Some time ago I wrote a post about the controversy concerning Philip Pullman's book The Golden Compass at the Halton Catholic School Board. The book had been pulled from shelves at the request of (a) parent(s), pending review by a committee, and I said that this appeared to be a system that could work to keep legitimately offensive material out of the library while not practicing excessive censorship.
Well, it seems that I was right as far as the committee goes. It came back with a recommendation to move the book to the Young Adult section. Unfortunately, the board of trustees has decided to override the committee's recommendation and ban the book anyway on the grounds that it is "not in line with our governing values," that is, it doesn't adhere to the board's religious principles.
All that ire and condemnation that was inappropriate and jumping the gun a month ago is now fully appropriate and timely. Please proceed.
Some time ago I wrote a post about the controversy concerning Philip Pullman's book The Golden Compass at the Halton Catholic School Board. The book had been pulled from shelves at the request of (a) parent(s), pending review by a committee, and I said that this appeared to be a system that could work to keep legitimately offensive material out of the library while not practicing excessive censorship.
I'm not sure how I feel about the current coverage of the case of Aqsa Parvez, the Mississauga girl whose father beat her to death recently.
There has been a lot said about his killing her "because she refused to wear a hijab" and, I don't know, maybe he saw it that way. But the thing is that abusers will abuse their victims for any and no reason. No one seems to be blaming the victim, which is nice, but I'm not convinced that the blame can be placed at the feet of Islam much more convincingly.
It's just not that simple. On the one hand, there's no doubt that a society that condones the use of violence by men to keep their wives and children in line will contain more abuse than one that does not, and that officially or de facto theocratic societies are more likely to hold such attitudes, and, among individuals, I suspect that devout practice of a strongly patriarchal religion is at least somewhat correlated with increased willingness among men to beat their wives and children, but even if these correlations hold there's no reasonable way to claim to know the causal direction, if any.
Are Western Europe and Canada more progressive than some other countries because we are less religious, or are we less religious because we are more progressive? Could even the most devout of Muslim men, if he had no problems with power or anger management, possibly beat his daughter to death?
Abusers abuse for power, for kicks, because it makes them feel bigger and better than their victims, and while it's possible that religious teachings and social approval can allow some abusers to reach extremes they wouldn't otherwise, and while religiously motivated peer pressure can cause otherwise loving parents to behave abusively in limited ways, I just don't think, ultimately, that we can draw any conclusions about this case other than that Aqsa Parvez's father is a lowly, scum sucking child abuser and should rot in jail for the rest of his miserable life.
Posted by Jake at 18:52
How come Abbie gets to be "the most hateful, foul mouthed, frothing bitch in the biosphere?"
I work hard at being a foul mouthed, frothing bitch, and here Crazy Lady just hands over the title. Not that Abbie wouldn't qualify, mind, I just think there ought to have been a vote or something.
Posted by Jake at 00:20
I've become familiar with Rachel Maddow through her frequent appearances on Keith Olbermann's Countdown show, which I watch through Crooks and Liars, and I'm a bit of a fan. At this Pandagon post we see Maddow going head to head with a crazy person who supports abstinence-only education, and she pulls no punches.
My favourite bit is towards the end:
Maddow: If abstinence programs are being used to substitute for programs that actually give people usable information about contraception, STDs and HIV, then they are killing people.Thank you, Ms. Maddow.
It's also nice to see a host (in this case, Dan Abrams) who doesn't feel he has to be carefully neutral when faced with the choice between hard data and gibbering idiocy.
I can't help it. I know that this has been around and back on the internets already, but I just can't stop finding it funny as hell.
That, in case anyone was wondering, was not a recycled screenshot. No, I took that screenshot my very own self around nine this evening. Let it be known that as of nine this evening, Conservapedia's Homosexuality page had received twenty thousand more hits than its main page. Freakin hilarious!
Posted by Jake at 22:02
Via Pandagon, Melissa McEwan of Shakesville has an excellent post up about the problem of disembodied girly bits.
If you can stomach the whole thing, I recommend going through it one at a time, if only to allow the effect of "okay, that's gotta be it. What?!? ANOTHER one?!?" to sink in. But if you really can't stomach it then at least scroll to the bottom and read what she actually has to say. My favourite bit?
I'm a girl with absolutely no interest in participating in my own subjugation, thank you very much.This post was part of a so-far-ten-part series McEwan is doing on the appalling prevalence of bits-of-women novelty items available for sale, everything from rape-me pencil holders to vagina urinals. The tenth post here linked has links to the first nine. The above-linked exhaustive boobie list was number eight.
Misogynist pipsqueak, perpetual moron and Dembski minion Sal Cordova recently discovered that evolutionary biologist Joan Roughgarden is a trans woman, and he spent the first half of his post about her clutching his testicles crying "Oh noes! Do not be takin mah harbls!!!" About that there's not much to say that Myers at Pharyngula hasn't already said, so I'll just refer you to him, and then pick up where he left off.
After his flop sweat subsided, Cordova non sequitured his way bizarrely into a bloviation about how men are better leaders than women because... um... hrm.
Well, let's see. It would appear that Cordova is personally acquainted with a statistically significant proportion of beautiful 24-year-old girls, and that given the choice between
1. A male boss who has a lovely wife and familyOf course this survey Cordy conducted* is flawed in a number of ways. For example, we're not given equivalent information about the two options. Does the female boss have a lovely wife and family? How old is the male boss? I'm disappointed that such a distinguished researcher as Cordova would make such an elementary mistake.
2. A female boss who is 50 years old
[...]I’ve found that the beautiful 24-year-olds will generally realize an old female boss might have many hidden jealousies, the male boss will be more desirable in various ways
In an equally rigourous examination of "intelligent and ambitious" guys, Cordy finds that "a lot of guys would be inclined to think the man will be a better leader to lead them into battle."
Now, it's not clear to me what leading people into battle has to do with the sexist discrimination that Roughgarden encountered at Stanford after her transition, but I'm sure Cordova had excellent reasons for choosing that criterion.
There's just one small mistake Cordova made that I feel I should point out:
"I’m sure my statements are controversial..."
Listen, you moron. Parroting tired stereotypes does not qualify as making controversial statements. To make controversial statements you first have to have something resembling an original thought.
*And I'm sure he conducted a survey. How else would he have reached his conclusion?
Posted by Jake at 16:35
To sane, normal people, the willingness to engage in slavery denialism is a sign that someone is both delusional and a rabid racist, but to the Discovery Institute, it no doubt showed a stellar willingness to stand up to the tyranny of reality.
