blimix: Joe by a creek in the woods (Default)
( Feb. 18th, 2017 04:17 pm)
Last week, my uncle thought he had the worst heartburn of his life. He walked to a drug store, and waited outside for his friend to buy antacid, which took longer than it might have. When his friend finally left the store, my uncle was unconscious on the sidewalk. His heart had stopped.

He is alive, largely due to the close proximity of an ambulance with EMTs. Most likely, had this happened at another time or place, the family would have lost a relative, and the world would have lost a champion of good.

I am posting to ask you to learn from this. Do not die by failure to recognize a heart attack. Learn the symptoms, which can include (and exclude) any of the following: Pain/discomfort in the chest, arms(s), stomach, and/or jaw (jaw pain won't change as you move it); nausea; shortness of breath; cold sweat; lightheadedness; unexplained fatigue; coughing/wheezing; tachycardia; a sense of impending doom (yes, really).

How to recognize a heart attack (on WikiHow).
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blimix: Joe by a creek in the woods (Default)
( Feb. 7th, 2017 12:57 am)
I have two things to say first about how we react to fascists, and then proceed to productive, varyingly specific actions we can take. Feel free to skip to the action (so to speak).

Reacting to fascists. )

Action. )

That's about it for action advice, for the moment. If you're up for some education about current events, the comments here contain a large, recent link round-up.
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If you've read my post about the Bag of Useful Stuff, you know that I like to be prepared: Not just for emergencies, but even for simple desires like taking home pretty rocks. That said, I have until recently been lax about preparation for major crises.

Nobody wants to think about this sort of stuff, but that's no excuse. If you're caught unprepared, you'll want to punch your past self in the face for not doing a little planning and shopping when you had the chance.

Being prepared for emergencies involves more than just knowing where your flashlights, batteries, and first aid kit are. It bears thinking about now, because the moment you realize that you desperately need some item, it will be days (or weeks) too late to go out and get it. (Dealing with this stuff was on my to-do list long before the election, by the way. Although I increased its priority in November due to additional threat models, you don't have to care about politics to recognize that preparedness is a good thing. Even the National Weather Services has long recommended having a bug out bag ready in case you need to evacuate quickly.) This is, by the way, an ongoing project of learning and equipping. Feel free to comment with suggestions or links.

I have been thinking about four categories of situations:

1. Staying home, unable to go out for supplies. (Threat models (most likely to least likely) include being snowed in; an oil crunch causing the cessation of food deliveries to grocery stores; riots and looting; hostile police or military occupation.)
2. Staying home, with no electricity or water. (Threat models include breakdown of the existing, outdated, and poorly maintained and regulated electric infrastructure (as has already happened), local weather-related outages (possibly from the same snowfall that creates situation 1), and sabotage (to which the electric grid is quite vulnerable; see the National Research Council's report).)
3. Leaving home to find shelter with others for a while. (Note that the converse of this, sheltering others who have had to leave their homes, is not covered here. Assuming that none of the other categories apply, clearing out a guest room and shopping to feed extra mouths (and even shopping for an air mattress) do not require advance preparation.)
4. Leaving home to survive in the wild for a while. (Threat models include, well, nothing terribly likely: Finding yourself in a war zone, or having no recourse to people you can trust to help you (for whatever reason; maybe they left first) when running from authorities or lynch mobs. I actually included this situation mostly to make a distinction from situation 3: A distinction which is needed but lacking on the web pages I have seen about bug out bags. Also, if you already live far from civilization, and your transportation fails, situation 3 becomes situation 4.)

Having said this much, I can leave it to you to think about these possibilities, do the research, and figure out how you'd like to prepare. The following sections detail some of my own thoughts and preparations. Your mileage may vary.


Situation 1: Stuck at home. )

Situation 2: Power outage. )

Situation 3: Leaving to stay with someone else. )

Situation 4: Roughing it. )

Thanks to [personal profile] botia for reptile care tips. Thanks to two very helpful and talkative sales reps at Field and Stream for camping tips.

I have some generally applicable thoughts on further preparations, which will constitute their own post.
Back in 2009, I participated in what some hoped would be a mass migration from Livejournal to DreamWidth. We had too few to achieve critical mass. Now that LJ's servers are moved to Moscow and politically inconvenient blogs are reportedly disappearing, oh and also LJ no longer allows HTTPS, it appears to finally be time for the migration.

I am user Blimix on both LJ and DW. The best way to passively keep in touch with me will be to friend me on DW (if you know me and have set up a DW account). I post infrequently, but have a mix of public and friends-locked posts.

