Friday, April 18, 2008

Today in Pictures

From the BBC: "In Katmandu, Nepal, Tibetan nuns flee from pursuing police officers during a demonstration against Chinese rule in Tibet."

I'm completely unfamiliar with the immediate backstory of this image, and the quoted blurb is all the BBC provides. At first glance at least, though, I'm finding the image of (going out on a limb based on the whole Buddhist nun thing) unarmed female protesters versus masked, uniformed, male (from what I can make out, at least) soldiers to be a pretty powerful one. Thoughts?

Sunday, April 13, 2008

On Trolls

This post was inspired by a comment thread over at Shakesville (the actual post is unrelated, but also good). nightshift66 and Kate Harding questioned where, exactly, the trolling impulse comes from. I'm compiling and reposting my responses here.

Why do trolls go trolling?

Some trolls are True Believers, who want to spread their personal gospel. These tend to be argumentative, but don't purposefully try to be offensive (although they may well succeed at it unintentionally). Classic examples of these are ideologues of either conservative or liberal varieties that wander into the blogs of their enemies and proceed to wage war.

The majority, however, are simply doing it "for the lulz". There's a dark humor in getting people worked up over what amounts to (in the troll's mind) absolutely nothing, along with a general sense of power. Combine internet anonymity with a sense of entitlement, boredom, and aspects of internet culture that flat-out *encourage* doing nasty shite simply "for the lulz", and you get trolls. They're a small percentage of netizens in general, but their effect is... disproportionate.

I believe it's related to why I read and Fundies Say the Darndest Things. Humor can be found simply in watching people make fools of themselves, and the definition of "fools" is entirely subjective. I personally only watch free-range folly, along the lines of Kent Hovind's "arguments" against evolution and random cranks building ostensible warp drives, and eschew considering valid emotional responses as 'funny', but I can see how the same impulse can lead into trying to create such 'foolishness' in the form of just getting riled up in general.

This is why I love Shakesville's troll comment policy. Instead of responding to the troll, giving them the satisfaction of 'amusing' righteous anger, the troll's comment is rewritten and the ridicule is turned back on the troll. For example:
I eat my own poopy!

[This comment has been replaced by the moderators with a paraphrase as per the Shakesville Comment Policy.]

Part of the trolling impulse is also a half-immature, half-Forbidden Fruit response, where trolls are gleeful at saying inappropriate things purely because they are inappropriate. It's the same sort of humor as Dead Baby jokes, which are only funny insofar as they are completely horrible.

If anyone with a strong stomach (trigger warnings everywhere; NSFW by the love of Ceiling Cat; rape, racist, sexist, fatphobic, homophobic, you-freakin-name-it jokes abound) wants to observe trolls in their own habitat and hear their logic, the 'safest' way to do this is to go to the Encyclopedia Dramatica (Not Safe For Work, I tell you again!)** pages for "lulz" and "troll".

**I do give ED props in that they actually get and lambast (surprisingly enough, given their target audience of basement-dwelling internet nerds) the classic Nice Guy syndrome. But overall the site is very good at its goal, which is to reveal in exquisite, high-resolution detail the mindset, zeitgeist, and worldview of 'Anonymous'... which is a large collection of very, very sick fucks.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

The First Dorky Post

I went to the D&D eXperience convention and got to play 4th Edition, and at some point I'll blog about that. Short version: I had a good time, and liked the changes in 4.

This post, however, is about something about 3.5 which has bugged the everloving crap out of me since I rolled up my first character, a barbarian, 5 years ago.


Ok, let's talk about what your character does when, say, they're grappled or entangled. If they're a sneaksy one, they can use the Escape Artist check, related to Dexterity, and wiggle their way out. If they're a strong one, they can use a straight-up Strength check to force their way out. From a intuitive what-really-happens perspective, as well as from a game balance perspective, this makes perfect sense.

