jamesq: (Rage)
I woke up this morning to the news that Donald Trump is President-Elect.


I haven't looked at any news or opinion pieces about this yet, but I do have some thoughts.

The Blame

  • Voter suppression tactics in numerous states, aimed towards minorities.
  • The media, for trying to make the race "even", by weighing Trump's many many sins, against a lot of manufactured hearsay about Clinton. You hear people say "Crooked Hillary" enough, and you start to believe there's something to it, despite the lack of evidence. Now, the fact that Clinton lost will be cited as evidence that she must have been crooked.
  • The FBI. Seriously? WTF.
  • Third-party voters who think that voting is akin to some kind of consumer activity, rather than a civic duty.
  • Political tribesmen, who think that political parties are like the local sports team, and you have to root for them, because you've always rooted for them.
  • But most of all, I think we can blame the fact that there are simply a lot of misogynistic, racist, authoritarian assholes, and those people looked at Trump, warts and all, and said "I want him to be president".
Some random thoughts...

The Supreme Court is going to go conservative. The deciding vote is going to be a Trump nominee, and a lot of the Justices are getting old. Maybe Ruth Bader Ginsberg can last another four years, maybe not. Maybe Trump will nominate his sister.

Kiss goodbye to any progressive actions of the last eight years. I fully expect the Affordable Care Act to be effectively abolished in the next two years. Oh, maybe there'll be something called that, and there'll still be a requirement to buy health insurance; you just won't get anything for it. It'll be a tax payable to corporations.

Some pissant little country is going to get thrown up against the wall, just to show the world that Trump means business. I really hope it's not us.

That said, Trump is going to use the political machinery to go after his enemies, of which there are many, because he views anyone who disagrees with him, or makes fun of him, as the enemy. The difference between him and Nixon is that Nixon tried to keep it secret and got impeached for it. Trump will likely be quite open about it, and be praised for it.

I really feel sorry for the women who came forward about Trump's assaulting them. Maybe you'll have a case for immigrating to Canada based on persecution?

The Republican Party still can't stand the guy. They'll be fine with working with him, just like they were fine with voting for him, so long as he signs anything Paul Ryan puts on his desk. If he doesn't, I think they'll be happy to impeach him and get behind Pence. At no point will a fight between Trump and the Republican party mean a relaxation of their being awful to America.

Finally, I really did think "Do you want to write this? You could have jack-booted thugs coming to your door in a few years." Ultimately, I decided, what the hell - If things ever get that bad, they'll be plenty of things I've written over the years that will get me shot. It's too late to worry about that now.

Here's to hoping he's just a Berlusconi, and not a Mussolini.
jamesq: (An actual picture of me.)
So I just read an article from #MetroNewsCanada. Here's a quote:
Since it’s release in the U.S. and Australia last week, hundreds of Calgarians have found a work-around (that we can’t legally explain here) to download the mobile app and begin hunting in popular areas like Kensington or the Bow River.
Wait... what? They can't legally explain it? What exactly is the relevant law here? Was it the Nintendo Media Non-Disclosure Act of 2015 (aka the Gotta-hide-'em-all act)?

I get that they might not want to publish a technical how-to for assorted reasons (it's likely long, dry, and not pertinent to most of their readers), but why are they blaming the legal system?

IANAL, but I'm pretty sure I can describe illegal things in public. That includes such facts as "breaking someone's windshield with a sledgehammer is vandalism", without people misinterpreting my level of detail as instructions. There might be a few exceptions - court-ordered publication bans for example, but I'm pretty sure Nintendo's terms of service don't qualify.

Maybe - maybe - you could argue that Metro News was under some kind of contract not to release the information (in which case, they need better lawyers), but then they say this in the last paragraph:
"The game isn’t officially out in Canada yet, but there are plans to roll it out eventually. Until then, players are going online to find a work-around at get the game."
Ok, got it - if you want to play the game, go online and ask how. Thanks for the explanation that you're not legally allowed to give.

Murder is illegal. Somebody violating the terms of service of a video game by using a proxy server to download it (I imagine - haven't checked) is also illegal, technically. I wish we had a term to differentiate between those extremes. I guess we have summary conviction offenses (roughly what an American would call a misdemeanor) here, but even that seems harsh compared to this level of "crime". Is there a term even more damp and milquetoast? Maybe the Latin phrase for "you've got to be kidding me".

I'm really curious what prompted them to write that disclaimer.

As to Pokémon GO, not me thing. But hey, if it sounds like fun, have at 'er. Just watch you don't get hit by a car, and be mindful that there are people around you not playing the game.
jamesq: (An actual picture of me.)
I hesitate to write this, lest someone use it against me. That's happened to me before. It's happened to me in adulthood.

I have a few phrases that are literally triggering. One of them is when people call me "big guy". There are few things in this world that will fill me with an instant, incandescent rage then when people refer to me that way. Why? Because growing up it was the go to phrase for any bully who was trying to be friendly with me, either as the setup for extra-cruel bullying, or because they wanted something from me. To me "big guy" is exactly synonymous with "I think you're too stupid to realize I'm patronizing you, and if I don't get what I want from you, the next thing I'll call you is big fat loser".

I was 100% accurate with that assessment as of graduating high school, and it happened more times than I can count. If someone called me "big guy" when trying to be friendly, that friendliness was fake, and it would be followed up soon after with real insults about my weight.

