silveradept: A kodama with a trombone. The trombone is playing music, even though it is held in a rest position (Default)
I welcome all of the following types of comments on ANY of my entries:
  • Single or two word comments, e.g. , woo!, yay, yes, no, please, thanks, absolutely, agreed, seconded, so much, no way, etc.
  • "+1" or Facebook style "like".
  • Otherwise brief comments, e.g. single sentences.
  • A comment that is a punctuation mark(s) to let me know you read, e.g. a period, an asterisk.
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  • Long, wordy comments. Rambling is totally okay.
  • Comments and links on related topics.
  • Comments on single links, entities, paragraphs, topics, or words in the entry. I throw out a lot of things each entry, and I don't expect anyone to have to come up with a coherent comment on each and every one of them to comment.
  • Sequential commentary. It's totally okay to comment about one thing as you read it, then another thing in a separate comment, then a third thing after you've chewed on it for a while and feel ready to talk about it.
  • Incoherent comments. It’s all good. I would rather have you here and showing interest,, even if it's just a *flail*, than for you to stay silent because you are afraid or unable to get the perfect comment out.
  • Talking amongst yourselves in the comments is fine. I like creating a place where people get to interact!

I also welcome:

  • Comments on older entries, access-locked or public.
  • Comments on VERY OLD entries, access-locked or public. I have many years of archives.
  • Comments from people who are not subscribed to me.
  • Comments from people who I’ve never met.
  • Comments from people who haven’t talked to me in awhile.
  • Comments from people who’ve never talked to me.
  • I like knowing the provenance of new commenters. If you're new, I'd love to know where you came from and what brought you here.

My great anxiety is that there's nobody out there and I'm shouting into the wind. If you’re feeling like you want to comment with something, feel free to comment with what feels good and comfortable to you, whether that’s leaving a !!! or an essay. If you don't have the spoons for any comment, that's okay, too. No pressure, no obligations.

How I reply to comments:
  • I mostly try to reply to comments.
  • I normally try to reply to comments as soon after they arrive as I can.
  • My comments will probably try to elicit more discussion and longer-form commentary. Part of it is my professional training, part of it is because I like discussions.
  • You are never obligated to reply to a reply, nor to write longer-form than you wish.
  • If you would like a response to a comment, I encourage you to let me know. “I would appreciate a response to this if possible,” etc. is totally fine with me.
  • Absentminded. If I have forgotten to reply to something you want a reply to, a poke is totally okay.

Linking to my entries:
  • If it’s public, it’s fair game.
  • It’s access-locked, ask me.
  • Please do not archive my work without asking me first.
  • If you do link to me elsewhere, it warms my heart if you tell me where you linked, but it's not a requirement.
  • If something I linked or wrote inspired you, it warms my heart if you link me to it. Also not a requirement.

Transformative works:

As of the time of writing this (02013-09-09), the content of my blog is licensed CC-BY-SA (3.0 Unported), which says that if you use my work for something, your work should attribute me (the user name and a link back to my blog is usually sufficient) and your work should also be licensed under a license similar to the Attribution-Sharealike license. The stuff I link to is not governed under this license and may have additional requirements for you to use.

Adding and access:

If you want to add me, go ahead! Please feel encouraged to do so.

I like new subscribers. I also respect access-locks - if something you created is That Awesome, I'll ask for permission before excerpting or posting elsewhere.

I may not add you back - I tend to evaluate based on what's available on your entries page. If you're mostly access only, it may take some comments or a conversation in a third space before I have an idea of whether I want to subscribe. If your journal is a repository for your fiction efforts, I may not add you back, because I do not have near enough time to properly read anyone's fiction as a part of my daily list crawl. I would probably enjoy it, if I had the time.

I don't give access, generally. For one, nearly everything posted is public, so you're not missing out on anything by not having that access. If I do post something under access-lock, it is probably something intensely personal, and so I'd be hand-selecting who I want to see it.

(This idea stolen and modified from [personal profile] trascendenza, who first broached it in their own journal when talking about commenting culture and their own anxieties.)
silveradept: Charles Schulz's Charlie Brown lays on Snoopy's doghouse, sighing. (Charlie Brown Sighs)
So. This is a bit awkward to write, not just because there's a whole cultural Thing involved here, but because, y'know, we try so hard to put up a front of invincibility, or at least competence, that it's difficult to say that you've basically Failed.

I've bought into the myth of the American Dream, where it should be possible for any person to enjoy a middle-class lifestyle with a family (or at least a significant other and yourself) on a single income, especially one of a government functionary with a reasonably good college degree. Perhaps in another economy, this might be possible.

I knew that this was basically impossible for someone at a minimum wage job, even providing for themselves. For a while, living by myself, it seemed like I could pull it off - at least for living by myself. Then, well, relationships, and pets, and unexpected expenses, and let's just say that the budget is not looking healthy. And continues to not look healthy.

This is not, unfortunately, the kind of thing where I can say "I just need a little money to take care of those unexpected expenses and all will be well." I would rather not be a charitable burden on someone for an indefinite amount of time, until my salary catches up or the budget gap gets filled with work from my significant other. So, to try and fill the budgetary gap, at least until my S.O. can find steady work, I present the following offer:

I Want Work.

I have various and sundry skills - I can write, read, edit, create ePUBs, make simple static web pages, research, simply edit audio, images, and video, and and other things. I have various oracles that may be helpful to you. Programming, unfortunately, is beyond my ken. I'm pretty good at looking at something and being able to adaptit with some examples and a lot of thinking, but creating stuff out of whole cloth? Not my thing right now.

There are a few caveats:
  1. Obviously, whatever Work you have to offer will have to be something done electronically (or that you're willing to pay for the postage cost to and back for). I cannot travel, nor do I expect you to be willing to travel for the Work
  2. This must be Work that you are willing to pay for. I can't take much in trade (unless it's a Really Cool Trade) because the bills still have to be paid.

Prices are to be negotiated based on the Work you would like me to do. Payment method will have to be negotiated, as I do not have PayPal or other electronic methods. You can leave a comment or use the private messaging system to contact me. Any comment threads will be screened upon request.

So, yeah, I need work. And lots of it.

Please pass the message along to your contacts and others who might have some money to spare and Work they are willing to pay someone to do. I know, in this economy, that this is unlikely, but it never hurts to ask.

Please link to this post so that I can be sure that everything is in one place.
silveradept: A kodama with a trombone. The trombone is playing music, even though it is held in a rest position (Default)
The eighth April Moon prompt is another feather, this time in focus, with a brick pathway in the background. The feather itself appears to be one from a male peacock or a related species, with the blue and green eye that is part of the fantastic plumage males use to attract mates.

This time around, though, the plumage brings to mind things like failure and effort. I put in to speak at a couple conferences this year as part of a goal for myself to go out and do more at conferences and maybe network a bit more.

I got back responses - one put me on a waitlist as a possible alternate speaker, the other said no. Which, as someone who thinks they might be good at this, kind of hurts, in the way that ego gets bruised when you have a higher opinion of yourself than reality.

Because the conference selection process is usually opaque (and often with good reasons), it's not easy to determine why someone was selected and why someone wasn't. Which leaves the person who want selected with the...opportunity, I suppose, to construct their preferred narrative about the reasons. What they decide to do with it depends on them and the situation they're in.

It's easiest to blame external forces for why things didn't happen - after all, someone else was making the decision about whether or not I came. This sort of external attribution can run the spectrum from benign ideas to malice-filled conspiracies. More and more in seeing the malice part of it. This seems to be a backlash against the increasing trend of conferences adopting Codes of Conduct regarding attendee and presenter behavior to curb instances of harassment and conferences adopting explicit calls and stances to increase the diversity of their presenters. If you're playing on an easier difficulty level (as I am), the explicit diversity call is an easy scapegoat to hang why you weren't selected - some "quota" that let in less-qualified presenters and kept out you. It's not fair, something something, political correctness. Which conveniently feeds the idea that white people, and especially white men, are the real victims of discrimination these days and the world should go back to the way it was, with white men unquestionably the best at everything and everyone else underneath, using bootheels if necessary. You can see that mentality everywhere - the Republican Party, Fox News, MRAs, PUAs, the idea that there are such things as "alpha" and "beta" men, redpillers, Gamergate, the Sad and Rabid Puppies, the serious use of the ideas "feminazi" or "social justice warrior", and so forth. It boils down to an attitude that believes expressing a preference for anything other than straight cis white Protestant men is embracing lawlessness and license to do anything illegal or immoral, because that preference hurts their ego and self-insistent belief that white men did everything to build civilization and are the only people who can preserve it, so clearly they deserve the position at the head of the table (and every other position, too) and the adoration of all the others who would otherwise be uncivilized if left to their own devices. It's very easy to blame the outside.

It's equally easy to blame the inside. The first thing that came to mind at those results was, "Huh. Maybe I'm not as good at this as I think I am." Which can be a realistic assessment of capabilities and contexts, or which can lead to "...and therefore I should stop trying and accept that I am useless and worthless at this." That way lies Impostor Syndrome, which can be inculcated very early on in life, in those places where we are reduced to our quantifiable selves by entities scrutinizing our potential and to caricatures of our complex selves in our social interactions - school. If the narrative that has been constructed around you says you're the smart kid, failure is an opportunity for ridicule and shame, not a useful building block to success. If you're the dumb kid, you may never get to show your true intelligence because remedial classes eat your time and leave you no elective. Die as much lip service is given to the idea of the "well-rounded child", there is precious little in the way of allowing children to learn and demonstrate those things that allow them to become a complex person in the eyes of others. If the self internalizes the message that there are only a few, or one, thing(s) about them that matter, any blow to those things reverberates throughout. If I don't succeed at the things I'm supposed to be good at, what is there left for me to build myself with? A rather fragile tower can collapse easily and take the rest of self-esteem with it. In earlier parts of life, it would have.

One of these problems comes from an excess of ego, the other from an unstable one. Neither are particularly healthy. At the same time, I don't think that meditation or other methods that are supposed to help get ego out of the way will help with these things.

The best way forward is between those two points. Pointed out to me was the possibility that I am as good as I think I am, and the selection committees just didn't choose me. Ego intact, truth still true, no need to attribute motivations, conspiracies, or demerits and self-destructive ideas to anyone. The universe being random, people making decisions based on the strength of the presentations and their ideals and desires to see more people who may have been excluded from presenting get a chance to do so. It's the easiest and the most difficult decision to make, the one that confirms reality and chooses not to substitute a more convenient narrative. If you wanted something to kill ego, living in reality, acknowledging it as it comes, rather than trying to make reality fit your own ideas, will be very effective. And possibly depressing. But it also allows you to be your fully complex self by not letting any one aspect come to dominance or lead you to believe that it is the sole aspect that matters.

There's always going to be another time to show off and try again, much like the fanning of the plumage.
silveradept: The emblem of Organization XIII from the Kingdom Hearts series of video games. (Organization XIII)
Good morning. I'm going to start with a post about stories with non-villainous dragons, which warms my heart completely. As do proper cards to be sending for serious illnesses, insects made from discarded circuit boards and components, and the incredible power of shared storytelling. (Or of universes that allow for infinite possibilities.)

Then there's sick systems that people set up to make sure their partners or employees stay with them forever. Which could sound suspiciously like many relationships that I see...or experience.

More on the Hugos and how the rabid faction took over and promoted fascism with their slate. On the other hand, on the matter of dogs, the groups claiming canid origins aren't really acting like dogs. For a palate cleanser, a review of the 1963 Hugo winner, that is basically unavailable, but sounds like an excellent book.

The strength of the cloister is that all tasks have time assigned and that all tasks will have to be done again, preventing stressing out at any one instance of the task. Which is great for those tasks that have to be done repeatedly. Not so good for the ones that are important but that only appear so often or only once.

In San Francisco, the Lexington Club, a bar that was for an explicitly lesbian and queer women crowd, closed after 20 years. And I feel, even just from an article, that a piece of the history of the city and the Mission neighborhood goes with it.

On the other end, the explicitly trans-exclusionary Michigan Womyn's Festival is closing after forty years.

The power of the Internet is that it permits people to get 101 educated on issues on their own time, instead of asking people who are having a more advanced discussion to teach them.

Teaching prosocial behavior to young children is tricky - assuming that the people teaching and parenting believe that children can learn to modify their behavior in the first place.