Now, then, say there's an NPC your party wants to get information out of. There are two ways to do this, Diplomacy and Intimidate. In an intuitive understanding of character actions, you'd expect the glib-talking high-charisma sorcerer to be good at Diplomacy, and the big-axed high-strength-and-constitution barbarian who doesn't need to say much to be good at Intimidate. You'd also expect that, from a game mechanics standpoint, one action would be easier for the sorcerer (ie, tied to Charisma) and the other would be easier for the Barbarian (ie, tied to Strength or Constitution).

You'd be wrong, of course. They're both tied to Charisma. So an exceptionally soft and squishy sorcerer is, in a mechanical sense, SCARIER than the huge looming barbarian who cleaves through goblin armies like a hot knife through butter and could CERTAINLY do lots of bad, bad things to the NPC in question with their giant battleaxe.

Obviously, I do not accept this.

The Abortion Post

Here's my personal take on the issue.

Just so y'all know, I'm adopted.

According to the records, my birthmother was 18, and my birthfather was in his forties. According to my mom (who, while she has always been open about where I came from, may be trying to paint a prettier picture of things), she was the babysitter for his 9 year old son, things got out of hand, and she "went to visit an aunt" with only her mother and the guy knowing (and, supposedly, him supporting her financially throughout all this).

This wasn't a life-or-death situation. She chose not to abort me and to give me up for adoption. Yet whatever I accomplish in my life, I could not, would not be so fucking selfish as to DEMAND that that 18 year old girl give up 9 months of her life, her education, risk her life and well-being, undergo the permanent bodily changes of pregnancy, go through labor, give up her born child, in all likelihood suffer horribly every Mother's Day and my birthday for years, have to hide her burden from the family it was kept secret from....

All that, just for the potential, not reality, of my life. I wouldn't have known any different. And it probably would be better for her (possible) other kids if she didn't have me floating in the back of her head. Again, I'm not selfish enough to be glad she made this choice. That doesn't mean I don't enjoy my life (although reading political blogs and slogging through classes sometimes makes it difficult, heh) , and, no, I don't have any sort of self-loathing regarding all this. I'm here, and I'll do the best I can during my time on Earth. But I have a lot of empathy for that poor girl, and I wouldn't hesitate to council another girl in the same situation to do what is best for them.

This is why I'm pro-choice.

And now, SEX!

There's a lot of stuff besides sex I'm interested in, of course.

It's just important enough that it finally inspired me to start me one of these here bloggy thinamajigs of my very own.

Here's my thesis for this post: Sex and sexuality are not related to morality.

Now, to some folks, this is patently obvious. No one is harmed by my masturbating or getting laid. I highly doubt God's even killing kittens. To others, however, especially among those brought up in old school American Puritanism, it represents a truly massive paradigm shift. "Fooling around" and "shacking up" are things TO BE CONDEMNED, dontcha know, and if somebody (especially female) loses their virginity than they have lost something vitally and critically important. For extreme cases of philophobia, it is taken for granted that self-discipline and self-denial are inherently GOOD and the pursuit of pleasure for pleasure's sake is BAD

Holee shite, we have a fucked-up view of fucking.

Now, I should make it clear, since we as a culture add a lot of potential baggage onto the discussion of sex, that I am *of course* talking only about enthusiastically consenting adults (or teenage peers). Questions of rape, power differences, incest, and what-have-you are irrelevant to the overall morality of sex and sexuality. It's like saying that going to Disneyland is immoral because I could kidnap a minor and take them to Disneyland without their parent's consent. Or that driving a car is immoral because I could go on a rampage running over pedestrians willy-nilly. So, while we can add issues to sex (ie, force, coercion, age) that make it problematic, it *does not follow* that sex itself is problematic, any more that driving or Disneyland.

In response to those who bring up and pregnancy, disease, and emotional overattachment, I say this: I'm talking morality, not wisdom. It would be most exceedingly *unwise* for me to hook up with my emotionally-needy conservative douche of an ex, for example, but, provided I'm not being deceitful regarding my intentions for a temporary hookup, there's no additional *moral* problem involved.

