Category: Courthouse

Texas and Kansas both have fairy forests, and Michigan and Arkansas both have waterfall campgrounds.

The whole site is replete with various sites in nooks and crannies without our great, expansive country. I’ve never been to a fairy forest, but I bet Lain would have a blast.

I have been to waterfall campgrounds, and they are amazing. When I was younger we used to go on cruises. I remember my first one and how excited I was to be able to go snorkling. I’d never been. The cruises tended to involve the Grand Cayman, Jamaica, and Cozumel. You’d do one thing on each island. I can’t remember which we did where, but on the first cruise we did the waterfall before the snorkling. Which turned out to be a bad thing, because the waterfall was way more fun. It was like a pool, but with water coming down.

That’s not too uncommon with elaborate pools having fake waterfalls, but with chlorinated water and all that. I’m not a naturalist and so that’s cool, too. I’d just never been to one of those places except at a water park. And at waterparks, there are so many other things to do you barely notice. In the real waterfalls, you’re kind of forced to appreciate The Thing instead of thinking about The Other Thing you could be doing.

The next island was the snorkling, and it was a real let down. I mean, you had to put on all of this equipment. You got to see some nice fish, but it was all (understandably) more controlled.

Photo by ChrisHaysPhotography

Category: Elsewhere

Over there, a conversation broke out in response to an article I linked to about on how to avoid being a creep on Twitter. This lead to well-tread conversation about the importance of physical appearance. Namely, whether an attractive guy can get away with something that an unattractive guy would get the creep tag for.

As it happens, my answer is an unequivocal yes. But also, that guys should get over it. My more general believe is that women are more interested in looks than stereotypes suggest, that, men are less, though that the relationship (men more interested than women) is still true. Given this, men collectively don’t have a whole lot of room to complain about woman superficiality.

This view gets a fair amount of pushback from both sides of the spectrum, and not because of the last part. A lot of women don’t like it because it suggests that women are more superficial than their stereotype, and that a lot of guys who complain about being treated poorly because they’re unattractive aren’t wrong. A lot of men like it because it allows them to believe they will be able to peg up when it comes to getting a woman because women place less of an emphasis on looks than men do. I further believe that this myth (that women don’t just care less about looks than men but don’t really care that much) is a pernicious one, because it places a burden on women to be more than they are, and more than we ask men to be.

So yeah, of course attractive and unattractive men are gauged differently. This is true in dating criteria generally. If a woman is interested in a man (or vice-versa) she is more likely to forgive awkward moments, interpret what he says charitably, and so on. This is true regardless of the source of the interest, which includes a lot of things other than looks. The year before she met me, my wife met a guy at the same venue who put a lot of the same moves as I did. She never described him as a creep, but she was made rather uncomfortable by it. Along comes me, who does the same things, and we’ve been married for over a decade. The criteria there wasn’t looks so much as age (he was ten years older than myself), biography (he was a former alcoholic), and other such things.

But come on. Of course it applies to looks, too. And when we’re talking about initial encounters, it’s the cover of the book and people do judge by it. There are things guys can do to make a better impression, but there is only so much that a guy can do. If a guy at the lower-end of the attractiveness spectrum is approaching a woman at the higher end, he is far more likely to be considered creepy rather than charming. And that’s a reason why it’s important that we be honest about this. Because if a guy doesn’t want to be creepy, he ought not aim high unless he has very high confidence in his social skills (and depending on the context, even then).

Talk about how there aren’t universal standards and how one person’s eight is another person’s six is some combination of trying to muddy the waters and clinging to grade school fictions. Yes, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but there is a reason why Hollywood actors and actresses tend to look a lot more like one another than they do like you and me. There may be opportunities to swing for the fences, but it’s a bad idea to do so regularly.

At some point, I started using as a gauge “Would I be doing this if it were an unattractive woman or a guy?” when striking up conversations and the like. If I never would, then I wouldn’t with some attractive lady unless I was willing to admit that I was making a move (however minor). That admission would become important because it meant that if she blew me off I wouldn’t be able to say “How rude.” I swung, I missed, life goes on.

