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Apr. 24th, 2016


Celestial Introspection Redux

Recent forum chat about astrology reminded me of this, so I figured I'd try it again, as I still find astrology weirdly interesting. Chart here is from astro dot cafeastrology dot com. Also, is it just me or do they talk about sex kind of a lot? Is... is this chart hitting on me?

Anyway, here you go (IYI). Text is copypasted from the website, with particularly "accurate"-seeming bits underlined, and particularly inaccurate bits struck out:

Bullshit divination cut for your Flist convenienceCollapse )

Mar. 30th, 2014


Apologies / Princess Mononoke

O hai LJ. Sorry I've been away so long. I've even failed in my stated intention to mirror the things I post up on mhuzzell.wordpress.com. I'll catch up on that at some point soon (though I'll probably back-date them, so I don't know whether that would put them in your feeds or not).

In the meantime, here's a half-formed set of musings about a film I watched a month ago, pulled from the clutter of half-formed writings that are currently languishing all over my desktop:

I have finally (finally!) watched 'Mononoke Hime', and I have a lot of Thoughts and Feelings about itCollapse )

Jul. 3rd, 2013


Pharmaceutical Adventure Time!

Or: "This is why I always make you buy me drugs"

Jan. 19th, 2013


Bike of Theseus

Apparently there's a Yiddish word, farpotshket, meaning "broken because someone tried to fix it", or according to one translation, "totally ruined in the attempt to fix a minor error". Which is kind of what I have just done to my bicycle, though not quite. (Though, FWIW, it was the entirety of my experience with orthodontia and also antidepressants.)

My bicycle is second-hand and pretty old. I bought it from a septuagenarian out in Fife who's been spending his retirement fixing up and resurrecting old bikes like some sort of bicycle necromancer, and then selling them on quite cheaply -- so I'm pretty sure was clabbered together out of spare parts to begin with. Anyway, bits of it have needed replacing pretty regularly, and in this instance the stretched-out chain had become a real problem, not a 'minor' one, and in any case it has not ended up totally broken. Just, y'know, broken in ways it hadn't been when I started.

There's a bicycle charity in my city (on the other side of my city, up a giant hill from my house...) where you can pay a small hourly fee to use their workspace and tools to fix your own bike, with the help of knowledgeable volunteers who roam around giving instructions and tips. So I went there today to change out my chain and my rear brakes, and learned how to change a chain and all, which was nice. Except that every time I go there, someone points out some other aspect of my bike which is a bit fucked, and it all ends up being more expensive and time-consuming and farpotshket-ish than it maybe really needs to be. In this case, a chain that needed changing was changed (by me + volunteer), and a gear cable was tightened (by said volunteer, who noticed it and then pulled it through a thing that I couldn't see well enough to undo), and now I can't really use my top two gears because they keep skipping. I guess it's probably a result of the new chain, but I'm suspicious of the cable-tightening, mostly because I don't really understand what happened.

Also my back wheel is pretty much fcuked, which is annoying; I'd bought that wheel from the bike charity in the first place, and not all that long ago (about 16 months, maybe) -- although it was second-hand so I don't know if I can even complain. And I know I should replace the wheel and I guess I should replace the gear-sprocket-thingy (cassette? freewheel? people keep seeming to use different words for this thingy, with the result that I've no idea what to call it!), but apparently it's really hard to find ones with a lowest gear that's as big as mine is, and I really like having a nice low-low gear for climbing hills with my bad knees. Apparently they used to be made so that you could replace each sprocket individually, but now they're not, and so even if mine can be disassembled, I'd have a hard time finding new sprockets to just replace the two highest gears.

What I have done, then, is not precisely to break something in the process of trying to fix it, but to successfully fix something, and in the process also break something else about it: I have fuxed it. I see some people on UrbanDictionary have beaten me to this particular portmanteau, though their proposed definitions don't seem to be distinct at all from 'farpotshket'. Or maybe 'farpotshket' already includes this situation. Any Yiddish-speaking readers please do let me know.

