not for computers in general) way that managed to delete both the draft and the backup I had in case anything happened to the draft.

So that didn't happen, but other people were drawn in by the activity too and thus deleting and falsehood has been undone.

***  Of which I am at least one, I think I do have a Wikipedia account but since what I've done on Wikipedia is seriously limited to reverting malicious edits and occasionally correcting punctuation, I generally don't feel the need to log in.  I'd have to figure out what my account was to be sure, but I don't think I've felt the need to log in in years.

**** Unless I've forgotten something, which I don't think I have.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Not getting a ride home and being out of oil

My mother does not live with me (for the most part) but her car generally does because where she lives (with her boyfriend) is so out of the way that driving two cars out there every night and back every morning would be a tremendous waste of gas and thus money.

As a result every morning when she has work she shows up at my house to pick up her car and since my university is on the way to her work gives me a ride in, thus saving me a walk that takes an hour (or more, depending on conditions.)  This semester when I get out of class is generally close enough to when she gets out of work (which varies) that it's made chronological sense for her to give me rides home as well because even if I have to wait around almost an hour it's still quicker to ride back with her.

On Wednesdays there is a meeting of the Classics Club* which I have been attending this semester with the result that on Wednesdays I get done with on-campus stuff at almost exactly the same time she gets out of work.  (Seemingly independently of when she does, if the meeting runs long her workday runs long, if the meeting runs short her workday runs short.  It really is remarkable.)  You'd think this would be a good thing, less waiting and whatnot.

You'd be wrong.

Instead what happens is this, as soon as the meeting gets out I call her, this time I borrowed a cell phone so I could call without taking the time to walk to the nearest phone.  It turns out if I'd called her two minutes earlier it would have been the easiest thing in the world to give me a ride home but instead she now is committed to going to another city, would have to turn around once she got there, come back to the city I'm in, be pointed in the wrong direction, pick me up, turn around again, and head back whence she came.

Now there is no secret to this meeting on Wednesdays.  None at all.  She knows exactly when it starts, how long it usually takes, and what the variations are in length, and so forth.  All of this has been made clear both by myself and by experience.

Which leaves me wondering... well... wtf.  It seems to be like clockwork, no matter when she gets out, no matter when I get out, the phone call is always two minutes too late (give or take but not by much.)  Now I could try to disrupt the entire meeting by saying, "Gee, it looks like we're about two minutes from done, I need to make a phone call."  I'm not about to do that.

So instead what happens is I get told, "I wish you'd called two minutes earlier."  The first or second time I believed this, but at this point I have my doubts.  She knows that I'll be stranded with an hour long walk between home and myself if she takes that turn onto the interstate, she knows that we almost always get out at about the same time, as the pattern continues I feel more and more like if she really wished she could have given me a ride she'd wait a few minutes before committing to leaving me behind.

Anyway, hour long walks with a heavy backpack tend to leave one very much in need of a shower, and me more-so than most because I've actually been unable to fit one in these last few days and on Monday I had to walk some of the way in and most of the way back from school.  Not to mention cause to sweat yesterday.

So after getting all ready to take a shower I discovered that there was no hot water.  I checked the furnace, did all of that stuff, tried to coax it into turning on by setting the thermostat absurdly high (the highest level isn't actually labeled but I think it's 90 degrees Fahrenheit.)  And then, finally, I realized that the oil tank read empty.

So what followed was a prolonged period of trying to heat enough water to accomplish something.  At this point I wouldn't say I'm clean so much as rinsed.

And that is how my day will end.


*Tomorrow (Thursday the 14th) at 7 PM there's a lecture at USM: A Cupid May Look at a King: In-Between Spaces and their Occupants in Roman Art by some Harvardy person, Elizabeth (Lizzie) Mitchell.  Next Monday (the 18th) at 4:30 PM there's going to be a showing of The Life of Brian.  At some point in the future there are going to be dark T-Shirts with the original Latin from The Life of Brian in white and the corrections in red.  If you've seen The Life of Brian you know what Latin I'm talking about.  (Romans go home!)

If you'll happen to be in the greater Portland area at either of these times and are interested in the events, or you'd like a T-Shirt, let me know and I'll give you more information.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Well... fuck.

So I mentioned that applied for the "Maymester in Greece," and that I was tying a lot of my hopes to this.  Not to mention a fair degree of my extremely hard to come by motivation.

Now it looks like it might not happen.  The problem isn't Greece.  Greece is fine and safe and all is ok on that front.  The problem is that people think Greece is unsafe, and, also, people are poor.  Stock indices aside the economy has not rebounded.  Also it's never completely clear how well the credits will transfer until the credits transfer or don't (this is Harvard we're talking about, nothing is ever easy) so that scares people off.

If not enough people sign up, no Greece.  Right now number of people signed up is apparently equal to about four.  Which explains why I have heard neither, "You're rejected," nor, "You're accepted, give us a $500 down payment."

So if you know anyone who can get the money in time (about $4,000 US plus airfare) and wants to go to Greece with a great teacher on a trip-course backed by Harvard, point them at this site tell them to ignore the fact that the deadline for an application is passed and just to email the people saying they're interested (and probably fill out the application too) and maybe it can be saved.