Again, my thesis is simple, and I think actually rather self-evident. Morality concerns behavior that is unethical; that is, it hurts, deceives, and otherwise negatively effects other people. Sex is completely and utterly UNRELATED to this, as it does none of it. There is no logical reason for us all to get our knickers in a knot (and, no, Paul writing a letter saying God said so is *not* a reason, thankyouverymuch). It's frankly unbelievable that there's so much pain and frustration in the world (honor killings, disowning, shaming, FGM, to name a few, along with just general emotional-fucked-up-ness) that could just be solved by the acceptance of sex as NOT THAT BAD.

Why, then, does our society continue to attach "honor" and "shame" to sex. Why? Just why? I mean, there's something of a historical impulse to maintain bloodlines, which manifests itself in the imposition of shame on those who threaten bloodlines (ie, by having sex while female in eras without contraception), but I'd like to think we're beyond a.) obsessing over the purity of blood in our children and b.) restricting women's sexuality to the purposes of being a brood mare.

If somebody comes up with a successful counterargument; ie, demonstrates that sexual pleasure, in the absence of cultural inertia or religious dogma, is immoral, I will give them $100 of my starving-college-student money. Because I don't think it's possible.

And yet, if I were a politician, I couldn't go public with this statement, because the American citizenry would shit a collective brick. Yes, it does imply that I am perfectly a-OK with premarital fucking, open-marriage-fucking, many-people-fucking, same-sex-fucking, and anything else that consenting adults can come up with. Why would ANY of these be problematic, unless we chain ourselves to the idea that sexual pleasure is dirty and bad and wrong? Yet so many of my fellow Americans have a major problem with this. It's just mind-boggling.


*UPDATE: No, this wasn't inspired by Spitzer. Hypocrisy *is* a pretty sucky thing, especially if you're making life harder for the same workers you patronise. It *was* inspired by Patterson, Spitzer's replacement, when he and his wife both came out as having had infidelities in the past. It was also inspired by the (many, many) comments I've seen regarding Bill Clinton's infidelity and how Hillary couldn't manage her own marriage let alone the country and all that claptrap. I'm personally convinced that the Clintons probably had an open marriage by that point, and couldn't say anything because, well, a powerful white guy cheating is more palatable in middle America than open marriage. Sad, but true.

A somewhat longer introduction...

So, about me. If you're here, you've probably run across me elsewhere in Ye Olde Blogosphere, and may be somewhat aware of my proclivities. Just to clear up any potential misconceptions, I'm a geeky gamer feminist atheist liberal progressive LGBTQWEV-ally POC-ally with a penchant for ranting angrily and no compunctions about expletives. If any of that bugs you... well, feel free to stick around and discuss things, within limits. I won't tell you to fuck off *if* you don't make an ass of yourself, (though I reserve the right to call you a ridicule-deserving douchemonkey). But you may, just may, be in the wrong part of the internets.

I'm still a student, but I'm almost bloody well done with academia, having spent 5 years in a cute, quaint, and absolutely stifling small Pennsylvania town with a small, widely-regarded, and completely isolated-from-reality Pennsylvania college. I've already rented an apartment in Manhattan to get a teensy weensy bit of a change of pace. I'm majoring in both International Relations and Comp Sci Engineering. I don't have the best record in either subject, but I'm fairly positive I'm the best coder in IR and the best writer in CS. That's gotta count for something.

What can you expect from this blog? Lots and lots of angry, angry ranting. Geeky stuff. Dorky stuff. Techy stuff. Politics. Drunken Dionysus's dinghy, the politics. And a great deal of pretentious pontification on ponderous problems unto perpetuity. Oh, and alliteration, too. It's fun.

Let's do this thing.

Hello world.

I'm Falyne.

Pleased to meet you. :-)