Archive for the ‘Musings’ Category

Smart teacher, silly parent

January 31st, 2014 1 comment

The system described in this blog is a great one and it would be smart if it were implemented in every classroom.

The writer has some unfortunately dangerous ideas about what teachers are and do. She describes teaching as a “sacred trust” and the teacher concerned as a “love ninja”.

Purple prose aside, teaching isn’t a sacred trust, it’s a job. An important, no, critical job of possibly unrivaled sensitivity, but it’s just a job.

Systems don’t achieve anything. People do. If you built a system that requires “love ninjas” instead of “paycheck cashers” that system is doomed to fail. And schools are failing. There are bright spots where good souls doing hard work achieve greatness but these do little more than show off how bad it is everywhere else.

We’ve got to stop looking at teachers like miracle workers and start building them a support structure that realizes a lot of them are not divinely inspired to illuminate eager minds. They’re doing a job, just a job. A critical job of unparalleled sensitivity, but a job nonetheless. They’re not superheroes. Let’s stop expecting them to be.

(h/t Kari M)

ps I’m experimenting with WordPress formats. Hold on.

Bums > Yuppies

January 16th, 2014 No comments

Steve Duin blog: Right 2 Dream Too is the Portland City Council’s ongoing nightmare

Frustrated when former Commissioner Randy Leonard shut down his adult bookstore on Fourth Avenue, Wright invited the homeless — in October 2011 — to squat indefinitely on the lot.

I like a dirty Old Town. Bums, junkies and dealers are in every respect superior to snotty yuppies and the mooks and hootchies, douchebags and woo girls who are trying to turn the area into whatever the fuck an “entertainment district” is.

I know that makes it a rough place to live and work. I’ve never worked in Old Town but I’ve lived nearby and I’ve spent a lot of time in those bars, where several times duty called to back up a bartender.

At any rate, NW Third never felt dangerous compared to SE 99th & Harold until Dirty opened up.

Give me bums and hookers any day.

(h/t @maxoregonian)


Political partisans make me swing. Stupid partisans.

December 26th, 2012 No comments

During the Age of Obama one might have mistook me for a liberal. Barack is a pretty moderate guy and he was pushing a reasonable, modest agenda. (sorry, Tea Party, Obamacare is a reasonable, modest proposal. No, wait, screw you Tea Party!) and the Republican opposition seemed oath sworn to drag America back to the Jim Crow, if not actual Antebellum, era.

Go back to the Clinton era (which, not a fan of the dickbag pseudoliberal who signed NAFTA) of lockstep politically correct bleeding heart-ism and you may have imagined me in a top hat, top coat and monocle.

I’m always out of step with the political mode because I HATE the political party. The very idea of them. Neither of the present ones are philosophically consistent because they’re founded in ultimately simplistic ideologies (GOP: backwardness, Dems: wishful thinking) but they twist otherwise reasonable people into accepting their contradictions because they’ve made themselves the only games in town. Which makes people buy into them and then it gets all tautological.

I’ll take the recent wave of gun control advocacy as an example. I really don’t care about the Second Amendment (or the other ones, actually), I care about self defense as an alternative to overbearing police power. And I really, desperately, seriously want to own a machine gun. Not a castrated “assault weapon”, but 650 rounds a minute of giggle inducing .223 Remington hosing. I’m not crazy, I’m not criminally minded, why shouldn’t I be allowed?

In a reasonable world there would be a way for sane, honest people to carry concealed weapons and own automatic weapons. They’re called shall issue screened licenses. Unfortunately the Democrats have fooled themselves into thinking with universal welfare and a universal gun ban everybody would be happy and play nice. Unfortunately the Republicans are stuck in some Little House on the Prairie fantasy land where a man’s log cabin is his castle and Judge Dredd is a documentary.

