Journal now defunct
This area of the site is to archive the Tomorrowlands journal content written from May-December 2004.
Journal entries from June 2000 to May 2004 can be found at the old journal index.
This material is here for archival purposes and will no longer be updated.
Posted by Baxil on July 28, 2009
Sexuality and weight
As a (largely) straight and (reasonably) thin person, I don't personally have a dog in this fight*, but Ampersand's discussion of the comparison between obesity and homosexuality (part 1, part 2) has been an interesting read. Both gays and the overweight are essentially sanctioned targets of discrimination in this society; both are most often attacked as (bad) choices and defended as genetics.
Strangely, despite their similar circumstances, there's a vast disconnect between the two -- it's not often someone's attitudes and comfort levels toward both homosexuality and obesity are the same. Overweight people can be vicious gay-baiters and gays can be among the cruelest of size elitists.
But are homosexuality and obesity choices? Yes? No? Both or neither? Ampersand's take on the subject is a thoughtful one, and some of his commenters hit it spot-on. It seems to me this comment to the first post was the money quote: "The ability to alter their sexuality or weight may vary based on how they arrived at that point to begin with."
I know people who couldn't be straight; I know people who couldn't stay thin on a starvation diet (which is a bad idea, anyway; see the discussion). I also know people who have chosen to be gay and who are naturally thin but have let their weight rise through poor diet or carelessness (oddly, people who want to be fat seem to be either invisible or nonexistent).
Neither case can be simplified down to "it's a choice" or "it's not a choice". The simplest model that fits actual, observable reality in both cases is "by genetics/by choice/not" -- or put more smartly, Brad Hicks' deviants/potential deviants/compliants.
The other interesting point about the gay/fat comparison is that it may point us to a future phenomenon. Gays, right now, are gaining cohesion and visibility -- fighting to marginalize gay-bashing and homophobes. But there's very little similar movement from the "overweight." And yet, with the parallels so strong ... if gays are successful in gaining more traction, is Size Pride going to become a force to be reckoned with within our lifetime?
* Of course, I do have a deep interest in it -- as many of the people who I respect are gay,
overweight, or both, and as I think society would be better off if we could actually respect everyone
instead of sanctioning people who it's OK to take cheap shots against.
And the class divide grows
Welcome to George W. Bush's fourth holiday season out of eight. Merry Christmas -- to the rich.
[T]he holiday 2004 season for retailers is turning out to be sharply divided between the haves and have nots.
But, hey, it's alright. "A rising tide lifts all boats," right? Just ask any yacht owner. Oh, and ignore the folks treading water who used to be wading.
It's no fun to work with the news for a living sometimes. Seeing graphic photos of carnage on the wire, reading an entire nation's tragedies every day, gets you pretty jaded, but there are still stories that quietly haunt you.
This particular item wasn't a very big story in the grand scheme of things -- it only made the wire services as a footnote in the Southern California regional briefs. Regardless, it was one of those that twists the knife.
Charley Aurthur took his own life in November 1996 -- a troubled 23-year-old who had struggled with mental illness for half a decade. His father, Jonathan, fought to understand the whole time what was going on inside his child's mind. After Charley's death, the process resulted in a book -- which incidentally got published by the same people who did "Chicken Soup for the Soul" -- and a website. In both, Jonathan tried to lay out their experiences, in an earnest attempt to prevent another tragedy in families going through similar circumstances.
Then, late last month, Jonathan Aurthur killed himself.
This was a man who knew firsthand the pain of suicide. A man who spent six years trying to redeem his son's death by bringing their story to the world -- who even quit his job to write that book. It may have brought him the redemption he sought ... but it obviously didn't bring him the resolution he needed.
According to the obituary, he leaves behind a number of family members, an ex-wife, and a daughter Jenny. We can only hope that they find more peace in their lives than Jonathan did.
Windi went and got hired out from underneath me -- I guess there's at least one company back in the southeast that recognizes talent when they see it. :) So, stepping up as Tomorrowlands webmaster is the equally incomparable Bob, who will also do a wonderful job helping me get everything running here at the site. Yay!