There's apparently a big flutter (at least Pharyngula's all worked up) because the Halton Catholic school board has pulled a book authored by an atheist from the shelves. I think this is a little out of proportion, though. The parts of the article that I found most interesting, actually, were this:
Scott Millard, manager of library services with the board, told CTV.ca on Friday that the review has been board policy since 1990 and that "any community member has the right to request a re-examination of learning or library material."and this
After reading the book, the committee will complete an evaluation form that examines a "wide variety of criteria" including grammar, plausibility, language, plot, etc.It seems from the article that any parent can request an evaluation of any book, and that book will be pulled (not banned, mind, just pulled from public display but available on request) until a committee has made a decision. I don't think this is necessarily a bad policy. I tend to lean towards allowing lots of freedom in what literature should be available, but there's a valid argument to me be made against a school library carrying, for example, hate speech, and this policy could help weed that out, depending on the exact criteria the committee uses. Obviously there's plenty of room for the policy to be abused, as in this case, but if the committee evaluating the book is actually objective (and there's been no indication that they aren't), then the worst that can happen is the book will spend some time behind the counter and everyone's time will have been wasted. Maybe these abuses could be curbed by having a list of valid reasons why books should be reevaluated, and sticking to it.
Speaking of criteria, though, here's what I'm really wondering about: If a parent were to request an evaluation of the Bible, would it pass an unbiased committee? Obviously, finding that committee would be problematic, but if you could. I think it should be tried; at the very least it would be funny.
But I think Seth may be right.
He says that the Intelligent Design assertion fails, not because that something looks designed shouldn't be taken as evidence that it is designed, but rather because
Living things don't look like they were designed. They don't look remotely designed, at any level, from super-macro to super-micro. From forests to molecules, the incredibly paucity of structures or systems that even vaguely resemble human creations is astonishing. Sure, we've copied natural features to supplement our terrible, inefficient, and ridiculous attempts at designing usefull things. But nothing that we do looks even a little like the inside of a cell, ccd chips don't look like retina, we can't build a decent sphincter and as for proteins... don't even get me started. We can't even model the mechanisms of protein folding, much less design something that works like one. Nothing designed looks or behaves anything like a protein.
I'm not sure, though. I'm not convinced that saying something is more complicated than anything we can design necessarily implies that it therefore doesn't look designed. And I think maybe Seth is misinterpreting Dawkins. I doubt very much that any biologist (well, except Behe), would say that living things look designed once they're examined properly. But I think it is the case that on first, uncritical glance, living structures can look designed. Once we understand how evolution works, of course, then that becomes a better explanation for what we see, because it accounts for inefficiencies and suboptimal configurations that intelligent design wouldn't bring about. So on more detailed examination living things don't look designed, because they instead look evolved.
Of course, this is all very fuzzy, because we talk about things that may or may not "look designed", but we never really say what 'looks designed' means. I think we need a specific definition for that term, but I'm not going to provide it because I'm tired.
And there are other, entirely sufficient reasons why ID is a non-starter. It makes no predictions. It has no explanatory power. It is therefore not falsifiable.
What more do we need?
So, yeah, I take it back. I think Seth is wrong.
All arguments of the following form are hereby banned from use:
1. "No/yeah, cuz I knew this guy once, and he..."
2. "If we had data, I think it would probably show X. In light of X, so-and-so is clearly right/wrong"
All people using arguments of this form shall be sentenced to live in a world such arguments produce.
Since I can't send this email to him, I'm posting it here instead. Gotta vent somewhere.
It seems to me someone might want to update the dates and information on the assignments page. I mean, I know the prof is terribly busy, what with having to create a midterm – no wait, the questions are reused from year to year... okay, marking a midterm – no wait, that's done by machine... okay, adjusting the midterm grades – no wait, that's also a job a machine can do... okay, marking our assignments – no, we do that... okay, preparing lectures and slides – nope those are reused year to year too... okay, answering email – nope, three emails I sent this semester went unanswered. Anyway, I'm sure he spent at least an hour writing that screed against cellphone use while driving that we have to respond to, so he's clearly a very busy man, but maybe one of his minions could bother to update the instructions and due dates on the assignment page.
You know, for the assignment that's due on Wednesday? That page.
It's an adjective usually applied to faces, but after reading this article, I couldn't think of a better descriptor.
It's not that the content is idiotic (though it is), but that the style is uniquely, um,
Superfluous parentheses. What else can I say?
There's a story my mother likes to tell about her experience with a philosopher. The philosopher gives her an example of what, to him, is an interesting philosophical question. He asks her, "is gasoline wet?"
"Well," responds my mother, "that depends on how you define 'wet'. If 'wet' means 'contains water', the no, gasoline is not wet. If wet means 'is liquid', then the answer is yes."
"All right," says the philosopher, "but is gasoline really wet?"
What my mother said in response, history does not relate.
My father told me the other day about a revelation he had had about the nature of philosophy. Philosophers of all stripes, he had realized, seem to be convinced that there is some sort of really real, objective Truth out there, that is unrelated to our human ideas about the universe and how it works. And they see their jobs as being to figure out what this capital-T Truth is.
And, I added, they seem to think that they way to do that is to sit on their asses and scratch their heads.*
Well, a couple months ago I had my own revelation about the field of philosophy. I realised that the entire field consisted of a group of people who were always talking at cross purposes because they refuse to define their terms. And they refuse to define their terms, I realised, because if they did their entire field would disappear. You can't have any kind of lengthy, balls-scratching discussion about how wet gasoline is really if you can agree on what 'wet' means. Once you do that, the question becomes empirical. That's not just true of entirely inane questions like the gasoline one, either. Once you define your terms, most questions become empirical.
When I told my dad about my revelation, he suggested that maybe philosophy could be a worthwhile endeavor if it limited itself to discussion of how to define terms. For example, it might lend itself well to the question of what 'truth' means. But no, I replied, that just takes it a step back, but doesn't change the situation. Because if you're asking how you should define 'truth' (for example), then what you're really asking is what is the best or optimal definition of the word. At which point all you have to do is define 'best' or 'optimal' and the question once more becomes empirical.
But, as I said above, if you define your terms, only most question become empirical. Some may not, depending on how you define your terms. If, for example, you insist on defining 'truth' as this unknown, objective "reality" that exists entirely external to our senses and reason, then the question of whether any statement is true is not empirical. But, since it is in that case a question that it is theoretically impossible to answer (since it is, by definition, impossible to know if the truth our senses and reason show us is the same as this hypothetical, objective Truth that it is supposed exists), I can't for the life of me understand why anyone would waste time thinking about it.
And that's why philosophy is stupid.
*I'm fairly certain that the word I said out loud was heads, but the word I was thinking of was balls
Posted by Jake at 23:36
So, we already knew that Toronto sucks, but I guess didn't realise just how much.
So, a year and a half ago I took a quiz to determine how many Earths we would need if everyone lived like me. It turned out the answer was 2.4, which totally blows.
My lifestyle isn't substantially different now from how it was then in terms of the choices I make, but where I live has severely constrained those choices. For example, I can't use my bike as my primary mode of transportation anymore because here in the suburbs nothing is fucking biking distance, but we can't live downtown because it's too damned expensive. Also, I buy all my groceries at supermarkets, because that's the only place there is, which means that I have no idea how much, if any, is locally grown.
Now it would take 3.4 Earths to sustain 6.5 billion of me.
Stupid Toronto. grmblgrmbl
To the morons in my anatomy class: If you're old enough to be taking classes at university, you're old enough to use the word vagina. I mean really.
I had hoped that not having a television would protect me from this unfortunate new phenomenon (Amanda Marcotte has more on the topic here), but apparently not.
Posted by Jake at 23:02
Especially his latest Special Comment.
