One Day More

Sep. 25th, 2017 10:04 pm
hrrunka: (smilodon)
[personal profile] hrrunka
More loose ends tied. Plenty still to be done. This morning it was damp, so I had to hang the laundry indoors, and turn the heating up to try to help get it dry. Some of it still isn't.

I made a quick shopping trip (on foot) around tea time, when the weather was, for a short while, almost bright. Then, when I got back home, I swept up the conkers and fallen leaves on the driveway. The garden bin is now even fuller. It does still just close, though. Any further leaf fall will have to wait a fortnight.

This evening I caught the GB2CW broadcast from Tollesbury (about 42 miles away) on 80 metres. Recently that's worked very well, but I often find I'm at the wrong sort of distance. Tonight the signal strength was excellent. The Morse sounded a bit choppy, though, as if, maybe, the key contacts weren't quite clean. I didn't do too badly, considering.

Tomorrow will be another busy day. Time for bed now.

c'est moi

Sep. 25th, 2017 10:15 am
callibr8: icon courtesy of Wyld_Dandelyon (Default)
[personal profile] callibr8
Inspired by a "dialogue" with [personal profile] acelightning, I decided to overhaul the mini-bio for my profile on this site.

new descriptors behind the cut )

Comments welcome!

Graze Box #33

Sep. 25th, 2017 12:06 pm
fauxklore: (Default)
[personal profile] fauxklore
I have lots of other stuff to write about, but first, the snack reviews.


Protein Peanut Butter Dipper with Pretzel Sticks: The name of this pretty much says it all. It has 130 calories and 5 grams of protein. It’s not very exciting, but it is a good snack for times when you need something that feels reasonably substantial.

Twist of Black Pepper Popping Corn: This is 130 calories worth of microwave popcorn with a little bit of black pepper. You wouldn’t think that is revelatory, but it really is ever so much tastier than ordinary popcorn. The serving size is perfect, too. So good.

Baobab and Raspberry Clusters: This is a mix of baobab and raspberry coconut chips, dried apple pieces, and pumpkin seeds. It has 130 calories. I like the moderate level of sweetness and the mix of textures. Interesting and tasty.

Thai Tom Yum: This is a soup paste, that you reconstitute with hot water. In addition to paste, the soup also has zucchini slices, red pepper, and rice noodles. It has 50 calories. It Is a bit high in sodium (810 mg) but still not as high as most soups. Overall, it’s nicely spicy and a reasonable light lunch.

Jelly Doughnut: This is a mix of vanilla cookie drops, raspberry fruit strings, and almond slivers. It has 120 calories. I think it’s one of the more convincing deconstructed dessert items Graze offers. That is, it really tastes a lot like a jelly doughnut. Delicious.

Veggie Protein Power (new): This is a mix of edamame beans, spicy chickpeas, and black pepper cashews. It has 130 calories and 7 grams of protein. I was surprised by how much I liked this. It has lots of both spicy flavor and crunchy texture, so perhaps I shouldn’t have been surprised. An excellent savory snack.

Summer Berry Flapjack: This is a typical Graze flapjack, i.e. a soft oat granola bar. In this case, it has dried cranberries, some of which are infused with strawberry and raspberry flavors. It has 240 calories. That would be a downside, but this is filling enough to be a meal substitute. And, really, Graze’s flapjacks are awesome. This isn’t my favorite of them, but it is still quite nice.

Lemon Almond Cookies and Tea (new): This consists of two cookies and a bag of black tea. It has 110 calories. The tea is just ordinary black tea. The cookies are fairly tasty, though they could be more zippy. They were good, mind you, just milder than I would have preferred.

QotD

Sep. 25th, 2017 05:24 am
dglenn: Me in kilt and poofy shirt, facing away, playing acoustic guitar behind head (Default)
[personal profile] dglenn

"For both men and women the first step in getting power is to become visible to others, and then to put on an impressive show ... As women achieve power, the barriers will fall. As society sees what women can do, as WOMEN see what women can do, there will be more women out there doing things, and we'll all be better off for it." -- Sandra Day O'Connor (b. 1930-03-26; US Supreme Court Justice 1981-09-25 to 2006-01-31)

The "Ontario Loop Tour"

Sep. 24th, 2017 09:12 pm
gorgeousgary: (Default)
[personal profile] gorgeousgary
Been owing y'all a vacation report for a while...

