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Sep. 5th, 2014


Since I seem to be unable to keep myself from getting into controversial topics lately... have a post on the leaked photos.

Currently, I'm taking a class on tort law, and yesterday our entire class period was dedicated to discussing this scandal. For those of you who must live under a rock, since it's been everywhere, some celebrities got their iCloud accounts hacked and their nude photographs leaked. Apparently, this is a Really Big Fucking Deal, because Jennifer Lawrence's naked photographs ended up on The Fappening. So now the FBI is involved (and really, they don't have anything better to do, like catch terrorists?) and there's talk of prosecuting everyone who downloaded the photos with sexual assault. I honestly don't think that's going to fly, unless someone downloaded the photos of the underaged girls who were included in the data breach, because the professor says that would fall under possession of child pornography. That said, she also said it would be likely for the underaged girls to be charged with creation and dissemination of child pornography, so maybe, maybe not. We'll just have to wait and see.

But because everyone has been freaking the fuck out about this, some even potentially bigger issues have gone completely unreported. Well, not completely. Back from my days in the IT world, I already knew about a website called Data Breach Today which chronicles important things that have been hacked. Have you heard about the Home Depot credit card information breach? Unless you read IT news or follow the business pages, probably not, because everyone's been lamenting the photographs. Did you know about the hack? Again, probably not, because while everyone has been hooting and hollering about Jennifer Lawrence's nudes, theyv'e ignored other things.

Hacking is bad, guys, don't do it, and don't go download stolen photographs. But I will be honest- I am more concerned with the credit card thefts than I am with the photo leaks.

Sorry if this post doesn't make a lot of sense... I've been having an allergy attack for the past few days and I can barely see straight. I took some medicine that's made me really loopy and it's kind of hard to type logically.

May. 18th, 2014

Trigger Warning: University- Part 3

It's not going away...

I've already written in depth about this in the past, so I'm not going to rehash all the arguments I've made except to reiterate that I think this is a stupid idea. I understand that professors may make use of disturbing content for their classes, and if they choose to warn, then that is fine and I would encourage that. But these special precious hothouse flowers are demanding trigger warnings for the goddamn Great Gatsby and other things. Like the one professor towards the end of the article says, this could have a chilling effect on professors and could make them scared to actually teach their subject.

The fact of the matter is that if you're in university, you're supposed to be an adult. If you can't handle things that upset you like a mature adult, then you have no business being in university. If you have a concern about something in the syllabus might be upsetting for you, then go talk to the professor. Believe it or not, they're actually not going to screw you over. If you're concerned, let them know, and they may give you an alternate assignment, or warn you ahead of time.

In the adult world no one is going to hold your hand and protect you from everything. It's time these undergrads learn that before they get out into the workforce.

I'm not saying this to be cruel, either. I understand the use of trigger warnings for people who have truly experienced trauma. But let's face it- the majority of people who are clamoring for these warnings are not trauma survivors. They want to be protected and coddled from their big bad scary class assignments. I've seen trigger warnings on the Internet for the most inane things, too- will that be expected to become part of university syllabi too? I would feel scammed out of my tuition if I showed up for class and my professor handed out a syllabus that had trigger warnings for toast.

Hopefully this will eventually die down, because if it doesn't, I'm worried about what the value of a university education will become.

Apr. 30th, 2014

Do you like the Lawn?

Do you like the Internet in general?

Do you like freedom?

Then please sign this and help protect Net Neutrality.

Mar. 7th, 2014

Trigger Warning: University: Link Roundup

The whole debacle is still ongoing. I've already made my thoughts on the matter known, so I'm not going to rehash them. That would get boring. However, there's been discussions of it all over the Internet. Some I agree with, some I don't, but they've all been pretty fascinating to read, so I'll link to them here.

This post is from a university professor who is extremely uncomfortable with the idea of this, because it infringes on academic freedom. Please note the link goes to an archived snapshot, done because the website itself was making my antivirus software go bonkers. But I think it's worth reading anyway, so here you can avoid any potential virus problems.