As usual, I find his American exceptionalism to be kind of offensive, but other than that he's always quite good, and this time he's amazing.
And while we're at it, on a considerably lighter note, everyone should also watch this recent talk by Richard Dawkins.
I haven't bothered to watch the Q & A (you can find it here if you're interested), so I don't know if anyone has asked him to elaborate on his throw-away "abuse" comment at the end of the talk, which I would have liked him to do, but other than that I found this to be one of his better presentations.
Posted by Jake at 22:34
Every halloween of my childhood I went out. I kept going trick or treating until people started turning me away, at about age 14 or 15, then I got up to other age-appropriate revelry, like scary movies, Samhain rituals, parties, whatever. Then, when I was 17 I moved out, and have lived in apartments every since. For the first time since I moved out, I happen to be at my parents place this halloween. So I insisted that my dad and I buy some candy and put it in the orange plastic bowl and put that bowl by the door, just like it always was when I was on my way out for my reveling. I promised that I'd take care of the hordes.
You know what? It's not as exciting as I expected. I was hoping for something like this, but instead, it's all just lame fairy princess costumes and no eye contact.
Apparently, Hamas is training American Muslim college students in terrorist techniques. Now, I don't want to come off as fear mongering here, but I think we all need to be very careful. Muslim girls in American colleges have learned the previously-unknown-to-them terrorist techniques of wearing head scarves, rolling their eyes, and getting up to pee. If we don't act now, no psychotic right-wing Christian speaker will ever be safe from... um... neutral or mildly rude behaviour?
Shit, I can't keep this up. I can't even pretend to follow the reasoning here. Just go read Thers' post cuz it's funny as hell.
I first got the idea for bitter hot chocolate from Toi, Moi et Fumée,** who serve it that way, with a sugar bowl so you can sweeten it to your taste. I found that I liked my hot chocolate very bitter indeed, with just barely enough sugar to take the edge off the cocoa.
Here's how you make it so that the cocoa dissolves properly. It's usually not worth the effort if you're only making it for one, because it's a pain to deal with one mug's worth of milk on the stove, but if there's two or more of you, it's perfect.
cocoa powder (NOT hot chocolate powder)
pot large enough to hold all the milk
tea strainer like this (plastic is also fine)
funnel or ladle
mugs, spoons, and so forth for serving.
Measure the milk by filling the mug you'll be drinking out of until it's just slightly fuller than you would want, and then pouring it into the pot. Do that as many times as there are people.
Put the pot on the stove at medium heat and let it warm a bit (it shouldn't be close to boiling). Add the cocoa, about 2.5-3tbsp/person, as follows: over the pot, dump about 1.5tbsp cocoa into the tea strainer, then tap the tea strainer on the edge of the pot to sift the cocoa into the milk, while stirring constantly with the wooden spoon. Make sure that the first strainer's worth of cocoa is fully dissolved before you add the next one. Keep this up until all the cocoa is dissolved in the milk. At this point the milk should be quite warm. If it isn't, keep it on medium heat, stirring constantly, until it is. You may have to turn the heat down at some point during the dissolving process to keep the milk from boiling, which you do not want. Also, if you really stir constantly it will prevent the milk from acquiring a skin.
Dish up the hot cocoa using the funnel or ladle and serve with a sugar bowl and spoons. I like to add just under a teaspoon of sugar to my mug, but ymmv.
I'm very proud of this recipe, as I invented it my very own self. It's kind of a no-brainer, but my biggest problem with hot cocoa was always getting the cocoa properly dissolved, and I can now declare that no longer a problem.
*Which has no business being spelled like that, but WordReference.com swears up and down that there's no accent on that e. Any francophones care to weigh in?
**I guess we have to rename it now that Quebec has gone smoke-free indoors
I have four midterms and a major lab report to do before the end of next week. Don't be surprised if you don't hear from me until then. Also, don't be surprised if you find yourselves picking little bits of my brain out of your hair after my head explodes from stress. Anyone want to read and summarize a bunch of articles on sexual selection/prey selection tension in guppies for me? No? Oh well.
I just spent a full minute grumping about how CBC's insistence on using Windoze Media format for their streaming audio makes it impossible for me to listen to the live election results until I remembered that, hey, there's an *actual radio* sitting on the shelf in the living room. It's plugged in and works and everything.
I'm a moron.
This is a bit of an update for all the friends and relations who will get grumpy that I didn't tell them what was going on. Some of you already know all or some of this, and if you don't know me in real life, you probably won't care about most of this. Anyway, onward:
1) School. After a week and a half of class I realized that being a paramedic was not for me. Not even as a fallback if I don't get into medical school. I realized that if that happened, I would work for a couple of years, get bored, and go back to school so that I could do research or something. So why not just cut out that middle step? I've switched to a program in human biology, which a) means I get to do all sorts of exciting courses like Evolution and Ecology and b) means that I'll be in a position, in 3 years, to apply to both med school and grad school, and while I do have some doubts about my ability to get into and survive med school, I have no such doubts about grad school, and except for biochem, I don't think there's a field of biology I wouldn't be ultimately happy working in.
2) Hair. eek.
I do this about once every five years. It starts with a general feeling of malaise concerning my hairstyle. A deep ennui with the long, straight-across-the-bottom cut that I've had now for 13 years. I start toying with the idea of doing something with it. I consider shaving it all off. I consider going to a stylist and telling them to go wild. It continues into a realization that my unwillingness to spend time daily (or even weekly) on my appearance and a deep loathing for all things styling-product are major obstacles to having a cool and interesting hairstyle. But, since it's been about five years since I last put scissors to my hair, the split ends are kind of out of control, and I really really really am sick of the status quo, it culminates (after months of agonizing) in me going AAARGGGH NO MORE SPLIT ENDS!!! and calling on some available person (usually my mom, once a friend, this time Dave) to CUT THEM OFF, DAMMIT!! Then, once the cutting commences, I agonize about how short it's gonna be and I start to wish I hadn't done it. This time it's even shorter than usual for these episodes, just barely past my shoulders. I keep exclaiming about how I have short hair now, and Dave keeps trying to tell me that hair past your shoulders isn't short, but he's wrong. This is how much of a loser I am: cutting six inches off the end of my hair is a traumatic experience for me.
Anyway, I have some ideas about colour, but I'm not going to say anything unless/until I decide to actually go through with it. I'll update a picture of the new cut as soon as I can get the camera to talk to the computer.
UPDATE: Apparently when I wrote this, the Halton Catholic School Board hadn't actually made its decision, it was just considering it. They have since voted 4-3 to allow the vaccines, which is uncomfortably close for something that shouldn't even be an issue, but nonetheless worlds better than the alternative.
Via Pharyngula: Apparently the Halton Catholic school board is banning their school nurses from administering the HPV vaccine. I thought this sort of "What about the children" sex-panic was limited to those morons south of the border*, but apparently we have our share of home-grown morons.