Fashion fails to fit, including things that are supposed to be designed for larger women.

if you ask them, sixty percent of people in the United States favor marriage equality. Which is something to take into account when the Supreme Court is required to make a decision about whether to allow equal marriage to continue. As one might guess, there are many stories to tell about the road to marriage equality. Some involve scarves.

Queensland, Australia no longer considers "gay panic" an acceptable partial defense against a murder charge after a Catholic priest led a campaign to have it removed - the priest saw firsthand the results of that defense and found it unconscionable.

The testimony of a guard at the infamous Auschwitz prison continued in conjunction with his trial for being an accessory to hundreds of thousands of deaths of the camp's prisoners.

Leak classified secrets as the CIA chief to your lover? Two years of probation. If you're a lower-level analyst and you expose atrocities and other illegal operations, though, you can expect a lot more jail time as well as being called a traitor.

The upshot of being called a traitor is that an appeals court rules that the bulk metadata collection program is not legal and the NSA's reading of the applicable law is wrong.

An appeals court overturned the obstruction of justice conviction for Barry Bonds, concluding that being rambling does not constitute obstruction.

Now that Hillary is running for President, the Clinton money trail is going to be very complicated to untangle. Including the millions of dollars given to the Clinton charities by foreign governments while she was the Secretary of State. That said, the book helpfully titled "Clinton Cash" is not likely to be authoritative, as its author has a history of bad research.

And there is a progressive challenger to the Clinton campaign now - Bernie Sanders will at least try to pull the centrist-conservative Clinton more toward the left if not mount a serious challenge to her.

Senator Warren expresses contempt for secret trade deals from her administration, while Senator Cruz expresses contempt for the democratic process in the District of Columbia. Which of these two Senators would you like as yours?

A proposed bill in Wisconsin would restrict two-thirds of food stamp money to items found on the official Women, Infants, and Children list, because it irritates a Republican that food stamps might actually be used for things life shellfish, and because Republicans delight in hurting and creating more obstacles for the poor, who they wish would either die or get properly hired as a servant for less than minimum wage. Minnesota looks well on their way to getting rid of any funding for helping the sick get healthy or insured. This is not only a bad idea, it's the underpinnings of how the privatized world sees health care for the poor, in their own country or in others - if you pay, you live, otherwise, die, even if your death will contribute to the sickness and death of others.

The election in the United Kingdom that put the Conservatives in power means the erosion of the social safety net already underway that has claimed several dozens of lives is likely to accelerate. Environmental issues like alternative power sources are likely to be put on the block as well. And the social ministers are on record as being hostile to the types of things they are supposed to be administering.

We do better in taking care of the emotional needs of people whose pets are dying or dead than we do those whose important people are.

Drone strikes have consequences - so why aren't we talking about them, or whether we use drones at all? Because we're too busy chasing conspiracies about the Army using war games as a cover for overthrowing the elected government of states. Which seems to share some mental states with estranged parents that never actually tell why they're estranged, despite having been told repeatedly what the problem is, instead insisting they are not at fault and nothing they did caused the rift.

Donald Trump has someone in his corner ready to be his superPAC of he should decide to seek a presidential nomination again.

Because of the lack of consequences for agents involved in sex and drug parties at the DEA, it should be no surprise that Congress lacks faith in the head of the DEA, who has subsequently resigned their post.

The management of Duke Energy repeatedly denied requests for inspection that would have prevented the fouling of a river with their chemical waste, we find, as they settle with the government over violations of the Clean Water Act.

Investigators are trying to piece together the cause of an Amtrak train that derailed after accelerating to twice the speed limit of a curve in Philadelphia, killing eight.

The person who consulted on what would become a lethal injection protocol adopted in all the states that have a death penalty said they did not anticipate unqualified people administering the injections and doesn't believe there is a more humane method of ending prisoner life.

The Baltimore Police think they have found a way, by beating a 25 year-old black man to death, visiting sufficient violence on him as to sever 80% of his spine. Baltimore has, predictably, reacted with demands for prosecution and accountability for the police, for a new reality to come into being. Charges have been brought against the officers involved. If you want to see what the reality of Baltimore is [personal profile] synecdochic knows. The real Baltimore is not the thing on the television machine, just like the real Ferguson wasn't. The real Baltimore hangs signs across from posh white clubs telling them that black lives matter.

Woe, says columnist, for men have no reason to get married anymore, and feminism is to blame by allowing men to get sex without marriage as well as the reduction of the man from respected provider to mere buffoon. In addition to the fundamental holes in the premise, marriage as described in the column sounds awful and nobody should want one like that. Besides, everyone knows that the cake bakers are the people whose endorsement you have to have.

Bullying by peers produces worse long-term mental health effects that being maltreated by an adult.

In science, Even if we could, it would probably be impractical and possibly unethical to bring back the mammoth. There are other species that would be better to being back from extinction that could have just as large an effect...but of course we like to believe big things are the right achievement.

Graphics cards are now a potential vector of attack for malware, now that we have enough experience programming them to do other things.

The reaction has mostly been snark.

If S.H.I.E.L.D. were really about the Logistics Division part, they'd have a network like these ones for shipping people and material around the world.

baby foxes in the backyard, bigger foxes in the Arctic, and learning what your cat commands with their communication.

A synaesthete paints songs in oils and acrylics. And someone else pants iconic characters with coffee.

Last for tonight, It doesn't surprise anyone that major fatigue accompanies autoimmune conditions. Additionally, self-care for depression is difficult because feelings of all sorts are tangled up in being depressed and safely surviving a depressive episode.

idiomatic language in other tongues.

We leave you with the musical abilities of Vienna Teng.
silveradept: A plush doll version of C'thulhu, the Sleeper, in H.P. Lovecraft stories. (C'thulhu)
The seventh April Moon prompt is a child's drawing of a blonde-haired alien princess (or perhaps a fairy princess or a Moogle) with a magic star wand, standing atop a tombstone (maybe?) which is setting on top of something that could be a door.

Since it's a child's drawing, there's an ambiguity about what the characters and setting might be. This isn't a bug, but a feature of children drawing. Children draw from the imagination and provide details and clues that are obvious to them, but can sometimes be difficult for us to interpret, given that we are used to certain forms, lines, and shapes to mean things, whether as exact replications of what we see in nature or as stylized forms that are supposed to represent them. This can result in the thing that should not be done to young artists and creatives.

Kevin Smith tells us it costs nothing to encourage an artist, as they might turn out to be the ones that make something that becomes a favorite. Ira Glass's advice for beginners is not to get discouraged that the things they turn out at first are not going to be up to their own standards for "good enough". There's an oft-cited number that says ten thousand hours of practice is what's needed to become an expert at something, whatever it may be. That's a very long row to hoe, especially for something that's maybe a side project, a work of passion, or something being done to explore new facets of identity. To make it all the way to mastery, there's going to be a lot of encouragement needed.

So while there are worse places to go, I would say that any child that has to go through the United States public school system has a very strong chance that their creative impulses will be destroyed or severely shackled.

U.S. schools reflect the culture around them, and that culture is obsessed with quantification. Numbers define and augment reality, too the point where having numerical data makes things appear more authoritative. Paradoxically, there is very little training on how to interpret and understand numbers, which creates a situation where more people are afraid of them, and it becomes easier to bullshit someone if there are numbers involved in what you are saying. Yet quantification continues and expands, so that there are now batteries of standardized tests for students, "productivity" measures for workers, and all sorts of serious money invested in trying to find numeric and algorithmic ways of understanding people. And even more serious money in making sure schools continue to progress in their number score every year, resulting in the cutting back of things that cannot be quantized in favor of those things that can. In such an environment, the necessary encouragement for creative endeavor is absent, because there is no space for creative endeavors in the first place.

The more perverse problem with a focus on numbers is that numbers themselves are an abstraction, a thing that both The Prisoner and Magritte knew quite well. Especially that borrowed Arabic rascal, zero. There is a lot that can be done with numbers and maths, such as bringing the cosmos down to a human-understandable level, or being able to comprehend and compute extremely large quantities of things, or as handy things to use to show off patterns that appear on our lives. Numbers are not a thing unto themselves, but always, always a representation of a specific something else. Whole persons do not easily abstract into numbers - something is always left out. The same person can support more than one candidate, hold more than one idea, do more than one thing, all simultaneously. To count a person, you must first define what part of them matters to your count, even if there are other things about them that will influence whether they end up in the count or not. Whole branches of the social sciences are dedicated to trying to find new and better ways of abstracting people so as to capture more of them into the numbers, so that more of the things that people do in their contexts can be captured and analyzed, and so there are less surprises that appear.

When it comes to schooling and the quantification of students, legislatures almost universally agree that the important parts of a student are whether they can pass tests in certain subjects so that our students can be compared to other students in a global contest of who has the best test-taking students. The standardized test components usually ask students to return bytes of knowledge on questions, often multiple-choice, with a later section asking for analysis or more complex construction of sentence and grammar, along with an argument or the critique of one. There's very little in standardized testing that says "Answer this question in the written form that suits you best." I suspect that they could get some very interesting and well-expressed verse, quips, or drawings that would indicate understanding as well as or better than a five-point essay. The things that are being sought in standardized tests are things that only a certain part of the population has as strengths, and only certain others can learn well enough to get by. Unsurprisingly, one of the things that matters in those cases is whether or not the school has enough funding to be able to give each student enough attention to ensure they are learning the material. And whether the home neighborhood of the students is peaceful and wealthy enough that they can concentrate on their studies. And whether the is a cultural attitude in that area that says doing well in school is an important priority. And a whole host of other things that have nothing to do at all with the abilities and strengths of the students themselves, which the test is trying and falling to capture, so that there can be decisions made about where money goes - perversely, the most goes to the places that need it least.

In this environment, governed by those numbers, creative expression has no place. It does not teach core competencies. Music's stringent maths requirements, exposure to foreign language terms, collaboration exercises, and abstract thinking training (the annotated dots on the page themselves do not music make, after all) are unseen, because one cannot teach music that way - it can only be done by making music, which means the sound of learning is in the sound itself, rather than a quantifiable element.

You can teach form and rhyme and style for poetry and prose. You can test to make sure someone understands how it goes. But the actual creation... more often than not, we remember the things that speak to us, that take the form and make it different or


it at just the right time. The twist ending, the way it's done - that can't be taught or mechanized yet. Some poetry only works when set to a beat, others only when spoken. Some poetry has to be seen.

The manual arts - sculpture, painting, architecture, smithing, fabrication, and more - the techniques can be taught, the forms studied, even replicated. Without these arts we do not exist and yet these are not considered important things for learning, nor is the time set aside at school for expression of these or other things, unless the school has decided that some part of their students' lives will not be dictated by numbers.

Against all of these odds, it is a wonder that any creativity survives. Employers are mentioning that they aren't getting graduates with the ability to think and analyze and come up with those elegant solutions, in code, in design, in implementation. Without the encouragement, a child, a student, a learner looks at all the works that have already been done and says, "I will not have that skill. Why should I try to do this?" And then the creativity goes with it.

It costs nothing to encourage an artist. Nurture that ambiguity and imagination of the children around you, regardless of how fantastical you find it or how much you think there's no skill present. Remind the adults around you that taste exceeds talent at the beginning, but talent will catch up with time and practice. It's easy to give up long before the point where it starts to click.

The numbers are abstractions, even the ones that have currency symbols in front of them that, regrettably, dictate how many of us get to pursue our art full-time and who gets to use what things to create with.

It's okay if we're not sure what the drawing is. That it is there is important, the rest are details.
silveradept: Blue particles arranged to appear like a rainstorm (Blue Rain)
The sixth April Moon prompt is a black and white photograph of an insect. The picture is composed, however, so that we only see the silhouette of the insect against the wall, and the reflection of that silhouette on a particular axis underneath the shadow of a dividing pipe. The insect itself is not visible, nor the pipe.

We're really good, as humans, about paying attention to the shadow and not the thing itself. It's a staple of horror movies, games, and the like to have a looming shadow approaching the protagonist or the next victim while they do what they are doing, unaware of the danger. In comedy, the thing casting the shadow turns out to be small. In straight horror, it usually turns into a Discretion Shot as someone gets killed or otherwise removed from humanity.