More likely you don't know any such people, and not enough will sign up to justify the trip/course in the eyes of whoever is in charge and thus hopes and dreams shattered on the rocks.

Hence the title.

[Added:] And it's been cancelled.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

chris the cynic's Guide to making Bad Movies for the Sci-Fi Channel

Now you may be thinking at this point that you'll never make a movie for the Sci-Fi Channel because you don't know anything about the genre, or movies, or writing, or acting, or plots, or story telling, or any of that stuff.  In fact, that's what makes it so likely that you will be approached to make movie for the Sci-Fi Channel.

If you knew how to write a script, they'd probably reject you out of hand.  Trust me on this, I've been watching their movies for years.

You also might be thinking that there is no such thing as the Sci-Fi Channel anymore.  That's true, they changed their name.  Now it's SyFy (SeeFee*) but I'm not about to go around writing, "SeeFee this," and, "SeeFee that."  I note that it's SeeFee when in writing only, whenever it is spoken you can hear the c in "Sci" not to mention the fact that it ends in an "i" rather than a "y".  So in spoken word it's still Sci-Fi, and as long as it remains such I'm going to write it the way that it is spoken which, as of today, continues to be Sci-Fi.

Now that we've gotten the basics out of the way, provided you are not a writer at some point in your life you will be approached to write a movie for the Sci-Fi Channel.

First off, my advice is to take the job because otherwise it will go to someone else and, while you might think that no one could be less qualified, you'd be wrong.  They will find someone less qualified than you if you turn them down.

Thus I present some general guidelines.  Not rules so much as pointers.

First off, know the genre.

For example, give or take half the time the movie you'll be called on to write will be a creature movie.  Bad creature movies come in two flavors.  They follow in the footsteps of either Jaws (town based) or Aliens (isolated group based.)  Knowing the genre can allow you play with the genre, as was done by the makers of such not-for-Sci-Fi movies as Bats and AVPII (movie, not the game; game was better), but you have to know the rules before you start breaking them.  You're writing (bad) hiaku here, not (bad) free-verse.**

Bats played with the rules by having the one that survived, digging itself out of the ground to ominous music, be immediately run over by the Jeep the human survivors were leaving in, the music abruptly switching to the much more upbeat music those in the Jeep were listening to.

AVPII played with the rules by following them exactly, but setting you up to think it was a town based creature movie when it actually turned out to be an isolated group of survivors movie.

Once you know the rules, you can deviate from them, provided that you do so in a way that doesn't leave the audience with the feeling that you don't know what you're doing.  That said, just as you should keep the genre in mind, so too should you keep the audience in mind.

People do not tune in for a movie they know will be bad so that you can intentionally depress them in an attempt to get across your philosophical or political message.  People do not go to a James Bond film so that at the end of the movie the villain can win and Bond can be left a broken man wandering through the shambles that once were London.  It doesn't work that way.  What you're making for the Sci-Fi Channel will never rise to the level of James Bond.  Even if your script is perfect the acting and effects will ensure that the overall movie sucks like chest wound.

If you end the movie with, "Rocks fall, everyone dies," the audience will feel that you betrayed them and they will not be wrong to feel that way.  By deciding to make a bad movie for the Sci-Fi Channel you entered into a covenant with the eventual audience.  Part of your end of the bargain was an ending in which the good guys don't lose.  The absurd ancient aliens theory is not disproved, the world does not end, the creatures don't swarm across the face of the earth bringing an end to civilization (yet, do recall that one always survives) and in general things don't work out crappily.

If you break that covenant then you become the six fingered man, "I just sucked two hours of your life away.  I might one day go as high as 24 but I really don't know what that would do to you.  So, let's just start with what we have.  What did this do to you? Tell me. And remember, this is for posterity so... be honest. How do you feel?"

So, those are the two big things: Know the genre; know the audience.  Betray neither.  Everything after that gets into the nitty gritty.


Sometimes you feel like you need to include a character arc, in fact that is most often the case.  I'm not going to recommend against that, but I am going to make one recommendation: don't have your central character be a seemingly irredeemable asshole with with no good qualities.  Even if you brilliantly draw out the good in them over the course of the movie it won't matter because that sound you heard early on was the entire audience changing the channel to watch something else.

There is a reason that Iron Man, the story of an asshole, begins with Tony Stark getting his ass kicked and taken hostage and then flashes back to him being an asshole.  The audience is hooked by the hostage taking and that carries them through the asshole flashback until Tony is in the cave at which point we get to see him not being an asshole.  Told in strictly linear order the movie likely would have failed.  Your movie will not be as good as the Marvel Cinematic Universe.  Again, even if your script is perfect the acting and the effects will make it a bad movie, so shooting for something that is difficult at best in a good movie that's well funded is probably shooting too far.

Have sympathetic characters.


Have a sense of scale.

I mean this on multiple levels.  It's not just the standard thing about people having no sense of scale with respect to the size of the universe and whatnot, I also mean it figuratively.

