Non-Omniscient Friends

I love it when people leave over a thing that I didn’t even know was a thing.

I’ve written hundreds of thousands of words they all loved, then I said one thing they didn’t agree with, or think they don’t agree with (it’s not like they actually bothered to find out why or what I meant), and they stormed out in high dudgeon.

The only thing I can say is, well, thanks.

Stonekettle Station

Stonekettle Station posted the above quote just a few seconds ago.  I love it when people leave over a thing that I didn’t even know was a thing was my dead honest response. I love it because I don’t know everything, and it gives me something to go research for a few minutes or hours.  I love it because it gives me new things to write about, to muse over. Most of all I love it because, as Jim says in his rant real friends don’t do that and that’s the one tool that is lacking in social networking as it stands these days.  A good winnowing tool to separate the chaff from the wheat; to separate real friends from hangers on.

Real life needs that tool just as badly as social networking does; unless you are willing to be dead honest with everyone around you and suffer the consequences of that. So few people are even willing to admit that they are uncertain, that they don’t know the thing that the other person it ranting on about, that the average interaction between strangers resembles nothing more than posing and pretense of interest; all while both parties and their observers are wondering what the hell is really being discussed here.

It doesn’t matter the subject, or the names in question.  Any two people discussing any given subject will eventually stumble across something that one person thinks is the most important thing and the other person has never heard of that thing, or has heard of it and thinks it is a waste of time even to discuss it.  What happens next determines if they really are friends, or not.

Friend really isn’t the right word, anyway.  Friend is too casual, like someone you occasionally meet while out drinking, but you wouldn’t trust to help you dispose of that body in your trunk (hypothetically. Like a zombie plan) you wouldn’t expect that person to know everything that is important to you.  What followers on social networking engage in feels more like worship than friendship. Which is just setting yourself up for disaster in the end.  There isn’t anyone out there who is perfect, who has perfect knowledge.  At some point, even your closest brother in arms will say something that you think is unforgivably stupid.

A real friend forgives anyway, or at least accepts the imperfection. It would be mighty dull being surrounded by perfect people.  That would be my personal hell, being surrounded by people who  agreed with everything I said. I live for the next good argument, the next time someone disagrees with me and then offers a counter-argument that makes me think.  You can never do enough thinking in this life.

It’s Called Torture

I have resisted writing on this subject. I’ve resisted writing on this subject because it’s black and white to me.  As a matter of course you treat innocent people (people not convicted of a crime) as if they haven’t done anything wrong. People are in the wrong place at the wrong time even when you’re fighting a battle in a third world country.

This view puts me at odds with most law enforcement, even in the US, where any visit to the holding cells for people recently arrested will result in horrified outrage at the treatment of people awaiting processing. But depraved conditions in the local holding pen because of the tight-fistedness of local government is nothing compared to intentionally causing physical and emotional pain to people simply because we can, because we are in charge and want to assert our authority.

There is an excellent essay up on Stonekettle Station right now on this subject.  Jim Wright has the experience to back up what he says when it comes to the subject of taking prisoners in a time of war, of just how hard it is to take a high moral road when you really are in the thick of it.

I, me personally? I would do whatever it took, including torture, if that was the only way to save the city, if that was the only way to save my family, if that was the only way to save you. As a military officer, yes, I would. Absolutely. I wouldn’t order my men to do it, I’d do it myself. I shove a hose up the bastard’s nose and turn on the water. I’d shoot out his knees. I’d cut off his balls. You bet. If that’s what it took. I’d do it without hesitation.

And I’d do it knowing I was breaking the law, and I would expect to be tried for the crime and sent to prison.

I would.

Because even if I saved the day, I’d be wrong.

Good intentions do not justify evil.

A just cause does not justify injustice. No more than if I donned a cape and tights and drove around Gotham in the night killing criminals without trial or due process.

Stonekettle Station

It’s worth noting, in our depraved current era, that not even Batman killed the subjects he pursued in the original comic books.  The same is true for all the heroes of previous generations.  They didn’t kill, they didn’t torment, they didn’t torture. That was what the villains did. That was why the Punisher was a villain when introduced in the comic sphere.  Because he killed, he tortured. He was evil.