I get called that occasionally in adulthood. They're probably just trying to be friendly, and aren't actually bullies. Still, the trigger remains. When it happens, I tell them, flatly, "don't ever call me 'big guy' again". When this happens, I generally get some kind of excuse along the lines of "oh, it's because you're so tall". No it's not. Some really want to argue that they didn't mean anything by it, and should be allowed to keep doing it based on their good intentions. No. I get to decide what I'm called and I have a perfectly good name.

The correct response is "OK, I won't call you that again". I don't need an apology, because (assuming a first offence) this is something the person would have had no reason to know was a problem.

Today, an old acquaintance did it online and I was literally seconds from unfriending/blocking them on social media. They agreed not to do it again when I told them not to, so the triggering event is settled. However, I was still an anxiety-ridden grouch for the rest of the morning because of it. Only getting out of the office for an appointment/nice lunch snapped me out of it. That's when I realized that this was a trigger, and not simply something I don't like. My emotions were out of control. Hell, writing about it now has got me all fucked up emotionally, but I feel I need to write this down as a first step towards it not being a trigger.

In conclusion, don't call me that. If you do, knowing this, we're through. People who do so unwittingly will be told not to (hopefully politely, but it will likely be terse even with all my efforts to not be a jerk about it).
jamesq: (An actual picture of me.)
On Wednesday I resigned as president of the MSCA. This is part of my current put-the-SCA-at-arm's-length plan. Today, I went to the bank to get my name taken off of the list of designated cheque-signers. It turns out I can't actually do this, despite it being my signature.

Here's what needs to happen: The MSCA needs to have a meeting to decide who the current cheque-signers are. Then they need to make an appointment to the bank where they bring a copy of those minutes. They'll sign a bunch of papers. I, apparently, cannot affect this process at all, despite it being my signature.

Now those hoops aren't terribly difficult, but that they exist at all tells me this: It will never happen. Never. I know this.

Bottom line is, I was the last person on council who gave a shit about the MSCA. As long as someone with authority doesn't hold their feet to the fire, and they have enough people who can still sign cheques, nothing will be done. They simply do not think it's worth lifting a finger for.

Hell, about a year ago, we were discussing getting the proper people (MSCA officers, rather than just random MSCA members) as signatories, I asked the treasurer to undergo a background check as a first step and he flatly refused. This is the lowest level of background check, where you fill out a form, give the police a couple of bucks to cover the costs, and they send you a letter saying they couldn't find anything obviously wrong. The guy refused to even consider it. I don't know if it's because he has some 18-year old's bullshit on his record that he doesn't want anyone to know about, or he's just some kind of libertarian you're-not-the-boss-of-me type (the latter seems more likely), but he simply wasn't going to do it, even though being able to interact with the bank is a job requirement for the treasurer.

Lots of other things have needed to happen for a long time, including simply getting rid of the MSCA (all SCA branch accounts need to be accessible by the SCA, and the MSCA is a separate legal entity, so we're not supposed to do it). They never get done. Oh, people will agree to do them, but that never matters. The aforementioned treasurer was especially cheerful when agreeing to do the things he never did.

Anyway, I figured there was one thing in my control, and that was getting my own name off the roster. Turns out I can't, and I'm basically stuck.
jamesq: (An actual picture of me.)
Hackers exposed the user information from 37 million Ashely Madison/Established Men users. The former is the well-known cheat-on-your-spouse site, the latter, a site for rich men looking for young women. Both are pretty creepy.

I was briefly tempted to download the leaked data and see what I could find (searching for friends/relatives/coworkers basically) but changed my mind temporarily when I discovered the compressed data was almost 10GB in size. If I'm going to clobber my bandwidth, it's going to be for something worthwhile, like season 3 of Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries (I didn't download it - it fell off the back of a truck - honest).

My resolve became permanent when it occurred to me that this was like those leaked celebrity photos of Jennifer Lawrence et al. It was none of my business. If they want me, personally, to see their nude body, then they can let me know, or take a role involving nudity. And private pictures meant for someone else, just don't cut it.

Similarly, I have zero business looking at the Ashley Madison data. Why? Because it's a cheating website and I do not have a partner. If I were in a relationship where there was an expectation of monogamy, and I suspected my partner of cheating, then I have cause to look at that data - and even then, I should only look for them.

As Amanda Marcotte points out, cheating on your spouse does not violate the social contract, only a personal one.

There was a point where I found the whole Josh Duggar thing funny. It stopped being funny when I read this. A lot of people in less savory areas of the world (and let's be honest, here in the civilized west too) are now at severe risk, because of the hackers who stole this information. That risk goes beyond destroyed relationships and could include lost jobs, social ostracism, and death. You're a gay man in Saudi Arabia and you've been outed? Get the hell out of there if you can, is my advice. I can't imagine the religious police taking "it's none of your business" to heart. Religious Police is basically claiming the role of busybody and combining it with coercive violence. If you know anyone who makes the claim that that's a good thing, it's time to stop having anything to do with them.

