I am heartless and insensitive, part 5

(Personal, Politics)

2012-03-30 17:52
Comment [3]

I play video games. I play, in fact, roleplaying computer games. When I play MMOs, I tend to play them in-character. But sometimes… the character is, perhaps, not totally serious. So I used to have a character in WoW named Merisioux. And when I stopped playing WoW because of their horrific record of giving no fucks about trans people and queers, I continued playing characters named that in other MMOs.

Well, Rift has gotten to the point where the addon development tools are adequate to allow us to create addons that let us share made-up biographies and the like with people. And since someone in WoW had already used the name Mary Sue for such a thing, I decided to name mine Merisioux.

I have now been chewed out for this because it is deeply inappropriate, and not funny. Because I’m not Sioux. And given how badly white people treated the Native Americans, it’s completely inappropriate for me to ever use the name of an ethnic grouping (or cultural; my attempts to figure out the boundaries on Wikipedia have mostly just left me aware that I do not understand how humans define group membership) as part of a pun. It is the hoosegow for me, where I will be trapped in a room with Siouxsie and the Banshees.

Seriously, I am all for being careful about things, but there is sort of a continuum here, ranging from “being forcibly offended despite your best efforts to avoid it” through “taking offense” through “sending out teams of experienced scouts to find some offense and claim it”.

Peter Seebach

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Comment [3]

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Mmm, starbucks.

(Personal, Politics)

2012-03-25 21:43
Comment [1]

Okay, simple fact: I like frappucino, but it’s overpriced.

But Starbucks recently got a tiny little hilariously ineffectual boycott launched against them for coming out and saying that they support gay marriage. I particularly like this quote from their shareholder meeting

“I think any decision of this type or magnitude has to be made with great thoughtfulness,” Schultz said. “And I would assure you that the senior team of Starbucks discussed this, and it was … to be candid with you, not something that was a difficult decision for us.”

There’s no Starbucks around here, but I happened to be up in the Sin Cities, as they call them, and whaddya know, Target had boxes of Frappucino. So I got some.

Thing about boycotts: If the outraged responses to your stupid boycott draw more business in, they’re not working. (Speaking of which, the mall girl scouts sold me 24 boxes of thin mints today.)

Peter Seebach

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Comment [1]

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Seriously, Microsoft?

(GeekStuff)

2012-03-24 15:45
Comment [1]

Problem: The “Windows Key” is annoying.

Microsoft’s Solution

Now, look at “Type 00000000000000000300000000005BE000005CE000000000 in the Data field, and then click OK.” Nevermind that the Edit menu has no Add Value option. Cut and paste are disabled for this process.

You can’t paste that value in. They really do mean type.

Note: Every other vendor in the world puts settings like this in their keyboard settings, preferences, control panel, or whatever. Only Microsoft thinks that tweaking keyboard behavior requires manually entering a 48-digit hex number without the ability to cut or paste.

Peter Seebach

Comment [1]

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Least evil privacy policy handling ever

(GeekStuff, Personal)

2012-03-23 13:59
Comment

Okay, I am amazed. Seriously.

I have always wished companies would take privacy policies and ToS seriously, and make it easy to find out what’s changing.

Tumblr uses a git repository for their privacy policy.

Dude. BEST IDEA EVER. Okay, I know maybe not everyone knows how to use git, but thanks to the magic of github, you can just sorta click around and see changes. Now, in the case of a major revision, that’s not exactly change bars, but wait! You can do anything you want with those diffs. You can filter them through any change-detection or correlation tool you want. You can make side-by-sides of them.

Best. Idea. Ever. Everyone should do this.

Peter Seebach

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Wow, Google+. Just wow.

(Personal, GeekStuff)

2012-03-22 18:52
Comment [10]

A friend-of-a-friend, who does not use Google+, just got a threatening letter from The Goog telling her that she has four days to change her profile name to something compliant with the Google+ name policy or lose access to their other services.

Yeah, Google. You tell them disabled people that they aren’t good enough.

Note that there is no mechanism provided for responding, for appealing, or for saying “I would like to keep using Picasa but not use Google+”.

