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Monthly Spotlight: Sir Terry Pratchett

Once a month, I pick something from my bookshelves and talk about it. There’s no better choice to kick off this series than the work of my favourite author of all time, Sir Terry Pratchett. This post is going to be insanely long because there’s just so much to talk about – no future spotlight is even going to get close.

Mostly I’ll be focusing on the Discworld series, easily his best-known books – 36 adult novels and 5 young-adult novels (broken down into character arcs), plus 4 science-based novellas, TV adaptations, animated adaptations, plays, music, computer games, diaries… you can see why this is going to be a long post. Before jumping into that, I’m going to talk briefly about his non-Discworld books, under the cut.

[Mitchell here. I don’t have a lot to add, as I unfortunately haven’t read a lot of Pratchett’s work. He was a thoroughly admirable human being and brilliant writer, and I’ve appreciated what I did read of his. I have issues with depression and I’ve found that interferes with my enjoyment of the humour: I tended to notice in the abstract that it was clever and I should be laughing without actually reacting, so I’ve been putting them off until I’m in a better mental place to experience them. That’s not going to stop me from seconding the recommendation, though, his books are great.]

Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on January 25, 2018 in loten

 

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New Feature: Monthly Spotlight

Hey folks, time for something new now that the Strike nonsense is a thing of the past.

In addition to the ongoing Harry Potter coverage, I’m going to start doing one post a month showcasing something from my bookshelves, be it an author, a series, or (rarely) a single book. I can’t decide which of them, if any, should replace the aforementioned Strike nonsense as my side series here, but doing this should help me pick, as well as showing me which of my books you’re all familiar with and/or want to know more about.

(No, it’s not a cheap way of giving myself potentially years of blog content! Well… not just that, anyway.)

I’m thinking at the moment they’ll mostly be spoiler-free, for the benefit of people who want to discover them on their own, but for some of them it might not be possible to do it that way. We’ll see when we get there.

Mitchell is allowed to comment on posts about things he’s familiar with, IF he behaves himself! Because I know before I start that he has quite strongly negative opinions about at least some of the things I’m planning to write about. Certainly generally valid opinions, but we already have enough posts ripping things to shreds here, and there will be plenty of time for that if and when I take any of them on as full deconstructions.

I think that most if not all of these will be mainly positive (while still acknowledging that there are problems, because I have yet to find an actually perfect book/series/author and I really don’t think it exists). Most of the things I’m planning to cover are long-established favourites, while some are things I used to like a lot more than I do now, and I’m sure along the way I’ll find new things to feature too. Anything I feel mostly negative about doesn’t deserve a spotlight, after all. I expect the vast majority of features will be at least passingly familiar to most of you, but hopefully I can recommend some new things as well.

So, starting at some point in January, that’s hopefully what I’ll be doing. I think it’ll be fun and a nice change of pace.

As for Harry Potter, I was hoping we’d have the next chapter ready by now… but it’s December and I work in retail, so my time and energy levels are about what you’d expect and falling every day. Mea culpa. Keep commenting on the arbitrary death count so far if you like, and what passes for normal service will hopefully resume soon. Happy end-of-year festival of your choice in the sadly possible event that we don’t update again until after Christmas, and let’s hope that next year is better.

 
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Posted by on December 13, 2017 in loten

 

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Happy New Year

I’ve been saving this.

f2016_zpsw7j0gkr5

Thank you, John Oliver.

Let’s hope the new year doesn’t suck as overwhelmingly as the last one, eh?

See you soon for Chamber of Secrets and whatever else we decide to babble about. Happy new year from both of us.

 
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Posted by on January 1, 2017 in loten, mitchell

 

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The view from the brink (or: on the Electoral College)

I have been struggling with writer’s block for quite some time, so it may not be surprising I’ve not had much to say recently. That said, I think the recent version is something a bit different: I keep feeling like I need to say something about politics (what I have called and will continue to call the US national disaster) but can’t get through the shock and horror and disbelief well enough to actually say something coherent. Lots of people have already been saying the things I want to say better than I could say them, which doesn’t help either (I’m not sure if anyone has noticed my continued linkspam in the comments over here but that’s the best I’ve been able to manage thus far).