If teenage hacker gets caught breaking into the high school system to change their grades then teenage hacker cannot break into the ultra top secret government systems.  Sorry, but no.  If they're not good enough to break into their high school without getting caught they're never getting into the NSA servers.  Not gonna happen.  Because there's a difference between small town high school computer security and top secret government computer security.  If the first is too big a challenge for teenage hacker then, barring an alien brain upgrade, the second is way out of their league.  You might as well have someone who can't climb a wheelchair ramp summit Everest.

Similarly someone who thinks "moment of inertia" is some esoteric bit of high level knowledge that ordinary people cannot grasp is probably way too low on the knowledge scale to be your scientist savior.

But also there is a literal sense of scale.  If your movie is Cyber-Dinocroc vs. Zombie Sharktopus you might not think that real world concerns matter all that much, but you'd be wrong.  Because if Cyber-Dinocroc goes tiptoeing unnoticed around small town USA mysteriously stealing microwaves and no one hears a thing, that's a serious problem if Cyber-Dinocroc is a 15 foot tall mass of muscle, bone, and metal.  It doesn't matter if he's got a cloaking device, someone is going to hear him and he's going to leave footprints.  At that point it doesn't matter if you've got the biggest effects budget known to humanity, top notch actors and Steven Spielberg as your producer, you fail.

Suspending disbelief on the big things is only possible when smaller things are kept in check.  Giant monsters with enough mass to shake the earth do not get to sneak.  It does not work that way.


Some of your characters being stupid is probably ok, all of your characters being stupid is a problem.  The plot depending on all of your characters being stupid is a no-no.

There are too many examples to give an exhaustive list, so I'll just give one.  Say that a dam is about to collapse and some people are watching it from a helicopter.  Say the people decided to get a closer look coming in not just closer to the dam, but also lower than it.  Say that the damn dam starts to come apart and the people in the helicopter are ordered to get out of there.  Say that rather than using the helicopter's abilities to climb to safety or back away the people in the helicopter instead stay steadfastly in the only, very limited area, where the damn dam collapsing could hurt them and thus they die.  Congratulations, you, the writer, have just failed at life.

Unless that was meant to be a clue that the machines are suicidally rebelling against us, or that somehow people have been made suicidal, or that aliens have started taking over the bodies of key people (like say helicopter pilots) in order to kill off important humans, or that the assault on Hell begins now so everyone go kill themselves (because a death short of mortal sin won't ensure that these people all wind up in Hell)... unless one of these things, you, the writer, have just failed at life.  The best you can hope for is redemption, though you may have to work the rest of your days to reach that goal.  You will never pull better than neutral.  You had your shot, you blew it.


If your movie can be summed up as a two hour ode to suicide bombing that required giant sand worms (stolen from Dune because the effects department was too lazy to make new giant sand worms) to make suicide bombing seem like an even semi-viable option... no.  Just no.

Do not pass go, do not collect 200 dollars.  Just no.


Research is in no way necessary, this is a bad movie after all, but it couldn't hurt and it could prevent you from making stupid mistakes.  Like, for example, basing a large portion of your plot on the false notion that NASA isn't a civilian agency or that supercolliders are power generators.


Not mean, but be.  You might think that your movie is a wonderful metaphor for the difficulty of balancing work and family, but if you want your work to... work then you're going to have to take it on its own terms, not the metaphorical terms.  That means that if someone is saying, "If you really loved me you'd take this time off and thereby destroy the world," you don't get to fall back on, "Well it's a metaphor for ordinary work so the person saying that isn't really a nihilist," because in the work itself your character just said, "If you love me you will destroy the world," which is not an appropriate thing for anyone save an evil overlord in training from another planet to say.

Generally speaking taking your work on its own terms rather than the terms you try to impose on it will make it a better work, even if it's about a giant earthquake that's impossibly large, a comet tilting the earth's axis to cause the world's magnetic field to collapse, or a swarm of giant piranha beetles.


Read some things about feminism.  Seriously.  Just do it.  I'll be here when you get back.


It will probably be expected of you to have a romance plot or two in the movie along side the disaster/giant creature/giant creature disaster.  Given what else you're going to have to fit into your movie, and the time you have available (two hours, less commercials) you're not going to have time to do these in any sort of depth.

Thus they will be superficial and your primary objective is probably going to be making it so they seem less superficial than they actually are.

You don't want it to seem like, "I just threw in a romance because it was expected," even if it's true. Especially if it's true.

General advice is to make sure that you establish that the characters have similar interests and common ground and whatnot, make sure that they actually are written as liking each other because while "Slap-slap-kiss," may be done left and right it is not in itself a sufficient to stand in for actual romance.

One shortcut often taken is to have the people not fall in love but fall back in love, this can work or it can fall flat on its face.  Part of it will be what I said about the partners liking each other, but part of it will also be about why they broke up.  If they broke up for a good reason, and that reason remains, then them getting back together won't feel real.  If they broke up for a bad reason, then that can be worse still.***

What was the bad reason?  Was it the fault of one party, both, or some external force?  If Iago did it then Iago can be exposed and the two can get back together... maybe.  Iago, after all, was only able to do what he did because of some deep character flaws in Othello which means that maybe Desdemona would be better off with someone else.  On the other hand Desdemona loved Othello so who are we to argue with her choice if the relationship can be mended?