Plato spoke a myth of a cave, where prisoners watched shadows on a wall, gave them names, argued about them, and otherwise invested themselves in insubstantial things, rather than finding a way to break their chains and get out into the light and the real world. Buddhists could conceivably be described as thinking of our entire existence as shadows and insubstantial things, born of desires that wish to perpetuate themselves, but that eventually will cease in the achievement of oneness with the cosmos itself. Not this, not that. Xion, no. i.

We make entertainment out of shadows as well - contorting hands or constructing objects such that when the light is applied, the silhouette of something very different appears. It's the magic of illusions, of seeing something that is right there and yet cannot actually be. Whether we appreciate the effect or, as skilled practitioners of our own illusions, the method by which the illusions are built, there is something that we all enjoy in seeing the unreal become real.

Of course, that's only when we're doing it, as the disclaimer says, "for entertainment purposes only." When we start building and exposing other people to illusions because we want them to do, not do, or believe something, it becomes much less entertaining and much more angry-making. For example, the man responsible for allowing an experiment about guards and prisoners to continue long after it had exceeded ethical boundaries says that young men are not receiving proper support and instruction in correct masculinity, because a lack of male role models means technology and women are the primary definers of what it means to be a man.

This is an increasingly writ topic as many men that thought they knew what gender roles meant (and that were quite happy with being the top of the heap) find women are increasingly able to live lives, raise children, and have careers without requiring a man to provide financial or other support for any of these tasks. And furthermore, that women may have opinions and preferences about what kind of men they will willingly consort with, rather than having to choose from bad options to ensure survival. The shadow being cast here is one where men are both unnecessary and not present in the lives of young men, although it's usually called "feminism" when people such as Zimbardo are writing about it.

The "absent fathers" problem is paradoxical, in that "Absent fathers" is both "men who leave their male children because they are insufficiently manly" and "women who kick men to the curb because feminism teaches them they don't need men". Even though the supposed solution, forcing women and children to stay with the men that impregnated them by removing their agency, supposedly works in both cases, ignoring the litany of good reasons why men and women should separate and stay very far away from each other. The presence of a father in someone's life is no guarantee that the father is an appropriate role model of masculinity. Zimbardo proves this by citing a poor example of why a father is necessary - conditional love. According to him, mothers give love unconditionally to their children, but fathers do not, and the lesson that some people will only like you based on whether you perform for them or please them is apparently essential to the development of a healthy man. According to Zimbardo, men require extrinsic motivation from another man to develop properly.

If this seems nonsensical, or rings your bullshit alarm, look past the thing itself and watch the shadow that it casts. The unstated part is that "conditional love" is a code word for "discipline". The statement above then transforms into "Mothers love their children too much to effectively discipline them, therefore every child needs a father who will provide the necessary structure and discipline." Which is no more a true statement than "mothers give unconditional love, fathers give conditional love", but at least makes more sense as to why "conditional love" would be touted as essential to proper masculinity instruction. Zimbardo admits as such when taking about how many black homes have no fathers and that this syndrome is now spilling into white culture as well (because blaming black people makes it safe to admit that white people have a problem).

The other great shadow of fear labeled "feminism" by those in masculinity crisis is the march of women into spaces previously thought exclusively the province of men. Those that define their masculinity as the space where men can be that women cannot go find themselves attacked on all sides by non-discrimination statutes and lawsuits as well as women just showing up in male spaces and demanding to be treated as an equal. To that man, as Zimbardo is, this is not seen as equality, but unacceptable "feminization" of these spaces. The increased success of women in these spaces, combined with the "absent father" scare, the shadows they cast for young men are a world controlled by women where there are no spaces for men to bond with other men, apart from women, and to engage in those behaviors that are the rite of passage from boys to men.

It is unsurprising, then, that Zimbardo chooses places that are still seen as nearly-exclusively male (and resisting the presence and inclusion of women) as the refuges these boys are supposedly retreating to - porn, video games, and anti-hyperactivity drugs. Considering that the piece is about the lack of masculinity in young men, it shouldn't be a surprise that the justifications for these three elements engage in gender essentialism, but it disrupts the flow for me.

Video games are addictive because they reinforce the innate male desire to do things rather than reflect and engage in self-awareness, says Zimbardo. As such, they don't appeal to girls. And thus, Gamergate and the entire horde of examples of active exclusion perpetuated at girls and women who want to play games with their friends or in mixed company. Because games aren't appealing to girls. But more importantly, video games prevent boys from engaging in self-examination and developing an individual identity that can withstand the pressures outside.

Which might be true in a world where single identifying markers constitute the entirety of a person's identity for the entire time they are there - that is to say, high school - but the outside world is generally multifaceted, and assuming that their spirit hasn't been crushed by the time they leave high school, most men likely have more than one thing they can claim as a part of their identity. They may have several parts that have been waiting to flourish, now that they have left the single-facet world.

Plus, have you seen games these days? Especially on the indie circuits, there are a lot of games that encourage self-reflection and moral decision-making.

Porn is an easy one for them to tie into the current narrative - lacking appropriate role models of working, living relationships in their lives, and because women and girls always conceive of sex in terms of romance and feels instead of rutting, young men turn to porn to get their visual brains satisfied, and as a consequence, absorb the world of porn as instructive in how their sex lives should be, without narrative, romance, love, touching, or anything other than an endless parade of sex acts that is supposed to be normal.

Furthermore, because they can have a fantasy life that always works without rejection, boys will never navigate the world of dating, being turned down, breaking up, and all of that turmoil. It's phrased as boys not knowing what a girl's agenda is our what she wants, rather than the real risk of rejection, especially in high school, so that Zimbardo can make sure his blame stays squarely on women.

His conclusion is that since boys don't risk anything, they don't get anything, either, and the increasing realism of porn will soon mean they don't have to talk to real women if they don't want. An entire generation of men that don't need women.

Which does not mesh with reality at all. I doubt many men think of porn as the instruction guide to sex and sexuality, especially in this age of Internet, where real and useful information is available to those with a Web browser, including places where questions are answered about all sorts of topics. I suspect it holds cachet because it is, at least to U.S. society, the forbidden fruit for the underage. It's less about what it is and more about how it's not allowed. And it does have an upside, ish - it can be really handy for figuring out preferences, kinks, and things that are arousing, without endangering a partner with inexperience or having them go tell the world of your high school about what kind of sick pervert you are. As an experienced graduate of small-town school, I assure you that the pressures on kids to not be seen in any way that attracts scorn and derision is quite high, and that gossip travels fast. If there is to be conversation and possibly even flirting, there has to be a safe scenario to talk in, where even if rejection is possible, it will not turn into school-enveloping drama. It's not about a woman's "agenda", it's about fostering a safe environment for both men and women to be able to try, fail, and succeed without disastrous consequences.

Rather than relying on a gender essentialist argument, though, this could easily feed the narrative so far constructed - a lack of fathers and male role models means there aren't men in their life who can answer the embarrassing questions and teach them properly about what to do with their actual identities.

No, group settings with a nurse don't count, as the peer pressure present means very few of the real questions on anyone's mind will be asked. And that is assuming that someone gets to that point in school - plenty of religious objections will pull students, even in public schooling, out of classes that talk about sex. It also assumes that the school program itself will be comprehensive and accurate, which is not always the case in states with meddling legislatures and Moral Guardians.

Let me put it this way: in all the conversations I had with my dad about sex (which were, we note, all one way, from him to me), I learned only a few things:
  • Sex outside of marriage is forbidden by God. Don't do it.
  • Looking at naked women who aren't your wife is forbidden by God. Don't do it.
  • If you have sex, you are indicating you want God to bless you with a child.
Considering my dad is a devout Catholic who has been married to his wife for decades now, this should surprise exactly nobody.

What this does, though, is point out the lie that having a male role model is enough to avoid porn. Plenty of people that I know who had fathers present will admit to having seen some. No, the point to be made here is that if your parents choose to avoid educating you about your sexuality, whether because of deeply held religious beliefs or similarly deep discomforts with talking about it with their children, they should provide an alternative who will talk frankly with their children and answer questions honestly, with or without the instructions of religion about those topics. To not provide this means the curious will go about finding that information on their own, and the best you can do is hope they find somewhere informative and accurate, instead of somewhere with an agenda on how everyone should behave. You're leaving that very important thing up to their judgment to exercise good search strategy and to sift and test the information they receive for bullshit. If you don't trust your kids to be able to do that, then you need to provide them with an alternative that will work.

If you wanted to scare people, though, All you have to do is lop off the parental responsibility part, and there's your scary spectre of kids getting wrong information from the Internet. Or porn.

As for hyperactivity medications, this is more a swipe at the idea that teachers and schools are geared to women, who sit, read, write, and have no trouble talking about feelings. Boys and men, of course, are the doers who move, act up, and otherwise get bored because their kinesthetic learning centers (and they're all kinesthetic learners, of course) aren't being satisfied. No gym, no sport, and assignments that require composition and reflection, quelle horreur, because diaries are for girls. (We note the above lament about action versus reflection in video games is apparently not remembered, or has been sacrificed to this newer point.) In any case, since they are not being properly stimulated, the boys become disruptive and get ADHD medication they don't need.

The solutions proposed for all these problems might look like feminism if viewed in the right context. More men as teachers, men clubs where young men can get mentorship and rule models from older men, video games that aren't as violent and are more cooperative, parents taking to their kids about sex, and getting men to learn how to dance - the kind of dancing one does with a partner, I'm guessing, since it's being used as a way for young men to be able to talk to women. There's also a bit about reforming welfare to encourage fathers to stay, which is a no, because no woman should be dependent on the presence of a man to be able to raise her children, but the rest are pretty good, if we assume that the mentorship and modeling the young men are getting represent healthy models of interaction that respect women and don't perpetuate outdated or retrograde ideas. I'm not very hopeful for that, because of the person advocating for it, but I remain willing to be surprised.

Mr. Zimbardo is doubtful his vision will come into reality, though, because he doesn't think that the terrible state for men is going to change any time soon. The citation here is a documentary that seems to be better at convincing is that the current model of masculinity is in need of change, and that the change should be away from doubling down on the current practice of masculinity that Zimbardo and others have been building as the solution to the twin spectres of absent male role models and the march of feminism. If the outer shell of toughness and the inner core of fear are what the current situation produce, we need a new situation. One that needs mentors and role models and talking and teachers and librarians and all of that... but oriented toward making sure we don't reinforce what's already not working.

We have to deal with the insect, not be afraid of its shadow.
silveradept: A star of David (black lightning bolt over red, blue, and purple), surrounded by a circle of Elvish (M-Div Logo)
The fifth April Moon prompt is... confusing. It's a father, maybe from an owl, on a background that's a few patches of light shining through what could be a barred window behind the camera. The lit stripes have an orange tint to them that is reminiscent of tiger coloration.

The image itself, however, is out of focus to the point where everything is blurry. Which, as it turns out, is a pretty good metaphor for life, as we are creatures that always have incomplete information. Our pictures of life are always out of focus to greater or lesser degrees, since we lack the ability to know everything even on the simplest of things. The interesting part of that is sometimes the lack of focus makes things that are uninteresting with looking at, and other things that are lookable become blurred and fade away.

What would having perfect information look like for anything? To be able to see all sides of an issue, and all of the motivation behind all of those perspectives, their contexts and influences, and how each of the options that are presented will turn out, with their ripple effects, changes, and consequences. To get perfect information on just one decision would probably require more storage space and study time than any one human could manage, and it would be out of the reach of the storage capacity of most computers. And even then, it wouldn't guarantee a good result - wed just know what was going to happen based on the information. If the options were "You're screwed, you're screwed, and you're totally screwed", then I can see the forecasting system becoming part of the scrap heap quickly.

I've heard two different versions of Pandora's Box that tell the same narrative and only diverge at what's in the box when Pandora closes it for the first time. Most versions have Hope in the box, which convinces Pandora to let it out so that we can survive against all the other evils that are already out. The one that stuck with me, though, is the one where Pandora slams the box shut before Foreknowledge gets out. Because if that one has gotten out, there would not have been a human species to speak of, with every person knowing exactly the course their life would take. That's the scarier version of the tale - a true catastrophe averted, rather than there having been a good thing in the box to help with all the bad.

And as it turns out, the universe itself is a bit fuzzy. At our current level of technology, we can see where an electron is or where it is going, but not both at the same time. There are particles that change their state upon being observed, some to whatever the observer was expecting to see at the time of the observation. It is possible to pair particles, separate them over long distances and then change the information in one set and have it replicate in other other set almost instantaneously, despite the distance. It may be possible to unlock these secrets to develop greater communication possibilities or to make the vast amounts of distance between Terra and other stars and bodies shrink such that they can be traversed in a lifetime.

