The Unappreciated Art of the Troll

(Editor’s note. I have re-written the beginning of this post dozens of times. One of these days I’ll hit on an opening that works.)

“To make a deliberately offensive or provocative online posting with the aim of upsetting someone or eliciting an angry response from them.”

“To fish by trailing a baited line along behind a boat.”

Google search result for trolling

I grew up washing lures on Swanson reservoir. I know what the second definition for trolling means. Washing lures is what my dad jokingly called trolling. Trolling for fish. We spent hours and days on end idling up and down the reservoir never getting a bite. That was the usual method of trolling. As the old adage goes, if throwing a lure in the water always brought back a fish, they’d call it catching not fishing.

Sometimes we’d get into a school of fish, and then the trolling would go viral. We’d get 8, 10, sometimes thirty fish on those days. Those were the rare days. The reason for going fishing in the first place.

There are fish on the internet too, it’s just kind of hard to tell the difference between a fish (a mark as fraudsters and con artists label them) and another troll or even an anti-troll.

Trolls inhabit our daily lives, waiting under every figurative bridge along your route, waiting to jump out and try to ruin your day.  Online trolls are the ones most people notice, but there are trolls offline as well.  We don’t recognize them because we know them by name, not by their behavior.

Decades of trial and error on the internet, as well as at work and at play have proven to me that my default behavior is anti-troll. The barbed replies that I compose to posts in online forums and social platforms frequently happen without any planning on my part. Counter-trolling the unwanted and unwelcome, tormenting them with attacks that they will feel obliged to lash-out at, speaks to internal issues of conformity and certitude that I wrestle with. And I do wrestle with them from online moment to online moment. There have been far more words that I’ve deleted from posts than I’ve ever posted in the decades since I started spending time on the internet.

Trolling is an obscure internet behavioral reference to just drop on the uninitiated. I figure if you got to this blog, you probably know your way around the internet. But still, most of us use words all day long that we don’t really have definitions for and can’t really define if pressed. I started this post with a definition for trolling, and I included both definitions for the behavior for a reason; and that reason is, trolling is seen in one light by the troll, in the other light by those being trolled. Trolls think they are the good guys. They are certain they know the truth and they think they are convincing people by trolling. They are speaking to the silent masses reading with a knowing eye, and not to the people they are arguing with. They are expecting their antagonists to admit that they are fakes and to walk away from the argument as changed people; that is, to whatever extent they think they are arguing with a person and take that person seriously. The fact that they just might be wrong on the ideas they are promoting never even crosses their minds. If the thought did cross their minds, they would never go where they go and say the crazy things they say.

So when a troll posts in a forum, any forum about anything at all, they are posting specifically to attract the unwary. Hoping against hope that someone will acknowledge their existence and gratify their longing to make a difference by taking the time to argue with them about whatever it is they posted. Cat videos in a dog forum. Dog memes in a cat forum. Rainbow colored memes in a conservative forum. Gun images in a liberal forum. Hentai memes in an Anime forum. Whatever it is, their fondest wish is that you click on their thing and reward them with your attention. Once they have a flame war going, they are like hogs in a wallow; able to roll luxuriously through the mud being slung in every direction. Which is generally where people like me show up. Flame war going, hogs wallowing, attention being lavished on the undeserving, from the anti-trolling perspective.

When people like me see an inept attempt to troll a group that the troll doesn’t like, we can’t keep ourselves from trolling them right back. Our desire is to put out the flame war, to deny the troll the attention that they are looking for. We offend the easily offended so that they will leave the conversation. Piss off the trolls so that they abandon their own threads, or cross some preset line of conduct that will get them evicted from the forum or punished in some other fashion. If nothing else works, spamming a thread with nonsense will generally put out a flame war because no one can keep track of what was said last by whom, silencing both sides with avalanches of bullshit.

Why do I and others like me do this? If you are going to take pleasure in causing someone else pain, at least have the decency to be good at it for fuck’s sake. That is why.

I have tried many things to remedy this nervous habit of mine. Proactive blocking. Spam reporting. Hate-speech reporting. Nothing seems to stem the unending tide of idiots who think they know how to score points on their enemy. There are just too many of you inept motherfuckers out there. I can’t escape you and your pathetic drivel, so I will do the only other thing available to me. I will write a primer on the subject so that I can hand it out to you when I regrettably run across one of you.

The first bit of business, like most subjects of discussion, isn’t what you think it is. You, dear reader, probably think that I’m going to illustrate how to compose a decent meme or perhaps lecture on shouting at people in ALL CAPS. This isn’t that kind of blog. There are other places you can go for that information. I am not your internet help desk. No, the first fucking thing to understand is knowing when you are being trollish. Learn to recognize when you are causing pain to another person and to ask for forgiveness if offense is legitimately taken. The first order of business is to understand what it means to troll. If you don’t know what you are trying to do, you will not be successful in carrying out your mission.

Your initial post should be savvy enough to be taken seriously by the casual observer. Posting porn images to a photography group will reliably get you banned the first time you do it. So don’t do it from an account you might want to use again, if that’s your thing. On the other hand, social posting has to attract attention in order to be social. A dialog rather than a monologue.  Why post at all if what you are doing is going to be ignored? Why talk to yourself online? You might as well log off and go masturbate if you are just playing with yourself; and frankly, most trolls would be better off masturbating more often anyway. It relieves the stress to perform well, take it from an old hand at this. If you are thinking about trolling, go masturbate first. It is better for everyone if you do.

Back already? Well, that was quick. Where were we? Ah, yes, the meaning of trolling, crafting a successful troll. You want to be provocative, but not offensive.  You want to question the status quo but do so in a way that won’t get you evicted from a group.  It is a consequence of this fact of internet life, the loneliness of it, the desire to gain the attention of others, that makes nearly every internet post an attempt to troll, an attempt to get people to pay attention to you, to dig me as George Carlin once put the question on his album Class Clown.

