Monday, November 15, 2010

By the by...

Out one business trip at the moment; this is to be followed by Thanksgiving, which is being hosted at my home this year, followed by a second business trip.  I have a few spare moments, but I'm reserving those for my girlfriend, who has been incredibly patient with me (our anniversary was this past weekend, and I couldn't be there) and whose patience I'm trying not to try too much more, so the blog will probably be put on hold for the next month or so.

Yeah, I haven't been running it long enough to do this, so I'm probably going to lose the two people who were reading regularly my rants on a regular basis.  Ah well.

Friday, November 5, 2010


Feeling guilty lately about not spending much time with my grandmother.

My grandfather died in recent years, and it became apparent that her mental state was significantly worse than anybody thought; we thought she had early-stage Alzheimer's while he was still living and minding her, but since then we've discovered that, while it's not the early stages of Alzheimer's, it is one of the other variations of dementia, and it's a lot more advanced than we had thought.

On the one hand, I want to spend time with her, because I don't have much time left to do so - but then actually doing so is... she's not there.  Even when I spend time with her, I don't feel like I'm spending time with... -her-, just her body, and the shadow of a mind.  She has lucid moments, characteristic of the condition, but...

She forgets what you've said thirty seconds after you've said it; she forgets what she's said thirty seconds after she's said it, and will repeat it.  She will repeat a story you told her a day or two previous, thinking it's something which happened to her.

She has hearing aids; I'm not sure if she actually has problems with her hearing, because the majority of the time she simply can't understand what you're saying.  There's something going on in her mind, she works very hard to pretend she knows what you're saying - if you laugh randomly she'll laugh with you, assuming you told a joke - but her thoughts are entirely... inaccessible.

We took her on vacation with us; a cruise.  The week after, she thought we had gone to Arkansas; two weeks later, she didn't recall it at all.  (Not to mention that she had absolutely no idea what was going on when we were on the cruise itself.  She mostly stayed in her room, although she did seem to enjoy the shows.)

But thinking back, I have a really hard time figuring out how much of this is new.  The family used to laugh when she did things like put apple vinegar instead of apple juice into a pie recipe.  My grandfather is gone now, and we can't ask him how bad things really were.  My dad remembers her being not quite right when he was a kid.

I don't know if the person I've always thought of as my grandmother was even ever there, or whether the persona was something I invented, shoehorned around a confused woman doing her best to get through the day, laughing when people told jokes because they were laughing and not because she understood them.  I remember my grandfather went to great lengths to get coffee pots and other appliances which looked and worked exactly like the ones they had had before, even when I was a very young child.  My parents replaced her old microwave (which used a turn-dial) with one with buttons as a Christmas gift one year, and from then on my grandfather was the one to use the microwave; she had it over ten years and never did learn to use it.  It was this way my entire life.  Was she better then?  Did I simply not see it?  I don't know.  The stranger things she did stand out, but they could have simply been particular bad days.  I can't recall her ever acting in a way which would suggest she was healthy then, though.  And even then, when I thought of her, it was always as a unit pair with my grandfather; I couldn't have pictured her without him, and that... lack of a picture held true when he died.

I think she knows he's dead, but I do not think she knows how long it's been; I'd be surprised if she remembered what he died of.  She doesn't notice the anniversary of his death passing.

I feel guilty not spending time with her, but at the same time, I don't actually want to.  I try to keep her comfortable, bring her her coffee and the newspaper she rereads dozens of times throughout the day (I do not know how much she understands, but it is part of her daily ritual).  And I watch somebody who is shade already, unaware of the living.


...found my blog searching on "chastity belt," and how?

Neither of these words have ever arisen in my blog.  Chastity?  Pfft.  And belts, while potentially awesome, don't even register on the list of topics I care to discuss.

I'm rather puzzled by most of the hits I'm provided a source for.  Okay, "orphanwilde" I can get, it's somebody searching for me from one of the blogs I on occasion post at.  (Random bloglink in that vein: I don't endorse all of his opinions - in particular his views on gender - but he's been a regular on my blog list since he predicted the housing crash.  Er, before it was happening, I mean.  A couple years in advance, in point of fact.  He's certainly not Krugman, who, oh wow the prescience, predicted a crash which had already begun.  He also wrote an awesome, if understandably vitriolic, book describing the housing crash, from the perspective of an angry economist who was kicked out of the industry for seeing it coming and refusing to sign off on any more doomed loans.)