About Facebook: Facebook is not a useful platform for keeping in touch unless you use certain tricks to force the feed to stay chronological rather than filtering out stories that don't immediately get "liked" or commented on by a test audience of a few readers. (The FB Purity extension can do this. You can also bookmark the URL for the chronological feel instead of the default FB reading page.) If you can't keep up with the unfiltered feed, "unfollow" all your Facebook-friends-but-not-really-friends (except those who regularly post things you like to read) and maybe some real friends who post nothing but memes, cats, and/or babies. (You can also configure FB Purity to use keywords to filter out posts you don't want to see.) However, even after doing all this so that you can reliably read your friends' posts, most of your friends aren't doing the same, so they're often missing your posts. (Also, the format of FB is terrible for any post more complicated than plaintext. It's not a blogging platform by any stretch of the imagination.)

When I feel up to it, I'll look at importing my pre-2009 LJ to DW. I haven't been posting anything so personal that I'd be afraid of the Russian government and/or hackers knowing it, so deleting my LJ probably isn't in the cards until the migration looks well underway.
I'm working to not give in to despair over Republicans sabotaging the recount. Of course they would never let a recount happen, and of course no tactic is beneath them. Hope was folly. Eyewitness account. Investigative journalism on the recount issues.

I hope none of you had been pinning any hopes on the electors doing the right thing today.

Note that I don't mean that hope, in general, is folly. We need hope to get through this. The time for hope in authorities may be past, but there are lots of good people working hard to fix things. Doing what we can to actively be part of the solution is the best treatment for hopelessness.

Regarding the encroaching fascism, this is exactly the information I have been looking for, regarding what to expect, and when: History may not repeat itself, but it sure does rhyme a lot.

I had already had sentiments concerning people playing the short, medium, or long game concerning fixing things (and saving ourselves), and allowing others to focus on whichever of these they saw fit. Siderea expands on that with an explicit call to not derail conversations about one of these with another.

Regarding safety pins: People have come up with some reasons to deter others from wearing them, but those reasons are, so far, utter crap. The most vulnerable people (e.g., muslims and trans folk) have been very heartened to see people wearing safety pins, easing the air of hostility that otherwise threatens from all sides, and reassuring them that we have their backs.

The Nazis have had a political victory due only to corruption; they are celebrating their cultural victory prematurely. The time to hide your safety pin is when the jackbooted thugs are literally coming for you, but not one second before.

In other news, last month, I attended a NoDAPL event in Albany. The people there were great, and I unexpectedly (but unsurprisingly) ran into some familiar faces. It turned out that my shirt was more popular than the flyers I was handing out (about the banks invested in DAPL). (I've since gotten it as a sweatshirt, to accommodate the colder weather.) I also brought lots of supplies for folks; someone took me up on the paper and marker, to make his own sign.

Speaking of DAPL: Why police from different states invaded a Standing Rock camp -- and other questions.

Useful links:

What you can do about racist assaults.

EFF's digital security tips for protesters.

Trump Presidency to be Large-Scale Replication Experiments in Destructive Obedience: Here is How to Resist (Thanks, Caitlin!)

[livejournal.com profile] elenbarathi has some great political link roundups.

"Last Week Tonight" on Trump. The ending was surprisingly cathartic.
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I'm working to not give in to despair over Republicans sabotaging the recount. Of course they would never let a recount happen, and of course no tactic is beneath them. Hope was folly. Eyewitness account. Investigative journalism on the recount issues.

I hope none of you had been pinning any hopes on the electors doing the right thing today.

Note that I don't mean that hope, in general, is folly. We need hope to get through this. The time for hope in authorities may be past, but there are lots of good people working hard to fix things. Doing what we can to actively be part of the solution is the best treatment for hopelessness.

Regarding the encroaching fascism, this is exactly the information I have been looking for, regarding what to expect, and when: History may not repeat itself, but it sure does rhyme a lot.

I had already had sentiments concerning people playing the short, medium, or long game concerning fixing things (and saving ourselves), and allowing others to focus on whichever of these they saw fit. Siderea expands on that with an explicit call to not derail conversations about one of these with another.

Regarding safety pins: People have come up with some reasons to deter others from wearing them, but those reasons are, so far, utter crap. The most vulnerable people (e.g., muslims and trans folk) have been very heartened to see people wearing safety pins, easing the air of hostility that otherwise threatens from all sides, and reassuring them that we have their backs.

