Finding God in a Dog

"I'll never listen to what Slade says."

Predictions updates: alleged ISIS plot, George "The Zimzam" Zimmerman, and Ohio State Fooled Me
That was fast.

Federal authorities arrested a Cincinnati man Wednesday in connection with an alleged ISIL-inspired plot to attack the U.S. Capitol.

While this technically fulfills prediction #2 for this year, one would be correct to object that Mr. Cornell, age 20, is a deluded patsy, and that this can't be considered a serious attempt to attack the United States. On the other hand, this fits the model of how ISIS and Al Qaeda operates these days --- spew online propaganda and hope that the marginalized pick up the torch.

Speaking of predictions, I had predicted (2014.10) that alleged "psycho" George Zimmerman would get in trouble with the law in 2014. That prediction didn't come true --- I was off by nine freaking days.

Also, as for my prediction 2015.8 that the Ducks would beat Alabama....whodathunk?

(More on Scott Aaronson) | Repost: “Hey, Dreamboat!”: Teenage Girls Get Mocked Too
Wherein it's pointed out that teenage girls get lots of crap too. (Relevant to the Scott Aaronson thread.)

Originally posted by lovejoyfeminism at “Hey, Dreamboat!”: Teenage Girls Get Mocked Too

I wrote a week ago about conversations within gaming, fandom, and nerd culture over dating and social reclusiveness. Specifically, I looked at a post by a self-described “nerdy guy” about his adolescent and young adult anger toward women for not dating him and a response post by a self-described “nerdy girl” pointing out that guys aren’t the only ones to be shy, socially awkward, and thwarted in love. Today I want to build on that conversation with another point.

I’ve seen men online (and, sadly, in real life) talk as if women had it easy in romance, and could get a guy by snapping their fingers. They talk about being mocked or made fun of by teenage girls, as though that sort of mocking goes one way only—and as if the girls hold all the cards. For too many of these nerdy adolescent and young adult men, I see an unwillingness to consider the suffering of anyone but themselves.

(I should note that there are plenty of nerdy guys who do treat women with respect, including my own husband, Sean. I should have Sean tell his story here sometime. I was talking to him about this recently and he told me that when he left high school, he made the decision to clean up his act and change how he came across—to master the social skills he felt he lacked. Importantly, his failure to get a date in high school never translated into any sort of resentment or entitlement toward women.)

I noticed something interesting in the comments on my post last week. While I was homeschooled and didn’t have much contact with teenage guys my own age, some of the commenters wrote of their experiences being harassed and heckled by the teenage guys they grew up around. Here’s a comment from reader Nea (here):

A common insult when I was an early teen was for a boy to yell “Hey, Dreamboat!” near you, and if you looked over, laugh nastily and say “Not YOU, Shipwreck!” Even (especially) if you were the only female around.

And then this from onamission5 (here):

I got, “wanna dance?” or “wanna date?” and if I answered in the affirmative, it was, “well maybe someone will ask you.” Cue them walking off to their friend group laughing.

Some nerdy guys seem to think being a woman means getting dates and sex whenever we want. First of all, this is not true (seriously, how many women spent years pining over a guy who never gives them a second look?). But second, this completely ignores the mocking and bulling women face for their gender. onamission5 added this (here):

I honestly don’t know how to choose between boys barking, mooing, (and if I didn’t respond, escalating to pawing) at me in the halls, then laughing when I got upset, or guys behaving aggressively if I didn’t respond to their unwanted advances in the way they predetermined I ought. Either way I get my boundaries violated, either way I get to be disrespected as a person due to someone else’s perceptions of my gender, either way the world is not a safe place. It’s just unsafe for different reasons. And then guys wonder why we don’t always want to talk to them. It’s because someone who seems nice at first can become decidedly Not Nice in a flash, and it’s impossible to always tell who is capable of what.

To a nerdy guy, finding romance (or sex) may look labyrinthian or even impossible, but to a nerdy girl (and often to any girl at all), existing while female can be like navigating through a mine field.

One last thing I want to add. There was a new commenter on my post of a week ago asking for advice on getting dates and so forth, but it quickly became apparent that his approach was part of his problem. He kept talking about what “women” want and what “women” are looking for, and treating romance as some sort of code he needed to crack and solve. As a woman, I find this incredibly off-putting. I don’t want to be approached as a puzzle to solve, I want to be approached as a person. We women are not a foreign species, and I for one would rather not be treated as one.

I suppose my main message here is that nerdy guys who feel thwarted in love and romance (and sex) need to stop for a moment and reconsider what it is like to go through life as a woman—and as a teenage girl. We don’t hold all of the cards any more than they do, and all too often we hold fewer. We shouldn’t have to deal with entitlement and resentment on top of everything else.