So where we are is the NRA resists every attempt to restrict gun access because the Bradies and Violence Policy Center prove that “slippery slope” is not an informal fallacy*. The VPC’s stated aims include banning civilian handguns (sorry, not giving them any traffic so no link). How are people interested in self defense supposed to compromise with that? We can’t, so we take the hard line lest we become completely dependent on cops for protection. So we fight, and people suffer.

So do the country a favor: drop your political party affiliation and think for yourself.

* although the right to life crowd’s infiltration of the federal judiciary already did that


The problem with the gun control debate

July 20th, 2012 No comments

The problem with the gun control debate is human nature.

A history professor once taught a class I was in that there are three major schools of thought on human nature.

The first is that people are basically good but are corrupted by society. He described this as St Augustine’s position, the accuracy of which I can’t personally confirm with my Associate Degree of Applied Science but I’ll roll with it.

This Augustinian position is the default position of those who believe in liberty. I’m not referring to the Democratic Party of the United States, so I didn’t want to say “liberal” up front. Both classic liberals like the Republican Party and social liberals like the Dems believe that people would be okay if X happened. For GOP X is a passive government and strong moral authority from churches or organizations like the Freemasons or American Legion. For Democrats it seems to be a program of civil rights and welfare, since it seems to have worked for Europe (I’d argue World War fatigue may have contributed more than the welfare state). Still, both sides believe if you fix society you can fix people.

I’m no Augustinian.

The second major view on human nature is that people are basically bad and society can make them behave. The prof said the best known proponent of this theory is Hobbes.

Hobbes believed that without a strong central government people will essentially go batshit. He put it more eloquently, but there it is. The Hobbesian view, which I enthusiastically endorse, is that people suck and we need to be tightly controlled to minimize the harm we do to each other. That is often termed authoritarianism, which is pretty well rejected by the classic/social liberal West.

The problem with the argument for gun control is that it’s based on the idea that people can be fixed, but people can’t be fixed. You can’t legislate or moralize away greed, discontent or simple madness, and a firearms prohibition won’t stop people who want guns from getting them.

The argument against gun control isn’t about fighting tyranny or whatever Second Amendment enthusiasts claim (as if they could survive a city SWAT team let alone an army, that’s where the anti-gun control position is flawed). The correct argument against gun control is: People Are Bad. Massacres like Aurora, Columbine or École Polytechnique can’t be prevented and they can only be stopped by someone with a gun in the right place at the right time. Not CCTV, not Guardian Angels or neighborhood watches, but people with guns.

That means we either have cops on patrol everywhere, all the time or we let people defend themselves. Which do you think is more consistent with this idea of freedom you have?

(if you’re curious, prof said the third idea was people are products of their environment, of which he said Marx was an example)

Let me tell you about my luggage fetish….

July 15th, 2012 No comments

I spent about an hour today laying out all the stuff I normally carry every day, making lists (not diagrams, thankfully, because I just thought of that now) and trying to figure out how to rearrange it all because I happened across the term “tactical wallet” online. I’m not sure what makes them tactical, they’re not bulletproof and they can’t be used as ziplines or anything. But they’re pretty damned cool.

I may have a problem.

I might not care.

About to click the link to “versipacks“. Don’t wait up.


North Carolina bans gay marriage, it’s called democracy, you got a problem with that?

May 8th, 2012 No comments

I VOTED AGAINST OREGON’S GAY MARRIAGE BAN. Keep that in mind before you get your respective underwears in bunches.

America isn’t ready for gay marriage. Like I alluded to above, Oregon of all places banned gay marriage (once again, I voted against that). The obvious rejoinder is America wasn’t ready for civil rights in the ’60s. Clearly America was at least a little more ready. Or maybe the opposition wasn’t as organized, or maybe the disdain wasn’t as deep. In any event, to your rejoinder I say, “Well lah-dee-dah.” This isn’t the ’60s and gay marriage isn’t civil rights. Hell, I’ve said this before so I’ll just quote myself.