At the same time, I haven’t been able to look away. I keep reading news stories in horror as they come out. It certainly isn’t good for my mental health, but I can’t stop doing it, and at the same time I can’t imagine it would be better to stop paying attention and bury my head in the sand. I’ve been wrestling with that since 11/9, as I’d been fully expecting the horrorshow to be over (or at least to change forms; I’ve said before that prior to the election I’d naively thought the worst case scenarios involved disappointed deplorables lashing out). (As an aside, I do love that people are referring to this as 11/9; while slower acting, I really do think this is a catastrophe of similar scale to 9/11.)

I can pretty safely say that I do not think I have ever felt such hatred and contempt for anyone as I do now for Donald Trump, his stooges, and the Republican party for abetting them. These people are fucking terrifying. These feelings make me very uncomfortable, but I think in the end they are rational feelings to have, and they’ve more than earned it by this point.

I should say again that while I currently exist in a constant state of anxiety and terror, it’s not really for myself; it may be my depression talking, but I honestly don’t particularly care what happens to me (and at the same time, I belong to enough privileged demographics that the worst consequences aren’t going to fall on me; a lot of my fear is fear for what is going to happen to other people and groups of people). This is bigger than any one person. Rather, I’m concerned about the drastic consequences that will inevitably ensue from having such an incompetent, foolish, narcissistic arsehole in power and from the destructive cabinet appointments he is making. And that’s even disregarding the Russian interference, and the Trump campaign’s possibly-treasonous collusion with it; between this emboldening of Russia and what is looking something like a resumption of the Cold War, and Trump’s irresponsible actions with respect to China and the Middle East, I am beginning to seriously think this might be leading up to a World War Three. The odds of humanity surviving such an event do not seem favourable.

In a time where everyone should be seriously concerned with trying to curtail climate change in any way possible (if it is not already too late) instead Trump and stooges seem to be threatening to remove anyone who agrees with the scientific consensus from their positions in the EPA, promoting climate-change deniers and oil executives to high positions and encouraging more environmentally destructive drilling and reliance on fossil fuels. There are multiple ways in which the worldwide consequences of a Trump presidency might be irrecoverable. This is not histrionics; it is brute fact. We cannot afford to play games.

And that is disregarding the smaller effects that a Trump (and Pence) administration will have on the everyday lives of people, especially people with marginalised identities. I am not the biggest fan of ‘Obamacare’, but it is undeniable that many people will suffer and die if it is repealed.

To frame things a bit flippantly: I do not ever want to see another fiction story about time-travellers trying to prevent the rise of Hitler, when people in our time couldn’t even do anything to prevent Trump and at best looked the other way while it happened. Let’s note the parallels in how journalists downplayed that threat too. While I don’t want to make excuses for ignorance, in the case of Hitler it could at least be argued that such a thing had not happened before; today we have the benefit of history, the benefit of hindsight, and the parallels are all too obvious. Americans like to think that our national ideals and supposed values make us immune to facism, but it has become all too clear over the past two years that if anything it makes us more vulnerable, because that very tendency to think ourselves immune caused us to stop looking for the warning signs. We elected (for some definition of that word at least) a candidate whose only noteworthy newspaper endorsement came from the Ku Klux Klan. We cannot afford to minimise that either.

I could go on. I could try to list off every single thing Trump, his children (who thanks to nepotism and corruption will have outsized influence in his administration), and his cabinet appointees have said which makes it utterly obvious what a disaster they will be for America and the world, but if you are reading this post you probably already know.

The Electoral College meet tomorrow to cast their votes. This may well be the last opportunity we have as a nation to legally put the brakes on this tragedy, though I’m afraid I don’t think the odds of the electors miraculously opting to spare us are very high. Nevertheless, I can’t help hoping they will do something (even without the intelligence briefing they’ve requested and been denied). It’s unfortunate that many of them have received harassment and threats (and from both sides of the issue; so much for the moral high ground. I really do not envy the electors their position, as they may well feel unsafe no matter what they do), but I hope some of them will find their consciences in spite of that. It may sound melodramatic, but our future really is in their hands right now. If I were a praying person (or even thought there were the slightest possibility of benevolent supernatural entities), I would fucking pray. But that won’t help us, so instead let us pray to the potential better nature of the electors.