Je Suis.....
I am Charlie Hebdo, the French satirical magazine where twelve people were shot dead by religious fanatics for the capital crime of drawing the prophet Mohammed.


I am Ahmed, the Muslim cop who defended the principles of free speech on which Charlie Habdo relied, who those same religious fanatics also shot dead.


I am every other satirist wondering which religious fanatic is going to shoot at me next.


I am a nameless Muslim teenager in the slums surrounding Paris, whose detachment from French society is nearly impossible to talk about because French law all but forbids such discussions, and yet, whose religion and culture Charlie Habdo habitually satirized.


I am an 18-year-old kid from those same slums, who watched too many slickly produced ISIS videos, and who just woke up to the fact that this falsely-so-called jihad shit ain't all it's cracked up to be.


I am a French voter giving Marine Le Pen another look.


I am the aging war hero neoconservative Senator on the Sunday morning talk shows who argued for arming the very religious fanatics that probably carried out the attack.


I am the news producer playing an endless loop of the attack, carefully edited so's not to show too much blood, rubbing his hands at the prospect of what kind of war ratings this could generate later.


I am the ISIS asshole who's producing another slick video.


I am the FBI analyst who's trying to figure out whether to put maxomai on a watch list for this post.


I am the Kurdish woman on the front lines, hair tied back with a beautiful scarf, FN-FAL throwing lead at an ISIS position, war photographers capturing her fight.


I am the Syrian mother nobody sees, just trying to get by in a Lebanese or Turkish refugee camp.


I am another would-be Caliph.


I am Barack Hussein Obama, leader of the Free World.




And I am the blowback from the Syrian Civil War, the Iraq War, the Gulf War, the Afghan Civil War, the Cold War, World War Two, the Great War, and Crimean War....

And man, I wish we could figure this shit out.

When the wrong Senator from California announces her retirement

Why why why.

Why is Barbara Boxer retiring from the Senate and not Dianne Feinstein?

Tuesday CHEERS and JEERS!
CHEERS to the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. Why? Because they've found a way to possibly re-open the case against Darren Wilson and investigate Bob McCulloch, the special prosecutor in charge of his case. This would go a long way to holding Mr. Wilson accountable. If they would do the same for Daniel Pantaleo, the officer involved in the death of Eric Garner in New York City, they would have a better case. Either way, we go along way towards holding bad cops accountable, which is one of the big demands of the "Hands Up, Don't Shoot" protesters.

CHEERS to Doctor Nerdlove for this fair and balanced takedown of Professsor Scott Aaronson's geeks-feminism-and-romance thread (which is, by the way, itself quite worth slogging through). Between Aaronson's blog and its many comments, Laurie Penny's excellent rejoinder, and this thread, we have three classics on the problems with the myth of nice guys. It's not easy reading, but it's valuable.

(Note: I have a couple of issues with Dr. Nerdlove, but that piece in particular is praiseworthy.)

FEH to Jeb Bush, who today filed paperwork to start his own PAC. That brings him one step closer to declaring his Presidential candidacy, and to the Clinton versus Bush race of 2016 we're all looking forward to. Right? Okay, take that gun out of your mouth. If the prospect of a Clinton vs. Bush race in 2016 depresses you, consider Rand Paul if you're a Republican --- and Jim Webb if you're a Democrat. They're both second tier at best, but they both also are your best bet if you're opposed to the agenda Clinton and Bush have in common: eternal war and the police state.

JEERS to New York State, which has apparently seized four guns held by a retired cop after he was hospitalized for insomnia. This is yet another clusterfuck to demonstrate that the NY SAFE act is a badly written law, and another demonstration of why you don't write legislation while your ass is on fire. (We should have learned this lesson with the PATRIOT act, but we never do, do we?)

JEERS to Sony. $1200 for a portable FLAC player that runs a three-year-old version of Android? No thanks. Sorry folks, but I'm simply not convinced that there's that big a difference between FLAC and 192kb/s MP3. (By the way, Sony, I still can't connect my streaming video player to your servers. What's up with that?)

CHEERS to the C&J format, which I'm going to revive for a little while in place of the miscellany. It gives me more room to do what I really like, which is pontificate. Tell me what you think in the comments.

Apple: It's The Engineering, Stupid
Spoiler alert: I like Apple products. I'm not a true Apple Fanboy, but I have an Apple laptop that has become my go-to all-purpose personal machine, and an iPod Classic that I've come to depend on to maintain my personal sanity during flights, commutes, etc. Their hardware has been outstanding for the last decade-plus.

