Shoving sexuality down peoples' throats

(Personal)

2011-12-01 17:03
Comment [1]

There’s a recurring phrase I see in a lot of discussions to do with sexuality. People say things like “I don’t object to gay people, I am just sick of them shoving their sexuality down my throat.” That phrase, or close variants of it, shows up over and over.

It’s a code phrase. So far as I can tell, in practice, it means “not taking sufficient steps to hide one’s sexuality.”

For instance, say two people are holding hands as they walk from a movie theatre to a restaurant in a mall. If they’re a straight couple, this is normal. If they’re a gay couple, they are shoving their sexuality down everyone’s throat. They’re forcing people to consider their sexuality.

Here’s the thing. What’s making their sexuality a big deal there is not anything they’re doing, as such. It’s that gay couples are less common, and thus stand out more. It’s like interracial couples; when they were really rare, they were a big deal, and people complained about them calling attention to themselves. But they weren’t; they were just being there and being unusual.

This comes up a lot in MMOs, in no small part because MMO communities end up with a lot of the teenage male gamer community, which is spectacularly homophobic as a whole. And we see the same thing; people think that gays are making a huge deal of their sexuality, but they’re not. It’s just that people don’t notice straight couples, or people who mention something that reveals them to be straight, because no one cares. It’s normal. It’s no big deal.

I would be interested in seeing an example of this phrase being used where it is not clearly a code being used to denote “doing things that everyone else takes for granted and no one thinks anything of”.

Peter Seebach

Comment [1]

---

That's sorta spooky

(GeekStuff)

2011-11-30 01:51
Comment

Siri is uncannily reluctant to talk about abortion.

This is enough different trials that I think it’s reasonable to say that this is not some kind of pure coincidence. Someone seems to have put thought into some of these responses… Only, for whatever reason, not into making them useful.

Peter Seebach

Comment

---

Can programming be taught?

(GeekStuff)

2011-11-29 19:07
Comment [2]

Apparently, many people simply cannot comprehend programming. That is to say, if you look at the people who come into a programming course, and give them a really, really, simple example of what programs look like, some of them Just Don’t Get It. Nearly all of these people fail out, because they never learn to program; they simply can’t get their heads around it.

But wait!

The programming courses out there are all written for, and tested on, people who can get their heads around it. That is to say, they are written by people to whom that fundamental thing was obvious, and they are written without any attempt to expose or explain that thing, because it’s obvious.

It occurs to me to wonder: If you sought out the people who Just Don’t Get It, could you teach them to program if, instead of focusing on things that are irrelevant to their problem, you tried to understand their problem and teach them the thing they don’t know which everything else assumes they already get intuitively?

Obviously, what I need is a supply of people to whom the underlying thing that makes for a working model is not obvious — people who don’t get it the first time. And then a chance to talk to them, ask them questions, and try to walk them through it.

So, uhm. Any volunteers? Look at the link, look at the sample question about a and b. If the answer doesn’t strike you as obvious, drop me a line.

Peter Seebach

Comment [2]

---

Free advice: Learn to cook

(GeekStuff, Personal)

2011-11-28 22:03
Comment [2]

Many people seem to regard cooking as some kind of strange magical skill that ordinary people cannot have, and restrict themselves to prepared food that only needs to be microwaved or whatever.

Please, learn to cook. Cooking is awesome. Cooking does not necessarily take very long, and gives you an immense variety of potential foods. Cooking can save you a ton of money. Cooking can let you get better food for about the same amount of money you were planning to spend.

You don’t have to aim to be some kind of master. Sure, Beloved Spouse can decide on the spur of the moment to make pumpkin creme brulee and expect it to turn out, but you don’t have to be that good to get real benefits from cooking your own food. That basic familiarity with what the ingredients are, and how they work, goes so far towards making life better, and there is a lot to be said for being able to tweak things.

You don’t have to be able to cook to have chicken broth. You do have to be able to cook to have chicken broth which is a little spicier because you have a cold, and which has little pasta rings in it because you could use a few calories that are easy to digest, and then tomorrow have chicken broth with less spicy and more rings.