At some point later than that, I realized that was insufficient. That it’s often not appropriate to do towards a woman even if I wouldn’t have a problem doing so towards a guy. That’s where Twitter comes in. Liking every tweet someone tweets (or liking every picture on Facebook) is just not something that a normal person does without some… other motivation. But sometimes on Twitter I do find myself in someone’s timeline and running across several comment-reply-like-retweet worthy tweets. If it’s a guy, I might do three or four or five.

Yeah, but probably not if it’s a female. Not unless it’s one that I have conversed with pretty regularly and have some sort of indication of “Hey, we’re cool.” If they don’t follow me, or my contact with them has been relatively minimal, I will probably pass. This applies especially to young women I follow. Though comparative appearance isn’t an issue (my avatar is a cartoon character, after all), the dynamics between men approaching 40 and women a little past 20 is pretty straightforward. There are a lot more of my type hitting up their type, than vice-versa. And while I am not hitting them up, it’s best to just go ahead and avoid any discomfort they might feel if they even suspected this old geezer was demonstrating a prurient interest.

It’s entirely possible that I am being too deferential, and that I am doing them a disservice by not charming them with my banter or my retweets. But you hear enough stories and think “Yeah, I don’t want to be a part of that” and so you don’t. I don’t necessarily follow all of the rules of the original piece, but they’re worth at least considering. Whether you’re a 20-something stud or a 40 year old dad. But especially the latter.

Category: Coffeehouse

A couple quick anecdotes:

The other day, there was a bug sitting next to me on the sofa. I swatted it and immediate regretted having done so. I don’t know what kind of bug it was, but it was a big with a bite. More specifically, it got its final revenge with a sting. Hurt like crap, but only for a little bit.

I didn’t think about it again until about 24 hours later, when I found my index finger itching like the dickens. It wasn’t until I looked down and saw that the finger had grown to be twice the size of my thumb. It took me a few minutes to make the connection to the bug I swatted. I still don’t know if that was responsible, but it seems like it was.

The weird thing about the itch is how I just couldn’t scratch it. Like I could scrape my fingernail on it, but I wouldn’t get the satisfaction I might get with a chigger bite or even dry skin. It was just… numb. It’s hard to explain precisely how annoying that is. I contacted Clancy to ask if I had anything to worry about, and she said not. Sure enough, after a day or two it went away.

The second thing involved a bug that was flying around the door in the downstairs at a point when I was trying to get in. It was like the thing was on crack, just going everywhere. The dang thing flew down my shirt!  I knew if it got inside it would drive me crazy. So I basically just stood there outside waiting for it to… I don’t know, do something. Go away or something.

That was when Lisby earned her keep. It flew down by her and she ate it.

The night after that, Lisby inexplicably woke me up at 4am to go outside. I took her out, she peed, and I came back in and went back to bed. I hadn’t even gotten back to sleep when I could hear her making the Conspicuous Sitting noise that she makes. I ignored it until she started whining. Grumbling, I took her out.

She proceeded to get a drink of water from the plastic pond.


Since she ate that bug for me the day before, she gets a freebie. That was it. (She did, after about ten minutes of slurping, poop.

Category: Home

Well this is pretty awesome. It you haven’t seen it, watch some Louisianians save a woman (and her dog!) from a sinking car:

NPR’s article has some really good pictures. You may remember a previous post with pictures of flooding in Texas. I had some song lyrics attached. Someone has posted the song itself (from a now-defunct band) on Youtube and is shown to the right.

There is a lot not to like about the south, but they do come together in times like this. The Cajun Navy came together in Katrina, and was sort of recommissioned during this flooding. It’s one of the positive aspects of the “Hold my beer and watch this s**t” culture that so often gets people in the region in trouble. You have a boat, of course roaming the floods and looking for people is what you do.