It's definitely interesting to see that I got some attention from Africa after my post on circumcision.  I hadn't considered I would be addressing an international audience, for whom female circumcision is rather more relevant than for those of us in the States.  I guess I should discuss that in rather more depth than "it's barbaric" soon.  Maybe.  Along with ear-piercing.  Yeah.

A lot of my traffic came from an IRC redirect, which is... well, I don't know what to think of the fact that some random doods on the Internet using outmoded chat technology are discussing me where I can't see.  They could be saying good things, they could be plotting my demise.  For paranoia's sake I guess it's a good thing I've chosen a mostly-anonymous approach to this blog.  (Particularly considering as how I've gotten death threats on -dating services- before.  Which I guess was a predictable result of modifying my profile to try to reduce the number of messages I get by offending anybody who wouldn't be suitable.  Didn't work, mostly it just changed the content of the messages from "lets hook up" to "I want to bash your teeth in.")

And, weirdly, -most- of my sourced traffic comes from a blog search site on the word "electromagnetic" and related words.  Kids, take it from experience from my youth, that perpetual motion device you thought of is not efficient enough to produce free energy, and the imperfect-efficiency model has already been invented, and more is called a "DC motor."  (I think that was a bot, actually; several of those sourced from porn sites.  I'm not sure why it was trolling through my words looking for my thoughts on EMPs, I understand the porn bots, at least.  FBI looking for bomb threats, maybe?  Hallow guize!)

And I'm getting a few visits from a Hotmail user linked via e-mail.  I'm guessing that's probably related to the IRC stuff.

I see you!

(Now my question is, where are all these untracked hits coming from?  Fascinating stuff.)


...a long-standing blog from the daily read.

Saddens me to do it, but it's been a long time since I've derived anything but irritation from reading it.

I think the fundamental problem is that it, for a long time, has had a relatively small group of commentators, who all agreed with the author.  As more commentators have come in, some biases which previously were not obvious have become increasingly apparent, and there's been some moves lately which individually have been kind of... this is kind of weird, but not too bad - but the sum total of individual moves reeks of closing the ranks, of excluding outsiders and people who aren't already in agreement.  There's a word for that:  Stagnancy.  And it's a blog primarily revolving around topics which themselves have been stagnant for running on forty years now, so it's doubly unappealing.

Debating which blog to replace it with, I have a few to pick from.  I'm inclined to start reading Billy Beck on a regular basis, but the absence of comments there turns me off for probably the same reason; it smells of excluding outside opinions, of stagnancy.  Also, Billy Beck's here-is-a-news-column-and-what-I-think-of-it approach to blogging isn't my cup of tea.  I prefer to talk about issues and principles; minor current events taking place in some city in Utah today, some village in Spain tomorrow, less so.  It's too easy to find a "current event" which appeals to whatever perspective you want to isolate to make it meaningful.

I'll probably pick up one of the myriad blogs which irritate me with their constant "gun porn."  I'm all for second amendment rights, but my attitude towards guns is the same as my attitude towards cars; do they work?  Right, that's all I care to know.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Is Apathy a Hatetcrime?

The title answers the question, by the way.  If you're apathetic, by definition you do not care; if you do not care, you do not hate them.

Not caring about a group of people is not the same as hating them.

Is it morally equivalent?

Well, is doing nothing to stop somebody from beating somebody else morally equivalent to beating them yourself?  Are you guilty of all the crimes that are currently taking place by dint of not donning a Batman costume and going around beating criminals up?  Do you share some of the responsibility?  (Why and how can you have moral responsibility for something you did not do?)

We, as human beings, are not guilty of depriving the world of what we -might- have accomplished; we do not owe the world our accomplishments, neither moral nor actual.  I do not owe you the best article you could ever hope to read, and I am not owed a readership just because it might inform the posts - and the reason I am not owed a readership is not the other things people could accomplish (the potential of which is almost certainly going to be better than reading this blog, no offense to my readers), but their freedom to accomplish what they choose to accomplish.

I do not owe it to the bullied kid to save him from the bully.  I do not owe it to him to care about his plight.

Neither do you.

I could, and I can - but these things are entirely to my discretion.  The world holds no mortgage against my accomplishments.

If I choose to do something, more, it is not because it will make me a better person; it won't, nor will it make me less of a worse person, which is simply another way of saying it makes me better - to be enriched by human suffering is parasitic.  It is because I personally believe the kid does not deserve the bullying, that he is worth more than the situation he is enduring.  He will owe me no debt I did not secure in advance, either.