One thing I've learned over the years is that lots of people cheat. While this may be a bad act, it doesn't necessarily mean that they are bad people - a distinction that took a long time to grok. Doesn't mean the victim needs to be sympathetic to them (I certainly wouldn't be, if I were the victim), but sometimes us innocent bystanders should be. Or if not forgiving, at least not willing to join in on the dog-pile. A simple "Yeah, maybe you should have split up before that, if things were so bad. Anyway, it's not my problem, so let's move on" should do, if it needs comment at all. In the end, what does going after a third-party cheater gain you? Nothing.

This whole situation is one in which there are no good guys, but we can unambiguously define a bad guy. Not Ashley Madison; though conceiving of, building, and maintaining such a project points to systemic sociopathy. Not the cheaters; while a lot of them are assholes, there's enough (like those gay, traveling, Saudis) that aren't that you should not indulge the dog-piling urge. It's the hackers. They tried to destroy a legal (if congenitally icky) company, thus imposing their questionable morals on others. In this I think they have little difference from the religious police. They're just gutless enough not to swing the truncheons themselves. Remember, they opted to release confidential information about random strangers to punish a company. And then they had the gall to claim it was Ashley Madison's fault that they had to release the data, as if they weren't independent moral actors. That like a bad trope that always makes me rage when I see it in fiction. "You forced me to shoot your wife when you didn't hand over your wallet. Her death is on you." No asshole, I think I can firmly put the blame on a murderous mugger. And bad a company as Ashely Madison is, and as bad as their policy to "delete" information was (not) implemented, I can definitely blame you guys for leaking it. Heads will literally roll over this. I hope someday you'll realize that you're to blame.
jamesq: (An actual picture of me.)
One of the Saturday panels I was on was Gaming Controversies. I went hoping to hear something lucid about Gamergate and it's ilk. In fact, the panel was a bit deeper than that, though it was concerned with it.

I haven't linked to any Gamergate synopsis. Let's just go with misogynistic douchebags think that they're the victim when people object to them being misogynistic douchebags. They lash out at anyone who doesn't enthusiastically endorse their campaign to silence any woman with an opinion on the internet.

The panel was given by a collection of academics who studied Gaming culture. They were interested in how abusive online interaction occurs, what triggers it, and the ramifications of it. Others were more concrete in that they were focused on some of the issues directly (for example, sexual tropes in gaming, hence gamergate).

The panel itself was OK. The problem was that each of the panelists had a different focus, and by the time they each had introduced themselves and given their opening speech, we had used up 30 minutes of the 45 minute talk. It could have benefitted from either a unified approach, more time, or both.

During the Q&A period, one fellow got up and wanted the panelists to address how Social Justice Warriors were quashing dissent and censoring people. This was such a warped statement that it gave my brain that chewing-on-tinfoil sensation. In fact, it was so fractally wrong that I couldn't immediately come up with a proper rebuttal - I couldn't load enough information into one statement to encompass everything.

I tweeted about it and got a response from some jerk who wanted to Sea Lion me. I engaged briefly and then remembered that I had better things to do. Enjoying the rest of the expo for example.

I later learned that there was an organized bunch of GG assholes that decided to "infiltrate" the expo and got their asses kicked out the day before. I imagine the guy at the panel was a supporter - albeit not enough to show his solitarity by leaving the expo (and I wholeheartedly encourage any Gamergate supporters to boycott CCEE - vote with your wallets, misogynistic douchebags). Good on CCEE for doing that - not much point having a zero tolerance for abuse policy if you don't enforce it.
jamesq: (Foot in Ass)
Today, I want to rant a bit. First, go read this - it was what triggered the rant.

My old circle of friends had one of these guys - let's call him "Ed". He was perpetually late for all planned events. It was inevitable and he never apologized or changed. And people would just make excuses for him, and wait for him, for hours, over and over again. He wasn't quite alone in this behaviour (the circle was called Grey Mountain, and we called this overall behaviour Grey Mountain Standard Time), but he was the worst for it.

Aside: Like the article says, there's a big difference from the out-of-your-hands lateness that we're all victim of from time to time. This is about chronic lateness without excuse. Don't think I'm talking about you if you've been late now and then. I'm sympathetic about stuff like that - it happens to us all. No, this is about lateness as a sign of inconsideration.

Funny thing was, if the timing of something was out of our hands - the start time of a movie say - Ed would be there. And as far as I know, he was employed or in school for the entire time I've known him, so he could clearly get to work/school in a timely fashion. Apparently the only thing he felt he didn't have to be on time for was... us.

When I realized that, I stopped putting up with it. Sadly at the time, my ability to not put up with it was limited to urging the folks around me to simply move on without him. Going to Banff? We've been waiting two hours for Ed, let's just go. "Oh, we can't," they'd say, "Ed said he was coming". Yeah, and I bet if he gets here and finds out we've left without him, he'll make a point of being here on time for the next trip. Unfortunately, I didn't drive then, so I couldn't do anything but grind my teeth.

How bad was it? I sometimes thought he did it deliberately to "test" how well he was thought of.

This was an early lesson in how to spot the people around you who don't actually respect you. And if they don't respect you, but call you "friend", they're no such thing. Think of it as one of the early warning signs.
jamesq: (Rage)
I failed to get up on time for my morning jog. Rather than skip it, I took my gym strip to work with the intent of running the long way back home (The long way involves Bowmont park and Dalhousie Station and is 7-8K, whereas the short way is only 3.5). Today I remembered why I jog early. People.