If this were a case of parents opting out of the vaccine I would almost be able to sympathise. To be convinced that your daughter is too sweet and pure to possibly have sex until she's married (to another virgin, natch) is stupid, but sort of understandable. Parents are often stupid about their kids' sexuality. But it's not conceivable that a school board is that deluded about all its female students. If the administrators are not aware that teenagers have sex, then they are not qualified to do their jobs. And since the only way to get the HPV vaccine for free in Ontario is to be an eighth-grade girl and get it through school, and since the cost of the vaccine is prohibitive if you're not in that group ($450 all told), and since condoms don't offer very good protection against HPV, what this amounts to is the school board saying that if you're a girl and you have sex then you deserve to get cancer.
And the Tories think we need more of this?
*Said with sincerest sympathies for those non-morons who are also south of the border
Posted by Jake at 11:09
Today I learned:
- What squamous, cuboidal, and columnar cells look like. I can identify simple and pseudostratified columnar, and stratified squamous fairly reliably, but the rest need some practice.
- About action potentials in neurons. If the graded potential* is still at -55mV or higher by the time it reaches the axon hillock** then it will trigger an action potential, which involves the opening of voltage-gated Na-channels, allowing Na+ to enter the cell down its electrochemical gradient, causing the membrane potential (Vm) to spike as high as +30mV. This triggers the closing of the Na-channels. At some point during all this the voltage-gated K-channels open, allowing K+ to leave the cell along its electrochemical gradient. The K-channels stay open after the Na-channels close, causing the Vm to drop until it's below its resting potential, at which point all the voltage-gated K-channels close again, leaving onoly a few K-leak channels open to let a bit of K+ in until the Vm is back to its resting point (~70mV) and the cell is at rest again. Two things I'm not entirely clear on:
- When do the K-channels open and what triggers it?
- At the end of the process the voltage across the membrane (Vm) is restored to its rest state, but the chemical gradient is not. There is too much Na+ and not enough K+. Maybe that's what the K/Na pump is for? But since the K/Na pump exports 3 Na+ for every 2 K+ it imports, using that to restore the concentrations would change the voltage, wouldn't it? It's all very confusing.
- If you're a Psychology prof then you're a Real Scientist(TM) and are entitled to cast aspersions on any scientific theory you want, like for example the big bang, whether you understand it or not.
*Not entirely clear what that is.
**Why hillock? Why not?
Posted by Jake at 12:14
I'm sure most current and former Ontarians remember the horrors of our last Tory government. Remember that asshole whose funding cuts to health care and education ran into billions of dollars? Remember the Education Minister who never finished highschool? Remember how no one in that government gave a shit what the people they were governing wanted? Good times.
Well, in case you had forgotten, or weren't here for it, or were too young to remember, or just got dropped on your head too many times as a child, and were thinking of voting PC this October, they've just stepped up with an excellent reason why you shouldn't. Not only have they come up with the worst possible solution to the problem of Ontario's publicly funded religious schools (make more of them!), their leader, John Tory, put his foot firmly in his mouth by saying that these brand new public religious schools he wants to fund would be able to teach creationism. Of course he's backpedalling like crazy now, and to be fair, I believe he is sincere in saying that he believes in evolution and meant that creationism would only be taught in religion classes,* as is apparently already the case with Catholic Schools.** But isn't it nice when they shoot themselves so squarely in the foot like that?
And, while we're on the topic, is anyone else annoyed that the Liberals and NDP are a bunch of chickenshit pansies, and the Green Party is the only party with a sensible position on this issue?
I'm actually really annoyed with the Libs and NDP right now. I'd almost rather they agreed with the Tories than take their namby-pamby no-boat-rocking status quo position. Maybe I'm naive, but I expected better from both parties. The status quo is both idiotic and discriminatory. The Tories are at least doing something, and their position does eliminate the discrimination (on the other hand it increases the idiocy, so I'm calling it a draw). Sticking with an bad situation because you'll offend some morons by proposing change is nothing but cowardice.
I'll keep an eye on these pages of The Star to see what's what, but I may end up having to vote Green this time around.
Oh, and this isn't the last time I'll say this before October 10th, I'm sure, but whether you agree with my post or not, if you're a Canadian citizen and an Ontario resident, and you're over 18 years old, please, please, please vote next month. Democracies only work when we participate.
*Which is all well and good but ought to be a moot point since public funding should not be fucking going to religion classes in the first place.
**Did you know this? I didn't know this.
It's a regular on cop shows, and it goes like this:
A crime is committed in Chinatown.* The locals don't want to go to the police, but you can't really keep a death/explosion/kidnapping secret, so they find out anyway. The cop assigned to the case suspects the local Chinese organized crime group (LCOCG), but since no one who witnessed or knows about the crime will talk to him**, he's blocked at every turn and the LCOCG continues to threaten and harm and generally cause mayhem until finally, out of desperation, someone close to the original crime victim agrees to talk to the cop, whereupon she is rewarded for her wise trust in the police by seeing all the leaders of the LCOCG arrested and, if applicable, all kidnapped people returned unharmed. Unless, of course, she waited too long, in which case the mob bosses are still arrested and she is sternly reminded that if only she had come forward sooner poor Nathan Wu would still be alive and what has she learned from all this?
Does anyone else feel like they're being forced to vicariously act like a patronizing asshole when they're watching these sorts of things? Cuz I do.
You know, just once I'd like to see a story where a crime committed in Chinatown is not committed by the Chinese Mafia, the victims and/or families thereof cooperate with police as much as the details of the story allow, and cooperating with the police is not a deus ex machina for getting the damn crime solved. I feel like that's not really a lot to ask.
*Extra points if Torontonians can identify the streets they're shooting on.
**Even more points if a woman on the police force makes some halfhearted comment about the Chinese people's fear of white cops being justified on account of a history of institutionalized racism, which comment is promptly forgotten by all.
When your math-studying, RPG-playing, comic book-reading, SF-reading and -watching, computer-programming, Buffy fan of an SO says you're too geeky, well, you know something ain't right. Here's a conversation Dave and I had last night:
Me, coming out of shower: So, I've discovered a major continuity error from seasons six and seven of Buffy.*
Me: Okay, so, you know how there's that episode towards the end of season six where Spike tries to rape Buffy?
Me: And Buffy had already told Xander that she and Spike had been sleeping together, but that she'd broken it off, right?
Me: So anyway, in that episode, after Spike takes off, Xander shows up at Buffy's house, and he sees Spike's leather jacket on the railing, and he mutters to himself something about "oh yeah, it's over is it?" and grabs the jacket and heads upstairs, but when he sees Buffy in the bathroom he just dumps the jacket aside to help her.
Me: And the next time any of the Scoobies see Spike, it's season seven and he's insane in the school basement. And later in season seven he goes back to the basement to get his jacket, so we know he had it there.
Me: So, I wanna know how he got his jacket back.
Me: In fact, I think, later in that same episode in season six, when he's taking off for Africa on his motorcycle**, he's wearing his jacket. So, how did he get it back?
Dave: looks at me like I'm a freak
Dave: keeps looking at me
Dave: still looking at me
Me: Oh my god, I'm that guy!
Dave: Uh huh.
Me: I'm the comic book guy from The Simpsons! Oh shit.
Dave: Uh huh.
*To fully appreciate the geekitude here, you have to understand that it's not like I'd been watching Buffy really recently or anything.