Especially because the idea of love as a reward is so ingrained in stories like this (the hero gets the girl/guy) the audience will be focused to a certain extent on deservingness, whatever that idea means to them.  If they feel like one party doesn't deserve the other that stands a huge chance of things falling flat.  As a general rule, if you're going to have a romance where one party doesn't deserve the other it's going to be more likely to work out if the work itself is focused on the undeserving party (Sabrina is told from the point of view of Harrison Ford's undeserving asshole millionaire who grows a heart, not the title character who is the chauffeur's daughter and deserves better than Harrison Ford's character.)

One last word of whatever.  "My lover just died, now there's nothing standing in the way of us getting back together," is probably not a good sentiment to have unless the lover was a vampire who had the person under hypnosis that died with them.  And in that case the sentiment should be more of, "Now that the hypnosis is gone I'm finally free to tell you how I feel: I love you."  The monster/disaster conveniently doing away with someone's romantic rivals resulting in them getting their lover of choice just makes it seem like the person whose lover(s) died is a shallow person who will latch onto the nearest individual of appropriate gender.


When it comes to the part of the movie that places it on the Sci-Fi Channel: if you've got a disaster then all that you need to do is have the disaster follow consistent rules; if you've got a monster, more or less the same.

The problems will generally come up with people fleeing these things.  The general rule is, "How would you run away?"  That'll probably work out fine.  The trouble is that, instead of doing that, people tend to try for more cinematic means of fleeing which are, unfortunately, less good.

One example that comes to mind is the person who stays behind to nobly sacrifice themselves to buy other people time.  That's all well and good.  The problem is that it almost never happens that way.  See, that depends on the other people actually fleeing.  Generally speaking, they don't.

Person stays behind to nobly sacrifice themselves to buy other people time and the other people stay behind to watch thus making sure that the person's sacrifice buys zero time and is completely meaningless.  Or it gets worse.

Earlier today I saw a case where someone was trying to buy time but leaving open the possibility that he might yet live except... the people he was trying to buy time for refused to move and instead remained exactly where they were: on the only stairway out.  Which meant that when he reached the point of, "That's as much time as I can buy, I should run now," the people who should have been long since gone were blocking his exit.  If they'd left when he told them all three would have lived, but because they chose to stay and watch he was held up in his escape and thus died.†

Another example is, "I have this really good idea.  Oh, it didn't work instantaneously on the first try.  Let's abandon that and never mention it again."

Generally speaking any time that the characters are acting so stupidly that the audience wants to reach through the television and throttle them, that's not good.


A lot of such movies depend on this or that element of science to be wrong and thus depend on someone to point out, "Science says X which would mean that Y is impossible," and then be wrong.  When making your bad movie you would do better to have this person be convinced by the introduction of new evidence and thenceforth prove useful than to have this person be an asshole.

Actually, you can have (this may surprise you if you're a standard See-Fee writer, but probably not if you're a standard reader of this blog) multiple scientists who initially object to [outlandish theory] on the grounds that it is outlandish, of whom most of which are willing to change given adequate evidence while one or two are unwilling to admit that they were wrong in standard asshole fashion.


* As can be determined by the pronunciation of proper nouns ending in "y"†† and the parallel structure implied by the double capitals.

** So, for example, if you're writing a town based creature movie it's important to know that the audience comes in with a set of expectations:

Whoever is in authority, be the authority political or economic, be it official or unofficial, will overlook the problem, initially as a result of understandable disbelief but, as time goes on, increasingly as a result of willful ignorance that is forced to become more and more willful as the movie nears its climax and evidence finally mounts.  Instead he (or she, but usually he) will be more concerned with some social or economic event believing that that, more than the lives of the town's citizens, is key to the town's future.

The main character will not be an expert, instead the main character will call in experts.  Two of them.  One will be more hands on, the other more academic.  They will not both survive.  Which one dies is up in the air (in Jaws the hands on expert dies, in Arachnophobia the academic does.)

Whatever it is that the person in authority was concerned with, be it the beach season or the spring music festival, will be screwed over by the creature.

So on.

On the other hand, if your movie concerns an isolated group there are entirely different rules, in some ways fewer, in other ways more strict.  The most obvious is the end.  In the end there will be three or four survivors.  The three will be the main character (who has thus far always been straight, this could use some subverting) the main character's romantic interest, and another guy.  If there is a child the child will live.  If the child is male he can be the other guy, but it is also possible for the child to be a fourth survivor in addition to those already listed.  In the absence of a child there will not be a fourth survivor.

One of the things always survives.  Generally as the last scene.

Before that there's generally someone who has some experience or at the very least requisite knowledge to become a fast expert, and it's always the case that what is being encountered is unlike anything before.  Witness the queen of Aliens, or the fact that it's not just a shark it's a mega-, dino-, swamp-, sand-, super-, whatever-shark.  There's always something new because no one wants to tread the same territory twice, or something.  (This is true even if, as in Alligator II: The Mutation, they reuse footage from the original movie for the new creature.)

