Epic Adventures in Aunting

Epic Adventures in Aunting

So, my niece Mini-me is down here making my life interesting. And, by “interesting,” I mean “why did you do that? What part of you considered it a good idea?”

An example of this that just happened: Mini-me has an old bike. She knows she is supposed to put it away when she’s not riding it. However, today she decided that “away” meant “right behind the Kabota.” Auntie GK needed to take some meat that had spoiled over to the dump so, like a moron, I got in the Kabota without checking all around it thoroughly to ensure that nothing would be destroyed. I put the thing in reverse and noticed that, after a few feet, it was dragging as if the tire was flat or something. So, I get out and lo and behold, there is a little girl’s bike wedged under the Kabota. And I mean wedged. As in “we’re going to need a hydraulic jack to lift the Kabota and get this baby out.”

So, I come inside to tell Mom and Mini-me about the demise of her bike. Mom takes it in stride — she’s raised two kids of her own and is used to Mini-me’s antics. Mini-me, on the other hand, is convinced that her Pawpaw is going to turn into a “complete psychomaniac” and seal her in a bottle and drop it in California. I’m just wondering how long the ribbing is going to go on over me running over her bike. This will probably be my Pizza Box story.

Kids. I love ’em.

— G.K.

Oh Really?

Oh Really?

Before we start: not all people living along the Coasts are jerks. Quite a few of you are awesome. You may not always agree with people out in Flyover but at least you’ve shown that you can shut up and listen. You don’t spend months lecturing us like we’re children and then turn around and try to act like you’re our patron saints. None of this is directed at those of you who get it. It’s directed at morons who can’t and won’t get it and who, in a few days, will be right back down to calling my lesbian sister a Literal Hitler because she voted for Trump.

Sorry, sometimes people post stuff on Facebook and I know that they mean well but it makes me want to hold AT&T to their old promise with a twist — instead of reaching out to touch someone, GK wants to reach out and smack a bitch.

Recently a few writers have been pointing out that poor whites in Appalachia and other places in Flyover Country have been getting a raw deal and no one cares. This is not news to any of us who have lived here. This is simply the normal state of affairs. Urbanites on the Coasts think we’re terrible, awful, horrible, evil, ignorant people and they feel oh-so-sorry for us because they’re so enlightened and if we’d just let them run our lives for us, they could create a Utopia tomorrow.

We generally roll our eyes, ignore them, and go on with our lives.

We’re pretty used to getting taken advantage of out here and skin color has fuck-all to do with it. Out of town companies come in, start stripping out natural resources, hire a few locals at low wages because the cost of living is low and the choice is “work for crap” or “be unemployed.” Naturally, the more ambitious of us opt to work for crap. We’re also all pretty decent at mathematics so we know that the trope of taking the CEO’s pay and dividing it amongst all the workers would result in, on average, maybe $50 a year more. Take the entire company’s profit and divvy it up and we get maybe an additional $200 a year. Of course, do either of those things and the company goes tits up but we also are smart enough to reason our way to that.

Want to know what keeps us down? Bullshit. That’s the answer. Elitist Bullshit. It’s gotten a lot harder to start your own business and run it out of your home until you make enough money to get an office. Why? Because you have to get a license, a permit, and insurance for everything because the elites on the Coasts have decided that we must be protected from everything and we get to pay for the privilege of that protection. Want to be a hair stylist? You have to go to school and get a license to do that. Want to open a car repair shop? Permit needed! Want to mow lawns or do landscaping? Permit required. Want to start a driving service for elderly folks? Yep, you gotta get a permit for that and hope like hell that you can avoid competing against the taxi services. Hell, if you want to do computer repairs, build websites, or do online marketing it’s getting to where you may need to be licensed to do them.

There’s also the fact that there are virtually no resources for helping people out here start small businesses. And, if you do start one, you lose any benefits you’ve been getting for being unemployed. It doesn’t matter if you aren’t making enough money the first few months to pay your bills — you’re working so no help for you! Oh, sure, you can get a loan but you have to have collateral and you have to be able to pay it back (with interest). If you fail, you’re pretty much screwed for life unless you come from a rich family.

Other things that keep us down are the crap over our flags and our history. Look, for Mississippi, changing the state flag is going to cost tens of millions of dollars. We would much rather that the tax dollars that would be used for that be put towards something like our school systems, helping the poor, and rebuilding parts of the state that got destroyed that year. Yes, we have a corrupt government and that sucks out a lot of money but the only folks who aren’t corrupt are the ones who aren’t interested in running for office. That’s pretty much par for the course where ever you go, though. However, if we’re getting boycotted or having investment opportunities denied to us because we prioritize improving our lives over making a bunch of idiots who want to white-wash history and have us forget what a horrible thing the Civil War was, then yeah, we’re really going to listen to you. *eyeroll*

Lastly, it’s funny how easy it is for so many of you to talk down to us, tell us how to vote, tell us how to think, tell us what we should be doing but it’s really damned difficult for any of you to actually do something other than run your mouths. Right now my home city has suffered through a water mains burst that has close to 30k people without water. The only people I see doing anything about it are those of us who live here. Those of us who live out in the county and are unaffected by the outage are opening our homes to friends, family, and acquaintances who are impacted. The entire area is going out and getting all the bottled water they can and setting up distribution centers to get it out for free. Churches and fire departments and the working water system (Culkin) are organizing themselves to help others. Why? Because that’s what we do, dipshits. When life goes sideways, we actually do more than fart words. We get out and help each other because we know that all we’ll get from the Coasts is a bunch of tut-tutting, “how awful,” and maybe $5. When some of our cities on the Gulf Coast get obliterated, we get reamed for living there — never mind that there is not a single. fucking. place. on. the. continent. that doesn’t have freaky weather events.