Apple's software has been a different story. A few years ago I had an issue with my MacBook Pro such that the hard drive kept getting corrupted, causing the machine to crash. Replacing the motherboard didn't fix the problem. Eventually Apple issued an upgrade, and that fixed the problem, but the lack of transparency on Apple's part was dumbfounding. I had better transparency from Microsoft by that point, and that's saying something.

As such, I have some experience with Apple products, and I take some issue with Marco Arment's rant on Apple's software. OS X is probably the best personal use operating system on the market, and it also has the benefit of being real UNIX. But I do sympathize with him in this regard: it feels like the company is sacrificing good design in a vain attempt to reach out to new customers, and they're alienating old customers in the process.

For example, let us consider the abysmal failure of Final Cut Pro X (2). They ripped out most of the functionality that professional video editors relied upon to get their work done in a timely manner; the result is, as one person put it, "a glorified iMovie." Most shops either stuck with FCP 7 or switched to competing products --- some of which, by the way, don't run on Mac. FCPX also cost Apple the good will of nearly the entire professional video production market space, and has yet to make a come-back, even with third party tools to make up for the features that were dropped from FCP7.

On a more personal note, there's my iPod. The main feature that I like about my iPod is that it stores ALL my music. I have over 70 GB of high-quality MP3s, and a few gigs of proprietary M4Ps. I can carry all that in my pocket with the iPod classic. Now that those have been discontinued, however, no Apple product gives me that option except for one (1) iPhone. Perhaps Apple considered that it would be better to push iPod Classic users to iPhone; and perhaps for their bottom line this is so. I don't like the iPhone platform, however; I much prefer Android. And so for me, the migration path isn't to iPhone, but to an Android that takes a large (128GB) micro-SD card, and to replacing my M4Ps with MP3s.

Once that's done, I actually don't need iTunes to sync my devices. That's a big deal. Now, I don't have to contend with vendor lock-in. Now, I buy the best laptop based on the merits, including what OS it runs. And while I like Mac OSX, I have a lot of Linux experience (my preference is Mint-KDE). I've also tried Windows 10 and it's pretty damned good. As such, there's a fair chance that Apple could lose me as a customer entirely, with my next laptop upgrade.

On the other hand, there's Apples failure to innovate in a timely manner. It's not that Apple invented the personal MP3 player or the smart phone; but Apple put together the personal MP3(-ish) player and the smart phone that defined the market. Such has not been the case with the smart watch. Everybody right now is counting on Apple to put out the market-defining smart watch, but as of this writing, the best one on the market is the Samsung Gear 2. It comes with a built-in camera. And of course, it runs Android, and to use it, you need a Samsung phone. Apple doesn't just need to meet that standard, it has to exceed it, and they need to do so before Samsung becomes the de-facto standard. Otherwise, that's more vendor lock-in they lose.

Apple still has time to recover from its mistakes of the last few years. Their history of producing Cadillac electronics --- not inventing but perfecting and then marketing --- still serves them well, FCPX being a notable exception. If they can find their way back to that tradition, then they can prove Marco Arment wrong. I hope they do so.

Repost: Leelah Alcorn and Evangelical Storytelling
As of this writing, Leelah Alcorn's family has held her funeral service, and have taken down her Tumblr page (as is their right -- she was a minor). However, nothing disappears forever on today's Internet. You can find her archived Tumblr here, including her final apologies and her suicide note. It should be noted that, while I sympathize with her pain, I disagree with her reasoning. I have many friends who made the transition as adults in their 20s, 30s, and 40s, and lived great lives in their new gender. IMO, her suicide was unnecessary and tragic.

I am not reposting this to condemn her parents --- at this point, they're basically powerless, and there's no point in me picking on them. I am posting this in order to point out that there exists a cultural divide that makes national consensus on gender, race, and sexual orientation, basically impossible. This is going to take a fight, and it's going to get ugly.

Originally posted by lovejoyfeminism at Leelah Alcorn and Evangelical Storytelling

Over the past week, I have processed Leelah Alcorn’s death as yet one more tragic story of what can happen when transgender teens are denied access to the care they need. Leelah’s parents were conservative evangelical Christians, and when Leelah told them at age 14 that she was transgender, they responded very badly. Leelah tried coming out as gay instead in order to ease people into it, but her parents responded by cutting her off from her support network, opting to homeschool her. On December 28th, Leelah walked in front of a truck.