This goes to a thread on Fail Fandom Anon. It's kind of all over the place with regards to opinions so you can read it and form your own.

This goes to the Feministe article/comments section, as linked to by the above thread. I just want to say, though, that by linking to Feministe I don't necessarily endorse anything you might find on that website. This is the first time I've ever visited that site and I have not vetted the rest of it, so don't take this as any sort of endorsement of anything other than “the article I linked to on this particular topic might be of interest.”

And here I break one of my own rules and link to Shakesville. Please note that I absolutely do not endorse anything written by Melissa McEwan at all. Ever. The only reason I'm including this link is because it's on topic for this infodump. Also, for the love of god, do not comment over there saying you came from here. I'm not up for dealing with McEwan's poodles flooding my poor Lawn. I don't think IJ's servers could take it either. I mean it, no poking the beehive. And make no mistake- that website is a beehive. That’s why this one is an archived link, to discourage any beehive-poking and to avoid any pingbacks that might bring any of her commentariat over here.

This link goes to Student Activism defending the practice, which I found very interesting- it takes a slightly more preventative view towards the whole debacle than I do, but overall I think this is a more logical way to deal with the issue than a lot of people have been proposing. At least it recognizes that there might be some problems inherent with the whole trigger warning model., but understands that some students may need the extra heads-up.

This post touches on some of my least favorite words- seriously, if someone tried to tell me that “this thing we’re studying is problematic” I’d probably head-desk. But, again, other than that, this writer seems to be logical about the whole thing, with regards to teaching things that could be upsetting for the students.

This one’s fairly snarky, but does accurately describe what I think a lot of people were thinking when they first heard about this. People want fandom-style warnings for their college classes now? Seriously? Special snowflakes! The blog owner is quite a bit more conservative politically than I am, however (and considering that compared to some of the other blogs linked here *coughMelissaMcEwancough*- I’m essentially the second coming of Rush Limbaugh, that’s saying something).

Salon had what I would consider a profoundly simplistic reaction to the debacle- no nuance whatsoever, but I’ll include it here because the next article references it. And you’re all big boys and girls, you can make up your mind on the article itself.

The Daily Banter’s response to the Salon article, which I personally find more useful than the Salon article, but again, you can make up your own minds.

There’s a whole lot more about this out there, but this is what I’ve had the time to read. Like I said, you all are smart- if you weren’t you wouldn’t be reading the Lawn. You can make up your own minds, and you don’t have to agree with anyone who wrote these articles, or even me, if you don’t want to.

As I mentioned before, in the previous post, I will continue to use warnings for my fiction and any blog posts that contain things that are particularly graphic- any future articles about Michael and Debi Pearl, for example, will contain warnings. However, I’m not going to put up trigger warnings for anything anyone could conceivably find offensive, nor am I going to put in warnings for individual words or non-graphic descriptions of things. “X shot the guy” doesn’t get a warning, but a more graphic description of X shooting the guy would.

And even though I come off as kind of prickly in these posts, if something here on the Lawn legitimately triggers you, it is logical, and you let me know, I’ll edit the post to put a note up. 9 of 10 times, if you can logically make your case to me, even if it’s something idiosyncratic, I’ll put a note or something up. The 1 time I won’t, likely it was something conveyed to me abusively (calling me a stupid triggering cunt isn’t going to endear you to me, let’s put it that way) or was just so out there that I wouldn’t even begin to know where to start with the warning. Put even more bluntly, if I somehow forget to tag graphic violence, suicide, or assaul.t, or it slips past me, go ahead. I’m not going to put up warnings for office supplies, though.

And hopefully that’s the end of that, although I kind of doubt it. Seems like the trigger warning debates flare up every six months or so.

Mar. 4th, 2014

Trigger Warning: University

And here I thought the online warnings debate was getting out of hand. Now, apparently, the trigger warning debacle has gone into university classrooms. (Please note: link is to an archiving site because the original is behind a paywall after reading a handful of articles. I can no longer access the original but someone put up an archive link, so that's what I'm linking to here).