We still have a community out here in Flyover Land. We still pitch in and help each other. We stick together. Urbanites don’t do that. Urbanites think that the government is supposed to take care of everything from cradle to grave. Out here, we know that government will only screw things up so we set up something that will work. We volunteer. We don’t sit on our hands and cry “poor, pitiful me!” We roll up our sleeves, hit the store, buy whatever we can, and give it to those who need it. We donate to our churches who go out every day and help the poor. We volunteer to teach adult education classes.

Frankly, it gets annoying to see people on the Coasts who have spent the past several months referring to everyone in Flyover as Literal Hitlers, Neo-Nazis, or whatever because they voted for Trump in droves suddenly start acting like they’re ready to be BFFs. If you want to help us, quit talking down to us and start businesses here. Come in and help us build better school systems instead of shackling us with crap like Common Core. Shut your pie-holes and listen because we live here. We grew up here. We’re part of this place and it’s part of us. You only experience it from 35k feet in the air. We know our people. We know our communities. We know how your utopian bullshit will just set up perverse incentives for the worst among us and will magnify problems instead of fixing them.

We don’t need your patronizing attitudes. We need you to quit looking down on us because we don’t want to be jam-packed into cities that have to import water and are too filled with morons to build desalinization plants — not to mention are built on a fucking FAULT LINE. We prefer to have our space, to live closer to nature, and to distribute our culture a bit more sparsely so that one major disaster won’t shatter all the eggs.

So, the next time one of you wants to show how “compassionate” you are by sharing articles about people, places, and cultures you routinely insult, denigrate, and couldn’t begin to understand just stop. Just fucking stop already. We’re tired of it.

— G.K.

PS — Once again, not all people living along the Coasts are jerks. Quite a few of you are awesome. You may not always agree with people out in Flyover but at least you’ve shown that you can shut up and listen. You don’t spend months lecturing us like we’re children and then turn around and try to act like you’re our patron saints. None of this is directed at those of you who get it. It’s directed at morons who can’t and won’t get it and who, in a few days, will be right back down to calling my lesbian sister a Literal Hitler because she voted for Trump.

Ah, my old friend…

Ah, my old friend...

So, recently I decided I was a bit sick of being overweight and out of shape. So I decided to 1) go on a ketogenic diet (it’s working), 2) start hitting the gym (thank God I can download Sherlock to my Kindle and have something to watch while I’m killing myself on the elliptical), 3) stopped taking OTC sleep aids since they screw up metabolism.

Number Three has resulted in the return of my old friend insomnia.

Now, a lot of people think “oh, I have trouble sleeping from time to time so I have insomnia” or “I didn’t sleep last night (but I normally sleep every night). Must be insomnia.” When I hear that kind of talk, it takes a lot of will power not to start a murder spree.

Insomnia is not having trouble sleeping once in a while. For me, it’s the normal state of affairs wherein, even when completely exhausted, I cannot fall asleep or remain asleep for longer than an hour. Currently, this acute bout has been on-going for almost a week and I’m beginning to reach the stage where punch-drunk becomes a permanent thing. Yes, I have cut out caffeine after noon. Yes, I have filters on my monitors, phone, and Kindle to make them more amber and less serotonin-inducing blue. Yes, I have tried every home remedy, every relaxation technique, and even considered sacrificing a goat to Cthulhu just to be sure I’ve covered the ‘praying’ base adequately.

And yes, cat naps are about the best I can do.

Long-term, I’ve been like this since college at least. This is why, when I do manage to get some “real” sleep, it’s usually around 5 am and I will stay crashed until around 11 am (or later!) Bear in mind, I will have been in bed since 11 pm (though, to be fair, I do get up at 1 or 2 am out of sheer frustration and go smoke and let my dog use my hand as a chew-toy).

Why haven’t I gone to a doctor and gotten back on Restoril or tried Ambien? Oh…you really don’t want to ask me that but since you made that mistake…

I have insurance. I have it through the state exchange since I am, to be precise, skint. However, the insurance offered through the exchange is not accepted by any doctors in my state because said insurance won’t pay out anything. Therefore, I’m paying around $200 a month for a card that will, at best, allow me into a hospital in the event of a catastrophe. It won’t pay for anything — that’ll all come out of my pocket, natch — but it will let a bunch of morons clustering together in easily-targeted regions feel better about themselves.

So, yeah, I can’t exactly go to a doctor and get on something that will let me sleep.

God, you have no clue just how much I want to sleep, either. Probably the only person on this planet who knows what I’m like when this happens is my ex who had to deal with me working long hours on little sleep back in the era when Talent Calculators had to be translated by hand (apparently I once slept-tanked a Naxx 10 raid after pulling back-to-back sixteen hour days for four days straight — I vaguely recall pulling Anub’Rekhan. After that, nothing. The next day I woke up thinking I had missed the raid which amused my husband who told me I’d gone, done well, and we had cleared three wings before he realized I was playing with my eyes closed and told my guild that I was asleep and had been for several bosses).