Nowadays our heroes are not heroic in any sense of the word.  Sports stars pummel their wives unconscious on video and go unpunished. Beat their children to the point that they need medical attention, and expect to be let off without suffering consequences. Police officers are filmed strangling and shooting unarmed men, and remain unprosecuted. Politicians don’t even flinch at being caught in hypocrisy any longer. They just explain it away as some thing they said but didn’t really mean.

I only have one response for people who think we should be subjecting prisoners to torture, which is what enhanced interrogation techniques are.  You can be seen as free of hypocrisy, supporting the systematic use of torture, if you willingly undergo it yourself. I mean, if innocent people can be subjected to this kind of treatment, then anyone should be able to undergo the treatment without ill effects.

Christopher Hitchens thought waterboarding was no big deal, until he allowed himself to be waterboarded. here’s the video of it.

Vanity Fair (via Archive.org) & Christopher Hitchens
Youtube Video – Christopher Hitchens Gets Waterboarded

I expect Dick Cheney to submit himself to waterboarding, or to the Hague for prosecution for war crimes.  He should do so within the week.  Unlike someone subject to waterboarding, I wouldn’t suggest you hold your breath waiting for that.

Queerest Thing Happened

Well that’s gay!

Friends of my children have been putting those particular words together for years now.  It has always driven me to distraction. My typical response runs along the lines of “how was that a joyous event?”  or “They do appear to be enjoying themselves” I’ve almost never been able to let that one pass.  What they mean to say is “that went queerly” or “that makes me feel weird”, but their undereducated little brains cannot retrieve the proper words to express themselves clearly.

Gay≠Queer, Gay≠Bad, Gay≠Stupid

Gay is not queer, queer is not gay. Queer; as any decent dictionary (not Wikipedia btw. Wiki is consumed with slang usage, the nature of a popularly edited tome) will tell you, means strange or odd, or when used as a verb means something akin to spoiling. It was thrown as an insult at homosexuals and transgendered people by backwards thinking troglodytes who were made to feel strange or odd by a man wearing a dress or acting feminine. If those groups wish to label themselves as queer now (much the way christians adopted the insulting term for followers of christ as their name) that would be their business.

In much the same fashion, gay does not mean homosexual, even though most dictionaries now list that as its primary meaning. Gay means happily excited or lighthearted and carefree.  Case in point; when the Flintstones theme song encourages you to have a gay-old time they are not suggesting you become homosexual;

The Flintstones Opening and Closing Theme

They want you to enjoy yourself lightheartedly; a perfectly cromulent way to define an episode of The Flintstones. So when friends of my children (or gaming troglodytes on the internet) exclaim “well that’s gay” in response to something that frustrates their primitive brains, I can get a bit snippy. Your latent homosexuality (homophobia) causing you to to be set queer towards homosexuals does not mean you get to call your reaction “gay”. Gay is something you enjoy, not something that pisses you off or scares you.

In that sense (a sense of joyous engagement) homosexuals who want to label themselves with the word gay are welcome to it. But can I have queer back, please?  I mean, I like the word.  It easily defines the feeling you get when walking through a graveyard at night. When someone is watching you and you can’t figure out who it is.  It’s a good word, just not an insult to be hurled at people who are clearly enjoying themselves.


As my daughter observed on Facebook; yes, I have been reported on World of Warcraft for suggesting that someone insulting the english language by transposing the words gay and queer should pull their heads out of their asses and understand word meanings.  Ironically their complaint was that I was insulting homosexuals by using the word queer

What people choose to label themselves with is not a concern of mine; has never been something I take seriously or give meaning to.  People call themselves all kinds of things in the course of their lives, almost never do they actually adopt the entirety of what the word really means (Objectivist and Libertarian spring immediately to mind) or actually even have a clue what other people adopting the label really believe. 

The rant my daughter was on about on Facebook (the one that inspired this piece) concerned the word retarded.  As someone who was labeled slow for most of his childhood, it’s another subject I can get snippy about. Having a learning disability, being retarded in development (retard means to slow; it is an engineering term) is one thing; being called a retard is no different than being called stupid, uneducated, or dumb (although dumb has many other insulting meanings as well) it is insulting to be so labeled, and people should be challenged when they offer base insults to people they disagree with.  It is ad hominem, and beside the point of argument to be insulting to your opponents.