Let me preface this by saying that I have no particular objection to trigger warnings. I use them on my series about Michael and Debi Pearl, because those articles contain graphic descriptions of child abuse. I wasn't ever abused like that, but on a bad day, reading the base articles for those posts can make me shaky and feeling sick to my stomach- someone who went through what the Pearls recommend could be much worse affected than I am. I know several military veterans who get flashbacks to the wars they were in when fireworks go off/they see trash by the side of the road/a plane flies overhead/etc. But this is truly getting out of hand.

I have no problem warning for the major stuff on my blog and on my fiction, as do most people. But when people are going into fanfiction writing communities and demanding trigger warnings for random things (like parrots, which I actually saw the other day), this is getting absurd. As the article says: people have wanted trigger warnings for things as varied and bizarre as small holes and animals in wigs.

Warnings for graphic violence, child abuse, suicide, and sexual assault are the ones I'm willing to accommodate, unless someone can give me a damn good reason to add another. I might warn if, for some reason, I was going to link to something really blatantly racist or sexist or something, but because I don't really do that, it's never come up before.

The thing is, triggers are not something that hurts your feels. Triggers are a very specific psychological thing. Someone who has PTSD will get triggered, and they will flash back to their trauma. And truthfully, it's very rarely caused by reading some words on the Internet. I have a relative who was in the Vietnam War who gets extremely tense every time he hears an airplane fly overhead. I have an acquaintance who freaks the fuck out if there's trash on the side of the road because in Afghanistan, where he served, terrorists liked to hide IEDs in trash piles on the side of the road. I've also heard of rape victims being triggered by the smell of the cologne their attacker wore, or hearing a specific song that was on the radio during their assault. Rape victims can be triggered by graphic descriptions of sexual assault, while veterans can be triggered by graphic descriptions of war violence, but a single word, or a non-graphic sentence? Please, people, you're watering down the concept beyond all help. Trigger warnings were originally invented to help people with PTSD. Not people who get in a twist if someone in a story calls someone else a slut, or makes an allusion to something else that upsets you.

I'm willing to believe there's probably at least one person out there who could be legitimately triggered by some of these things, but it is literally not possible to potentially warn for every potential trauma trigger a person could possibly have. It's just not feasible. The whole world would have to have trigger warnings on everything.

It strikes me too, that professors wouldn't appreciate being made to put trigger warnings on their syllabus. I had to watch a movie for one of my classes that had an incredibly graphic scene of actual violence filmed while it was taking place- we're not talking Quentin Tarantino levels of ridiculous graphic violence either where people explode and shower the room in unrealistic bright red goo , this was the legitimate thing, and it actually happened. It was so disgusting a few people threw up, and I spent the rest of the day utterly shaken to my core. The professor warned us going in that it was graphic, and that he would understand if we had to step out, but we were not allowed to skip class just because a potentially upsetting film was going to be shown. That was the best example I can think of that would even warrant someone being allowed to skip class for their potential triggers, and we weren't even allowed to do that. The professor just told us that the film was very graphic and he warned us before the scene came up in case anyone needed to step outside. I'm pretty sure everyone wishes they'd done so, but that's neither here nor there. People being allowed to skip class because a topic of discussion may be upsetting for them? What the fuck is the point of going to university in the first place? If you can't handle people discussing sexual assault, then maybe don't take the women's studies class entitled “The Politics of the Rape Culture” (which is a real thing at my university). I would think that would be common sense, but apparently not. Apparently my generation is incredibly dim when it comes to this sort of thing. Maybe it's all those warnings spelling out every single word of the post before they actually read it on the Internet.

I'm not opposed to trigger warnings, and I think they are, in fact, quite valuable when used rationally Putting warnings for everything under the sun that might make someone somewhere a bit sad or uncomfortable? That just dilutes the term's usefulness for people who need them for PTSD. And being offended is not a symptom, nor a cause of PTSD.

