Archive for the 'Burns My Shorts' category

Quick, Who's A Geek?

Not you, I bet! Unless you're a dude, that is. I know this for sure because just this morning I came across a helpful new tome, The Geek's Guide to Dating, written for dudes who want to get girls.

You keep your action figures in their original packaging. Your closets are full of officially licensed Star Wars merchandise. You’re hooked on Elder Scrolls and Metal Gear but now you’ve discovered an even bigger obsession: the new girl who just moved in down the hall.

What’s a geek to do? Take some tips from The Geek’s Guide to Dating. This hilarious primer is jam-packed with cheat codes, walkthroughs, and power-ups for navigating the perils and pitfalls of your love life with ease. Geeks of all ages will find answers to the ultimate questions of life, the universe, and everything romantic, from First Contact to The Fellowship of the Ring and beyond. Full of whimsical 8-bit illustrations, The Geek’s Guide to Dating will teach fanboys everywhere to love long and prosper.

It would have been out of the question, of course to have written the above thus:

You keep your action figures in their original packaging. Your closets are full of officially licensed Star Wars merchandise. You’re hooked on Elder Scrolls and Metal Gear but now you’ve discovered an even bigger obsession: the new girl Person of Interestwho just moved in down the hall.

What’s a geek to do? Take some tips from The Geek’s Guide to Dating. This hilarious primer is jam-packed with cheat codes, walkthroughs, and power-ups for navigating the perils and pitfalls of your love life with ease. Geeks of all ages types will find answers to the ultimate questions of life, the universe, and everything romantic, from First Contact to The Fellowship of the Ring and beyond. Full of whimsical 8-bit illustrations, The Geek’s Guide to Dating will teach fanboys cosplayers everywhere to love long and prosper.

Out of the question, of course, because then how the hell would you have written the book to go with that? It is geeks, who are dudes, white dudes to be specific, who need help with mating, and it is girls, who may or may not be geeks, who cares, who are out there waiting to be properly mated. Always this way. Dudes, seeking and finding girls, like a precious grail quest. Too bad if you are a geek girl who would like some dating tips on sorting dudes from duds. Or a geek dude who fancies other geek dudes. Or likewise a geek girl whose heart beats faster for other geek girls. No book for you!

The book authors were on this morning's Radio Times with Marty Moss-Coane. I hasten to add that they declared, many times, while talking about the book and answering questions, that geek is not an identity owned solely by dudes, that anyone can be a geek, that geek culture has broad meanings and shapes, that it is welcoming to all, and that the openness and welcoming to all is part of what makes geek culture so great.  The irony of having written a book that takes as its unacknowledged knowledge-we-all-share that geeks are dudes completely escaped them. It also seemed to have gone right by Moss-Coane, for the usually quite sharp host did not remark upon this at all.

Why does it take so much help to be a dude? Some years back there was The Dangerous Book for Boys, because boys were in danger of growing up as namby-pamby nancy boys who wouldn't know a penknife if a Real Boy jammed it in their thigh. The Dangerous Book for Girls was promptly produced as an antidote (and for more book sales). Now Real Geekness needs shored up a little with an Actually Real Geeks ARE Men Even Though We As A Community Say We Are Totally Welcoming To All dating manual.

Oh come on, it's all a bit of light-hearted good fun, can't you relax and laugh a little, you feminists have no sense of humor! We even put in a Note To Girl Geeks (see page 19)! Where we said this book is for dudes but if you try hard you can see yourself in it! Except facial hair! If you're so bothered by it, why don't you write your own Geek Girl's Guide to Dating?

Would a Geek Girl's Guide to Dating be of any help? (1) No. (2) No. (3) No. It doesn't address compulsory heterosexuality in geek culture. It doesn't solve the problem of Real Geeks Are Men, But There Are Some She-Geek Oddities As Well. It doesn't address the problem of a book that stakes the claim of a single very specific identity as the center of the universe and equivalent to the community identity. The book is more accurately called The White Geek Dude's Guide to Dating. The following phrases are crutches used to walk away from that: "well, we really do welcome everyone; you should just write your own book" and "some women think it's funny" and "just try to picture yourself in it" and "there aren't that many gay geeks, I never met any" and "if we had to take all that into account,  it wouldn't be funny anymore".

Ah yes. If you had to take everyone else's perspective into account in writing your book, then 95% of the jokes in it wouldn't be funny, would they? Because the funny is based on the unacknowledged knowledge that Real Geeks Are Dudes. Where's the funny in having to admit that Real Geeks Are Men is just a bit of bad cosplay, and that the costume is wearing mighty thin, eh? No book for you.

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Defining the Discourse and Words We Use: Who Gets To?

So, this is not the way I imagined breaking my writer's block. Or my refraining-from-writing-as-an-act-of-mourning. Or my mourning-induced aphasia. Or whatever is this is. I'm gonna just cross my fingers and hope I don't snap during the writing of this and say something that worsens everyone's depression (except mine) and destroys the universe (because of my omnipotent evil feminazi womanish powers)  which in any case should be ignored (really, the whole post should be ignored, on account of its having been written by a screeching harridan whining about no big deal).  Here we go.

First, I ask thee, gentle Zuskateers, to read Let Me Fix That For You, Nature at Red Ink. (Thanks, @rocza for that link via the twitters.)  Then please read I'm sorry...but you brought this on yourself honey by my dear friend Drugmonkey.

In the first post, Henry Gee's original letter is a discourse-controlling tour-de-force, and Red Ink does a marvelous job of deconstructing his blatherings. One just sits in one's chair, jaw agape at the hilariously depressingly superb job that is this pulling of the truth out of truthiness's ass. It both entertains and instructs. One gets a delightful dose of schadenfreude in the reading of it, whilst simultaneous schooled by the unmasking of rhetorical tricks Gee deploys .

Next up is Drugmonkey's blog piece, offering a detailed analysis of  Gee's nonpologetic discourse. Wait for it... comment #4 tells us how he is doing itt rong, and in an inflammatory manner, and how the rong is ineffective to boot. Trifecta of discourse control!