Onward and upward
Hi, my name is Baxil, and I have a confession to make.
Once upon a time, I wrote the Draconity FAQ --
-- No, no, no. That's not the confession, friend. That's just the background. I can't make assumptions about my readership; I want to set the record straight before I lay things on the line.
So. Once upon a time, I wrote what may even today still be considered the definitive basic primer for people who think they're dragons in human bodies. I spoke from experience. I was social in the online dragon community and went to a few regional "dragon gathers". I harbored dreams of a changed world.
It's been about nine years now. You know how the passage of time works. I haven't updated the FAQ since 1998; my interactions in the dragon community have gradually slowed down to occasional contact with a close group of friends from the old days. I grew, broadened; saw different sides of the human world I had a hard time considering myself a part of. Had a few big traumas in my spirit world and a few pleasant discoveries outside of it. Met a nice human girl and got completely broadsided by what quickly blossomed into a relationship.
Those days when I felt I had the universe figured out -- those days of heady certainty -- seem so far away now. I've graduated from college and moved out into the Real World; I've grappled with jobs and debt and tangled webs of roommates and relationships. I've gotten politically active and marched in protest rallies and donated good money to parties and issue groups (what can I say, blame Bush). I've met a lot of people who shared my intellectual gifts and my alienation, who never considered themselves anything but human and never struck me as anything but human, and who nevertheless got along just fine.
And then -- don't worry, reader, the confession is coming soon -- last night, someone pointed me at a piece in Teresa Neilsen Hayden's blog discussing a rather earnest born-again dragon. And I read that, and the scores of comments, many of whom made some rather cogent points about people who think they're not human ...
I read that with a sort of odd feeling brewing in my stomach. So I sat down, and listened, and gnawed on it as I went to sleep, and gnawed on it some more as I drove to work.
I think that's enough background. You probably see where I'm headed with this, anyway. My confession is --Continue reading "Onward and upward"
Today's little etymology lesson:
The word blog -- now used to describe any continuously updated online writing project in which entries are separated timewise into "posts" -- started its life as a contraction of weblog. Time was, a weblog was a very different thing than a diary or a journal; "webloggers" were primarily content aggregators, who spent their time finding interesting links from around the Internet and condensing them down into a series of links, optionally with limited commentary. Much like Fark still is today.
Over time, the category spread to include people who would occasionally insert personal anecdotes or brief analyses/rants in between their links. (Or perhaps high-profile "webloggers" started feeling a little more free to share their life once their audience was established.) Gradually, distinctions such as that between "webloggers" and "E/N" sites ("entertainment/news", or "everything/nothing", depending on who you ask -- the term was coined to describe someone who used their webspace as a forum to rant and riff on all and sundry) were lost.
The "weblogs" also acquired the catchier nickname in use today, dropping the first two letters. I guess that's meant to be some sort of moral to the story. "Daddy, why won't you let me guest-post on your site?" "Because, son, there's no 'we' in 'blog.'"
Somewhere along that line, "blogger" entered the public lexicon, and soon afterward, every Guy With A Website became a "blogger." In a strange twist, the original meaning of "weblog" is becoming somewhat gauche among people who proudly and with no hint of irony call themselves "bloggers"; if you merely spew out links to stuff you like, adding no original content, your readers won't perceive you as making a significant contribution to whatever field you're blogging in.
Such are the ways in which language evolves, I suppose.
Blog links, Nov. 2004
That all having been said, for several months now I've been in the habit of regularly logging the interesting links I find around the Web. Y'know ... weblogging.
Why? Basically for my own convenience -- in much the same way I used to collect good quotes in the quotebook I still carry around and be able to dig them up again with a few flips of a page, it can be tremendously useful having those links you've been reading and finding interesting just a few clicks away. Trying to remember just where it was you read someone cracking a dark joke about Iraq resembling a game of Quake? *clickclickclick* Ah! Jesse at Pandagon.
Now that MT's working again, since they're just sitting around anyway, I figured I would share the cream of the crop with y'all. I may even do this regularly if the urge strikes.