The G+ names policy remains evil. It punishes people for not having Western-style dual names. It punishes people for using a name which is what they are actually called, rather than what’s on their ID. It punishes people, in short, for being in any of a number of minorities, and does so in a particularly dissociated and hostile way, denying any chance for communication about what your identity is or why that is the right identity for people to use. It is a great tool for cisgendered males with reasonably normal names. It is a dangerously awful tool for trans people, people with weird names, people with mononyms… In short, a bunch of people no one cares about.

Peter Seebach

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Comment [10]

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Copyright and piracy

(GeekStuff, Politics)

2012-03-22 11:23
Comment

I recently happened to read an old David Pogue column in Scientific American, where he pointed out that modern copy protection schemes are punishingly hard on legitimate users, but have no effect on pirates.

Early in the piece, he asserts that the “ruined it for everyone” person was the first person to pirate something. On thinking about it more, this is wrong.

The entire argument about piracy is based on a fundamental misunderstanding of the nature and purpose of copyright. Copyright is not a moral law; it is a lesser-of-evils, a way for society to provide some reasonable confidence that creative types can get paid for their work.

Here’s the thing. When evaluating the “impact” of alleged piracy, the question of how many unauthorized copies are made is not even the right question. The question is how many copies are sold. Period. If one course of action gets me 1000 sales, and another course of action gets me 2000 sales, the second course of action is better for me as a seller. Period. It does not matter whether there are five unauthorized copies or a million; all that matters is how many sales I get.

And what we consistently find (Mr. Pogue having reported the same experience everyone else does) is that freely available copies increase sales.

What’s getting overlooked here is the insane cost to us of this. Consider HDCP. Every “high definition” digital device is supposed to implement this scheme that’s supposed to prevent decrypting data, so people can’t copy it. Why? Because of fear of copies. But… copies are not a problem. There is nothing, anywhere, showing that freely available copies of media have a negative impact on its sales; instead, we consistently find increases in sales. But as a sop to this baseless superstition, we are spending many millions of dollars producing devices which are less capable than they would be, testing things, encountering mysterious problems with compatibility that require debugging and patches, and so on. People buy a TV and a game console, and find that the console doesn’t work with the TV reliably but there are rumors of a patch that will fix it in a few months.

All because people are asking the wrong question. The question is whether you are making more or less money. The answer is that letting people make copies makes you make more money. Period.

What we need is not stuff like SOPA and PIPA. It isn’t even the DMCA. It’s to start responding to reality, and not fear.

And before you dismiss this as something that will take years to be fully realized: Consider that the music industry said they were going to die if people could make tapes or CDs, too. Every time a new way of copying music shows up, the music industry claims that it will destroy them, and it actually increases sales. Every. Time. Why would this change now?

Peter Seebach

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Yay doctors!

(Personal, Religion)

2012-03-21 20:06
Comment [2]

In modern America, it is a career-risking move to come out and say that you refuse to rape your patients. So this doctor said it anonymously.

I am all for the idea of doctors who refuse to commit rape even when state legislators attempt to mandate it.

Peter Seebach

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Comment [2]

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People, this is... not sane.

(Personal, Politics)

2012-03-20 15:00
Comment

I would hope that when a woman goes in to a physician with a rape issue, that physician will indeed ask her about perhaps her marriage, was this pregnancy caused by normal relations in a marriage or was it truly caused by a rape.

Look, this… This is no longer sane. Seriously. I spent most of my life feeling like the Democrats were sorta pushy and controlling, and not much caring for their view of large and intrusive government.

But the Democrats didn’t, that I recall, pass laws in many states mandating that women have things shoved into their vaginas before they can get medical treatment. The Democrats didn’t compare women to pigs. The Democrats didn’t suggest that women are in general unclear on whether or not they were raped.

The deal with the devil that the Republicans made when they signed up with the Moral Majority? It’s come due. The price was the soul of the GOP, and the price has been paid. This is now the party for people who do not view women as competent adults. It is the party for people who think that denying basic health care to women, especially poor women, is vital. It is the party for people who think that “a couple of cadillacs” is not wealth, who think that the mentally ill are just lazy, and who think that it is perfectly acceptable to torture people to obtain confessions. It is the party for people who think that stopping immigrants from working on farms is more important than investigating the rape of children.

I dunno whether there’s anything on offer for the sorts of people who used to be Republicans back when that allowed for the belief that immigrants, gays, and women are people, just as worthy of basic civil rights as straight white males. But the fact is, if you believe that those people deserve even the most basic of human rights, the Republican party is no longer the right party for you.

