Category Archives: Irritants

Like ipecac to my soul. Feel free to regurgitate following ingestion.

A note to the perpetually easily offended

This is not about politics; this is not about oppression by the politically correct crowd, at least not on a national scale. Nor is this post about you, unless it speaks to you, but remember: I didn’t write this with you in mind. Besides, if you’re easily offended, you may as well leave now, because I’m about to trample on that garden of brambles you call an emotional defense mechanism.

We get it: you know people who suffer from a plight that others might find funny: this could be a friend, or family member or even yourself. Some of these people may even have lost their lives as a result. I feel for you, but this gives you no right to be a thought policeman when an ongoing conversation isn’t even about you.

Just because someone is engaging in levity doesn’t mean that they intend to slight you. Because most of the time the chuckles aren’t about you. And if you shied away from, or drove away, those who would occasionally make light of a dire situation, you would find yourself in very boring place dominated by your misery, populated only by those too afraid to stand up to you.

Misery and repression are defense mechanisms as valid as levity can be. I’ll get a little personal and share a story or two.

A high school classmate drove drunk with a passenger who was too high to drive. He got into an accident which killed the passenger and injured him only lightly. And yet, comedic renditions of car crashes and accidents don’t offend me. I have had to deal with alcoholic family members and yet will make fun of a drunk who has pissed himself in the depths of his intoxication. I have had to deal with friends who are addicted to drugs, yet I will laugh at this back-alley crackwhore.

Personal stories aside, have some perspective. What you think is courage in speaking up against insensitivity of others is not always courageous, nor is their insensitivity malicious. With each time you express offense at something, the people around you build a list of things that they’d rather not mention—not even make light of—in front of you for fear of offending you.

This might make me seem insensitive or callous. To a point, I’m already known for being so. However, there is a place for humor, and it only works when the fear of offending someone is not the paramount concern. As this article in Salon concludes:

In the worst moments of life, humor can be a potent force for healing (think of The Onion’s brilliant post-9/11 coverage) — or salt in a still bleeding wound.

Sometimes, the wound that keeps bleeding isn’t because of the salt others put on it; it’s that you never let it heal by picking at the scabs continuously.

This really isn’t about the Iranian elections

Certainly, a little of it is, but I have kept mum on what’s going on with Iran not because I think my opinions would be unpopular, but because I don’t have much to offer beyond a low opinion of their political system and I’d rather people focus on the supportive coverage. This is about people who have worse to offer than I do: rain on someone’s parade. The target of my ire today is someone who calls himself G Valentino, who has comments on Twitter users who have tinged their avatars green in support of Iranian democracy:

See, this is what I hate: the medium might be the message, but the medium is not the action. You turn your icons green. Great. What does that accomplish. Well, you say it shows solidarity. Great. It’s an action, however, that costs you nothing and nets even less in return. It’s wearing the ribbon: it’s announcing to the world that you care, but has no real follow up action. Sure it might raise awareness, and here’s that conversation for you: “Why is your icon green?” “To raise awareness of the threat to democracy in Iran.” “Wow! That’s so cool. And how to the green icons help?” *Silence* “Do you hope to make them think that it’s St Patrick’s Day?”

He goes on to expand beyond his gripe over the green Twitter icons to awareness campaigns in general. He talks about how he’s “tired tired TIRED of theatrically making a stand.” Sure I understand his point. I’m tired of theatrically making a stand when it comes to some socio-political issues myself, but here’s what annoys me about his commentary. He challenges his readers to “do something” about this issue, and he offers his suggestion:

[...] Well, realistically I should contact my elected officials in my country and ask if they are going to put pressure on international bodies and the Iranian government to open up their processes to inspection and verification. I should also make sure that I’ve learnt the lesson of the past 8 years and we don’t want to go into international situations guns-a-blazin‘ and upset a fragile developing condition.

Well, realistically the State Department already did what it could when it comes to this isssue. Word is out that agents of that department have asked Twitter to reschedule its server maintenance to help assist Iranian tweeters with their campaign. We here in the United States, realistically, having nothing more than our free speech, are helping spread the word about these people whose voices are slowly being taken away and silenced from the world. A green icon, site color scheme, or font styling, may be all that we can offer as free individuals in the USA (and other free countries). What more would GValentino have us do, when his suggestions have already been done? Has our country organized a campaign to send material aid to the people of Iran? No. Should we as private entities do so? I would say let’s take that up with the State Department just in case we might be aiding individuals we’d rather not, at least on a national level. Should the State Department foment an armed revolution? Almost every year there’s a report of student uprising in Iran and we sit back knowing that if we assist, we may just end up reaping the whirlwind by sowing the wind.