We will never have complete knowledge of our own universe, because we are part of it, and that stops us from knowing all of it, but it's in the fuzzy parts, the bits that are out of focus, that our curiosity, our inspiration, and the requirements to act on situations all lie.

So while the picture itself may be unremarkable, the composition of the image is not. This applies to more than just pictures.
silveradept: The emblem of the Heartless, a heart with an X of thorns and a fleur-de-lis at the bottom instead of the normal point. (Heartless)
[personal profile] nanila asked if I would do a link set on "chromatic" as an idea, which could cover all sorts of possibilities of color or music or any other sequence where you go from one end to the other, stopping at all the important points along the way. And maybe I'll do a more fun version of that later, but it seems the gods have dropped a rather large group of related things on my lap that can serve as a spectrum, although one without much for a lighter end.

Minnesota doesn't really care if you die,
Since all you are is a thorn in corporate profits' side
In Wisconsin they say that all should eat like the pregnant women do,
Because Republicans don't care about you.

Sexist reviewers do get sacked, after Twitter shows how many are mad enough to act.
That said, when harassed at a construction site repeatedly and without fail, a woman going to the police is told by her assailant that she's a "silly girl", even though he's the one with the conviction for the same kind of behavior. And that it was "just banter". Which didn't stop and did escalate, so bullshit on that. And similarly on the excuse that hair-pulling is also just banter. That kind of stuff is gaslighting and contributes to the problem of women being told their experiences aren't real.

And then there's the Dude Social Fallacies.

Women still excluded from all-men clubs,
"No penis, no power" the cry of some schlubs
So to take that power, they dress in masks and make noise for others who are awesome.

It's a spectrum of aggressions, some small, some large, but all of them wearing away just that much more on the women who deserve better than this stuff.

And sometimes, there is actual progress, even if it isn't enough.
silveradept: A kodama with a trombone. The trombone is playing music, even though it is held in a rest position (Default)
The fourth April Moon prompt is a picture of cobblestone. There's nothing special about these stones - they're not painted any colors, there aren't any cracked, broken, or uneven stones in the picture, and there's no other thing in the distance that might indicate context. The most unique feature for this set of otherwise the same is that it looks like the center stone has bird droppings on it. As inspiration goes, this one looks at first blush to be a dud.

Since May 1 was International Workers Day, I could talk about solidarity and how the United Nations says that trade unions are a human right, and how my own union and its bargained disciplinary process are probably what kept me from losing my job under the reign of the Capricious Manager, so everyone who works for a wage under someone should have those kinds of protections, and not subject to mysterious closures of their worksite for nonexistent reasons to prevent their organization into a collective bargaining unit.

May 1 was also Blogging Against Disablism day, but as a member of a privileged group, it seems a better idea for me to let people who have the experience talk about the ways that the rest of us can make things better. The cobblestone reminds me of places that use bricks in their crosswalks - probably as a visual effect or as a show of wealth or history in the town, but I wonder whether people who navigate by cane or chair users would find that kind of change to be good or useful, since brick isn't usually a fully smooth surface to move on.

Disability also makes me think about Section 508 of the ADA, which mandates that websites for government services or entities (like tax-funded libraries) have to be accessible to people using assistive technologies to browse the Web. I'm not sure what sort of testing we do on our own site, and I suspect that anyone who navigated to it and found it frustrating is not going to pen us a letter or email detailing all the things that we got wrong with the site. It's not their job to educate us, and the people in charge of the website may or may not actually be able to fix the problem.

Plus, since we buy our website components a lot of the time, there's no guarantee our developers will have implemented proper compatibility, either, even if we made it part of the request. Really, at some point, someone in the organization should use the website with assistive technology and see whether the experience is comparable to without. The mobile catalog is a pale shade of the normal one, so I don't have high hopes. Accessibility should be a thing for all of us.

The way the picture is taken, the cobblestone could also be roof tile, which brings up this of the costs of adulthood and home ownership, as re-roofing is expensive, and all the time I spent on collegiate summers painting houses, some of which is probably still visible in the very first few years of my journaling. Those summers were the ones where I got intimately familiar with either the hits of yesteryear or whatever was on the pop charts of the current year, and where I think it was a compliment to my work that the crew leader would put me on a wall of the house and say "All yours for this morning/afternoon". (You can see how having esteem issues cam complicate even things that should be simple.) Some of the engineering problems that had to be solved so that ladders and other things could be safely brought up and down onto different parts of the house and so that all the boards got painted were pretty complex.

It was a good way of spending a summer making money, but it, like much of my undergraduate, was marking time until I could get into professional school and start my intended career path. I'd like to think I chose wisely about that, at least, because the wait was a long one.
silveradept: A dragon librarian, wearing a floral print shirt and pince-nez glasses, carrying a book in the left paw. Red and white. (Dragon Librarian)
The third April Moon prompt is a black and white piece of art, incorporating spiral designs and various patterns in each of the arms of the inward spiral.

I have a relationship with art and creativity that is probably not the healthiest. Because creative talent has always been defined to me as the ability to make things from scratch, without having or needing a recipe or formula to produce them. And heavily weights toward visual art, although music and writing are in the scope of that idea. Creative people come up with ideas and then have the ability to put those ideas on their chosen medium. They don't copy or face or take something else and build on it.

It's kind of like the relationship Sheldon and Leonard of the Big Bang Theory have with each other, namely that Sheldon forever considers Leonard an inferior physicist, because Leonard, the experimental physicist, is only taking other people's ideas and seeing if they work, instead of coming up with the ideas and theories themselves. (They both look down on Howard, the engineer that actually builds and repairs stuff, for not having a doctorate and for not working with a "pure" science. It's very Platonic, actually, both this idea of creativity and the heirarchy of the geeky professions.) Creativity was defined in a narrow band of possibilities within a limited range of disciplines. And since, at the formative stage, I didn't have the ability to create things from whole cloth in those disciplines, I haven't really ever felt like a creative person.

With age comes wisdom, though, and an expanded appreciation of what creativity entails. Remix culture, for example, expands the available creative space to people who can put together already existing things in novel ways. Fanworks and transformative works say that creativity exists in those who can take the raw blocks of a setting and characters and produce new things. (With a proper public domain, that creative work could be sold or otherwise profited upon to make a living openly.) Music performance involves making runtime decisions about what the symbols on the page actually mean in terms of the intended sound - does your "medium volume" actually mean "medium volume underneath the melodic line" or "medium volume as the melodic line, so don't step on your accompaniment" or just "medium volume, because my scored dynamics make sure everything comes out correctly"? There is a gap between playing what's on the page and making music that has to be filled by the creative capacities of each player. Writers need editors, cover artists, and other creative talents to take a manuscript and make a book, and so forth.

Perhaps because I'm still a bit blocked on my own "out of nothing" abilities, or because, as Ira Glass notes, my talent Gant caught up to my taste, I find I've got the knack for taking other people's work and helping them refine it, or snagging something and adapting it to my needs. I might not be able to create the script or program from the beginning, but if someone's already done it, or there's an idea present, I can often get to completion. So while I don't draw, I have picked up the skill of digital line drawing and put it to use digitizing the works that appear on my drawing pad at work. I took a shell script that pointed at one file and then made copies to point at other files so that RetroPie could play all of the games needed instead of just one.

And I've been helping flesh out ideas for the summer program by taking the skeletons of other ideas and transforming them into fuller, more complete versions. It's the mid-work that's the province of Hufflepuff - it's got to get done, and it gets done by people who are just putting their heads down and working.

Which is why it was such a delight to see an email in my inbox giving praise for the work done on a particular idea. And praise in the form that mentioned how creative it was. That kind of encouragement is pretty rare. At least in the States, where we value the innovator, the discoverer, the "creative force" that does it first, being the person that comes next, or the one that takes the idea and makes something practical and useful out of it sometimes means a lifetime membership in House No Credit.

Doing all of this, though, and boosted some by the compliment given, I think I'm starting to come to the conclusion that there is creativity in tinkering, in changing, in deconstructing and analyzing, and in transformation. Such that yes, even in the work of the library, we can all say that we are creative beings, even if none of us have ever made a thing from scratch.

I think it would do wonders for our perception of self.
silveradept: A green cartoon dragon in the style of the Kenya animation, in a dancing pose. (Dragon)
April Moon's second image is a flower. I couldn't tell you what it is, but that's because I tend to avoid flowers - many of them smell the same to me, which isn't very pleasant, and most of them tend to make me sneeze. Which makes the Great Outdoors not very appealing to me, and that's before the bugs come out to bite on me. I really don't like the itching and irritation that comes from the mosquitos, and they always find unique places to bite, so as to make it worse and extra aggravating.

The animals also have to be looked after, fed, run outside to eliminate, and have their differences resolved for harmony. Plus sleeping in something that's not quite big enough in places that aren't quite comfortable enough.

It's not so much that I can't have fun outside or camping, just that I know there are certain costs that come with it, and the possible fun has to get over those costs.

I may also be prejudiced against trips to the outdoors because a lot of my formative trips were with the local Boy Scout troop. Who were less about merit badges and building camaraderie between a diverse group and more about being the popular kids hanging out and making fun of those outside their social group. Which my friends and I definitely were, being tech-y and nerdy and interested in science fiction and such. So a lot of those trips later on for me would be going out to do occasional things with the merit badge people and spending a lot of time down at the archery range, because while I'm still not good at it, I do like shooting arrows at targets.

The Boy Scouts were really a means to see friends - maybe if the troop had been more interested in the merits and achievements part, I would have had a better experience. As it was, the national organization's continued stance on excluding gay scouts and gay or lesbian leaders as insufficiently "morally straight" spelled doom for any remaining like I have for them as an organization. Not just because it tripped my social justice tendencies, but because adhering to their morals would have meant giving up dear friends, and I would much rather keep the friends than someone else's moral system.

Which makes it a bit... something that as part of my work, I regularly help troops of Cub and Boy Scouts get acclimated to the resources of the library and show them where to find resources that will help them advance along their own paths of merit. Because we serve everyone, regardless of their personal or institutional beliefs, so long as they follow our rules and don't try to interfere with other people's use.

In the end, I'm pretty sure the Boy Scouts are going to lose. As with all things, though, the arc that bends toward justice always seems to be taking longer to get there than it should.
silveradept: A young child with a book in hand, wearing Chinese scholar's dress. He's happy. (Chiriko)
The picture of the prompt, April Moon 2015 #1, is of a pair of sneakers straddling the word "Ciao" in a word balloon. Which brings up some painful memories of a time where I was that close to being told "We don't want you here any more." For reasons that didn't seem serious, or that refused to change in the face of the truth.

Perhaps ironically, I got that kind of dismissal, for reasons that can be as incomprehensible as the others, from places that I would normally do some part of my job. That indirect feedback provoked more direct conversation about skill building and such, and I've been assured that this is not that situation before, but there's been very little acknowledgement of what they think about the situation and a lot more of just getting to solutions. It makes it harder to believe that everything's okay. Because whether or not the situation resolves well depends on other people. That's not a situation I really ever want to be in again, considering how poorly the first one went.

The shoes could also mean someone tarrying at saying goodbye, which is always tough when the goodbye is permanent. You want to both stay right there in the hope that things will reverse and be better, and you want to be very far away from it so that you don't have to see the conclusion when things go bad.

But now, there's just reminders and comparisons. And the knowledge that one day, they'll all be saying "Ciao" to me, too.
silveradept: A representation of the green 1up mushroom iconic to the Super Mario Brothers video game series. (One-up Mushroom!)
Grabbed from [personal profile] atelierlune

  1. Do you try to stay away from walkthroughs?

    Nah. When I had time to work through tricky puzzles and platformer sequences, I didn't use them, but at that time, they were "strategy guides" and "hint books" and were quite expensive. Or you could call a hint line. These days, since I have precious little time to game as it is, I generally use the walkthrough to make sure that I experience the entire game, or as much as possible, the first time around. Since I like long RPGs, this is pretty important.

  2. Company you're always loyal to?

    The Sierra/Dynamix combination is a strong, strong pull for me. Much of my training in games was on their adventure and puzzle offerings, but one they stopped making those signature style games, I pretty much put offerings under that name into discontinuity, because it's some other company just using the name.