Virtually all comedy is trolling behavior. Anything you think is funny is probably offensive to someone. Posting humor will get you labeled as a troll, especially if you post that humor in places where whoever is being made fun of hang out. Telling Polack jokes on a Polish immigrant forum will get you banned as someone engaging in hate speech pretty quickly, and probably rightly so. Polack jokes are so 1990’s. Get with the times. Clearly the targets of choice have shifted back to the brown-skinned people South of the US border. If you are from Texas you reference them by pointing out they have to swim to get to this side of the border. In New Mexico, Arizona and California (states with land borders) that kind of reference is considered racist and will get you outed as a racist. And rightly so. So the second point of successfully trolling is to know the subject that you hope to exploit. Even in Texas you can be confused with a racist if you are so insensitive as to name a movie Deadbacks in humorous reference to the racial epithets of yesteryear.

Writing by its very nature implies that someone will read what you write. If no one reads it, do the words even exist? That is a bit metaphysical, isn’t it? Unlike speech, which elicits response if anyone can hear you, even when you are talking to yourself, writing really does imply that someone will read the words you write. Every writer imagines someone they are writing to while they are writing. That is how you gauge whether you are getting across to your audience, you imagine who they are as you type. Are they confused? Misunderstood? Go back and read anything you’ve written in the past, like I have done on this blog. Go back and read the things you wrote ten years ago, see if you recognize the person writing at that time. So many things we think are important at any given time look pathetically misguided in hindsight.

Most people hate to think about the things they believe. Asking another person to do that is generally branded as trollish behavior. The most provocative thing you can do online is to challenge someone else’s beliefs. Any ideologue is a prime target for trolling.  It isn’t just conservatives in the wild who are susceptible. It is also anarchists and socialists, any group or person more allied with a set of ideas than they are with other people.

That homophobe or transphobe you are always running across is no more deserving of trolling than the social justice warrior who doesn’t know when to shut up. The Jehovah’s Witness who rings your doorbell on a Sunday morning that you’ve always wanted to introduce to the Flying Spaghetti Monster is on the same level as a target of trolling as that atheist friend who thinks all religion is stupid is a target. If you’ve asked a question specifically to get someone to question their beliefs, congratulations, you are a troll.

If you’ve ever engaged in anything other than casual conversation, you’ve probably engaged in trolling behavior yourself. Admit this fact, we’ll keep it between ourselves. No one will know of the secret pleasure felt when someone rewards you with a reply to your cleverly worded bait. It’s OK, we all do it. Everyone is a troll in some fashion, especially the people who think they would never do that. Like passive aggressiveness, everyone has trolled at least once. All of us find ourselves in conversations online and off, conversations that we weren’t invited to, have no real interest in, or are required to participate in because of social norms.  You just want a drink of water and the group at the water cooler stares at you as you approach. Do you offer an insight or just duck and cover? The smart person might keep to himself, but the adventurous amongst us probably attempts to riff on what the conversation appeared to be when it suddenly included them. If the comment can be deemed provocative in any way, congratulations you have just trolled the water cooler.

This behavior, trolling, is not really a new thing at all in spite of the fact that it never had a name before the internet evolved. It is the way that conversation has evolved over the millennia from basic communication needs, imparting information from one person to another that was life critical,

Food. There.

Into ways to convey complex levels of thought and to do so with enough rigor that the teachings were retained through multiple generations of descendants. The briefest of excursions into the subject of Freemasonry will shed light on just how convoluted verbal teachings can get, and just how misunderstood meanings passed down without writing and divorced of the concretes they deal with, specifically masonry in this case, can become.

It is not merely coincidental that some of the earliest human groups formed around the subject of masonry; nor is it coincidental that those groups sought to exclude others, the outgroup, from understanding what it was they were doing. The first recorded words that we still retain were recorded on stone by stone masons. And they retained their exclusive rank and that ability to divorce the spoken word from that impediment to communication, time, up until the fifteenth century and Johannes Gutenberg‘s masterful invention. It was only then that language becomes divorced from the spoken word. Only then that reading became something that anyone could afford to take time to learn and do, because it facilitated learning in other areas. Before the invention of moveable type you communicated all information directly, from master to apprentice, in words designed specifically to impart knowledge from the person with hands-on experience to the person who wanted to know how to do whatever that thing was.

After Gutenberg invented the printing press, it became more profitable for the master to write his knowledge down directly, so that his mastery could be spread wider. Could be spread to students who couldn’t hear his voice directly, because they lived in another town or even in another century. From Gutenberg’s invention until today we have continued to evolve the written word. From masters writing their knowledge down for the erudition of us all, into entire industries making billions of dollars off of the spreading of information world wide, into fat, naked old white men typing out their masurbatory fantasies in the darkness of their mother’s basement, all alone in the night. I’m not so sure this whole printing press thing is going to work out well in the end, from that perspective.

The first time the veracity of the information imparted was questioned,

that ain’t food, that’s shit.

Trolling was born. Deriding or dismissing the offered information. Refusing a directive like turning a blind eye. Being known for writing a rebuttal to a treatise that history has long since forgotTrolling 101. Anyone can engage in this basic form of rebellion, just like the millions of meme-posters on Facebook, all of them convinced they are somehow unique and worthy of the attention of others. Facebook is the internet equivalent to the office watercooler, one step below icanhascheezburger on the meritocratic scale of trolling. Facebook is an intellectual level below lolcats, because lolcats know they are attention seekers and have to hone their craft against other self-admitted attention seekers. Most people on Facebook don’t even admit that what they want to gain by hanging out there is attention.

Facebook meme posters are to trolls what script kiddies are to hackers. Someone who only understands how to do one thing in a field that encompasses all known forms of things. Anyone can screen cap an offensive image and post it. Anyone can copy and paste a meme generator image, the kind you find reposted ad infinitum across the vast Facebook wasteland. It takes no talent at all to piss someone off.  Shit flinging monkeys can do it with a single gesture. Hell, if it exists, is filled with memes.

The internet is so full of amateur mental gamers, amateur trolls, that there are terms created just for them. Just asking questions is now referred to as Jaqing off. A Facebook friend went off on a tear recently because someone suggested they were playing devil’s advocate.  An artist never reveals his art as art. An artist creates and either the art is accepted or rejected.  If you are going to play devil’s advocate, be the devil’s advocate.  Don’t expect other people to indulge your mental masturbations, or to refrain from punishing you for your transgressions of norms. No one likes a show-off. No one respects an artist whose defense is but this is art or especially I was only joking.