GValentino’s opinion really isn’t unpopular nor is it unfamiliar. Psychologically, it’s a nihilistic reaction to the feeling of helplessness in knowing that all that could be done, has been. His example of green Twitter icons to back up his argument over local action is a poor one at best. They’re the words of a naysayer, and that’s all they are.

Credit card reprieve preys on the desperate, incurious

A few days ago I my friend asked for my advice when she received her most recent credit card statement. The minimum payment requested was for $0. A disclaimer at the bottom of the pay slip said (and I paraphrase) “you don’t have a minimum payment this month, but any payments made will be credited towards your balance. We will continue to charge you finance charges.” To me, this was a transparent scam and what bothered me more was that it was not transparent to her. Her credit situtation isn’t what I would call desperate, but imagine for a second what a credit card statement like that would look to the unwitting and incurious. To them, it would look like a decent “break” from their responsibility, but to anyone who knows the way credit cards work, it’s a huge rip. Let me explain:

Assume the outstanding balance of $5000. Minimum payment is around $175. April’s payment was $175. Finance charge for this May statement was $103.

Let’s say you bite their offer and not pay for the June deadline. The finance charge for June will, for the sake of simplicity, be $103. In July, your minimum charge will be around $175 again. But now, your minimum payment of $175 not only pays against the finance charge from May of $103, but also the finance charge of the June statementof $103. So, $206 minus your minimum payment of $175 for the July deadline nets the credit card company $31. Imagine this repeated across hundreds of thousands of incurious borrows. Now consider: these $31 are added to the outstanding balance and will contribute to further increases in finance charges. This calculus applies whether your minimum payment is $175, or $15. If you skip a payment, they will make money off of you without them lifting a finger to charge you a late fee and risk your ire.

TANSTAAFL, folks! This is the equivalent of a crack dealer giving you a free hit and then raising the prices on your next purchase. I could think of so many other metaphors to illustrate the kind of travesty that this credit card company intends to perpetrate. Frankly, I feel little sympathy for those who trust lenders to make financial decisions for them, essentially ceding their personal sovereignty to the banks who are all too willing to hand out fake money to make a little bit more real money. Despite my lack of sympathy, I do believe that there will be no revolution, no upheaval on any scale, unless there are open eyes. The silence of the knowledgable is just as contributory to evil as the passivity of the incurious and the belligerence of predatory lenders.

Etiquette for the Social Media Generation

People need to realize that the many different social networks—including the ones built around blogs—are geared for different uses, and while there can be some overlap across some networks are okay, sometimes it’ll just lead to mass alienation. Some of these networks’ participants are more tolerant of this convergence than others. Twitter seems the most tolerant; Facebook, is perhaps where it’s a disaster. Case in point:

Bloggers use Twitter to send their followers to their blog posts using Twitterfeed. Their Twitter updates automatically show up on Facebook, including all standard updates, @mentions, and RTs (ReTweets). Facebook friends who are not Twitter followers respond in confusion.

I understand that the plethora of networks and the limited time that we can all devote to our online presences makes it tempting and easy to simply being all of the networks together with the content we produce, without any regard to the way the networks behave. Part of successful social media use—nay, any sort of media use—is the understanding that each venue has different audiences, and that they need to be treated as such.

Selectively sharing your blog’s permalinks on Twitter and facebook, when you think it is relevant to your audience in each respective medium, is a good thing. Automatically doing so? Not so much.

This is not a threat…

But hello to the people behind “Pajamas Media.” I need to hit you on the head with a cast iron skillet.

I may be alone, or they may only be a few of us in this situation, but I will be in charge of a number of CSS retoolings on October 1, and all of them on October 1 (because the people whose sites I maintain ask me to) and not one second before October 1 because you guys want to keep a media secret.

Come on, folks. Throw me a bone here. You know how easy it is to comment a line of javascript out using PHP commenting? Nothing shows up on the site’s HTML source, either. Would you rather I told the people I do some site maintenance on to cool their horses when they insist on fulfilling their end of your contract?

So inconsiderate, I swear…

Why I dislike blogads so much…

…And why there are a few blogs that I find difficult to visit these days: You get the page you want, and then, it flashes to an unstyled page that shows just the damned blog ads. What the hell, yo? This happens to the Commissar and to Smash. Is there just a problem with my browser? My firewall? I’ve had this problem long before I had AdBlock so I know it wouldn’t be that.

Just wanted to let you know, guys. Sometimes your sites really screw up because of blogads (and I won’t adblock the whole thing because I sometimes need them when doing some layouts) and I have to refresh. The less witting would simply browse away.

iTunes, I stab at thee!