  3. Best game you've ever played?

    Ooh, that's tough, but I think the game I've had the very most fun with was The Incredible Toon Machine, because it was all about building ridiculous contraptions to help a debonair cat catch a mobster mouse. And explosives that sounded bored to explode.

  4. Worst game you've ever played?

    I think it's going to be Duke Nukem 3D, but that might only be because I haven't played Duke Nukem Forever...

    ...or Daikatana.

    No, wait, it's the original Alone in the Dark.

  5. A popular series/game you just can't get into no matter how much you try?

    If by "can't", you mean "have zero interest in trying", then Five Nights at Freddy's. I have no interest in jump scares or too many other scary kinds of games, because I scare easily and I tend to react violently to scares. I like my computers and devices too much to hurt them for frightening me.

  6. A game that's changed you the most?

    I don't know if there's a single game that's changed me, but I like big sweeping story kinds of games for their ability to let me feel like I can save the world or do big things.

  7. A game you'll never forget?

    Probably Crono Trigger. Mostly for Doreen. And the part where the party finally confronts the truth of their future and decides to Do Something.

  8. Best soundtrack?

    There are a lot of candidates for this one, because I grew up with increasingly excellent synthesized music that has since been orchestrated and fanmixed for extra excellence beyond the original. I suppose the winner is the soundtrack that I like all the tracks to, rather than just some: Okami.

  9. A game you turn your volume off every time you play it?

    I tend to do this most often with first person shooters, despite the obvious advantages of audio cues in figuring things out. Perhaps the sound of constant gunfire and monsters doesn't do it for me.

  10. A game you've completely given up on?

    The original Half-Life. There's a spot right before you get to the platforming section on the other world where you have to protect a squishy scientist from aliens and despite having all the cool guns, it doesn't happen. That said, I'm apparently not missing much.

  11. Hardest game you've played?

    In what terms? Geometry Wars is really rather difficult to achieve a high score on, but not the most difficult to play.

    Console first person shooters tend to be tough for me, because I don't have the skill of aiming with a control stick. I think that makes Goldeneye the hardest game I've played.

  12. Shortest time you've beaten a game in?

    Super Mario Brothers 3 for NES could be vanquished in an hour or less with two warp whistles and the knowhow of World 8.

  13. A game you were the most excited for when it wasn't released yet?

    The fifth Quest for Glory game, which is ironically the most disappointing one for me, but some day, with time and DOSBOX, I'll put the whole series through, start to finish.

  14. A game you think would be cool if it had voice acting?

    So many of them do now, and a lot of the ones that didn't picked it up in later installations. I think, perhaps if the Krondor game had gotten enough, but the Feist license might have been a lot.

  15. Which two games do you think would make an awesome crossover?

    Torin's Passage and either Sam and Max or Day of the Tentacle. Characters that, for the most part, are accidentally going to save the world mixed with a mostly comedic plot to do it with. Plus, I'd love to see how Max handles being in a high-fantasy world.

  16. Character you've hated most? From what game?

    Let's see, which poor A. I. escort do I choose?

    Actually, no, it's the A. I. itself from a multitude of fighting games where it crosses into "cheap, cheating, [expletive]" and you're just expected to handle that.

  17. What game do you never tell people you play?

    There shouldn't be a game that you're afraid of saying you play, unless it's like h-games or Leisure Suit Larry, you're not old enough to be playing those, and you're talking to someone who cares about that.

  18. A game you wish your friends knew about?

    My friends tend to introduce me to games, not the other way around, but the Lego series of properties is surprisingly accessible and playable in cooperative mode regardless of the skill levels of the players, which is a pretty important consideration as your life continues.

  19. Which game do you think deserves a revival?

    An old turn-based online dungeon crawl called The Shadows of Yserbius. Mostly because it was freaking hard to do alone, and because I think a lot of people would appreciate having a truly turn-based MMO to play, instead of one that requires some action component.

  20. What was the first video game you ever played?

    I remember playing either Hunt the Wumpus or Ladders on a Kaypro at a very early age.
  21. How old were you when you first played a video game?

    I think I was three at the time, so I wasn't very good at it.

  22. If you could immerse yourself in any game for one day, which game would it be? What would you do?

    If death wasn't permanent, I might enjoy taking a day in the Smash Brothers universe, battling and using items to see if I could defeat a demented hand.

  23. Biggest disappointment you've had in gaming?

    I'm not so sure it counts as a disappointment, but finishing the hidden temple in Commander Keen 4...

  24. Casual, Hardcore, or in the middle?

    False distinction, and I don't like buying into the rhetoric of people who want to exclude games they don't like as not real games.

  25. Be honest; have you ever used cheats (like ActionReplay or Gameshark)?

    Absolutely. I'm a bit ticked that there aren't more cheats and such built in to games these days, because I firmly believe that everyone has the right to experience their game in the way they want to without mockery or derision. If that means God Mode, so be it.

  26. Handheld or console?

    PC mostly, thanks.

  27. Has there ever been a moment that has made you cry?

    Only in frustration at the difficulty spikes.

  28. Which character's clothes do you wish you owned the most?

    I'll take anything that gives me access to the pocket dimension that adventure heroes have for storing their stuff, but in terms of actually wanting their clothes, I think I'd like Sora or Roxas's outfits.

  29. Which is more important, gameplay or story?

    Story if the game intends to have one, gameplay otherwise. Good gameplay will help with your story, of course, because it will mean people get to experience it, instead of a major frustration.

  30. A game that hasn't been localized in your country that you think should be localized.

    There's an entire back catalogue of RPGs that could come across and get localized, if for no other reason than to have, say, the entire set of Dragon Warrior or Secret of Mana series available to play through completely.
silveradept: A dragon librarian, wearing a floral print shirt and pince-nez glasses, carrying a book in the left paw. Red and white. (Dragon Librarian)
So, perhaps as a change of pace, I thought perhaps we could participate in the idea of [community profile] three_weeks_for_dw, posting content meant just for this platform, for three weeks or so.

Leaving me in the usual quandary - what do I write about?

So, if you're prompt-inclined, please do leave topics or entire writing prompt sequences on the doorstep, and I'll see what I can get. I could also do
  • the April Moon image sequence
  • a series of video game prompts that look fun
  • more baseball Tarot
...or something else entirely. Prompt away, please!
silveradept: Domo-kun, wearing glass and a blue suit with a white shirt and red tie, sitting at a table. (Domokun Anchor)
So Secretary of State Clinton used a private email address for work purposes, but claims no wrongdoing.

Hillary Clinton is officially in for the Presidential campaign of 2016. it seems like the Democrats are willing to let her have the nomination. Not for lack of candidates, but because everyone seems to be okay with Hillary Clinton as the candidate. Elizabeth Warren, however, could make it a primary all the same.

The GOP field is working itself together - Jeb Bush wants to outraise everyone else, while trying to distance himself from both of the other unpopular Bushes in the family, Ted Cruz wants true believers, Marco Rubio wants to be seen as serious, and Rand Paul is hoping for some of the magical appeal Ron Paul always got.

...and all the dark money that corporations can buy plus whatever voter identification laws can be passed.

The shooting of a black man by police in Wisconsin prompted an apology from the police chief after protests. Then, a manslaughter charge against a deputy who shot an unarmed black man, the sentencing of Blackwater guards that killed Iraqi civilians, and a murder charge for an officer that used his stun gun and then shot a fleeing suspect in the back four times.

Here's the thing, though. There are so many other incidents of brutality that go unreported and without comment, because it takes white people caring about black lives for change to happen.

it counts for other minorities, too. It's great to hear that the Administration will support efforts at banning conversion therapy, especially for teens, but legislation would be better, and enforcement of that beyond legislation the best still.

A terror group claimed responsibility for an attack in Kenya that appeared to target non-Muslims for death, killing almost 150.

Republicans wrote a letter to Iran warming them that deals made with this president still had to go through Congress, a move they admitted in retrospect was not the smartest thing. And a deal was still struck.

A Cuba thaw is underway, as the federal government removes Cuba from the list of state sponsors of terrorism.

In what could have been more than eight billion dollars USD of fines, New Jersey governor Christie accepted a $250 million USD settlement from ExxonMobil over environmental damage. And then had the temerity to brag about it. Whose palms got greased there? And whose might be in the investigation into an oil rig explosion in Mexico?

Loretta Lynch is a qualified candidate for Attorney General. So why is she languishing, even though the Republicans hate Eric Holder more?

The largest remaining cache of chemical weapons in the United States is slated for destruction. And this makes the rest of the world safer. On a more local level, a group tried to raise awareness of gun violence by stocking a store with prop weapons and stories of the violence committed with weapons like that.

So does not building a big tar sands oil pipe from Canada.

The troop levels in Afghanistan are likely to remain higher than the planned drawdown. Because endless war is totally what everyone wants. The way we fight it, with unmanned vehicles, we're saying a lot more about what's happening when things go wrong.

While the High Court considers whether lethal injection will be allowed to continue, Utah authorized the use of a firing squad for executions as a backup. Because the right to kill someone is apparently a thing no state wants to give up.

Arkansas passed a bill that said it was okay to discriminate against others, so long as you're doing so from a religious conviction. It follows Indiana in doing so, and the backlash is already on its way, trying to dissuade others from following suit. The technology industry is leading some of the pushback, but the politicians are not very far behind. some of that oddball has resulted in states modifying their laws, but not repealing them.

The Missouri Republican Party chair whose ads suggested untrue things about the State Auditor before the Auditor took his own life days he's been cleared and nobody should be talking about the incident with his name near it. Even though the ads were untrue and muck and in favor of his preferred candidates. The apparent suicide if the Auditor's spokesperson isn't helping subside any thoughts on the matter.

A nationwide strike of low-wage workers trying to raise the minimum wage to $15 USD/hr.
silveradept: Charles Schulz's Charlie Brown lays on Snoopy's doghouse, sighing. (Charlie Brown Sighs)
We'll start with Zen Pencils, illustrating quotes of various lengths.

Past that, though, you may need to see if an infringing site has taken any fiction that you haven't specifically licensed for reuse from the Archive of Our Own or other locations. You can also directly complain at their webhost about the infringing behaviors.

On a different part of the path, the complaint that the dystopias of the future resemble the Westerns of the past, with both declaring the present is the best of all possible worlds...if you're white and relatively privileged, that is. Others are living your dystopia now.

Someone asks what all the black and brown people are doing in their comfortably-white TV, and concludes that it must be because of affirmative-action quotas. The reaction was universally dismissive and pointed out the racism inherent.

Bestselling author Maggie Stiefvater and the origins of the rage that most women have, because they keep getting treated like something less than people, in their personal lives, their professional lives, and their hobbies (including Maggie's clear knowledge of and love for muscle cars and things that go fast). Often perpetuated by nice guys who think they mean well.

The darker side is the dox, where someone digs up and posts personal information as part of a campaign to intimidate, harass, or attack, and to invite others to do the same. The Crash Override Network offers a guide on good ideas to do one you can confirm you've been doxxed among others, like ways of making it harder to be doxxed. In a perfect world, of course, people would not need this information, but there's still concerted campaigns out there to remove any idea or person that threatens the privileges of a tiny minority.

The pilot of an Airbus appeared to fly the plane deliberately into a mountain in France as an attempt at taking their own life, and also killing all the other passengers on board. And while there will be more mental health screenings and rule changes to try and prevent a situation where one person is left alone, the remaining questions really are whether care was available and affordable and whether they were in enough of a good mind to be able to take advantage of it.

it is poor form to say that those without disabilities have the experience of disabilities, as it allows for not having to talk to people with disabilities about people with disabilities. Or politicians get to think of disabled people as budget figures instead of people.

The Hugo Nominations for this year exposed the weaknesses of the process of nominating by allowing a slate of nominations advocated by persons of retrograde ideas about women and minorities. There's a very detailed explanation from one person that declined the nomination provided to them, and Lots of voices have weighed in on what happened and the implications thereof.

A long piece about what television is and does, set in 1993, but clearly predicting what television would do many years down the road. And, in some ways, it predicts the performance and broadcast ideals of social media, including our incredible anxieties at other people seeing our bodies, so many thanks to [personal profile] tei for linking it to me in the social media post.

Anxiety at the mental health issue level is, like many mental health issues, not easily controlled or shut off, which can be a strain on the support network, but the lack of network is a much greater strain on the anxious. it also doesn't help if everyone assumes that the disabled couldn't possibly be good at things as well.