I should add, because I’ve just been reminded: this is not about “poor sportsmanship” and Democrats being “sore losers”. This is not about “sour grapes”. Donald Trump is the single most unqualified person ever “elected” to the presidency (in point of fact negatively qualified, nearly everything about him should have been disqualifying), and beyond that the election was “won” by suspiciously slim margins in a few “swing states” while having the largest gap between popular and (projected) electoral vote we have ever had. When we consider this is also in the context of interference by a hostile foreign power (via propaganda there is no doubt; whether voting machines and vote counts were actually meddled with seems an open question but is unproven at best), it becomes even more troubling (and I find it troubling even to discuss), because so much of this sounds like conspiracist nonsense. I should like to think that Democrats would be equally troubled if it was our own favoured candidate who “won” an election under such circumstances (I am not sure this is true, sadly, but at the very least I think they/we would be more troubled than the gloating deplorable Republican “sore winners”). This is about an international crisis and preventing catastrophe. Don’t be blindsided by accusations of partisanship. This is a crisis that should transcend party affiliation.

Honestly, we don’t even know how long it will take us to find out if they’ve done anything, and I suspect that will cause a great deal of anxiety for quite some time.

I don’t expect it to accomplish much, but there will be protests outside every state capitol tomorrow and I will be participating. It took me a long time to make up my mind, but I don’t think I could live with myself if I didn’t go; I’m not at all optimistic that it will make a difference (especially in Pennsylvania) but I feel like I have to do something more than just signing petitions…

I don’t know that I’ve made any coherent point here, but I’ve been quiet for too long and I needed to say something.

 
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Posted by on December 18, 2016 in mitchell

 

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Well, we’re doomed.

Goodbye world, it was nice knowing you.

 

Okay but for real, actual post coming in a few hours when we’re both less shell-shocked.

 

…fuck.

 
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Posted by on November 9, 2016 in loten, mitchell

 

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Musings on tech culture and employment

How realistic an expectation is it not to be miserable one’s entire life?

It sounds pretentious to put it that way, perhaps. Or perhaps entitled; I do find myself wondering whether the main problem I suffer from is unrealistic and/or greedy expectations.

This all sounds rather vague, I’m sure; context will follow.

There is a response I often get, especially from my parents, when I complain about anything job-related or job-search-related, which essentially boils down to “everybody hates their jobs, so suck it up and deal with it”. Or to put it slightly more charitably, “nobody enjoys their job all of the time, and most people don’t enjoy their jobs most of the time, so suck it up and deal with it”. And while I am certain there is some truth to this, I still find myself unwilling to accept the consequences (and I do suspect there’s a level of “misery loves company” to my parents’ promotion of this view, because neither of them are particularly happy in their situations). And there are also practical considerations, in that the longer I languish unemployed the more inescapable that position becomes.

Nevertheless, I find myself pretty thoroughly miserable in the current job (and this is before being paid much of anything and/or getting an actual job placement out of it), watching my depressive symptoms intensify and despairing for the future. So you get to have an angsty rant from me! Aren’t you lucky? (I suppose I could only be more of a cliche if I were publishing this on LiveJournal, but I haven’t got an account there and have no intention of making one.)

Firstly, I’m being reminded all over again of how little I like programming and working with code in general (one of many reasons I didn’t pursue a CS degree: I’ve found recently that to get myself to work on code I often have to take anti-anxiety pills first), and how little I like programmer/tech culture. And while there may be something to be said for trying to do activism from within to change that culture, I doubt I have the emotional fortitude for it. (I keep thinking back to the Adria Richards incident, for example; I’ve been witness to quite a lot of similarly inappropriate ‘humour’ in the past few days. Lots of juvenile ‘humour’, lots of sexist/misogynist ‘humour’, etc, from the instructors as well as the students. I’m never sure whether it’s worth my while to speak out against this sort of thing – especially when it’s in a classroom environment and would be disruptive – but not doing so often reads as condonation and probably contributes to the problem in the long run. I do sometimes wonder whether I should consider myself to have a moral obligation to stay and try to effect change from within, much as I’d hate to actually have to do that.) And the endgame of this program is something like earning the privilege to be immersed in this environment for an extended period of time; just what I wanted, clearly. And furthermore I suspect I’ll find myself further entrenched in the tech world after that period has ended, with even less hope of escape than I have now.

But what right do I have, really, to a career I won’t hate? Maybe it’s my fault for being too picky or too depressive; I genuinely don’t know whether such a thing is even possible (and also there have been studies in psychology which suggest that paying people for doing a thing decreases their enjoyment thereof, which has further unpleasant implications: it may well mean that finding a career doing something I love, if there is such a thing, would just suck all the joy out of it and render me equally if not more miserable in the long term).

