Monthly Archives: January 2012

Susan G. Komen Abandons Women

As you’ve probably heard by now, breast cancer charity Susan G. Komen for the Cure is ending all grants and funding to Planned Parenthood. Here‘s Greg Laden on it, and here‘s NPR. I don’t really have anything to say that you can’t get from them.

I read someone cheering this decision, claiming it was the right choice because “life matters”. What life? Women are going to die because of this, not blastocysts that could potentially become women, but real whole living breathing women. You have the audacity to say that’s good because “life matters”? Fuck you.

Could someone please explain to me why so many people have such a fucking hard on for screwing Planned Parenthood, and all the women who depend on them for their health?

Post a Day update

I got this in my email yesterday, telling me that site badges for the Post A Day challenge are now available for 2012. I’ve decided not to put such a badge on my blog, since that would be tempting fate and I’d probably never post again.

They also announced that the official Post A Day tag is now postaday, which surprised me. When I started posting again after the new year, I started using postaday2012 without a second thought. Having considered it, I’ve decided not to change that, though I will tag this post with the new approved tag. Partly this is ’cause I’m too lazy to go back and change the last thirty posts, but mostly it’s because having to check the year when I tag a post forces me to think about how I’m tagging it. Let’s face it, my poor mind needs the exercise.

Yeah, I’m phoning it in today. They can’t all be winners.

Fucking hell, Tennesee!

Rep. Richard Floyd, R-Chattanooga needs to understand one thing: Threats of violence are a crime in this country. They are not protected by free speech.

I don’t expect this asshole to face any real consequences for that. He’s white and in politics, and his intended victims are few and largely ignored at best. Of course, when it’s not best they’re generally getting stomped on, like the good Rep plans to do.

Make sure you check that second link, where he claims he “never said anything about violence”. I’m guessing this is that shithead logic where he never said the word “violence”, and therefore claiming he would “stomp a mudhole” in trans people was not a threat of violence. Sort of like how the phrase “separation of church and state” is not in the constitution, therefore we’re all ruled by Jesus, the totalitarian dictator of aryan love/beatings.

Apparently the way this works now is that the less someone is like me, the less I’m expected to care about their suffering. It’s not clear to me at what point we’re different enough that I should start to enjoy their suffering. Maybe it’s the point where they’re no longer capable of empathy or compassion, or basic human decency to not violently assault people.

When your world surprises you

I’ve been world-building for my space opera setting today, and I had one of those strange moments where an unexpected consequence of the society I was making up caught me by surprise.

I’d decided that most interstellar travel is done by hyperspace lanes that work sort of like freeways. There are big space-gates that work like on/off ramps. You can’t get off one lane and go to another, you have to pass through the gate back to normal space and enter another one. So you have crossroads with maybe three of these hyperspace gates and a big space station where you can get fuel, supplies, repairs, etc. I imagine them being truck stops crossed with little port cities, with all the necessities and lots of ways to painlessly separate travelers from their money. Many of these crossroads would be extremely remote, the only permanent habitat in the system.

It occurred to me that I was building this as a world where spaceships aren’t terribly expensive, and you might have someone traveling in a secondhand capsule with a shoestring budget. What would happen to them if their vehicle had a mechanical problem? If they’re on the lanes, they can probably get help getting as far as the nearest station, but what if they can’t afford to repair it?

As the fees for storing their broken ship build up, their situation gets increasingly desperate. Perhaps the best move would be to recognize it and sell the vehicle straightaway. Otherwise you’re going to have to find an income very fast, in a place that probably doesn’t have a lot of job openings. If the mechanic puts a lien on your ship for non-payment, and successfully seizes it, you’re really in a bad spot.

It reminds me of Downbelow from Babylon 5. I could imagine many of those crossroad stations having populations like that. Since my setting includes an aggressive military power with imperialistic plans, there will probably be a lot of displaced refugees traveling in desperate situations. There could easily be really big populations of homeless people trying not to starve on the larger space stations.

It’s a chilling thought for a setting that I’d originally planned to be about as serious as your average Doctor Who episode.

A haiku

Can’t write with headache

Take a pill and dim the lights

Hope it fades away

LGBT advocacy groups to blame for bullying & suicides

Sounds like a headline from the Onion, doesn’t it? Yeah, sorry, except for maybe a little gallows humor, there’s nothing funny here. It’s a paraphrase of Barb Anderson, spokes-person for the Parents Action League, which is apparently a group of conservative Christians who want to use the law to force public school students to be just like them.

Here’s the story. The short of it is that Anoka-Hennepin School District in Minnesota, an area with many recent teen suicides, is being presented with a list of demands by this PAL group. The demands are presented in this ridiculous “whereas, whereas, whereas, therefore be it resolved” format, something I’ve only ever seen in bullshit resolutions that generally seem to do nothing but waste time. (Are there any legitimate uses of that? In this century, I mean?) Anyways, the demands seem to boil down to putting Jesus in schools, adding “ex-gay”… I’m not going to call it “therapy”, let’s go with “harmful Pavlovian conditioning” to the schools’ staff training, and outright lying about various health issues, in particular AIDS, calling it “gay-related immune deficiencies” a name that hasn’t been used since the early 80s when the only known patients were a handful of gay men.

