Monday, November 9, 2015

Burger Madness

Welp, once again, I was responding to a picture on Facebook, and realized I was writing a blog. Hopefully, I'll actually write more blogs in the soon to future, but for now, let's talk about this gloriously smug bit of asshattery:

I see this a lot around the Ragebooks, and it makes me snarl, without fail, every time.
Let's hit the high points of why working as an McEmployee sucks the balls of a thousand dead men pickled in the juices of a durian and prune juice cocktail:
No health coverage 
Poor health coverage 
No overtime 
No way to afford childcare
Shitty hours
Being on call 24-7 
Daily risk of 2nd to 3rd degree burns 
Daily health risks from the HUNDREDS of asshats that come in and cough in your face
Constant mental stress from every direction 
Limited opportunities to promote
Social stigma because you don't have a "real job" 
Instant blame and fury if you don't do your not-a-real-job perfectly every single time at lightning speed.
And finally, pay that puts you somewhere at the bottom of the poverty scale.
"But it's a kiddy job. They're just flipping burgers," says Strawman Schmoe.
So of course it should be necessary that in order to support a single adult at the barest minimum of poverty they should do this for 80 hours a week at two different locations? Or did we forget that:
In 2013, there were 3.3 million hourly paid workers in the United States with wages at or below the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour. These workers made up 4.3 percent of the 75.9 million workers age 16 and over who were paid at hourly rates. 
-Bureau of Labor Statistics
To put that bluntly, that's 3.3 million people. That's not even counting the people who made $7.26 an hour. That's literally the people making exactly $7.25 or less. The median average wages of a part-time hourly or salary employee starts at $264 a week at 25 and ranges all the way up to the exciting prospect of $291 from 35-45, and then gradually falls back down to $243 on average when you hit 65+ (Bureau of Labor Statistics).
Round that out, there. At best, the average for a part-time wage earner (35 hours or less) is $1164 a month. At best. I worked a job where I was excited to make $8.15 an hour, worked 25-30 hours a week, and still made around right around $10k for the year.
For reference, the nation poverty threshold for 2015 for a single adult is $11,770
Well, what if they work full time, hmmm? 
Ok, let's best case this shit. I walked into a retail job with a GED, 7 years of experience in high volume retail, a broad working knowledge of the products we sold, no record, and a completely flexible schedule. That bought me an extra ninety cents an hour.
But let's say I had, oh, an added three years of managerial experience, and managed to snag a job as a full time manager. Let's round that shit up to $10 an hour, because that's what unsalaried managers made at the company I worked at.
So, then: ($10)*(40) = $400 a week. Shiny!
Minus $60 for taxes, of course, so now $340 a week. That's, oh, $1360 a month. Which is $16,320 a year. Hey, not bad for a single adult with no healthcare!
Wait what.
Ohhhh, riiiiight, see, funny story, they never put in those healthcare exchanges that would have driven down the costs of insurance where I am, so, you know, healthcare is required, but doesn't actually cover anything, and costs a shit ton.
But that's ok, that' ok, at least that full time manager is above the poverty level! For a household of two, even! Let's adda baby!
Nope, poor again. $20,090 for three people in a house is poverty level. But hey! Mommy or daddy gets a part-time job to cover the difference!
Funny story, did you know that the median cost per hour of childcare in Oklahoma is $623.33 a month? Or, to put it another way $155 and some odd cents a week? Remember that lovely, lovely thing up there that said that the average median wage of an hourly part time worker is $291 at the high point? That means that over half that check is going to childcare. That's not to mention the need for a second vehicle, bringing with it higher prices paid in fuel, insurance, etc,. Oh, and you just better hope that you never have to work past 7pm, because there's a special license for a day care facility to watch kids overnight, and they charge extra for that. Ooooh, and hopefully they charge a flat fee instead of hourly, because if they charge by the hour, it's entirely possible that mommy or daddy would be better off staying at home with the kids and scraping by at poverty levels, because there's an excellent chance they could pay more for childcare per hour than they earn in that hour.
But there's great news! A college education could save you from all that! 
Hey, guess what costs $30-40,000? A bachelor's in ENGLISH. In freaking English. 
But perhaps, instead, they should partially cover costs with grants, pay a little out of pocket...oh wait, we don't pay them enough to live. Where are they going to come up with another few thousand a year to go to college? Oooh, I know, take one or two classes at a time, thereby ensuring that they only live in poverty for eight to ten years!
What? That's not appealing? Ok, how about loans? Yeah, those loans. 
The loans that have a standard repayment plan of 10 years, costing roughly $280 a month on the average $25,000 loan. Wait, what's $280 times 120? Oh, right, that's $33,600. Or, you know, $8,600 more than you borrowed. In short, you'll pay just about 130% of what you borrowed if you pay it back as fast as is normally possible, and if you didn't have any unsubsidized loans (which begin collecting interest immediately, rather than waiting til after you graduate,) and if you immediately fall into a job that pays you better than what you were making before. Oh, and if you're lucky enough to get out with a 6.8% APR and minimal loan fees. college is expensive, to the point of being back breaking...but at least they'll have a good job waiting for them, right?
Heh. Hehehehe. Gigglesnort. Ahhh. You're funny. Look under "hehehehe." That's a 3.5 percent unemployment rate for folks with bachelors degrees in 2014. For reference, the national unemployment rate is right around 5-ish right now.
"Oh, that's not too bad," Strawman pops in to say.
Well, no, until you realize a few very important things: first, that the unemployment numbers only account for those who are actively seeking a job right now, that that still means 276,780 ladies and gents with a bachelor's are looking for jobs, and that the employment numbers track only that you have a job, not what it is.
So basically, if you've stopped looking for a job and become a stay at home parent, you don't count against unemployment. If you got a job flipping burgers, you don't count as unemployed. 5 percent unemployment doesn't hurt as bad as the ridiculous levels we experienced during the Recession, but it's still not joyous, and you can bet your ass there are more low level wage jobs than there are $40,000 a year ones.
Now, then. Let's get right on down to the meat of that lovely little image up there.
Having read all of that, what you're saying is that a person working 35-40 hours a week deserves to be poor because their job doesn't meet your standards of difficulty. That for the effort of providing a necessary service that you as a consumer depend on, that person should be poor because you're a snob.
You're saying that any person working for a fast food restaurant at an entry level position is less deserving of being paid a living wage because they just don't contribute to society as much as oh, say, an EMT.
Look me in the fucking eye and tell me that you feel that way when your burger is late or wrong because the McD's is shorthanded because their turnover rate is ridiculous due to stress, stigma, and living so close to the poverty level that even the slightest bump makes it all but impossible for that person to get to work. Look me in the eye and tell me that you feel that the time spent waiting is justified. Look at me, right here and now, and tell me that you're willing to accept less quality, less service, at a slower pace, because the workers are exhausted, or haven't eaten properly in weeks, or are working two jobs and going to school trying to escape poverty.
No? Of fucking course not. Because those people deserve to be in poverty for choosing to work a shitty job, but those pieces of poor ass shit best fucking get you your meal on time, absolutely right.
That's what you're saying. Those people aren't worth it. Not that EMT's are worth more. Not that police should be paid more, or that firefighter's wages are too low, or anything that actually means something good.
You're saying, specifically in this instance, that because EMT's make at or below a living wage, so should thousands of other people, because how dare they ask to be paid enough to live on for doing an honest day's labor.
Let me leave you with one thought: did it honestly never occur to you that raising the minimum wage would mean that an EMT who wasn't making enough to live on, would then be paid a living wage? Did it never occur to you that if people could make $15 an hour working at Burger King, if they could make a living at an entry level job, that the more complex jobs might, just might, have to offer a little better than that in order to draw people?
Because gods save us all if we should for some reason decide we wanted to cut down on the poverty and homelessness levels in this country. How else would we motivate kids to grow up and go into debt in a desperate bid for a better life, if we can't tell them that that they'll be forced into a job where people will judge them and tell them to their faces that they deserve to be poor for not trying harder?