Aug. 30th, 2013

Mutually Assured Destruction

So, apparently Califorina's been having a problem with exes posting “revenge porn” online of the person who dumped them, and is considering making it illegal. Revenge porn, for those of you who don't know, is the practice of releasing nude photographs/sex tapes/the like of the former partner after the relationship goes south.

My take? Obviously you shouldn't be posting private videos and photographs of people without their permission. I think it's a pretty clear-cut invasion of privacy, especially when identifying information accompanies the photos (name, address, phone number, employer, bank account information, stuff like that). It is especially bad when the subject of the photo or the video is underage. In that case, the distributor should be prosecuted for creation/distribution of child pornography. In most cases, though, that already happens- at least it does where I live. It seems like every week there's another story in the news about some dumbass teenagers who decided to put their girlfriend's nude photos on the Internet and then they get arrested.

But I wonder, about the adults involved in this. Weren't they ever taught that you never let anyone do something to you that they're not willing to have you do to them? I thought that was pretty much common sense. But then again, common sense seems to be anything but common these days. It's the idea of “mutually assured destruction.” There's a reason countries don't send nuclear weapons flying at countries that also have nukes. It's the idea of “you nuke us, we nuke you back.” Mutually assured destruction. If your partner wants to take nude photographs of you, then you should only agree if they let you take photos of them first. If they end up posting them on the Internet? Then you post the ones you have on the Internet too. I guarantee the problem with disappear within six months.

Apr. 5th, 2013

More Donglegate: Wait, where did the atheists come from?

Not too long ago I discussed the recent blow-up over at the Python programming language conference, where a woman named Adria Richards set off a shitstorm that dragged a whole lot of ugly- on both sides of the debate- to the forefront. At the time that I wrote that article, I hadn't entirely made up my mind on the controversy. Since then, I've read a lot of coverage of the incident and I think I've finally come to a position I can support. Adria Richards did not deserve the threats she received after the incident gained attention. That much is, I hope, obvious. However, the fact that she received threats and attacks on her personal character do not retroactively erase that she sort of did ignite the explosives, so to speak. I think it can be argued that her intentions were not entirely pure when she sent that tweet in an attempt to publicly shame the jokers. If she was truly upset by the joke, she could have done a number of things, including turning around and actually engaging the guys like an adult (you know, “using your words,” that thing you learned in kindergarten). If she truly felt that there was a threat to her well-being in a conference hall with 500 people around, she could have privately contacted the organizers of the convention and had them deal with it. There was no need to incite the mob with torches and pitchforks. That doesn't mean that she deserved what followed, but I also do not believe that she was entirely blameless in the whole debacle. Her share of the blame was miniscule compared to the trolls- I want to stress that, because some of the commentary on this will say that if you think she wasn't an entirely blameless, spotless little angel you are excusing the backlash. I am not excusing the backlash. She should not have gotten the backlash. But she was still wrong. Less wrong, quite a bit less wrong, than the trolls. But still not "right," if you will.

Anyway, this article today isn't really about my own personal thoughts. It's more about the fact that now the atheist blogosphere is getting involved in the controversy. Despite the fact that there was absolutely nothing in this incident that could be in any way connected to religion/lack of religion.

Wait, what?

Why are atheists getting involved in a tech sector controversy? How does this have anything to do with atheism as a movement?

But that's exactly what I've discovered has happened.

I first discovered this last night when I was actually searching for something entirely different. I was looking for information on yet another potential Grinch Watch post (seriously, people, it is not even summer yet! Calm down!), when I stumbled across this article, on an atheist blogging website. At first, I was extremely confused, but not too terribly concerned. Of course there's no law saying that if you're an atheist you can only ever blog about atheism. But in the content of that article, as well as within the comments, I realized something- there are certain factions of the atheist movement that... really don't have a whole hell of a lot to do with atheism anymore. I discussed it earlier this year when I stumbled across a not-so-atheist atheist forum called Atheism+.