Discerning readers may have guessed that we were not at home in Maryland at the beginning of August when our anniversary rolled around. Those who know our engagement story may have even guessed we were in Toronto. You would have been correct.

Having decided not to go to Worldcon or NASFIC, I was looking for vacation ideas when a copy of AAA World reminded me this year was Canada’s 150th birthday. I’ve been wanting to get to Ottawa ever since I heard James Keelaghan’s ”Stonecutter”, and I’ll never turn down an excuse to visit our filk friends in Ontario. Plus I had piles of hotel rewards points saved up from years of cons and business trips.

So we took off the week leading into Confluence, drove up to Ottawa, spent a couple of days sightseeing and hanging out with people, drove over to Toronto, rinsed, lathered, repeated, then drove down to Pittsburgh for Confluence, and finally home. Hence the “Ontario Loop tour” moniker, given the vaguely obloid path we traversed.

The trip was good, though at times best described as “barely controlled chaos” due to the antics of a certain toddler. Especially when visiting un-childproofed homes, or after too much time strapped into a car seat, or on the first night when the hotel we stayed in northeast of Harrisburg didn’t have a crib available, or most of the other nights when we couldn’t get him to go to sleep until we turned off all the lights in the hotel room. (Thankfully we both had tablets to read or surf the ‘Net with.)

We saw a good number of filkers along the way. We dropped in on Joel and Inge twice during our stay in Ottawa; first on the way in just long enough to order pizza, then the next night for a potluck dinner and singing, which Ingrid and two friends of Joel and Inge’s from the Ottawa folk community showed up for. Tanya and Fiona drove up to meet us for lunch at a Montana’s in Belleville as we passed by on our way to Toronto. (It went much better than this year’s post-FKO run!) Phil and Jane hosted another potluck and sing for us in Toronto which Judith and Dave, Peggi and Ken, Sally and Howard came to. And we met Judith and Dave again for brunch at a Cora’s in on our way out of Canada. The only bummer is that Team Jeffers had to bow out of hosting the Toronto housefilk after Sue fell ill. Thankfully Phil and Jane were able to step in on short notice.

Our plan for our first full day in Ottawa was to start with Parliament Hill, which I have been wanting to visit ever since I first heard James Keelaghan’s song “Stonecutter” about the rebuilding of Centre Block after a 1916 fire and christening of the Peace Tower. Unfortunately, by the time we got to the front of the line for free tickets, the only tour available that included any part of Centre Block was an afternoon tour of the Library. On the other hand, besides the Peace Tower the Library was the part I most wanted to see, because it was hosting Foundations: The Words That Shaped Canada, a display of six important documents in Canadian history, including the 1867 British North America Act, the 1869 Northwest Territories Proclamation, the 1960 Canadian Bill of Rights, and the 1982 Proclamation of the Constitution Act.
To fill time until our tour we browsed Byward Market, including the Inspiration Village, an area of York Street in the core of the Market where a series of booths were set up highlighting each of Canada’s ten provinces, plus an RCMP booth, a stage for musical performances, big climbable letters spelling out “Ottawa”, and another big sign saying “Stand for Canada” on which one could pose. Sam discovered a large wood box full of Mega Blocks from which we had trouble pulling him away. Mind you, he barely plays with the bag of Mega Blocks we have at home, mostly he dumps the contents of the bag on the floor if I’ve bothered to put the blocks back in the bag. Go figure. Somewhere in the middle of the browsing we ate lunch at a pub called The Brig Pub.

We made it back to Parliament Hill with an hour to kill before the tour. We walked around the grounds for a bit, then camped out in the shade provided by the east side of Centre Block until it was time for the tour. Things got a bit backed up with security and waiting for other tours to go through, but finally we were led through the Hall of Honour and into the Library. Which was impressive; three stories of ornately carved and painted wood, decorative metal railings, massive desks and tables, shelves full of books curving along the walls, all under a soaring dome. To borrow a word from my toddler, “MINE!” (That’s Sam-speak for “WANT.”)
Our second full day in Ottawa we crossed the river to Gatineau (and border into Quebec) for stops at Parc Jacques Cartier and the Canadian Museum of History. The park was hosting MosaiCanada150, a display of 32 works of horticultural art (topiaries, essentially) representing various animals (red foxes, polar bears, puffins), people (a lobster fisherman, a prospector, a Voyageur), and symbols, icons or items associated with Canada and Canadian history (Glenn Gould’s piano, Anne of Green Gables, a CP train), plus two pieces (Blessing of the Good Omen Dragons and Joyful Celebration of the Nine Lions) donated by China for the occasion.