Exercise boils down to lifting things and moving the body on a regular basis. However that works for you, that's how it gets done. Whether with apps, playlists, shows, or pickup games, lifting things and moving the body is it.

Woe, says author, that we do not have forced social interactions, are not required to learn kinesthetically, and are being advertised at for every moment of our lives, such that we cannot focus due to the constant distraction. The point I agree with is the part where we really need to insist that the presence of adverts and what they do should be studied and possibly regulated, as they eat so much of our space, our data, our privacy, and do everything they can to get eyeballs. Not so much the part where everyone has to learn something with their hands and have concrete experiences. That leads to stuff like people still deciding to climb Everest even after the avalanche that killed several Sherpas last year or time spent in the barn or garage or kitchen with someone learning something that there's no interest in because it builds character or because it will be useful later on. (And yes, there's still some resentment even when those things do turn out to be useful later.)

I also suspect lots of people don't really want to be subjected to forced interaction or the whims of whomever is the person that feels in control. Taking the gym example, I wonder how many women feel better now not having to deal with the sexist conversation and various come-ons of degrees of subtlety because they can tune it all out.

What we need, instead, is the thinking behind an app that lets people swipe to indicate attraction, as Tinder does, but then places the power solely in the receiver's court on whether to respond, rather than letting the person swiping start the process, as Bumble does.

The Library of Congress needs to be able to keep up with the times, but the leadership isn't getting what they need or seemingly trying for it.

Raised by lesbians, but felt a lack of a father figure, so now against equal marriage FOR THE CHILDRENS. The criticism of the piece rightly points out the personal issues involved are bad, but they shouldn't interfere with the ability of living parents to marry and raise their children, as well as the cognitive dissonance required to be angry at a loving household that raised a child well, just because it wasn't heteronormative enough for the church ladies. Unfortunately, sometimes people who fight against marriage equality get awards named after someone who fought for racial equality...which is a giant WTF.

Soon, though, there won't be as many religious defenses to hide behind - Presbyterians in the United States approved marriage equality for church definitions and functions.

Elsewhere, an abridgement of the right to peaceful assembly resulted in the arrest of four Georgia women trying to stop a bill that would permit employers to discriminate on the basis of their own religion. And while nobody is claiming that the world of the story designated ILU-486 is our current reality, one might note that a story such as that is supposed to serve as a warning for avoidance, rather than as a blueprint to follow. Because the reasons for not wanting children are great and legitimate, and they are not a phase to be grown out of.

The solution to the problem of men choosing to hurt women over their own feelings is to prevent men from getting any sort of work where they might have feelings. It's a pretty simple solution to that problem.

Because of an error on her birth certificate, an Australian woman has had her passport revoked and her marriage annulled. Trying to get the error corrected has resulted in a bureaucratic nightmare. The error? She was designated male at birth. Which made her marriage between two men, apparently, and that wasn't legal at the time, so marriage and reason to be allowed to stay in Australia both gone. This is one of the many things we can avoid by supporting equal marriage and the ability to change a gender designation without requiring physical transition.

Watching the play of the book of your life is a profound experience, draws Alison Bechdel.

There has been introduced a bill that would eliminate the dark stain on our history called the Patriot Act.

Experiencing emotions is better for everyone around us than giving in to the relentless requirements of positivity, with bonus! methods for achieving a good end with not good emotions.

The X-Files will return to television, starring the actors that played Agents Mulder and Scully from the original series.

The song of the woman who never wants for a lover, despite all the messages saying she should have none. Which we're pairing with the experience of an artist who was asked to lighten the skin tone of a woman described to be of an ethnicity that precluded such an idea and the need to avoid devaluing femininity while advocating for equality. Including when things coded female are affecting men disproportionately, such as intimate and affectionate touch being coded as always sexual for men, preventing men from connecting through touch.

Sending work email outside of work hours sets bad precedents for you and your employees.

A Canadian food distributor is packaging the visually unappealing but entirely edible foodstuff into a generic bag and selling it at a discount to attempt to avoid wasted food. I suspect that even with that price discount, the food will be profitable.

And speaking of food, One instance of a thing does not an allergy make, nor necessarily even many, unless you can do as the scientists do and isolate a variable with a high correlation. Which can be difficult in normal human lives.

Many and varied ways of stuffed buns, dumplings, and stickers, which will be perfect when it's time to go for dim sum.

The parental exhortation to go outside and play may have benefit in helping prevent nearsightedness, as bright outdoor light appears to assist in the proper formation of eye structure for good vision.

Failure as a learning tool, and the failure of a convention that wanted to have people talk about failures.

Taylor Swift has learned how to play the publicity and celebrity game, and only now are people getting wise to it. I'm putting this next to the chairman of Google getting called out for repeatedly interrupting the United States Chief Technology Officer during a panel discussion he had with her. Doing the calling-out was a Google employee who no doubt knows what it is when she sees it.

To raise the daughter you want, treat women and your daughter like what you want her to be. And if they want princesses (whether boy, girl, or not decided yet), respect their choice and let them have princesses. And if they'd rather be witches, then witches it is.

The conception of being a badass needs to be updated to accommodate the part where stoicism is maladaptive, so that we get badasses who can emote and deal with the problems that arise from being exposed to problem situations. And perhaps those that realize that to believe in a meritocracy is to believe that the poor are that way because of their choices and work to make everyone the fortunate few.

Mr. Wheaton on appropriate valuation of relationships, combined with The Dude Social Fallacies as examples of when relationships are ready to be let go.

Arguments on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, on the unwillingness of the Mockingjay movie to really go for the PTSD, treating your characters as humans instead of constructs, and the realization that frankly, only you know whether or not you need to write or should stop.

Things that those in chronic pain are hoping you will learn.

In technology, the idea that the robots coming for our jobs should be allowed to take them, so long as everyone benefits from their production, instead of it being used to enrich those that are already obscenely wealthy.

Geometric figures as tattoos, which I suspect may also be used as mandalas and other meditation aids. Since ocean rocks make great mandalas as well. And speaking of mental tricks, methods by which one might defeat the armies of advertising tricks that encourage your brain to spend money. But back to patterns with coloring books and pages with intricate adult designs. Such that we can still create art in our choices of coloration.

A post delivery worker built a palace for themself solely from stones collected on their post route - only thirty-three years from start to finish. Staying in the architecture theme, new ways of looking at interiors of structures and beautiful entropy at work.

Engineering is always fascinating. Think about bridges built over highways to allow wildlife to cross back and forth safely. Not a bad thought at all to help avoid collisions. Add on to this an article from 2012 about an underground collective of persons restoring old and forgotten places and things in Paris, which takes an amazing amount of knowledge and skill to achieve, the need to defuse a bomb dropped during the Blitz when uncovered, and a new process that significantly speeds up 3D printing without requiring slicing of the object's model into layers, and engineering looks awesome. And then think about all the engineering involved in using inexpensive elements to organize otherwise chaotic spaces and creating large-scale pancakes with rice cookers.

Research into methods to send information through space-time continues. If successful, we can hope that the machine it uses looks like some of the machines in these laboratories.

Advice to writers about the important parts - the middle, where the experience lies. Also, books without a most common graph and copy editors' annoyances with English.

Also, necessary advice about the practice of giving advice so as not to be a tool. Which goes well with examples of guys being tools.

If you have an Android device and would like to be entertained, a list of excellent games for the platform, and then there are various excellent applications and more excellent applications to boot.

A fanwork that adds the world of Disney to the game of Cards Against Humanity.

Last for tonight, a photography series of women in various states of nudity, close to the point after they wake up from sleep, cats using dogs as pillows, aesthetically appealing minerals, and the Conscious Style Guide, aiming to make language usage not be weaponized.

Also, a great explanation of marginal tax rates, with a discussion of just how much the government owes the Marvel Cinematic Universe versions of Steve Rogers and James Barnes and what the taxes would be on that in the comments.
silveradept: White fluffy clouds on a blue sky background (Cloud Serenity)
I realize that there's a necessary functioning of the universe that things must be destroyed. Light elements become heavier by fusion, and something new happens in the destruction of the old. Systems consume resources to produce new products. With the application of energy and technology, we can build wonders of great size and/or complexity.

Unfortunately, the things that make complex systems able to do great things also require the consumption of energy. When you stop giving a system energy, it ceases to be productive. Given enough time without energy, all complex systems begin to break down into their components.

It's not exactly fair that we are subject to entropy still. I understand that it's a necessary part of the function of the universe - creation and destruction all wrapped up in a giant process. That we aren't able to control it yet seems a great black mark against our technology, that all of our wonders will amount to a statue in the desert, a monument to our hubris and nothing else. The Last Question has not yet been answered, much to my great distress, and there is no Universal AC anywhere near completion to compute it.

In short, entropy sucks. Even when you know how necessary it is.

I'm thinking about this truth because last month I was reminded that it's been ten years since the rather sudden death of a good friend, a man of curiosity and wit, who, unsurprisingly, ran a used book store. His store also had meeting space for groups in the community that might be interested in books or other properties, and it was here that my hometown anime club found its start and first meeting space. I made this friendships and watched sometimes good anime in that shop, and his death was unexpected. Nearly broke the club apart, but venue changed to a house in the area owned by one of the members, and things continued.

That's the other problem with having a finite lifespan - I'm sure that the time before and the time after me are full of wonderful and exciting things, and I'm going to miss out on them. And they're not going to know who I was, or anything that I did. In the cosmic timespan, I am but a blip, of no importance. That, too, sucks, as entropy will get everything about me and my work, and eventually everything, including the molecules and component parts of what I compose this on and what you read it on.

I'm not ready to die yet. Perhaps in time I will be, but I'm still hoping that we will be able to choose the time and manner of our own passing, after we feel that we have had enough life before that decision is mine.

I'm pretty much a bad practitioner of any belief system I've tried. I do not have the Buddhist's detachment, the surety of Heaven or an afterlife by which all are reunited with those they have lost, or even the serenity to accept the thing that cannot change. Being reminded of my own mortality is always frightening, because there's so much left to do and not nearly enough time and no certainty that there will be a post-existence.

The other reason I'm reminded of entropy is because today was the day we put one of the dogs to sleep. She'd lost the function of her back legs, excepting in limited ways. She had a valve malfunction in her heart that was slowly enlarging it. Most recently, she'd had a severe bout of diarrhea and vomiting a couple weeks before, at which point we thought she was lost, but a course of antibiotics, some acupuncture, and a change of diet had her back to full speed, so long as we could support her back legs.

The diarrhea returned this morning, after a warming sign that it might last night on their last potty run. And then again. And again. The anti-diarrheal we have her passed through and exited in the next bout, and at that point, we knew it was time.

She passed peacefully unto DEATH just a few minutes ago, and there will be much about her that I miss.

For now, though, mourn the dead, comfort the living, feed the survivors. For life continues, even if we wish it would stop for a moment to properly truly grieve.
silveradept: A star of David (black lightning bolt over red, blue, and purple), surrounded by a circle of Elvish (M-Div Logo)
Baseball season begins today, and with it, every fan's hopes that this year they'll be able to see their team win the Series while they're still alive to enjoy it.

Those who were around for last year's December Days remember that I have a Tarot deck that is all baseball-themed. So, in honor of Opening Day (and to secretly test if there's interest), you can ask for one card from the Baseball Tarot on a question of your choosing.

  • Please indicate the level of verbosity you would like with your card - anywhere from "Just the card, please" to "I don't know anything about baseball, why this card?" so that I can gauge how much explanation will be needed to describe your card.
  • This card is entirely gratis - and comes with no warranty, for entertainment purposes only, and all standard and nonstandard disclaimers apply, including this: I am not any of the following - doctor, lawyer, accountant. If you need assistance in any of these areas, please consult those professionals. I promise that I will do my very best to give you the best reading I can to the best of my abilities. Use the information for your reading as you choose, and understand that you probably have more context than I do when it comes to application.
  • If you would like a longer, more in-depth reading, please feel free to PM me for further information, and we'll figure out methods of exchange.
  • All results will be screened by default, unless you specifically indicate you are okay with public results or that you would like a PM with those results.
  • Spreading the word would be lovely, but is not required. I can offer a clarification or extra context card to those who do - please include a link to your boost to claim the extra card.
  • Finally, this draw closes at 21:00 PDT on April 6, 02015. Requests timestamped after that time may not be responded to.