My question is: why? I'm a secular person myself. Why does the atheist/skeptic/secular community, that ostensibly has no ties to the tech sector, need to get involved with these internal issues? I mean, I understand why- it's interesting and can lead to discussions. But why are people who are supposedly rational suddenly drawing lines in the sand over these sorts of things? I can understand the interest, but for the life of me, I cannot understand why it suddenly is a matter of life and death for the atheist community to take sides in this controversy. I was especially disheartened to read the commentary at Pharyngula, a blog I used to read, if you'll pardon the pun, religiously back during my angry questioning skeptic high school days. By the way, due to the fact that my nemesis lurks around there, I will not be linking to the Pharyngula post. It is, however, linked to from the SkepticInk post if you are curious. PZ Myers gets one thing right- there was no cause for the threats, racist attacks, DDoS-ing... but how in Longcat's glorious name does this have anything to do with atheism, and why is a prominent atheist blogger getting involved anyway?

Overall, the whole situation has left me extremely angry as a woman in the technology industry, in several ways, and utterly baffled by the peanut gallery of commentary this topic has brought out.

Oh, by the way, comments are disabled here again. I still don't want to host any more sub-fights of this particular battle. Nothing personal, just a plea for my own sanity. It's gotten to the point where the word "dongle" no longer has any meaning for me. It's like when you say the word "word" over and over again. Word word word word word word word wur-duh werd... it doesn't look like anything anymore and it no longer has any meaning.

This is all I'm going to write on the topic, as well. The whole thing depresses me.

Apr. 1st, 2013

Public Service Announcement

If, while you're reading this blog, there appear to be random links showing up on random words within the body of the text, PLEASE, FOR THE LOVE OF THE INTERNET, DO NOT CLICK ON THEM. If you are not sure what is a legitimate link (since I do include links in some of my posts), hover your mouse over it and see if it pops up with anything. If it pops up with an advertisment, don't click it. If there's no advertisment and it seems to be a link to a news website or a fic, odds are I put it there. If you have questions leave me a comment, I'll respond ASAP as to whether or not it's an actual link.

There has been a malware attack on a whole bunch of websites, and the sites targeted range from the big names (Wordpress) to random little Etsy shops. Apparently InsaneJournal was one of them.While the malware in question, at least as far as I can tell, is more annoying than damaging, it can act as a “gateway” for worse malware to attack your system. In fact, if the hyperlinks are showing up at all, you may be infected already without even doing anything (Internet Explorer and Safari seem to be extremely vulnerable to this).

However, don't panic- there's an easy way to fix the problem. Avast Antivirus has created a browser cleaning tool that removes toolbars and browser-based malware. It works very well, I've already used it on my mother's computer and at work. You can download it here (and yes, that's a legitimate link).

I apologise for any inconvenience this has caused any of my readers. Believe me, I was pretty pissed when I found out about it myself. The Lawn is not, and never will be, malware-friendly.

Mar. 23rd, 2013

You're Not Helping

I wasn't going to blog about this.

I seriously wasn't. The topic of PyCon and Adria Richards doxxing two guys for laughing about the word “dongle” in public has been covered to death and saying anything about it is like poking a dragon in the eye- it won't end well. I know that by writing this I may have left myself somewhat vulnerable to loonies on either side of the debate. I wasn't going to cover this.

And then, it made Yahoo News, the lowest common denominator of the Internet.

A few of my readers like to come here to hear me talk about political stuff (although why, I've no idea, I'm not all that smart, to be honest). Some others like to hear me talk about computery stuff. Because this is the collision of computery and political stuff, well... it seems like it would be perfect for this blog.

For those of you who don't know what happened, last Sunday, an incident went down at PyCon, the official convention for the Python programming language. Two guys in the audience made a joke about big dongles (dongles are things you plug into the USB port on the computer- and yes, they are rather unfortunately named), and a comment about forking code. Forking code, although it sounds like an innuendo (“I'd fork HIS code!”) is actually a legitimate programming term- it refers to taking existing code and modifying it to fit a different project.