Monday, August 31, 2015

Deviled Argument

Hello, kiddies. The meds are working once more, which means that once again, Uncle Jeremy is clicking on most gears. And those gears can grind. So, while I promise nothing, if I keep getting annoyed, you keep getting blogs.

Stepping away from social issues (sort of) let's talk about argumentation. Specifically, let's talk about the annoying tendency of those who are, or wish to appear to be, intellectuals to take a negative stance without having an actual stance. Some may call this the "Devil's Advocate" position, but that is a lie.

Just like cake.
See, Devil's Advocate is defined thusly:

In common parlance, a devil's advocate is someone who, given a certain argument, takes a position they do not necessarily agree with (or simply an alternative position from the accepted norm), for the sake of debate or to explore the thought further. - Wikipedia
 What we're actually talking about is "I disagree with position x. Debate?"

Now, that seems reasonable, and you may notice that I've fallen into doing this myself in the past. Why? Well, it's a great position to be in. After all, you don't actually have an argument to make, you just have to continue disagreeing with whatever anyone says. You force your opponent (if anyone is stupid enough to take on that challenge) to debate with themselves.

Pictured: someone stupid enough.
Here's how this conversation tends to go:

"I disbelieve/don't agree with/do not want the thing. And, go."

"Here's a number of reasons to support that thing" or "can you clarify that position?"

"I will restate my initial claim of disbelief, bolstering it with further comments of disbelief, but I will provide no talking points or sources for my beliefs."

"I hear your bolstering as a potential position, and seek to address it."

"I will tell you I disagree with you, and restate my initial claim of disbelief, my initial bolster, and bolster it with further comments of disbelief, but I will again provide no talking points or sources for my beliefs."

And so on, up to this point:

See the problem? It's the debate equivalent of  "why are you hitting yourself?" There's no sound position, no logical response, no way to actually talk about the issue, because there is no issue. Poor Sap is being asked to defend a position without anything to defend against. Because the devil in this case doesn't have a differing position, all Poor Sap can do is argue pros, and hear in response "well, I'm not convinced, what else do you have?"

Let me give you a concrete example. Back when I was a journalist, I got into a debate with a co-worker. Nothing earth shattering, just one of those fun nerd questions that come up when nerds get bored: "are teleporters ethical?"

We went back and forth for two hours. Every time I thought I'd made a point, the argument would change. It was like shooting a moving target that changed shape, color, size, and distance while zigzagging at apparent random. And when I'd finally started to get recursive, so confused that I couldn't keep my points straight, I asked to go back to square one.