I almost want to make a slightly goofy analogy here and compare job-hunting to looking for a marriage as a woman in a Regency romance or the like: if it weren’t necessary for survival/livelihood a lot fewer people would be doing it, the odds of ending up in a satisfactory situation are rather low and there are far more people vying for the good opportunities than can realistically attain them, and, of course, one just has to hope against all odds to end up with someone who isn’t going to be abusive and exploitative, let alone merely not insufferably dull. The vast majority of job prospects are not going to be Fitzwilliam Darcy. But, merely to remain with Pride and Prejudice here, does that necessarily mean that one should resign oneself to the likelihood of having no better than a Collins? (Hmm, what would a Wickham be in this context? Something like my current situation, perhaps? – mandatory relocation, tempting offers of money and opportunity that mysteriously fail to appear in the promised quantities? God, that’s depressing.)

When I think about it rationally I think the best I can realistically hope for is to find some kind of 9-to-5, 40 hour per week job that I don’t absolutely hate, and then try to build the life I actually want in the fragments of time that that leaves me. But there’s another part of me that rebels against this, arguing that that’s actually quite a big time commitment as it is, and that if the work is even moderately taxing it will likely leave me unable to accomplish much of anything in mornings or evenings during the week, and essentially giving me at most two days out of the week to actually live. I know a lot of people are capable of living that way, but I have a hard time convincing myself it’s a pleasant lifestyle unless the job itself is better than tolerable. Plus there’s the annoying fact that – especially in technology-related fields, where I’ve mostly been pigeonholed whether I like it or not – many if not most companies have an expectation of being the worker’s number one priority and that a certain amount of work is going to be taken home with them (to the point where I almost find it refreshing when one is honest enough to just demand people work overtime). Shouldn’t the bloody 40 hours of servitude be enough? (No, of course not; THIS. IS. CAPITALISM!)

And then I’m reminded that it’s not even as simple as that, because people who enjoy their jobs also do better work and are therefore more likely to get the bloody jobs in the first place. I’ve been observing this recently as well – most of the others in this training programme actually seem to enjoy programming and working with code, don’t (much) resent being expected to do so at all hours of the day without regard for spare time, and are excited about continuing to do so at actual work placements. Whereas I, obviously, do not. As such, while passing no judgment on the relative intelligence levels of persons involved, I can safely say these people end up being better (and vastly more employable) programmers than me by virtue of enthusiasm alone even disregarding any other factors.

And then on occasion I listen to something like, for example, Mark Rosewater’s podcast, and am reminded that there do actually exist people who find careers they love and seem to have a marvellous time at it. Dare I actually hope for such a thing? (This comes full circle to the question I asked at the beginning of this piece – statistically, what are the odds, and is it greedy and unrealistic to use that as a standard?)

Sometimes I think I should just change my name to Marvin and give up on any hope of enjoying life.

This has been a rather amorphous rant and I’m honestly not sure how much sense it even makes, so I’m not sure whether publishing it was the best idea… oh well, it’s too late now.

 
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Posted by on August 31, 2015 in mitchell

 

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Congratulations on your nuptials!

Congratulations, Steven and Emma!

From what I’ve been given to understand, you’ve survived an awful lot of planning-related bullshit from the wedding-industrial complex, and have now joined the ranks of those who’ve rendered their romantic relationships legally binding and more difficult to escape from should things go badly! Here’s hoping that never ends up mattering to you; I wish you all the best.

(I’m trying my hardest to be positive without sarcasm, but that’s always been difficult for me.)

 
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Posted by on August 9, 2015 in mitchell

 

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I’m an American, get me out of here!

I can’t apologise enough for the lack of posting recently; my life has been kind of a mess for a while now and I haven’t had a whole lot of coherent things to say that people might care to read. I’m not sure that this will be, either, but I need to get some things off my chest before I suffocate. That’s what blogs are for, right?

The title of this post may go without saying, as it’s how I’ve felt for quite some time trapped in this hellhole of a country. But bugger that, let’s talk about the New Job. I promise it’ll come full circle soon enough.