The run was mostly good, but I stopped running at 5k because one of my shielding bandaids sweated off. It was damned hot for this ginger.

Anyway, I'm walking across the bridge at Dalhousie station and there are lots of young ladies walking towards me dressed nicely - no doubt they're going Stampeding and want to look their best. Unfortunately there was this skeevy guy just ahead of me who decided to harass one of them. He simply veered directly into the path of one lone young women so that she had to squeeze/brush past him to get on her way. And this wasn't something one could mistake for anything other than harassment - there were only a handful of people on the bridge, and you can normally walk four abreast without touching. This guy had no excuse.

I was stunned, and didn't really know what to say or do. And then he sees I'm watching him so he addresses me, like I'm on his side.
"Heh, they don't like it when you do that."
"Do what?", I ask, wondering how he's going to justify it.
"When you point at them."
Leaving aside the fact that this guy did not just point at her, he came so close to groping her as to be a pedantic distinction rather than a real one.
"I. Guess. You. Shouldn't. Do. That. Then.", I enunciate.
"I don't care.", he says as he veers off
Dumbass creep. If you don't care, why are you looking for validation from me? Sadly, I didn't think to say that since I was still stunned. I also didn't say "Maybe you should grow up then", but sadly, perfect retorts only come minutes later.

Still, I'd rather have not needed to confront this guy. I might have been bigger than him, but I'm no fighter. I can't imagine what that poor woman must have felt. I hope it didn't ruin her night out.

Honestly, I don't know how women put up with that crap like that day after day after day. And to all the women I've ever creeped on - I'm sorry, I'll do better in the future.

Later, while walking up the hill to my house some woman parks her car, opens the passenger door to let her two dogs out. The tiny one is on a leash and the medium sized one immediately runs to jump me, barking furiously. I swing my groceries in between us but the dog keeps hoping around, looking for an opening.

Meanwhile, the owner is yelling at her dog to sit/heel/get back/whatever. The dog is ignoring her.
"Jesus Christ lady, fucking grab your dog already!"
She doesn't, but it finally backs away from me to her.
"Sit", she says.
It doesn't sit.
"Yeah, that's doing a lot of good. If you can't fucking control your dog, put it on a fucking leash."
I don't point out that sorry won't help me if I'm getting stitches. Instead, I just move around her car and continue home.

I walk in the door to my home.
Gerry says, "Hello."
"You know what I hate?", I ask.
jamesq: (An actual picture of me.)
I was walking to the Commercial/Broadway Skytrain today and didn't make it past the gauntlet. The gauntlet being the assorted panhandlers, hucksters and pollsters that inhabit the bridge over the Grandview Cut, where the station is built. A young woman is there with a clipboard and she managed to get my attention. Like an idiot, I let her.
There's a behavior that annoys me that I'm seeing more and more. Salespeople use it all the time now, especially if they work at mall kiosks that have a lot of foot traffic that goes by. It depends on there being a base level of social expectation in society. The young woman was using this method good and hard. I didn't follow the script though.

She started by asking my name. I didn't give it, instead saying she needed to make her pitch first. So she goes on to tell me about a charity. She asked lots of leading questions - questions designed to get me involved in a positive conversation about the charity. She described successful stories of the charity. She guesses (correctly) that I'm in favour of gender equality, education and democracy, and appeals to that sense of justice. She got into my personal space, looked me in the eye and smiled a lot. If her hands weren't occupied, I'm sure she'd have been repeatedly touching my arm.

It's simple really, it's feigned friendliness to draw you in so they have a greater chance of succeeding with their sales pitch. It depends on people responding properly, politely. I think it's ultimately going to hurt us all. We're engaged in a sort of behavior one-upmanship where salespeople are more and more aggressive and their marks become more and more callous to calls for help from strangers under the belief that those people are trying to trick them. It drives us all to be more rude and isolated from each other.

Now I don't deny that it works - if it didn't work, it wouldn't be used. And that doesn't mean that it has to work with everyone - it only has to work over a population, not the individuals in the population.

As an aside, when I was the social outcast as a child, this sort of behavior was used on me to make the bullying worse. Someone socially popular would "befriend" me, usually to get some kind of information out of me (that would be used against me) or to place me in a situation where I could be isolated or attacked. I fell for it a lot. I fell for it when I knew better, such is the desperate desire to be part of the group.

What that means is I'm hyper-alert to the tactic, and when I twig to it, I react very negatively to it. That's not to say that other people don't have a negative reaction to it, or that they're not alert to it when it happens, just that I, personally, have good reasons for reacting the way I do. I'm positive that plenty of the people reading this will agree with me about it without having to be a traumatic lesson from childhood.

Getting back to the young woman, she finally twigged to the fact that my not following the script was deliberate rather than me being obtuse.

"Now what could you buy me for $1.20?"

I don't respond. I am thinking that I'd rather not buy her anything at all.

"Um. pardon?", she asks when she interprets my failure to respond as her not hearing what I said. "So what could you buy me for $1.20?"

I dig my heels in, look her straight in the eye and don't say anything.

"Could you buy a... doughnut for $1.20?"

Another awkward moment passes.

"Um. I'm getting the feeling you're not interested in this charity."
Finally, I respond. "Quite the contrary, the charity seems reasonable. It's your approach that I don't like."

She's taken aback. "May I ask why?"