This story has affected a lot of people I know, especially LGBTQ individuals who grew up in evangelical homeschool families. But as I was thinking about the story again yesterday, I took a moment to consider how evangelicals will interpret Leela’s death. I was raised evangelical myself, and have often dug into evangelicals’ views on LGBTQ issues here on my blog. What struck me as I thought about Leelah’s death is that even as LGBTQ activists (including myself) place blame on evangelical teachings about gender and sexuality, many evangelicals will place the blame on LGBTQ activists.

As I was putting this post together, I scoured the internet for evangelical articles on Leelah’s death, but did not find any. It may be that the articles are yet to be written, or it may be that evangelicals are sitting this one out. Either way, what follows is based on my understanding of overarching patterns in evangelicals’ approach to LGBTQ suicides and support groups. If anyone has come upon evangelical articles on this story in particular, feel free to leave a link in the comments.

Many evangelical Christians view transgender individuals as degenerate and dangerous, a view perhaps best summarized in Michelle Duggar’s robocall last summer portraying transgender individuals as child predators. But there are also many evangelicals who see transgender individuals as “confused and hurting people” who need salvation through Jesus and Christian counseling to steer them toward satisfaction in their “god-given” genders and gender roles.

Perhaps you are wondering why this matters. On some level, it does not. These evangelicals too would see transgender teens like Leelah denied access to LGBTQ support groups and forced to attend various forms of “reparative” counseling. These evangelicals are just as much responsible for Leelah’s death as are those who view transgender individuals as dangerous predators. But on another level, it does matter.

I would love to be able to flip a switch and bring transgender individuals national acceptance and support, but I can’t. Instead, the fight for transgender rights and acceptance is a long, slow battle that still has quite a way to go. If we want to understand it is so difficult to bring change on an issue that to so many can seem so simple, we need to understand how individuals who oppose transgender rights and acceptance interpret tragedies like Leelah Alcorn’s death.

To those of us who support transgender rights and acceptance, what happened to Leelah seems straightforward. Guided by their religious beliefs, her parents refused to accept that she was transgender and instead isolated her from her LGBTQ support network and took her to counselors who told her that the body dysphoria she felt—and who she believed she was—was disordered and against God’s plan. But for many evangelicals, what happened fits into an entirely different narrative.

Let’s look just for a moment at LGBTQ suicides in general. LGBTQ activists (including myself) understand the high gay teen suicide rate as a result of bullying and a lack of acceptance. The thing is, evangelicals are aware of the high gay teen suicide rate as well, and while some may rub their hands in glee at the number of gay teen lives lost as a result of bullying etc., many others have a different explanation for the number of gay teen suicides itself. They argue that it is being gay that leads to the suicides, completely irrespective of bullying or anything else.

Here is an excerpt from a post I wrote on this topic two years ago (emphasis added):

To evangelicals, the problem is gay activism. These teens, evangelicals argue, committed suicide not because they were bullied or made to feel worthless, but rather because they were gay. Being gay is a “destructive lifestyle” that leads to high suicide rates, spiritual darkness, devastating diseases, and, finally, death. The solution is not to validate these teens’ “homosexual temptations” as gay activists would. The solution is not to tell these teens that “this is how you are and you can’t change” but rather to work to change these teens so that they can live long happy godly lives.

Many evangelicals aware of Leelah’s suicide will likely believe that it was telling Leelah Alcorn that being transgender was natural and okay that was the problem—and that what Leelah needed was Jesus, Christian counseling, and fellowship with believers. The idea is that if no one had encouraged Leelah by giving her the idea that being transgender was a thing, she would have been able to listen to and follow the guidance of her pastor and parents, and, ultimately, would have become comfortable with the gender she was assigned at birth.

In other words, evangelicals who hear of the story will interpret what happened to Leelah in a way that is completely upside down from everyone else.

Why does this matter? Quite simply, because the narratives evangelicals have constructed can make them impervious to being moved by even the most tragic case. What we see as clear and obvious evidence that transgender teens need acceptance and support they see as clear and obvious evidence that transgender activism ends lives. This is one of the things that makes progress on this issue so difficult—and that is why it matters. It is these narratives we must dismantle and deconstruct if we are to ever reach a point where transgender individuals are accepted as whole and healthy instead of derided as disordered and sinful. We have work to do.

And with that, here’s to Leelah, and making a difference.

Leelah Alcorn

About the #SugarBowl..... #GoDucks
I predicted that Oregon would beat Alabama to win the national championship.

I was wrong.

Congratulations, Ohio State. See you in Texas on the 12th.

Go Ducks!

And now for the end of the year CHEERS and JEERS.

CHEERS to the Dakota oil boom. Yes, fracking and local inflation have caused a lot of problems, but consider what the oil boom has bought us: jobs, cheap gas ($2.13 a gallon for the cheap stuff!!!), more consumer spending, more jobs, and both Russia and Iran have found themselves between a rock and a hard place. Americans are confident about the economy for the first time since Obama took office. And it's all going to be great as long as the oil doesn't run out...........