The new job is a bit odd to explain – basically this company is a sort of intermediary recruitment agency that helps to retrain people for technical positions (mostly software-related) and then hires them out to client companies in exchange for a cut of the salary the client would otherwise pay. The training they offer is meant to fill in the knowledge gaps employers would otherwise be requiring the ubiquitous “2-3 years’ work experience” for “entry-level” positions for, and it seems a sound enough proposition. They don’t pay much during the training period but they do provide housing, which is actually decent enough. I don’t plan on naming them at present for various reasons, even though I have little if anything that isn’t positive to say about them thus far (in point of fact I’m going to use pseudonyms for everyone discussed in this piece and try to be nonspecific as to location as well; I don’t want to identify people here). If nothing else, I’ve appreciated their willingness to be open and honest with me.

In any case, what I want to complain about is (naturally) the living situation in which I currently find myself. (Admittedly this is only temporary, as it’s only for the training period which should be at most two months… but that doesn’t absolve it of its issues, since I still have to survive that period.)

The company provides apartments for people to stay in during the training period, and they are actually rather nice (or at least the one I’ve been placed in is; I haven’t seen all of them and I’m given to understand there is some variation). Unfortunately they are also rather crowded; they have six of us living in a single flat. Though it does have three bedrooms and two bathrooms, and a small kitchen, the bedrooms are small and taken up almost completely by the beds, so aren’t good for much aside from sleeping, and the modest living/dining area ends up being where everyone ends up while they’re here (and isn’t really big enough to be comfortable). And because the bedrooms are shared (and small, and the doors are thin) there’s really no good place to retreat if I want privacy; I definitely feel very exposed here no matter where I am.

That might not necessarily have been the worst thing, if it weren’t for a few other details about the people I’ve been stuck with. Or, at least, some of them; three of them have done nothing yet, and seem like perfectly nice people thus far. Then there’s the uber-capitalist Libertarian in his fifties who insists on turning every conversation into an argument with me (I made the mistake of mentioning in his presence that I identify as some sort of communist/socialist) and WILL NOT FUCKING SHUT UP, oh, and the self-identified Neo-Nazi 4chan Gamergate dudebro. Let’s call them Schmuck and Putz; why waste time coming up with realistic-sounding pseudonyms when I can just use various words for penis?

Anyway, I have never been particularly fond of tech culture, which will probably come as no surprise; that said, I allowed myself to succumb to the naivete of distance and time, and find myself surprised at the intensity of my culture-shock and revulsion. I’d expected to have some issues but hoped they’d be more manageable; that said, this is at least an improvement over the Job From Hell to which I’ve alluded in the past (where I lasted an entire six days before quitting because the bosses/managers were also hateful bigots and fostered an environment of bullying and harassment), though not as much of one as I would have liked.

In addition to the tech culture aspect, though, there’s also the fact that this job is located significantly further south than I’m used to living, and while it’s not in the Deep South or anything it seems like a lot of the people they recruit are from there and many of their eventual placements end up being there as well, so in interacting with people here I’m finding another level of culture shock as well; I seem to be the only person anywhere left of centre, at least amongst the people whose political views I’ve been acquainted with, which is equally alienating. I don’t want to take stereotypes too far here, because there are definitely plenty of people in the South who aren’t right-wing bigots, etc, and with whom I’m sure I’d get along swimmingly (and I’m sure those people don’t care for this stuff any more than I do, so I certainly don’t want to dismiss them as part of the problem; I certainly don’t want to make anyone else’s situation more uncomfortable!), but thus far I don’t seem to have encountered them.

