Frabjous Day

10 Aug 2012

Fuck you, five people over the last two days who’ve seen fit to offer their ever-so-witty-and-erudite criticisms of how I look. Fuck you to fuck.

12 Jan 2012

Ideas And Identity

“If you insult my religion, you’re literally insulting me!”

I think one of the most pernicious elements in society is the degree to which people identify with their conclusions.

Because none of us is omniscient, all of our conclusions are tentative. I insist that unicorns do not exist, but if you were to show me a breeding population of unicorns (and get some respected zoologists to study them and confirm their legitimacy) then I’d be compelled to change my mind.

Now if you accept that all conclusions are tentative (and if you care about being correct) then you must also concede that identifying very strongly with your conclusions is bad. It’s bad because building your identity around an idea makes you far less likely to change your mind about it. Fundamentalist religious people are a good example of this — in many cases they simply cannot change their minds because doing so would involve dismantling their entire selves. But this problem is certainly not limited to religion.

This is one reason I value being brazen and forthright. Treating ideas as delicate things worthy of the greatest admiration encourages or at least enables people to identify more strongly with them. I want to live in a society that treats ideas as transitive things that might change at any moment, so I can’t abide the undue value we’re supposed to afford bad ones.

This is not an excuse to be an asshole. We all need to have enough empathy and tact to recognise that some people really can be greatly hurt by the wrong idea at the wrong time. Part of my goal is to reduce this problem by discouraging people from getting so attached to their ideas in the first place, but once the parasite has taken hold, care is needed in its removal. Whenever I get into a religious discussion, my first question is “How much do you have riding on this?”. I’ve no interest in making people miserable.

16 Dec 2011

Christopher Hitchens, 13 April 1949 – 15 December 2011

We’re worse off for his departure, but better for his stay.

13 Dec 2011

In Which A Pigeonhole Topples The World

From Pharyngula:

The vast majority of scientists contend that evolution is an accepted cornerstone of modern science, and that there is no real scientific debate over the concept.

[Ricky] Line counters that “it’s interesting that the great majority of scientists felt Pluto was a planet until a short time ago, and now they have totally changed that. There are scientists who don’t believe that evolution happened.”

Whether Pluto counts as a “planet” or not is purely a matter of definitions. Rose, name, etc. Trivially recategorizing an insignificant lump of rock is not at all comparable to toppling a well-established scientific theory. The argument makes as much sense as thinking that since “Marathon” could become “Snickers”, all confectionery may turn out to be fruit.

26 Nov 2011

Good And Evil

Random atheist: “There’s no such thing as good and evil.”
Random theist: “Oh yeah? Then why is murder wrong? Why shouldn’t I just murder you?”

(I’m paraphrasing…)

For fuck’s sake. This is another tedious bit of damnable wank from Facebook. I don’t know whether it’s because I’m a bit of a writer or what, but it frustrates the bejesus out of me when people have long, tiresome arguments about something while completely oblivious to the fact that they’re only arguing about definitions or categories. This happens all the fucking time.

Everyone agrees that there are pleasant things and unpleasant things. Now, we often disagree about which is which, as with Marmite, but it’s trivial to recognise that everyone accepts some sort of a continuum from extremely pleasant at one end to extremely unpleasant at the other. Despite the fact that pleasantness is subjective, people actually agree more than you’d think. While people will disagree about music and food, almost anyone will tell you that murder falls at the “extremely unpleasant” end of the spectrum.

Ask an atheist whether murder is pleasant or unpleasant and they will say unpleasant. I don’t want to be murdered, I would be very upset if anyone I knew were murdered, and therefore I pronounce murder as extremely unpleasant and endorse making it illegal. I wish to prohibit extremely unpleasant behaviour so as to move our society towards the pleasant end of the continuum. None of this is difficult to understand.

Now, whether you want to use the word “evil” as a synonym for “extremely unpleasant” is entirely an argument about words. Some people will want to, some people will not, and it doesn’t change the meaning in the slightest either way. Some theists, when they use the word “evil”, seem to be using it merely as a synonym.

But other theists aren’t. Some apparently want there to be a separate category of things that are “evil”, a category distinct from merely “extremely unpleasant”. And this is where theists and atheists differ. I think some things are very unpleasant. Of course I do. It’s impossible for anyone not to. Occasionally, and casually, I might call those very unpleasant things “evil”. I am using the word as nothing more than a colourful synonym, for emphasis. If a theist tells me that “evil” is something different, something separate, something in a distinct category off to the side all by itself, then I will respond that not only do I see no reason to believe that, I also see no reason to desire it. The world works just fine without the extra, redundant category.

12 Nov 2011

"The Pathology Of White Privilege"

Tim Wise

8 Sep 2011

On Taste

"Why is Freddie Mercury dead and Lady Gaga alive?!"

"Bah. Queen were slick and superficial. Bob Dylan’s where it’s at!!1"

"Bob Dylan couldn’t sing his way out of a paper bag!!!!11one"

"Paper bags suck, you need plastic for everything short of holding a burger!!111eleven"

"BURGERS?!?! Fucking plebs, how can you eat that shit. Move up in the world and have a steak!!!!1111eleventy"


Why is it that those with the best taste are always the most bitter?

15 Jul 2011

Written While Drunk

I’m writing this while drunk.

Not just a wee bit tipsy, either, but fairly severely drunk, for me at least. Night out with the sister. I’ve had… a number of beers. Yeah, I can’t remember how many.