The key to knowing when to troll and when not to troll is honesty. Knowing what results you want from a conversation and how you will get it. This knowledge turns a memer into someone interested in perfecting the art of the troll. A person interested in the shape of the conversation itself. It is at this point that the apprentice troll becomes a journeyman troll, believes himself capable of trolling like a master. This is the point where the smartass becomes the asshole, as in “the asshole that ruined [insert name here] forum.”  I have been kicked off so many forums over the years that I’ve actually lost count.  I was kicked off of most of them because that is what I wanted the moderators to do, although I may not have known it at the time. Challenge authority publicly and you will be smacked down. This occurs because 99.9% of authority’s effectiveness in the wild is based on fear of the application of force. If the mundanes you have authority over are not afraid of you, you will lose control sooner or later.

Respect can replace fear most the time, but there has to be mutual respect for hard and fast rules for this to occur. Mutual respect for rules, while a basis for any good argument, is sadly lacking in most online forums. Rules have to be enforceable to be hard rules. Rules against doing something the authority cannot even check on aren’t rules, they’re wishful thinking. It is not within the ability of a forum moderator to compel civil discourse, to prevent or observe that one member has blocked messages from another member, an example of a rule I broke and then told the moderators “I broke that rule” just so they would kick me. (the ploy worked. They changed the rule. I win) Hard and fast rules permeate the internet. You can be banned from forums just for observing that forum moderators are as naked as the emperor. Never tell authority that their rules are meaningless. You cannot compel discourse or civility in the wild. You can only control who gets to have a voice in your forum.

Contrary to popular belief, trolls do not ruin forums, moderators do.  More to the point, a moderator is the shepherd of the forum, and the moderator needs to be given permission by the forum owner to do the job they need to do.  The most damaging belief among forum moderators is that applying rules justly equates to censorship. That you cannot remove posts and users without denying them their free speech. You may never hear from that person again, or they might be back in minutes as a new user you’ve never heard of before; but either way the activities of a moderator are not censorship. Applying rules justly is how civilization is maintained, how progress is secured. Make no mistake, a bad moderator can destroy a forum but a good moderator can make a forum work flawlessly if they simply have the knack for smoothing over the rough bits. Here ends the moderator’s tangent.

Getting back to the assholes; as in, this is the point where the smartass becomes the asshole, assholes should be kicked off forums en masse, everywhere on the internet.  Kicked and kicked again until they graduate to the next level of trolling, or cease to troll altogether.  It is possible to not troll, The wife is one of those rare exceptions. Trolling is as alien to her as double entendres or puns.  When she ventures into those fields it is hilarious because it is so unexpected.  Every time she reads my posts she is baffled about why I bother.  Every time she reads responses to my posts she is livid, and it’s all I can do to keep her from hunting the offending party down.

The only way to deal with assholes is to remove them, and like a bandage it is best done quickly to limit the pain. As many times as I’ve been kicked out of groups over the decades, there are even more places that I’ve been a member of that have been reduced to ghost towns by assholes who simply don’t know when to shut up and had control over that Uniform Resource Locator or subreddit. On more than one occasion, that asshole was me.

Some of the assholes never learn.  They just get bitter. They just get angry. Anger is a copout. The targets of the troll are angry too.  Justifiably so, in their eyes. That too is a copout, but it is an understandable one.  People who are pushed, who are angry, lash out.  A good moderator on a forum does what the name implies. A good moderator moderates.

“Dude, I know you think this is fun, but your target does not. I know you can’t see the tears, but there are tears.”

When kicked from a group, understand that you are in error. Authority is never in error. Authority never admits error, in any case. The only time authority ever admits error is when they are pulling a Gorbachev. They are on their way out, and on their way out they add “oh by the way, we fucked up. Sorry about that.” Trolls live for that moment. But the kicking? That is personal.  It is all about you and your blindness to lines that everyone else knew was there and you didn’t. Until you crossed the line.  Now you know where the line is.  Cross that line again and expect the same results.  Cross the same line the same way and now you are just being stupid. Keep crossing the same line and you turn into a criminal, not a troll.

This is the other point I wanted to make. Trolls are not criminals any more than hackers are criminals. Trolls that continue pursuing the same person after they’ve been warned off are stalkers. Trolls that harass after they’ve been warned off are guilty of harassment.  Trolls (or anybody else) who threatens to harm another person have crossed one of the few universal hard and fast lines in human society. That person won’t be enjoying his liberty to troll people who aren’t in orange jumpers for much longer.

But there is hope. The existence of this blog is proof.

I learned. I survived and evolved. I knew that a change had occurred. For quite some time now I’ve changed tacks rather than bash my head against ineffectual moderation. I’ve walked away from conversations that were clearly going nowhere. The baited feeding the troll and all of them wallowing in troll varnish, another trophy to hang on the troll’s wall.  I’ve walked away from conversations where my target wasn’t ever going to appreciate the time invested in pointing out their errors to them. I’ve simply packed up and left rather than finish the art, complete the conversational arc. I’ve walked away from forums where the moderators could not bring themselves to cull the assholes. The moderators couldn’t keep the Jaq-offs from posting every meme that crossed their newsfeed.  If the sub-group is going to be subjected to everything on the larger forum, why join the group? It really is too bad that Facebook is about the only place left to have an argument in the wild on the internet. Yahoogroups? Dead. BBcode forums? Dead. Usenet? I’ve heard rumors they still exist. I haven’t been there in years.

I’ve wasted enough time flinging shit at other shit-flinging monkeys.  There is no pleasure in it any longer. I have grown to appreciate the art of the troll while a growing despite for the mechanics of it keeps me from over-indulging.

You can say that you have graduated to an appreciation for the art of the troll when you can lead someone to a devastating conclusion blissfully unaware right up to that last step, and you leave them to it. You don’t hang around to admire the mess that ensues. That isn’t the point of a masterful troll, an artful troll. The point is to bring the offender into a position where they can recoil in horror at their own stupidity. Hang themselves with the lengths of rope that you’ve graciously continued to hand to them as they tied the knot and thrust their head through the loop to grin at you. Allowed the petty and the vain to impale themselves on their own sharp wits.