At any rate, at least I’ve had a lot of extra time for writing.

Yeah, so, toodles!

— G.K.

Dear Fellow Fanfic Writers…

Dear Fellow Fanfic Writers...

First of all, I want to compliment you all on actually writing something. Some of you have actually written works that are better than the stories told in canon. I salute you and hope that you continue your endeavors. Reading your works has been entertaining and enlightening, not to mention gratifying as it reminds me that there are people out there who can speak and write English properly. Yes, you may have the odd spelling mistake, typo, or minor grammar error here and there but that’s only because proofreading your own work is nigh on impossible.

However, there are very few of you in the category above. The rest of this missive is directed at the vast majority of you hanging out on AO3, FF.net, and Tumblr who have kindled my ire to such a degree that I have spent hours watching YouTube videos on how to operate a backhoe so that I can dig a deep enough hole to find fissionable materials in hopes of either 1) escaping the planet we are currently forced to share or 2) blowing up said planet as an act of penance to any superior lifeforms out there who might have stumbled upon your crap.

Let us discuss a few things frankly, escritor a escritor, shall we?

1) Spelling matters. I don’t care what you think. Spelling matters. Word choice matters. I have put down stories because the first paragraph had five or more spelling mistakes that rendered it nearly incomprehensible. Oddly enough, those of you with the worst spelling are the first ones to wonder why you don’t get reviews and to get offended when someone tells you that it’s because you need to use spellcheck.

You don’t want to be this guy, do you?

There is no such thing as “alot.” There is such a thing as “allot” which means “to give or apportion something.” “Of” is a preposition, not a form of “have.” “Accept” means “to welcome, great, or take something in willingly” as in “I accept your apology.” “Except” means “excluding this” or “other than this” as in “You are talented in everything except the ability to use a spellchecker.” Effect is the impact an action or ingredient has upon another thing. Affect is to have an effect. Water has an effect on fire. Fire is affected by water. The difference is subtle but important. You offer apologies in order to apologize to a person; you don’t apologies to them. You lose the love of your life; you let loose the dogs of war. You wait with bated breath. If your breath is baited, then you’ve been eating worms.

A few more before I finish: “it’s” means “it is.” “Its” is possessive. “There” means a place like over there. “Their” means a possession belonging to them such as “their house.” “They’re” means “they are.” “Your” is possessive. “Yours” is also possessive. “Your’s” doesn’t bloody exist. “You’re” means “you are.” “Your welcome to this house of yours shows me that you’re sincere in your desire to make peace.”

If I can get them right, then so can you.

2) Typography and formatting matter. If your idea of formatting is a great big block of text, I’m not reading it. Break it up into paragraphs. A paragraph generally covers one central idea. Also, you may notice that your words appear on a screen and not a sheet of paper and that word-wrapping happens automatically without you needing to hit “Return” at the end of a line. That’s because you are typing on a computer, not a typewriter! That also means that you put only one space after terminating punctuation (and if you don’t know what terminating punctuation is, you are either too young to be reading this blog or you need to go and apologize to every teacher you have ever had).

In electronic publication (meaning “online posting”), there are no indents at the start of a paragraph. Instead, you add an extra linebreak between paragraphs. If you have a change in point-of-view, perspective, or locale within a chapter, you indicate the break in scene with a centered scenebreak. Some writers use “###” but I prefer “~*~*~*~” or “* * *” because the first one is also used at the end of a manuscript to indicate that it is the end.

If you don’t know how to center text, it’s Ctrl + E in just about any word processor I know of. For HTML, if there isn’t a WYSIWYG bar for formatting, it’s <p align=”center”>text to be centered</p>

3) If you write a sex scene, I will be able to tell if you’re experienced or at least consulted with someone experienced. If you aren’t experienced, for the love of Cthulhu, ask someone who is.

I’m fairly certain that this one needs no further explanation. If it does, don’t write sex scenes.

Seriously, if you ask me to explain this one, Godzilla will facepalm and I will headdesk

4) Pick a POV style and, for the love of Galileo, stick with it. The same goes for verb tense, by the way.

If you start off telling the story in first person, stay in first person. The narrator is telling the story from their personal point of view and the reader is only privy to such things as the narrator would know, think, or notice. The narrator is not omniscient and cannot tell what another character is thinking directly. They can, at best, intuit it through facial expressions, body language, or tone of voice. Unless you are writing a psychic or telepathic character, the narrator cannot read minds.

Don’t write stories in second person. Just. Don’t.

If you are writing in third person, decide if you are doing third person limited (deep included), third omniscient, or third limited changing POV. Limited means that the point of view narrator or narrators are limited to one or a few characters. In deep third, you’ll do away with immersion-breaking dialogue indicators and generally will stick to one character as the narrator per book or per chapter. The reader will know only what that character knows but will be privy to information the character does not directly observe or to the intention behind other character’s words, actions, or expressions. In third omniscient, the author shows the motivations and internal monologues of all or most characters. In third limited changing, the narrator is always a character but the point of view character can change from scene to scene.

I myself usually write in third limited changing.