The woman sitting in front of them, Adria Richards, turned around, took a picture of the guys, sent it over Twitter with the comment that they were making obnoxious sexist comments. Then the Internet exploded.

Because I'm still trying to parse exactly what happened and the potential consequences this situation set off, I'm not going to make a final judgment one way or another yet. I am somewhat uncomfortable with the way that Ms. Richards handled this, because it has the potential to cause problems for women in IT fields. What kind of company wants to hire someone that they're afraid will end up costing them hundreds of thousands of dollars in lawsuits and lost revenue? But at the same time, no one should be obligated to put up with actual harassment... I just don't think two guys going “huehuehue... dongles!” is harassment. Dongle is funny word. I think everyone in the IT field has made a dongle joke at least once in their careers. Even people who aren't in IT who come across dongles generally think they're funny. The first time my mother ever got a Bluetooth enabled phone, my dad was trying to explain to her how it worked, and told her that if she wanted to transfer the data from the computer to the phone or vice-versa, she'd have to use the connectivity dongle because the computer didn't have a built-in Bluetooth connectivity. She responded the “CONNECTIVITY WHAT?!”

In the grand scheme of things, dongle jokes are harmless, and Richards overreacted.

But at the same time, no one should be getting threats.

I just really don't know here. I'm inclined to oppose what she did, but the way the Internet blew up isn't exactly a good thing, either.

I think the important thing to learn from this is that you shouldn't stick your nose into other people's business. Especially when it has nothing to do with you. Also, if you get a dad with three little kids laid off, the Internet is going to come after you with cacti and pitchforks.

I might write more on this eventually. I'm still just trying to process.

For context, here's some artcles from both sides of the issue, both from Forbes Magazine.

Quora aggreeing that she overreacted and opened herself up to legal issues

DeAnna Zandt disagreeing, saying thatshe did the right thing.

Also, comments are closed for this. It's nothing personal, I just don't feel like hosting yet another branch of this battle.

Mar. 16th, 2013

Learn Me A Link #1: Bingo Cards vs. Actual Discourse

Welcome to a new Lawn feature- Learn Me A Link! Occasionally I will read an article that is so good, it puts my writing to shame, and I realize that even if I was to write my own article on it, I would fail tremendously in comparison to this. While it won't be as regular as the fic recs, I think it will probably be a bit more common that the Parenting for Sadists series- mainly because I can write these articles without wanting to projectile-vomit all over the computer.

First off, for this one, I want to disclaim that I don't agree 100% with everything in this article. I state that because while I do agree with about 75% of the article, the author does go off on a bit of a tangent and I'm not entirely sure what their point was in regards to the rest of the article. But overall, it's pretty good, especially with regard to the whole “bingo card” thing.

If you've been in an argument online over the past, oh, three or so years, and it's been on a relatively controversial topic, you've probably come across some of those “bingo cards” people pull out to make their opponent look stupid. In case you've not seen them, or you have but I'm not describing them very well, here's a few examples.

This is in response to a controversial tech conference presentation that pissed a lot of people off. Apparently the (female) presenter had included images of herself and some of her coworkers goofing off in lingerie to add “spiciness” to the presentation.

Fat hate bingo. I actually showed this one to my father, who is morbidly obese, and he just about hit the roof. “WHAT THE FUCK PEOPLE THINK IT'S ACTUALLY HEALTHY TO BE LIKE THIS?!” Yeah. My dad is kind of pissy about this sort of thing.

Here's a conservative one, complaining about Obama.

Angry vegan bingo. This one, along with the feminist bingos, are the ones I probably see the most often. It's also probably the most baffling- at least you can logically make an argument for why feminism extends to all of humanity. Veganism, on the other hand, is a completely personal choice that affects no one but yourself.

And, for a non-political (and actually kind of offensive) example, Wal-Mart bingo.

This is just a small sample of these sorts of things- I could literally devote an entire article to them. But I don't want to. Which is where this article comes in. It was written by a user from Livejournal, where s/he explains the inherent problems with the cheapening of the discourse down to bingo cards, as well as reducing people's arguments to memes.