We got sandwiches from a small grocery store across from the Museum, then dove in. The main attraction for us was the Canadian History Hall, but first we let Sam run off some energy in the Canadian Children’s Museum. It was hard to drag him out of there, but finally we went upstairs to the Hall, which, as the name implies, traces Canadian history from ancient times through Confederation up to recent history. I will confess we goofed; we did the first part of the hall (covering ancient times up to about 1800), rested, then went upstairs to the modern part (covering World War I to the present), forgetting about the part that actually covers the founding of Canada. Oops! Well, I am sure I can find a good book or two to fill in the rest. In our defense, we were pretty tired by then and it was getting on towards the dinner hour.

Our anniversary dinner was at The Keg Mansion, in the Church and Wellesley neighborhood just east of Queen's Park and the University of Toronto. The food was good and the ambience (a 19th century mansion built by Arthur McMaster; later owned by Hart Massey) nice. Unfortunately, Mr. Toddler was in a state, probably from being cooped up in a car for several hours (not helped by Dad stressing out over Toronto-bound traffic on the 401), so we had to beat a fast retreat as soon as we'd finished our main courses. They did give us a free slice of cheesecake to take back to the hotel with us. Points for excellent service! (They also honored our reservation even though we ended up being an hour late. A call from our hotel helped.)

Our first full day in Toronto was spent at the Toronto Zoo, which at 710 acres is one of the largest zoos in the world. We started with the giant pandas, where we waited an hour in line to see Er Shun and Da Mao and their 18-month old cubs Jia Panpan and Jia Yueyue. Three of the four pandas were napping in one of their rooms, the other was next door chowing down on bamboo. As pandas do. Lunch. After lunch we hit the Australaisan pavilion, thinking we’d see a few animals we don’t get to see at the National Zoo or elsewhere in our North American travels. One Matschie's tree kangaroo, several sugar gliders, and a kookaburra or two proved us right. Then we moseyed over to the African Rainforest Pavilion to check out their group of Western lowland gorillas, including 3-year old Nneka (who was clinging to her mom at the back of the gorilla enclosure). Other animals on display included slender-tailed meerkats, spotted river otters, and ring-tailed lemurs. (Lemurs, Johnny! Lemurs!) By then it was time to head for Jane and Phil’s house, with a stop at the gift shop so I could buy Sam a small stuffed penguin. Because of course he has to have a penguin!
(Subsequently, I found out one of Sandra Boynton’s books is Your Personal Penguin. There’s even a song that goes with it. This could be a dangerous thing.)

On our second full day in Toronto we headed for the Ontario Science Centre. Having been there several years ago when I accompanied Sheryl on a visit for Bouchercon, I remembered that it is largely targeted at younger folk, so I knew Sam would have an opportunity to run around. We spent most of our time in the KidSpark area and the AstraZeneca Human Edge exhibit, with a break for lunch in the Valley Restaurant. We also caught a Science HotSpot presentation on basic rocketry, where I discovered Sam knows the word “rocket”. Good to know there is at least one area where we are raising our child right!

After the Science Centre we drove over to Bakka Books, where the fact we’d be seeing Sally Kobee at Confluence did not stop me from buying five books. Granted, two of them were for Sam; Sea Monkey and Bob, illustrated by Debbie Ohi, and Goodnight Lab, a parody of Goodnight Moon. The other books were things on my to-read/to-buy list (e.g. Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff’s Illuminae) that I haven’t seen so far at any con booksellers’ tables.

We finished the trip off with Confluence, which was good even if I ended up watching any concerts from the prefunction area. Thankfully I could see and hear reasonably well through the door. Especially during the Consortium of Genius’ headlining concert, which for the sake of both my ears and Sam’s was probably best enjoyed from the hallway anyway! Other concerts we saw included Cheshire Moon, Harold Feld, Lauren Cox, and Wreck the System. The latter is a Silver Spring-based nerdcore group Randy Hoffman discovered. They were pretty decent, and even came down to – and quite enjoyed – the open filk. Since they are local, I plan to invite them to Balticon.