"Ok, so I'm lost. What, in fact, is your position on this?"

To which my coworker replied, "Oh, I don't have one, really. I just wanted to see how you'd defend yours."

Are you entirely serious.
See, it could be argued that that was a Devil's Advocate. If my coworker had taken a position. If you have no position other than, "the opposite of whatever you're saying right now" you're not debating, you're playing grade school playground head games. "I know you are, but what am I" sort of thing.

Which brings us back to starting a debate solely based on broad disagreement. So, what's my position on this?

1. Don't call for debate just to hear someone talk, unless you're up front that, "I have no position, but would like to hear arguments made for/against this thing."

2. Don't call "nope" and then ask to discuss, but then use your declaration of "nope" as your sole argument. That's like yelling, "Fuck you!" into the wind and then sticking your fingers in your ears and walking around chanting it under your breath so you don't hear any of the responses.

3. If you want an actual debate, have a position. Again, if your position is "not whatever you say" then the argument is not only one sided, it borders on trolling.

4. If you're just yelling to yell, don't phrase it as a call for debate. You don't look any smarter by calling "my opinion" a "debate."

5. If you want to debate, just to debate, and don't want to come from a defined position (in other words, if you want a conversation) lead with that. There's nothing wrong with, "I don't like thing x, but I'd like to talk to people who do." At least then we know that the conversation probably isn't going anywhere, and that you're either trolling or exploring. But either way, we know going in that it's going to be us saying things, and you either asking questions or rejecting the things we say, and we can make that decision.

So. Stop calling it devil's advocate. It ain't.

Stop calling it debate. It ain't.

Call it what it is: stirring the pot to see what happens.

And then stop freaking doing it.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Structures Of Why

Ladies, gentlemen, and others as applicable. The Ragebooks have opened their arms and given me a glorious vision of fuckuppedness. Look upon this image, and know that I am wroth:

Let's talk, kiddies, about privilege, kyriarchy, and other stories that keep ol' Uncle Jeremy up at night chain smoking and worrying about the flammability of his mattress. Not because of the cigarettes, but because I curse hard enough to set fire to things.

So, first up, privilege. Privilege is any societal system that gives preference to a class of person. That's it. That's the whole thing.


In order: 

1. No, you're not a bad person for having privilege. Being Christian, White, or Straight do not make you bad. The narrative that is being spun by those who wish to maintain privilege is that in order for privilege to be acknowledged, you must also admit you're a bad human.

I have screwed up on this. I tend to get heated whenever people use words in certain ways, and in my angrish, I called out the "Not All Men" meme as reverse sexist (that's not a thing, by the way) and demanded to know why we needed to use gendered language to have that discussion at all. 

I was then called on this, at varying levels of volume, by people who deal with gender bias every day. The answer is, we need gendered language to have a conversation about gender BECAUSE WE CAN'T EXACTLY USE BOTANICAL TERMS YOU FUCKWIT.

And I was wrong. And I apologize. Because what had happened was, I felt as though the conversation had to first absolve me of my perceived guilt before I could allow it to happen, which is patriarchal bullshit.

Privilege is a component of society that we should all want to change, because the only thing that happens when we level the playing field is that everyone wins. And we, as a society, like winning. 

Score the points! Do the things! Go Team ProperNoun!
2. Not a zero-sum game. What's zero-sum? Zero sum is a closed system in which any decrease of a variable causes a concomitant increase in all other variables. Basically, when you compare privilege to a zero-sum, what you're saying is this:

Jenny starts with two apples. Bob starts with three. The only possible way for Jenny to get another starting apple is to take it from Bob, because orchards, grocery stores, and so on don't exist. They can never be really equal, because for one to get ahead, the other has to lose. 

You make me ashamed to accept your adoration, human.
That's not how anything works. Life isn't a closed system. If it was, there'd be no humans, because every person born would automatically kill someone. "Welcome to the world, Junior! Better live a good life, because your Grandpa died so you could take his place!"

"Don't be silly!" shouts Strawman Schmoe. "In the real world, there's always winners and losers!"

Nope. Whatever you may think of him, Bill Gates won life fairly hard. Loving wife, great kids, successful business, household name, one of the richest people on the planet. 

So, look me in the eye and tell me that when Bill Gates gives vast sums of money philanthropically, he's losing at life. 

"But he's losing money!" despairs the Strawman.

No, he's giving it away. Because he freaking can. And since he wants to, and likes doing it, everyone wins there. The people who are being helped win, and Bill wins because he's making the world a better place in atonement for 3.5. Oh, yes, we still remember, Bill. We will always remember.

Ahem. Moving on. 

Basically, getting back to the apples, handing Jill another apple doesn't take anything from Bob. Bob still has three apples. But Bob is clutching his apples and batting at the people trying to hand Jill an apple because he's been told, despite the fact that he's holding all three of his apples, that the apple being handed to Jill is his. Like somehow, one of his apples will magically dis-the fuck-appear the moment Jill touches that apple. It doesn't make sense.

But people still believe it. 

3. Does not mean your life doesn't suck.

Apples. Because why the fuck not. 

Want a metaphor, dearie? *cackles*
Bob, Ted, Phil, and Hector have three apples to start with. Joe, Jill, and Melinda have two. Does this mean that Joe does not benefit from the social systems that prop up Bob, Ted, Phil, and Hector?