Sep. 20th, 2012


Fever Dream / a post about nothing

Been in bed all day with a cold/manflu-thing. Finally managed to nap, late in the afternoon, and dreamed -- as one does -- an impossibly long dream for the hour and a half I was out. It turned lucid as I started coming back into consciousness, and all the objects in the dream-space started to extend themselves in weird accordion tubes. Some sort of narrator explained to me that these were the real objects I was seeing, extending themselves into their possible spaces. "Oh," replied my dream-self, "Oh, I get it now."

"What we normally see is just a small fragment of reality," explained my semi-conscious semi-understanding of molecular physics, "Atoms themselves are mostly empty space."

By now I was starting to be awake, but experienced a moment of excitement, thinking of the possibility-clouds of electrons in solid matter: thinking, by god, these things ARE just probability clouds of matter in the shape of solid objects, they're just smaller ones than in those weird dream accordion-tubes; they are, in fact, clouds of probability shaped in precisely the dimensions of the solid objects we take them to be. Lol dreams, haha, what are they like.

But as I became even more awake, I remembered that basically all of the 'matter' in matter is in the nuclei, which don't do a whole lot of moving around, and in solids tend to be bound up into varyingly-rigid structures that move hardly at all (except for "vibrating" for being hot and so on). Feeling vaguely disappointed. Any input on this point from physicists would be appreciated.

Also, there was a robot that was supposed to be controlled by eye contact, which I offended by trying to use a mouse.

May. 29th, 2012

Monty Python

In which I am thwarted by too little bureaucracy and then later too much: Part 2 (too much)

Sorry, I guess I promised to write this over a month ago. Part 1 is entirely unrelated and can be found here

So, after my day to day life fell apart, I started looking around for some new direction. Long-time readers will remember how, well before finishing my degree, I was already regretting not pursuing my childhood passion of Zoology instead of following my nose into Philosophy -- but by that point it was already too late to switch degrees, since I couldn't afford another two years of undergrad, which is the minimum it would've taken to switch, assuming they'd even have let me do so. After finishing my degree, I started looking around for ways to somehow shoe-horn it into some sort of scientific discipline, mostly unsuccessfully. Besides which, I'd found that I pretty much couldn't afford any kind of further study, since I would still be classed as an "overseas" student until I had been resident for three years "not primarily for the purpose of education".

Such were the rules then, or seemed to be, but looking around from my depressed stupor this past winter, I realised that, come September, I would fulfill that criterion, and so could perhaps afford to study again. I started looking around excitedly for options. It turns out that science test-scores and qualifications have what a local college advisor called an "expiration date", meaning I would have to take a mature students access course to get into university to do a second undergrad in Zoology, which seemed like the best idea at the time. I signed up. I've got an interview for it, still upcoming, but I don't think I'll be able to afford to actually do the course, because SCOTTISH "HOME STUDENT" CATEGORY REGULATIONS ARE FUCKING INSANE.

Yeah, I said it. FUCKING INSANE. Why? Because apparently it's not enough to meet the three-years' residence requirement; I must also be in a visa category called "settled", which I won't be able to get for another year and a half. However, EEA/EU citizens and their "relevant family members" are considered home students, if they've met the residence requirement. Well, hey, I thought, that's me! I'm married to an EEA/EU citizen! The UK is in the EU, after all. Nope. Turns out that that comes from some sort of law about EU parity between countries, and they don't actually have to apply it to their own citizens (unless they have "exercised their right of residence" in another EU country by living there for 3 months or more).

The upshot of this is that despite having lived here for seven years (three as a non-student), I cannot be considered a home student in Scotland precisely BECAUSE my Scottish spouse has only lived in Scotland and has never taken his taxable economic activity to another EU country.

Fucking madness.