This isn’t unique to the south. There is a communitarianism in the west as well, even among those alleged rugged individualists. Out there, you often really can’t count on help because it’s so far away. But because it’s such a constant problem, it’s sort of always there. In the South it just comes up during freak weather, and with the exception of things like the Cajun Navy there isn’t any real formality to it. It’s just that you’re driving in flooding and you see some joe excited to use his F-150 to pull someone out of the water.

Rod Dreher has a really nice post on the subject.

Over There, JL Wall also has a post with links to ever more stuff.

Category: Newsroom

So sayeth conservative radio personality Charlie Sykes:

We’ve basically eliminated any of the referees, the gatekeepers. There’s nobody. Let’s say Donald Trump basically makes whatever you want to say, whatever claim he wants to make. And everybody knows it’s a falsehood. The big question of my audience, it is impossible for me to say that, “By the way, you know it’s false.” and they’ll say “Why? I saw it on Allen B West.” Or they’ll say “I saw it on a Facebook page.” And I’ll say “The New York Times did a fact check.” And they’ll say “Oh, that’s The New York Times. That’s bullshit.” There’s nobody – you can’t go to anybody and say, “Look, here are the facts.” And I have to say that’s one of the more disorienting realities of this political year. You can be in this alternative media reality and there’s no way to break through it. And I swam upstream because if I don’t say these things from some of these websites, then suddenly I have sold out. Then they’ll ask what’s wrong with me for not repeating these stories that I know not to be true.

When this is all over, we have to go back. There’s got to be a reckoning on all this. We’ve created this monster. And look, I’m a conservative talk show host. All conservative talk hosts have basically established their brand as being contrasted to the mainstream media. We have spent 20 years demonizing the liberal mainstream media. And by the way, a lot of it has been justifiable. There is real bias. But, at a certain point you realize you have destroyed the credibility of any credible outlet out there. And I am feeling, to a certain extent, that we are reaping the whirlwind at that. And I have to look at the mirror and ask myself, “To what extent did I contribute?” I’ll be honest, the bias of our mainstream media has been a staple for every conservative talk show host, every conservative pundit, for as long as I can remember. Going way back to the 1960s with William F Buckley, Jr.

This is almost a metaphor for larger issues. In the same way that the anti-Trump conservative entertainment weak tore apart the trust in the media they’d need this year, they also tore down the institutional protections and respect that might have prevented his rise to begin with. I’ve previously likened Trump to a virus that succeeded in large part due to a compromised immune system. Among other things, the bullspit detecting antibodies had been obliterated after wave on wave of previous infections.

And so when the media was needed, it wasn’t there in a meaningful extent. It couldn’t penetrate the minds of those who needed to hear it. Their credibility had been destroyed. When “the establishment” sought to stop him, they couldn’t. Their credibility had been destroyed. And the conservative news personalities were disinclined to rain on anybody’s parade.

I’ve been rather hard on Erick Erickson lately, because up until earlier this year he has been among the worst offenders. So it’s a bit rich for him to act as the “principled opposition.” On the other hand, at least he did flip. And when Republican voters needed to hear a particular thing, he tried to tell it.

What I still haven’t seen, except from Sykes above, is any indication that 2016 followed 2015, which followed 2014 and especially 2013. And that these things are related.

William Roper: So, now you give the Devil the benefit of law!

Sir Thomas More: Yes! What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil?

William Roper: Yes, I’d cut down every law in England to do that!

Sir Thomas More: Oh? And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned ’round on you, where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country is planted thick with laws, from coast to coast, Man’s laws, not God’s! And if you cut them down, and you’re just the man to do it, do you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I’d give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety’s sake!

Category: Newsroom

This post is conveniently timed precisely because – apart from recent events in Milwaukee – there has not been a recent event to attach it to. It was written – but posted neither here nor on Ordinary Times – very shortly after the shooting in Orlando.