Done last week (20170917Su - 23Sa)

Sep. 24th, 2017 05:42 pm
mdlbear: the positively imaginary half of a cubic mandelbrot set (Default)
[personal profile] mdlbear

Another rough week, especially Sunday through Tuesday when we didn't have our Bronx. The house felt very sad and lonely. N brought him home from the vet on Wednesday; while she was coming off the ferry she saw the Bath Fitter truck waiting to get on to come and install our new shower.

Bronx is recovering, but he lost a lot of weight over the weekend; he was in really scary shape when he came home. He's better now, but still not his old self. But it's so good to see him rampaging, or at least romping, even if only for a while. Best the vet can figure is that he has some virus -- possibly herpes -- that is mostly dormant but gets reactivated when he gets anything else. Poor little guy! But we have him back! That's the important thing.

We also have our revamped shower -- it's a lot bigger than the old one because it makes better use of space in addition to being a bit deeper, and it has a full-width curtain instead of sliding glass doors, which I hate and Colleen has a lot of trouble with. The floor is only about an inch and a half up, with a squishable rubber dam to keep the water in. It's wonderful.

Another cow sighting Thursday morning when I went out to plug the car in; I'd forgotten Wednesday night. (Friday when Colleen and I went out to the Country Store on the way to dinner, the clerk who checked us out told us that someone from out our way had been in early the previous morning to get some hay "to lure a cow". Right. I know where he lives! Hopefully he came back later for some fencing.

We finally found a good caregiver for Colleen. She'll be coming in only one day/week, Thursday. Our housekeeper comes on Tuesday, so we'll be pretty well covered, and save quite a lot of money over our former 3 day/week schedule. Unlike (previous) G" and all of the others we interviewed, M has made a career of caregiving and loves it.

Link of the week is the Ig-Nobel Prize winning paper, "On the Rheology of Cats", in Rheology Bulletin 2014-07, p. 16. (It's a PDF, so you have to scroll down to it.) You also need to pull down NASA's coffeetable book, Through the Eyes of Cassini

Notes & links, as usual )

Progress of sorts...

Sep. 24th, 2017 06:09 pm
hrrunka: My garden in the summer (garden)
[personal profile] hrrunka
Most of the rest of Saturday was more of the same.

It's been a fine sunny day, if not especially warm. This morning I joined the usual radio club Net on 160 metres for an hour or so, and then spent a while trying to sort out some family and radio club loose ends. After lunch I tackled the trimming of the hedge on the western side of the garden. It needed a lot of trimming, and it would probably have been better if it had been done a while back, but the folk next door had also decided to tackle their side of it, and the weather meant it wasn't an unpleasant task. It did take a while, though. Inevitably the garden bin, which was emptied on Friday morning, is now full again, and won't be emptied for almost a fortnight, but that's OK.

Now, time to try to deal with some of the other loose ends that need it. Ingress is done. Duolingo next.

Alptraumhaus II: The New Neighbors

Sep. 24th, 2017 06:29 am
madfilkentist: Photo of Carl (Default)
[personal profile] madfilkentist
Yesterday afternoon I noticed I had no running water. I went outside to see if anyone was around whom I could ask about the situation. There wasn't at first, but less than a minute later a water service truck drove up. Now that's service! We got water back for a while but were told it would be off overnight. It's still off right now (early Sunday morning).

It seems like a tradition that every time someone moves into this block of buildings, the water fails. Last summer, the main pump broke not long after I moved in. A new person is moving into the unit right next to mine. I haven't met her yet, but yesterday I talked a bit with her mother, who was helping with the move. The unit also doesn't have electricity, due to a miscommunication. She didn't know who the local electrical company was. (I had to do research to find out too.) At least I was able to give her a list of the utilities her daughter would have to deal with, so she may figure it out with less effort than I did.

I'm not clear on why the water failed. Last year we had a drought, but this year had plenty of rain. I was told one unit had a dripping faucet, but can that be enough to exhaust the water supply?