Speaking as an outsider.  The principle, being responsible for the kid's safety, is in a different position than me.

It's important that we pursue social change, that we create a better society for us to live in.  But the smallest minority on Earth is the individual.  Let's not forget in our pursuit of a better society to stick up for the right to make the wrong choices.

On Paranoia...

... also, "Is it still paranoia if they're really out to get me?"  They aren't, of course, but I'm not paranoid that they are, only that they could -try-.

I live a paranoid lifestyle.  I don't pick up hitchhikers.  I move a loaded revolver into reach anytime I stay in one place in my home for more than a couple of hours.

When I'm walking about, I'm constantly evaluating risks, particularly at night; if somebody jumps out at me with a gun, I'll spray him with petrol, and explain he shouldn't shoot me or he'll start on fire.  (Okay, probably not true, but I suspect a would-be robber wouldn't know this.)  Or I'll just -KEEP- spraying him with petrol, if he has a knife; it's very hard to concentrate with gasoline in your eyes.

I palm my keys so I can use them as weapons.

 I own two wallets.  One used to be my "decoy" wallet, to fool pickpockets, but since then it's become my primary wallet, just because my primary wallet is a passport wallet and I've, for paranoid reasons, stopped carrying my passport with me.  I intend to buy a new decoy wallet and simply haven't done so yet.

(Now the weird thing is, I'm not the only guy I know who happened on the idea of a decoy wallet.  It's a surprisingly common idea, particularly among the kind of people I associate with; we're highly individualistic and self-reliant.  I've never known a woman to employ this, but then, most of them carry purses, and decoy purses are harder; yet another reason men's fashion is superior.)

I once punched a fake sword as somebody jumped out from behind a corner and play-swung it at me, in an attempt to scare me.

I shave with a straight-edge razor (technically a barber's razor, but you plebs probably don't know the difference); I keep it at hand in the shower in case somebody comes at me from behind the certain.  (Shaving tip: Don't use a straight-edge to shave pubic hair.)

The short of it is, I am -never- not on alert.  Life is a constant process of evaluating risks.

I've avoided being mugged as a result before; two guys were following me and a friend in New Haven, CT, at night.  We ducked into a store, they were still there when we came out, and started tailing us.  A loud conversation about how a mutual friend should have dealt with a mugger ended the tailing; if it hadn't, we were both prepared to fight.

I do not go so far as to stay perpetually equipped for battle; I will wear sandals, I will go places unarmed.  But I am always read to kick my sandals off if need be.

And I more or less regard this as not merely normal, but -proper-.  This is the way people should behave.

Preparation is the vaccination for violence.  If everyone operated like this, nobody would need to.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010


A prototypical masculinist/post-feminist discussion: Circumcision.

So, I'm circumcised, like quite a few guys out there.

I'm... mildly irritated about it.  On about the same scale as if, say, my parents had "bought" me a car I didn't want and saddled me with the payments.

That's probably a pretty good analogy for me.  It's not actually all that important, it goes into drive when I put it in drive, it brakes when I hit the brakes; functionally, everything checks out, and that's all that's really important to me.

My irritation stems from the fact that something which -should- have been my decision, something -I- am saddled with, something there was absolutely no reason not to consult me about, was done without my consent.  I'm irritated at the abridgment of my personal sovereignty of self.  It's the same kind of irritation I hold for government when it mandates I buy health insurance, say, or mandates through taxation that I pay for somebody else's - things which by all rights should be up to me to decide.

This isn't a ride I would have chosen, by the way.  I don't know if the other car would have driven -better-, but I could have traded it in for this one; I can't really trade this one in for the other.  There are techniques for restoring foreskin, true, but it's not the same.

And I see why some guys -do- get mad about it.  They have every right to get mad about it.  Male circumcision should be treated as being of the same barbaric nature as female circumcision.  [Ed: I'm taking as a given the barbarism of female circumcision.  I actually think the issue receives too much attention, considering it's primarily practiced in countries where selling twelve year old girls to forty year old men is also normal, something I think is significantly worse than mutilation on the simple grounds that, as torture, it lasts a hell of a lot longer, but that's another topic altogether.]  A lot of attention is paid to these; less attention is paid to things like piercing ears.

I think these things need some attention too.  I guess I should write a broader post soon.