Commenter #4's knickers got bunched over all the rong because (a) Drugmonkey used an analogy - ineffective! and (b) Drugmonkey picked a bad analogy - inflammatory!  Drugmonkey might as well be talking to a brick wall. Or worse, trying to talk to someone on the other side of the brick wall but all his shouting for attention makes them climb up the wall and shove some bricks onto his head to shut him up.

I'm sorry. I know that was confusing and possibly inflammatory. The person atop the wall could have poured boiling oil on his head. Or shot him with flaming arrows.

Now, as Drugmonkey did, we pause here for a trigger warning regarding abuse, should you read further.

Continue Reading »

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The Intro to Philosophy Take on Women's History

Today in intro to philosophy - the First Woman Writer Ever!
Learn with me.

Descartes was a really impressive dude. There were some problems with his Method. Princess Elisabeth wrote letters to him and asked him some good questions. She was kind of like Socrates in her letters, asking why and how. She was not playing a game, she was genuinely curious, kind of like she was saying you're this big intelligent man and I'm just a little princess over here trying to understand things.* Their correspondence was pretty cool. After Descartes died, Princess Elisabeth decided not to publish her letters, because, well, you see, there were some sentimental things in the letters. You know, that might have hinted at a relationship. So she kept them private. They were published long after her death. It's too bad she didn't agree to publish the letters, because they are the earliest known significant writing ever done by a woman! For realz! And if they had been published by Princess Elisabeth, people would have known a lot sooner that women were just as intelligent and capable of rational thought as men! Truth! [Because one exception was all that was needed to deconstruct an edifice of structural oppression. And obviously as soon as the letters came to light that edifice was demolished!]  Uh, you could ask a feminist philosopher or women's studies professor about it but I'm pretty sure this is the earliest writing by women that we have. [I am not an expert, some dudebro told me this, I didn’t bother to ask a women’s studies professor because a) really, and b) if a woman had written something I’d know about it.]

*Yes, he said "kind of like she was saying you're this big intelligent man and I'm just a little princess over here trying to understand things.

 

So when I got home, I went to the googles, and whaddya know, there's Hildegard von Bingen's theological writing in the 1100's. And Christine de Pisan's Book of the City of Ladies in 1405. Ann Bradstreet published a book of poetry in 1650. And then there's The Tale of Genji, by Murasaki Shikbu, "considered the world's first novel",

praised for the complex relationships between and among the characters. This is especially true regarding the portrayal of personal desire and the constraints that rank and gender in a highly hierarchical society place upon it, as well as the hidden tensions inherent in the conduct of Genji’s highly calibrated social and personal relationships. The novel is striking also for the compelling evocation of its characters’ minds, particularly of women of various ranks mulling upon their lot in life. In certain instances, these women exhibit an understanding of the workings of the psyche in terms almost modern.

It was written in the Heian Era (794-1185 CE).

But philosophy is what dudebros do. Hildegard was just writing about her visions in response to some "divine command" (not at all like Socrates's daimon).  Pisan's Book of the City of Ladies is just a pastiche done by a dancing dog while Augustine's City of God is philosophy. A bunch of poems or a gossipy book about ladeez and court life - you can't even talk about them in the same breath as Aristotle's Poetics. So I think we wimmin folk are lucky for two reasons.  Princess Elisabeth's letters made it into the philosophy category. And they got published so now everyone knows women are equally as smart as men. This is what makes the discipline of philosophy a warm and welcoming haven for women. Now that we have that straight, let us turn our attention back to Descartes, Berkeley, Hume, Kant, and Nietzsche.

You know, I want to study those dude philosophers. Understanding them is important for understanding a lot of other stuff. It's like learning algebra and trig before going on to calculus. But it burns my shorts to get my intro to philosophy with breezy "women are equal" jibber-jabber undermined in the same or next breath with condescension and implications about women's emotions blocking the progress of philosophy. And I really don't like it combined with casually wrong stories about women's history. I've got enough experience and knowledge not to be fooled or damaged by this crap, but those young kids in class with me? Well, they're just starting to learn, aren't they.

 

 

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Back to School All Over Again

Life-long learning!

Who doesn't want to know more stuff?!?

Do you remember ever once saying "I'd be a professional student if I could?"

WHAT WERE YOU THINKING???!?!?!?

Two days ago I set foot upon the fifth - count 'em! fifth! - campus of my life wherein I shall be a student, albeit just for a semester, and just for one class. This waking nightmare is the fault of my neurologist. It's his way of testing out whether or not I can keep to even a minimal schedule and focus for a (limited) extended period of time several times a week, without things getting much worse migraine-wise.

He insisted that the course be something quite challenging, and suggested some sort of mathematics. I felt I have had enough mathematics to last me a lifetime (no offense to my dear friend and brilliant math guru Mark @MarkCC). So I picked philosophy: PHL 100, Intro to Philosophy. And what do we commence with? Logic. Logic, which is akin to math. But of course!

I must note here two interesting and somewhat discouraging observations from my brand-new one-day experience as a student. We shall call them (1) What? Where? Help? and (2) All That Feminist Theory in Action.

(1) What? Where? Help?  New Campus is a nearby, very good community college that draws a diverse student population.  Their website is one of the most friendly, welcoming, and easy to navigate of any I have ever seen. Colleges and universities across the land could take many a lesson from New Campus's website.  As I mentioned, this is not my first student rodeo (4 degrees, worked for a university).  And yet...registering for the course did not go smoothly. New Campus has me in their database as a former student with a student i.d. number because four years ago, my neurologist asked me to try the Take a Course experiment.  I tried it at New Campus and had to withdraw within weeks. Returning students need their student i.d. number to register.  But I didn't remember that number. No problem, friendly online registration will look it up for me! by my name and social security number! Oops, I cannot be found in the system. Sorry. So I registered as a new, not a returning, student. No problem, registration app accepted! The online form asked for my email; I gave it. I was to be notified within two business days of my course status.