The Nazis have had a political victory due only to corruption; they are celebrating their cultural victory prematurely. The time to hide your safety pin is when the jackbooted thugs are literally coming for you, but not one second before.

In other news, last month, I attended a NoDAPL event in Albany. The people there were great, and I unexpectedly (but unsurprisingly) ran into some familiar faces. It turned out that my shirt was more popular than the flyers I was handing out (about the banks invested in DAPL). (I've since gotten it as a sweatshirt, to accommodate the colder weather.) I also brought lots of supplies for folks; someone took me up on the paper and marker, to make his own sign.

Speaking of DAPL: Why police from different states invaded a Standing Rock camp -- and other questions.

Useful links:

What you can do about racist assaults.

EFF's digital security tips for protesters.

Trump Presidency to be Large-Scale Replication Experiments in Destructive Obedience: Here is How to Resist (Thanks, Caitlin!)

Elenbarathi has some great political link roundups.

"Last Week Tonight" on Trump. The ending was surprisingly cathartic.
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This is adapted from a letter I wrote at the end of September. It was more trouble than I wanted to go to, but I think that privilege makes it primarily the job of white allies to try to get through to other white folks, so I wrote it anyway. I have delayed posting it until now, in case the recipient had any counter-arguments to make. (He didn't; he merely changed the subject to try to impugn BLM in even less credible ways.) There are certain lessons in the letter that can be applied to more recent protests, and I won't insult you by editing it to point them out.

Not that long, but cut for length anyway. )

Link: How To Be A White Ally

(I also wanted to link to, but cannot find, the webcomic (maybe XKCD?) in which someone explains that they double the development time estimate every time someone asks, "Why don't you just...?")
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I just gave way more than I've ever donated to anything before. Because *this* is how we prevent a holocaust. Raise money to pay for recounts in Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania.

In case you weren't aware, these states suffered statistically impossible flips very late. Diebold Election Systems (later called Premier Election Solutions) and SmartTECH rigged the 2004 election in Ohio (after Diebold's CEO promised to "hand Ohio to Bush") and tried exactly the same thing in 2012, only to be foiled that time by a firewall installed by Anonymous hackers. (Source.) Election Systems & Software bought Premier and sold its assets to Dominion. All three of these flipped states used vote tally machines from Premier, Dominion, and/or ES&S.

Thanks to Lee for these links:

Wisconsin's voting equipment.

Florida's voting equipment.

Pennsylvania's voting equipment.

Edit: Trump currently leads by 74 electoral votes, meaning that Clinton needs to gain back 37 to tie. PA has 20; MI has 16; WI has 10. Flipping all three states back in the recounts would give the election to Clinton. Flipping only PA and MI would put it close enough that it would take only 2 conscientious electors (from any red states) to give the election back to Clinton, which is within the realm of possibility. (Electors are chosen before the primaries and are loyal to parties, not candidates. Trump is no friend to the RNC.)

Further edit: Siderea has further information about audits, which are different from recounts and are also necessary. Also, a petition.
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One thing I haven't seen addressed is exactly what Trump's supporters meant by "He tells it like it is," or "He says what he means". Taken literally, it clearly contradicts their current message, and has always been asinine. But they never meant it literally. What they meant was, "He's not afraid to call a spade a spade." (Younger readers, this idiom is not about gardening. "Spade" is an old-fashioned term with the same meaning and connotation as the N word.)

They loved that he had no compunctions about saying horrible things. They idolized him for getting away with it, as if he were some kind of hero: The only one brave enough to stand up to the "don't you dare" attitude from the culture that surrounded them but was not theirs. They thought, and still think, that treating other people with civility is something you do out of fear of disapproval, rather than something you do out of respect. When their fear of disapproval vanished, so did their compunctions.

They didn't realize that Trump got away with it not because he was brave and outspoken but because he had financial privilege that they don't; because he is a member of an elite social and economic class that has no respect for anybody that they are not obliged to suck up to: The same class that destroyed the economy and then used their media to tell conservatives to blame liberals for their misfortunes. They identify with and support their destroyer, despite having nothing in common but a lack of respect for their fellow humans.

They've been yearning all these years to have their disrespect validated, and that's enough for them.
I would like to post more of a particular conversation that happened in comments. This is not to complain about anyone, nor to gain recognition. Some of the things I said there will certainly have to be said again, to others, and I would like you to have the option to save yourself some trouble by copying and pasting those things from this post if you want. Good wishes to you all. (And yes, I moved my first response here from my earlier post, to put it in better context and to provide context for what followed.)