However, when you call a console retarded, I really don’t see the point of being offended personally.

Opulence: Decaying Decadence?

I’ve seen several advertising campaigns that promote the decadence of this or that luxury item over the years. Decadent jewelry, decadent chocolate; images meant to appeal to the prurient nature in us all, I guess, because I can’t think of a positive reason for buying something marked by decay.

The root of decadent is decay; marked by decay, in decline, falling or sinking. Basically, when someone wants you to buy something decadent, they are asking you to waste your money on something frivolous or meaningless, something that is in transition to a lower order of things.

Opulence, on the other hand, is the word that most people confuse with decadence. To be opulent is to have the trappings of power or authority. To possess those things achieved through work and success. Opulence can be ostentatious, but it’s never decadent.

So, the next time you’re tempted to buy rotting chocolate ice cream, just say “no thanks”. Decay is not a good thing to invest in. You can spend your way into decadence (the federal government is proving this truism as I type) but decadence never turns into opulence. It just turns into more fertilizer.

Today’s Beef: ‘Schedule’ Should Mean ‘Reliable’

This is a purposely amorphous beef, got it?

Work schedules. I hate ’em. I’ve always hated ’em. Ditto for television schedules. Hell, just include event planning of any kind. When you say you’re going to do something on a particular date and time, then that something should occur on that date, at that time. And, if you’re going to change the date and time, you really ought to warn the people who might be anticipating the occurrence of same. Getting my drift?

Let’s say, you really want to watch that new show on Scifi channel, and they’ve told you it’s going to premiere on thus and such a date. Now, you know this is Sciffy, and you don’t want to record the hundred or so other airings of the same program, so you set the DVR (don’t have one? Get one. There’s two kinds of TV watching; before you have a DVR, and after. There is no going back from the experience) to restrict itself to the announced time and date of the program.

…and then they change it! No warning, no nothing. If the program is part of SciFi Friday, if you promote it as being part of SciFi Friday, doesn’t it make sense to leave it as a part of SciFi Friday, to aviod confusion. SciFi is just an example. ABC, NBC and CBS are worse; especially with the not-so-popular shows that tend to get shuffled around. Don’t even get me started on the subject of Fox and Firefly; or TVLand and their inability to actually start shows within 10 minutes of scheduled showtimes. What’s the point of an announced schedule if you aren’t going to adhere to it?

Or the family event that you’re expected to attend. Someone else does the planning, you’re just along for the ride. Tell me when to show up, and I’ll be there. Then they change it, never tell you they changed it, and are actually puzzled when this annoys you. “No, really, I like driving an hour for no reason, and then waiting for the rest of you clowns to show up. I want to do that more often” Common courtesy, ever heard of it?

Then there’s work schedules. Cast in stone, never to be altered, work schedules. You never have the days off that you want. Somebody else has always got better days off than you. And if you are setting the schedule, no one ever wants to work shifts outside of 8am to 6pm; and even in a 24 hour 365 day business, no one wants to work holidays at any time. They all whine incessantly. But you can’t change the schedule, because it’s the schedule that everyone has agreed to abide by.

Or at least, that’s the way it ought to be. Reliable scheduling, at least at work.

(here’s a thought, try offering cash incentives for holiday work and after hours work; and make sure the employee’s understand it’s an incentive. Or perhaps you should axe a few of the whiners just as an example to the rest of the crew. I just wish I could do that when it comes to family outings…)

It’s Called a Tuque

I’m listening to FreeTalkLive right now. I’m listening to, amongst other subjects, Ian and Mark promote the FTL store at least once an hour, and they mention the ‘beanie‘ in the store at least every other night. I kept hoping they’d figure out what the hat is called on their own, but it’s about to drive me nuts.

I catch myself doing this a lot lately. Listening to the talking heads on the radio and the TV, and correcting their English. Out loud. To myself. I think I’m spending too much time at home alone with the children. It’s either that, or the level of education amongst talking heads has taken a steep drop in the last few years.