Your one-sided moral outrage is just as reprehensible as theirs. A LOT of Americans view moral considerations as at least equal to fiscal or legal considerations. In a democracy their view is just as important and valid (I repeat JUST AS VALID) as yours.

In a democracy, opposing gay marriage is just as valid as supporting it. Your opinions and beliefs are not more important or more right than anyone else’s in a democracy, especially if you vote for the losing side. What this means is NORTH CAROLINA GETS TO BAN GAY MARRIAGE, unless the NC or US Supreme Courts say otherwise. That’s how democracy and rule of law works. You don’t get to only like it when votes and decisions go your way (and just to re-reiterate, I voted against Oregon’s gay marriage ban, so save your slurs). Now, the courts haven’t had their final say, but if you’re holding out hope Roberts’ conservative activist Supreme Court will overturn California Prop 8, well, good luck with that.

If it came up on the Oregon ballot, I’d vote to remove the ban. But I gotta be honest, I’m not crazy about gay marriage as a concept. It’s probably the closest to reasonable that we’re going to get, though. Marriage isn’t about love, it’s about making kids to inherit land (and I’ve just saved myself a follow up to this post). I think we should do away with the whole fucking primitive thing. But that’s not going to happen, so gay marriage is a bad second best.


Explaining traditional morality

March 28th, 2012 1 comment

I’m going to provide some rational background on the traditional morality behind the Santorums and the Limbaughs of the world for those that need it. I’m going to do it without referring to the Bible or really religion at all. I had a Sunday School upbringing, but as I’ve said elsewhere it wasn’t at a particularly conservative church and it was long before the legalistic Bible arguments gained mainstream attention with the Intelligent Design movement. So I’m no Biblical scholar and in any event most of the people I know are atheists (if not antitheists (I may have just coined that term, I dunno)) so Biblical explanations hold no water with them.

My knowledge of traditional morality comes more from my forced association with my redneck family. That’s as good a segue as any to stress that I’m not agreeing with or supporting the continued observation of traditional morality, rather I want to provide some perspective on it in reaction to some of the appallingly shallow moral outrage I’ve seen coming from birth control advocates.

Traditional morality is a combined security and economic regime.

I believe intellectuals call that a thesis statement.

Populations have to balance perpetuating the group with preventing being burdened by defenseless, unproductive units of the group, what we call babies. Without The Pill or other methods of modern, what I will from now on refer to as Effective Birth Control (although I won’t always title case it) the only way to do that is to determine when and how people had sex. Individuals generally want to get it on, so it was best to harness it until it was economically and security-wise safe to make babies.

Voila, pre-marital abstinence. No sex until marriage is the easiest and most effective way to manage the production of infants. And thus traditional morality was born, and it was born across a broad swathe of humanity, not just Levantine desserts. I supppose abstinence isn’t the only way after all, there’s infanticide. So marriage is good for something after all! Was, anyway.

But, you modern minded progressive types argue, those days are gone! We have effective birth control, why does traditional morality continue?

People make a virtue out of necessity.

It’s the simplest form of propaganda.

I believe this is the main reason we’re suffering this traditional morality hangover. Whether intentional (Santorum) or incidental (most grandmothers), pre-marital abstinence is a necessity that was made into a virtue.

The Pill is only about fifty years old.

Because this debate ain’t about rubbers.

The Occam’s Razor approved answer to the continued existence of traditional morality is simple habit, or macro-behavioral inertia if you must be fancy (I may also have invented that term). Fifty years is two generations, that’s a radical shift in behavior in a short time and you simply can’t expect everyone to get on board. If there’s one thing I want you to take away from this it’s that fact. The notion that sex without marriage is good is historically radical and the idea that sex without pregnancy is possible is evolutionarily radical. Never mind that both of those notions are awesome, it takes a while for such huge shifts in individual and cultural behavior to sink in. And unfortunately there’s political advantage to advocating for one side or another in such shifts. That’s on both sides

There. Traditional morality isn’t from Leviticus, it’s a combined security & economic regime that’s outlived its usefulness. So when you see/hear/read someone working themselves into a hand-wringing froth about how horrible effective birth control is, restrain your impulse to anger. People who want to turn back the clock look at the modern world with fear in their hearts. Traditional morality is EASY. Your decisions are mostly made for you. Living an independent life is hard. Approach with empathy and dialogue, fighting plays into their strategy anyway.