We all have a limited amount of time on this Earth and we can either fritter it away arguing with the ignorant and the ideologically blind, or we can spend time having conversations that have meaning and purpose and the potential for making positive changes in the world. More and more often these days, I’m choosing the latter. Anyone who comes into a forum for a specific point of view and purposefully trashes that point of view is not there to learn anything. They are there to convert by the sword. My response, now, is to repel with the sword. I block, report, and prosecute threats against my person. I block and report trolls who show up looking for a fight. I block, report and follow up on people who are racist, homophobic or Christianist to a dangerous level. That is how I’m going to make the world better for people who just want to live their lives as peacefully as possible.

f you are reading this, go wish Henry Edward Hardy a good day in hell from me. It’s because of him this was posted today.

My feeling is that the reckless, no-consequences, tantrum culture that has evolved online was something that sprouted and became normalized through SF fandom way back when, which makes it incumbent on us who are still part of it to do whatever is possible to make things better. The internet getting devoured by rage culture is only inevitable if we leave the trolls to the cesspool.

Atomic Junk Shop, The Exaltation of Anger

Farpotshket in the Stairwell, Yet Again

All Things Considered – The New Words and Ideas We Need – August 26, 2005

L’esprit de l’escalier I think can be loosely translated as facepalm. That’s my best guess. He hits four or five other words in that bit of audio from All Things Considered back in 2005, including farpotshket, an expression that happens to me pretty much every time I try to fix anything. I especially liked l’esprit de l’escalier because who hasn’t had a witty or clever riposte occur to them as they are leaving a conversation and it is too late to use it.

L’esprit de l’escalier happens to me. All. The. Time. It happened just now. It happened when I read farpotshket on a friend’s Facebook wall and went looking for the meaning of the word (and pronunciation. I mean, WTF? How is that pronounced?) only to have the response lost before I made it back there to post this link. The spirit of the stairway simply doesn’t do the expression justice.

Facebook

An Homage to Homage

The word whose usage is literally driving me nuts. It literally drives me nuts because I know that people saying it have only read it before attempting to speak it, and when they say it, they say it wrong nearly every single time.

Cop Out – Interrogation Scene

Tracy Morgan knows how to milk a line for comedy. He mispronounces homage over and over throughout Cop Out (2010) and every time he does it, it’s fucking hysterical. When he does it, it’s funny. When people who talk for a living do it repeatedly without realizing they’re doing it, it ain’t funny. Understand where your words come from, so that you can understand how to say them without sounding like an idiot.

Homage is French. It is said the same way in English as it is in French. If you speak another romance language and you think your version of the word is better, you are wrong. The French only get a few things right, how to make a croissant and how to pronounce the language they inherited from Rome. Why? Because the French were the only barbarians to understand Rome well enough to conquer and hold it for any significant length of time. So pronounce the word the way the French do and sound like you know what you are talking about. Pronounce it like someone from Wisconsin and you sound like someone who thinks they invented cheese when it was the French who did that too.

Also, there are not two definitions for the same word homage. Doing something in reverence or respect is to do something in homage. You don’t pronounce it differently for the different things you are respecting. The problem is that people assume that the person speaking has actually heard the word spoken before and so they know what they are talking about. Making an ass out of you and me does not make anything better, so don’t do that. Be like the French. Know that the word is said this one way, means this one thing, and c’est la vie or c’est la guerre. Pick your poison. 

How Not to Define Government

This image popped up in my Facebook news feed some years back. I can’t even find the originating image for it, it has been that long ago and had so little impact. I had several thoughts at the time which I lined out as bullet points. A rather lengthy breakdown for what is a five-minute throw-away joke image for Facebook.

Still. I know there are thousands, possibly even millions that would laugh at that joke. I in my previous libertarian persona would have probably accepted it as wryly humorous fact, which is precisely why I took the time to break down the many heuristical errors present in just thinking the observation true enough to be funny.

Not satisfied with wasting an hour or two breaking down a meaningless joke image once and filing it away, I have now spent even more time writing a lengthy post about it, proving the tagline of this blog is accurate.

As to the offered definition of government itself. You can believe any fool thing you want including that gravity doesn’t exist because it is a theory. I wouldn’t suggest jumping off buildings if you do, even though Douglas Adams describes learning to fly as throwing yourself at the ground and missing. Never mistake a joke for something that is true or actually possible. The image is a joke, it just isn’t a funny joke.

Government cannot actually defy science because government cannot change the laws of nature. That is why pi remains an irrational number most accurately described as 355/113 even though several governments have mistakenly believed they could change it. Math is always going to be math and 2+2=4 is true for every instance of reality as we know it. Do not throw the word quantum at me as a counter-argument because I will know that you are stupid if you do.

Economics really isn’t a science in much the same way and for the same reason that psychology is only vaguely a science. Both are in part human constructs held as beliefs within human minds. Therefore “laws of economics” are more rules of thumb than actual laws.

In short, even if there are laws of economics, we haven’t been observing them for long enough to know what they actually are. And given the vagaries of human behavior and the mercurial nature of states, people and institutions, the notion that there’s some grand mechanistic, master system that explains all and predicts everything is at best a comforting fiction and at worst a straitjacket that precludes creativity, forestalls innovation and destroys dynamism.

Referencing “the laws of economics” as a way to refute arguments or criticize ideas has the patina of clarity and certainty. The reality is that referencing such laws is simply another way to justify beliefs and inclinations. I may agree that the war on drugs is flawed, but not because it violates “laws of economics,” but rather because it fails in most of its basic goals. The test of whether government spending or central bank easing is good policy should be whether they succeed in ameliorating the problems of stagnant growth and high unemployment, not on what the “laws of economics” erroneously say about certain future outcomes.

The Atlantic, The Laws of Economics Don’t Exist

As an example, one can continue to print money without limit so long as the money isn’t allowed to collect anywhere in a volume large enough to break the system. People will continue to use and spend money blithely believing whatever they want to believe about the system they are part of so long as the system continues. That is the beauty of the human animal and its selective cognition machine that we call a brain. We only tend to notice structures when they fail,  and then we marvel at the complexity of the system that functioned so well that we never noticed it until it was gone.

Drafter, Drawer, Moron

An artist friend was lamenting being called a drawer recently. Tongue-in-cheek he informed the fan of his artwork that he was not a drawer, a single container in a dresser or chest of drawers, but was rather a draughtsman, thank you very much.