"Because this whole time you've been talking like you want to get to know me better, but what you really want is my money. That's dishonest. You've done it by feigning friendliness to get close to me and that's creepy. and it's all unnecessary - the charity speaks for itself and doesn't need you to trick me into supporting it. But now I'm in the awkward position of liking the cause, but not wanting to reward your methods."

Let's say the situation was somewhat reversed. Let's say I encountered this woman in a nightclub and I used all of the same tactics on her in an attempt to pick her up. I'd be rightly judged as a creepy PUA type who depended on the fact that people are socialized not to be confrontational to succeed.

I compromised by asking for how I could look it up later rather than sign my name to a form that would obligate me to donating over and over again.

It's hours later now and it still bothers me. First, I has overly critical to a front-line worker who was just doing her job. She didn't know she was stepping into my drama. It also bothers me that I care about that - that I'm worried about the feelings of someone who was trying to emotionally manipulate me. It makes me simultaneously guilty and angry. Finally, it depresses me to recognize that building this sort of emotional armour comes with a terrible cost - I'm bitter and paranoid. In this case, reasonably so, but how many people have I turned away because I've assumed the worst from them?


Apr. 15th, 2013 04:46 pm
jamesq: (Rage)
As I write this, the Boston Marathon Terrorist Attack is still an ongoing thing. Nobody really knows anything other than a couple bombs went off near the finish line and there have been a few deaths and more injuries.

Once again some asshole has decided on their own volition that we can't have nice things. Not just in the immediate sense that it's affected the victims in Boston. No, now everyone is going to have low-level paranoia revolving around every little footrace. I hate that - and not just because I routinely participate in foot races. It would be equally bad if it were at a dog show or a fantasy-football convention (I was going to say "movie premiere", but of course, that's already happened).

[speculation on who's responsible redacted, because wild-ass guesses don't help]

Hopefully law enforcement solves this crime right away and the criminals are swiftly apprehended.

As for avoiding races, please don't. I heard an interesting statistic a few years ago - don't know if it's true: The number of people who die over the course of a big race due to heart attacks is smaller than that of the same amount of people who don't run. That is to say, the per-capita rate of heart attacks over the five hours of a marathon is greater for the population at large than it is for race participants. Or more to the point, participating in the race is safer.

A few caveats about that. With regards to Boston specifically, they probably get less heart attacks than normal for other races. You need to qualify for the Boston marathon. You don't need to qualify for the Calgary marathon, so it's going to get more people who aren't prepared to do it.

What does any of that have to do with the attack? Just that one should remember that what makes something newsworthy doesn't make it likely. A terrorist attack is so unlikely that my odds of dying during a run via lightning strike is higher, which in turn is less likely than me keeling over from a heart attack. And I don't let heart attacks or dark clouds stop me from running.

Don't let terrorists get under your skin. The perpetrators are criminals, not the boogie-man. Keep calm and carry on as they say - it's a lot better than freaking out.
jamesq: (Rage)
News from the Catholic Country of Ireland:
Savita Halappanavar (31), a dentist, presented with back pain at the hospital on October 21st, was found to be miscarrying, and died of septicaemia a week later.

Her husband, Praveen Halappanavar (34), an engineer at Boston Scientific in Galway, says she asked several times over a three-day period that the pregnancy be terminated. He says that, having been told she was miscarrying, and after one day in severe pain, Ms Halappanavar asked for a medical termination.

This was refused, he says, because the foetal heartbeat was still present and they were told, “this is a Catholic country”.

She spent a further 2½ days “in agony” until the foetal heartbeat stopped.

Disgusting. I hope that the authorities charge whoever they can with whatever they can at that hospital. They probably won't though. If any good comes of this, it will be because Ms. Halappanavar's death triggers a change. I can think of three changes, in decreasing order of goodness:

1) Legalize abortion. That's it. Not illegal unless raped and not illegal unless dying. Legal, across the board. It's between a woman and her doctor. The state should tell women how to use their uteri exactly as often as they tell me how to use my kidney.

And to be clear, I mean everywhere, not just Ireland where it's mostly illegal, or Canada where it's mostly legal.

2) Abortion on exceptions that would have helped this woman, and others. It's a step in the right direction. If my options are "legal for some exceptions" and "none at all", I'll hold my nose and pick the former.

3) Some doctor, when presented with a similar case, will simply lie. *unplugs heart monitor* "I can't hear a fetal heartbeat - rush this woman to the OR." Maybe the doctor will get away with that lie, maybe they won't (or maybe they'll come clean during the inquiry); I don't know how easy it would be to get away with it in the long term. However, if they can get away with it in the short term, their lie will have saved a life. I think lying to save a life is an acceptable sin. Perhaps one of Ms. Halappanavar's doctors, having trouble looking themselves in the mirror every morning, has quietly decided to do that next time. I hope so. Not just because it would be a positive change, but also because I'd like to think that their conscience does bother them. It should.
jamesq: (Jarhead)
There's a picture meme running around Facebook right now that I've included below:

Santa Loves Veterans

A friend conveyed the same sentiment in his status update in a much more erudite manner without the picture. He was not alone.

Does anyone other than me think this is actually somewhat disrespectful of veterans? We'll leave aside the fact that Remembrance Day is actually meant for remembering armed forces members who have died in the line of duty. One could easily reword the picture to reflect that.