And so on.

*** I still remember, with a bad taste in my mouth, a movie where on learning she was pregnant a woman broke up with her boyfriend for no stated reason because he was a cop and thus might die on the job and, in her opinion, that's no way to raise a child so therefore she left him without explanation and he didn't even find out he had a child until said child was in her teens.  The breakup was for a bad reason because it was a decision to unilaterally change the lives of two other people without so much as consulting either of them.

So ex's current lover, who gets along just fine with the daughter, hears this story and what she takes away  from it is apparently that she should unilaterally change the lives of three people without consulting any of them.  She dumps the ex so mother and father can get back together and raise now teenage daughter as a family because what the fuck?

Making life altering decisions for other people without consulting them was the problem, it shouldn't also be presented as the solution.  Especially since other than her decision to dump the father so the original family can get back together whether they want to or not, it was otherwise shown that she'd make a fine stepmother and things would have been just fine that way.

† On the one hand, it was pretty clearly a writer subverting the three people live rule.  He was, by all indications, supposed to be the "other guy" who lived.  Thus it was mildly original and unexpected.  On the other hand it was one of the most pointless deaths in movie history:
Doomed Guy: I'll buy you time.
Other two: No.  We're good here.
Doomed Guy: You do realize that for me to escape I need to move through the exact spot you're in.
Other two: Yup.
Doomed Guy: So now would actually be a very good time for you to move.
Other two: Still fine here.
Doomed Guy: I've done all that I can, it's time for me to run.
Other two: Still fine here.
Doomed Guy: Seriously there's a giant prehistoric monitor lizard that's immune to cold who I just pissed off by poking his eyes out with spear on the advice of the now dead Saul Tigh from the new Battlestar Galactica so I'd like to run away now, could you get out of my way?  Please?
Other two: I suppose we could start moving
Doomed Guy: Thank yo- ahhhrrrggghhhh!
Other two: Crap he's dead.  Why is he dead?  Let's angst about him being dead while we finally use these stairs to escape.

†† A comprehensive listing would take longer than is allocated for this article but it is clear that any time a proper noun, especially but not limited to a four letter proper noun, ends in y it is expected, it is almost required ("almost" included for wiggle room just in case, not because so much as a single counterexample comes to mind) that it be pronounced "ee" not "eye".  In the absence of a comprehensive listing I give you one name for every letter of the alphabet:

Xandy (Yes, it is a real name.  It comes from Alexander the same way Sandy does, which is interesting because I would have guessed that Sandy came from Cassandra.)

Up to 70% off on Joss Whedon Stuff for the week

Perhaps I'm just jaded but "Up to 70% off" to me means, "Down to zero percent off."  That said, there's probably a bit of an overlap between those who read this blog and those who like at least one thing by Joss Whedon so I give you the stuff listed on the sale page:

Firefly on DVD and Blu-ray:


Angel on DVD:

Buffy the Vampire Slayer (series) on DVD:

Dollhouse Seasons 1 and 2 on DVD and Blu-ray:



Buffy the Vampire Slayer (movie) on DVD and Blu-ray:



Which gives a total of ten things, though when I think, "Joss Whedon," I don't tend to think, "Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the movie."  In fact, I have a sneaking suspicion that those two were included to get up to double digits which otherwise would have been difficult because Angel and Buffy aren't on Blu-ray yet and they're probably not up for putting The Avengers into this sort of a sale yet.


A Blu-ray is like a sting ray but significantly less cute.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

The Van Scene, if Alice used her power

[Originally posted at Ana Mardoll's Ramblings.]

Alice: I think we should park in this spot.
Edward: Why?
Alice: Because otherwise Bella Swan will and then she'll almost be killed until you risk blowing our cover thrice over in your ill thought out, but none the less successful, attempt to save her.
Edward: How will she almost be killed?
Alice: Squished between a van and a truck.
Edward: So if we park here my Volvo will get hit by a van?
Alice: That's about the size of it.
Edward: Definitely not parking here.
Alice: You are such an asshole.
Bella has just parked.
Alice: Bella, can I talk to you for a minute?
Bella: What about?
Alice: My brother mostly, but can we have the conversation closer to warmth?
Bella: Ok.
*as they walk toward a building a terrible sound comes from behind them*
Bella: What the...
Alice: Well it sounded to me like a clockwise spinning van hit an antique truck, but I'm not really-
*Bella turns to see what happened*
Bella: My truck!
Alice: *to herself* Someday I'm going to have to figure out why I start sentences I know I'll never have the chance to finish.
Or something like that.

[Twilight Index]

Snarky Twlight - Non-food analogies

[Originally posted at Ana Mardoll's Ramblings.]