This witty rebuttal sent me scurrying to check word meanings at my favorite quick-reference of choice, Wikipedia. When I got there I discovered that I couldn’t use Wikipedia as a reference for this subject, as I have discovered with previous subjects on this blog. Wikipedia defaults to popular word usage and doesn’t reference the word draftsman, or draftsperson if you insist on neutralizing the word. It doesn’t even reference the proper English Draughtsman that my friend used. No, wikipedia gathers all discussion of the field of technical illustration under the term…

Drafter.

The sound that you are hearing is the spinning of a million proofreaders in their graves. It’s quite a rumble, isn’t it? A drafter is a racing driver following a pack leader close enough to get a speed boost from the lead car’s wake in the air. In no way, shape or form is a draftsman a drafter. That just isn’t English.

Bob Ross Channel Trailer Oct 6, 2017

An artist creates art. A draughtsman or draftsman produces technical drawings (which is where the slang drawer comes from) I was a draftsman for many years, I know what I’m talking about. Applying art techniques to technical drawings produces a “rendering,” something I have hired artists to do. I would never refer to an artist as a draftsman. That is an insult worthy of a good cuffing in my book. What artists and draftsmen do look similar on the surface but are in actuality two completely different fields of work.

John R. Mullaney APC Cutaway : Special Edition Sep 14, 2015

The insistence on sounding like a moron when speaking has driven me crazy for years, drafter/drawer is just the latest insult that I’ve stumbled across, and that one has bugged me since I started drawing. As far back as I can remember I have tried to correct the poor word usage of others only to be rewarded with the label of smartass from most of the people I’ve tried to educate. I was either born a proofreader or a pedant and I’ve never worked out which group I’d rather be affiliated with, but it does remind me of one of the few times that I managed to get the last laugh on the subject.

In the Wrath of the Lich King expansion, Blizzard added the inscription profession to World of Warcraft. I thought a scribe would be an interesting profession to get the Loremaster achievement with (Scribe. Lore. Get it?) so I spent a lot of time on the two ‘toons that I leveled as scribes. In World of Warcraft, like most MMO’s, you can spend a lot of time making things for other players. There are chat channels in the game where you can request needed items from or advertise your profession; and none of the players that I ran across in 6 years could figure out that someone who inscribes is referred to as a scribe. Inscriptors? Scripties? You name it. Never a request for a Scribe. In a moment of frustration I hit upon the right way to deal with this annoyance. I started explaining to the poor illiterate souls that a practitioner of inscription was referred to in a variation that reflected the sex of the practitioner. Like draftsman or draftswoman and many words found in romance languages. There was a sexual differentiation in the names and you needed to be sure to use the right one. Females were to be referred to as inscriptionatrixes. Males were only to be called inscriptionators. In six years of playing World of Warcraft, that joke never got old.

Republican, Republican; Democrat, Democratic

I spent the last few hours listening to Maajid Nawaz in conversation with Sam Harris on the Waking Up podcast. This is the first time I’ve heard him speak and he seems like a honest, earnest person.

Waking Up With Sam Harris #59 – Friend & Foe (with Maajid Nawaz)

…except for this one thing. This one thing that drives me absolutely nuts.

It is the Democratic party, not the Democrat party. That is how the word is properly used. Pouty Republicans and conservatives who want to discredit the Democrats invented (or reinvented) this little conundrum of wordplay as a dogwhistle to separate themselves from the rest of the liberal press, and anyone who uses this dogwhistle is either a member of the conservative press or is blind to the subtleness of word usage that propagandists rely on to spread their message.

You see, Republicans want to rob Democrats of the subliminal linkage of the Democratic party and the democratic process; and they are attempting to do this by pretending that words when used as a party name should not be conjugated in the same way. This is false and it sounds forced when spoken.

I have a hard time believing someone is being truthful with me when they take the time to pervert the english language in this way, purposefully using a word incorrectly to call attention to the difference between a process and a party name.

The Democrats are far more democratic than the Republicans currently are. It is the neoconservatives who used to be Democrats, Democrats who had no problem perverting the democratic process when they were Democrats, who are now perverting the democratic process by denying the vote to larger and larger sections of the population in efforts to keep their Republican conservatives in power for a few more terms before the inevitable shift of power occurs.

The true test of whether the Democrats are democratic will come when, having regained power, they return to the undemocratic ways of their past. Will they adopt the same perversions of the process that they previously practiced? That their neoconservative soon to be neoliberal power brokers will want to reimpose but now from the other side? Vote suppression? Gerrymandering? Or will we force them to create systems which are actually unbiased and open for the first time in US history?

Will we pass the test our forebears failed, or will we fail as they have?

As for the rest of the subjects of the podcast, they were thought-provoking if not outright wrong on many points. How many times will I have to hear the false conservative talking point “won’t say islamic terrorist?” I’m hoping I have heard it for the last time. We’ll just have to see how much difference there is now that the conservatives have everything they’ve ever wanted since 1980. Now’s your chance boys. How bad can you fuck it all up? Sadly, we are about to find out.

This article is tagged errata because I once had a tendency to do this myself. A failing I have since corrected so isn’t preserved on this blog. But still, I’m trying for absolute honesty here. Well, as close to honesty as any human and his public diary can be.

Dublafluwitchy

Or maybe Doblafluwitchy. Possibly Dooblafluitchy. I appear to have made up a word.  Could have sworn I heard it somewhere, but no search for that character string turns up real results.

Which is too bad.  I find it far more satisfying as a word than thingamabob (thingamajig? Give me a break) or whozeewhatzits. Doohickey comes close, but really just doesn’t roll off the tongue like dublafluwitchy.

I blame it on the contractors who insisted that pookie was a substance that you could fill gaps with. Was tempted on numerous occasions to notate drawings with pookie joint instead of the boring sealant that conventional nomenclature called for.

Convention is so boring. As a natural born contrarian and non-conformist, I do my damnedest to avoid marching in step whenever possible.

Fleek or cool, I really don’t care. If you can’t define it, then it’s a dublafluwitchy and that’s all there is to it.

Pharisee vs. Christian

I obsess about things that aren’t things. I do this frequently. I obsess about it so frequently that I created the tag definition just to talk about the things that aren’t things and the definitions of the things that are. Because things have to be definable and definitions are important for understanding. Christian is one of those things that isn’t a thing (because there is no one set of beliefs that all christians, or even a majority of christians, will agree upon and practice in their daily lives) Comparative labeling, on the other hand, is sometimes illuminating.