It's worth noting, incidentally, that even if I wanted to go back to the US to study, I would of course no longer qualify for in-state tuition in NC, either. I ain't got no home-student status in this world anymore.

Apr. 23rd, 2012


In which I am thwarted by too little bureaucracy and then later too much: Part 1 (too little)

*deep breath*

I've been putting off writing about this since November, because it's upsetting to me. But I need to get it out (and I think, scary as it is, I need to leave this entry public). So here goes.

Cowboy capitalist job bullshit under the cutCollapse )

Apr. 21st, 2012

Monty Python

[insert pun here]

In a discussion about the evolution of language over on aberwyn's journal, someone posted a link to this article, which calls for a complete retirement of the phrase 'chink in [one's] armor' -- indeed, the word 'chink' altogether -- because of the association with its racial slur homonym.

The author, Huan Hsu, discusses a recent controversy over an ESPN headline which used the phrase "A Chink in the Armor" to describe Taiwanese-American rising star basketball player Jeremy Lin. I say "controversy", though I never actually saw any of it (I don't really follow sports news); I'm not sure what controversy there could be. It was obviously offensive, it was pointed out, and ESPN took it down, apologised, and suspended the writer responsible. However, let's take a closer look at exactly why it was offensive -- and why I'd argue that it is not, as Hsu suggests, anything inherent to the word 'chink' itself. That is, it's offensive because it is using the ordinary meaning of the word 'chink' to deliberately invoke the racial slur.

Headline writers seem to be drawn to puns like bees to nectar (or flies to shit, depending on your level of cynicism). For the most part this is pretty harmless, but the thing about puns is they create a joke, and if you're making a joke you need to be, y'know, self-aware and sensitive enough to not be offensive. You need to bear in mind who or what you're making fun of with your double meaning. Compare, for instance, the flurry of "Santorum Surges from Behind" during the ex-senator's recent presidential bid: in that case, the butt of the joke (heh) is Santorum himself, and the winking double meaning refers to the disgusting redefinition of his name in response to his rampant homophobia. Whereas the winking double meaning in "A Chink in the Armor" is "LOL Asian people amirite?" Besides, much more simply: when you make a pun on a racial slur, you are using a racial slur.

That's really all there is to it. There is one good reason to avoid using that phrase, namely that it's clichéd and tiresome. But that 'chink' is a homonym of a racial slur should not disqualify it from use entirely. Plus it's avoidance is apparently leading to horrendous abuses of both language and logic like "a kink in the armor" -- which just sounds rather, um, painful. Ouch.

EDIT (June): I keep thinking about this post, and am starting to regret writing it a bit. Not the basic point, but the tone of it -- because it makes me wonder if I'm just yet another white person defending a racial slur on questionable grounds. I hope I was absolutely clear in repudiating the ESPN headline as OBVIOUS RACISM. Though I do still think that there's a difference between this and using the word in one of its (few, rather limited) legitimate ways: as a succinct way to describe a small gap or fissure in masonry or armour. Anyway, it's always terribly obvious when someone is using a word that sounds like a racial slur in order to deliberately invoke that racial slur. SO OBVIOUS (as, for instance, in the UK, where it is common to refer to cigarettes as 'fags', nobody has any trouble telling the difference between discussion of cigarettes and people making homophobic slurs).

Besides, there is a salient difference in both precise semantic reference and connotation between, e.g., 'niggardly' and 'stingy', or between 'chink' and 'small gap' or 'weakness'; the reason I get so het up about all this is sheer ire at racists stealing away the subtle expressive powers of my language by sullying certain words with their garbage.