**This motorcycle thing led to a tangent that I didn't want to allow to break up the flow above, but it was actually kind of funny:
Me: ...when he's taking off for Africa on his motorcycle -- which, wtf?
Dave: He must have gone via Bering.
Me: Or ocean liner.
Dave: I guess.
Me: Dude. Who the hell would go from *California* to Africa via Bering? By motorcycle? Do you know how long that would take?
Posted by Jake at 10:07
It all started with this strip from Penny Arcade. I don't get about 75% of the gaming-related jokes on PA, so I just figured this was another one of those, laughed at the non-reference aspect of the joke and moved on. Until this past Sunday, that is, when my sweetie pointed out that Chore Wars is real! Dude! Anyway, we set up a team and created a bunch of adventures and it's already started. This morning I yelled "No! Don't touch! I'm gonna wash those dishes!"
I think we may have found the solution to our lazy-assedness problem.
It's raining. Over the course of the past few minutes the light level went from comfortable-for-reading-don't-need-any-lights-on to holy-shit-where'd-the-sun-go? as a huge grey cloud moved overhead. Then the rain started coming down so quietly that it took me a few seconds to notice. The air was thick with raindrops, none of this couple-drops-a-second bullshit, but the individual drops were so small it felt more like falling mist at first. I've never seen that before.
Now it's a more normal storm, with thick drops and lightning and thunder and nothing but grey in all directions.
I was sitting with my laptop on the well-sheltered balcony, enjoying the cool air, but the wind picked up, so now I'm going to leave y'all inside with Pixie and go watch the rain fall.
Posted by Jake at 14:32
While washing my mug at 3:15 this afternoon, I all of a sudden heard the most awful piercing scream. At first I thought it was the pipes, and when turning the water off didn't make it stop, I turned to glare accusingly at my laptop, don't ask me why. Finally it twigged that this sounded alarmingly like the smoke detector, which I of course immediately glared at, until I realized that a) there was nothing in the apartment that could possibly be setting it off and b) there was a second tone sounding, almost as loud but slightly lower pitched, and sounding like it came from elsewhere in the building. Shit. It's not real, I told myself. Just a damned drill or something. I fancied I smelled smoke, but I knew that could be psychosomatic. Either way, it seemed that going out was unavoidable. Let it never again be said that one shouldn't leave one's clothing lying around. I was already wearing a sarong and slippers, and it took me but a split second to grab and put on the first top at hand (quelling irrational thoughts of "but it doesn't match!") In the time it took me to do that, I considered and rejected bringing my laptop, and remembered that my keys weren't in my purse. Fortunately they were in the first place I looked, so I grabbed them and my purse and headed out, locking the door behind me. In the hall there was no longer any question about the smoke.
Entering the stairwell, I joined a woman from the floor above me, also leaving the building. As we descended in silence, the smoke was getting thicker, and I was trying to remember what I had learned in school about what you do if the fire is between you and your exit. The only clear thought I had was "walking into fire = bad idea."* This continued until we reached the third floor landing, where we saw a woman sitting on the step, crying. She saw us and said "It's in my apartment. All my stuff is in there." "Okay," I replied, sympathetic sweetheart that I'm not, "we have to get out of the building. Come on." The other woman and I each took one of this woman's arms and coaxed her up and moving. Another floor down and another person, this one all panic-faced, asking "Where's the fire?" "It's on the third floor," I told her, "let's just get out of the building." This seemed to baffle her a bit, but she moved, and finally we were outside.
Everything is fine (except probably for that poor woman whose apartment it was), there was no damage to me or my place, and the fire fighters let us back in the building after about 25 minutes of watching first smoke, then water, pour out of a couple of third-floor windows. And that was my little adventure for today.
*While I know that fire alarms are designed to be rattling to get people moving, there's got to be some frequency/volume combination that has that effect without also seriously impeding cognitive function. Loud, high-pitched noises just make me stupid.
Warning to Toronto's Ward 7 residents. Your city councillor is a racist fuckhead. I heard on the CBC yesterday, I think on Here and Now, that Mammoliti wants to make bars' and clubs' liquor licenses contingent on a commitment from the owners/managers that they will not allow entrance to people wearing gang colours, or play gangster rap. Mammoliti's justification is that the music glorifies violence, specifically violence against women and cops*, and that it is therefore a legitimate question of safety.
The interviewer at least seemed to recognize the racist fuckheadery and challenged the councillor by a) pointing out that violence in clubs is bad for business, so club owners already take steps to discourage it by installing metal detectors and often banning gang colours of their own volition and b) asking the councillor if there was any evidence that listening to the type of music in question actually increases the incidence of violence. Mammoliti succeeded in avoiding this question, among others about whether the club owners themselves supported the new rules, and whether he was worried that this might constitute an unacceptable level of censorship.
At one point during the interview, Mammoliti showed his true colours by admitting that part of the point of the rule was that if clubs weren't allowed to play "music that glorifies guns and violence," then "those sorts of people" would be less likely to go to the clubs and cause problems. I kind of thought that everyone knew what "those sorts of people" meant, to the point that it had stopped being a useable euphemism for racist fuckheads who don't want to appear racist. Using that phrase in a discussion about rap music is about equivalent to using the phrase "money and the ethnic vote" in a discussion of Quebec elections, isn't it?
I have a question for Mr. Mammoliti. Sir, if you're so fucking worried about violence against women that you're willing to ban a music style to help prevent it, may we assume that you'll soon be banning The Beatles as well? After all a little glorification of stalking was not exactly uncommon in their lyrics, and stalking victims are often in serious danger from their stalkers. Or if we're talking generally dangerous, how about banning most American country music? I mean surely, in the long run, nationalistic pride and American exceptionallism are more dangerous than a few individuals with guns or knives, aren't they? Because, after all, this is about increasing safety, and not about keeping Black people out of bars, right?
Mr. Mammoliti, you're a racist fuckhead.
*Not usually a natural class
Thoughout this third season of Doctor Who, although I enjoyed many of the episodes and Martha was starting to grow on me as a character, there was one thing that absolutely drove me crazy. That was the way Martha pined after the doctor from day one, long before he'd shown himself to be deserving of it. With Rose it was different. She initially signed on with the Doctor not because of who he was, but because of where he could take her and what he could show her, and as they spent time together, their friendship grew stronger until they became inseparable. Martha, on the other hand, although she enjoys and participates fully in the adventures, seemed to initially be signing on so that she could be near the Doctor, and I just didn't see what was motivating that. But now I think I do. I was rewatching the beginning of the season because I had missed what this year's Bad Wolf/Torchwood equivalent was and now that it seemed to be coming to a head, I wanted to go back and find it. So I was watching the first episode and in the beginning Martha is kind of unsure of the Doctor, but thought he might know what he was doing, which was a sensible position given the evidence. Then, in order to save the world and for entirely non-romantic reasons (which he stresses), the Doctor kisses her, whereupon she gets all melty. Now with most people this wouldn't make sense, but since, as we all know, the Doctor is made of magic, I can see how being kissed by him might cause a person to fall immediately and completely in love with him and want to follow him to the end of the universe. It's still a cheap plot device that they could have done without, but it's better than no motivation at all.