The thing is: It’s all cooking. You ever make a frozen pizza and add some spices to it? (If you eat frozen pizzas at all, and haven’t done this, you are missing out.) That’s cooking. Not very much, but some. Frying hot dogs in a teaspoon of olive oil and some ground pepper? Cooking, and not just the “causing food to be hot” kind.

Learning a few recipes you like makes life a lot more comfortable. The more you learn, the more you can tweak things a bit, decide to adjust premade foods a little to suit your needs, and so on. It’s a wonderful activity, and one of the few recreational activities that scales well to groups of friends. (Sex scales well to one friend, but some people have found it less rewarding to try to scale it up further.)

Peter Seebach

,

Comment [2]

---

It's okay when *we* say it.

(Personal)

2011-11-28 00:16
Comment [3]

For years, the general rule that some words are deeply offensive for most people to use, but perfectly okay for members of the group offended to use, bothered me. It still does.

But I recently had the (mis?)fortune to watch a movie called The Hebrew Hammer. It’s a blacksploitation movie. Well. It’s… almost a blacksploitation movie. There is a subtle difference.

At one point in the movie, one of the hilariously-stereotyped blacks refers to the Hebrew Hammer as “my main kike”, and is referred to in turn as “my main nigga”. A nearby white man (his desk has a little nametag reading “WHITE ACCOUNTANT”) is confused, and after a moment or two, one of them says “well, it’s okay when we call each other that.” This, of course, is not how it actually works.

But thinking about it, I think I finally get it. The double-standard really isn’t. The key here is that I assumed the rule was that it was somehow declared not-offensive for some people to say these things. It’s not. Rather, it’s that when you are dealing with people you know don’t mean something in an offensive sense, offensive things are a kind of friendly teasing.

For instance, a couple of my friends (who are close enough that their parents used to helpfully mention that if they had anything to say about their relationship, their parents would still love them) like to have fake fights in public. This led to a dialogue, briefly excerpted here:

Luka: Yeah, that’s what your mom said. Last night. When I was having sex with her.
Rain: Yeah? Well, your mom’s dead.
Luka: <laughs>

Well, yes, her mom’s dead. Had been for, at the time, several months. This was something that would totally not be okay to joke about… Unless you were a very good friend. Note that the rule here has nothing to do with whether Rain is Luka’s dead mom, only that they’re close enough that the comment can’t possibly be meant to hurt.

And the reason group membership is generally taken as “good enough” is that, in general, people are assumed not to despise their own ethnic group. (Not sure this is a particularly good assumption, but it’s there regardless.)

There are some weird boundaries. I have known gay guys who call other gay guys “faggots”, apparently meaning nothing hostile by it. I probably couldn’t get away with calling random gay strangers fags, but no one seems to be inclined to complain if I call my spouse a fag.

Writing creates its own set of weird problems for this. One of our friends is writing a story in which a number of characters are in a mental institution. One, who has a clearly established problem with self-esteem, referred to himself as crazy. Cue outrage; how dare the writer use this insulting word? And yet… It was true to the character. Should writers be restricted from writing characters accurately? Does it matter whether the writer has a mental illness, or the character does, or what? I dunno. In any event, it struck me as a little silly.

I think people are a little too fast, in practice, to take things negatively when they don’t really have to. On the other hand, you don’t lose much communicative power by not using racial slurs and the like. (Exception: As anyone who’s met Jesse could tell you, trying to talk about Jesse without using the word “fag” is basically impossible.)

Peter Seebach

Comment [3]

---

I want my spoons back.

(Personal, Autism)

2011-11-22 15:07
Comment

(Spoons, you ask? Yes, spoons.)

Here’s one of the things that sucks about being autistic. Spoons aren’t just used or recovered. They are reserved. If I begin a task that requires spoons, the spoons get reserved. They are then the spoons for that task. PERIOD. They cannot be reclaimed, or used for any other purpose, until the task is complete or absolutely, provably, gone from this world.

In August, I called the city planning people to discuss a proposed scheme. It looks like I called them at 1:21 PM on Tuesday, August 16th. I called again on the 29th, at 12:20 and 1:06 PM. The person I originally spoke to was Corey Murphy, who transferred me to someone named Cynthia, whose last name I didn’t catch at the time.