Originally, my friend had posted to observe that people saying things like "Calm down," "It'll be okay," and "You're overreacting" were overwhelmingly white males, and then postulated that the willingness to say such things correlated with white men still failing to understand experiences other than their own (i.e., privilege).




Another person, M., commented that, while he intended to just give these emotions some space for a few days, those white males in question simply honestly feel that "You'll be fine" is correct, and that platitudes are appropriate for a medium that uses "like" to show support. He referred to the invokation of privilege as insulting and trolling, with an "I understand you were distressed, but..." (and cue the admonitions to better tend to the precious feelings of the poor, innocent, well-meaning, put-upon white males).




Thus, my first response:

M., I understand that you're trying to be respectful and understanding, and I thank you for that. But you're missing something. It's something that often happens in conversations between people with different experiences. Person A has had something really bad happen to them, and is quite upset. Person B doesn't share person A's lived experience with systemic oppression, and so isn't nearly as bothered by the event. Person B thinks that person A is overreacting. Person B then feels like they're the calm, rational one, while person A is the emotional, irrational one who needs to calm down. But in actuality, the difference is that person A understands the full gravity of the situation (and would thus have to be evil or emotionally numb to NOT be upset), while person B has had the privilege to be able to ignore how bad the situation is. No matter how clearly person A articulates the problem, person B's mind is already made up and closed through a combination of consistency pressure, confirmation bias, identity politics, and an unwillingness to believe that the world could possibly be as horrifyingly unjust as it really is (because believing in a just world makes person B feel safe as long as they don't do anything out of line). This ability, to willingly stay ignorant of how bad the situation is, is only possible because of privilege. Person A lacks that privilege, and so doesn't have the option of burying their head in the sand: The unjustness of the world kicks them in the head every day.

When person A points out person B's privilege, that's not an insult or an attack. It's an attempt to communicate that yes, the world can be different from the way that person B thinks it is, even if person B is intelligent and well-adjusted, because person B's privilege allows them to keep the blinders on.




M. then politely challenged me to show as much empathy for upset conservatives in 2008 as I do for upset liberals in 2016. He described McCain as a "change candidate" and Obama as a "big government candidate". He referred to popular disapproval of public disappointment in the result as oppression, on a level with North Korea and 1984. He questioned how measuring privilege could have worked when deciding between Clinton and Obama in the primaries. He attacked the use of the word "privilege" as "otherism," and objected to its implication of racism and sexism as applied to himself.

(Those who have seen the thread in question: If I have in any way misrepresented M.'s comments, please call me out on it. I also want to stress, since I am summarizing here, that he kept his tone indignant but not abusive.)




My comment:

M., your response does not give me much hope that we will get through to each other, so I'm going to limit the energy I spend in replying, as I really don't have enough to go around for things like this. Unfortunately, I'm afraid I also won't have the energy to phrase blunt things as tactfully as would likely be useful when trying to communicate across this divide, and for that I apologize.

Those two elections are comparable in that the people backing the losing side were upset. They are not comparable in that those who are upset by Trump's victory have their fears grounded in the real experiences of being oppressed in their everyday lives, and by the numerous, dire threats that Trump himself has made toward them/us. Those who were upset by Obama's election had their fears (and their perceptions of who represented change) based on easily debunked misinformation spread by Fox News. While the 2008 conservative fears were deeply upsetting -- and I empathize with that -- the 2016 liberal fears are viscerally terrifying, because they mesh perfectly with real life experiences; because pattern recognition said that minorities were about to suffer a large increase in violence, and that is exactly what has already happened; and because those of us who have absorbed the lessons of history know that those of you who haven't are in the midst of repeating it, and that road ends in an ocean of blood. (Not just ours; nobody is in every "in" group, and the violent fascists that Trump has incited may eventually set their sights on you. History says that too: Look up the Brown Shirts.)

So yes, I feel sorry for people who were upset about Obama, but the comparison you make is insultingly dismissive toward current fears of widespread violence and human rights violations.

"Opponents had the same intellectual freedom that people have in North Korea." This is so absurd that it makes me suspect you're being deliberately disingenuous. Political oppression is when saying politically unpopular things gets you arrested and executed, not when it gets you dirty looks from your neighbor.

