Category Archives: Definition

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 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.

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.

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 other’s poor word usage 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 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 with with 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 an extremely hard time believing someone is being truthful with me when they take the time to pervert the english language in this way, purposefully use the word wrongly simply 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 readopt 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? 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.

Included in the errata label 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.

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 hold my hands up in front of my face so that I can see that there is a stationary object in view.

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.

Treating Meniere’s & Its Symptoms covers general treatment suggestions for Meniere’s. Dizziness and vertigo are so common that they rate a separate discussion.

There are various treatments for re-aligning the otoconia in the inner ear, which is frequently the culprit causing dizziness and vertigo. I’ve tried a few of them 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.

from My Neighbor Totoro

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 chesire grin at me while I try desperately not to spin.

It helps 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.

Jason Robert Ballard/FTM Magazine

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.

Geena Rocero

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.

By Jonathan.MarcusOwn work, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

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.

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.

(Courtesy Jim Wright)

Was posted by a friend on Facebook 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.

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 themesong encourages you to have a gay-old time they are not suggesting you become homosexual;

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.  

How Ya’ll Are? Annoyed at the Spelling, Probably

Occasionally I riff on word spellings and definitions (I’m especially fond of obvious, having tripped over it enough times) it’s been a long time, but today this image appeared in my newsfeed.

This one resonated with me. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve typed something into a computer interface and had it not recognize the word or phrasing I knew was correct, or hoped it was.  
Back when I was writing specifications, tech manuals and notes for architectural drawings, it used to drive me nuts having to check and then tell the computer to ignore (Passive voice! Arrrg! Everything in a specification is written in passive voice!) or to add the more common ones to my personal dictionary. A lot of good that did on company computers that I would be forced to abandon every other year.  
Don’t get me started on latin legal phrases or attempting to point out fallacious argument with well-known short hand.  Or slang. Really, don’t get me started on slang, or as I said on Facebook;

I find it amusing when someone outside of the South tries to tell me how to spell ya’ll. As if there is proper spelling for slang.

Another friend of mine linked to a blog article on just that subject;

Some writers put the apostrophe AFTER the ‘a’, as in: ya’ll. *shudders* Now tell me, does that make ANY sense given the law of contractions? No. It does not. The proper way to contract ‘you all’ is by using the apostrophe to replace the ‘ou’ in you and the space between the words, as in: y’all

It’s beautiful in its simplicity, don’t you think? Boy, do I feel better, maybe even up to tackling a semi-colon or two. Thanks for letting me get that out of my system

Now if I was trying to impart colloquialism, trying to drag you kicking and screaming into the South of the United States, where ya’ll is a word ya’ll hear regularly, I might quip something like them’s fightin’ words or something to that effect.  But since ya’ll wouldn’t know the perfect frame in which to place my attempts to communicate southernisms, most likely my attempts to draw you into the picture will fail. 
Put simply; the error is in believing it’s a contraction to start with. As if ya’ll was ever two words compressed into one. That slang is capable of being defined or set down into anything permanent like written language. 
I have had people accost me before (carpetbaggers, mostly) insisting that ya’ll is properly spelled y’all; that it is a contraction of you and all and so duh…
…but as I say to them, it’s a connector between ya and ll, that little hanging bit (‘) in the middle. The apostrophe? It represents any number of letters, syllables and whole words I don’t feel I need to take the time to pronounce.  If you actually attempted to write the word phonetically, it would have at least two a’s in it, something more akin to ya’all or ya-all.
I don’t go around pretending to know how to spell any number of words that they might say in New Jersey (youse? use? Who knows?) it’s slang.  I’d really prefer that people didn’t try to tell me how to spell my slang.  But I do thank you for spending the time it took to read this.  If ya’ll are ever in the neighborhood, come by and sit a spell.


After a bit of pushback (more than a bit) I decided I’d trot out an example to illustrate the point. Consider the following sentence, which I’m sure most Southerners have heard more than once.

“ya’ll be round later” 

Is it a question? Is it a statement? A demand? What words and/or punctuation will complete that sentence coherently? Is “you” or “all” in it?  Well, it depends on the speaker.

A question “ya’ll be round later?”  would probably be completed like this; “Will all of you be present when I need you later?” As a statement “ya’ll be round later.”  would render out something like “Come by the house later, I’ll be here.” or maybe “Go (wherever I’m going) and we’ll meet up later.” The demand “ya’ll be round later.”  would come out something like “You will be here later.” and if dad (or pop maybe) says that, you’d better be where he wanted you to be when he was expecting it, or there would be hell to pay later.

So tell me again how ya’ll is you all.  Go ahead, explain it again. I’m from here, got plenty of time.

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 your 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.