QotD

Sep. 24th, 2017 05:24 am
dglenn: Me in kilt and poofy shirt, facing away, playing acoustic guitar behind head (Default)
[personal profile] dglenn

"[...] one of humanity's tragic flaws is to take for granted the gargantuan effort needed to create and maintain even little temporary pockets of order. Again and again, people imagine that, if their local pocket of order isn't working how they want, then they should smash it to pieces, since while admittedly that might make things even worse, there's also at least 50/50 odds that they'll magically improve. In reasoning thus, people fail to appreciate just how exponentially more numerous are the paths downhill, into barbarism and chaos, than are the few paths further up. So thrashing about randomly, with no knowledge or understanding, is statistically certain to make things worse: on this point thermodynamics, common sense, and human history are all in total agreement. The implications of these musings for the present would be left as exercises for the reader." -- Scott Aaronson, 2017-01-01

[To my friends observing Tzom Gedaliah, may you have an easy fast.]

Of The Same...

Sep. 23rd, 2017 10:51 am
hrrunka: A small radio transceiver (morse)
[personal profile] hrrunka
On Wednesday evening I listened a bit to Morse on the 80 metre band, which was busier than usual thanks to a short contest. Then I joined the local radio club VHF Net for an hour or so of chat.

On Thursday morning I was up in good time for the GB2CW Morse practice broadcast, and didn't do too badly. I did get one word of the 8wpm passage and one digit in the numbers wrong, when usually I copy everything just fine in those, but I also only got one word wrong in the 12wpm passage, which is a few fewer than usual.

The weather on Friday was fine and warm. I did quite a bit of Ingress in addition to my normal walk to the shops. There was no gaming in the evening, but I managed to tie up a few travel loose ends in the course of the evening.

This morning's started rather grey, weather-wise. I hope it will improve. There's stuff I need to get done, and some of it demands dry conditions. The forecast for tomorrow is, at the moment, brighter, so I guess some of that may wait.

QotD

Sep. 23rd, 2017 05:24 am
dglenn: Me in kilt and poofy shirt, facing away, playing acoustic guitar behind head (Default)
[personal profile] dglenn

"It is the most GOP thing in the world to create the Kimmel test for p.r. reasons, fail it, and then blame Jimmy Kimmel for being political." -- Brian Beutler, 2017-09-22

QotD

Sep. 22nd, 2017 05:24 am
dglenn: Me in kilt and poofy shirt, facing away, playing acoustic guitar behind head (Default)
[personal profile] dglenn

"This is a time for action -- not for war, but for mobilization of every bit of peace machinery. It is also a time for facing the fact that you cannot use a weapon, even though it is the weapon that gives you greater strength than other nations, if it is so destructive that it practically wipes out large areas of land and great numbers of innocent people. " -- Eleanor Roosevelt (b. 1884-10-11, d. 1962-11-07), My Day (newspaper column) 1954-04-16

"Home away from home"

Sep. 22nd, 2017 03:07 am
rosefox: A bearded man in a yarmulke shouting L'CHAIM! (Judaism)
[personal profile] rosefox
Selichot )

Rosh Hashanah )

It's genuinely disorienting to encounter all these spaces where I don't have to educate anyone or fight to be seen for who I am. Other people have already done that work, and leaders have clearly been receptive to it. (Rabbi Lippman is queer, but I don't assume that cis queer people will be welcoming to or understanding of trans people, especially nonbinary trans people.) I get to just show up and be a human being in human community. What an immense privilege. What a gift. Honestly, that might be the thing that gets me to stick with this—just the pure pleasure of being in a place where I didn't personally have to claw out a space for myself.

Josh met me and Kit in the park and we walked for a while (GMaps Pedometer says I walked 3.2 miles today, most of it pushing a heavy stroller with a heavy toddler; my feet and arms are very tired). I teased him that he should be glad I didn't make him meet the rabbi. But this is my thing, really. Maybe it's my latest three-month hobby. Maybe it'll be more than that. We'll see.

The "right" to respect

Sep. 21st, 2017 07:39 am
madfilkentist: Photo of Carl (Default)
[personal profile] madfilkentist
"I am entitled to respect!" That's the cliche line of every power-hungry official. But what happens when you try to universalize that entitlement?

Erika Mantz, speaking for the University of New Hampshire, decreed, "We believe strongly in the right to free speech as recognized by the First Amendment, and we believe equally in the right of every member of our community to feel safe and respected." By putting those claims side by side and saying they're equally valid, she appears to say that "feeling respected" is a legally enforceable right.

It's logically impossible to enforce a right to feel respected for everyone. Enforcing a right requires preventing or penalizing actions which violate it. If A expresses disrespect for B, then defending B's "right" requires taking some kind of action against A. But this can reasonably make A feel disrespected. There's no way to uphold the "right" of both people to feel respected.