Nobody used a measurement of privilege to choose Obama over Clinton. Obama's policies and positions were more progressive than Clinton's. (Admittedly, that wasn't enough for Bernie, which as you may have noticed, is a bit of a sore point among progressives. But that's a different discussion.) You're still not getting that privilege is not an insult, and to say that someone has privilege is not to call them evil. I have privilege, and nobody is giving me flak for it. It's really not the loaded word you think it is, and you don't have to get defensive about it. But privilege, like other powers, comes with responsibility to use it only for good and to never lord it over others. Responsibility is scary -- I get that -- and it's easier for you to pretend that scary things don't exist, but it's also awfully childish. Frankly, as difficult as it is to live with the responsibility of one's own privilege, it is thousands of times more difficult to live with the obstacles and risk of NOT having privilege. And if all of our loved ones with less privilege can live their lives on Hard Mode, what sort of whiny crybabies would we have to be to complain that we don't want to deal with the responsibilities of playing in Normal Mode? It's time for you to step up and take care of your friends who are hurting, not belittle them.




A couple of other friends have also pointed out that nobody should ever say "Calm down," regardless of the circumstances, because it never works: It only comes across as dismissive, showing an utter lack of empathy.
Partly because there are people who may follow my Livejournal/DreamWidth but not my Facebook, and partly because Facebook doesn't show all posts, here is a collection of what I've written on Facebook in the last couple of days. (I have more to write, of course.)




This motto originally appeared from a company that supported BLM, but it was a limited run, and they're out of stock. You can now get it from TMI shirts. It's even a little cheaper, so you can donate the difference to BLM causes if you want, and have the same effect.





What is best to do? Both Canadian emigration and determination to stay here and help have shown up a few times in my feed already. Both ideas have merit. There is value in selflessness and there is value in taking care of yourself. (I very much want to stay and help people. On the other hand, my family would not exist if my great grandmother had not had the sense to get the hell out of Poland.) Both ideas may also be come by poorly, as rationalizations for failing to do the work to help one's self, or to help others. And one layer down, you may be rationalizing a laziness that you actually require, if you lack the spoons and/or money to do the work that you feel needs to be done. If your reaction is immediate one way or the other, please examine your motives. You may well doing what you need to do, but check and make sure.

I posit, however, that the whole question is a false dichotomy. You don't need to predict which course of action will be best. You can simply prepare yourself. Spend some time at home, building up your financial resources. Make contacts in Canada and elsewhere. Help people who are less privileged than you. Make sure you have a current passport, because by the time it becomes obvious that you need it, it will be WAY too late to get one. If and when the jackboots or food riots are imminent, grab what you can and GTFO.




[This was my comment on someone else's post, but it should be its own message.] I've been making sure NOT to say things like, "It'll be okay," and "We'll get through this," because some of us won't, and saying that would invalidate their perfectly justified and rational fears. Comforting ourselves by sticking our heads in the sand and waiting for it to blow over is not the answer. Instead, form a plan of action, whether it's to protect yourself, your loved ones, or all of humanity. It will give you far more peace of mind than pretending that this is okay will. For those who have reason to fear (which, honestly, is everyone who isn't willfully ignorant), validate their feelings and reassure them that you have their back.




Last night, a supermarket cashier said, "Good evening! How are you?" In the same rapid, cheery tone, I replied, "Terrified and disillusioned! How about you?" (He said, "I hear you," while the woman of color in front of me turned to give a brief smile and chuckle. I know we have to do the "business as usual" thing to get through the mundane parts of the day, but once again, a bit of solidarity is better than pretending that everything's okay.)




Appropriate link: Don't Panic (Thanks, Grim!)
blimix: Joe by a creek in the woods (Default)
( Oct. 31st, 2016 01:03 pm)
As I've mentioned before, I have developed a role-playing game. It needs more development, but the playtests have been promising. I am now at the point where I need to nail down the name. It doesn't have to be fixed in stone, but once I take the next step, a change will cost me a bit. I'm pretty happy with the name I've been using, but am hereby opening myself to suggestions. A rose by any other name would smell as sweet, but the names "Tesla" and "General Electric" communicate something about the companies that "Apple" and "Sony" do not.

I'm wondering whether I/we can construct a name that communicates something about this game. The major selling (and playing) point of the game is that it is easy enough for beginners (and non-math people), while having enough depth of play to satisfy experienced gamers. (Inclusivity also shows up in character creation and even the HTML files, which I've made to follow web accessibility guidelines. I intend that artwork (whenever it happens) will also not exploitatively imply a target audience of straight, white males.) There are also foci on game balance, on making sure that players always have options, and on allowing any realistic items or actions that do not conflict badly with the above. There are (and will be more) on-line aids for playing. All of the rules are on-line, though PDFs and print versions will eventually be available.