With regards to verb tense — past tense, please. Do not write stories in present or future tense. All action in narrative should be past tense. The characters might speak of something they are doing or they will do. They might have an internal monologue in present or future tense. But the actual action of the story should be in the past tense. If you’re not certain of how that works, here’s a sample:

Frank watched as Mitchell prepared the slide. They both wanted to know what had killed their neighbor.

“What do you see, Mitch?” Frank asked after Mitchell had studied the sample for several long, silent moments.

“I see trouble,” Mitchell sighed. “His blood was clean. No poison, no toxins.”

“But there wasn’t a mark on his body. No signs of asphyxiation or strangulation. Healthy men do not just keel over dead!” Frank protested.

“Well, it will take an autopsy to tell you more, Frank. There is not a damned thing on this slide that says he met any kind of foul play.”

Putting that in present tense would be very immersion-breaking. Putting it in future tense would have the reader wondering if you had lost your damned mind.

5) Don’t build in tension needlessly. This one I sometimes have trouble with myself. I’ll want my readers on edge for something but, if you build up tension, there needs to be a release. If you keep people stewing for too long, they will put your work down. If you never have a pay off, they’ll be rather upset. That doesn’t mean you need to rush things; it means you need to check the pacing. It also means you don’t throw in a bunch of tangential tragedies or misunderstandings just to keep people on tenterhooks. And yes, it is “tenterhooks” and not “tenderhooks.”

Pacing matters. If you’re writing a slow burn love story, you don’t have the characters get together in the second chapter. You also don’t have them get together in the very last chapter (at least not for the first time). If you’re writing an adventure, your heroes do not beat the Super Villain at the end of chapter one. They also don’t beat him in the penultimate or ultimate chapter. If the last damned line of your story is “the good guys won over the bad guys,” I will personally hunt you down and beat you within an inch of your life.

6) Beta readers are not all editors and editors are not beta readers. Yes, good betas will generally point out typos, misspellings, and grammar errors. However, their job is primarily to give you feedback on how well the chapter progresses the story, how plausible the actions and inner monologues are, how in-character things are, and to help you with internal consistency. Editors, on the other hand, are going to focus on grammar, spelling, word choice, and the way that paragraphs flow and transition. They may not notice internal inconsistencies or your characters doing things completely out of character for them. I can and have done both but they are different processes so I have to focus on one during one read-through and the other during the second.

7) Content labels are fine. Trigger warnings are stupid. It is fine to label your story with content warnings such as “swearing,” “non con,” “M/M,” “F/F,” “F/M,” or the like. Certain people may not want to read a story with a lot of swearing or a lot of sex or certain kinds of pairings. That’s fine. But trigger warnings are stupid and show that you are ignorant about what PTSD actually is and how it works.

If someone is “triggered” by words on a page, then they probably should be institutionalized. Most people with PTSD will never be triggered by mere words on a page. It will be sounds (such as explosions or gunfire), smells, or conditions that are physically occurring around them that trigger them to have a flashback episode. This is why concert venues, movie theaters, and other live performances will sometimes give warnings that the event taking place will involve gunfire, explosions, pyrotechnics, or sudden loud noises. Treatment for PTSD involves gradually re-exposing the person to the things that trigger them so that they will become desensitized to them and will no longer be triggered to have a flashback whenever a car backfires.

So, unless you are embedding video in your story, it doesn’t need a trigger warning. A content label will do fine for those who wish to avoid certain types of stories. Putting a trigger warning in it only diminishes and makes light of actual PTSD.

How do I know this? One, I have read up on PTSD and treatment for it. Two, I have friends who have gone through it. Three, I have dealt with a mild case of it myself in the months after I was carjacked and kidnapped at gunpoint. That’s how I know.

8) Again, for the love of Cthulhu, learn what certain idiomatic expressions actually are as opposed to what you’ve misheard them as. The phrase is “for all intents and purposes” not “for all intensive purposes.” “Irregardless” isn’t a word — you’re looking for “regardless.” “Literally” means that something could actually happen the way described. “Could care less” means that you do care to some degree.

This list is, of course, not comprehensive or all-inclusive. However, it covers the most common mistakes I’ve seen. Please try to do better in the future because I am very frightened that some of you might represent fan-writers to the general public.

Hugs and kisses!

— G.K.

Wizard’s First Rule

Wizard's First Rule

Update: After posting this, I read Sarah Hoyt’s post today and it’s got an interesting take on the same problem. For her, it’s the elites who have gotten out of touch (and they have) and the people are seeing that the Emperor has no clothes and it’s creating a lot of problems for everyone. I encourage you to head over there and read her post.

I’ve been forcibly reminded of Terry Goodkind’s wizard’s rules over the past few weeks since the inauguration. The first of these rules sums up everything: People Are Stupid.

I’m not just talking about Trump voters or Hillary voters here. I’m talking about the ones on both sides who reduce everything to politics. The ones who are so religious with it that they’re shunning non-believers. These two groups are so incredibly similar that I actually have difficulty telling them apart. They differ only in which particular aspects of life they wish to dictate upon. Neither of them can imagine that any reasonable or rational person could hold an opinion that differs from their own. They’re so insulated in their bubbles that they actually fear those who question their religion. And I do mean “religion” here. Politics, for normal people, refers to “the activities associated with the governance of a country or other area, especially the debate or conflict among individuals or parties having or hoping to achieve power.” These folks aren’t political anymore. They’re religious and they will never question their religion anymore than a devout Muslim will question the existence of Allah, a practicing Jew will question the Exodus, or a Catholic will question transubstantiation.