Overall, s/he has a very good point. By reducing the discourse down to bingo cards, you cannot actually have a good discussion, and people start to resent other people. And then they make their OWN bingo cards. Nothing good is going to come of this, I can tell you that much.

Feb. 11th, 2013

But where's the atheism?

You might not know this, but I sometimes lurk about a bit on Reddit. Not too much, mind you- staying on there too long will cause your faith in humanity to decline extremely rapidly, but today someone linked to this thread on what is allegedly an atheist forum. But when I think “atheist forum” I think Fundies Say The Darndest Things. Not... whatever this mashup of Tumblr-style activism and pseudo-intellectualism that this thing is.

After going through several different topics, I could not find a single one that had anything that was more than tangentially related to atheism. For a website that is called ATHEISM plus, it is woefully short on the atheism.

Now, I'm not an atheist, I'm an agnostic, but even as an agnostic, I can tell you with certainty that atheism/agnosticism isn't about who can yell about being offended the loudest. In the thread I linked up above, the original poster of the thread goes on about if someone starts yelling at you for doing something offensive, you're not allowed to ask why what you said/did was offensive, because it puts the onus on the offended person to explain why they are upset.

Which is how logical, rational people engaged in conversation, or at least that's what I thought.

Look, I'm a pretty nice person and I don't usually purposely go out of my way to offend people. I've got better things to do with my time and I generally have enough respect for my argument partner to not immediately fly off the handle and start cursing people out and shrieking .If I say something that is legitimately offensive (which I have done in the past) and you haven't done anything to provoke me to that point (ie- you haven't been the one who ratcheted up the invective in the first place), let me know and I'll apologize and offer a retraction. I've done it in the past. You can even do it somewhat impolitely. But if you come in here with guns blazing, shrieking about what a horrible offensive person I am, and then you'll refuse to explain what I did or said that was so goddamn bad, then odds are I'm going to laugh at you. But I'm not a mind-reader, and my diction tends to be a bit on the prickly side, especially on certain issues. If, for example, you were reading an article in the Parenting for Sadists series and took offense at my language, I'd need you to clarify. The Pearls really do incite the invective from me- do you object to me calling Michael Pearl a “cactus-fucking dumbfuck” or is it the fact that I called Debi a “child abuse-supporting twat of the highest order?” You'd have to explain. And I'd disagree.

But even if I disagree that what I did was so bad, I'm not going to go out of my way to be a bitch to you- provided that you don't go out of your way to be a bitch to me first. I am willing to have an open dialog. But, as I have mentioned multiple, multiple times here on the Lawn, I don't like extremists. I don't care what sort of extremist- I don't like them, period. Extremism breeds hatred and intolerance, and hatred and intolerance breeds the things that we should be working to stamp out from our world.

There's nothing wrong with mixing your personal ideology with your religious beliefs. Catholic Charities, as you can probably tell, combines their Catholicism with their desire to help the poor. And that's just the one that I can think of off the top of my head. The Humanist movement combines atheism with the desire to help people.

But what I see at Atheism Plus is probably closer to what I've heard sarcastically referred to as the “Chairforce,” a bunch of people who bang on keyboards to rant about the injustice of it all, all day, every day, but ultimately do nothing, except suck up bandwidth and piss off everyone they come into contact with, through their over-zealous preaching. Not too different from the fundamentalists they claim to hate, really.

Dec. 4th, 2012

The Hawkeye Initiative

So there's this movement over on tumblr to replace “sexy” female character poses with Hawkeye from The Avengers. It's become really popular on tumblr, as well as on other sites, and in way, I can kind of see why. Some of them are pretty funny and well-drawn, and it was started as a movement to sort of caricature some of the ridiculous poses that comics characters (specifically, the female characters) are sometimes drawn in. Yes, it's kind of amusing, and yes, some of the pictures copied are pretty damn ridiculous.

But despite that, I'm actually really uncomfortable with this whole thing, and I can't exactly put my finger on why.