Everyone knows that the Sex Geek is a genius, right?
Well if you don't, this should convince you:
So I told my aunt that I never really figured out I was queer. I just figured out, over a period of many years starting in early childhood, that everyone else wasn't.
Via Pharyngula, I found this news report about the companies DefamationAction.com and ComplaintRemover.com, which promise to remove unsavoury things posted about you or your company on the internet, for a fee. When I first read about this I figured they used legitimate legal threats against people who were committing libel, or at worst sent nastygrams. I was not expecting this:
This letter is being sent to you in the name of more than 500 businesses. No matter where you go, we will cause you a problem. Your life is in danger until you comply with our demands. This is your last warning.I mean, what? No, seriously. *This* is what companies pay, apparently, hundreds of dollars a year for? Badly spelled extortion? I have to say, if it weren't for the sheer hilarity, I'd be sorely disappointed. I mean, this is the online equivalent of a guy showing up at your door with a baseball bat. Except he's two feet tall and it's a Nerf bat.
Your neighbors already know about your criminal dealings and how you are making many people loose (sic) their business. You will soon be beaten to a pulp and pounced into the ground six feet under with a baseball bat and sleg (sic) hammer. You will soon be sorry not just from what I am capable of doing to you, but what other members will do as soon as they know exactly where you are. Its (sic) just a matter of time until I get to you.
Here is what you can do to save your life. But you must act imidiatly (sic). Make what ever deal it takes, you must comply.
I was at someone's house this evening watching So You Think You Can Dance (aside: yes that show is every bit as stupid as you expect it to be) and the girl half of a couple that was supposed to perform collapsed in rehearsal and had to be rushed to hospital, so in order for the boy to nonetheless get to perform they partnered him at the last minute with the choreographer's assistant. She was a woman of well over 200lbs and, knowing that the people outside of my lovely Montreal bubble can be ignorant jerks about size, I expected some awkward silence and nervous giggles. I was not remotely prepared for what did happen. Immediate hoots and hollers, cries of "ooh, that poor guy!" "Ew, he's going to have to touch her again!" "Oh, he's way to hot for this!" And of course when the choreography was remotely sexy the screams doubled. As if, because she's fat, her mere presence was somehow damaging to him. I mean the raw hatred and disgust emenating from my fellow guests was soul-shattering. How people get filled with that much hate and manage to go on with their lives just baffles me*.
I was inclined to just bitch about how much I hate it here outside my bubble, but the fact is that the worst, most discouraging part of the whole experience was me. Because I said nothing. I sat in silence as this fountain of hate erupted around me and did nothing. How could I? How could I have failed myself so utterly? Because I was worried about my relationship with my host. Because I didn't want them to see my tears. Because I knew that if I did speak up they would look at me and dismiss my words, forgetting that I felt the same way when I was 30lbs lighter and still worthy of respect.
There's still a lot of distance between me and the sort of woman I want to become. The terrifying sort of woman in front of whom people are afraid to speak, lest they say something stupid.
In the mean time, this is what I can do in my cowardice. Too scared to speak aloud when it mattered, I can now sit at my keyboard and type.
You can find the details and sources here and here, but this is what I have to say:
1) Being fat is not bad. Fat people live longer, have lower incidence of cardiovascular disease, and (among women) reach menopause later than thin people.
2) Being fat is not something people can help. Fat people have the same diet and excersize habits as thin people. The only reliable way to acheive and maintain weight loss is to go on a lifelong starvation diet.
3) Losing weight is bad for you. Losing and gaining weight repeatedly is really fucking bad for you.
Someday I will have the courage of my convictions. For now I have a blog.
Update: Thanks to parodie in the comments for pointing me to this video:
*Just so's we're clear here, this woman was a trained dancer. She knew the steps and she moved well. She was strong and, in order to pull off some of those moves, in excellent shape. The ONLY thing people were laughing about was her size
I firmly do not believe that multiple marriage has anything at all to do with same-sex marriage. The MacLean’s article says, “Marriage, already open to same-sex couples, could become a very crowded institution.” Oh, for Chrissakes. Did you really need to toss a sprinkling of homophobia into the mix? Because we queers are crowding the straights, is that it? Invading their personal space, perhaps? I didn’t realize that marriage was a room with a maximum capacity. Are we a frickin’ fire hazard now? Screw you. Get the fuck over it, people.I agree that that was a homophobic and assholish comment on the part of the McLean's author, and that people do need to get the fuck over it, but I strongly disagree that same sex marriage has nothing to do with non-religious polygamy. Indeed, I think they are two aspects of the very same issue.
To me, the crux of the SSM debate was whether we wanted marriage to be a religiously defined institution, based on traditional ideas of relationships as necessary for social-group-mixing, transfer of property, etc., or an institution based on sense and legal expediency, providing humane and reasonable ways of dealing with such questions as health-benefit sharing and income tax on households that share expenses, child custody when households split up, etc. If we decide on the latter then the reasons for restricting the institution to groups of two evaporate along with the reasons for keeping it between opposite sex couples.
Like Andrea, I think that marriage is an out-moded, irrelevant, oppressive, and mysogynist institution (which is what I assume she means when she says "marriage kinda sucks"), and I think we need something new. If people want their religious institutions to bless their romantic/sexual relationships, that's their business, but I don't want to have to be involved in their fight to get the religious institutions to bless *this* particular pairing, or *that* particular set up. That is so resoundingly not my problem, and the best way to keep it that way is to make religious marriage an exclusively religious institution, carrying no legal weight whatsoever, and come up with something else on the legal side of things. I think what would work best (and Andrea touches on this as well) is a set of standard but tweakable contracts that have more to do with how a household is set up financially and in terms of child care, and don't worry about who's fucking whom. I agree that we need a system where two people in a romantic triad can sponsor the third for immigration based on their relationship, but I don't think that's enough. We need a system where a woman who stays home to care for her sister's or adult daughter's child will qualify for domestic partner benefits, and get consideration in terms of custody should the household split up. Households and families do not always consist of two (or more) adults who are sexual partners, plus kids. Adult siblings living together, groups of unrelated but not-sexually-involved women living together to share resources and raise their kids, grown children living with their parents or aunts/uncles, and all manner of other households are all completely normal, healthy and good ways to live, and the law needs to reflect that.
I think the conservatives who screamed that same-sex marriage was just a stepping stone towards allowing consenting adults to enter into whatever relationship they wanted, with full legal sanction, were absolutely right. I just don't see what the bad is.
After all, that's the only time this happens to me. And it sucks because it means that tomorrow in the big parade I may have no choice but to wear a shirt. Stupid sunny dyke march.
The bra- and tank top-lines provide a nice contrast (although what you see in the picture is nothing compared to what it looks like in real life) but are also evidence of my not having gone completely topless. For the first time since my first Pride when I was 16, I covered my boobs (although I did lose the top and wear just a bra for most of the march). I must be getting old.