I’ve been about half paying attention to the little farce that is the case of the Kentucky county clerk that refuses to do her job.  It really doesn’t interest me that much as a legal question.  She’s clearly going to lose; lose her job, lose her freedom, etc.

There is a perspective on this story that I do find interesting. She’s already lost her faith although not many of her fellow faithful will even notice.  How’s that, you ask?  Because she’s a doctrinaire, and doctrinaires are the kinds of people who killed the man she calls savior.

It really is too bad that most people do not read.  If they read they might understand the subtleties of the stories that swirl around them. In this case it doesn’t even take reading to really grasp the argument.  Just ingest a sufficient quantity of your preferred mind-altering substance and then watch Jesus Christ Superstar (a link to make the process easier for you) one of my favorite soundtracks, if not one of my favorite films.  In fact, you probably should listen before watching.  Create images in your own head for what the songs mean before polluting them with images that others have come up with.

Working for a Real Estate Developer in San Angelo (feels like a lifetime ago) the first real drafting job that I landed in that oasis in the desert of West Texas, an architect named Constantin Barbu was running the design studio there.  An immigrant from Europe, he had the most amazing collection of classical music I’ve ever seen before or since, and a sound system built into the studio that an audiophile would commit mass murder to possess.

Constantin was a decent mentor.  In the short time I worked there he not only convinced me that classical music was beautiful and inspiring, but he managed to teach me the value of the narrative in construction documents; something I carried forward through the rest of my years drafting and designing architecture.

He had an original vinyl copy of Jesus Christ Superstar.  I forget how the subject came up, but I’m sure we got to talking about religion (no subject being taboo to me) and to prove some religious point or other he demanded that we listen to the soundtrack. Like Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon and then The Wall which were so different from the pop music that I had been listening to up to that time, that soundtrack opened vistas of thought that I’d never experienced before.

I had never thought to look at the story of Jesus from outside, from an artistic perspective. The stories that I had grown up with suddenly had a completely different meaning for me than they had when told in a religious setting. Suddenly the characters became characters in a play, people with feelings and dreams.  The caricatures that are communicated religiously are pale comparisons to the real people who lived those moments in history, if those moments were ever real at all.

Put yourself into that time, the beginning of an age.  All life is change. Jesus was an instrument of change if he was anything at all. The doctrinaires of his time, the pharisees of the bible, rejected his calls for change. they knew the law and his preaching violated that law. It was their hands, and the hands of their followers that delivered Jesus to Pilate for judgement.

We are in the midst of another time of change, and the doctrinaires who know the law would declare to us what the law says and what the punishment should be. What is good and proper and what is not, deciding for their fellow men what course they should take, transgressing on every man (and women)’s freedom of conscience.

That county clerk took an oath to execute her office. She is bound to that oath, and to what the office of a county clerk requires.  If she cannot do her job, then she should leave the job. Let someone else who can cope with the change handle it.  If her religion is really that important to her, then what she needs to do is go find what the teachings she claims to honor really mean.  Because from where I’m sitting it is obvious that she doesn’t have a clue.

Rotational Vertigo

I’ve had several requests to describe what Rotational Vertigo feels like to me.  It is actually quite hard to describe in a way that the average person might be able to visualize. When I’m pressed for time I frequently say something like imagine the worst drunken binge you’ve ever been on. For most people (a majority, sadly) that gets an enlightened response.

But that really doesn’t do the symptom justice.  For me, being drunk (even mildly intoxicated) can be vertigo inducing, has always been vertigo inducing.  I don’t drink and go to sleep anymore. That almost never happens.  If I feel like having a glass or two of brandy or cognac, I’m generally up for the duration of the effect (8 hours or so) because lying down makes the vertigo worse.

So what is rotational vertigo really like?

First, imagine you are at the center of a merry-go-round.  The merry-go-round is spinning. It doesn’t even have to spin fast, it can spin quite slowly, just enough that you can’t fixate on a single point in the background.

This is the key problem with the spinning. It isn’t real, but your body doesn’t know this.  Your body doesn’t know that the balance mechanism in the ears is broken. So your eyes try to track the spin that isn’t there, causing your vision to dance back and forth (this is why reading can be a chore when you have a problem with vertigo) mimicking the spin the balance mechanism says is occurring.

So you are on a spinning merry-go-round. Now imagine that every stationary object you want to interact with is spinning at the same rate. There is no fixed point to anchor to (if you concentrate really hard you might just be able to override this. Maybe) so the handrails on the stairway, the walls of the shower, the glass of water to wash your pills down with dance madly around you while you try vainly to grab them from thin air.

Now imagine that this dance continues for the rest of your life; figuratively, if not in reality. Because it feels like forever. I’ve fought this thing for days at a time in the past, just because I’d already slept for what felt like days and I just couldn’t sleep anymore no matter how many pills I took.

I can’t describe it better than that. I don’t dare go looking for video to describe it.  Just seeing video that includes rotation in the theater can bring on sympathetic feelings of spinning.  I frequently must look away from films with rapid rotation (Gravity was torturous. Loved that film, couldn’t watch half of it. Go see Gravity in the IMax and sit real close with your hands trapped at your sides) or I have to hold my hands up in front of my face so that I can see that there is a stationary object in view while the rotation on screen persists.

The real answer is you don’t want to know.  You can trust me on this subject.


So how should I treat it? is the question you are probably left with if you have this symptom. My article Treating Meniere’s & Its Symptoms covers general treatment suggestions for Meniere’s. However, dizziness and vertigo are so common that they rate a separate discussion from the general Meniere’s discussion.

There are various treatments for re-aligning the otoconia in the inner ear, which is frequently the culprit causing dizziness and some forms of vertigo. benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV) is one of those types of dizziness. I’ve tried a few of these treatments for persistent dizziness (dizziness that lasts several days) with limited success. The half-somersault maneuver looks like one of those kinds of treatments.

If the problem is the otoconia then this kind of treatment should alleviate the problem. If it isn’t then it won’t. It is pretty straight-forward to just try these procedures if the vertigo doesn’t let up after a few hours. You are liable to find that it won’t help for meniere’s vertigo and dizziness. If you still feel dizzy it is probably a good idea to see a specialist before ruling this kind of treatment out entirely. I have given up on them unless it is a specific kind of dizziness that I recognize as being different from the Meniere’s.