It’s difficult for me to write about this, because it makes me so angry it’s hard to think straight. “Hypocrisy” is too mild a word for this, this is like punching someone repeatedly in the face until a cop stops you, then telling the cop to arrest them for battery because your knuckles are bruised, and when your victim complains that their nose is broken and their face swollen you insist that those injuries are the cop’s fault. Except there aren’t any actual cops in this story, and the general behavior of the PAL is less overtly violent but far more asinine and dishonest. Read the rest of this entry

Changing my mind

For a long time I’ve had the impression that the Girl Scouts were another organization that taught girls that they shouldn’t think much about anything but cooking & cleaning & having babies.

Clearly, I was wrong. Over the last few weeks, I’ve seen the Girl Scouts in the news several times and it seems more and more that they’re a much better organization than I thought. What’s really interesting is that part of the reason this came to my attention is people calling for a cookie boycott because their view of the GS is changing… in exactly the same way mine is.

One persons virtue is another’s vice. How interesting.

Anyways, in part to apologize for my misconception, but mostly because it’s a fine idea on its own merits, I’m going to promote one scout’s project, Rani’s Roses Against Racism.

You didn’t expect a long post after that 1100 word novel I posted yesterday, did you?

Beyond the supernatural

When I was very young I used to search for the supernatural. I’ve always been interested in just about everything, and I had this passionate need to know things. I’d read lots of folklore and heard so many stories, most of which were contradictory, and I wanted to know the truth behind them.

I remember thinking that being a parapsychologist would be a great job. Hunt ghosts and track down the truth behind myths and legends. I used to find occult books to read, talk to people who claimed to have magical powers, or try to get into haunted places. I attended several modern pagan rituals, and probably would again if invited because they’re a lot of fun. I studied religions, and psychology, tried tarot cards and runes and Ouija boards. I even went to a séance or two. I did all this because I wanted to know the truth.

It wouldn’t be honest to say that I never found anything, but I never encountered anything genuinely supernatural. Read the rest of this entry

Crowdsourcing movies

Whoops, the time I should have spent blogging got sucked up by Star Wars: Uncut! Guess I’ll just blog about that, then.

This project is, simply put, awesome. And a little deranged. Watching a movie that drastically changes in tone and style and cast and even medium every 15 seconds is pretty surreal, but because it’s Star Wars and I’ve seen it like a hundred times, it works.

I wonder how that deals with copyright. I suppose it’s probably considered parody, but it must be toeing the line on that count. Still, it certainly feels like it’s within the spirit of fair use.

I found myself wondering what other films could be done like that. I really don’t think it would work without the kind of movie that’s so embedded into modern culture. I mean, it has to be popular enough that lots of people will actually participate. That’s a tough one right there, you need people who are fans of the work, who love it enough to put time and effort into it. And who also have the means to pull it off. And THEN in order to have something entertaining result from it you pretty much have to have something that your entire audience not only knows, but knows well, so they can get the in-jokes and so they know what’s going on when the artistic license gets a little extreme.

Offhand, I really can’t think of another movie that would work as well. But if you can, let us know in the comments!

No, I’m not going to talk about the State of the Union address. I’ve never seen one that said anything of substance, and I’ve no interest in boring speeches and empty pageantry.

Spam

I just realized I still haven’t written anything today. I’ve been loving the weather, cool but not cold, slightly breezy, and going from billowy clouds and sunshine to light rain all day and just sort of forgot. I’ve also spent some time reading archives of Clan of the Cats, a webcomic I used to read some ten years ago. Funny how different it seems now. Looking through the archives, I see that the comic’s comments have recently been infested by spam.

Not to be confused with SPAM, the surprisingly versatile canned meat from Hormel, spam is one of those irritating things that we sort of work around and put up with. I’ve heard claims that anywhere from a third to almost three-quarters of the internet’s bandwidth is wasted on this crap. It’s a classic example of the tendency of people to find a way to make any good thing suck.

Seriously, if SOPA stood for “Spam Offenders Punished Accordingly”, I’d probably be cheering the stupid thing without even looking twice.

Anyway, that’s all I’ve got for today, some tepid grumbling. Probably because most of my internet time today was spent in a world of witches and werewolves that could cross-over nicely with Buffy  the Vampire Slayer. See you tomorrow!

On the value of whining.

The complainer is always wrong. I saw a bumper sticker that said something about ending whining the other day, and it’s been rolling around in my head ever since. There seems to be this pervasive attitude that pointing out flaws in the way we do things, not as individuals but as a culture, or even in the government that is intended to represent our interests, is just whining.

I’ve often seen that expressed as “Sure, X isn’t perfect, but…”, and it’s that “but” that gets me. It’s rarely if ever “Sure, things aren’t perfect, but if we think about it and work together we can probably improve the situation”, it’s generally more like “Sure, things aren’t perfect, but they’re not too bad and others have it worse, so stop whining”.