* * * * *SPOILER ALERT - If you haven't seen all of Torchwood yet and don't want to know, don't read this post* * * * *
For all its flaws (and they are legion), Torchwood will always hold a place in my heart as the first show I've seen to completely normalize same-sex relationships. Generally, when we think about shows that normalize queers we think of things like Queer as Folk or The L Word. But QAF and The L Word aren't really shows about anything. They're not mysteries, or medical shows, or sci fi, or cop shows, or anything. They're personal dramas, about relationships and sex and love and friendships and rivalries. They're shows about gay people being gay. And that's fine as far as it goes, but Torchwood takes it a step further. Torchwood is a science fiction show about a group of people who work for an alien-watching organization, and that is *really* what the show is about. They have adventures and fight aliens and screw around with advanced technologies they have no business touching and open tears in the fabric of space and time, and *that* is what drives the plot. But, like any remotely decent show, the primary characters have personal lives beyond the main focus of the show and we see depth and development in their interactions with each other. And not a single one of them is entirely monosexual.
The main character, Gwen, is primarily straight. She has a steady boyfriend and there are strong indications that this is not an exception for her, but there is one episode that has her making out with a girl under the influence of alien pheromones and, while this may not be something she does every day, there is nothing in her manner to suggest that she finds it shocking or disgusting after the fact.
Captain Jack, as many of us know from Doctor Who, is just a good old-fashioned slut. He'll sleep with anything pretty enough, it doesn't even have to be human, and he likes it that way. This fact seems totally fine with the rest of the Torchwood staff.
Owen is, for the most part, a womanizing jackass, but if the boyfriend of the woman he is currently, um, izing, kicks a fuss, Owen is more than happy to arrange to bring them both home with him in order to keep the peace.
We see many indications throughout the show that Toshiko is pining after Owen, but when the right woman comes along, Tosh falls head over heels. Although things don't work out for them (the woman ends up being a murdering alien in disguise, in love with Tosh but also using her to get inside Torchwood) and Tosh's colleagues suggest that maybe falling for a murdering alien isn't the best course of action, the fact that the murdering alien was also a woman doesn't enter into it. And in fact, Gwen specifically tells Tosh that she shouldn't let this put her off relationships, because "love suited [her]".
And finally, Ianto, who we know is Jack's at-least-occasional lover, we find out also has/had a girlfriend who he is madly in love with.
In addition to having all these wonderfully queer characters, another thing that the writers, etc. on Torchwood do right is how they write their same-sex relationships. It's done respectfully and realistically, with the relationships varying, depending on the situations and the personalities of the participants. There are no archetypal gay or lesbian couplings to be found. We are not banged over the head with any "look, this character is gay, GAY!!!" stereotyping, nor are we subjected to idiotic are-they-aren't-they? ambiguities a la early Willow and Tara or late Xena and Gabrielle. The same-sex sex scenes are shown every bit as explicitly as the opposite sex ones (which is to say not very) and the characters' interactions are as complex or superficial as one would expect from a straight couple in a similar situation.
I know that British television is a lot more willing to push the envelope with this sort of thing, but for those of us exposed mostly to North American media, this is downright revolutionary and, crappy writing and acting be damned, I want the show to continue and, if it hasn't already, air here.
I honestly never thought I'd make it this long. When I started I had planned for it to be temporary. I would never have been able to start if I'd thought I was committing myself for life, so I didn't. I just did it "for now". But how many "now"s are there in a decade?
At this point it's become automatic. In the moment, I don't even consider the alternative. In my more philosophical moods, I do sometimes wonder why I do it. Ask myself if it's still worth it. I always come back with 'yes'. Sometimes for strong environmental reasons, sometimes just so that I can say that I did it, so that I can have moments like this one, right now, where I can say it's been ten years, and good for me, even if no one else seems to think it's an accomplishment.
My first official meal as a vegetarian was at a Victoria Day barbeque (I brought veggie dogs, everyone else ate meat). Anyone want to barbeque some soy-and-liquid-smoke product with me tomorrow to celebrate? Does anyone I know in this city even have a barbeque? Let me know in the comments.
Hope everyone had a fun Dead Jew on a Stick Weekend. We had a moveable seder with my dad's family yesterday, and then a with-all-the-trimmings turkey dinner with my mom's family today (not traditional, I know, but I think my cousins would eat turkey 365 days a year if their parents would let them). I am pleased to report that, while I did do my share of dishes, I once more managed to get myself replaced at the sink before the turkey-cooking/serving dishes were to be washed. One of the very few personal practical advantages to being vegetarian is never having to clean dishes with congealed animal fat, and I refuse to give that up just because other people insist on their ritual sacrifices (thank you, Anya).
I so familied out. I think if I see another relative I will start pulling hair, and not likely my own. Fortunately, my sweetie wasn't able to come to turkey dinner today, so I can still stand the sight of him. Isn't he lucky?
Also, I am pleased to report that since changing jobs, I've been immeasureably happier.
Also, I want to be a good Net community member and plug Natives of the New Dawn, because their song "Good Day" rocks and they're being kind enough to provide it for free.
Other than still being hoarse and coughing, I was finally feeling back to 100% yesterday, and the apartment basically hadn't seen a lick of cleaning since before I got sick, so I decided I was better off staying home and washing dishes (while feeding my latest addiction). I'm glad I did. Although the laundry still isn't done, and I haven't done this week's cooking yet, the place looks fantastic. There's hardly a dirty dish in the house.
For those who are interested, Dave has a post up about the Café Scientifique.
Posted by Jake at 21:34
Next Saturday is Toronto's March Café Scientifique. This month's topic is supposed to be "Nature vs Nurture Revisited: New research is changing the age-old debate". As with last month's topic, it could be good or it could be excrutiatingly post-modern.
Be there or be decidedly unsquare. DendriteJungle and Q. Pheevr, I'm looking at you.
This is supposed to be the first day of my last week at my soon-to-be-former job, but instead of going in and toughing it out just 4 more days!, I'm flat on my back with something upper-respiratory and hopefully viral. I didn't sleep for more than an hour at a go last night, and my chest hurts if I take deep breaths or cough too much (lothlyn, poof, got any advice?). Damn.
I can't decide if my peppermint tea tastes funny because I'm sick, or because it's old, or because I didn't wash the teapot before using it (it seemed clean). On the plus side, I was spending the week at my parents' house anyway (because it's closer to the office than my apartment is) so my dad can take care of me this morning before he goes to work.
Awesome Ember concert last night, though.
Via Pharyngula, the top 50 SF&F books of the past 50 years, with the ones I've read in bold (and the one I think I may have read but don't remember and am not sure in italics).
The Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien
The Foundation Trilogy, Isaac Asimov
Dune, Frank Herbert
Stranger in a Strange Land, Robert A. Heinlein
A Wizard of Earthsea, Ursula K. Le Guin
Neuromancer, William Gibson
Childhood's End, Arthur C. Clarke
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, Philip K. Dick
The Mists of Avalon, Marion Zimmer Bradley
Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury
The Book of the New Sun, Gene Wolfe
A Canticle for Leibowitz, Walter M. Miller, Jr.