Nope. Because privilege isn't a fixed commodity. You don't get handed your privilege card when you're born and immediately gain everything that it's possible for privilege to hand you. 

Non-apple example: Me. I'm white, male, I was raised Christian, and I come from a middle class economic background. 

So: the fact that I'm white means people are more likely to hire me. When I do get hired, I'll probably make more money than a person of color, or a woman regardless of race. My background means that I had access to a good education, which affords me opportunities in work, life, and relationships. I would also note that my whiteness makes me more likely to get a good education, but I was home schooled, so I don't fit that metric.  Being raised Christian meant that I could turn on the TV and see the values I was taught to believe were true on the box, and that if I saw anything different, I'd also be likely to find a great many authoritative sources condemning that difference as immoral.  

While I have all those privileges, that doesn't mean that I'm not living paycheck to paycheck. It doesn't mean that I go to an Ivy League school. It doesn't mean that my whiteness gets me a pass on the disadvantages (socially, that is) to being gay.

But just because I have disadvantages, doesn't mean I don't benefit from privileges. Privilege is built into society. Society favors a certain class over others. The fact that I have problems doesn't mean I don't have privileges. End of story.

Apples, again: Joe only starts with two apples. But let's say Joe and Jill trade apples for oranges. Even though they have the same starting rate, implying that there's no privilege on Joe's part, Joe will pull ahead (assuming parity in all other registers. Work with me, I'm using fucking fruit.)

How will Joe pull ahead? Well, Joe will get four oranges for every four apples he trades. Jill will only get three oranges for every four apples she trades. While neither may ever become the Grand High Master of Orangedom, Jill will end up with less than Joe. 

Phil, on the other hand, will become the Grand High Master of Orangedom
 earning him this delightfully scented Citrus Crown.


Oh gods, this. Now, I mentioned this back with the whole zero sum bit, but this isn't about gain/loss. This is the idea that beyond a zero-sum equation, any attempt at leveling the playing field is no such thing. This is the idea that the playing field is already level, and leveling it actually attacks you.

Well, not to put too fine a point on it, but the playing field looks fine to you because you're standing on the side with all the advantages. 

"But my way of life is being attacked!" Strawman wails.


All right, I've asked it any number of times, but I'll say again: how?

Let's look at a lovely bunch of coconuts: The Men's Rights Movement. 

The basic premise here is that, far from struggling for parity with men, feminists (and anyone who talks about patriarchy, privilege, kyriarchy, or discrimination in society) are actually attacking men for the purpose of...

Ok, this is the part where it breaks down, because beyond "YOU HORRIBLE BITCH" I have no idea what they actually think is going to happen. Something about an Amazonian matriarchy where men are slaves who live at the whim of women? Or something?

Basically, any change. Anything that implies men aren't the natural superiors. Anything that implies that people of color aren't failing because they're just...bad at things?

I actually had a nut of this flavor tell me that we should stop helping black people because we're encouraging them to foster a culture of deliberate failure, knowing that we'll always extend a handout out of misplaced guilt. 

Read that sentence a few times. Breathe that in. Black people disadvantage themselves so they can suckle at the teats of welfare. It's not all their fault, because we train the poor savages to expect that we'll save them from their own natural incompetence. That's the most awful, shitty, racist thing I'd heard in a long time. 

MRA's (Men's Rights Activists) pretty generally scream insults and nonsense while declaring that any evidence of gender/race/pickametric disparity is flawed, made-up, biased, or invalid. Near as I can figure out, their reason for doing so is that the world works for them, and so any change to make it also work for other people would make it less "theirs," and anyone that says it's not fine the way it is is a poopyhead. 

It's self fulfilling logic: it works for me, so we don't need to fix it so that it works for you, because it must not be broken, because it works for me.

Let's take another: these arguments are tired and old, and all over the interwebs, so we'll boil it down to the most basic. 

Christians are not being persecuted in this country when laws are passed to cater to people who are not Christian or do not hold with all Christian beliefs. 

"But we're being forced to live in a country where the laws allow things we don't like!" shouts Christian Strawman.

Well, welcome to the country the most people have been living in for years. The only difference is, now the law allows for more people. It's broader, more open, more secular. And since the laws should not, and were never intended to, institute a Christian theocracy, you just have to accept that the same laws that let you pray, worship, and make decisions for yourself based on your faith, now allow more people to pray, worship, and make decisions based on their faith or lack thereof without first having to accept that Christians come first.

Straight people being attacked because gay people have rights? How, precisely? You aren't required to sleep with people of your own gender. You're not banned from choosing the sexual or romantic partners you want. You haven't lost the legal right to unite before the government in a legal compact with the person of your choice. 

But now, we have all those options too. We're not required, societally, to sleep with people of the opposite gender. In many places, we're even protected from being fired or beaten up because of who we date! And we can get married now, which is simultaneously great, and also a kinda dumb consolation prize for the fact that we still risk getting killed for kissing the people we love, still have trouble having and keeping kids, and still have a higher youth suicide rate than straight people. But hey, it's a start, and a nice start at that.  

So anywho, conclusion'm forgetting something...wasn't there another word way up at the top we were going to talk about?