The hat in question is called a tuque, or a stocking cap. The difference between a beanie and a stocking cap is the fabric that it is made of (also, a beanie isn’t complete without a propeller on top) and the fact that a tuque is made to keep the head warm.

You live in the Great White North now, guys. (The distance between New Hampshire and Canada is less than the distance between Austin and Dallas. How much closer can you get?) Learn the vernacular, eh?

SCTVGreat White North – Jul 22, 2010

Husband and Father

Two more words that, when I looked, didn’t have definitions that came close to describing the meaning of the word.

My dissatisfaction probably stems from the need to have the emotional weight (sometimes referred to as gravitas) of the name be communicated in the meaning.

A husband is more than just the male half of a marriage. A father is more than a sperm doner, less than god himself.

This rant is not finished. There will be more.

Isn’t it Obvious?

Every time I hear that phrase, I think yes it is. Yes it is right there in front of us, the third person just can’t see it. All over the internet (if you Google it) are sites and messages from the well meaning, angry people who know the thing in question, attempting to point out a fact or a situation that is hidden in plain view for that third person who just can’t see.

Can’t you see it? Can’t you see it? Why can’t you see it?

Why do I say the obvious is hidden? Because it must be hidden. Hidden by something. Why else would someone ask a patently obvious question? (aside from the rhetorical question. Obviously) They don’t see the answer even though the answer is right before them. This is not a mark of stupidity, it’s a perception problem.

I looked up obvious on several dictionary sites in an attempt to confirm the nuances of meaning that I see in the word. None of them seem to see the obvious differences between obvious and similar words like apparent and evident. Appearances can be illusory. Evidence reveals the evident answer.

You can be blind to the obvious, because it is in the way (as the Latin states) a see the forest for the trees type of situation. So look carefully before asking that next obvious question or be prepared to literally stumble over the answer when it is pointed out to you.

Discrimination

Having ranted on English not being the language of the US, you might find it weird that I would have a problem with non-English speakers in retail positions that require you to converse with the public.

But I do.

While I don’t think that people should be forced to learn English, I think it’s stupid to hire people who can’t speak the common language of an area for a job that requires speaking to the average customer; nor do I buy that this is ‘discrimination’ in a way that is prosecutable.

I walked into an unnamed fast food joint the other day and found myself arguing with the manager (who happened to be what those who take notice of race would call ‘Black’) about his crew’s inability to speak English sufficiently well to get a simple burger order right. He stated that “we aren’t allowed to discriminate in our hiring practices.” He couldn’t figure out why I found that funny.

Discrimination
is selecting ‘something’ from a larger group of ‘something’, based on chosen attributes. That’s it. If a business picks one person to work for them, from a group larger than one person, then they are practicing ‘discrimination’ in making that selection. They practice discrimination against the smelly, the ugly, the untrustworthy, etc. I would like to suggest that they add ‘ability to converse clearly’ to the list of important requirements for hiring.

Having been fired from my only stint at a fast food restaurant for necking with my girlfriend in the mop room when I was 17, hormonal and stupid (and would sooner work on a hog farm than work in fast food again) I can understand how hard it is to get even average people to do the work at one of these places. But I don’t do business with people I can’t converse with, and there are other places that know how to make a Texas burger properly without my having to explain it to them.

…in whatever language they speak.

Death Warmed Over

I’ve always found language (and it’s butchering) interesting. The Wife walks in the house the other day,

“I feel bad, I feel real bad. I feel like death warmed over, y’know?”

She has a college degree in English, and she talks like this. What is the value of education? And what does this mean? For the life of me, I’m sitting there wondering to myself, what is it like to feel like death warmed over? The British say “death warmed up” but that just brings the image of a hot corpse to mind. Not very entertaining, that.

But, “death warmed over” could be something like death leftovers, perhaps. The box for the last dead guy’s coffin. The trash from somebody else’s mourners; already wet tissues and crumpled programs with somebody else’s name on them. Wilted flowers not deemed good enough to transport to the gravesite. The empty bottles and food trays from the ‘really great wake’ that somebody else had.

Death leftovers. Yeah, I don’t think I want to feel that bad.