The topic of my calls was the proposed construction of a greenhouse. I had looked up the greenhouse’s rough size, and wanted to know whether this was permitted.

Cynthia informed me that the allowable area for an accessory building was at most 25% of the area of the back yard, and looked up the site to determine that our back yard was roughly 6300 square feet; I quipped that since the structure was only 550 square feet, that means we could have three of them; she informed me that it does not work quite that way.

She informed me that the structure needed to be at least five feet from the property line, but that unless I had a survey done, it would need to be at least ten feet.

I said the building was about 12 feet tall, and asked whether this was a problem. She said that as long as the accessory structure was not higher than the main building, it was fine. I believe I observed that presumably that rule is so that accessory structures aren’t visible from the street. We talked a bit about other requirements, etcetera, but everything appeared fine.

So we ordered the greenhouse kit. On the 29th, I spoke to Corey again, and determined that the permit process was too complicated for me to handle reliably, and that in any event I would need a contractor for the gas lines (the greenhouse needs heating). I hired a contractor.

The contractor went to get a permit, and was told that we couldn’t apply for a permit without a set of plans for the building, signed-off by an engineer licensed to practice in Minnesota. Such plans were obtained, and presented. The greenhouse parts arrived, in late September.

And now — early October — it is revealed that the planners cannot approve the project because the actual height limit is ten feet. Whoops. Well, this goes back and forth, and there is discussion about partially burying the greenhouse, or about other things. And this continues, and continues.

(EDIT: I need to correct this. The first application for permit was October 3rd, where we were told we needed plans. The height issue was not brought up until the 17th.)

I have since found out that the land development code is new as of August 2nd. Also, the land development code has very interesting rules for determining the “height” of a building, and these rules are such that it is not at all obvious how to correctly calculate the height of a dome.

So here we are at the end of November, and we still have one and a half tons of greenhouse parts waiting in my driveway, because we can’t get anyone to agree on which of three definitions of height apply, and in the case they’ve settled on (a “mansard roof” determination), it’s not at all obvious how to calculate the height; the code refers to the “deck line”, and the greenhouse doesn’t have one.

And because of this, I haven’t been able to do a thing since late August. I can’t focus on anything, because all my spoons are in big crates in the driveway.

I don’t know why I got that utterly useless wrong answer (I’d point out that the other answers are largely correct, although there’s also an 864 square foot limit on accessory buildings). I don’t know whether it was a misremembered rule, or a reference to the rules before the update, or an answer to a different question, or what. We have been told at least one that we are prohibited from appealing this to the zoning board of appeals, because it is a zoning issue rather than a code issue. (This makes no sense.)

I am really, really, sick of this. I just want my spoons back. I want to put up the greenhouse, so my neighbors (who are all big supporters of the plan) can start their spring veggies. And I would like to get this resolved BEFORE the ground completely freezes.

Learn from my mistakes: Never trust anything you are told by the planning office unless it is on a signed permit.

(Edit: Not Christine, Cynthia. I love the way my brain mangles names.)

Peter Seebach

,

Comment

---

Ahh, stupidity and evil.

(Personal, Politics)

2011-11-15 15:14
Comment

http://boingboing.net/2011/11/11/stop-sopa-save-the-internet.html

Long story short: Obviously, the world would be a better place if anyone who thinks you are violating copyright can demand that your site be taken down and payment processors stop processing any payments for you whatsoever. What if they were wrong? No worries! The law protects them from any penalty for allegedly “mistaken” use of this, which of course includes purely malicious use followed by lying.

The upside? None. This does not solve an actual problem which needs to be solved. It does not make anyone, or anything, safer. It just tries to eliminate the major virtues of the Internet.

Peter Seebach

,

Comment

---

True names and aphasia

(GeekStuff)

2011-11-11 12:19
Comment

A running theme in fantasy literature is True Names — each thing (or at least person) has a true name, and knowing the true name of a thing gives you power over it. But why’s that? Here’s my theory. If you use a normal word for a thing, the word has connotations and shades of meaning that distract you from the thing itself. Thus, the use of carefully-crafted “true names”, words which exist to be directly mapped to the thing itself without connotations, puns, and other distractions.