After just about any mass shooting, you start hearing dueling cries. The first says that we must put an end to this. The second says that we should not politicize tragedy.
Not politicizing tragedy is hard when the tragedy is tied very directly to government policy, which is a political question. Access to guns, such as which guns civilians should be able to possess and under what circumstances, is a question of government policy. This government should be influenced by the ramifications of the policy. Including tragedy. So it’s really not reasonable to suggest that such things cannot be politicized.

The question, though, is when it’s appropriate to do so. Proponents of gun control argue that mass shootings are so frequent that if we wait until a significant amount of time has passed, another one will have occurred. So “later” becomes “never.” This is true up to a point, but becomes troublesome when we’re talking about politicization in the immediate aftermath of what happened, before we even know what happened. Increasingly, this practice itself has been defended.

I do get the appeal. If you want to enact change, the best time to do so is in a (seemingly) favorable political environment. When it comes to mass shootings, that’s right after the shootings. That is when it becomes hardest for gun rights advocates to defend their position without seeming indifferent to the death and carnage that is consuming us all.

As someone that supports a robust right to gun ownership, I certainly feel that. In the aftermath of these shootings, I do start to waiver. I start to wonder what gun control measures we could enact that would prevent either this tragedy or ones like it. So it may seem weird, or disingenuous, for me to then object to you making a seemingly effective argument right at the point where it is having the most impact.

The problem is that the impetus for action does not begin and end with gun control. This week, Senate Democrats staged a filibuster to demand action on a specific element of gun control: The terrorist watch list. The argument goes that people accused of being terrorists should not be allowed to buy guns. In general, I am skeptical of this policy on due process grounds. I the aftermath of tragedy, though, I tend to have a more open mind. This may have prevented Orlando! This one little thing!

It’s a little thing unless you happen to be a Muslim that attends the wrong mosque, or has a cousin with some radical ideas. Or, horror of horror, some of your own ideas do not meet with FBI approval. In the aftermath of Orlando, though, I have an open mind on such things. Actually, I have an open mind about a lot of things related to Muslims. Maybe we need to watch them more closely. Maybe we need to be more aggressive in taking action and when someone calls the FBI about suspicious activity exhaust every alternative before concluding that the Muslim poses no threat.

This may sound bigoted. It may sound Islamophobic. It is, to some degree, both. In the light of day, I don’t like admitting that I have any of these thoughts. I don’t like admitting them here, but feel I need to in order to convey that some of the thoughts that we must Do Something actually lead to some unfortunate places. In my better judgment, I try to balance the needs of freedom and security towards more freedom for everybody including Muslims. I try not to let my fear get the better of me. I try not to be a bigot. Now, maybe for you, you don’t even have to try. Good for you. Most of the time, it’s not something that explicitly guides my thought process. After Orlando, it takes more effort. I’m willing to bet there are a lot more people like me than there are like you.

These thoughts come and go, with regard to guns, freedom, and Muslims. Time passes, and I remember why it was I already didn’t take the position I have suddenly been considering. Sometimes change does take root. I’m not made of stone. But most of the more sweeping thoughts I have don’t, and whether you’re a liberal or a conservative that’s probably a good thing.

To be clear, being anti-gun is not the same thing as being anti-Muslim. This is true regardless of your threat assessments. The first is an object, the second is a person. The arguments, however, are connected in one important way: Consciously or unconsciously, arguments are being made right now that seek specifically to exploit impaired judgment.

I am myself increasingly bowing out of such discussions. To some, this suggests a degree of heartlessness and indifference, to the point where any expression of sympathy or sadness is ipso facto disingenuous or worse. Or at least cowardly. But really, it’s because I know enough about myself to know that anger and sadness is not fertile ground for good decision-making. It’s not a good emotional or intellectual place to separate good arguments from bad. It’s a good place for emphatic reaction.

Politicians are going to politic. Activists are going to agitate. Pundits are going to pontificate. People I value and love will suggest that I am indifferent to bloodshed, if not responsible for it. It’s hard not to get hurt, be upset and to lash out, but I try to remember one thing: Sadness and anger impair judgment.