The one thing I have found that helps for vertigo and dizziness aside from drugs is finding a head position and/or a focus point to stare at. I personally find that turning the head slightly to my right (I am afflicted in the left ear) and looking slightly downward is the best position for me. I have a catbus that sits near the correct position next to the bed. A friendly catbus that smiles its cheshire grin at me while I try desperately not to spin.

Staring at a fixed point in space, preferably staring at an object that is crafted to inspire trust and happiness, helps quell the spinning long enough for the drugs to kick in, or until the spell passes. One or the other of these two things will occur eventually. 

Tiptoeing through Gender Issues

I’ve been a fan of John Varley’s SF since the Wife first introduced me to it. Common in most of Varley’s work is the idea that sex was something you could change on a whim. That you might actually simply choose to be sexless as a statement (which lead to other perversions) that you could become female in order to have children (something I might have done) but then reverse to male in order to have more strength for work later in life if strength was something you needed. The idea that sex was a irreversible state you were assigned to at birth would be a foreign concept in a Varley future. The one part of Varley’s futures that I really didn’t have a problem with.

I’m starting with the subject of John Varley’s futuristic SF because I want there to be no confusion about my overall intentions while discussing this subject. The subject of gender, of sex, and changing it. This is about categorization. I’ve breached this subject a few times now in other places, and I’m not convinced that the overall subject, false categorization; the creation of groupings which don’t actually exist, really is understood as the point of it all.

This is not about nature, or about god. There isn’t some stamp that is placed on us at birth that says we have to be either female or male. Sexual attributes appear on a curve, just like all other attributes that we possess. Some small percentage of people identify more with the opposite sex than their own external appearance. Some even smaller group have sex organs for both sexes.

I mentioned in a parenthetical above that I might have opted for changing my sex to female had that been an option, for the purpose of having children.  This is a true statement.  The Wife has problems with the birthing of children.  Had she been born even a generation before ours, she probably would have died in childbirth. Which is a very sobering thought. So sobering that I would have willingly changed places with her in order that we could have the children we both wanted, and save her the risk to her health. But that wasn’t possible. Still isn’t possible. If it were, it would be possible for her physiology to be altered in a way that allowed her to have children without dying, without my having to change my sex.

But would I do it anyway? I’ve always been a nurturer. Played with dolls as a child.  My mother had to explain to me why I couldn’t take my dolls to school with me. How the other boys would not understand and would make fun of me.  Giving up the dolls did not change who I was. I’d sooner spend an hour rocking a baby than doing almost anything else. Had I needed to carry my own children to term I’d like to think I’d have done it, despite the pain involved.

I’m not afraid of being mistaken for female, on the other hand. If you put a wig and breasts on me (as on most men) I’ll look like a dude with a wig and breasts.  Just like most men will.  So my status as male is secure; so secure that I would look stupid trying to be anything other than male.

I can understand being personally convinced that you are in the wrong body. I understand the quandary, or at least like to think I do. I’m just not willing to concede that gender is a thing. A thing that can be altered. A thing that can be altered without altering the sex of the person.

This fact is easily demonstrable. If you gave the people who want to change their gender the option of simply modifying their birth certificates (which in a general sense is impossible) the vast majority of them would probably change the sexual designation on their identity papers and give up the gender argument.  It is only the documentation’s immutable status that  makes this entire argument so convoluted.

Hawaii is now allowing people to change their sexual designation on their birth certificates without having to undergo surgery. Only time will tell if this fixes the problem of sexual designation for public purposes. Personally I don’t think the problem will go away until there aren’t restrooms separated by sex; removing the requirement to declare sexuality just to relieve yourself. I know a lot of women who don’t like this idea (yes, dear) and yet I can’t think of any other way to address the inequality presented by separate restrooms.

Documents are fallible, as humans are fallible. Some drunken buffoon on duty at the delivery ward at night can’t uncross his eyes and figure out if the baby in front of him is male or female, and writes the wrong identification out on the birth certificate. Maybe the child just has ambiguous genitalia. Who knows? What is certain is that people are being asked to live their lives as one sex, when they know that they are not of that sex.

If you accept that the sexual role you will want to play as an adult can be determined by an outside observer at the time of your birth, then you might as well assume that there are also innate designations of dominant or submissive; that BDSM roles are also assigned at birth. That you might not want to play either role, or find the concept that you will have to play one or the other role insulting is beyond the comprehension of the record keeper. Obviously everyone will be in one group or the other. It has to be that way, right?

The birth certificate as an unchangeable document just doesn’t add up to a rational system capable of being defended, from a sexual designation point of view at least. What if you are physically capable of handling any role at birth? What if no sexual role mentally suits you as an adult?  What if you think that role-playing should be left to fantasy and not real-world interactions?

Gender isn’t a thing.  Gender is a perception. More than that, gender is the perception of an observer, the identity the observer assigns in their head when dealing with other people. Gender is the presentation that you attempt when you dress in a particular fashion.  Wear your hair a particular way. In the choices of accessories.  You cannot dictate what gender someone will assign to you before they meet you. It is the interaction which will define how they deal with you as a person. You can prime that interaction with overt displays of the gender you want to be seen as, but that doesn’t (especially for men trying to be women) mean that you’re going to pull it off without looking silly.

It is actually easier to pass as a man than it is as a woman. Most men (as the Wife has discovered) will treat the unknown other as an equal, as a guy, if the woman simply acts like a man. Dresses like a man. Even if she is curvy.  It was common in earlier times when gender roles were more strictly defined for women to pass themselves off as men. To simply assume the role of male, and do it so flawlessly that most men they dealt with never knew.

We hold ourselves up to ridiculous standards of beauty. We idolize and worship the prettiest among us as if they are representations of ourselves.  It is a fantasy that a regular person can ever match the beauty of models, as if even the models look that good in poor lighting.  This is not a trans-gendered man, this is just a man. More of a man than I ever have been, if static beauty is a measure of manliness (could do without the tattoos, but it isn’t my body, so knock yourself out) Just as this person is a woman. What this is, more than anything else, is an error in record keeping; a bug in the process of sexual identification which needs to be addressed. This is a manifestation of the worship of documentation as some immutable testament to what is good and natural instead of serving as a reference to what is real and substantial.