Edward: You know how everyone enjoys different flavors? Some people love chocolate ice cream, others prefer strawberry?
Bella: No. I've lived for seventeen years on this planet... and a few elsewhere; don't ask. I won't tell you. Anyway, seventeen years on this planet and it has never come to my attention that there might be variations in preference when it comes to taste. Tell me, do similar variations exist in preference when it comes to sound? Could that explain the myriad musical styles? Anyway, you were talking taste. It certainly has never occurred to me that people could enjoy different things, I thought that the variety of different types of cuisine was merely an artifact of not having enough of the stuff that everyone universally wanted most to go around.
Edward: Sarcasm.
Bella: You noticed?
Edward: Moving on.
Bella: Yes?
Edward: Sorry about the food analogy — I couldn’t think of another way to explain.
Bella: Clearly a failure of imagination on your part.
Edward: Come on.
Bella: You know how some people like Star Trek, and some people like Star Wars, and others like things that aren't even in the genre of science fiction?
Edward: Ok, that's one example.
Bella: You know how some people like skiing and others like sailing and others like curling up with a good book?
Edward: Listen-
Bella: You know how some people like blondes, and others like brunettes, and still others like redheads?
Edward: The point is-
Bella: You know how some people prefer missionary while others prefer-
Edward: HEY! Not cool.
Bella: You know how some people prefer jazz while others like concert band sized wind ensemble?
Edward: You already did music.
Bella: That was before you said you couldn't think of anything but food.
Edward: Can we just-
Bella: You know how some people prefer plays, others movies, others books, others comics, others tales told 'round the campfire?
Edward: I think you've made your-
Bella: You know how some people prefer Macs and others prefer anything that isn't a Mac to the extent that Mac has been officially excised from the category of personal computer to the point that PC means, "Not a Mac"?
Edward: This is getting ridiculous.
Bella: You know how some people prefer hands on learning and others prefer more abstract stuff done out of books and on the chalkboard?
Edward: Please stop.
Bella: You know how some people love roses but others prefer geraniums?
Edward: Ok, scent, that's-
Bella: I was talking about the flower as a whole.
Edward: Damn.
Bella: You know how some people love orange while others prefer purple?
Edward: If I surrender now will you stop?
Bella: Unconditional surrender?
Edward: Hell no.
Bella: You know how some people love dogs while others prefer cats?


[Snarky Twilight Index]

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

I was asked to share this (What the corporate jet tax loophole could pay for if closed)

I was asked to share this, and by share they apparently met on facebook because as everyone who knows me on facebook knows I am oh so active over there.  For those who don't and didn't catch the dripping sarcasm (text can make that happen) I am the opposite of active on facebook.  Facebook has taken to emailing me letters that say:
Look at all the stuff you've been missing by not visiting... um... it doesn't look like you've been missing that much actually, but... uh... there's this, and this and this that people you know have said. 
No, we're not going to tell you what they said.  You have to log in to find out. 
Pretty sneaky, huh? 
-The Evil Overlords at facebook
more or less.  Translating facebook into English isn't always the easiest thing.  I wonder if it suffers from similar problems in other languages.  Do people who have told facebook that German have similar difficulties translating German facebook into German?

Anyway, I did share it on facebook, by accident, but here's the thing that it asked me to share:

Corporate Jet Subsidy is shown as costing more than the cuts to housing vouchers, Title 1, Special Education, Head Start, WIC (Women, Infants, and children), and homeless assistance grants; also it is noted that the cuts to these things will hurt more than 1,926,900 people ("more than" because one of the figures was for families, which obviously include more than one person but I only counted them as one since otherwise I'd just have to make a random guess at the average number of people in a family.)

The source is this article, written before the sequester kicked in which means that right now those cuts have already started to kick in, though as with almost anything it takes some time between when the funding is cut and when people start to suffer.  (Think about it like food.  If your food budget suddenly went up in smoke it wouldn't be a problem until the next time you would have otherwise bought food and it wouldn't be a serious problem until you ran out of the food you already had.)

Likewise the corporate jet loophole is still in effect.

Because that's what happens when congress does nothing.  Everyone who isn't rich suffers, the rich prosper. They've spent a good solid 40 years now stacking the deck in their favor which means that the status quo itself is all that's needed to ensure that the rich get richer while everyone else gets poorer.  (In this particular case it's even worse than that because it's tipping the status quo even more in favor of the rich and against everyone else.)  Unfortunately one party, a party that controls one house of congress and can obstruct pretty much everything in the other, is in favor of everyone who is not rich getting poorer.

Hell, the Republican Governor of my state wanted to attract businesses by making us more like a third world country.  Because the proper response to looking at underdeveloped countries mired in poverty and either screwed over or ignored during the conflict between the first and second world (second world lost, which is why we use the first world's numbering which, naturally, places itself at number one) is to say, "I want my people to be in conditions like that."*  Yeah, that makes sense.

Thankfully turning America, or any state-sized subset of it, into a third world country equivalent is probably impossible at this point.  It might not be in the future, but I have high hopes that Republican Governor will be Former Governor in the future, so the person who actually came out in favor of turning a state into a third world country equivalent (usually it's something no one is in favor of but people accuse their opponents of being in favor of) won't have the power to do so should the capability ever arise (hopefully it will not.)