Comments are screened; I will unscreen comments that do not contain name suggestions. By suggesting a name, you are giving me permission to use it. I can promise nothing in return, but if my game makes a surprising amount of money with a name you suggested, I'll shoot some your way. (Also, thanks in advance, since I may not be able to reply, "Thanks!" without unscreening your comment.)

Edited to add: The game is not setting-specific. It is already made to work in a modern or historical setting, and I'm writing the expansion for fantasy and space opera now.
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Some decades ago, during my college days (yes, I'm getting old), I accompanied a friend to his family gathering. I wound up engrossed in conversation with his stepsister J., age 15, whose knowledge and insight impressed me. At dinner, the three of us occupied a conversational niche at the middle of the table. The conversation at the table's end was the sort of speculation that often entertains dinner companions: The women of their parents' and grandparents' generations were taking turns sharing their explanations of some curious phenomenon. They took each other seriously, even though none of them had anything convincing to say on the subject. (My apologies: As much as these events have impressed themselves upon me, the intervening years have been more than sufficient to steal the subject itself from my memory.) A slightly heated debate ensued. At an appropriate gap in the adults' conversation, J., who was seated at their edge, made the usual gesture to draw attention. She began to submit a solution to the question under discussion, in the simple, explanatory tone of one who knows the answer. The adults avoided eye contact with J., and one of them immediately started talking over her (not to her; only to the others), so that they did not hear more than three words from her. It was smoothly done, as if J. had merely tried to interject during an insufficient pause. She politely waited for another pause, and was then interrupted in an identical manner. After the third time it happened, she gave up.

The rest is behind a cut for the sake of your feed, but you know you want to read it. )

All right, I'm getting sidetracked. tl;dr: I like to show respect.
blimix: Joe leaning way out at a waterfall (waterfall)
( Oct. 11th, 2016 03:54 pm)
There is a specific bad habit of thought that is partly to blame for things like Libertarianism and phys-splaining. It is one with which I used to be intimately familiar, and which took a long time to break.

If I may start with an example, in high school physics (including A.P. physics), there was almost no material that a smart student needed to learn. I found early on that I could goof off during class, never read the textbook, and still ace every test. I didn't need to learn the formulas to solve the mechanical problems, because they could all be derived from conservation of energy, F=ma, and E=mv2. Most of the electricity and magnetism unit involved learning jargon for concepts that were intuitive if you could construct metaphorical isomorphisms between things like voltage and water pressure.

A child or young adult who is very good at problem solving can get used to always being right, because the problems that they face do not require learning a wealth of background information. In their experience, someone who disagrees with them just hasn't figured it out yet.

Once this person starts dealing with real world problems, they run into disagreements with people who have far more experience in the subjects. Their old assumptions about their ability to discern truth become maladaptive. They don't realize that they're getting wrong answers by oversimplifying and failing to respect others' understanding. Sometimes, they read Atlas Shrugged, then idolize the captains of industry, decry government regulation, and live in a fantasy world in which wealth and power are meritocratic. But they fail to pay attention to the real world, in which the captains of industry achieve their status through a combination of inherited weath, large scale theft and murder, and corrupt control over regulators. Privilege in general has a particular hold over these habitually smart but ignorant folks, because they find laughable the idea that the world is so very different from what they were brought up to believe.

Yes, I went through that phase. Luckily, I lacked the second ingredient that keeps smart kids in blissful ignorance: A fragile ego. Discovering that I had been wrong was embarrassing as hell, but the desire to be a better person meant that I had to change my mind. (Eventually, I was mortified that I had previously identified as a Libertarian.) Those with fragile egos will instead ease their embarrassment by finding any excuse, logical fallacy, or echo chamber to support their old beliefs.

In a big way, I envy millenials' having grown up with social media. Access to real information, bypassing the editors of newspapers and social studies textbooks, would have greatly facilitated my personal growth during my formative years. And sure, even in the information age, people can still choose their own echo chambers, but that is now voluntary. Nobody with an Internet connection (outside of China) has to keep their eyes closed if they don't want to. And I see, as a result, a generation that is hugely more interested and engaged in world affairs, in politics, in the environment, and in the pressing issues of populations other than their own, than my generation was at their age.

There is no longer any excuse for staying smart, ignorant, and complacent. No matter how easy your school work is, the tough problems are a mouse click away.
blimix: Joe on mountain ridge with sunbeam (Huckleberry Mountain)
( Sep. 27th, 2016 03:20 pm)
Someone I know recently discovered that they had several food allergies. The allergist had informed them that their unusual appetite and thirst could be symptoms of a food allergy: Something that no other doctor had ever mentioned. This testing turned out to have been long overdue. Cutting out the problematic foods not only relieved their perpetual hunger and thirst; it also eased their chronic issues with pain, mobility, energy, and gas. This is a tremendous life change, after decades of unhelpful visits to other medical professionals.