Which brings me back to “People Are Stupid.” Right now, we essentially have two groups of nearly identical theocrats fighting each other for power. When one gets the reins, the other flips right out and the conspiracy theories start flying. These are the people who make me understand that Loki from the Avengers had a damned good point with his speech.

Kneel before me. I said… KNEEL! Is not this simpler? Is this not your natural state? It’s the unspoken truth of humanity that you crave subjugation. The bright lure of freedom diminishes your life’s joy in a mad scramble for power. For identity. You were made to be ruled. In the end, you will always kneel.

It’s taken me a while to wrap my head around this but it is very true. There are people — perhaps the vast majority of people — who desire subjugation. They want to be ruled with an iron hand. They want someone else to make the decisions, to tell them what is right, to dictate every aspect of their lives to them. They don’t want to sit down and do the hard and messy work of reasoning out a moral code. They don’t want to have to consider all the different angles and aspects of their choices. They don’t want to grow up. These are the kinds of people who flock to support monarchs, dictators of one stripe or another. One group wants to make decisions about who can get married to whom, keep things as they “always” have been, and not have to tackle questions that might possibly lead away from easily answers intuited during the Iron Age. The other group wants to dictate what people can think, what they can say, how they can feel about others, and to punish anyone who dares to be a square peg in their Round Hole Utopia. Both groups cite guys with beards who either wrote books or had books written about them, who claim that their followers are superior to non-believers, and that both groups will get to live a utopian existence. Both groups believe they are the more intelligent and that the other is filled with either Literal Hitlers, fools, or dupes.

Thing is, both groups are idiots. They just cannot see it. It’s not that they don’t want to see it, mind. It is that they, quite literally, cannot. The cognitive dissonance is too much for them so their minds shut down and they go to flinging insults at anyone who points this out to them. It was seeing people whom I had once considered intelligent do that very thing that made me realize that they do this not out of any kind of rational argument or strength of position or surety that the facts will bear out their view; they do this just like any devout believer lashes out when you begin pointing out inconsistencies in their religion. They did not reach this set of beliefs through logic or reason; they reached it through Teh Feelz(TM).

I actually feel sorry for people like that. They’ll never be able to change and they will always hold the rest of us back because they can’t understand that feelings aren’t useful. They also will never be able to actually convince anyone to adopt their views since they can’t articulate what they are, why they hold them, and what is good about them. They can only explain these things using invective and inflammatory language to contrast themselves to Those Other Guys. And God help you if you point out a potential issue with one of their core beliefs. Then you really get to see a screaming fit. This is why I’m beginning to think, in the interests of actually having separation of church and state, we need to chuck both parties out on their ear.

— G.K.

Oy Vey…

Oy Vey...

This is just a quick update to apologize for the lack of posting this week. It’s a combination of new job and a few big projects wrapping all at once. Hopefully the madness, she will slow down a little soon. But, September is looking to be kind of a bad month so I may not be able to blog every single day. I’ll try to commit to at least four out of seven, though.


Politics and Television

Politics and Television

Or “Why G.K. Didn’t Watch The Debate.”

Oh dear Lord, we’re going into another active phase of the perpetual election cycle, aren’t we? Last week we got to see the spectacle that was the GOP debate and, while I didn’t watch it live because I knew that, even with it being on Fox with supposedly “friendly” moderators, the talking-heads weren’t going to be able to resist their chance to ham it up for the cameras and that the entire thing was going to be more about ginning up the ratings for the sponsors than it was going to be about the candidates actually, you know, talking about the issues and debating different approaches following set logical rules and avoiding logical fallacies such as strawman, reductio ad absurdum, tu quoque, ad hominem, appeals to (false) authority, special pleading, No True Scotsman, post hoc, and more while presenting actual evidence and solid reasoning for their beliefs or policy.

Can you tell I’m a bit of a throwback and a cynic? Television has ruined a lot of things and debate, argumentation, and critical thinking are among those things. It’s a great medium for entertainment and it can be used for education, yes, and story-telling. Don’t get me wrong — I’m not one of those who thinks that television is completely evil and has no redeeming qualities. I enjoy it — I have an active Netflix account and I’ve got Criminal Minds playing in the background. But, when it comes to journalism, television is the worst medium that could be used. It doesn’t allow for truly in-depth coverage, cross-referencing, citation of sources, or deep thought. Newspapers are the best medium for daily coverage and bi-weekly or monthly magazines are great for bigger events or more thorough coverage of events or technical issues. Radio can be a passable medium so long as the moderators and the debate format are agreed to in advance and the topics are adhered to. Television, however, will never make a good medium for political debates or journalism.

Why? Because it’s commercial. And, that’s good for entertainment. Hell, it’s great. It means that businesses and consumers are free to reward shows and sponsors and channels that entertain them or tell stories they like or support or whatever without having to directly own the studios or airwaves or whatever. There’s no real need for government intervention, censorship, or anything like that other than “truth in advertising” laws (you can’t advertise that your wooden spoon is actually made out of marble) and possibly some kind of daytime/child-safety advertising laws (you can’t run alcohol ads or other adult ads during certain hours or on channels aimed at children — not that most marketers would sell or buy there anyway because it’d be stupid). However, it’s an undeniable fact that you don’t piss off your sponsors and you don’t piss off your core audience. Just look at GamerGate. Intel pulled their ads from Gawker when Gawker’s articles pissed off a sizable portion of the GamerGate audience and they threatened to boycott Intel. And that kind of pressure is fine for entertainment shows and even educational shows. But it is not fine for journalism. It leads to worries about offending the corporate sponsors or the consumers which leads to spin, blacking-out of stories, and a focus on feel-good stories or the promotion of news items in a way that is guaranteed to keep the money-spigot opened.