Days went by...a week...there was a family crisis...I forgot about the registration...then suddenly, hey, this is the first day of the semester! I called New Campus. A friendly staff person told me I had indeed been registered, but then dropped from the course, because I had not paid my tuition. Why had I not received notification of my registration? It had been sent to me, via email - to my New Campus student email account. Which I did not realize I had and could not have accessed if I did, because I did not have my student i.d. number.  Long story short, staff person put me back in the class, took my tuition payment over the phone via credit card, gave me my student i.d. number, and walked me through the web portal, which is all quite easy and obvious if (a) you know it exists, (b) you know you should look there, and (c) you have your student i.d. number.

When you check your course registration online, there is a nifty option to order your textbook from a link right there beside the course! Then you just go pick it up at the bookstore! How handy! As it turns out, ordering your textbook actually means ordering it, as in, they will now ask for it to be fetched from some faraway warehouse. It does not mean, you have purchased a book that is physically lying on a shelf here in the bookstore and we are reserving it for when you come in to pick it up.  Luckily, there were actually textbooks physically in store, and I was able to buy one of those and cancel my order.

Now, I have not been a student in some time, so all this stuff may be old hat to the twelve-year-olds jostling past me on the New Campus pathways. (Students! So young!) But I am really, really feeling for the Adult Learners who do often come to community colleges for a degree or certificate program as part of a career re-boot, or even a career start, in some cases. Nevertheless, I suspect that every student, young and old, can identify a little with the stomach-churning anxiety of looking for your classroom in an unfamiliar building - especially when you have missed the first day of class. The stakes are about as low as they can possibly be for me, and I still felt that anxiety of not knowing my place in this place, being alone in the swarm, and already behind at the start.  It vanished at the desk, after I sat down in what was assuredly the right room, wrote the date at the top of a fresh notebook page, and commenced studenting. But I have a lot of empathy for the twelve-year-olds.

(2) All That Feminist Theory in Action  It is with dampened spirits and a cheerless heart that I report this to you: my class contains A Dude Who Talks All The Time. He is compelled to answer every question the instructor asks, often before it is quite fully out of the poor man's mouth. Many times it is on the tails of comment from another student who managed to get a smidge of words in before Dude's Autopilot SuperJaw opened to spew forth his brilliance. He will mansplain your answer to the professor for you, because the Things Women Say are difficult for instructors to understand unless a sympathetic mansplainer mansplains them into mansplain-speak. What a bracing experience indeed, to be a 50-year-old woman in PHL 100, and watch some twelve-year-old mansplain your words to a twenty-something instructor, whose head immediately swivels towards the translation.

Obviously, I cannot let this continue. The Dude Who Talks All The Time was sitting right smack in the center of the classroom. I think I will be sitting there come next class time. And if the instructor is not going to do more to actively keep him from mansplaining and controlling the discussion, I will have a word with the instructor.  I welcome your suggestions in the comments for fun things I can do in class to deal with TDWTATT.

Near the end of the class, we had a small group break-out to work on the logic structures from the lecture. I was in a group with two twelve-year-olds, one male and one female. I would say they had about an equal grasp of (a) what the instructor was asking us to do in our small group work and (b) the actual concepts he had gone over in the lecture. You, like me, may be dismayed but not surprised to learn that the female, with a deer-in-the-headlights look, kept saying that she wasn't quite sure, and that she felt like she got it for just a minute and then it would slip away. When we finished an item she wanted to review it to make sure she understood it.  Whereas the male, who made little eye contact with either of us, except when I would tell him "no, that's not correct", confidently pronounced "ok this is an X" or "We need to do Y" or "this one is valid AND sound" (it wasn't). And when we finished an item he just wanted to charge on to the next one, even though he didn't exactly know what it was.

So, I may have a little work cut out for me in the small group sessions. Have to tread lightly, but I can't just let the Overconfident Dudes get away with making the Underconfident Wimminz feel worse about things. Especially in light of the dismal state of affairs for women in philosophy. (Have you been following the NYTimes Opinionator Women In Philosophy series? Start here.)  Please do fire away with helpful suggestions in the comments, also please feel free to vent your bile about similar situations you have observed, either as student or instructor.

 

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Taking the Mansplaining Out of Mansplaining, Again!

So I'm listening to NPR the other day and some dude is chatting with a correspondent about words of the year - one of those fun end of the year type segments - and they're all like, oh, fiscal cliff is soooo gonna win, but hey, let's chat up some of the other woulda coulda shoulda beena word of the year entries. And one of the ones the dude mentions is...mansplaining.* Even tho, like, mansplaining as a word of the year is so last year. Remember when the NYT saw fit to tell us what mansplaining really meant? and how it actually had nothing to do with mansplaining, but was just a fancy new word for boor?

Well now, in this year's incarnation of mansplaining mansplaining as a would-be word of the year, we are told that it is basically just about dudes who like to explain stuff.  That sounds pretty harmless, doesn't it! And sort of funny!  Like your crazy old uncle who shows up at Thanksgiving dinner and can't stop nattering on about "when I was a young boy, we used to bla bla bla". But alas. Mansplaining is about men who like to explain to women things that the women already understand and/or are experts on, or to offer a totally wrong correction of a woman's correct explanation, or even to bloviate on a subject about which the man knows nothing, but about which he feels confident he can educate the little women, because she's a woman.

And again, alas! even Lily Rothman in the Cultural History of Mansplaining will only go so far as to say that is is "often" done "by a man to a woman" and bizarrely says that "the idea wasn't political in origin."  Wasn't political in origin?  WTF? Who's been mansplaining its history to her?  Has she even read the Rebecca Solnit essay she references? Well, little ladies, I guess there's nothing political at all about the dudes telling you what you know. Until a politician tells you what's gonna be.  Then it's offishully about politics!

Sweet baby Jesus in the manger with his little golden diaper!  The. Personal. Is. Political.