Oh, right. Kyriarchy

A kyriarchy is an interconnected set of systems that privilege specific classes based on any number of factors. In other words, the society we live in.  

What? Don't like that definition? Go look up kyriarchy for yourself. I promise you'll like my definition better. No?

Ok, well, the actual definition replaces "any number of factors" with "oppression, domination, and submission."

Yeah. Want to talk about oppression? People of color being arrested more than their white counterparts, serving harsher sentences, having fewer chances at rehabilitation, and having decreased access to the systems of education, financial stability, cultural acceptance give advantages to white folk. 

Domination? Let's talk about Christian companies *cough*hobbylobby*cough* denying coverage of any number of women's healthcare products based on the faulty assumption that they are abortifacient, but cheerfully covering Viagra. A drug with the stated purpose of giving a man an erection is fine. A drug to control a woman's birth cycle isn't. 

Submission? This one's going to get me yelled at, but look at popular women's culture. It is wrapped around the idea that in order to be beautiful, you have to live up to a standard set by men. Or ideas like, a woman will naturally give up her name in a marriage because a man's name is important. Or that boys are tough, strong, dominant, and girls should be gentle, caring, and passive. 

How is that submission? Well, the part where, women will go along with this, even if it is counter to their interests. This is true for a lot of classes on the receiving end of the unlubed shaft of kyriarchy: the ideology of the privileged class has been shouted so often across so many registers that they internalize it.

That's right: kyriarchy is so good at what it do, that the people who are getting the short end of the stick sometimes think they deserve it. Because that's just the way things are. 

So, NOW a conclusion down here:

Look, folks, I understand change is scary, but I swear to you that everyone getting the same treatment, and being able to live to their best is good for us all. So why do we still support it? Well, I would like to point out the other thing kyriarchy is good at: dividing people so they can't get a clear look at what's wrong with the world around them. 

After all, if you're looking at a thing and going "that's...wait...what?" and someone runs up behind you and shouts "THEY'RE COMING FOR YOU!"

Chances are, you're not going to remember to go back and work out why that other thing looked weird.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Round & Round We Go

Heyo, kiddies. Normally, Uncle Jeremy has a Ragebooks moment and craps out a steaming pile of fury. Today is not that day. Today, Uncle Jeremy is blogging, because it's been a while and I feel like it. Yay new meds!

So, lacking a Ragebook-boner, what shall we talk about? Let's talk about guns. Because it's been a while since my Ragebook friends list cleaned itself.

Guns! (Source.)

Standard disclaimer is standard: I do not own a firearm, for personal reasons.

'K? 'K.

Now then, point the first: guns are cool. Guns make an awesome noise and spew metal at near or faster than sound speeds, several times, and there are few things better than the feeling of a precision machine that fits in your hand and does something incredible at the flick of a finger.

What? Just 'cause I don't own one doesn't mean I don't know how to use one and never have. I'm a damn fine shot, actually. I favor long arms, because I'm more precise with them, but a nice 9mm compact can get the job done.

Point the second: there are any number of reasons to own a firearm. Hunting, self-defense, because they're cool, being an aficionado (not the same thing as "it's cool," more like, "it's art"), target shooting, and so on.

Point the third: I live in America, and guns are somehow part of our heritage. Strawman Shmoe is bouncing up and down to argue my use of the word "somehow" in that sentence, but we'll get there, Schmoe. I'm just laying it out here.

Are we all on the same page? Good.

So, point one: guns are cool.


I mean, obviously, any piece of precision machining and technology has a cool factor. Also, anything that makes loud noises, or successfully harnesses explosions. But let's take a step back here: a gun does precisely one thing. It eject a small object, usually metal, at high velocity for the purpose of placing a maximum amount of force in the smallest area possible. This application has limited potential for use. Namely, it puts holes in things at moderate to great range. Despite this, we've found a number of applications to justify their existence.

Look at other things with similar base conceptual technology: fireworks make a loud noise, require a certain level of precision, do one thing only, and harness the power of explosions. Their purpose in life is to be pretty and make a cool noise. That's the whole thing. Art in 2.5 seconds of boom. And while we've only found one modern use for the things, that use is more than enough to justify their existence. Because seriously, pretty.

Cars harness the power of explosions, require precision machining, do one thing, and often look freaking awesome. On the other hand, they have formed the backbone of culture for a long time. They are a convenience, a conveyance, a necessity in a culture that has spread out in response to the ability to travel greater distances in shorter times.

The same above can apply to airplanes, with one key difference: holy fuckballs, we can fucking fly! We can fucking defy the inborn limitations of our species, flip the bird to birds and warp the restraints of gravity to our will as we fling ourselves through the atmosphere in armored shells powered by explosions and tornadoes. Airplanes are fucking awesome because holy shit, airplanes, you guys.

Airplanes! (Source.)
Ok, but back to guns. Looking at conceptually similar stuff, the question starts to creep in: cars go places, airplanes go places and holy shit fly (I'll stop now, I swear), both of the above support our culture in intertwined and complex ways, fireworks make a cool noise and are pretty, and guns...guns put holes in things at high speed. Yes, they make a pretty noise, and they're precision machines, and all of that, but...