Another reason television is a terrible medium for journalism is because it’s a visual format which leads to people judging based on appearances instead of based on the actual argument. Have you ever noticed that all of the news anchors are good-looking? And that none of them are terribly intelligent or creative? If they were trapped in the middle of a desert, they’d be screwed. Hell, if they were knee-deep in a river, they’d die of thirst. They went to fancy universities, yes, but that means nothing. Unless they graduated from CalTech, Standford (with a degree in hard sciences), or MIT, it’s worthless. These people were hired for their ability to look good on camera and read from a teleprompter or from cuecards. They were not hired for their ability to think critically, reason, ask difficult questions, or for their finely-tuned bullshit detectors.

A final reason television is the worst medium for journalism is because of its shallowness. Television is a very shallow, very short-form medium. Since it’s so visual and auditory, it’s easy to get overstimulated which makes it difficult for long-term memory to be engaged (which is why visual tricks and cut-aways can be used to deceive so easily — see below). The set-time format makes it impossible for any topic to be covered in real depth and the inability for there to be hard, permanent reference points for citations or notes makes cross-referencing difficult, if not impossible. Add in the general passivity it requires of the audience and it’s just a terrible medium for something as serious as news journalism and political debates.

There are other reasons television is a terrible medium for serious topics — it’s untrustworthy because it can be deceptively edited without the viewer being aware of it at all and, unless there are other recordings made, there’s no way to prove it (and there are never other recordings because of technical and legal reasons — no sound studio is going to let an interview subject bring in his own film crew and sound crew because not only will that cause phase cancellation issues, energy, and temperature issues but it sets them up for liability and insurance nightmares. The studio and journalists also won’t go for it because then they won’t have the sole copyright, there will be a plethora of distribution issues, and it would force them to be too damned honest).

Television — great for entertainment but a terrible way to receive information and select our leaders. Just FYI.

— G.K.

Dear Tor: I’m an evil unicorn, not a robot!

Dear Tor: I'm an evil unicorn, not a robot!

Dear Tor,

I am an evil unicorn, not a bot. Love and kisses! G.K. Masterson

I mean, I am an INTJ which, I’ve been told, means I have a sometimes robotic personality but I promise you, I’m a real person.

My mother swears I was actually born in the usual way and not hatched, dropped off by wandering aliens, beamed down as part of a reconnaissance mission, or delivered by a very confused parcel servicebeing operating out of the Corona Borealis supercluster who just took a wrong turn at the Sloan Great Wall. And, given that my niece looks exactly like me, I’m inclined to believe that my mother is telling the truth so I’m definitely human.

I know, I’m a bit disappointed, too, Tor, but we have to deal with reality as it is, not as we which it could be.

Now, I’ve been a pretty avid reader since I was about two and a half years old. And, I’m definitely a geek as these photos will attest.

[wppg_photo_gallery id=”1″]

As you can see, I have quite a few Tor books in my library. Over the years, I’ve massed a sizable collection of Tor books that is worth around about $3000. On average, I purchased about $50 worth of Tor books a month on my Kindle. So, while I’m not going to put much of a dent in Tor’s bottom line by myself, I’ll bet the authors whose books I bought will feel it and they might decide to move to a publisher who doesn’t call their customers neonazis and bots. And, ultimately, if Tor doesn’t have books to publish, they have a problem, don’t they?

— G.K.

We Didn’t Start the Flamewar — Part Two

We Didn't Start the Flamewar -- Part Two

So, some of you might be wondering exactly how this whole thing got started. I posted a brief-ish history earlier. I’m not going to rehash all of that now. Instead, I’m going to focus on the three most recent events in this culture war. I’m not going to pretend to be completely unbiased in this but I am going to try to be fairly accurate. There is a lot of he-said-she-said to some of it so feel free to check out other summaries. Just be aware that everyone has their own agenda so take it all with a grain of salt (including this one).

The first of the three events to take place was GamerGate. Know Your Meme has a pretty thorough coverage of it so if you’ve got no clue what it is and want a play-by-play, I’d suggest checking it out. The long and short of it is that the whole thing started over a game developer (Zoe Quinn) who cheated on her boyfriend. Her boyfriend posted an expose of it showing that she’d supposedly slept around to try to get good reviews of her game. It morphed from a movement to improve ethics in gaming journalism to a big thing about feminism and gaming in general. The anti-GamerGater side (populated by Social Justice Warriors or SJWs) tends to think that gaming is sexist and that the tech sector is sexist. They think that the way women are depicted in games is sexist and that games should tell a more “socially just” message. The pro-GamerGater side thinks that games are fine and that if the antis don’t like them, they’re free to make their own games and see which sell better. The antis have, so far, managed to get some of the pro-GG groups like the HoneyBadgerBridage (a group of female gamers and game developers) thrown out of conventions because they “made the [antis] feel threatened.”