These are just the ones which I found especially worthy of note -- about 10 percent of my list of several links per day. And they're more or less pasted in straight from my linkfile -- this is how I write the notes to myself to summarize the page's content.
** Best. Camera. Ever: The Gigapxl
* Hack your way out of writer's block
* How to fix breathlessness in 15 seconds:
* Add polish to writing - Ten ubiquitous mistakes to correct during editing process.
* Why are porn movies legal when prostitution isn't and they're both paying for sex?
** Electoral maps of the U.S. in purple, not winner-take-all red/blue:
* Wonderfully insightful dKos diary on terrorist strategy - radicalize sides; their first opponents are the people willing to compromise.
* "Abandoning Libertarianism" - great essay on many of the same gripes I've got
* Puritanism -- "the religion of the new commercial classes" in 1600s -- is becoming the model for GW Bush's American religious revival:
* Abraham Lincoln was a badass - he really did stand up to the South:
* Discussing the Bible with fundamentalists - steer the argument to whether it is
* Omnibus spending bill quietly added permanent user fees for public land (!):
You may get the same enjoyment out of them that I did. I hope at least one or two will prove useful. No warranty expressed or implied, etc.
We hope you have enjoyed this interlude of actual blogging, and now return you to your regularly scheduled journal.
*taptaptap* Hey, it looks like this thing's on! Awesome!
That took a little longer than expected -- and the server switch is still deep in the throes of impendingness, so we're not going to have full functionality for a while yet. But at least forward progress is being made again. Yay!
I've just hired a webmaster, the inimitable Windigo the Feral (nyar!), to take care of many of the long(-long-long)-overdue back-end changes and the full migration from my legacy Web site at ecis.com. Which ... uh ... suddenly no longer exists. Hence the rush. But the Draconity FAQ has been moved here already and other documents will shortly follow. Update your links.
Also, I'm in the middle of National Novel Writing Month, so won't be posting much for another (*checks watch*) 11 days. See you then!
More growing pains
There's one small disadvantage of the Movable Type setup over my old homebrew system: Since everything is based on an SQL backend, any time a server upgrade rearranges that or moves things around, stuff breaks.
I'm definitely not going to be able to fix either of those until at least late this weekend, since it involves some coordination with a guy two time zones away and since my writing has been lapsing enough anyway that I need to tackle a few other things on my priority list first. In a worst-case scenario, my journal and forums may be broken until August, since if I don't get things fixed this weekend, I'll be spending a great deal of time hiking (with Rene and on Baxwalk) and totally away from the computer.
In the meantime, if I have anything to say, I'll try to post it at Livejournal -- I'm baxil.
... just haven't been posting in the last few weeks. Blame, in approximate order of relevance: Kingdom of Loathing, politics, personal life, and planning for BaxWalk 2004 (attendees can expect an e-mail update shortly).
It's going to be a busy few days. Hoping to get some writing time this weekend.
"I've never read Wheel of Time ... I refuse to read any series of books that outweighs me and still isn't finished."
-- "Mr. Skullhead," in the Kingdom of Loathing forums
I've been getting a lot of e-mail lately breathlessly informing me that "Someone who knows you is trying to share experiences and opinions about you via our website." ("Our website" being ShareYourExperiences.com or one of its many alternate addresses for the same company, which I don't feel generous enough to link to.) The site pitch is that it promotes a truly anonymous exchange of information about others, since the real dirt is more likely to come out if the tattletale can avoid the negative repercussions of being fingered as a source.
That's the pitch. Is it legitimate? Well, let's see. The site lists no corporate contact information; has a vague and unhelpful FAQ except for the extremely large sections informing you why it's perfectly legal; informs you that a paid subscription is necessary to access most of the site but nowhere lists prices until after you've already secured a "free" membership; and urban-legend watchdog Snopes has warned against them. At this point one should, at best, ignore them; or, if inclined to act more responsibly, complain to their ISP.