Now I'm someone who has great respect for what our veterans have done. We ask them to do a difficult, sometimes life-threatening job and they don't often get thanks for it. Sometimes they do things I'd rather they didn't do, but that's not really their fault so much as it is the government that gives them their assignments. I can disagree with our military being in Afghanistan, and I can think that they're not accomplishing much while there, but that doesn't mean they're not trying and they're not in danger.

So yes, I respect our soldiers and our veterans.

My big objection is using veterans for emotional blackmail. Don't do X because Veterans! It's like the very similar argument of Think of the Children. It's not something you say if you are interested in debating something on its merits; You say it when you want to stifle debate. After all, you couldn't possibly support X, that means you hate our troops!

Completely unrelated to this, I agree that retailers get into Christmas-mode way too early (I know the meme says decorations, but it's really retailers who are guilty of this 99% of the time). If I had my druthers, it wouldn't begin until much later than November 12 - I'd put it at the American Thanksgiving weekend. This gives everyone time to prepare for Black Friday. A month-long span that begins and ends with holiday weekends should be plenty.

In short, there might be damn good reasons why we would want to limit Christmas. Or not, I suspect most people just find it a little exhausting rather than an affront. I say live-and-let-live. If a retailer wants to go all Christmas-y starting in July, it's no skin off my nose. I might decide not to shop there because it's irritating, but in the end I'll probably base my purchasing decisions on other criteria, like price or convenience. If too-early Christmas means that much to you, don't shop there. That means some personal inconvenience as you search for alternatives though and I bet most of the people who've posted this meme aren't going to put any more effort into this than clicking on "like". And that puts memes like this firmly into the realm of slacktivism - important enough to share, not important enough to take any real action. It's a little like prayer that way. As for supporting veterans by not doing something - I can claim I'm patriotic by not putting up decorations. It's so much easier than actually doing something, like attending Remembrance Day ceremonies. I support Canada's Justice system by not pissing on the courthouse steps! Easy!

I suppose one could simply actually ask a veteran their opinion in the matter - whether they think we should control behaviour prior to November 12th. I suspect they don't think that. However "veterans" is not some platonic ideal of a class of people who all share the same opinion. My dad served in the Canadian Forces (albeit not during wartime) and he couldn't get enough of Christmas - it was his favourite holiday. Other veterans might not celebrate Christmas at all.

On the subject of using veterans as your club to shame people? I'm guessing they like that even less than early Christmas decorations.
jamesq: (Rage)
My company is competing in the Calgary Corporate Challenge. So far I've had fun at the two things I've done. The first was to cheer on LA in the "Corporate Idol" singing competition. The second was tonight's darts tournament.

Darts was fine. Overall we lost all our games, but I was one of the two players who "won" their end, so I'm feeling OK for someone who hasn't played darts in a sufficient amount of time that I had to search to find mine. We were in a cluster of about four companies that were playing against each other and all those other teams were fine. They were friendly, even handed when there was a rules dispute, and all showed great sportsmanship. It was fun losing to three of them.

The problem was that one of the other clusters included Diversified Staffing. Or more to the point, DivStaff includes a couple of idiots who think that "make noise for your team" is equivalent to "deafen everyone else in the building". Hooting and hollering, clapping and stomping, I'm OK with that. Clapping devices are going overboard, but OK, I can live with them if you moderate their use (when you win a round for example, rather than continually.

Air horns should be right out, especially in your average sized community hall.

Needless to say, they were using them continually. They were also impervious to dirty looks. Fine, they're assholes. I've had to deal with assholes before, and no one else is complaining.

I took a break from it between rounds, going outside just to escape the noise. There we discovered a few other people who also had come outside to escape the air horn.

When I went back inside, I tried to ignore them, until one jackass decided to play drums with the inflatable clapping sticks on his coworkers heads (playfully, they seemed to not mind) and accidentally hit a coworker. He did say he was sorry, but that's the extent of his good manners.
"You need to watch what you're doing. And while we're on the subject, lay off the fucking air horn - you're inside a building."
"No, I'm not going to lay off it. It's the corporate challenge and I can blow this air horn as much as I want. I might have considered laying off if you were polite and hadn't sworn at me..."
He kept talking but I threw up the hand, turned and walked away. Seriously, you're arguing about this because I hurt your feelings? My politeness has nothing to do with you making noise that can literally deafen someone. Any further conversation would be pointless as it would just serve to convince him that he's worth debating with while simultaneously making me angrier.

So I bitched to an official. Won't do it willingly? How about being ordered to do it. Asshole had a talking too and they did, in fact, lay off the air horn for the rest of the night. They redoubled their efforts with every other noise making prop they had, which was irritating, but that's all it was.

And of course, having to confront someone I was a bundle of anxious adrenalin for the next half hour which did not improve my game any. I was running through "defend-myself-from-an-attack-in-the-parking-lot scenarios in my head just in case.

On the bright side, the anxiety didn't improve my game, but the game improved my anxiety. I was feeling a lot more calm as we played.

You know what pisses me off? People who are aggressively annoying because they can't be bothered to consider the people around them. Moreover, people who think the response to being told this is to double-down in an attempt to teach you some kind of lesson. The only lesson being jerks exist, which I'm confident we all know already.