Yrs truly,

Shrill old ugly hairy-legged Second Wave feminazi harridan

P.S. No, I can't find the link to the NPR piece.

 

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Personal Care Robots Are The Last Thing We Need

I just heard a story on NPR's All Things Considered that made me want to rip my hair out.  Personal robots!  You know you want one!  You don't need one, but that doesn't matter.  They will be made, you will learn to want them, and you'll be getting them and upgrading them just like your smart phone or iPad.  (Side note: If anyone can explain to me why the new robot thingies always have to be called "Rosie" I will be grateful.  Don't blame it on the Jetsons.  Where did the Jetsons come up with Rosie? Is it all just to mock the real Rosies, the riveters of WWII?)

We don't need robots to walk our dogs or wash our windows.  We don't need them to "fold towels, help elderly and disabled people with home care, and even fetch a beer".  For one thing, there's plenty enough beer-fetching going on in America's households as it is.  For another, if you can't be bothered to walk you own dog, or pay another human to do it for you when you are too busy, you shouldn't have a dog.  Robot dog walkers just take away one more job from young people.

But what REALLY hacks me off is the idea of robots designed to help the elderly and disabled with home care.  What the elderly and disabled need is more contact with other human beings, not less.  They don't need to be even more isolated in their homes than they already are.  They need people they can talk to and interact with and tell their stories to.  We need to pay decent living wages for this kind of care, to value it for the real importance it actually has, not sluff it off on the fantasy product of robotics researchers.

In any case, that bla bla about robots helping the elderly and disabled is just robotics engineers blowing smoke up your ass to keep their projects running.  Do you think something that currently costs $400,000 to build is being designed to help one of the most despised and neglected segments of our population? Where else is money and effort on this scale being poured into improving the lives of the elderly and the disabled?

Robots are going to be a hip thing for the youth culture, just like smart phones and iPads.  Things you could live without but are so cool to have, things that are always being upgraded.  Things that are costly.  The elderly and disabled, by and large, don't have extra cash to lay out on costly toys.  They aren't going to buy dog-walking, beer-fetching robots.

Redesigning existing home stock to be universally accessible, or making sure your local government buildings and restaurants really are accessible as they claim to be, or lobbying for better care for returning disabled veterans - none of this sounds as sexy as beer-toting personal robots, I am sure.  But all of it would be a a helluva lot more useful than one more fancy toy for your neighbor to envy.

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The More Things Change...

Got my Jan-Feb 2012 issue of the UMWA Journal recently and read this on page 2:

UNITED WE STAND, DIVIDED WE FALL

The time has come when all members of the working class must sink their petty differences and personal political opinions, and take a united and definite position. The great danger is… the capitalist class will, by means of their entrenched power in government, judiciary, the public press and financial organizations…obtain such a hold upon society that the work of redemption will be frustrated for generations to come. While the working class divide their energies and divide political parties…the capitalist class will move solidly along [its] well-defined purpose.

That's pretty much what I've been thinking lately.  I think that's at least part of what the "We are the 99%" protests have been trying to convey.

Depressingly enough, it appeared in the UMW Journal 100 years ago, on January 18, 1912. I think of all that my grandfathers struggled and fought for, and how much of it has been taken away from us.  Even the eight-hour day, which organized labor won as a right through years of difficult, dangerous, and deadly strikes and protests, is all but gone.

Let's say you work at a university or a company.  You have your "hourly wage" employees and your "salaried" employees.  Everybody knows it's much better to be a salaried employee, right?  More money, better career track, better benefits (well...as long as you can hang on to them),  and the cachet of being salaried.  No wage slave are you!  No mucking about with unions for your highly educated and trained self!  Unions are for the lower class of employees, the lesser skilled, the less important, the interchangeable parts.  You are a unique individual and you don't need a union to represent you!  You represent yourself!  You are your own brand! Just look at your web page!  People follow you on Twitter!  [Follow me @TSZuska ! For realz!] You aren't one of those nine-to-fivers who work just to live, you live for your work.  Every now and then you'll agree that a St. K3rn takes it a bit too far, but really, you've got to put in the long hours to get results and you need to show you are dedicated researcher/company person.  You're online, tuned in, available 24/7; work comes home with you, and you live with your work.  In 1848 French workers won a 12-hour workday. There are PIs today who would question those French workers' dedication.  Only 12 hours? "Science doesn't stop at 5 on Fridays," as my master's thesis advisor said.

But what good would a union do?  Science/industry/God demands the sacrifice of your time and no progress can be made without it.  However will the coal mines operate if we don't have the tiny hands of children to pick the slate out of the coal at the breakers? The main point is that you are an individual and you are going to make it to the top.  Remember, we don't talk about haves and have-nots in this country.  We speak of haves, and soon-to-haves.

 

Fifty years ago, Rep. Elmer Holland (D.-PA) was quoted in the pages of the February 1, 1962 UMW Journal as follows:

It’s all too easy to dream up reasons why the labor movement should be shackled even more. And if the labor movement is not alert that is precisely what will happen.

If you don't believe Elmer Holland, you just go ask Scott Walker and the Koch brothers!

Twenty-five years ago, UMWA members were being urged to buy American-made goods, even if they cost more, and to complain to stores if they could not find what they wanted made in America.  But WalMart is so cheap!  And now that our unions have been crushed, our wages curtailed, our benefits taken away, and job security just some vague dream we once heard about, who can afford to "buy American"?  If, indeed, there's anything left made in America after the orgy of right-sizing and down-sizing and out-sourcing moved most of our manufacturing base elsewhere.

The Philadelphia Inquirer business section yesterday explained how Dansko would love to move all its manufacturing back into the U.S.  The main reason it can't is not wages.

Even if the company were to offer U.S. workers wages similar to what it pays in Italy - $18 to $20 an hour - its founders say there would remain the fundamental issue of where to find people with the expertise, or the desire, to take those jobs, given how shoemaking as an industry has been decimated.