And that, by the way, is the problem with three way elections in which a majority is not required to win.  (It was more than three ways actually, but only three of them mattered.)  The majority voted for whoever seemed to have enough support to beat idiot in charge, but who seemed to have the most support depended on which part of the state you were in  Thus the result was 39% for, 61% against, but the 61% was divided between two candidates (actually more, but again, only two of them mattered) in such a way that 39% was the largest share of the vote.

But back to what I was asked to share.  It's called an infographic.  "info" being what happens to the word "information" via diminution to get a nice monosyllabic disyllabic colloquial form.  "Information" being a word that can be traced back through the French to the Latin, and in the Latin it actually has multiple steps but finally reaches back to in + formo (I form into, I form an idea, I educate).  "Formo" goes back another step in Latin and then to the ancient Greek "morphe" which means "form"  (thus metamorphosis = change form).  "graphic" comes directly from the Latin but the Latin came from the Greek and three steps of that gets you to "grapho" (I scratch, carve, draw, sketch.)

Thus infographic means, "A visual representation of what the fuck is wrong with this country."


And in closing I see that it didn't even ask me to "share" it asked me to forward (for it was an email) and pass it along.  Regardless trying to get the image to include in this post sent me to facebook, specifically to "Share this link" on facebook which did not itself let me see what the link I was supposed to share was, and then only after I accidentally told it share was I able to get to the source via going to my own page on facebook and clicking on the link I had just inadvertently shared.

I might not have anything against the people who sent me the image or asked me to pass it on, but they could do better when it comes to making their sources easily accessible.


* Jesus Fuck, man, why not look at it and say, "I want them to have access to better conditions like my people have"?

I get that you want to equalize things and whatnot, or at least that that's your excuse**, but why does making things the same always have to involve the shitty as the standard, why not try to raise those in the shitty up to the standard of those in the not shitty?  Or better still, give them the capability of raising themselves so you're not engaging in fucking over your own people or colonialism of those who have it worse.

Do it with loans, low interest but above the rate of inflation or, conversely, short term but high interest micro loans to individuals, and you can help people and make money.  So you can still be a greedy ass while not trying to make the living conditions of the entire world save the wealthy into the same as the lowest ones you can find.

And while it may seem strange to say, "The entire world," while he's just in charge on one state, my reasoning is thus: In theory he wants the state he's in charge of to be better off than anywhere else.  So if he's trying to lower the standards of the state, thus making it worse off, it follows that if he had the power he'd do the same to everywhere else.  Because what he wants for the state should, again in theory, be what he wants the best thing to be, and by definition for something to be the best thing everything else has to be equal or worse.

** With the caveat that I'm not telepathic, what he wants actually seems to be extremely low wages and the ability of companies to run roughshod over the rights, livelihoods, and lives of anyone who doesn't own a company (or owns a smaller company than the one running roughshod.)

This is, it should be noted, the person who took a mural of successes in labor history hostage because he thought that showing that once upon a time business did various horrible things to laborers until the laborers stood up for themselves (which is a historical fact; as just one example: it's hard to paint child labor in a good light, however Gingrich may try) was too one sided and to be fair it should show corrupt businessmen in a light just as positive as those who fought for and gained rights and protections for laborers in the country and the state.

Seriously, that was (one of) his (conflicting) stated reason(s).  It was too one sided in its presentation of those who committed abuses vs those who fought against abuse and thus unfair and needed to be held hostage in an undisclosed location as a result with various, "Hope nothing happens to it," type threats being made at vaguely regular intervals.

One wonders what he would have liked instead.  "And they fought to get rid of child labor, but on the other hand a case can be made that child labor builds character and is a good thing and thus those fighting to keep it weren't the bad guys.  There's two sides to every story after all and we don't want the fracking labor department to seem like it might think labor did some good things once upon a time.  Not if it paints the corrupt individuals of the past in a bad light."

Monday, March 4, 2013

I'm not well at the moment

Since vacation, which I may have mentioned didn't exactly go well for me, with about a day and a half of exception (thank you Lonespark for the day, thanks to my mother for the half.)  I've been off.

This week I'm going to have to go to see my psychiatrist and say, "I don't know if the medication has been working, I've been forgetting it more often than I remembered it."  Though maybe if I can stay on it between today and the day I see him I'll have some idea if it's working.  I haven't been having much of anything in the way of luck when it comes to getting enough sleep.  Hell, last night I had a dream with angels and demons and birds the size of cities and probably the most vivid part was when someone was, via magic, able to give me a good night's sleep.  It was such a wonderful thing waking up in the dream fully rested, and a disappointment waking up in real life to a feeling of, "One good night's sleep doesn't cancel out weeks of not getting enough."

I've not managed to stay hydrated well.

I'm not sure how well I've been keeping myself fed.  Last night I was sick.  (Sickness tends to make me more able to remember my dreams, for whatever that is worth.)  And I'm not sure whether I was sick because there was something wrong in an ordinary sickness sense, or if I was sick because yesterday I ate well for the the first time in however long and my body wasn't sure what to do with all the food.