Category: Coffeehouse

So this week, Linkluster hit #500. That is the point after which I will, at minimum, stop numbering them or using numbers as a basis for their name. I’m not sure what I’m going to do going forward in that regard, if anything.

As the words “at minimum” and “if anything” indicate, I am going to be re-evaluating what precisely I am going to do. I have added a new Espresso section to the right, which I will use as a cross between Linkage and OTC. I am hoping to spur myself to be less formal and scheduled here than I have been. I’ve been trying to have something new up every weekday morning, leaning on Linkluster and crossposts to do so. Instead of that, I may start doing more posting-things-as-they-come. Linkluster may be broken down into more bite-size items in Espresso, unless you guys really like it where and how it is.

Espresso is going to be a cross between OTC and Linkage, using CK Macleod‘s great plug-in for the latter. Basically, it’s for things where I have a thought, or want to share something, but is not a formal post. Most likely. I will have to hammer out the criteria as I go. But the main gallery is likely to be reserved for what I want people to see when they come to the site, even if that means that it’s not going to have something new every day. As you come to the site and see nothing new there, check under Espresso.

Somewhat relatedly, if you are receiving email alerts and have been for a while, I recommend considering unsubscribing and resubscribing here. The difference is that traditionally subscriptions have involved all content, and as I do more posts that are a neat 18th century painting… well you may not want an email for that. I’ve still got work to do to exclude them from RSS feeds (or create alternate ones).

Your input is welcome (such as what format, if any, you might prefer Linkluster to be in).

Category: Server Room

pigsflyA number of anti-Trump conservatives commented that at some point after the nomination was safely in Trump’s hands, they’d wonder why they have to try to be fair to him. And here we are…

This would have been an interesting experiment to run in 2012. Or 2008. Or 2004. In 2016… meh.

The American Economic Review releases a study suggesting that people do consider hospital quality and other market factors when pursuing healthcare.

Republicans need to cut this crap out.

Matthew Isbell wants to know why TV shows always come up with screwy election maps. I sort of figure it related to how on TV shows Republican politicians being conspicuously pro-choice is a regular thing. Different politics, different map.

nunsThe Internet Archive has 10,000 Amiga titles you can play right now.

This is not as cool to contemplate as supervillain origin stories.

Time’s list on “unfair taxes” presents a subjective viewpoint as objective, but replace it with “least progressive” and you’re making progress. Honestly, though, while I favor a progressive tax code in the overall, I don’t care as much about state and local in particular and favor a tax regime that’s somewhat favorable to high-income households at those levels (but not the federal).

Matthias Shapiro writes of the methodology of religious belief and disbelief.

This guy seems to be everything John Rosemond is arguing against. Elissa Strauss also seems skeptical.

americasurvivesYou guys are going to get tired about links about brutalism, but I’m not going to get tired of sharing them.

Follow the money, as the kids like to say.

So… what exactly is Mountain Dew?

Oooh, free photo editing software.

The weird world of Japanese house addresses.

This is probably a more productive speech than the “Men are dogs. Seriously. Trust none of them.”

The amazing science behind the disposable diaper.

"The right place for an infant is at the nursery, not in the tundra"

“The right place for an infant is at the nursery, not in the tundra”

At Harvard, George Orwell would apparently be a B- student.

David Lapp writes on the legacy of divorce.

Alysse Elhace explains why she’s not going to cohabitate. There may be reasons to cohabit, such as financial concerns, but Scott Stanley and Galena Rhoades argue testing a relationship is not a good one.

“It isn’t really a question of whether African American babies were used as alligator bait, but the question is how frequent was the practice?”

For the sake of wildlife conservation, folks are burning ivory. Wolf Krug explains that might not be a good idea.

catfriendWhen consuming an audiobook, your brain does mostly the same things as when reading, depending on what you’re consuming. This tracks with my own experience, where the meatier something is the better it is in text. But the difference is overestimated by some.

Why do we believe the viral myths we believe? Because they have the right heroes and villains.

Experts are not so expert as we are lead to believe. So when should we believe them?