"It's really about there's no knowledge - no knowledge, no support structure," Kjellerup said. "Because if you had that, I think America could be competitive in manufacturing."

And so we have the conundrum of a company that would like to pay good wages to make its product in America, but can't, thanks to decades of outsourcing.

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No Modesty Left At All

People keep saying the dead-tree format is over and done with but you can still learn so much from reading the newspaper.  Take for example this (for once) sensible editorial I chanced upon yesterday in the radical left-leaning Philadelphia Inquirer.  If you are "poor", ask yourself:  WWJD?  Be prepared to shape up in a hurry because He'd tell you something like this:

Our Lord Jesus: Are you a tween working 60 hours a week sticking things on pots while rats gnaw at you, just so you can get your dad out of debtor's prison?  No?  What you are is lounging about in your air-conditioned paradise with your cable tv, maybe even going to the public library and using the computer to get on the Internet there, and you're whinging away because you're "hungry".  If you're so hungry, why are you so fat?  Riddle me that one, Batman!  Your school (though I wouldn't let my kids go there) is free (for now, till we institute the voucher system) and your government pays for "much" of the tab of state and community colleges (if by "much" we include "ever decreasing amounts").  Why are you so dumb?  You can be as "poor" as you want and we won't even put you in debtor's prison!

 

You see, being poor used to be about really suffering in a hideous manner unto death. If the impoverished people are fat, have cars, and aren't in jail, the system is working pretty good for them.  But give the "poor" a little and they still aren't satisfied.  It's not enough to be a wage slave in a rat-free environment.**  They want equal opportunities, too!  But the whole point of success is to give your children unusually good opportunities. But no, the "poor" want to make it about the size of the gap, claiming that if the rich get richer, the poor should too.  That's just crazy talk!

Myself, I say it's time we solved this "poverty" problem, such as it is, once and for all.  Modesty will not serve; let us be bold in our proposals.  What few poor we do have should be fed an all organic, no hormones or antibiotics diet for three months to cleanse their systems, then humanely slaughtered on-site in old style, non-industrial abattoirs. We should not limit ourselves to just the more obvious, meatier cuts but strive for a whole human, nose to foot approach.  Many parts of the poor will pair well with a good pinot noir, and there is nothing like poor heart - tender, amazing, not funky like liver, and poor trotters make great tacos.  Even if it weren't respectful to the poor to practice nose-to-foot eating, the ecological benefits alone make it a wise choice for the environmentally conscious eater -- feeding multiple mouths with one whole animal and all its edible parts is much more efficient and less tolling on our environment than processing multiple animals to feed only a few mouths, which is what we do when limiting ourselves to eating only a single part.  You know, like chicken nuggets.  Which I hear, make the "poor" so fat, but also our wallets, so what are you going to do.

 

**Well, I did hear today about a transport authority worker stuck in a booth all day who has to dodge rats running around his feet so, technically, I guess we haven't quite achieved "wage slave in a rat-free environment" yet.  So close!

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What Constitutes Blatant Sexism of the Most Egregious Sort?

Jul 20 2011 Published by under Burns My Shorts, Manifestoes, Manly Men, Men Who Hate Women

I have not written a word in months, and barely read any blogs at all.  Even so the sorry outlines of ElevatorGate seeped into my consciousness.  If you don't know what I'm referring to, consider yourself lucky; if you need to find out, read Jennifer Ouellette's recent excellent post which talks about it in a broader context. I love everything about Jennifer's post and especially love her call to action at the end...and yet...I'm left brooding on part of it.  This part:

She was careful to say that she has not encountered blatant sexism of the most egregious sort, although she has endured unwelcome awkward flirting: a wink and a hand on the knee, lame attempts at playing “footsie” with her under the table during meetings, and of course, tacky double entendres. Even then, she cut the guys a lot of slack; it’s just social awkwardness, she rationalized, not a malicious attempt to make her feel uncomfortable — and yet, she does feel uncomfortable.

Ouellette is writing about a young woman who reports that she feels "constantly objectified" while working at CERN. Ouellette goes on to provide a very good discussion of the concept of a "chilly climate" and how it negatively affects women in science.  Yet I would argue that feeling "constantly objectified", having unwanted hands touching your body, goes something beyond a chilly climate and moves us into the territory of hostile work/learning environment.

What does constitute blatant sexism of the most egregious sort, if it does not include feeling constantly objectified, having men touch you when you don't want them to, and being treated like a sex object in professional settings?

Do we have to get raped to call it blatant sexism of the most egregious sort, and anything short of that is just a chilly climate?

Can we agree that rape is something beyond sexism - it is sexual assault, a crime - and that blatant sexism might include a whole host of things that fall short of rape but that are worse than a chilly climate?

Being subjected to unwanted touching means that your colleagues look at you primarily as a sexual object and moreover, a sexual object who is free game for their advances.  They need not ask beforehand, they need not establish consent - just reach out and touch someone!  If you like what you see, grab it and go.  After all, if you are rebuked, it can be written off as due to your social awkwardness.  Surely at no time in your twenty, thirty, forty years or more on this planet did you have the opportunity to learn any of the norms of human mating behavior, let alone how one conducts one's self in a professional setting.  You certainly have had NO opportunity to learn to think of women as human beings, that's for sure!!!

Ouellette includes in her post a link to this comic by Gabby Schulz, which is linked through the phrase "mirrored every internet comment thread".  Gabby's comic is titled "How every single discussion about sexism and woman-type stuff on the internet (and in real life) has ever happened and ever will happen, always, forever, until the earth finally falls into the sun. (Or until the patriarchy is dismantled.)"  But her whole blog post is titled "In which we betray our gender".  It may be worth thinking about why she gave it that title.