I’ve been barraged with this lately from many different corners. It’s been on Skeptoid. I’ve argued about it on Facebook. It’s in my e-mail newsfeed. I’ve watched several TED talks on the subject. The celebration of the trans-gendered, and the labeling of the rest of us as cis-gendered. The idea that a minority can dictate to the majority what labels that majority will wear is farcical on its face. Never mind the fact that it is an invented label and not a correct usage of the terms. Just trying to give fair warning here.

On top of that, just exactly how do you determine who the cis are?

I’d like to speak to all the lumpy old people out there for a minute or two. You know who you are. You remember how, when you were growing up, everyone told you that you had to do this or that, or you weren’t manly? You had to paint your face, be happy and agreeable, like to clean house (or at least pretend to) or you weren’t feminine?  And you, being who you are, either hesitantly agreed, said nothing, or offered a rebuttal; but then went on to ignore everything said on that subject by others and just went on to live you life like you wanted anyway? Are you trans or cis? Dom or sub? Do any of the many labels others want you to wear matter in the slightest? Or are these labels annoyances that you’d just as soon not have to deal with?

Just because the majority don’t go around complaining about the gender stereotypes they are saddled with, doesn’t mean that they are cis in any measurable way.

I’ll happily give up gender specific pronouns, given alternatives that don’t sound forced in conversation. I have no problem using they instead of he or she. Their instead of hers or his. Don’t have a problem with mixed-sex restrooms since I hate urinals in the first place and won’t use them. Wouldn’t put them in restrooms that I designed unless told to. I don’t see the problem with allowing people to change their sex designation on their identification.

I’m just not willing to accept that gender is a thing separate from sex. Not willing to adopt an invented label just because people who want to change their sex have been forced to wear the label trans. I’ll happily support your right to not have to wear that label, either. Not going to start loving sports, hating house cleaning, or conforming to the myriad of gender stereotypes that are out there in the world.  I’m not cis. I’m not trans. I’d appreciate it if you didn’t presume to put labels on me that I don’t freely adopt. That statement should echo with quite a few people out there.

My children have friends that are struggling with this issue right now. Children and young adults who want to know what labels they should put on themselves. A few of them I’m actually quite worried about. To them I want to say STOPDon’t harm yourself.  Be who you are, don’t try to change to fit some perception that other’s hold for you. We love you just the way you are. There is no need to change. To pretend. Just be. Try to be happy, if you can.  Experience all the joy you can wrap your head around. Good advice, no matter what label you want to hang on yourself.


I expected to get pushback from the trans community because I thrash that communities insistence that there is a thing called cis.  Instead what I got was a whole lot of hell from non-trans people who kept insisting that trans was a problem.  I continue to disagree with those people. No matter the source of pushback, no matter the source of the attempt to label non-trans as cis, there still isn’t anything called cis.

The reason why there isn’t a thing called cis is the same reason why there really isn’t a thing called natural; at least in the experience of everyday average human beings. The reason why cis and natural are not things you can define is because there is no default property or state which is then modified by biology or human intervention. There is just the world as it exists in all its riotous varieties of life and experience. Human modification of things from their natural state renders objects that are in many ways still natural since humans are themselves creations of nature. Something manmade is not necessarily something that is unnatural.

There were several comments on this post that were lost when I shifted commenting back to Blogger comments from G+ comments. This was an unanticipated and unavoidable outcome from my perspective. I hadn’t realized that comments would actually disappear from G+, I figured they’d stay there and you just couldn’t see them on the blog. I was tired of having to fight pitched battles on G+ that were visible on the blog and I was equally tired of seeing my posts to G+ show up as comments on the blog posts I was promoting on G+, so I migrated back to the Blogger comment structure which also allowed me to write comments with HTML code that would display properly. Things change and loss of information is always a potential outcome during change. The form this blog is published under is likely to change to a more mobile friendly framework shortly, and that itself may cause some information to be lost. My apologies if this troubles people who like things to stay the same. However, those comments are gone, gone, gone and that leaves me struggling to grasp the arguments that I can no longer reference for clarities sake. My apologies if I tangent while trying to present the argument thrust at me previously, an argument that is now lost.

There is a common misconception among the people who believe in concepts like cis or natural; the misconception solidifies with conscious modification of whatever the thing is. A thing that was natural becomes unnatural. A thing that was cis is now trans. This misconception manifests in belief that genetics are absolute and deterministic. That XX yields women and XY yields men and there is never a miscommunication. That if you have a penis you are a boy and if you have a vagina you are a girl. This kind of rigid codification is not the reality of life as it occurs, but I couldn’t explain or produce an exception to the presumed rule that was thrown at me. Until now.

Listening to LatinoUSA today I was introduced to the concept of Intersex.  Intersex people can be male, female or both simultaneously, or even neither as the case may be. These individuals have been the subject of millennia of mistreatment by both society and the medical community. Mistreatment that is only now being rectified, and then only in places that honor the UN declarations on human rights for the most part.

It is possible to have sexual development produce these vague outcomes because a fetus doesn’t have any sexual variation until after the seventh week of gestation. Specifically, the story in the LatinoUSA piece was of an individual suffering from Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome producing an outcome of externally male appearing genitals but with no ability to produce secondary sexual characteristics at adulthood because the male sex hormones had no effect on her cells. She was subjected to corrective surgery against her wishes in her teens, surgery which made her female, the gender she identifies as today.

There are several different scenarios that will lead to a fetus not developing along expected male/female lines producing individuals who fall into one of the other two possible sexual outcomes neither/both, outcomes which don’t actually have accepted labels or words to define them. Yet. But what this information does provide is an explanation of how you can be of one genetic type and not be of the sex for that genetic makeup.

Given the potential permutations of complex organisms like humans beings, it is quite likely that any number of LGBT people could have some form of intersex affectation that has never been discovered. Many people who want to be identified as cis may actually be affected by one of the many diseases and syndromes that lead to what was once seen as a serious handicap requiring emergency surgery to correct as soon as possible. In the end it benefits us all to accept that there isn’t a clear-cut dividing line between boys and girls and to end these ridiculous rules of separation along sexually predetermined lines. We harm ourselves in trying to set such rigid boundaries to our own sexuality.

Lee Mokobe – TEDWomen 2015 – A powerful poem about what it feels like to be transgender