First I thought I was going to vomit, then didn't.  Then laid on the bathroom floor as I heard-felt* bubbling in parts of my body that should never bubble.  I understand that the phrase, "It's just gas," is meant to be in comparison to "Something that could kill you," thus justifying the "just".  Even so, I seriously wonder if whoever coined the phrase had to deal with gas because it sure as hell hurts like you're dying.  At least I assume so, I've never been dying.  Difficult to imagine that dying could hurt more.  Hurt less, yes.  Hurt more, I have my doubts.

I've had broken bones, I've had grains of sand picked out of a deep gash in my foot with tweezers repeatedly.  (Couldn't get it all in one go, I think it took weeks to get it all out.)  How deep a gash? The only reason that I didn't have stitches was because that would have closed the sand inside of my foot.  They needed to leave it open to get the sand out.**  I've had a piece of  wood (too big to call a splinter  too small to call a stake) driven so deep into one of my toes that I was only able to remove it with pliers.  Fucking gas leaves all these things in the dust.

"Just gas," my ass.

No, no one said that to me.  But the phrase came to mind.

Later on I did indeed vomit.  This is something that happens to me extremely rarely.  "Feel like I might throw up," happens so much more often that I've reached the point where I don't even think of that as a reason to consider that I might actually throw up.  Instead I don't really consider the possibility until it's more like, "Feel like I'm in the first stage of throwing up."  At which point sprint to the nearest toilet.

And now here I am today.  Definitely feeling better than last night, but still tired, still somewhat nauseous.  First day back on my medications since I don't even know because I lost complete track of when I remembered and when I forgot.

Though, actually, it can be worked out that it can't have been more than two days without them, and I think it was two days.  The day I wrote my most recent post, I decided that I'd been missing my medication enough it was probably better to take it quite late than miss another day.  So I did.  Practical result: I didn't sleep at all.  Actually, I don't know if my meds are to blame for that because I never reached the point of trying.  I never even made it in the general direction of going to bed.  My hope that I could do something to counterbalance it by going to sleep extremely early the next day was dashed when it turned out a member of my family would be staying with me that night.

Anyway, been all out of sorts.  Missing my meds, missing sleep, missing hydration, possibly missing food, and possibly sick.

How long will this last, I know not.  Hopefully it ends today, but hopefully it ended before and yet it did not.

No idea what effect this will have upon the blog.  But it surely must have one.  The extreme drop in my output of late is what's been happening so far.  One might guess that that will continue unless I get out of this rut of everything going wrong.

Anyway, that's why this is tagged as meta.  What affects me affects the blog.  When I'm doing crappily so too does the blog.

And on a largely unrelated note, an ASL class just moved through here.


* I'm not sure that everyone really understands the connection between feeling and hearing, I know I didn't always.  I think a break through moment for me was when someone talking about an old injury in their shoulder had me put my hand on it so I could "hear" the noise it made when the shoulder was moved.  The sensation was just like hearing, and processed as noise, but it wasn't coming through my ears.

That's part of why deaf people can enjoy music.  Hearing isn't limited to one's ears, it's just concentrated and specialized there.

My father once had a job adjusting music for something.  I think the biggest thing was monitoring the baseline because the sound of that is physical enough that without someone to adjust it the difference between a standing audience and a sitting audience will change the sound.  Or something like that.  (I tend not to get details from my father because if I start him talking there's no telling when he'll stop, so it's generally better not to ask for repetition, reminders, clarification, or elaboration.)

So when he was working at a birthday party for a deaf person, all of whose friends were deaf, he asked someone why the music had to be so damn loud.  It was explained to him that the music had to be loud so the deaf people could hear it.  The natural question of, "How can they hear it if they're deaf?" was responded to by pointing out that they don't hear it with their ears, the hear it here *gesture to chest*.

Those who are completely deaf, and were from birth, have a much more detailed sense of that kind of hearing than hearing people such as myself do because the part of their brain that would be used to interpret sensory input from their ears is taken over for the purposes of interpreting sounds picked up via the rest of the body.

It's all vibrations, and your eardrum isn't the only part of you that can feel vibrations.  Even amoung the hearing, if you pay attention (or there is a powerful enough baseline to make itself known in the absence of you paying attention) you can hear-feel music in parts of you other than your ears.

Hear-feel, heard-felt and variations on that are my own invention, I have no idea what the technical term for this non-ear-based sense of sound is.  If there even is one.

Vaguely related, I once saw and heard B.B. King live in concert.  (I recommend it if you have the chance and the money.)  I realized as I listened that different parts of the auditorium responded to different parts of the music.  My chair would vibrate with one sound, the floor with another, so on, so forth.  Resonant frequencies at work.

** What happened is this: a warped piece of wood on a dock had loosened a nail with the result that the head (that is the flat part, remember.  It doesn't cut; it rips) was exposed.  I ripped open my foot on it.  In my extreme pain I was less than rational.  I knew there was a med-kit in a building on shore and I ran across the beach to get to it, thus driving the sand into the gash.  If I'd been rational I would have called out for help, the help would have gotten the medkit, and I would have not gotten any sand in the wound.  Help wasn't far away, probably would have taken only a few seconds longer than me running for the medkit myself and it would have saved me lots of pain in the long run.