In other news, Corporate Idol finals are at Flames Central on Friday, so I'll be missing archery again. Next week is trivia, which I'm team captain for. Looking forward to it.
jamesq: (Jarhead)
  • When asking women out, consider if your attention is wanted, and if this is an appropriate venue.
  • Women are often sexually harassed at conventions, and conventions should have reasonable policies to address this.
  • People who are interested in Atheism, Skepticism and Social Justice should have a place where they can do all three together. Creating (or even discussing) that place does not mean that you, personally, have to take part.
Could someone please tell me what the hell is so contentious about any of those three statements that the originators needs to be trolled/harassed/threatened with rape or murder, sometimes for over a year? Don't you people have better things to do with your life?


The reason, of course, is that the original writers were women. Allow me to repeat myself: For Fuck Sake!
jamesq: (Don Quixote)
I went to the Museum of the Regiments today to check out the exhibits and see AP (who was participating, and it was her birthday) there. I saw non-SCA Medieval re-enactors, WWII, Civil War, Frontier, Assorted Revolutionary and colonial-period units. It was a lot of fun.

What wasn't fun was this, paraphrased, conversation (which I've been a part of before) when talking to other re-enactors:
That looks like a lot of fun.
Would you be interested in trying out re-enactment yourself.
On, I already do that - I'm in the SCA.
Oh. We were in the SCA once. We left because we were being treated poorly.
Then they'd give examples:
  • People made fun of our garb.
  • People made fun of our garb, even though our garb was more authentic than theirs.
  • They don't like that we're outside of the SCA's period.
  • The SCA's rules are too strict.
The most damning statement? "Yeah, we used to be in the SCA. We got tired of being snubbed and insulted."

I think with that one, I actually quizzed the person for specifics. Turns out it was a tavern a few years back, when I was Seneschal. They'd been invited there by the Baroness and did in fact get treated poorly. I have vague memories of them being there (and I think I greeted them with something like "We're all geeks here, welcome."). Had I known what their treatment from others was, I'd have probably cracked a few heads. Seriously, when did we change "chivalry and honour" to "chivalry and honour, unless you're dressed like pirates or carrying a musket"?

Sure, at an official event, we expect people to dress "in period", but I've seen a lot of leeway on that, especially since the SCA defines "period" so widely (roughly end of the Roman Empire to beginning of the Italian Renaissance, about 1000 years). My own garb barely passes. Sometimes. I don't get a lot of comments about it (possibly because people complaining to me about my garb get a response of "So you'd like to make me new garb? Cool.").

But at a tavern or some other informal event? Relax. We have much more in common with these people than we have separating us. "You like dressing funny, having pretend fights, drinking in large groups while camping and complaining about the price of linen? I like those things too!" Besides which, why be rude? What is it gaining you? As far as I can see all you get is a more insular, cliquey group. I guess if you're still in junior high school those are desirable things.

I'd love to see a big summer camping event that included all of the re-enactors. Sort of a Burning Man for history geeks. I think that there are enough people to do something like that. It would require a big site (something like the Quad War site would be OK, except it's a little off the beaten track, and I have problems with the way the owner runs things). The organisers would need to get insurance, merchants and advertising in place. Some simple rules to keep the looky-lou's out (i.e. you must be in a historical costume at all times except when entering and leaving the site). Other than that, have several areas in place for each group to stage their battles and others to watch. If separate groups want to stage anachronistic battles with each other, have at it.

Still, this is the sort of thing that I think requires one strong organizer to pull it off (something like how The Calgary Comic Expo could never have been done by the ConVersion Society). An initial success would mean a bigger event year after year. What's the worse that could happen? People might have fun.
jamesq: (Default)
A libertarian tried to educate the good people over at Slacktivist. That led to the following exchange I wanted to share:
Ron paul is the 21st century candidate, the others are still living in the 80's and 90's. that style is over. it may go one for a while longer but it's done. Why are we sending 33% of our paycheck to washington so they can subsidize corn and start wars in counties none of us will ever likely visit?
Because I like living in a fucking civilization instead of being a bondsman of the local fief.

Because I don't care to owe my soul to the company store.

Because I have a fucking job that takes up a sizeable chunk of my time, so I don't really have enough left over to research every product I buy to make sure that the meat is made of actual meat and the milk is made of actual milk and the peanut butter contains only a modest amount of insect parts.

Because I have a chronic medical condition and when I ask "How much do my pills cost," there is no reason on earth that a completely free market wouldn't answer "Well, how much is your life worth to you?"

Because I successfully completed 10th grade history, and therefore know that without the civil rights act, the only reason african-americans would not still be sitting in the back of buses is that there would be no buses.

Because I think buses provide a useful service.

Because there are many women I care about, and I think it's nice that they have legal recourse when their boss decides that his position entitles him to the occasional grope.

Because I can do basic math, and know that if I had to separately pay for my roads, my schools, my fire protection, my police protection, to have my air cleaned enough to be able to breathe, to verify the safety of the food, drugs, and products I buy, to lay sidewalks where I might like to walk, to have my trash hauled away, if I had to pay private companies for all those things, it would cost pretty much every dime I make.

So I'll happily pay 33%. Because I'm not a fucking moron.
Source is a very long thread.
jamesq: (Default)
I'll often get into debates with people on assorted hot topics. This happened today after archery, which is why it's on the top of my head.