That’s the level of maturity we’re dealing with. The antis can’t actually argue anything rationally and can’t be bothered to make their own games with their own message. They want to force current gaming companies to make the games they think should be made and force the rest of us to play them whether we want to or not. And, when we say that’s stupid, we’re told we’re threatening them and harassing them and that we’re being sexist. We also get lumped in with the PUAs like Roosh (who isn’t actually a bad guy — I’ve talked with him and he’s nice in person) and some of the really crazy MRAs who do hate women which would be like us lumping the antis in with groups who want to raise all children as girls and kill or force all males to undergo sex reassignment surgery *eyeroll*

The next big event was ShirtStorm. Back in November, the European Space Agency landed the Philae lander on a comet for the first time in human history. One of the guys on the team was wearing a shirt that a female friend had made for him — the shirt was a bowling shirt that depicted comic-hero women with laser guns and tight outfits. He was interviewed briefly (he wasn’t the spokesman for the team or the team lead — the team lead was a woman, in fact). Rose Eveleth, a journalist for The Atlantic, managed to miss the big news item (the historic comet landing) and, in a stereotypically womanish manner, focus in on what the guy was wearing instead. She made a big deal about the shirt that caused the historic comet landing to be forgotten as everyone on Twitter got the vapors over the women on this guy’s shirt. She later claimed she was “doxxed” (meaning her personal information was posted and she was getting harassed at home) but there was absolutely no evidence this happened (whereas there was plenty of evidence that this happened with anti-GamerGate people). I personally spent the better part of four days checking the usual doxxing sites AND the deepnet/Tornet for any trace of it and there was nada. The only way I could dig up her info was to hit up a contact I have who can get that kind of stuff and all I asked that person was if they could get it. Unsurprisingly, the answer was “yes” but that does not mean Rose Eveleth was doxxed any more than it means that oh, say, the Governor General of Canada’s direct line (bypasses switchboard, bypasses secretary, no voicemail, rings through even if phone is turned off) was “doxxed.”*

ShirtStorm managed to die down with most of us women realizing that some women were never going to get the whole science thing because they just couldn’t be rational. I wrote my long series on ShirtStorm and Women In Science (Feminism Is Dead, Why Don’t Women Go Into Science?, Why Don’t Women Go Into Science? Part II, Women In Science Part III: Can We Force More Women to Become NTs?, Women In Science: Can We Create More Female NTs?) and things seemed to go back to their uneasy truce where the minority of us wondered just when the majority of slavering crazed fems were going to find something to go batcrap crazy over again.

The third event is HugoGate or PuppyGate or whatever you want to call it. That really deserves its own entry — which it is going to get. However, I’m going to give it a quick rundown here anyway so here goes. This year was the third year that Sad Puppies ran a list of people they thought should get nominated for the Hugos. The last two years Larry Correia ran Sad Puppies — this year it was Brad Torgersen. Larry started it because he believed that worthy folks were being ignored or left off the ballot due to the authors’ political beliefs. He said that if any right-wing author got nominated, the Powers That Be with WorldCon (the group that owns and organizes the Hugos) would throw a fit of epic proportions. Thus far, he’s been proven right. The first two years, Sad Puppies wasn’t very successful but this year it was. There’s some argument as to why that is the case and I’m still reading up on it myself. However, the end result has been that Larry and Brad (who are really nice guys and good writers) have been slandered, libeled, threatened, and harassed. A lot of other good authors have been harassed as well just because they were nominated by Sad Puppies and some even felt they had to withdraw from being nominated. The PuppyKickers are threatening to vote No Award in every category where there are Sad Puppy candidates (I think) which would prove Larry’s point completely and would prove that the Hugos are pretty much worthless. The PuppyKickers claim that the Sad Puppies are all a bunch of white, sexist men who nominated nothing but white, sexist men even though SP3 consists of women, Latinos, blacks, Asians, gays (I think?), and people of all political backgrounds and nominated writers of all colors, genders, and backgrounds. Also now, according to the PuppyKickers, those of us who are sympathetic to SP are neonazis.

So you can see why some of us are finally getting a bit fed up with this whole thing.

In the next part I’ll do a more in-depth history of Sad Puppies so stay tuned!

— G.K.

*No, it’s not the Governor General and I’m not going to reveal whether or not it’s a government agency I could get access to or who my friend is or how I know them or what but, suffice it to say that just because this person can get their hands on the information does not mean it’s in the wild. This person once had a pepperoni pizza (paid for by an anonymous BitCoin account) sent to a friend of theirs who was in Israel and that friend, to this day, still has no idea who sent them the pizza. And no, my posting this won’t give the game away because that friend has no clue who I am or that I know this mutual contact.

Women In Science Part III: Can We Force More Women To Become NTs?

Women In Science Part III: Can We Force More Women To Become NTs?