Here's the thing.  No matter what you say, no matter how nicely you say it, the d00ds are going to go batshit insane whenever you dare to suggest that sexism is afoot, and/or that one of their d00dly brethren has behaved poorly.  People who have some power and some relatively comfortable positions need to stop making excuses for the d00ds.  No, they aren't just socially awkward - they are fucking sexist assholes steeped in privilege who think they own any woman's body they see.  Ouellette gets this when she quotes the Social Network line that took my breath away when I saw the movie: “You’re going to go through life thinking girls don’t like you cuz you’re a nerd, when really it’s because you’re an asshole.”

But then...it makes me gnash my teeth in despair that in the middle of her excellent post, Ouellette has to stop and write this:

Let me be clear: I like men, and enjoy their company.

Because OMG, their wittle feewings might be hurt if they weren't absolutely sure and reassured all the time that every woman on the planet likes them!  All of them!  All men!  Even the assholes!  We can't just talk about endemic sexism and horrible incidents of harassment, no, we have to also say, "but hey, you guys, you know, it's cool, because I like guys, and I like to fuck them and all, so don't worry, whatevs." In which we betray our gender. Because if you don't betray your gender that way, you are a man-hating feminazi.  And no woman wants to be that, nosiree!  Why, the very woman who is the subject of all that constant objectification at CERN, who is discussed at the start of Ouellette's post, declares

I did not expect that CERN would start me on the road to being a cynical feminist, a type of person I previously dismissed, but which I now understand.

Oh dear.  So, becoming aware of the fact that you are being constantly objectified and being subjected to unwanted touching, and not taken seriously as a professional, and making the mildest of complaints about this situation, is equivalent to being a "cynical feminist"?  It's not, like, standing up for yourself?  Demanding decent treatment?  Just, you know, being a regular feminist?  Which is a good thing?

Well, so let me be clear: I like men who deserve to be liked.  Men who are worthy of my respect.  Men who treat women with respect, as autonomous human beings.  Men who are not groping gaping assholes.  Men who can behave like professionals in the workplace and educational settings.  Men who don't assume that because someone has tits and a pussy, she must be there to provide visual and other pleasures, not for any other reason.  Men who understand that it is necessary to establish consent before engaging in any kind of sexual behavior.  Men who understand women in the workplace are there to work.  Men who will call out other men on bad behavior.  Men who don't need their little egos stroked every five seconds.  Men who aren't so terrified by women who challenge sexist behaviors that they feel a compulsion to vilify them.  Men who don't abuse little kids, rape women, coerce their sexual partners, or bully, beat, or emotionally abuse women.  Men who resist the urge to mansplain.

I don't care who you are - the CEO of a Fortune 500 company, a tenured professor, some fancy-ass physicist at CERN, the Pope, or my own brother - if you can't meet these MINIMAL expectations of decent human behavior, why the hell are you walking around calling yourself a man in the first place?  What you really are, is a man who hates women.

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Where We're All Heading in Scott Walker's Handbasket

Now indeed is the winter of our labor discontent.

Scott Walker, you'll recall, is the Rethuglican who has creatively called his union-busting scheme a "budget repair" bill.  Once we've finished stripping workers of all their rights - collective bargaining is just the first step! there's so much more that can be taken away once the collective bargaining is gone! - we can bring back many useful practices from the good ol' days.  The history of Blair Mountain is instructive in this regard.  Maybe you'll want to go visit Blair Mountain, and see the historical marker, but I'd do it now if I were you, before Mr. Peabody rips it off the face of the earth to get at the coal underneath.

Two years ago, Blair Mountain was entered into the National Register of Historic Places. And then, just a few months later, it was taken off by state officials.

Lawyers hired by West Virginia's largest coal companies came up with a list of landowners who, they said, objected to the designation.

"There's apparently a lot of money to be made by blowing this mountain up and taking all the coal out from it," labor historian Gordon Simmons says, referring to mountaintop removal.

Fuck you, coal companies. Isn't it enough that your predecessors had a hired army of goons and federal troops dispatched by the president to keep coal miners from forming a union?  Now you want to literally erase the history from the face of the earth? Fuck. You.

Well, Scott Walker's not calling in the troops yet on the citizens of Wisconsin. I'm sure that's just crazy to even imagine.  Why, people have the right to collective bargaining!  Oh wait, he's taking that away.  Well, they have the right to be in a union!  Oh wait, he's trying to make it really, really, really hard for there to be a union at all, what with the yearly votes for the union to exist, and the optional dues, and the fact that once your union can't bargain, and pay raises are strictly limited, you're going to wonder why you should pay dues or be in the union at all. You might as well join the Elks and spent your union dues on beer; at least you'll get drunk for your money.

So once the union is gone, and the plutocrats can pay us whatever they deem we are worth, and fire us whenever they feel like it, and take away our benefits on a whim - oh wait, you're saying, that's my life now?  Because you're not in a union.  Have you grumbled about unions in the past?  A union exists to protect you from all that.  But they talked you into thinking that the union was making your life hell, not the top 400 of them who hold more cash, stocks, and land than  the bottom 155 million of us combinedCrabs in a barrel, they wanted to make us, and it mostly worked.

Anyway, as I was saying, once they've taken us back to the point where we have as many rights as those coal miners at Blair Mountain (maybe they'll start paying us in scrip again!), they can imprison us even faster than they do now.    Pennsylvania's prison population has grown 500% in the last 30 years - that's a promising industry!  A caller to Marty Moss-Coane's radio show this morning suggested that prisoners be placed 3 to a cell, but only two of them in the cell at any given time; one would always be out working an eight hour shift.  Put the prisoners to work!  Well, at least they'd have an eight hour day, if not a five-day work week.  But why be limited by the arbitrary eight-hour day? We could pack them four to a cell and take out two at a time for 12-hour shifts.  It's not like they have a union or anything.