Invariably, when there is a disagreement, someone will come up with the "well I heard this from person X" argument. Person X isn't present, but their experience is being held up as proof of that person's point of view. The problem being that I have literally no reason to believe the hearsay of a person not present. However it's impolite to point out why. Here's some reasons:

  • The person doesn't actually exists (i.e. debating opponent is lying).
  • The person exists, but the debating opponent is deliberately misstating the person's experience (lying again).
  • The person exists, but the debating opponent has misunderstood the person's experience (the debating opponent is mistaken, but honest in it).
  • The person exists, but lied or was mistaken themselves.
As I alluded to, telling someone around the bar that (say) their Father was wrong or lying is not the most diplomatic thing to do.

However, as Gregory House says, "Everyone lies."

I remember once where an acquaintance told me that they had a friend who got pregnant from petting (not sex) in a hot tub. They assured me that the person had no reason to lie about this. I told them the more likely scenario was that they were simply lying about it - they had sex, got pregnant, and were embarrassed by it, so they came up with a barely plausible scenario to save face. However, the story is barely plausible so maybe I'm wrong. But if I have to make a bet based on "odds that a person is lying" vs. "odds that a person can become pregnant in a hot tub from a handjob", I know where I'm putting my money.

Anyway, I got into an argument with some folks about flat tax rates vs. progressive tax rates. I won't hash over the arguments here (you can check out the pros and cons at Wikipedia) - suffice to say I find the arguments in favour much more compelling than the arguments against. More to the point, I don't think we live in a world where the poor need a bigger burden and the rich need less of one.

However one fellow did make the argument that progressive taxes give a disincentive to work because of the apocryphal story of people who make less money because they've moved to a higher tax bracket. He used his Father moving up a pay grade in the military as an example of just such a thing happening. Dad got a raise, take-home pay went down.

I didn't believe him, but as I mentioned, Saying someone's Dad was wrong is not diplomatic.

Now I can imagine progressive tax systems where this can happen. Imagine a situation where the tax rate goes up a percent for every $10K - you pay 1% up to $10K, 2% if you make up to $20K, 3% if you make up to $30K, etc. In this scenario there are edge cases where you will lose money. Would you rather take home 99% of $10000 ($9900) or 98% of $10001 ($9801)? Seems obvious, aside from the fact that these are small edge cases.

However, that's not how Canada implements it's taxation. From Revenue Canada's website:

  • 15% on the first $41,544 of taxable income, +
  • 22% on the next $41,544 of taxable income (on the portion of taxable income between $41,544 and $83,088), +
  • 26% on the next $45,712 of taxable income (on the portion of taxable income between $83,088 and $128,800), +
  • 29% of taxable income over $128,800.

The edge cases described above never occur - no amount of increase in your income will result in your take-home pay going backwards.

So what about that anecdote? Maybe Canada changed methods (though I doubt it. The rates may have changed, but the method for calculating them probably hasn't - it's a simple solution to an obvious argument against it). Maybe the people who handled his payroll were idiots that kept too much back (in which case it was returned as a refund at the end of the year). Maybe his Father overstated the case (I got a raise, but it doesn't look like much when taxes are applied and it's divided over every paycheque of the year). Maybe my debating opponent assumed it all, based on flawed "common knowledge". The current numbers don't support the argument though.

And that's why I hate anecdotes. Lots of reasons to reject them, but people get pissy if you do. But I have to put up with them all the time because I'd like to not alienate everyone I know. Still, it bothers me. You know what I do like? I like data. The plural of "anecdote" is not "data". A thousand people can tell me how much good Chiropractors are, but that doesn't prove it's effective - it only proves a thousand people believe it was worth it (I know people who think being tied up and beaten with whips is worth it - that doesn't make it effective medicine). Multiple, properly peer-reviewed, studies showing a statistically significant effect greater than placebo? Sure, I'll buy that. Your Uncle Bob having back pain for years until he went to the bone breaker regularly - not so much.

Do I use anecdotes? Sure, but not as evidence, and I take pains to label them as hearsay.

I might get into it here about the progressive taxation thing, but not right now.
jamesq: (Default)
Yesterday was a day full of Facebook Status updates that read something like this: "Thank god there's a majority - now the government can actually get some work done" or "Now we have a stable government not being constantly threatened by the opposition."

As if the work of parliament wasn't debating legislation and trying to come to a consensus. As if stability is desirable when it means 60% of Canadians are ignored... )
jamesq: (Rage)
Sometimes I need to remind myself that arguing on the internet is like being in the Special Olympics.
jamesq: (Rage)
Somebody needs a punch in the cock.

Spanky ([livejournal.com profile] nosarious' cat) went missing two nights ago. He found him on the City Pound's website. Today he gets to go down and pay whatever fines are required to get Spanky back.

The pound is supposed to let us know when this happens, assuming they can figure out who we are. Funny thing about that - between the last time we saw Spanky and when he was turned in, his collar and tags went missing (edit: apparently not - they just couldn't be seen in the picture on the website, and they hadn't gotten around to collecting the data to contact [livejournal.com profile] nosarious). Spanky is quite used to his collar and has never gotten out of it to my knowledge.

I doubt the city is going to let us know who turned him in. I have my suspicions though.

It takes a special kind of asshole to get off on trapping innocent animals.


jamesq: (Default)

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