Well, bluntly put, there's a purpose beyond function for cars and planes. They do work, they serve society. Fireworks, conversely, are essentially loud toys, but the big, dangerous ones are (generally) restricted to a certain time of the year, certain places, and in quite a few instances, to certain people. Because explosive art is dangerous art.

Buuuut...why are guns cool? What's their purpose beyond function, or if they're toys, why is the culture surrounding them one of legitimate function? What, in short, about the use of a firearm is inherently cool in the way that the use of a car, or a plane, or a firework is cool?

To break into that, we have to head to point two: reasons to own a firearm.

There's a few arguments to made for guns here: that they do work (hunting,) that they serve society, (law enforcement, military, self-defense) and that they have a purpose as a loud toy (because they're fahking awesome.)

And now, to summon the hordes of dissenters:

No, yes, maybe.

Honestly, we live in a world where food is just a ten minute drive away (not counting nutrition deserts, which are another post.) Yes, meat is expensive, and yes, there's nothing quite like going out and bagging a meal at gunpoint,'s literally a game for (assumption!) 90% of people. It's not work: it's play.

Yes, the military obviously needs guns, because the other guys have them, and they're not going to chuckle in bemusement and go away on a fair showing if we hurl rocks at them. Leaving aside the question of who the hell we fight and why, the purpose of a military is to saturate a given area with arms and ordnance to gain something we call victory over whoever the guys at the top happen to dislike that year. Sometimes for good reason, sometimes not, but at the end of the day, I'm not seriously going to sit here and say that soldiers shouldn't have guns.

(Side point, because I just have to say it, my preference wouldn't be to disarm soldiers, it would be to eliminate the need for a military at all. Given the sheer number of people that feel the need to yell at each other at ordnance point, I don't see that happening any time soon, so give the poor bastards on the ground firearms.)

Police: Not to beat a dead horse, but Britain. Gun control works fine there.They have a (largely) unarmed force, and when they do see a gun, they cordon the area, summon SWAT (or SWAT equivalent) and politely inform you that you're going to put that down or freaking else. We make fun of them for it, but frankly, it works.

Sources you say? And: go.

Biased source may be biased (depending on your point of view; I found a decent balance between things there), but I will note that the Skeptical Libertarian appears to be for 2nd amendment rights, so there's that.

Why one source? Because the guy sources himself all over the place. I could spend three hours hunting sources and counter sources, or I could send you to someone who already did the thing. Three guesses which way I decided to go, and the first three don't count.

 Continuing onward: self-defense. Hoo-boy.

Maybe. This is a self-fulfilling argument. We need guns to defend ourselves because the bad guys have guns. Which they have because we need guns to defend ourselves.

Bluntly, the argument goes that taking guns away from the good guys doesn't make the bad guys any less well armed.

True, as far as it goes. One tiny problem: the argument is used to prevent any conversation about how we can fix that. Frankly, the argument (in my experience) goes something like this:

"Maybe we wouldn't have so many firearm related deaths if there weren't so many firearms."

"But then if some bad guy had a firearm, I wouldn't be able to defend myself."

 "Well, what if we maybe just started regulating firearms? Ya know, start slowing that shit down, getting a better handle on it?"

"But then if some bad guy had a firearm, I wouldn't be able to defend myself."

"That's...not what I said?"

"Second Amendment."

"Uh, not saying you can't have it, just saying maybe we should regulate it better?"

 "Government overreach."

And that's where it stops. I have guns, I have a right to have guns, and therefore, regulation is bad.


So tell me: other than giving cops more tools to deal with those who misuse them, what has car registration done for the ownerships of cars? Other than making it more economically feasible to operate an explosion powered speed machine, what has mandatory insurance done to the ownership of cars?

Made it more expensive? Yup.

Made it more onerous? Yup.

Made it unfeasible? Not by a long shot.

Honestly: why is it government overreach to want to keep an eye on the movement and sale of a machine that has, as its sole purpose, accelerating small bits of metal to put holes in things?

More to the point, how does a gun "defend" you? If the other guy doesn't have a gun, sure, it can be a great show of force. So can a kitchen knife. So can a baseball bat. And I'm not saying an armed householder isn't a deterrent to an unarmed intruder.

But so is a dog. So is an alarm system.

To an armed intruder, the question rapidly becomes, "who shoots first?" A gun, even in the hands of a professional, does nothing to stop the other guy from shooting. The sole benefit of having a firearm in an armed v. armed situation is that it allows you to shoot back. That's the principle of "the best offense is a good defense."

Problem: trained professionals have a hit rate between 37% and 23% on average. Admittedly, that article also attributes it to poor training. Here's another that discusses different methods and how they can increase or decrease accuracy in a gun fight situation.

But here's the thing: firearm defense involves exposing yourself to gross bodily harm to inflict gross bodily harm on another person. Under stress. Usually with practice involving stationary targets in low stress situations, and frequently with little to no mandatory training. And in many cases, the training that is received is the exact same training the cops get.

To be clear, I ain't saying it's impossible to defend yourself with a gun, I'm just questioning the wisdom of having more than one firearm in play in an uncontrolled situation with untested factors, and most of those factors being civilians. 

Quick test: someone opens fire in a civilian area. You have a gun, you return fire. What happens?

Regardless of the fact that you are returning fire, and not instigating, three things have just occurred.