Incidentally, my parents' reasoning was this: My mother knew somebody who was -deeply- bothered by the difference between him and his father, who wasn't circumcised.  She didn't want me to have to deal with this... dysmorphia.  As reasoning goes, it's perhaps the only one I've encountered which approaches making sense.

But it only approaches making sense, because you can get circumcised later.  It's a dysmorphia which, if encountered, I could have chosen to do something about; I could have simply been informed that it's an optional procedure some guys choose to do, and that it was left up to me to decide for myself.

Arguing over which is medically better is irrelevant.  Arguing about dysmorphia is irrelevant.  None of these things matter, because the choice is -always- available.  It's just not reversible.

Infant circumcision is nothing short of sexual assault.  It should be treated as such.

Monday, November 1, 2010

I bought MSG...

...which was actually harder than you'd think.  Apparently my local Wal-Mart doesn't stock it.  Asked someone about it, apparently they're moving towards "No MSG" goods.  At least they haven't started stocking organic crap.  I don't want manure-covered fruit sitting next to my nice healthy irradiated apple.  (No, that's not sarcasm.  My love affair with irradiated foods will take another post.)

Finally found a regional grocery store with a "flavour enhancer," which is code for MSG, for those who have never wanted to look for it.  (Specifically Accent, which is the American brand for the Japanese company which originally patented the stuff.)

I tried it; I tried it plain (as I do with all new-to-me spices) off the tip of my finger, I tried it in vegetable soup, and I tried it in some stir-fry I made.

You know what?  MSG tastes like -shit-.

I guess I should have predicted this.  Raw meat tastes bad to me, as do mushrooms, as does most cheese, as does eggplant, as does, as does, as does - I, apparently, do not like umami.  I don't like lobster or most shellfish (I'll take artificial crab over the real thing any day of the week), I despise tomatoes.  Bacon is only good to me when heavily flavoured with something else, say, maple syrup.

In short, all the foods which are held up as examples of the "umami" taste, taste bad.  I just don't like it.

Which isn't to say anybody is wrong about how delicious eggplant parmigiana supposedly is.  But I do realize why I don't like it, now.

Sigh.  So much for that.  I had -really- been looking forward to it, too, on recommendation from several people.  It's added, along with fennel and anise, to the list of spices I will never ever put in anything I cook.

On to find a real bottle of mustard oil.  I bought a bottle to use in my stir-fry (as opposed to my standard, sesame seed oil, which is rather expensive), and as I started to open it, realized I had bought massage oil.  I doubt this damages its edibility any, but I'm still reluctant to use a foodstuff explicitly labeled "Not for consumption."

Lighter fare...

...and totally irrelevant blogging:

For the past six months or so, I have been perpetually exhausted.

I'm not precisely sure what was causing it.  There are a myriad number of possibilities; I drink in excess of two liters of diet soda a day, and can hit six without trying, as my thirst is legendary.  (I also sometimes drink that in coffee.  The caffeine keeps me going, either way.)  This could have been provoking an insulin response, or it could have been depleting my iodide/iodine levels.  (My blood sugar levels tend to stay at "low."  67 has been a normal figure for me for months now.) [Ed: I haven't found good studies suggesting either thing, so emphasis on the -could-.]

I also went on several zinc binges to combat colds and flus which had poor timing (middle of an important business trip, for instance).  As I learned after doing some research, this can result in a copper deficiency.  (I wasn't even aware I needed copper.)  A calorie-focused diet has further cut all the good sources of copper from my daily nutrition. So that could be it.

It could -be- the calorie focused diet, except every time I went off it (which tends to involve a certain Chinese buffet and lots of Hot and Sour soup), I felt worse.

It could have been the caffeine binges, or something else.

At any rate, made several changes, and am feeling significantly better.  First, reduced my diet cola intake to less than a liter a day.  (Still more than most people drink.)  And second, started taking a multivitamin that focuses on the major nutritional reasons for tiredness; copper, iodide, selenium, and some other stuff that I know I get enough of already, like vitamin B.  (Having too much vitamin B in your system has a positive side effect of making you unpalatable to mosquitos, incidentally.)  And finally, cut back on foods which flood my body with insulin, such as rice and noodles.

[Ed: It was almost certainly an iodine deficiency; my blood sugar levels have evened out now, which suggests thyroid, which suggests iodine.  Which anybody who knows me will agree this is crazy; I consume absurd quantities of salt (a necessity to offset the absurd quantities of fluids I ingest) the overwhelming majority of which is iodized.]