In any case, let’s talk specifics. Schmuck I’ve mostly summed up, I think, except that he seems to hold ignorant or obnoxious opinions on pretty much everything you can think of, and insists on opining loudly about them to everyone around as often as possible. (For fuck’s sake, last night he was going on and on about how he believed there really were alien spacecraft at Roswell!) Disagreeing with him just makes him double down and argue more vehemently, which is frustrating because I don’t want to sit silently and have to listen to his opinions going unchallenged, but neither do I want to get involved and cause him to escalate (especially because when I do he doesn’t take it too well, either). He just never shuts up. And he loves to bring everything back to his pet economic issues… I do wonder if I’m being a bit hypocritical in getting so pissed off at this guy, because some of the things I’m complaining about are like a funhouse-mirror reflection of myself (I too am talkative and opinionated and irascible, and like a good argument sometimes, though of late I find it harder and harder to tolerate people whose disagreement with me is this fundamental – I’d rather debate interesting nuances with people I respect than try to demonstrate people should be entitled to food and healthcare), and I’m not sure I’ve handled the situation as well as I could have. I’ve tried setting boundaries and disengaging, both implicitly and explicitly, but it doesn’t help except in the short term (he’ll just pick up later where he left off, and there’s often noplace to run in any case) and I really don’t think Schmuck knows what a boundary is. I’ve tried explaining that I’d like my living situation to be relatively conflict-free, but all I get in response is a disingenuous “but we were just having a conversation! I like talking about/debating things like this!” Well, bully for you, Schmuck; I don’t like you and I don’t like talking about them with you, so go get your jollies elsewhere. Consent is fucking fundamental in my view of ethics, thank you very much, so take your virtual argument-penis and stop shoving it in my ears, you can perform mental masturbation just as effectively on your lonesome. (“If you experience an erection lasting longer than four hours, consult a physician immediately.”)

He also gets accusatory and plays the victim (at one point he went off about how rude I am) if I disagree too strongly with anything he says, try to put an end to a conversation, or just ask him to leave me be. Because of course he does; why should I expect him to be a decent human being? “Are you calling me stupid? Because a professor at [insert name of prestigious university] once told me I was a very deep thinker. How can you be so arrogant and think you’re so much smarter than everyone else?” Yep, argument from authority fallacy everywhere too, and he really didn’t like when I pointed that out either. For the record: Yes, Mr. Schmuck, I do think you are stupid and your ideas are stupid, and I actually think you are quite a shallow thinker as well. I don’t like to say so to people’s faces, especially because I’ve been walking on eggshells around you for some time because I’d like to minimise anxiety in my living quarters, but as long as we’re being honest with each other here and you’re never going to read this I’ll say what I fucking mean. You’re so full of shit you may as well be a sewer.

And then there’s the guy I’m calling Putz. Who is actually perfectly civil to me most of the time, and can carry on a perfectly decent conversation without touching on ideological disagreements for the most part, so he’s a lot more tolerable. Which is weird, because his views are probably even more odious. In an attempt to break the ice I decided to tell an anecdote about my father’s freshman roommate at university, which was about the worst possible roommate situation a university could create – Dad’s Jewish (I think he was the only Jew in his class), and they put him with the son of a member of the Hitler Youth. Immediately in response to this, Putz tells me he’s a neo-Nazi. I took it as a joke at first, but apparently he’s perfectly serious… the 4chan connection explains where he learnt it, I suppose, but it’s still very disturbing. For the most part he seems to regard me as a curiosity at present, which I’ll survive (he’s said he finds my views fascinating and well-thought-out even though he disagrees with me on practically everything…). But he’s still claiming to be a Nazi, going on about the evils of “cultural Marxism” (whatever the fuck that means; background here and here ), and hinting around the edges of Holocaust denial. Needless to say, I am not amused.

(Also, I should probably not make any further jokes about Sabbath elevators and the like around self-identified neo-Nazis like Putz. I hadn’t realised when this particular gentleman told me such that he actually meant it, because for better or worse I have a bad tendency to assume people I’m interacting with are basically decent and couldn’t conceive a reason other than shock value for anyone to say such a thing. Ironically, for such a pessimist, I tend to be irrationally optimistic when interacting with new people; I think I might project too much.)

That said, I’m not sure yet whether I need to be watching my back, and if so what for. (If I do turn up murdered, though, please mention this connection to the investigators.)

And of course they also looked at me incredulously when I told them I’m a feminist, because the rest wasn’t enough yet. (Both of them support Donald Trump for president, too, which says quite a bit about them I think.)

In particular regarding feminism, I’m not sure whether the underlying issue in many of these people’s cases is an inability to properly identify the scope of the problem, or a deliberate choice to be on the wrong side of it. In many cases you can tell which of those buckets a person falls into (if not both to some degree), but not always. I’m also not sure which is worse to deal with – with people who are openly and deliberately bigoted, it’s at least easy to know where you stand, whereas the (willfully or not) blithering blinkered ignoramuses are frustratingly obtuse and just deny/gaslight everything away. Where economic issues are concerned it’s easier for me to see how people end up with the beliefs they do even if I think they’re equally nuts and harmful, and liable to drive me insane (or moreso than I am already anyway); when it comes to racial or sex/gender-based bigotry, I just don’t understand these people.