Wait a minute, why does traditional morality seem to only apply to women?

Right, forgot about that one, sorry. Well, it really doesn’t. It applies to both sexes but I will grant that it affects women more. But women have the uteruses, so how could it not? Not fair you say? What do ferris wheels and elephant ears have to do with it?

Also, as with any regime traditional morality has active and reactive elements. Keeping tabs on who’s fucking would be the rationing (economic rationing, not WW2 food coupons) and defense element. Knocking up other families’ and tribes’ daughters would be the competitive and offensive element of the economic and security regime. Messed up, eh? Welcome to humanity.


On the present birth control debate: You’re wrong

February 9th, 2012 No comments

I’m tired of writing this on Facebook over and over so I’m putting up something I can copy/paste or link to.

Requiring Catholic employers to provide birth control access to their employees is absolutely a violation of their religious freedom.

Now, I say fuck ’em. Even if you’re a Biblical literalist (which I am most certainly not) “be fruitful and multiply” was handed down after the Flood (Noah and the Ark for those whose Sunday School was a long time ago or nonexistent). The world has been plenty repopulated. Fundamentalists don’t give God enough credit as far as I’m concerned.

But there’s that stupid Constitution again. It says “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion” which is so hilariously overwritten a phrase that over TWO HUNDRED YEARS later it’s still up for debate. I’m of the camp that says it only means there will be no state church of the US. I’m fairly certain the more popular interpretation is more like churches can do a lot of stuff other entities can’t. Like have special exemptions from laws and regulations that conflict with their religions.

So take someone who thinks
God can’t tell what year it is and convince them that their church should get asterisks in the rule books and you have Catholics and probably a lot of Evangelicals that are really pissed right now. That’s what this is about.

Again, let me make my position on the matter clear: Fuck ’em. I favor birth control and I find their theological underpinnings invalid.

However, to birth control advocates I also say fuck you. Your one-sided moral outrage is just as reprehensible as theirs. A LOT of Americans view moral considerations as at least equal to fiscal or legal considerations. In a democracy their view is just as important and valid (I repeat JUST AS VALID) as yours. You can’t claim to have any superiority if you automatically assume that the whole thing is a cynical Machiavellian ploy to get votes. The likelihood of bad actors in the traditional morals camp is no more than it is in the post-sexual revolution (as good a neutral name as any, right?) camp.

You can hate someone for their beliefs, really I have no problem with that, but if you’re spouting ignorance of what they believe you’re just an asshole. And that’s fine, but take off the cloak of progressive open mindedness when you do it.


This old building…

December 16th, 2011 No comments

One of the (few) great things about working in an 80 year old building is putting yourself in the heads of people for whom the things they did were clever and novel.

Like using screws to hold in light fixture covers. Once, mass thread cutting was advanced technology.

Or using hallways to carry return air, so that when one uses a hallway one is walking through what everyone else has exhaled.

If someone did either of these today that person should never be allowed to design or install anything ever again. In the 20s, it was brilliant.


Mr Pibb float report

December 10th, 2011 No comments

Not as good an idea as it sounded. It’s not bad, but the vanilla ice cream flavor is close enough to the Mr Pibb (Pibb Xtra to be exact) that it’s a cup of nothing, really. Or maybe the flavors are opposite, the way a base and an acid of the same strengths make water. Hmmmm.

In possibly related news following one woman shopping is not even the same thing as following three women shopping.

Next blog: self-tattooing.