  • If baseball isn't your thing, [personal profile] alexseanchai is also doing a one card draw today, so there are options.
silveradept: A dragon librarian, wearing a floral print shirt and pince-nez glasses, carrying a book in the left paw. Red and white. (Dragon Librarian)
A long-form piece in the Guardian about the use of social media to document our existence and provide proof of our experiences, sometimes to the detriment of the actual experience.

The cry of the title was born out of the earlier days of the Internet, and possibly the culture of the imageboards - "Pics or it didn't happen" - is in response to a different caption - "On the Internet, nobody knows you're a dog." In previous media forms that wrote and reported nonfiction, there were filters and gatekeepers and persons whose job it was to ensure that things said were not libelous and were factually accurate. While they occasionally failed (which is what retractions and corrections are for), it was generally accepted that things that came through those channels are accurate and happened. With the advent of the Internet, any entity with sufficient design skills can produce any thing they want and pass it off as true, because it looks sufficiently official and talks about Big Important Names and Organizations and possibly users Statistics to back them up. Enough hoaxes, misrepresentations, and robots writing things means going online now requires a hardened sense of skepticism. It should have been a golden opportunity for information professionals to educate is on how to evaluate what we see and find those places that provide honest information.

That didn't happen, and still isn't happening, even in the schools where that sort of thing should be taught. Instead, what we got was a half-baked skepticism - text is inherently untrustworthy, so further evidence must be supplied. Pics or it didn't happen.

Except, if you continue on in those same corners of the Internet, you will find that once people have access to the rooms that professionals use to retouch, enhance, superimpose, and create effects with, they will use it to create things that never happened, and then allow other people to think it's real, because the fact that the "proof" of its existence is right there for the seeing. Pics, even if it didn't happen. The art of forgery is alive and well and living on the Internet in a hundred thousand tutorials and informative documents.

Which is a long way of looping back to the first point of the article, that the things we post on social media are inane, banal, trivial, and boring. But, as establishing ourselves as not robots, agents, or corporate shills working off profile documents on how to appear like real people on the Internet, posting about what we had for lunch, or about our latest relationship dramatics, or pictures of pets and children are reasonably effective at proving that we are essentially human.

The article follows a parallel line to this, as it warms to the idea of deconstructing the practice of social media as we do it now, by declaring that it's not the content of the content that's important, but whether there's content at all and how quickly it arrives. Since our feeds all constantly scroll downward as new material arrives, the only way to stay afloat us to do something that momentarily puts us at the top of the list again.

Information professionals have long known that if your page is to be the one selected by someone doing a search, it is an absolute necessity for your page to be on the first page of search results. You could have the most accurate, informative, beautiful page on the Internet, but if you are on page 2, only the most dedicated of searchers will actually find it. Thus is born that most black-hearted of enterprises, search engine optimization. Which basically boils down to telling an algorithm, however sophisticated it may be, that your page is the most correct, most informative page on the internet, and therefore the best result to have for someone's search query, so push your page to the top of the results page.

The other part of search results is something that probably has a more scientific name than "the spam threshold", but there it is. Somewhere, after a few pages, the results all start looking like other things, because they're copies of something higher-ranked, or they have gibberish of key words, including yours, while advertising warez, pr0n, or other such things as the actual content of the page. Once you've hit the spam threshold, most people abandon the search, figuring there's no new information to be had. It's quite possible there is, but it's not likely.

People, of course, are not algorithms. We count our optimizations in the form of followers and subscribers. And one of the best ways to get followers and subscribers is to have a steady stream of activity. It helps to be witty or poignant, of course, but it might be more important to be frequent.

The other side of this idea is what the article goes to next - that if everyone is posting things, there's the danger that you're going to miss out on the one important post on the middle of the deluge. If all interactions and posts are substantive, then the scroll shouldn't move too far before you get caught up. That said, even with my tiny monkeysphere, if I go away for a few days, I will reach the limit of being able to go backward, with all of your excellent posts lost unless I examine your pages individually. In a faster-moving medium, it would almost be certain that something would get lost or I would spend forever in the infinite scroll trying desperately to catch up. The treadmill is particularly vicious here - must be able to simultaneously stay at the top of the scroll while reading through it and making comments.

This push-pull then reinforces the idea that we are measured by our responses as much as our posts. A prolific poster with no comments or kudos is seen as a failure, someone shouting to an empty room. Someone who isn't posting things as they think of them potentially runs into "Simpsons did it" and someone else getting all the credit. So somehow we have to find the formula that has us posting high-quality material regularly that makes sure to gather lots of likes and kudos, too. No wonder famous people and corporations designate people as their handlers of the social media - it's at least a full-time job. How do the rest of us plebians manage it when we're already working jobs?

The answer appears to be that you just throw everything at the wall and see if anything sticks. The need to document everything to prove existence will quickly produce what's what and what's chaff for your particular feed.

Which goes to the major part of the article - once you have an idea of what the people want, the next step is to package it appropriately. With the technology we have available, a picture can be given the appropriate filter, have a caption attached and be sent out to the world within a five minute span. Or a video, or audio recording. (Much to the consternation of local and other police departments caught in the act of doing something other than serving and protecting.) So not only are we documenting ourselves in real time, we're able to apply production values, editing, and presentation to the things we're doing before they get posted. We're not only just thinking about what to show, we're thinking about how to frame it, what effects to apply to the shot once it's taken, and what captioning we're going to put on it. The kinds of things that professionals take days, weeks, or longer to put together are being decided in seconds, executed in seconds, and sent out to be viewed for a few seconds before the process starts again.

So now we have created and packaged an identity for ourselves, myself included (although I tend to stick to text rather than multimedia), and are presenting it to others, seeking their approval and commentary and hoping that one is interesting enough, waiting for the ding that indicates that a new notification is here.

You can probably see the snake eating its tail at this point - a post, looking for comments, about an article pointing out how posting with the intent of looking for comments is an empty pursuit, but a very popular one, and that we do this because we want to be part of the network that we have. Which is pretty much what I'm shooting for here - to participate in a network of interesting people by making a post and hoping for comments. It's a performance, because my internal picture of myself is much different than the person others are imagining in my writing. I'm hoping to put my best foot forward and be witty or erudite or something else that's interesting with each post, and gather comments that say as much. I know that my identity is supposed to not be bound up in such other-focused things, but there's the part where as a performer, you want to both have an audience and have an appreciative audience. So it would be a lie to say that it's all completely about what I think is interesting, or just about what I'm thinking. But it's a lie that most people partake of, and I'd like to believe that I'm not doing it primarily for other people to notice and comment on. If I were, I think of be in a different profession. And possibly a different House.
silveradept: A dragon librarian, wearing a floral print shirt and pince-nez glasses, carrying a book in the left paw. Red and white. (Dragon Librarian)
I've airways been resistant to the idea that I'm part of House Hufflepuff in the numerous Sorting Hat questionnaires that proliferated on the Internet while the Hermione Granger series was popular with the books and the movies and now the online experience. Hufflepuff is the house of "everyone else", after all, the people who don't get in to any other house. The Sorting Hat says so, although it's in Order of the Phoenix that he does.
Said Slytherin, “We’ll teach just those
Whose ancestry is purest.”
Said Ravenclaw, “We’ll teach those whose
Intelligence is surest.”
Said Gryffindor, “We’ll teach all those
With brave deeds to their name,”
Said Hufflepuff, “I’ll teach the lot,
And treat them just the same.”
Which doesn't sound like a ringing endorsement for the Hufflepuffs. Even though, by this system, they are probably the most numerous house by far.

There aren't many, if any, Hufflepuffs in the books, (Cedric and Tonks, apparently), so there's no real way of getting a representative sample of what a Hufflepuff is. All we get off what Hufflepuff House is supposed to be about comes from other Hat Songs.
You might belong in Gryffindor,
Where dwell the brave at heart,
Their daring, nerve and chivalry
Set Gryffindors apart;
You might belong in Hufflepuff,
Where they are just and loyal,
Those patient Hufflepuffs are true
And unafraid of toil;
Or yet in wise old Ravenclaw,
If you’ve a ready mind,
Where those of wit and learning,
Will always find their kind;
Or perhaps in Slytherin
You’ll make your real friends,
Those cunning folk use any means
To achieve their ends.
By Gryffindor, the bravest were
Prized far beyond the rest;
For Ravenclaw, the cleverest
Would always be the best;
For Hufflepuff, hard workers were
Most worthy of admission;
And power-hungry Slytherin
Loved those of great ambition.
So the virtues of the House of Hufflepuff are Hard Work and Loyalty, which are definitely the virtues of the Everybody Else. They're not the foolhardy Gryffindors that rush in before considering the consequences, or the ambitious and manipulative Slytherins who consider every interaction and try to come out ahead with personal gain.

[Aside Number One: Draco Malfoy is a Gryffindor. The way he acts, and the henchmen he uses, are supposed to be Harry's mirror images in a different house, but Draco rarely stops to consider consequences and advantages. He's part of Slytherin for the same reasons Harry is part of Gryffindor - because it's where he wanted to go, for whatever value of "want" is possible in a first-year. Also, if experiences like Harry's are typical, I'm surprised more people don't talk about them. If you want the exemplars of Slytherin, you want Horace Slughorn and, to some degree, Tom Riddle, who use their connections, charm and knowledge to advance their goals and acquire more resources to use.]

Hufflepuffs aren't after knowledge for knowledge's sake like the Ravenclaws, either.

[Aside two: Hermione Granger is most definitely a Gryffindor. While she's certainly brilliant enough to be in Ravenclaw, her knowledge is geared toward practical application. She knows the answer to school questions, and does her research to solve the problems she faces. New facts and ideas are fascinating to her based on their applicability. Hermione at her most Gryffindor, though, is when she's campaigning and working toward solving the problem of house elf slavery.]

The way things were designed, it seems like Hufflepuffs are House We Do All The Work And Everyone Else Gets The Credit. Which, as someone on the tail (lead?) end of the Millennials, there was a steady diet of "You're going to change the world, one you get control of it from the cynics of the previous generation and the hangers-on from the last" in the formative years. Hufflepuffs aren't world-changers, they're just hard workers and loyal to those they work with / under. (Which, some may point out, is one of the ways that change is not only achieved, but sustained.)

And then I went into the public library profession. Which is increasingly a profession that finds itself with one foot in the past, one in the future, and two in the grave, acting as the bridge that allows the past to walk its way into the future, either by choice, disaster, or layoff. There are very few entities engaged in the practice of making sure there is training for older people on technology and the new ways of working, and training for young people outside of school for their interests (and technologies, too), as well as maintaining collections and resources from the past so that we don't forget things too quickly. It is a corner of the world that is not always paid attention to, past adulthood and/or college, unless there is a disaster. House No Credit finds one of its many homes in public library service.

For extra sting, I work in children's services, where miracles of literacy, storytelling, rekindling interest in books, and programming happen on a regular basis. But, since the profession is very much women-heavy, it turns out that it's possible for No Credit House to have a No Credit House nested inside it. Molding the future and all that, but how many people remember their children's librarian past story time? It's a triumph for us that we were able to plant in your head the idea that reading is a good thing to be enjoyed frequently, before school dug it up and replaced it with the idea that reading is a chore and must be suffered through.

This is not to say I regret my career choice. I am well-suited to public library children's and teen services, and I like what I do. It's just that I was fed a large diet of "you are going to be important to the world" as a youngster, and it takes adjustment to realize that it did not mean that you were going to become world-famous or fantastically wealthy or any other thing that would guarantee your presence in the history books. At least not immediately.

After some resetting of the sights, and the very real possibility that someone's thought that I wasn't competent enough to do the job would halt my career, I started keeping track of the things I have done - not just because it makes it easier to put down on my evaluation worksheets what kind of awesome person I am, but because chasing the idea that success is measured by magazine covers makes it very easy to miss out on all the success that is happening on lower levels than that.

Like the fact that children want to do one of your storytime rhymes outside of the program, because they love to bounce up and down so much.

Or planting the seed of an idea in a child's head that this, too, is something that you can do, regardless of what anyone says about you and that thing.

Or the unvarnished joy in the face of an octogenarian who is learning for the first time how to select and download books from a library collection to their tablet.

And the high praise delivered at the end of a session covering those basics: "Thanks. That's the most fun I've had in a computer class at the library." Because making learning fun is making it memorable.