I uninstalled the iPod updater and iTunes from my computer and now am managing my mom’s iPod Shuffle from Winamp5 using the ml_ipod plugin. Oh yeah? Oh yeahhh! I’m still disappointed with the Byzantine performance that the damned thing had working with my computer. Now the only thing left to see if it will actually charge…

Accidental offensiveness

To the oversensitive Americans in our midst,

I learned from a conversation with Michael Demmons of Gay Orbit that there are some among you who are deathly afraid of offending minorities through the routine use of words in the English language that have taken on a pejorative meaning when used in certain contexts.

Here are two examples off the top of my head:

  1. “Flipbook,” which seems to be an office implement used to make presentations to people.
  2. “Chink in armor,” which refers to weaknesses, either used literally (as in medieval combat) or figuratively.

Neither of these terms offend me, or the Chinese that I know. Nor do I find offense the words “blackboard,” which has now been PC-ed into “chalkboard,” and “whiteboard,” which is now referred to as “dry-erase board.”

I understand your concern that you don’t want to offend minorities. In a country like this, the most vile attack one can level at a white person is to accuse them of being racist. Why that is, I do not know. There are plenty other crimes against humanity that people of all colors can engage in. However, your “concern” should be limited to blatant and malicious acts of racial discrimination and insensitivity. Exempli gratia: You can use the term “flipbook” just fine, or the phrase “chink in armor,” but of course it doesn’t mean that you will gain respect should you call the Asians at City Wok “goddamned Chinks.”

I think that jumping around vocabulary because some words are possibly offensive in a different context is bad for English, bad for communication, and bad for “race relations” in this country. It is extremely condescending for you to avoid using terms that have been around for a very long time just because they might be offensive. I think I’ve repeated myself too much but let me close with a few more examples.

It is not okay to call a black person a “nigger,” although to be honest I have written before about the use of the word “Negro” and that it should lose its racist connotation the way “Asian” or “Caucasian” shouldn’t seem racist. It’s not okay to call an Asian a “Chink” or a “gook” or a “jap,” or any one of the pejorative terms for us on that side of the globe, however, don’t be afraid to say “flip over to the next page,” or other uses of the word as long as you don’t use it to refer to Filipinos.

Verily there is real verbal bile that comes with some words. We don’t need the condescending approach that some of you (accidentally) exhibit when you take extra care to avoid using words whose pejorative nature depends on context and usage.

Wishing to communicate with a few of you better,
One Fine Jay

P.S. MD, insist upon your officemates that it really is called a “flipbook,” and not an “easel board,” or whatever it was. Tell them a Filipino told you.

Self-writing joke, II (Dave W(h)iner edition)

Les Jones:

LATER: At the after hours event John Cox was showing us his sketch book. His comment was that Dave Winer leading a conference on “Respectful Disagreement” was like a drunk leading an AA meeting.

The hissy spell he had from the Blog Nashville talk is monumental—it reminds me of children sitting at the grocer crying for their candy-for-breakfast cereal—in that it proves, yet again, that Dave Winer is really, really into himself.

His talk was about “civility” in the blogosphere, and I sorely wish I was there (I was invited to go by an e-mail buddy but I’m not financial able to) just so that I can go there and heckle him. Truth be told, DW’s personality—even that which bleeds through on his blog—is so vulnerable to heckling on the sheer scale of self-importance.

“I’m Dave Winer, dammit. Now. Be CIVIL!

The Les Jones account, though, has more tangible first-person evidence of this, but in the interest of posting something substantial for once, I’ll go on record to say that the result of Winer’s sit-down-protest—people discussing freely without killing each other nor telling each other just how wrong they are—proves that the blogosphere will survive even when some of the most major apices of links and traffic go away. Especially the self-important ones.

iTunes gripes

I have two gripes with iTunes. First, it’s a RAM hog requiring at least 35 Megs of physical RAM and an almost-equal amount of virtual memory. What the heck is that all for? (First one who says that it’s required to make it run the way it does gets an award for most obvious non-answer.)

The second gripe is an an inhumane user interface quirk that I find more annoying than gobbling up a chunk of RAM (which is peanuts to the 1.5 Gigs that I have on my system anyway): any of the media players that I have, in fact almost any other Windows application I have, can be interacted with my mouse, despite the application not being in focus. (Almost like an X-mouse “lite.”) For example, I have Firefox running and I’m browsing and I want to skip a track in Winamp 5. All I have to do is mouse over the Skip button, and when I click, the playlist skips to the next track, and Winamp takes focus. It takes just one more click to go back to Firefox. With iTunes, if I mouse over the pause button when it’s playing something, and I click, it doesn’t pause. That first click places iTunes in focus. That shit just drives me up the wall.