I'd bet that, even if food allergies turned out to be the cause in only a small fraction of similar cases, getting this message out would still help somebody I know. (I know an awful lot of people suffering undiagnosed chronic crap. You probably do, too.) There is no down side to getting tested for allergies, other than having to sit through mild discomfort, so get out there and do it. (I've done it, just to diagnose a slight, persistent cough: Far less reason than many other people have.)

Remember that they don't test for all possible food allergies; just the common ones. But eliminating the common allergens will at least keep them from masking the uncommon ones, making you more likely to notice and identify them. Best of luck.
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Our blood drive was today. I often see the same phlebotomist, and told her, "I just get to lie here and read, while you're doing all the work. But I have noticed that you're working very efficiently." She smiled as she affirmed that she has gotten the hang of it over the past several months. Upon my entry, she had given me the same pleased look of recognition that my regular dental hygienist does, ever since I let her know that I appreciate the skill and care that she brings to her job. They both let me know that they look forward to seeing me next time.

I guarantee you, 100%, that the happy-to-see-me response is not because I'm some sexy, confident, alpha-male beast (whose stylized silver ring on the wrong hand does not much resemble a wedding band, though it is). Honestly, I feel, at heart, like a shy, awkward person who has practiced being nice to people enough to form a habit strong enough to overcome my introversion.

A compliment can make someone's day, or week. Complimenting someone's work is particularly pleasing: People put a lot of time and effort into getting good at things; appreciation of the results is rewarding.

Complimenting someone's appearance can be nice, but it comes with a couple of caveats. The first is that a person's appearance is much less under their own control than their work is, and so pride in appearance is not nearly as meaningful. The second is that it can come off as creepy and even threatening if the context suggests a possibility that the complimenter is aiming to get something in return, or is objectifying the recipient.

Hint: This creepy context usually means a man complimenting the appearance of a woman who is engaged in any activity at all other than actively trying to meet men. ("If you think women are crazy, you’ve never had a dude go from hitting on you to literally threatening to kill you in the time it takes you to say, 'no thanks'." - Kendra Wells.) A man's peaceful intentions alone cannot change this: Assuming she's not a mind reader (she's not), a sufficiently experienced woman's perception of the context (in which men's desire for and objectification of women encourages subhuman treatment including violence) is the same either way. There are workarounds for this: A female acquaintance of mine was quite pleased when a man said, "Excuse me, I just wanted to let you know that you are very beautiful," and then crossed the road and walked away before she could respond. His behavior clarified that he wasn't seeking anything from her, which allowed her to receive the compliment without suspicion.

When my wife and I are out, she's the one who delivers the well received compliments on someone's stunning hair, eyes, or dress. I don't even try. Though if I had to, I'd probably start with, "We just wanted to let you know..." In public, and establishing our existing relationship with the word "we," I doubt anyone would read desirous intentions into it.

Getting farther into speculation: I don't attend fandom conventions, but I love the costume photos and videos. If I were there in person, and wanted to compliment a woman's costume, I suspect that (if the costume is not highly covering) "I love your outfit!" could be interpreted as, "I love how you're showing off your body with that outfit! Thank you for enabling me to objectify you!" So I might instead try, "Great work on that outfit! It must have taken countless hours!" See that? I switched it from complimenting their appearance to complimenting their work, and clarifying my focus on their costume rather than their body. People familiar with convention etiquette: Am I on track here? Is there a better way to do it? (Edited: The original "better version" was phrased as a question rather than a statement, which Beth caught. A question demands time and attention, neither of which you are entitled to, and a question will also be wearying when asked by every fifth passer-by.)

It's usually less tricky for people to compliment men, because the social context includes both a much lower chance of objectification, and a much lower chance that any objectification would result in violence. There has been a time or two that I was pretty sure a guy complimenting my appearance was hitting on me, but because I'm not an insecure, homophobic douchebag, I didn't mind. (Homophobia: The fear that gay men will treat you the way you treat women.) Outside of the context of systemic violence (and tiresome repetition), the attention was merely flattering.

I'm down a pint of blood, so please forgive me and let me know if I have to clarify or correct anything here.
blimix: Joe by a creek in the woods (Default)
( Sep. 2nd, 2016 05:22 pm)
In my previous post, I mentioned keeping a rattan stick for defense in case of home invasion, rather than a knife, sword, or firearm.