I always hear that second one as “Sure, things aren’t perfect, but I’m personally pretty comfortable and I’m not willing to put any work into improving things for others, so stop mentioning them because my conscience bothers me when you do.” Of course from a practical perspective, what’s being said is “Sure, things aren’t perfect, and I’m not going to help anyone try to make them so.”

I can understand feeling uncomfortable when someone points out an imperfection in the way your nation or religion or whatever social group does things, we all like to pretend we’re perfect, but to dismiss it as “just whining” smacks of thoughtless dogma. Worse, when valid criticism is coming from within the group, to denounce the critic as “disloyal” or some such shows profound weakness of character, as you’re not only attacking one of your own who’s (presumably, for this example at least) acting in good faith, but you’re passing up a chance to improve things. If you can’t face the flaws you can’t fix them, and if you love your group so much, you should be willing to make it better.

I should point out that I’m not talking about the sort of jabbering apes that just want to throw shit all over everything, like an internet troll who will not only exaggerate problems, but also lie and misrepresent in order to get a rise. I’m also willing to accept that at some point you have to assume that you have a good handle on the problem, and it’s time to start looking for solutions.

In fact that’s probably a good practical definition of “just whining” right there, when you’re no longer pointing out problems, but merely repeating that they exist while contributing nothing to a solution. That puts me in a strange position, because many of my posts on this blog straddle the line between “raising awareness” and “complaining without really helping”. But since the real purpose of this blog is to practice my writing, I’m not too put out by that.

The DMCA and SOPA

I’ve been trying to read SOPA, and it’s a pain. Here’s a pdf if you want to give it a shot, maybe you’ll do better than I. I’m hosting it here because I had some inconvenience tracking it down on the Library of Congress site, so I figured I’d save you the trouble.

My trouble reading it is partly the language and partly the way it’s formatted. It’s so nested with paragraphs and subsections and clauses and sub-clauses that when it refers later to a specific clause or subsection you’re not sure which one it means. I think it would benefit from hyperlinks, or perhaps a complete rewrite by someone who knows how to communicate clearly.

I’ll rant about obfuscation in legal texts later, though. (Maybe tomorrow?) Today I want to talk about this claim made at the beginning of the document:

3 (1) FIRST AMENDMENT.—Nothing in this Act
4 shall be construed to impose a prior restraint on free
5 speech or the press protected under the 1st Amend-
6 ment to the Constitution.

It’s probably true that they don’t intend this thing to impede free speech or censor anyone. But should it pass it will be used to do that, and I know this because the DMCA is used this way. Read the rest of this entry

Technical difficulties

Hi folks! Apparently the new Linux kernel broke something, and my network doesn’t work from the desktop computer anymore. Not sure how long that will take to fix, since I don’t have the faintest clue what’s wrong. My laptop still works fine, though, so I’ll see if I can’t find out what’s going on.

And even if I can’t fix it, I should be able to keep posting. It just won’t be as convenient for me.

So sorry there’s nothing interesting here, and have a very good evening!

A day offline

So during the SOPA strike I thought it would be interesting to not only black out my site and not post, but to not use the internet at all. The result is a fascinating lesson in how entwined into my daily life the thing has become.

I had already installed the operating system updates when I realized that counted as “using the internet”. But then I went and installed them on the laptop anyways, because there was security stuff in there.

I settled down to read Carl Sagan’s Cosmos, a book I picked up at a library sale for very cheap and never got around to opening. I had only read a few pages before an interesting math puzzle presented itself to me: How close to Hawaii did ancient explorers have to get before they could see it? Read the rest of this entry

Content Redacted

SOPA, H.R. 3261

PIPA, S. 968

In protest of these two bills, I will not be attending the internet for the day of January 18, 2012, as reckoned by United States Pacific Standard Time.

Busy day

Between looking after the lost dog I found yesterday, putting up fliers, returning the dog to his home, and then taking down the damned useless fliers, I didn’t really have time for much writing today.

It didn’t help that I got used to writing tomorrow’s post in the evenings, then managed to miss a day and wrote yesterday’s post yesterday evening. It was really weird when I was plotting out my evening and realized that I hadn’t posted anything yet today.

Anyways, here’s a story from London that really pissed me off. When I went to that blog just now to find that link, I saw another! So apparently threats of violence are effective at curtailing free speech in the UK. Good to know, I guess. Read the rest of this entry

Evil Little Thing

I’ve been meaning to post about Jessica Ahlquist for a while now, but I keep feeling like there’s nothing I can say that hasn’t been said better by someone else already. Still, even if that’s true I haven’t said it yet, and besides this one really pisses me off.

First a brief recap. Several months ago, a high school student named Jessica Ahlquist at Cranston West High School in Rhode Island told the school administration that a big prayer banner hanging in the school was in violation of the Constitution. The administration decided to do nothing, the ACLU got involved, and last week a judge ordered the school to remove it. Since then young Ahlquist has been harassed and threatened to a shocking degree, because she asked her school to comply with the law.

For more details follow the links in that link above.

Last Thursday R.I. State Rep Peter Palumbo was on a radio show where he said that Jessica Ahlquist was “being coerced by evil people”. I’m still trying to work out how evil got into this.  Read the rest of this entry

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