This is no longer theoretical. These are not people talking about bills that would never pass; these are actual laws, in force and being enforced. If, in a country other than US, the government mandated that certain women should have something shoved up their vagina to punish them for being sluts, we would call it a war crime. Here, it’s just Texas voting Republican.

I’m not really a fan of the modern Democrats, but frankly, outside of the Klan, we no longer have anyone on offer that’s worse than the GOP, and the Klan aren’t fielding candidates for most offices.

Peter Seebach

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Turnabout: Still fair play

(Personal, Politics)

2012-03-16 13:39
Comment

Proposed restrictions on Viagra

I am offended at the callous attitude towards male health illustrated here. These proposed rules do not do nearly enough to protect the precious flower of masculine virtue.

Before people can be given access to possibly-dangerous drugs, we need to be sure that their partners are aware of the risks, and have a chance to reconsider. With that in mind, I think we should amend these proposed bills as follows:

1. Patients should provide a list of the people with whom they intend to have sex using erectile dysfunction medication.
2. A face-to-face meeting where all such people get to meet with a doctor who can warn them about the risks they are exposing their partner to.
3. It shall be a misdemeanor offense to use erectile dysfunction medication to have sex with someone who has not been so informed.

This is substantially less intrusive or demeaning than recent GOP legislation efforts directed at female-only health problems.

That’s sorta scary.

Peter Seebach

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Balance in journalism

(Personal, Politics)

2012-03-15 13:16
Comment [3]

NPR has some new standards up, which “clarify” the way in which they pursue balance.

This is a hot issue, because “balance” in the US has frequently been understood to mean “if there is a strong debate, give equal time to both proponents”.

Jon Stewart covered this brilliantly in an interview with a man who believed the Large Hadron Collider had a 50% chance of destroying the world. His argument: Either it’ll happen or it won’t, right? So 50-50. Stewart’s response was roughly “and if only the two of us survive, let’s have sex so we can repopulate the planet; we have a 50% chance of getting pregnant, because either it’ll happen or it won’t.”

And that’s the problem, really. Sometimes, the two sides of a controversy are not seriously comparable. Consider, for instance, the serious scientific controversy over whether cigarettes are dangerous. On the one side, you have a number of scientists in the employ of tobacco companies; on the other side you have pretty much everyone else.

The “controversy” over evolution was explored quite effectively by Project Steve, which points out that, for all that creationists claim there are “many” scientists who doubt basic modern biology, there are more scientists named Steve who don’t. Many more.

Anthropogenic climate change is another of these now; there were certainly times when there was room for doubting that humans were affecting the planet’s climate, but those times are a while behind us now. Now, the big money is in trying to make this look like a major point of dispute. In fact, there are certainly real questions on which there is dispute; for instance, what if anything could be done, what we should do, what our alternatives are… But the underlying question of whether there’s significant human influence on climate? Long settled.

Other topics might include, say, whether vaccines cause autism (no), whether vaccines are dangerous and should be avoided (no), and so on.

And the fact is, part of the reason these issues linger on, causing billions to trillions of dollars in harm and millions of needless and easily avoided deaths, is because news media are afraid to acknowledge that, while there are indeed two sides of this, one of them is a small number of kooks, crackpots, and liars who have a financial interest in creating uncertainty.

Similarly, consider the importance of presenting both sides of the controversy over whether women should be forcibly raped with a ten inch plastic device before they can have an abortion. I mean, on the one hand, you have basically everyone who has ever practiced in the field of women’s health, and pretty much every woman of childbearing age, everyone who has daughters of childbearing age, and so on. On the other hand you have a small number of middle-aged men who think that women who have sex are sluts. Surely, this requires a nuanced presentation in which we show both sides in the best possible light?

And no, it doesn’t. There is a distinction between equal opportunities and equal outcomes, and while I am all for providing some basic guarantees of health and food to poor people, I am not so much in favor of providing basic guarantees of legislation and popular support to poor ideas. Quite frankly, it is okay by me if bad ideas die out, alone and unloved. They are not people; they are things. They do not deserve the rights we extend to people. They particularly do not deserve to have their rights at the expense of the rights of people.

The Duck is a good illustration of the problem.

Peter Seebach

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Comment [3]

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