Yeah, where did you think your eight-hour day and five-day work week came from?  Oh, you say, not me, I'm a professional, I'm a scientist, I'm a grad student/postdoc/professor, and I work long hours.  I'm k3rntastic!  Science demands no less, I work for the love of it, I work long hours because if I don't someone else will step right into my place and work just as hard and take my job. Oh crap, that last one sounds just exactly like what the coal miners used to say before they got themselves organized and formed a union.  You know what?  Coal miners are professionals too, and take pride in their work, and love what they do, too.  They like having a union that regulates working conditions, and says if you work overtime you get time and a half.  What do policies like that do?  They create more jobs, and make employers think twice about overworking the employees they do have, because it costs more.  Oh, unions won't work for science. Science is so different!  Believe me, baby, if you wanted a union bad enough, you'd find a way to make it work.

Listen up:  Philip Dray, author of There Is Power In A Union: The Epic Story Of Labor In America, will be on Fresh Air this afternoon, to put the Wisconsin union battle in a historical context. Listen live at 3 pm or audio available online after 5 pm.  Read the little blurb about the show - it's fascinating.  Here's the piece that was a real shocker even for me.

[quoting Dray]: Every city in America has these large brick armories in the city. I used to think they were there for soldiers to gather to go abroad but those were built in an era when authorities wanted a place where soldiers could gather to bring down local labor unrest.

Yeah, they didn't teach me any of this history in school.  Certainly not in the coal patch public schools. They did not tell me how the tax dollars of our forebears went to constructing buildings for the express purpose of gathering troops to suppress the formation of unions by those same forebears.  Well, not the tax dollars of the Blair Mountain coal miners, per se.  They were paid in scrip, which could only be spent at the company store.

If you have a few extra dollars in your pocket this month, consider donating to a union to help fund organizing struggles, general strike funds, etc.  You can become an associate member of the United Mine Workers of America for $5 a month.  Write to your congressperson and insist that Blair Mountain be placed on National Register of Historic Places, not ripped apart by coal companies.  Speak up when someone is union bashing and say you wish everyone had the kinds of benefits and job security that a union can negotiate for its members.  Don't be a crab in the barrel that the plutocrats and Rethuglicans are constructing for us all.

My grandparents lived through the union-organizing hell of the past.  Let's not go back there in Governor Walker's handbasket.

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Every Little Girl Wants To Be A Cheerleader

Scicurious is a cheerhater.  How awful!  Science Cheerleaders is just a new kind of role model for young girls! Boo, you negative scientists and science bloggers!  Get over it!  It works!

Let me explain it to you.  As I understand it from reading Andrea Kuszewski's post, cheerleaders are there to support the team.  They aren't on the team.  They are typically attractive, and are supposed to do stunts to draw attention of the crowd to the team, and to the larger institution.  That is definitely a great role model for drawing young girls into science!

Scene: Friday lab meeting

PI:  "Jane, what results do you have to present this week?"

Jane: "Goooooooooo SCIENCE! "

PI:  "WTF?"

Jane:  "e to the x dy dx! e to the x dy! cosine secant tangent sine! 3.14159!"

PI: "WTFingF?"

Andrea asks, "[What is wrong with] being intelligent AND a sex object?"  And I answer, what is wrong  indeed.  If one has no problem with being a sex object in the first place, then it hardly matters if one is also intelligent. So it totally makes sense when Andrea implores

Feminists should be screaming at the top of their lungs in SUPPORT of [Science Cheerleaders]—strong, intelligent, independent, confident women who are trying to be good role models for young girls—showing them you don't have to give up your womanhood or your femininity in order to be a successful career person.

Right on!

Here's my top of the lungs scream in SUPPORT of Science Cheerleaders:

All girls love cheerleaders, unless they are (a) ugly hairy legged feminazis who can't get laid, (b) ugly hairy legged feminazi lesbian bulldyke ballcrushers, or (c) ugly sad pathetic uncoordinated wannabes who didn't make cheerleader in high school. It's a fact. Groups (a), (b), and (c) are at high risk of becoming scientists. This is unattractive and unappealing for dudes in science. Occasionally, a hot cheerleader sneaks through and becomes a scientist. In the interests of Dude Nation, it would be good if more Hot Babe Cheerleaders became scientists and focused on Looking Hot While Doing Science. In the interests of Women Who Support Dude Nation, it would be good to draw attention away from the gender non-normative aspects of doing science or engineering by emphasizing Hot Babe Cheerleaders Of Science - And You Can Be A Hot Cheerleader Sciencey Babe, Too! No ugly lesbians over here in nanotechnology, nosiree! Genomics is chockfull of pom pom waving blond bombshells in booty shorts! Rest assured, Science will not make you less of a Real Woman! Dude Nation will still want to fuck you up the ass!

Goooooooooooooo SCIENCE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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Dear St. Kern (and all your wannabes)

You've read St. Kern's blather.  You've followed the twitter fun - and doesn't that just make you k3rn3d!, because, alas, you were not curing cancer during the fun times you were having mocking St. Kern on twitter.  You've read Drugmonkey's excellent takedown of St. Kern.

And now...now what?  You know what's next.  The zombie St. Kern wannabe PI hordes are gonna come crawling out of their nicely appointed offices, borrowing the language of "I was walking around this weekend and didn't see you slaving away over the bench at 11 pm on Saturday" and "you gotta have PASSION!  PASSION, I tell you!" and "Science doesn't stop at 5 on Fridays" and "the children! think of the poor children with cancer dying because you had to go home and kiss your baby."  The "5 on Fridays" bit is a direct quote from my master's thesis advisor a month or two after the sudden and unexpected death of my dad, when I told the advisor I was having a bit of a hard time coping with everything and wanted to drop an elective course.  The St. Kern's we have always had with us.  

Well, my puke's too good for the shoes of those d00dches, but I'll tell you what.  I don't know about you, but I didn't go into science to work like a mule in a coal mine.

When my parents scrimped and saved to send me off to college, it was so I could get out of the blue collar life, and have a job that paid reasonably well with decent hours "where you don't have to work shift work" my dad said. Come home in the evening and be there with your family. His dad told us the story of the mules he worked with in the mine when he was younger. How if they found a good mule that would work for them, they worked it and worked it and worked it until it dropped dead in its traces. "Don't be that mule" he told us.