I’ll admit it’s entirely possible I’m contributing to the problem here, despite the fact I’ve been acting surprisingly conflict-averse (for me at least) and have been trying to keep my head down. Maybe it’s partially my fault for caring about these things and being sensitive enough to find them painful to listen to. And there is the concern that I could be being hypocritical here… but regardless, these two gentlemen feel like just the tip of an iceberg and I’m already feeling trapped. It probably doesn’t help that these particular flavours of right-wing ideology feel particularly American to me (though it might not be entirely; I do get the feeling that especially online it’s a major export of ours, and 4chan etc isn’t confined to any particular location), and just in general I feel surrounded by reactionary nastiness. My escape can’t come soon enough, and yet I’m likely stuck here in the States for quite a while yet (if all goes well I’ve agreed to a two year commitment with this company, after the training period; I’m just hoping that wherever they place me will be more pleasant than here).

In the meantime, I’ve been drinking like a fish.

 
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Posted by on August 4, 2015 in mitchell

 

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2014 AHA Conference Postmortem

Before I say anything else, I should say that I’m incredibly glad I went to the conference. It really isn’t often I get the opportunity to have conversations with so many intelligent people who agree with me about the important things (when that’s already established and understood, we can proceed to much more nuanced and interesting material rather than rehashing old battles, which is quite refreshing). And beyond that, many of the people I was able to meet and converse with are people whose writing and speaking etc I’d been previously familiar with due to their roles in the movement; perhaps my perception of their fame is skewed, but I inevitably feel a bit star-struck and it then astonishes me that such people are interested in talking with me and hearing what I have to say. (It was even more shocking that the handful of them I’d previously met remembered me, especially since the most recent of such meetings was nearly two years ago.)

In addition to that, I had the privilege of listening to some truly excellent talks; if that takes second place in my estimation to socialising (and sometimes having debates) with the other attendees, it is only because I often watch talks online etc and it’s not quite so different in person.

The only downside of my having gone was its effect on my sleep schedule; after nearly four full days of conference, I did little other than sleep after I returned home on Sunday and then lost quite a bit of Monday to sleep as well. I think I might dislike hypersomnia even more than insomnia, honestly; if only I could do something other than oscillate between the two.

I must also admit that the conference gave me quite a lot of ideas to write about; hopefully I’ll get some of those pieces finished and posted here relatively soon.

(To those of you to whom I gave the address of this blog at the conference, if you’re here: welcome! I hope you stick around.)

 
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Posted by on June 10, 2014 in mitchell

 

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Public Service Announcement

Let’s discuss a hypothetical scenario. Party A and Party B are college students in a long-term, long-distance relationship (they attend different universities at a significant distance from each other; the distance is sufficient that visiting is inconvenient at best). Let’s also establish that when this relationship began, they knew it would be long-distance for the indeterminate future.

Let’s also establish that both parties are happy at their respective universities and wish to complete their educations where they currently are.

Which is the correct action for party B to take?

1) Accept the situation and learn to deal with being lonely sometimes

2) Accept the situation and leave the relationship

3) Accept the situation and start a conversation about renegotiating exclusivity

4) Constantly pressure party A to transfer universities and sacrifice their education, despite the fact they’ve made perfectly clear they’ve no desire to

Let me suggest that if you choose option 4 in this scenario, you’re a terrible person and shouldn’t have relationships with human beings.

Respect people’s choices, especially those of people you claim to love.

This has been a public service announcement.


In case it was not already blatantly obvious, this post was written in response to some real-life events involving persons known to me. In point of fact I wrote the above more than a week ago and was waiting to post it until I had more information, and the situation has changed since then; they have apparently come to some kind of reconciliation and are back together.

My original intent in writing this was to express support and sympathy for party A while validating her decision. And while I do think my point stands, far be it from me to audit her choices and tell her she made the wrong one now.

So this is what I’ll say: If he’s what you want and he makes you happy, so be it. That does not, however, mean I must refrain from calling out his bad behaviour; I mean it when I say this is not OK, and he had better have learnt his lesson from this and treat you better in future. You deserve to be treated with respect; everyone deserves to be treated with respect.

If you ever need somebody to talk to, you can call on me anytime; I’ll always be here.

 
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Posted by on May 11, 2014 in mitchell

 

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