Consider them debunked as a scam at this point. The rest of this post serves mostly as a guide to the attitude one should have, and the considerations one should keep in mind, when confronted with unfamiliar sales pitches of this nature.
Someone died recently -- someone I didn't know personally -- who helped make the world a better place.
A person whose optimism was infectious -- who brought smiles to people's faces.
A person who, throughout their long career, was compassionate and worked to serve the least among us.
I think it's only appropriate that their legacy be honored. I urge you to go read their obituary and follow their parting wishes. I know I will:
In lieu of flowers or donations to charity, please give your next waitress/waiter a generous tip.
... Wait, you thought I was talking about Ronald Reagan? Who are you, and why are you reading my blog?
... things are working again.
(That's all. Just a one-line-and-one-parenthetical-aside post. And it's sort of weird how neat it is that I can make a one-line post without a guilt trip these days.)
It's a waste of pixels, but I approve
I just spent an hour playing the Bush Game, and find myself regarding it as something between a guilty pleasure and a frustrating, brilliant failure. [WARNING: Link is worksafe, but the game is not.]
A brilliant failure? Why? Because it was technically well-done, enjoyable, and informative -- and, at the same time, absolutely guaranteed to not only turn off but also alienate anyone who isn't already a fringe leftist.
I'm serious. Don't click on that link unless you're totally immune to crude humor and also predisposed to hate everything Bush stands for. (Mom, Dad, I know you're reading this too -- especially don't click on that link.) Let's just say that it contains a very explicit (if cartoony) depiction of the Statue of Liberty being raped halfway through the introduction, and while the tone of the game flip-flops back and forth between serious and satirical, it never loses that unrepentant and in-your-face shamelessness.
That's what makes it so frustrating. The game, a side-view adventure-style shooter, is seamless and fairly deeply constructed, with plenty of boss battles and pop-culture references. It ranges from Enron to Iraq and every level is something fresh and new. It's interspersed with several cut-scenes laying out a set of populist economic critiques that really got my blood boiling. But the shock value of the game's crude sexuality means those who need to hear the message most, the swing voters and wavering Republicans, are not only going to get horrified and surf away before reaching any of the actual message -- but are going to leave with a strengthened GOP-driven stereotype of liberals as completely immoral, Bush-hating filth peddlers.
What I want to see is a game like this but without any of the offensive stuff. Not because I personally was offended -- but because the people we need to reach with the political message will walk away scarred by the medium.
The elements designed to preach to the liberal choir were beautifully done, but why make a politically educational game if you're just going to preach to the choir? Outreach isn't supposed to go inward.
What I'd rather see is more people pushing charts that show how Bush's "economic recovery" is all going to profits instead of wage growth -- or making the point, as the game did, that the wage gap between workers and CEOs has grown from about 40x in the 1980s to 300x in 2003. Or perhaps some troubling statistics that show the U.S. really has some deep-rooted economic problems as well as strengths when compared to other first-world countries. Then blowing away the myth that Republicans are better at fiscal management with cold, hard historical facts comparing presidents' performance over the last century. I can go on guiltily enjoying my blasphemous, depraved little Flash games, and the rest of the country can get the reality check it needs about what the legacy is going to be of the latest conservative revolution.
(Okay, and perhaps the game's politics could be woven in with a little more subtlety rather than through lengthy game-stopping cutscenes. Besides the game's blindness to its intended audience, the pacing's my only annoyance.)
The joy of breaky
So this one time at band camp ... the counselors upgraded the server some. And at first it broke Movable Type, and we were all, "Yay! We get to skip Rafting!" but the head counselor came out with some duct tape and then we still had to go on Rafting after all but with leaky boats patched together with duct tape. And it kind of sucked because Movable Type was still broken even though the duct tape fixed it up enough that it looked like it was working, and how the heck do you paddle with only half of a Movable Type?
Then we went out paddling on the Lake Of Updating The Home Page By Hand, and that kind of sucked too because it meant the first time an update was posted, the hand-written post would disappear and our life rafts were still back in the cabin and the XML was still under the seats!
But we survived that. Kinda. Then the mosquitos came.