8-Man is pretty cool, made all the cooler by the fact that his powers came from smoking. One of the interesting things I’ve discovered reading.

Category: Elsewhere

Carl V Phillips has a really good piece on the concept of “Harm Reduction” as it applies to ecigarettes and everything else. He argues that ecigarette advocates have lost their way:

And yet, many people who fancy themselves supporters of tobacco harm reduction actively support most of those caused harms. They actively support punitive taxes on cigarettes, social opprobrium heaped on smokers, prohibitions against publicans being able to offer smoking sections, etc. Indeed, those individuals often celebrate or advocate for the caused harms because they create further incentives for the only aspect of harm reduction they actually support, switching products. It reminds me of the Orwellian themes of about half the anti-smoking propaganda I see these days: “Quit because it is so expensive and forces you to take breaks from hanging with your friends!” Um, yeah, and whose fault is that? It is the same as those messages of “if you smoke weed, you might lose your student financial aid and future employment prospects, so don’t go saying it is not bad for you!” Needless to say, you will never hear a peep of condemnation of this hypocritical “concern” for users’ well-being from the faux supporters of harm reduction.

The bottom line is simple: Anyone who supports punishing smokers does not actually believe in tobacco harm reduction. None of those “but for the greater good we need to…” protests changes this. Causing harm is not harm reduction.

I agree with Phillips on some things within the larger debate, and disagree with him on others, but his criticism here does strike close to home. The pro-vaping community is an odd bunch that includes a lot of different perspectives. Phillips is something of a lefty, Clive Bates is a Tory, Robert West is Labour, and so on. Some are public health advocates that primarily see the value of ecigarettes in terms of being better than smoking, while others see it more through the lens of freedom or at least balancing that freedom with health concerns. That latter distinction is important because it informs how cigarettes are viewed, which is the subject of a lot of debate.

For the most part, the vaping community has hung its hat on how the product is different from smoking, and therefore take an anti-smoking stance. The harms of cigarettes are important, therefore little effort is put into contextualizing that harm or questioning some of the more questionable claims of public health advocates as it pertains to the harms of smoking. It helps that a lot of vapers are former smokers and, such as myself, proud of being former smokers. And less benignly, we know that when it comes to political relationships smokers, tobacco companies, and smoking make for a pretty toxic alliance.

And yet the enemies of smoking have, at least in the US, become our enemies as well. The FDA only begrudgingly acknowledges any difference whatsoever between smoking and vaping and often actively seek to obfuscate any difference.

So whether we like it or not, and whether it’s convenient or not, there is some common cause there. And many of the underlying arguments are not entirely dissimilar. Ecigarettes are not harmless, so in the eyes of many it’s an open question of whether or not it should be allowed. Cigarettes are very harmful, but not to everybody and as Phillips points out the shaming itself, whether through government action or social mechanism, is itself a harm. I have a catalog of things the government does to smokers for little no other reason than that it causes harm, in hopes of getting them to quit. By causing harm I don’t just mean some of the harder-to-justify mechanisms of making smoking more difficult, but intentionally making cigarette packaging or cigarettes physically revolting. When public health advocates express a fear of ecigarettes “normalizing” smoking, they tend to support policies with the primary effect of abnormalizing it. Formalizing the disgust of the public.

Now, maybe that is good public policy in the end if the net gains from people not smoking outweigh the psychological and emotional harm done to smokers. Maybe penalizing smokers through taxes can be justified if it discourages smoking. But Phillips is right: It’s antithetical to the notion of harm reduction. And it becomes clearer that does more than just make an enemy of smoking. It makes an enemy of the smokers themselves.

Category: Coffeehouse

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Greetings from Stonebridge a fictitious city in a fictitious state located in a tri-state area in the interior Mid-Atlantic region. We're in western Queenland, which is really a state unto itself, and not to be confused with Queensland in Australia.

Nothing written on this site should be taken as strictly true, though if the author were making it all up rest assured the main character and his life would be a lot less unremarkable.

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