And there's the skills. I left an easel pad out to occasionally talk to my teens about things I wanted their opinions on. While I didn't always get a response to the questions, the easel pad started to sprout art. (And games of hangman that use inappropriate words in their blanks, but that's to be expected from teenagers.) I wanted to showcase and preserve the art, and so, in addition to getting some material that I can use to decorate the windows with the art, I decided to try and preserve them by digitizing them. That way, they could join the slideshow of images advertising various library services that was already at work there, thanks to a generous donation of code for use with repurposed netbooks running Linux off a flash drive. (Which was an interesting thing to get to play with, as well. I've gone through a couple different iterations of portable Linux, learning all the way about what they can do and what their quirks are. In all things, there is training.) I've picked up some rudimentary image-manipulation technique in digitizing the artwork - digital inking, basically. Not enough to make a profession at it, but enough to be able to help Significant Other clean up a possible logo idea for them into something they quite liked.

And while nobody in the teen section has explicitly said thanks over the easel or the sideshow or anything else, for that matter, the artwork keeps appearing. It has to be enough to have filled the need, or to have provided a serendipitous moment in someone's life. House No Credit still abides.

Not that I don't occasionally try to raise my own profile - I've submitted an idea to three conferences so far. One said no, and I'm waiting on the other two still. And I've been writing some articles and posts about things I think are important or that are working on a theme. Some even have been published. But it's less about the pursuit of rockstar status and more about trying to find a platform where those ideas can be voiced.

So, because I like helping, and because I'm trying to put in the work, and because I still get joy of of the thanks that do happen, that pretty well puts me in house Hufflepuff. Now all I need is my zodiacal House badge and quote. [personal profile] jenett has "Virgo Hufflepuff - details managed.", which I think it's great and would happily embrace, if it were anywhere near the truth on sign or aspect. Heh. I'm not sure what to do for my own sign. "Foodstuffs Managed", perhaps? Maybe if there were just a set with all of them somewhere?

Anyway, it takes time to reach the point where you can be accepting of being important without being known. I suspect there should be a pithy tag on the end of this, like "This is the beginning of wisdom" or something, but I suspect that of my words were going to be used as aphorisms or wisdom quotes, I'd end up more like G'kar trying to illuminate his disciples than Laozi.

Luminous Emporium used a quote by Daniell Koehler, and I think it's a good closing line.
“You are not too sensitive or too needy. You are thoughtful and empathetic. You are compassionate and kind. And – with or without anyone’s acknowledgment or affection – you are enough.”
That's House Hufflepuff.
silveradept: A head shot of Firefox-ko, a kitsune representation of Mozilla's browser, with a stern, taking-no-crap look on her face. (Firefox-ko)
A big politics mess-up to start - a former Mayor of New York City who still has inexplicable power over conservatives said the closest thing to the "Secretly Foreign" attack that he could about Barack Obama - he "doesn't love" the country. That is not newsworthy. What is, however is that The governor of Wisconsin, Mr. Walker, chose not to distance himself from the remarks or condemn them, and the governor of Louisiana chose to put a meaning in the Mayor's mouth that isn't there to agree with the remarks without agreeing with them.
We note that there are still some organizations that choose to go with the Secret Muslim idea - and get called out on it.

An Idaho state legislator asked whether or not the cameras that can be swallowed for colonoscopies can also be used to perform ultrasounds. He was told no, and when pressed, claimed that he knew it was ridiculous and just wanted the answer on the record.

A study out of Northeastern University in Boston days classical chivalric motivations are sexist. I'm inclined to agree with the Shakesville headline - any feminist could tell you this, because classical chivalry is about redirecting violence in such a way so that it becomes socially approved, using both Church and women as the convenient excuse for it.

A heavily redacted memoir of a detained Guantanamo Bay inmate reminds us all again that torture happens in the name of the United States, yet nobody seems interested in stopping or prosecuting those involved. One of the persons involved in the torture of the writer has a history of using coercive tactics to extract confessions in Chicago. At some point, you hope for a monster to come in and clean house.

More cameras to capture faces, says the chief of the London police. For crime-solving, of course. Airstrip One begins to resemble itself, does it not?

I am a collector of things. So I think, perhaps, the best way to mark the collection of the creator of the Disc by his iconic smallcaps-speaking character is through all the tributes that I've seen on my lists - Neil Gaiman, a big fan, a fan since a very early age (and another), a fan of his fans, (and another), a fan of the works on the Disc, a fan of the ideas present on the disc, a fan of the presence of the monsters (and that the Disc is the place where familiar stories become different and twisted), a teller of stories in their own right, a fan of the funny, someone for whom the Disc is a bedtime companion, the fan who hasn't yet gotten completely immersed, and all the fans that return when the tragedy has struck.

Here is a guide to the Disc and its books.

Unsurprisingly, there's a large market for porn that isn't about catering to straight white dudes with certain formulas. And with tools like crowdfunding, it's a lot easier to make those movies without having to be exploitative.

Fans of merpeople are hard at work expanding their mythos and the body types that one can say are definitely merpeople, with a lot of work going into diversifying the look of the mermaid to match their environment.

Collegiate policies on readmission to the school may be deterring students with mental health issues from taking beneficial absences from their classes.

A thing for our days, we are told, although really it had been going on for a lot longer than this: We do work when not at the office, and not work when we are - but now we're starting to actively ask for that flexibility, rather than sneaking what we can in the era of increased productivity. If a woman, what leisure time is afforded is generally spent on other people's needs - leaving women with no leisure time at all for themselves.

The creator of Zombies, Run! talks about creating an app that's about exercising and enjoying the body, and not competing or having to already be in peak physical condition to achieve.

The federal civil rights investigation into the Ferguson, MO police found a pattern of bias in the police department, as well as racism on display by the police. So, in the small way that they can, the federal government agrees that black lives matter. They're going to need it - a Wisconsin police officer shot and killed a black man on the same day as the finding, sparkling protest.

The state auditor in Missouri suffered an attack ad in his run for governor that insinuated he was Jewish and that this was a problem for his campaign. Except the auditor wasn't Jewish...and things get worse from there. The auditor killed himself a few days later, but it appears to have been over something other than the antisemitism.

A South Carolina state legislator made several sexist and misogynist comments at an event where the only female state senator for South Carolina was in attendance. The senator so slandered was ready to exact revenge and defend herself. If you want statistics, as it turns out, women are better at all aspects of legislation, in introducing bills, getting them passed, and getting them multi-partisan. not, as was commented, a "lesser cut of meat". This sort of thinking stems from an inability to see women as people and insisting that they are objects that men are entitled to if they do the right things. Which, when taken to correct conclusion, means there should be a lot more of angry cat hissing at men who behave that way.

Effective methods for avoiding pointless arguments with fans/critics of a work.

The mistakes of the United States, with regard to the protection of trans people, should not be replicated elsewhere, and especially not using the same reality-free bullshit that passes for argument here. Solutions must also make sure queer people aren't marginalized or assumed to be binary, aces are protected and not seen as anything other than normal, and one does not make secondary those children conceived outside of PIV sex.

Have your politicians tasked about love and loving relationships? Not in the way where love is a substitute for sex, but in terms of long, lasting, fulfilling relationships between people.

Private home use and growth of marijuana is legal in the District of Columbia. The initiative passed would also have set up a framework for the sale and regulation of marijuana, but Congresscritters from well outside the District are blocking those parts.

In the state of Florida, the governor and others insist that terms such as "climate change" not be used. Because, as we are all familiar with, refusing to name a Thing prevents it from becoming real.

Financial literacy regarding simple elements such as compound interest, inflation, and a diversified investment portfolio is rather weak in the United States, which is unsurprising, considering how few people have sufficient income to save, invest, or consider long-term goals.

Advice on making your presentation slides excellent and advice on making your presentations even better.

Trying to piece together Sappho the poetess is like trying to piece together Sapphic poetry - lots of fragments, and not everything agrees.

All Hail Androgyny, and women modeling menswear (and all hail the Almighty Glow Cloud, too).

An anti-equality group chose the Mardi Gras broadcast in Sydney, Australia, to debut an advertisement imploring everyone to THINK OF THE CHILDRENS and reject marriage equality. Backlash was swift.

A better idea would be to do as Venice did and train orphans, the disabled, and the poor in musical performance, so that the city is blessed with the presence of lots of wonderful music. Or maybe not the training, but providing for all children would be better than trying to deny marriage to those who would raise them well.

Medical students who are not on the gender binary or who aren't straight often stay closeted, and a major reason why is fear of discrimination. If we are to have medical professionals who will fairly and properly treat all people, we need to have medical students that feel they can be open and contribute their experience.

Biologically speaking, there's no wrong way to do sex so long as there's a shot at genetic transfer. Questions of "right" and "wrong" are things of culture. Which doesn't mean things like consent aren't important. What it does mean is that all the possible consensual combinations you can think of are all equally valid.

Tips on how to make a pleasant hotel experience - being nice to everyone and being free with the tips certainly helps.

In technology, the value of Apple is larger than all but a few countries' gross domestic product.

Maxis, the developer of the Sim series, starting with SimCity, is having its doors shuttered by EA, the parent company. And another studio that made things that were unique and different is closed down.

A marvel of engineering that is a bridge in the shape of a dragon, that breathes fire and water.

A similar marvel, this time in the form of the illustrations to The Velveteen Rabbit.

To survive, animals will change their diets, meaning normally-herbivorous creatures will start consuming meat and other animals. And it's not just those in Kellis-Amberlee amplification, either.

The FCC approved net neutrality. One of the greatest beneficiaries of that decision decries it as the vanguard of government regulation of speech and content, demonstrating the fundamental misunderstanding of reality that moved this person to an Internet show off of the network they used to have.

The English language can be used to communicate in gender-neutral ways, just by tweaking things a bit from the default patterns.

Credit card breaches with point-of-sale vendors, which means that smaller organizations are just as likely, if not more so, to suffer thieves attacking them. There are steps that can be taken to make compromising your computer and devices more difficult, and free courses you can take on computer security, but there's still the possibility that you may be compromised because someone else's security failed.

An insistent light bulb demanding to be changed flooded a smart house network, causing a denial of service issue. Because, of course, devices do not know to ignore themselves unless told.

The Organization For Transformative Works helps clear up common misconceptions about Fair Use in the United States.

Time-lapse photography of the skies of New Zealand, which are quite lovely to look at.

For those in a climate where there is rain but not strong wind, an umbrella that makes kittens and paw prints appear in the presence of precipitation, with the strength of the presence correlating to the strength of the rain.

Searching for things in our age is about either anticipating the search before it arrives or being sure that the answer to a question is clear and visible from the first page of results. Which suggests that my library may need to integrate Worldcat straight into the regular search interface. I suspect, somehow, that we'd probably end up abusing the API or something.

The Internet Movie Database makes it much easier to play Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon with a tool that lets you find what projects two people have worked on together.

The cuisine of India achieves is unique flavor by using ingredients that do not generally share flavor profiles, meaning that most dishes have multiple unique flavors in each bite - a general shock to most Western palates. Additionally, correcting misconceptions expressed in fitness advertisements intending to shame people into doing workouts of a certain type and to eat a certain way and women taking about the ways they learn to make their bodies friends rather than enemies.

Kitchen gadgets that make geeks and geeky kids happy, paired with the reality of being English, working in a French patisserie, to Japanese coworkers and boss. Surprisingly, for me anyway, there's a lot of sound involved in making sure everything is right, in addition to the touch, smell, and occasional taste. Also, I linked, some time ago, to an article pointing out that the Japanese are quite good at replicating culture, to the point of being as good as or better than the original, and I think this is still true in this article.

Continuing in culinary things, the origin of the Boston Peking Ravioli.

Interpreting low-resolution photos of Ceres says a few things about its geology, which are exciting, but we'll need higher-res to examine those interesting features more.

Last for tonight, Spock chooses his identity, and we must respect his choice, even though many of the things that drive the movies are all about not respecting that choice, the need for more choices so that more people can find themselves, the real secret of the Lego Movie, which is not about the Big Twist, and control mechanisms and implementations for the profusion of fairy portals.

And a video of a Stark Industries representative delivering a bionic arm to a seven year-old customer.

The tools we have available to us today make it possible for us to never stop learning all of the things that are interesting to us. And they make it easier for us to give back our own knowledge to others, at whatever price we feel is fair.


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