Let's look at how firearms in the home are actually used:

"For every instance in which a gun in the home was shot in self-defense, there were seven criminal assaults or homicides, four accidental shootings, and 11 attempted or successful suicides."

"This is not the first time in Central Florida where a relative has been mistaken as an intruder in a fatal shooting."

We're not talking about a rare "just some people who made the news" risk. While camping, my father once returned to his tent, waking his mother, who (still groggy) shouted, "Oh my god, a bear!" then grabbed a pistol, aimed at him, and pulled the trigger. The gun and bullets were old, and didn't fire. My father would be dead, and I wouldn't exist, if it weren't for the fact that a "self defense" weapon failed. On the day that I decide that getting shot by a relative constitutes a good time, I'll start keeping an accessible gun in the house.

Blades are a subtler matter. The practical difference between a gun and a knife or sword (other than range) isn't how physically difficult it is to kill someone with it (pretty damn easy either way), but how psychologically difficult it is. It takes only a whim to pull a trigger; you have to really intend harm to stab someone. This gives blades an edge (so to speak) in utility over guns, because killing people on a whim is bad. But they still have a lot of potential for unnecessary killing (and getting killed; you never know who's going to die in the struggle over a knife). At night, in the dark, having just woken up, is not the time to decide whether some mysterious figure in your living room or bedroom needs killing. That way lie dead relatives.

A nice rattan stick (or anything similar; I used to have a metal support bar from a folding chair) can cause enough pain and damage to be a deterrent, but won't kill someone unless you're trying really hard to kill them with it. There are all kinds of ways to use a stick to disarm someone that you'll learn if you train in kali/eskrima, but they're all icing. You know the easiest way to disarm an intruder? Get behind a corner. In a few minutes, the intruder will come sneaking around the bend. The moment their weapon hand comes into view, hit it with the stick! If it turns out to be a case of mistaken identity, you'll probably have given your son a very nasty bruise and spilled his drink all over, rather than, you know, killing him.

(Once again, please keep the comments respectful.)
I have a backpack called the Bag of Useful Stuff. It is the closest thing to a D&D style magic item that I own. Often, when someone says, "I could really use [X]," I can pull [X] out of the bag for them. I've heard it compared to a "mommy bag" and a "bug out bag," but those are different (and quite worthy) concepts that are already explored elsewhere.

The idea of the Bag of Useful Stuff is to include items of maximal utility, where utility is roughly proportional to the product of "How likely am I to need this?" and "How bad would it be to need this and be without it?" and the inverse of "How much space does this take up?" (the opportunity cost of not being able to fit other useful things).

Cut for length. )
blimix: Joe by a creek in the woods (Default)
( Aug. 5th, 2016 10:20 pm)
I will believe you.

People (especially women, children, people of color, LGBTQ people, people with disabilities, and other underprivileged folks) often don't report the abuses they suffer, including harassment, threats, and violence. There are many reasons for this, including the expectation that their experiences will be dismissed with disbelief or victim blaming. I can do nothing about the other reasons, but I can and will address this one.

I suspect that disbelief stems from discomfort. The listener does not wish to believe that the world is one in which these awful things really happen to people they know. They find more palatable the idea that the victim is lying or exaggerating. They also prefer the illusion that the world is a just place where, as long as you don't do something terribly wrong or stupid, nothing really bad will happen to you. It makes them feel safe. Of course, believing things because they're comfortable, rather than because they're true, makes that listener an irrational ass. Worse, they are a toxic, irrational ass who has become part of the problem by discouraging victims from speaking up, and by enabling abusers to act with impunity.

I form beliefs based on evidence, rather than comfort, and the overwhelming evidence shows that the world is an unjust place that is full of systemic violence toward underprivileged people. So if you tell me about it, I will believe you. I will not ask what you were wearing, or suggest that you should have been more compliant, or imply that it's no big deal and you should just forget about it. Your experiences are real and valid. I am not asking you to share them: Doing so, or not, is entirely your decision. Just know that if you do confide in me, I will not dismiss you.

Everyone: If you'd rather be part of the solution than part of the problem, feel free to share this or make a similar promise.
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blimix: Joe as a South Park character (South Park)
( Jul. 25th, 2016 05:00 pm)
Yesterday was the fifth time I've gotten the license plate of a hit-and-run driver, and the second time I've done so thanks to having a dashboard camera. The police and the other driver (she's okay) were very grateful.

Dash cams: They're not just for Russians anymore.
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