Given this, consider the implications of aphasia. My theory is that an aphasic wizard would be incredibly powerful as long as he couldn’t remember words, because when he was unable to think of the word “cat”, it would turn out that “pointy-eared fuzzy tail thing” would be an exact invocation of the thing itself.

The neat thing is that this has awesome narrative properties; the more stressful and panicked he is, the more powerful he is.

Peter Seebach

Comment

---

Razer's gaming stuff: Disappointing support

(GeekStuff)

2011-11-10 20:54
Comment

Okay, I gotta say. I like the hardware as such. Nice hardware. Good feel on the keyboards.

But these “programmable” things simply can’t process, save, send, or otherwise deal with a number of standard key codes. And this dramatically reduces their utility. One of the neat things about the USB spec is that the number of 100% standard keys is larger than the number of keys on most real keyboards. Of particular interest are F13 through F24, which are standard parts of the USB keyboard interface spec, but usually not already in use. This makes them great choices for keybinding.

Razer’s mouse programming software simply can’t process these at all, so far as I can tell. No recognition of the events, no ability to program them into anything, no ability to generate them, can’t load them from files.

Their keyboard software is weirder. If you hit one of these keys while recording a macro, they DO record the key event. They even display it correctly. But as soon as you try to save your settings, they mysteriously fail to record those events.

The support people are pretty useless, and their first response to a bug report was to close the ticket on the grounds that they have an ironclad policy against reading suggestions. WTF. A policy against reading suggestions does not make sense. There are plenty of reasonable ways to avoid the mythical legal hassle over these, and claiming to be serving a market while ignoring their requests is… well, a bit weird.

But the real point here is: This isn’t a “suggestion” for a new “feature”. This is a bug report. Here are 100% standardized fully supported documented USB key events. Your software fails to process them.

You might wonder why this is a big deal. Here’s the thing. The point of extra programmable keys is to let you, well, use them. Ideally as keys that are distinct from the other keys which you were already using. Thing is, the standard PC keyboard is a landmine of keys with special meanings; alt+F4 instantly closes apps under Windows, for instance. Many other strange bindings exist and can be very hard to change, or impossible. Typically, a gamer type will already have stuff bound to, say, number keys, or keypad keys. So what’d make extra mouse buttons SUPER USEFUL would be if they could generate events other than the ones that are easily gotten from the main keyboard. What would make them even better would be if they could be, say, logically related in some way.

I might as well add that their Mac drivers have caused some of the only kernel panics I’ve ever seen.

So if you’re looking at these gizmos as a possible source of nice, responsive, hardware? Good kit, worth the look. I think they may be worth the price, especially if you have sensitive fingers and care about that sort of thing. If you’re thinking “all the buttons on that mouse could provide me with an additional input channel that’s not already in use”, that’s gonna be much harder to pull off.

(Note: Some PC games also ignore those keys, but only some. Other games handle them fine.)

Peter Seebach

Comment

---

Therapy doggerel

(Personal)

2011-11-10 19:28
Comment

With a bit of help from my mom, who spotted a meter error:

Purchasing catnip for
Molly McPettinscat
typically indolent,
furry and cute;

under the influence
enthusiastically
fights with the furniture
not so astute.

I love doggerel. Up to a point. I was on a forum once where there was a “limerick contest” in which many of the entries fell slightly short of the traditional standard, with such defects as not rhyming, rhyming in the wrong pattern, and the like. I’d comment on the meter violations, but I’m not sure I saw any with correct meter, so maybe no one knew.

My contribution was:

A limerick’s humor is best
when it passes a metrical test.
And if it won’t rhyme,
please don’t waste our time,
and give the poor subject a rest.

… I note in passing that “therapy doggerel” itself is a double-dactyl. Go wild.

p.s.: Yes, we really do call her Molly McPettinscat. It doesn’t make her answer to her name any more, but it also doesn’t make her answer to her name any less.

Peter Seebach

Comment

---

« Older Newer »