I hardly knew ye

The W1 got a few dust spots behind the plastic lens. The pictures it’s been taking of the sky are hideous; I am, however, able to take bearable photos of other subjects. I’m keeping the camera until the 28th, when it gets shipped off to the Sony service center for repairs.

I just pray that I won’t have to shell out dough for this. That would totally blow.

Yikes

So I took a break from working on this here project of mine that has nothing to do with blogging so that I can check out what other people are saying about the SOTU address last night and this is what I come across, thanks to MD. Linkers at the bottom have arrived at what seems to me certain consensus. Quizas says:

…Maybe American culture itself has descended to the point where many of us are eager to become the Napoleon of the hour. And of course, one can’t be Napoleon without someone to bully….

Yeppers. There’s not much add to the discussion in terms of intellectual merit but in the spirit of kicking the dead horse, this is the kind of behavior that gives bloggers a bad name. The only thing lacking is Jordan Golson and Matt Margolis parading a copy of a DMCA complaint impaled on a pike as they trounce around the blogosphere boohooing their foregone fame. [sarcasm] But at least they taught that kid a lesson in copyright and crediting. Because, you know, no matter how wrong someone is, age has ZERO to do with demonizing someone for his mistakes. Yeahhhhhh. [/sarcasm]

In the interest of fairness Golson apologized at INDC, but to me it further underlines the importance of taking a few deep breaths before shouting. It works in spoken discourse, it should work in blogging, a seriously less instantaneous medium.

Contraindicated against showy martial artists, catty bitches, and drunk jocks

“And so one day, this dude was complaining about how high his nose bridge was, and his ex-girlfriend reaches out and yanks like she needed every drop of milk from a cow.”

“Oh wow.”

“Yeah, and she’s like: ‘There. Instant nose-bridge reduction. Happy you don’t look like Babs Streisand now?'”

That must hurt.

“Yeah, more than putting it in there in the first place.”

“I hear there are people with split earlobes because of stunts like that.”

“Yeah, but the nose, man. The nose.”

Desperate preventative measures

Skillzy has now closed comments on his older posts, and for good reason. Many of them are the target of spam. Just to give y’all an idea of what this here little blog has to deal with in a day, here’s a screenshot of my the referrals section of my tracker:

A screenshot of my referral tracker, with spam URIs in color.

Each of those colored URIs either do not resolve to any webpage on my browser, or lead to placeholder pages or marketing pages. This is either innocuous “referral spam,” targetted to catch the attention of vain bloggers like myself, or, as I have observed happening before I closed my comments, each of those “hits” is an attempt to leave a spam comment on a previous post.

There are good plugins for WordPress that combat comment spam, such as Spam Karma or Kitty‘s Spamwords and Spaminator, but I’ve chosen the more extreme of measures. Hey, wanna leave a comment on an old post? There’s an easy-to-solve “puzzle” to get my email address in my colophon.

Reading tea leaves

Cultural commentators who warn against the most inocuous messages of “deviant” behavior in pop culture need to remember that parents themselves are not idiots and have the wealth of their experience to guide them. Reading too deeply into things can bring about the wildest of conclusions; the warning against which can be more harmful than the blissful ignorance of them.

Case in point, my sister described the turtles in Finding Nemo as part of the carefree, thrillseeking surfer culture. Then there are those who call them “stoners.” Would you tell your pre-teens that such vocal affectations were indicative of drug use? Or would you just tell them that some turtles—or people—just act differently? Would you, as a social commentator, raise the roof with all sorts of alarms for parents to warn their kids of behavior they should be at this point, blissfully ignorant of?

When a shark wants to dress up as a dolphin in a fish movie and the shark’s father expresses acceptance for his son, why focus on the apparent allegory to “deviant” behavior when the focus could be on the father’s ability to surmount such superficial worries? Too much ballyhoo, too much reading into tea leaves.

Grrr!

I don’t like snobs. Whether it’s in the arts or in general pop culture, snooty types remind me of the time when I was one of them, and I was no fan of myself when I was in a prep cult. Waiter Rant has a wonderful account of what happens in Any Restaurant, in AnyTown, USA, and delivers a well-deserved choking towards some really awful snoots he encountered:

Yuppies raised on a steady diet of Food Network bullshit want an opera singing food personality to reinforce their Williams Sonoma Catalog ideal of how the world should be. When it runs smack dab against the harsh world of restaurant economics and immigration it creates what my old sociology professor called “dissonance.”

Me? I wish I could shatter bifocals from afar by sheer force of desire.

(HT: Rhesa, via IM.)