Mar. 23rd, 2012



Checking my email this morning sent me into a bit of a rage. See, I'd opened up the latest in the unending stream of clicktivist emails I get as punishment for signing their petitions elsewhere on the internet. I often get upset when I open them, although to be fair, my rage is usually directed mostly at the content. This one, however, contained good news. It was even subject-lined "Finally, some good news" (though I could swear they've used that exact phrasing before, for previous victories on the LGBT front). From AllOut.org, this is the actual opening paragraph -- bolding and hyperlink theirs:

"Earlier this month, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon delivered an incredibly powerful speech at the U.N. in Geneva. It's not every day that a major world figure speaks out forcefully in defense of equality. But most people didn't even hear about it.

Why? Because a handful of delegates stormed out of the meeting in protest and their story - that gay people should be denied human rights - dominated the day's news.

But we are about to change that. Our friends at the U.N. just let us REMIX Ban-Ki Moon (complete with a dance beat chosen by the team at All Out). Will you take just 2 minutes to listen to this incredibly inspiring speech and share with your friends and family? When someone like Ban Ki-Moon speaks out, it makes a difference - but only if people hear what he has to say: [youtube screengrab, also a hyperlink]"

Do you see the problem here? This is news I actually appreciate -- and even that I might not have gotten through other sources. Ban Ki-moon made a pro-LGBT speech on the floor of the UN. That's pretty great (even if the actual speech turned out to be cursory and talking-pointy). BUT, the email makes such a point of trying to make me feel all ~*~*active*~*~ and ~*~*virtuous*~*~ for the mere act of watching a video on the internet that I feel disinclined to even watch it at all.

Granted, All Out's whole platform is awareness-raising. But I recently found myself [finally getting around to] unsubscribing from Amnesty International's similar clicktivist emails because they were all written in that same content-thin, patronizing register. AMNESTY FUCKING INTERNATIONAL, whose work I respect, whose projects I support, and whose news I would actually like to hear about, if only they would write to me like a literate, thinking adult. Friend @[redacted] over on Twitter used to work for clicktivist petition generator 38 Degrees, and writes "I helped draft/proof 38 Degrees emails... I was crap at it. Just couldn't let myself write like that. They're always so thin on information and full of supposedly emotive blah. They run emails through a sentence complexity checker." I do not even know if that last sentence is a joke or not. And they ALL FUCKING DO THIS. It's like every organization that gets big enough has the same marketing hacks come 'round to tell them how.

Finally, once I'd finished bashing my half-formed rage onto Twitter, I decided I might as well go ahead and watch the video. Only I was so distracted by the distracting bolding in their email that I'd missed the fact that this wasn't just a link to the speech, it was a "REMIX ... complete with a dance beat[!]" This would have been a terrible thing to do to Ban Ki-moon, if it actually were what it implied. Instead it was taste-offensive in another way: an over-slick intersplicing of Ban's speech with emotive images of homophobic violence and soundbite-capture text quotations (complete with powerpoint word-swoosh sound effects), overlaid with music I guess you might dance to if you went to clubs that played documentary soundtracks.

No wonder God hates fags.

Mar. 13th, 2012

Monty Python

The little things

Or: why we still need feminism.

This article: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/mar/12/twitters-tales-of-sexism makes a good point, I think. It's about how the author made some offhand twitter comments about What Has Feminism Done For Us? (answer: loads), and got treated to a deluge of replies about just how bad things were back in the Bad Old Days ... and also some that she describes as "surprisingly recent". The takeaway message, I think, is this:

"Worse things happen to women every day including rape and domestic violence, than being snubbed or ignored. These horrors indicate the continuing vast inequality between the sexes. No, it's not the worst thing in the world, but that doesn't mean you can pretend it's not happening."

Little (and "little") things, irritating things, things that "don't really matter", all contribute to an atmosphere of oppression, even when they are not, themselves, inherently oppressive.


Meanwhile, yesterday, Twitter was trending the hashtag #ididnotreport, which is/was a mixture of people sharing their stories of unreported sexual assaults alongside the "small", "insignificant", "everyday" sorts of sexual harassment that is a part of many women's daily experience, and all women's lifetime experience, but which is generally ignored, and certainly de-emphasised, by the wider culture.


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