JEERS to the Ferguson PD, Special Prosecutor Robert McColloch, Ferguson Mayor James Knowles III ("There's no racial divide" - really?), and Missouri Governor Jay Nixon. Killing Mike Brown was bad enough. The bungled, antagonistic response to the community made things a thousand times worse. Things are going to need to change, and those changes include firing the mayor and the governor in the next elections. Which brings us to....

JEERS to the special prosecutor in the Eric Garner case. Maybe I should cheer him, since he made it crystal clear that even body cameras won't be sufficient to hold people accountable for excessive force; but the simple fact is that he didn't do his job. In case you're wondering, all these marches are basically demanding one thing: that you do your job and hold police accountable when they screw up.

JEERS to the Black Bloc --- the anarchist wing that's hijacked the police brutality protests in order to turn them to a call for revolution. Thanks for making it harder for the rest of the protesters to get their message across, you idiots.

JEERS to the Democratic Party. Bad campaigning and worse messaging doomed them in 2014; and, having abandoned the 50-state strategy in 2008, they are now left with little or no bench to speak of for the upcoming, very critical, 2018 and 2022 elections. Karl Rove envisioned a permanent Republican majority; the Democrats seem determined to do the bulk of the work towards that goal for him.

CHEERS to the European Space Agency for landing a robot on a fucking comet; to NASA for finding methane vents on Mars, which might point to actual microbial life; and to NASA again for finding over seven hundred planets orbiting other stars. We clever monkeys deserve to give ourselves a collective high-five for that.

JEERS to the European Space Agency's PR staff. You could have at least asked Matt Taylor to change shirts.

CHEERS to the end of the war in Afghanistan. Now that that's over, here's hoping we don't get involved in Iraq any time soon......actually, who am I kidding? We're going back to Iraq to clean up our mess one more time. As Jello Biafra said back in 1990....we can never, ever leave. So I hereby rescind my CHEER.

JEERS to John McCain. Last year we had to give weapons to ISIS to beat the Assad regime in Syria. This year we have to give weapons to the Assad regime in Syria to beat ISIS. Maybe the answer was to leave the Middle East alone the whole time? Are we ready to discuss that possibility yet? Maybe?

JEERS to Bill Cosby for decades of drugging young starlets. Ultimately it means that your career, once celebrated, now resembles a teacher's strike --- no class.

JEERS to the mainstream media's handling of the Ebola crisis. Boy, that was sure a hot story when the Republicans were making the case that things were bad under the Obama administration. Then the election happened, the outbreak in Dallas was contained, and the story just...went away. Almost like Ebola disappeared. Except that it hasn't, and now it's worse than ever, with over 20,000 infected and almost 8,000 dead, mostly in West Africa. Maybe the story got boring, but it's going to come back with a vengeance if the international community can't get it under control. You think that story would be worth reporting, but apparently not.

CHEERS to Taylor Swift. I'm not a huge fan of pop music in general, but you kicked ass this year. Congratulations on having the only album of 2014 to be certified platinum; you certainly deserve it.

CHEERS to the Oregon Ducks on their kick ass season. Now let's beat Florida State!

CHEERS to all our friends and colleagues from the World Horror Convention, the Lovecraft Film Festivals, and the Esoteric Book Conference. Thank you for making this a kick-ass year for me and SC. 2015 is going to be even busier and better for us! See you there?

CHEERS to Nate Pedersen and everyone else who participated in The Starry Wisdom Library. To quote contributor Edward Morris, "This is CANON! Mythos CANON!" SC's delight in particpaing in this project is only matched by my giddy, childlike delight at having so many friends and loved ones pitch in.

JEERS to everyone who keeps the Kardashian machine going by talking about them. Shut up. Sweet Jesus, just SHUT UP, so they can go away and never come back.

CHEERS to my long time pal C on her blossoming acting career. Do us proud!

CHEERS to Morbid Angel, Kreator, Arch Enemy, GWAR, Decapitated, Broken Bells, Deicide, Three Leg Torso, The Nowhere Men, The Wanderlust Circus, and everyone else who left it all on stage.

CHEERS to TeXShop and Atom, my favorite technological discoveries of 2014.

CHEERS to Veronica Chaos. Thank you for singing a duet with me at Jeff Burk's Halloween party.

CHEERS to Heather, Laura and D for being my friend these last twenty years. It's been a hard road for me, and I appreciate you helping me through it.

CHEERS to you for reading, and Happy 2015!

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