The Caves of Steel, Isaac Asimov
Children of the Atom, Wilmar Shiras
Cities in Flight, James Blish
The Colour of Magic, Terry Pratchett
Dangerous Visions, edited by Harlan Ellison
Deathbird Stories, Harlan Ellison
The Demolished Man, Alfred Bester
Dhalgren, Samuel R. Delany
Dragonflight, Anne McCaffrey
Ender's Game, Orson Scott Card
The First Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever, Stephen R. Donaldson
The Forever War, Joe Haldeman
Gateway, Frederik Pohl
Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, J.K. Rowling
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams
I Am Legend, Richard Matheson
Interview with the Vampire, Anne Rice
The Left Hand of Darkness, Ursula K. Le Guin
Little, Big, John Crowley
Lord of Light, Roger Zelazny
The Man in the High Castle, Philip K. Dick
Mission of Gravity, Hal Clement
More Than Human, Theodore Sturgeon
The Rediscovery of Man, Cordwainer Smith
On the Beach, Nevil Shute
Rendezvous with Rama, Arthur C. Clarke
Ringworld, Larry Niven
Rogue Moon, Algis Budrys
The Silmarillion, J.R.R. Tolkien
Slaughterhouse-5, Kurt Vonnegut
Snow Crash, Neal Stephenson
Stand on Zanzibar, John Brunner
The Stars My Destination, Alfred Bester
Starship Troopers, Robert A. Heinlein
Stormbringer, Michael Moorcock
The Sword of Shannara, Terry Brooks
Timescape, Gregory Benford
To Your Scattered Bodies Go, Philip Jose Farmer
Sigh. Looks like I've got a long summer reading list.
I don't have time to be messing around with XML right now, and I couldn't get the commenting and ads working the way I wanted to quickly enough, so I'm just going back to a classic template for now.
There are things I like about the new template, though, so next time I have a week or so to spare I'll see about switching. For now, the main advantage to the classic template is that the XML is composed mostly of tags I recognize, whereas with the new template it's almost entirely custom blogger tags that I've never seen before and don't have time to spend learning.
So, yeah, back to the beginning for now.
The template upgrade isn't going as smoothly as I could have hoped, but it's going. TY to the Lingering Poof for all his advice.
In the mean time, however, I have an afternoon and evening of excitement planned. I will be going to my first ever Café Scientifique. Apparently they're once a month in Toronto. That's exciting. This month's topic is "Love in the time of science… Is romance just the right mix of genes and chemicals?" which could take a very Jared Diamond-like view and therefore be interesting, or could be all postmodern and dreadful. You can find the poster here(pdf). If I'm inspired, I might blog about it tomorrow, but in the mean time any Torontonians who are free this afternoon should come out. It's at the Rivoli Tavern at 334 Queen St. W in Toronto.
As you may have noticed, there are some changes going on here. I've upgraded to the new template and chose a slightly different template, because I felt like there was too much wasted space on the left side of the page before.
Right now I'm in the process of putting back the various elements that were lost in the switch, so bear with me for a bit.
When I was in middle school and highschool I had an English teacher named Mary Ann Duffy. She was an articulate, no-nonsense shit disturber. She was also the only English teacher I have met who had any brains at all.
I remember one of my first classes with her in grade 7. I was at a new school, hadn't really made friends yet and was nervous as hell, and she laughed at my joke when I answered her question "what kind of clauses are there other than a subordinate clause?" with, "an INsubordinate clause...?"
I remember laughing when we were reading Midsummernight's Dream and came to the line where Lysander says:
You have her father's love, Demetrius;(This is when Hermia's father is trying to convince her to marry Demetrius, but she and Lysander want to marry each other). And I remember Mary Ann appreciating that I laughed, and agreeing that it was funny (to the bafflement of my classmates who, I think, all thought Lysander was asking a question).
Let me have Hermia's: do you marry him
Mary Ann fertilised the writing seed Mr. Eckler had planted in me in elementary school, and she encouraged me in all the things I needed to be encouraged in. She thought it was important that we all speak our minds, and I think she saw it as a part of her job as English teacher to give us the tools we needed to speak our minds as effectively as possible. She taught us that it was possible to be diplomatic without compromising our message. She also taught us that sometimes diplomacy was not what was called for.
Some years after she had left the school, I learned that she had died of a brain tumor. I was very sad, not so much for myself, since it had been years since I'd seen her, but because the world needs as many Mary Anns as possible.
Then, just recently, I discovered Molly Ivins. When I saw her speaking in the Dildo Diaries, I realised that she was channelling Mary Ann (or maybe Mary Ann had been channelling Ivins). Mary Ann was exactly the type of person who would have had zero patience with the "dipshit stuff" that Ivins talks about in the video. Reading Ivins' columns, I heard them in Mary Ann's voice.
The more I read Ivins' work, the more I realised that, while Mary Ann was gone, and that was sad, we still had Ivins, and that made it just a little more okay. Watching this video that P.Z. Myers is promoting, I realised just how much Molly Ivins was standing in for Mary Ann in my mind.
At this point, the only thing I can think of to do is to make sure that when I grow old I'm as crusty and witty and articulate and funny as Mary Ann and Ivins were. When I grow old I will say precisely what I think, and I will never be too afraid.
I just hope they can forgive me if I can't do it with a Texas accent.
When Parodie pointed me towards this series of posts by Slacktivist, I don't think she had any idea of the monster she was creating. The series, which is a blow-by-blow review of the worst book ever written was so deliciously sarcastic, and the book itself seemed so compellingly trainwreck-like, that I couldn't resist the temptation. (Parodie, you should have known.) I went to my local library and checked it out. And then I read it cover to cover.
This is not something that I would recommend most of my readers do. I can think of only two reasons to actually read the worst book ever written. The first, which is probably the most common, is that you've had all of your critical thinking faculties surgically excised, but your ability to read is (unfortunately, in your opinion) still intact and you need something to occupy it with, lest you read something that makes you think. I expect that the majority of people who actually spent money on the worst book ever written fall into that category.
The second reason is that you, like me, are nuttily masochistic, with a healthy dose of schadenfreude towards the stupid thrown in. Because I realized that reading this book is like experiencing the real-life, literary equivalent of very well-made slapstick. Two boneheaded gits make a sincere and heartfelt effort to do something that they truly believe in, but that is in fact completely asinine, and end up botching more completely and wetly then the audience ever dreamed possible. It's something beautiful to behold. That, of course, is the charitable interpretation, based on the assumption that the authors are merely stupid. There is also the possibility that the authors are simply aware that evangelical and fundamentalist Christians, as a class, will throw their money freely at anything that seems to support their worldview, and are taking advantage of that fact to fleece them for all they're worth. I wouldn't place odds either way.
Anyway, the reason this is coming up now (I read the worst book ever written in December) is that, although I had finished reading the worst book ever written, the Slacktivist still hasn't finished reviewing it, and in the comments of the latest post, Denizen says
Guys, I hate to break it to you. This first book is widely considered to be the best written, the most realistic, and the least flawed one in the series. It just goes downhill, becoming worse and worse with each book.
So what do you think happened? I mean, with a comment like that, what else could I do?
Now, with the first book I had promised myself that I would read the whole thing, no matter how bad. I make no such commitment about this second book. If it sucks so hard that even the trainwreck appeal is lost, I reserve the right to give up.