The right of free speech and the right to feel respected can't co-exist. If people can't speak against people who do things they don't respect, they don't have free speech. If UNH officials have a "right to feel respected," the university can and should prohibit and punish any demonstration against its policies or actions. When there's a "right to respect," it's always the people in charge who get first claim on it.

As a government institution, the University of New Hampshire is required to abide by the First Amendment. There is no Constitutional guarantee of a right to feel anything.

It's common for people to talk sloppily about rights to feelings, but UNH has gone further than most, claiming them as having equal status to Constitutional rights.

The right to "feel" safe follows the same analysis, strictly speaking. However, it's a more complicated mix, since it's easy to confuse with the legitimate right not to be endangered by people's actions, so I've left it aside.

QotD

Sep. 21st, 2017 05:24 am
dglenn: Me in kilt and poofy shirt, facing away, playing acoustic guitar behind head (Default)
[personal profile] dglenn

"Whatever your past has been, you have a spotless future" -- <not sure who said this>

[To my Jewish friends: Shanah Tovah!]

no place like home

Sep. 21st, 2017 01:31 am
callibr8: icon courtesy of Wyld_Dandelyon (Default)
[personal profile] callibr8
Having spent half of the days this month, hundreds of miles south of where I've lived for the past decade, I am celebrating the fact that tomorrow's perambulations will be taking place only in the 980xx group of zip codes.

Simple pleasures, for the win!

Shanah Tovah

Sep. 20th, 2017 04:29 pm
sdelmonte: (Default)
[personal profile] sdelmonte
 May the old years and its curses end.  May the new year and its blessings commence.

Best wishes for a joyous new year to everyone!

Curate's Egg...

Sep. 20th, 2017 06:58 pm
hrrunka: A small radio transceiver (radio)
[personal profile] hrrunka
The radio club meeting on Monday evening was a busy informal fix-it evening. A number of strange bits of kit were being worked on. I just went for the chat, and was feeling tired enough that I didn't stay all that long.

On Tuesday the weather was slightly lees grey and damp. I finally got round to doing a bit of work in the garden. I gave about ten feet of hedge a bit of a trim, and that left the garden waste ben almost completely full. In the evening there was another radio club meeting, but this involved a couple of short talks. They seemed to generate a fair bit of interest. I got home a bit later than usual, and discovered that my home *DSL was not performing. A bit of research using the mobile's data eventually revealed a notice about "Planned Maintenance" affecting about 150 exchanges including the one I'm on. As the maintenance was scheduled to run from 10pm to 6am I decided I'd have an early night. I think the network actually came back sometime around 2am...

This morning I decided I needed to get out of the house, so I packed some radio and geocache kit into the car and headed off. First stop was a geocache I hid back in 2002 which was in need of a fresh logbook. I took the opportunity to clean it out a little, removing the rubbish and adding a few new swaps. The weather was a bit grey and the path a little muddy, but the walk wasn't a bad one.

After that I headed back to a view point car park which is a good starting point for the nearby SOTA summit. I'd taken a packed lunch, so I ate that while looking at the (rather grey) view, then grabbed my radio kit and walked to the summit. Now, this particular summit is one I'd normally not have considered bothering to re-visit, but it is the one nearest my home. There's a large water tank and a couple of communication towers at the summit. Today there were four work vans at the summit, and work going on. If I'd taken a hand-held and a suitable antenna I could have considered activating the summit on VHF or UHF, but there was nowhere accessible I could set up my HF antenna sensibly, so I decided to abandon the SOTA idea and come home. Frustrating...

A locked-room cat mystery

Sep. 20th, 2017 01:31 pm
madfilkentist: The Catmobile at Merrimack River Feline Rescue Society (Catmobile)
[personal profile] madfilkentist
The Spice Kittens are now up to a quartet: Ginger, Posh, Scary, and Baby. Checking Wikipedia, I see these are all Spice Girls names, but should a shelter really name a cat "Scary"?

Tanglewood Placido was adopted but Domingo wasn't, so now Domingo has to work twice as hard to make a mess of his cage. Vin Diesel was adopted, with exclamation marks after his name on the adoption board. Apparently he finally managed to be nice for a full fifteen minutes. Tanglewood (in the picture) is new and very friendly. He's officially a kitten but nearly full grown.