Short answer: no, probably not. Longer answer: are you out of your cotton-pickin’ mind? I have heard some crazy questions in my time but this one…this one takes the cookie, the cake, and gets a special ticket for the short bus. Honestly, I know that it’s impolite to say that a question is stupid but I’m going to have to agree with DI Alec Hardy here and say:

Temperament does change over the course of a life. But, not drastically (absent drastic events) for most people. Most of the time, it’s pretty clear if you’re an I or an E (introvert/extrovert) by the time you start school. By the time you hit middle school, it’s usually clear if you’re an NT, NF, SP, or SJ (though there are arguments that parents can detect temperament in their children by the age of one year). By the time you’re in college, you have the personality type you’ll carry the rest of your life. Sure, you might be able to superficially act like a different type. You’ll be able to work on developing your intuition or your sensing, your thinking or your feeling. But using a cognitive function that is not your default setting will always require a bit of effort on your part. It’s not going to “come naturally” to you no matter how hard you try.

I’m an NT (INTJ). I can take all of the public speaking courses on offer and none of them are going to magically make me draw energy from hanging out with a large crowd of people. I can read all of the touchy-feely frou-frou crap out there and none of it is going to magically make me a feelings-oriented person. I can know how to use my five senses but all of the sensing tutorials on Earth aren’t going to get me to use S instead of N as my primary information-gathering resource. I have always gotten tired hanging out around a lot of people (with a handful of exceptions for relatives). I have always been a person who lives inside her head and is happy there. I have always been interested in seeing the “big picture” of things. I have always been curious, loved to learn things, a voracious reader, and unafraid of questioning anything (even when it got me in trouble. Younger INTJs with non-NT parents are cautioned not to stake a Devil’s Advocate position on the existence of God with your more traditional parents unless you want them to punish you by not letting you read encyclopedias).

I’m pretty sure I must have driven my mother crazy as I grew up. My mother is an ESFJ which is about as opposite INTJ as you can get. Even an ESFP would have been closer because the “P” would have meant she would have been more curious and open than the “J” which means being a bit more structural and wanting things done in a certain (preferably her) way. As an adult, I can deal with my mother better now than I could when I was a kid and, over time, she’s just learned to put up with me. Of course, knowing that she is ESFJ has made it a lot easier for me to figure out how to communicate with her and what things she assigns priority to. However, when I was growing up, my mother wanted to mold me into an ESFJ because, to her, that was the “best” way to be and I wanted to turn her into an INTJ because, to me, that was the “best” way to be. My (I’m guessing here) ISTP father often had to get between us to stop our fights from escalating into the verbal equivalent of nuclear war (at least on my end — my sarcasm was practically inborn).

See, to my mother, my introversion meant that I was “shy” and she kept telling me that “if I would just be more friendly” or “act better” then I would “have a lot of friends” because, to her, having a lot of friends and being well-thought of was important. I, on the other hand, didn’t want “a lot of friends.”* I wanted particular kinds of friends who I could talk to about the weird things I was interested in and who would read books with me. My mother wanted me to be more affable, approachable, warm, and thoughtful when it came to dealing with people whereas I wanted her to be more objective and open-minded and less likely to use “guilt by association” judging my friends (though, to be fair, she was right more often than not when I was a teenager). My mother (and my father) thought that “because I said so” or “because that’s the way it is” were acceptable conversation enders whereas I wanted to know why. I wanted to know what they thought about big events and the big picture (space exploration, could we build colonies on the moon, time travel, would either of them ever sign up to get on an interstellar space ship, what would have happened if the South won the Civil War, should there be a Federation-style global government…) whereas they were both more practical-minded and probably felt that my questions and obsessions were hare-brained and frivolous since none of them could make money, provide security, etc. My mother and I did (and still do, sometimes) a lot of talking past each other because neither one of us had the first clue how the other saw the world or how they thought. Looking back now, there were things my parents could have done to give me the answers I wanted and to stop the fights we had if they had known I was INTJ and what that meant. Also, if I were to be sent back a la Replay, I would have a better idea how to deal with both of them and communicate with them than I did growing up.

Thank God they had my little brother who (again, guessing here) was an ESTP. Otherwise, there might have been a mushroom cloud over our house by the time I’d turned fifteen.

So, I had two non-Rational parents and a non-Rational brother growing up and, despite the pressure, I didn’t magically change temperament. I also grew up in an area (the Deep South — specifically Mississippi) where Rational traits were not desired (not discouraged — just not considered desirable) in a woman (on average). Chances are that I went to school with only a few dozen other Rationals (school population was ~2000) and, despite being constantly around and under peer pressure and social pressure to conform, I stubbornly remained an NT.

Therefore, I doubt that it would be possible to take non-NT girls and somehow change them into Rationals for the purpose of having more women in science. I was unsuccessful in instilling an NT-temperament in my mother. I doubt that my niece (with whom I would have a disproportionate influence due to being an authority figure and “cool”) will be a Rational (she shows a lot of signs of being either an SF or an NF). And, even if there were some way to “force” a temperament change to NT, it probably wouldn’t be ethical or legal since you’d either have to brainwash a child (like Borg assimilation) or you’d have to place someone in severe psychological and emotional distress with development of NT traits being the only way for them to survive.

Now, can we “create” more NT women without violating laws on assault, kidnapping, and torture? Honestly, I’ll have to think about that one for a bit.

— G.K.

*Of course there were points where I wanted to be well-liked and respected. The thing is, I wanted it to be for things I knew or had accomplished, not for things like how I dressed or looked. I wanted to be popular because I wrote a great story or had the coolest science project or something (actually, winning first place in the Science Fair in fifth grade still counts as one of my Top Five Coolest Events from when I was a kid). I wanted to be known for what I had done or learned, not just for status-signaling or something stupid like that.