1) You are now a target. Unless you were lucky enough to paste the guy on the first shot, they will most likely shoot back under the premise of returning fire.

2) You have just introduced more whizzing projectiles into an already dangerous environment, thus further endangering bystanders.

3) When the cops do come, and they will, you are now in possession of a recently used firearm, with incontrovertible proof that you have fired it in a civilian situation. And if you were  lucky enough to paste the bastard on the first shot, you then have to deal with all the charges that come with shooting someone. Just to be clear, that's going to be a bad day for you.

As pointed out in the Skeptical Librarian's article above, the numbers of guns in an area vis a vis crime is largely a wash.

But if you open fire to defend yourself, you're not viewed as a hero by the cops. You're "Shooter #2."

Moving on to point three:guns as part of the American fabric.


When guns were appropriate, we used them as tools. In backwoods situations, living out on land, dealing with snakes, predators, etc. guns are still a viable tool. The same goes for most places: if there's a high chance in your day to day life that something's going to try and eat you, guns are an important equalizer.

As near as I can figure, guns are a part of our lives because we want to believe we're still frontiersmen. Honestly, half the world had guns before we did. There's still a culture of gentleman sporting here and there, and of course, there are war torn countries where guns are simply a fact of daily survival.

But not here. We don't have to kill for survival, we don't (necessarily) live in a dictatorial warzone (jury's still out on whether that might happen). We have a culture of sporting with firearms, but there's a difference between bopping out with the old fowling piece for a spot of what, and building a small armory. Sure, there's some people that own one rifle for hunting, but I've heard many of those people list "self-defense" as a primary reason for owning it. Not all these things are true for all cases, but unlike many other cultures, we enshrine guns as part of our heritage. Part of who we are.

Simply put, there's no need for it. Further, there's no reason for it, except that we've been raised on stories of cowboys who had guns, soldiers who had guns, and frontierspeople who had guns, and miss the part where they all needed guns to survive, and go straight for the part that "ancestors needed guns = guns are part of hertage."

And that's kind of silly, in my opinion. Our ancestors also needed leeches, horses, land to plow, hunted for food, have to manually drive cattle, and were drafted into wars. We don't need any of those things anymore. We ride horses cause horses are beautiful animals. We have machines the size of small buildings that plow for us. We've dropped the draft, we send cows by train and truck, and we get our food at the local megamart.  One of the few things we've kept from these cultural necessities is the firearms.

Down here, then, a point: taking all of the above, all the wrangling, let's not forget the primary purpose of a firearm. Namely, killing things.

There's an old saying about "guns don't kill people, people kill people." What's left out there is that people often kill people with guns. We can talk about hunting, we can talk about target shooting, we can talk about responsible ownership, and collecting, and so on. But at the end of the day, there's the overriding function of a firearm: accelerating that tiny piece of metal the ludicrous speeds for the purpose of putting holes in living things.

And we accept this reflexively. In movies, guns are elevated out of the role of "weapon" and into the role of "endless bullet spewing death god." Lady nipples and dicks are too racy for TV, but let the bullets fly. Two men kissing is an outrage; two men trying to kill each other is entertainment. There are states where it's illegal for consenting adults to make porn, but legal to buy enough weaponry to arm a small militia.

And it's not even like we try and excuse it. Hollow points, fireball and flechette rounds for shotguns, armor piercers, Teflon coating...we make bullets that are better and better at killing shit, and sell the weapons that fire them for $200+. Guns are cheap, and even cheap ammo gets the job done as well as the fancier stuff.

So...yeah. Personally, I'd like to see at least tighter regulation of guns. I'd like to see tighter regulation of what kinds of round are available on the civilian market. I'd like to see a national registry.

But mostly, I'd like to stop reading about gun violence, and then seeing all the people come out to say that that person didn't get shot because Guy X had a gun, he got shot because Guy X was disturbed in some way. Because that leaves out the main question: how would that person have been shot if Guy X didn't have a gun?

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Conversations With Brain


Me: "Brain, why do we play solitaire? It's a pointless exercise in frustration that makes me want to scream and throw things."

Brain: "Do we?"

Me: "Do we what?"

Brain: "Throw things."

Me: "No, of course not."

Brain: "That's why we play solitaire."

Me: "To learn not to throw things."

Brain: "Yup."

Me: "..."

Brain: :-)

Me: "Where is this zen bullshit when I'm so depressed and paranoid I can't get move, Brain?"

Brain: "Talk to Emotions, those aren't my department."

Me: "They sorta are."

Brain: "Nope."

Me: "Sigh. Fine. Hey, Emotions-"


Me: "Yes, Emotions, I'm aware of that. Have you tried this Zen thing Brain uses-"


Me: "Brain, I kinda wonder if you shouldn't be helping with this."

Brain: "Nope, too busy calculating how many cats could fit into a Porsche if we assume cats are a gelatinous solid that have no need for air."

Me: "What!? Why in goddess' name would I need to know that!?"

Brain: "Dunno, just seemed like something to do."

Me: "You could help me function maybe."

Brain: "Nah. But as long we're talking about functioning, how's that novel coming?"

Me: "It's being crushed under the weight of a depression so black that I could blind an emo at thirty paces."

Brain: "Gee, that seems like something you should work on. I'll be over here with this highlights reel of all the times you ever failed. You know, if you need to talk."