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Adria Richards Asks "What If Your iPhone App Supports Hate Crimes?"

Adria Richards at the blog But You're A Girl writes

Last night I took a taxi home from the Tenderloin to the Mission District.  I had the pleasure of being driven by Mustafa, a relaxed, cheerful older man.  Mustafa shared with me how he no longer feels safe driving his cab after 16 years due to an iPhone app called TaxiMagic.  He’s had at least three bad experiences upon being dispatched to a call that originated from the TaxiMagic iPhone app.

Follow the link and watch the short video she recorded of her talk with Mustafa about his experiences.  It includes information about Adria's follow up with TaxiMagic.  Adria's interaction with Mustafa does indeed illustrate the unintended consequences of technology, as a commenter notes, but it also points out how those with more technological access can intervene and use what skill and power they have on behalf of those who are actually being oppressed by all our technological geekalicious wonder.  Adria tags her posts in, among other catgories, "need your help" and "you can help" and asks readers to send suggestions for how to help Mustafa to her at adria@butyoureagirl.com.  Check out her post and view the video and see if you have some good ideas to pass along.

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Farmer's Market Whiners Annoy The Hell Out Of Me

Jul 23 2010 Published by under Burns My Shorts, Ludicrous Language

For three weeks in a row I've overheard someone at my local farmer's market whine about the price of the produce.  Frankly, I'm tired of it.
Every Saturday morning I drag my lazy, love-to-sleep-in-late ass out of bed and hustle on over to the market, various and sundry cloth and recycled plastic bags at the ready to haul home the beauteous, tasty produce. Every week I end up spending at least around $80, sometimes as much as $100. In return I get enough food and more for a week's worth of meals for two and often am able to prepare some things to save or freeze for later meals. A sampling of what I can choose to take home on any given week: delicious yogurt, fresh raspberries, blueberries, juicy flavorful peaches, fragrant cantaloupe, watermelon, crisp greens (arugula, Swiss chard, kale, several kinds of lettuce, spinach), pears, apples, heirloom carrots, tender cabbage, yellow summer squash and zucchini, green and yellow beans, beets, turnips, salad turnips, potatoes (purple, Yukon gold, fingerling, red, baking), radishes, sweet corn, cucumbers (regular, pickling, yellow, curlicue heirloom ones), peppers (red, yellow, green, hot), sweet potatoes and yams, garlic and garlic scapes, fresh herbs, onions (yellow, red, sweet, and white and red scallions), several kinds of squash...ah, there's way more, I can't remember every single thing, but let us most definitely not forget to mention the TOMATOES!!!!

Heirloom tomatoes

2009 Heirloom Tomatoes - Multiple Varieties

  1. Heirloom plum tomato

    2009 Heirloom plum tomatoes

Of course not every item on that list of produce is available all year 'round. One of the pleasures of the farmer's market is learning to eat seasonally, to savor each item as it appears on the stands, re-learning to eat food that tastes as it is supposed to taste, not as it must taste when it has been engineered to survive mechanical harvest and long transport and storage times. Oh, the wild pleasure of local strawberries with actual flavor! Such a brief season! But the grief of their passing is fleeting, for the next things are coming along, and one knows that soon blueberries and then peaches are on the horizon, and so it goes along.
I don't spend much money at all in the supermarkets for food items during farmer's market season. We eat meals made out of what I can create from the bounty of produce I haul home each week, and as a consequence we are much less likely to eat fast food or take out, so we save money there. I could probably shop more frugally at the farmer's market - we don't need the raspberries or the cantaloupe each week, but I like fresh fruit, and maybe I could get by with less yogurt, but I like that, too, so I splurge. You could grow your own herbs and not buy them at the market, and I probably don't need to buy a bouquet of cut flowers, and maybe the eggs are cheaper at the supermarket, but I really, really like the taste of the eggs from the pastured chickens.
So yeah, maybe the farmer's market produce costs more than the local mega supermarket, I don't know, but I do know that you can't buy the flavor you get at the farmer's market in the local mega supermarket. In the local mega supermarket, your food dollars generally don’t do squat for sustaining local agriculture.  If you need or want to shop there, that’s your choice, but if you show up at the farmer’s market, please leave the whine about how expensive it all is at home.  I’ve seen people shopping at the farmer’s market using food stamps and, interestingly, they’ve never been among the whiners about the price.  Maybe they are more interested in value.

market bounty

A Week's Bounty

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How Not To Sell Me Your Fancy HVAC System

We have to replace our furnace/ac.  The  AC is dead as a doornail, both are over 20 or 25 yrs old and horribly inefficient. So we've been getting quotes. Got two that came in at $6500 and $6800 for 3 ton 100,000 BTU 95% efficient 14.5 SEER variable flow and all that jazz. Third dude came today and did a long presentation after having measured all sorts of shit and went on about importance of proper installation, bla bla, explained all sorts of bla-di-bla about the equipment, how their employees are carefully screened and drug tested and they don't allow any convicts to work for them because in prison they teach convicts plumbing and HVAC and here's a picture of brown dudes in prison uniforms studying to come rape and kill your wife in your own home under the guise of installing your new furnace and ac, and you can get a heat pump too to further reduce costs, and bla bla more tech stuff, and voila! four options for your consideration, good, better, best, wow, ranging from $11k to $16k.

And I said, "WTF?"

But wait, don't answer yet, there are rebates, and we can take this and that off, and discounts, and I can come down on price, and so on, and now the four options range from just under $9k to $11k or something like that.

And I said, "dude, you might want to rethink that one part of your sales pitch where you subtly scare me about the brown prison dudes coming into my house."

And he said, "well, yes, but Ashton Kutcher's ex-girlfriend was killed by an ex-con, and there are white guys in that photo too."

I do not think we will be buying the fancy expensive heat pump furnace from this dude with the laminated pictures of scary brown men in prison uniforms studying earnestly to come rape and kill me in my own home.

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