Anyway.

I sometimes wonder whether I have mild autism. Whether I at least land somewhere further along the autism spectrum than most people. This would not embarrass or upset me. If anything it would be a relief. I resist the diagnosis somewhat, because I’m wary of accepting any diagnosis that relieves a person of fixing a problem. In other words, very often a person is “diagnosed” with something that could be fixed if only they worked at it. Instead, what tends to happen is that they blindly accept their diagnosis and use it as an excuse to behave in whatever way is expected of them without making any effort to improve themselves. I’m rambling now, and unclear, too. This is because I am drunk, as I may previously have mentioned.

I have filled out an online Asperger’s test before. It seemed to be a fairly standardised test - one of the big ones - and it asked me to answer various questions about how I view life. I came in under average; that is, the test told me that I emphatically do not suffer from Asperger’s.

Nonetheless, the reason I am writing this is that I have, tonight, been reminded of yet another example of why I am completely baffled by most humans. I do not understand them. It is very difficult to explain to people that I do not understand. It seems to me that most people genuinely cannot grasp that I do not understand; they think that I am joking, or intentionally being difficult or lazy. I am not. I am genuinely baffled - flabbergasted - that anyone could take seriously many of the common things in our society.

Tonight it was the glass-clinking thing. Glass-clinking seems to be “Minor Celebration #37”. If you have a minor celebration at hand, you follow these instructions: clink glasses and then drink while staring into the other person’s eyes. If you do not do this, you are rude.

Why?

I’m not being difficult. I’m not being dense. I genuinely do not get it.

Why?

Why would clinking-glasses-and-then-staring-into-each-others’-eyes mean something? How is that not completely arbitrary? Why not clink glasses and then pat your head? Surely that would mean every bit as much?

Suppose it is someone’s birthday, and you get them a card. Never mind the fact that I don’t understand birthday cards; imagine that I do. What are you going to write on the card? If you were to write “From X, To Y” you might be seen as cold and impersonal.  Right? Even “To X, Love Y” is pretty bad. It’s bad because it’s standard, because it’s stock, because it’s impersonal. It’s generic. A real, heartfelt message would be more specific, more personal, more real. You feel some need to personalise the message because you don’t just want to give a person you genuinely like a boring, stock, generic message.

That’s how I feel about standard social etiquette.

It’s meaningless because it’s standard. It is impersonal. It is generic. I do not like the idea that my friend and I are so emotionally stunted that we are incapable of expressing congratulations or commiserations without resorting to stock phrases.  If I think someone has done a genuinely good job at something, I want to say that. I want to say something meaningful. If I were to resort to “Minor Celebration #37” I’d feel cheap. I’d feel the same way I would if I wrote “From: To:”.

And that’s the thing. One of the main principles of autism and Asperger’s, from what I gather, is a lack of empathy. That means that a person has difficulty imagining themselves in another’s shoes. But in my experience I have a surfeit of empathy. I don’t like arbitrary social etiquette because it feels cheap and nasty to me. I don’t like the idea that someone else cares only enough about my achievements to bring out “Minor Celebration #37”. I’d prefer that people actually thought it was worth more than that. Similarly, I feel terribly cheap and nasty if I wish someone else “Minor Celebration #37”. And because of all this, I feel dishonest and manipulative if I take part in the-clinking-of-the-glasses-and-the-staring-into-the-eyes.

I genuinely don’t understand how other people can value these things. I cannot help but wonder whether people are so emotionally stunted that they are incapable of expressing joy, love, annoyance, or any other emotion in a genuine way. Perhaps instead they are reduced to pulling stock-symbol-number-123 out of the bag. It seems to me a terrible way to go through life.

21 Jun 2011

HOLY CRAP

"This is a system notification that your tier (article quality level) has changed.
You are now a tier 4 writer (originally a tier 3).

Note from Editor:

Dear TCA writer,
You are a very good writer.
I am upgrading you to tier 4.”

WWWWHHHHHHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAATTTTTTTTT??!!! 

….Wasn’t expecting that…

Tier 4 writers can get twice — twice! — the pay of tier 3 writers.

20 Jun 2011

Stupid Rant For Today

I have been getting an inordinate number of revision requests recently in my job. That means that the articles I have submitted have been deemed unsatisfactory in some way. When you get a revision request, it pops up with a brief description of what needs to be changed along with the name of the editor who is requesting the revision.

Recently, I have been getting revision requests from an editor named “Liz”, and “Liz” is apparently a fucking illiterate moron. Numerous times now I have gotten revision requests for problems that did not exist. “Revise the sentence fragment in paragraph two”, she says. There is no fucking sentence fragment in paragraph two. I know because I’ve just checked forty-seven times and Googled “sentence fragment” just in case there’s some weird esoteric meaning of the term. There isn’t, and you’re a fuckwit, Liz.

"Please fix the unclear sentences in the first paragraph", she says. What are you, fucking five? Can’t handle a sentence with more than six words? Do you lie awake at night worrying about coping with those dreaded sub-clauses? There is nothing “unclear” about anything in the first paragraph. You just can’t fucking read.

Mostly I’m pissed off by the image of her I have now inadvertently formed in my head. I imagine her sitting there, all superior and powerful in her new “editor” job, managing to look down her nose at the screen and saying ”No no no no no, tut tut tut, that’s unclear!”

Fuck off, Liz.