Me: "...fuck you, Brain."

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

UPDATE: The Captain Obvious Tarot

Hello, all. Normally, I don't talk too much about my spirituality in specific. I'll talk about spirituality in general, I'll talk about religious fanaticism, etc. But today, kiddies, we're going to talk about Uncle Jeremy's Tarot deck.

Let's get the laughter done with first:


I use the Greenbriar Tarot, aka the Dollar Tree Tarot. So first, we'll cover the flaws.

1. It's cheap as hell. 

Thin cards, unlaminated, not even cardstock. I wipe my hands off before I use it for fear of damaging it with just the fine film of sweat on my hands.

Solution: $5 worth of baseball card sleeves.

2. They buggered the design.

The deck is advertised as having 78 cards. And it does. They even managed to print the majors properly, and got all the court cards right.

But eight of those 78 are "special" cards that have nothing to do with the tarot. They're layout markers, so you can use them to remember what order and placement you use for the spread they reccomend for the deck. Further, they printed the deck with an Ace of each suit, and a 1. that means the suits go ace, 1, 2, 3, etc.

For those playing along at home, that means that each suit is short three cards. Specifically, 8, 9, and 10. So each suit goes:

 A, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, Page, Knight, Queen, King.

Solution:  Screw the numbered cards. I made a short deck of the majors, courts, and aces.

3. They put weird interpretations on all the named cards.


Every single major, every court card, and all the aces have these little "past, present, future" boxes on them. And sometimes the meanings are really simple or incredibly cheesy. The "future" meaning for The Star major, for instance, is "You discover YOU are a star!"


Solution: Actually, it's not that bad if you remember that this is a tarot deck. Reading those interpretations allegorically, they can be really quite useful. And most of them are vague enough to be as interpretive as most "normal" tarot readings.

So what are the upsides here?




Omigah, is it beautiful. Before I figured out how to use the darn thing, I seriously considered just framing the 42 unique cards and hanging them on my wall. It's comic-esque, but with a depth that just...agh, I could spend hours just looking at the bloody thing. Gorgeous.

What? Yes, I do look at art first when I buy a deck. I'm a friggin' artist. I have a perfectly serviceable mini deck that has all the cards needed for a proper tarot reading, and I've never used the darn thing because I just can't with the art.

Next upside: 42 useable cards. I'm a huge nerd, and I get a kick out of doing divination work with a deck that has the same number of cards as the answer to life, the universe, and everything.

Finally, it doesn't need the pips. I've been doing three card readings (past, present, future) for a couple of weeks now, and it rarely fails to give me something sane and understandable. On the occasion that it's abstruse, it's because I haven't had my coffee yet, and I forgot to keep track of the order I drew the cards in.

I've tried other decks, you guys. I bought and briefly used a Gilded Tarot, and it just never worked for me. I ended up giving it to my sister (hiya, Twin!) because I couldn't get a reading out of it to save my life. I have a Running Press minideck, and again, I don't use it because it just feels too simple, too..."meh."

After those, and after looking at a berjillionty decks and not seeing anything that resonated, I started doing the Gypsy 52 playing card divination, and that worked fine. But it just doesn't feel the same. (Although if you're interested, grab a deck of playing cards and go here.) I still do it, and it's great.

But about a month ago, I was looking at the Greenbriar and thinking, "there has got to be a way to make that thing work." Whereupon I stripped out the pips, and ta-da! It works.

Anywho, having defended my choice of deck:

Omigah, you guys. This deck.

I go back and forth between calling it the Obvious tarot, and the Derp Deck. It's like having an overly excited cockatoo screaming at you that a thing is happening.


Woke up today feeling pressured that I had too much to do, and not enough time, and that's been the story of my life for weeks now. Further, I have a meeting today for a mentoring thing I do. It gave me this:

Read left to right, past, present, future.

Read those meanings.

Know that that is all the thing it do.

The Greenbriar takes whatever is the loudest, most noticeable aspect in my life right at that moment and tells me about it. And every time, I'm going, "Thank you, Captain Obvious."

But you know what? It starts my day out with a laugh. It tells me what's bugging me that day. And it takes that background deal that would otherwise simmer in my subconcious and make me grr all day and goes, "LOOK AT EET. DO YOU GROK THE THING?"

And the funniest bit is that I did a reading with it for a friend the other day, and by gods, it did the same thing. Grabbed the biggest, most obvious situation in his life and tapdanced on that dead horse.

So yeah. If you look at your deck and go, "huh?" or "well, alrighty then;" or, like me, if your experience with tarot has been one of doom and gloom reading after doom and gloom reading, might I suggest the Derpy Deck?

Although, if you want one, it's going to have to be the reprint because Greenbriar sold it to Fantasma. Who rebranded it as the Wishcraft Tarot and promptly turned it pink.


But you know what? I'd still use it. Because we could all use a bit of derpy tarot in our lives, I think.

UPDATE: The Wishcraft version is apparently a full 78 card tarot, with all the pips incorporated properly, and larger, better quality cards. So you can use it both in derpy mode and Tarot mode. The only downside appears to be that the cards are "marked" like a magician's prop deck. But hey, burn the booklet or don't bother to memorize the marked code (or draw blind) and it shouldn't be a problem. Not plugging the thing, but Imma buy one!