The excitement came afterward. When we'd finished our work, Virginia and I went to Tom's a mile away to get some stuff for the shelter. I brought it back while she continued home. When I got to the shelter, there was an animal control officer at the bathroom door.

Tiny, a very large gray cat, has been staying in the bathroom for weeks, and we've kept the door closed so she can stay away from the other cats. According to the description, she's declawed, morbidly obese, and very scared. Somehow she locked herself in the bathroom. It has a twist button lock, which isn't easy for a cat to work. You can't open the door from the inside without unlocking it, which makes it unlikely anyone locked it by accident. The officer was trying to pick the lock. I didn't stay for very long, so I don't know what they ended up doing.

Update: Virginia and I just got an email with a sharp rebuke from the director for working there so long and doing such a thorough job. I guess we'll have to remember to do a hastier job next time.

Groups vs systems

Sep. 20th, 2017 10:13 am
dpolicar: (Default)
[personal profile] dpolicar
I am so very tired of the narrative of "We shouldn't condemn a whole group because of some bad individuals. There are good people and bad people in that group."

Here's the thing: there's a difference between a group of people and a system of people. The difference is that a system of people comprises not only the individuals, but also the social constructs that guide the behavior of those individuals... in other words, the system itself.

For example, a company isn't just a bunch of people who coincidentally happen to work on the same projects in distributed ways. A school system isn't a bunch of teachers and administrators who independently happen to work the same way. A police precinct isn't a bunch of officers who just happen to follow the same rules.

In each of these cases there are policies and guidelines and hierarchies and informal structures and so forth that shape behavior. There's a system.

And when we praise or condemn the public school system, or the police, or Microsoft, or etc. we mostly aren't praising or condemning a whole group because of some good or bad individuals. I mean, sure, those individuals exist, but they aren't the reason. We are praising/condemning a whole group because of the system that organizes it. And the larger the system we're talking about, the more true that is: when we say that democracies are more just than totalitarian states, or that capitalism is more efficient than communism, or that communism is more humane than capitalism, or various other claims along those lines, we're basically not saying anything at all about any individual.

Or at least, that's how it should be. I mean, sure, sometimes we praise or condemn a group of people just because we're applying aggregate-level stereotypes to all the individuals in that group. And in those cases the "We shouldn't condemn a whole group because of some bad individuals. There are good people and bad people in that group." narrative makes sense: we really shouldn't! Or at least, we're overwhelmingly likely to be mistaken when we do; we can draw our own ethical conclusions from there.

(I am reminded now of a friendship I broke some time back by expressing both the idea that condemning individuals because of their group affiliations is bad, and the idea that analyzing the common behaviors of individuals is the only way we can identify pathological systems, in ways that struck them as infuriatingly and relationship-endingly hypocritical.)

And sure, sometimes we make analysis errors in this space. Sometimes there's a system operating we're unaware of. Sometimes we infer the presence of systems that don't actually operate, or aren't relevant to what we're talking about. It's easy to talk about the behavior of people while ignoring the systems that shape us, and it's easy to handwave about notional systems without actually making any concrete or testable claims about whether they exist.

I'm not saying I expect us to be perfectly accurate when we describe groups and systems. But I want us to be better about acknowledging that they are two different things.

When someone condemns racism as a systemic attribute of a society, for example, there are folks who reply that no, racism is a property of individuals, end-of-story.

And in principle that can be a legitimate disagreement; if someone wants to argue that there really aren't any social systems underlying/guiding/constraining/coordinating the racist behavior of individuals, for example, that's a totally relevant argument. (Mind you, I think it's obviously false, but that's another matter.)

But usually they aren't arguing that; rather, they are simply insisting that we can only talk about individuals, because when we say that racism is also demonstrated through the systems that essentially all white people in this country participate in, we're talking about a whole group, and (all together now) "we shouldn't condemn a whole group because of some bad individuals. There are good people and bad people in that group."

And I don't know how to say all of this, or any of it, in ways that are at all useful within the conversation itself. And I watch other people trying to do it, and not getting very far either.

And I understand that often that's because other people just don't want to hear it, and in general I don't believe that there's a way to say everything that will be accepted by the person I'm talking to and that it's my job to find it. But still, I try to express myself clearly and compellingly.

So, anyway. I am so very tired of the narrative of "We shouldn't condemn a whole group because of some bad individuals. There are good people and bad people in that group."

July 2017

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