While I think it started out in good fun for the lulz, I feel like now it's taken a really mean-spirited turn. Instead of being “yo, that pose is whack, let's draw someone else like that because it's funny!” I feel like it's now “goddamn you suck at art, let's make fun of the artist by ridiculously caricaturizing their work and making them look stupid on purpose! Let's purposely point out every single little thing we don't like about it and make it seem like that artist is a horrible person in the process!” While I said it started out in good fun, there was also a sort of political undercurrent to it. The creators of the initiative have said it started out to be a form of feminist critique. Which is fine. There's plenty of that going around on the Internet. And Longcat knows that it needs a more positive public face instead of the screeching lunatics that make it up right now.

This could have been that chance, but once again, a funny idea that could actually have made a positive impact of some sort has been hijacked, yet again, by those same screeching lunatics. And instead of actually trying to make a point, it's gone off the rails into asshat territory. Which is really par for the course, I've realized, for discussions on the Internet. You can start out with a good idea, an idea that could actually make an impact, and then the extremists show up and run it into the ground.

It's just unpleasant, and it doesn't give a very good impression of fandom as a whole. The general population tends to think of fans as ugly nerdy neckbearded basement dwellers for the guys, and fat, whiny fujoshi for the girls. Way to prove them right, folks, seriously.

But because I don't want this to be yet another entirely negative post, and because I do think the meme, at its heart, has good intentions, I'm going to put a few links to contributions that I think really did live up to the original spirit, and are just plain funny. These links feature funny dialog, an actual copying of the original image, and most importantly, they're all in good fun while still staying true to the message they were originally trying to get across, whether or not you actually agree with it or not. Unlike some of the submissions, which come across as “look, u don't art good lawlz, look how feminist I am!” they actually do try to make their point more or less... well, not exactly respectfully, but in good faith.

Feel the Fury


Yes, that suit is very practical. In fact, I think it's more practical for him than her- good for shooting arrows!

I have no idea who the original is but the copy is shiny!

Hulk looks confus

I thought they were doing the Caramelldansen at first...

Heh. Loki.

While this post might seem kind of harsh, I don't actually have anything against this project. I just think that they should try to keep the meanness to a minimum. Which might seem strange coming from me (The Douglas actually called me the Snark Knight the other day), but honestly? You can still be snarky and call attention to things without being unnecessarily obnoxious towards people who either don't know what it is you're on about, or who just don't particularly care. In fact, you're more likely to alienate people by being bitchy about the things they like than you are by explaining why something is a problem. That's not to say you can't use humor to do it- all those posts I linked are pretty funny. But they're not mocking the artist's actual ability, just the way that they chose to exercise it.

Nov. 18th, 2012

Recommended Reading: On "Calling Out"

I've been writing a lot recently about “political correctness gone wild,” mainly because of how it seems to have exploded all over the place due to the election, but it's a trend I've been noticing for about a year and a half now in various circles, even in fandom. It's just been on my mind a lot because of the election, and how I've noticed so many people will go from 0 to 15 on a scale of 10 in half a second.

The writer of the article and I clearly have some different viewpoints on a lot of things (they're a progressive liberal, I'm a libertarian, in case you haven't noticed) but this is one of the best, most thoughtful explorations of this phenomenon that I've ever read. Too often this discussion (which I do think is important and actually does need to happen) devolves into a shouting match where one side screeches that the other is offensive, and the other takes the “offensive” label to heart and starts trolling in earnest. It's kind of like dumping gasoline on a fire, and it just gets exponentially worse from there on out.

Here is the article, from Offbeat Empire. I highly recommend it no matter what your political leanings are.

Jul. 10th, 2012

I know, I know

If you have a blog, you can post whatever the fuck you want on it. Lord knows I do the same thing with the Lawn and my tumblr- there's all kinds of weird shit on both of them, stuff I like, stuff that pisses me off, stuff I think is pretty, stuff I think is funny, me ranting, me not knowing what the hell I'm doing... the usual. So I know that this makes me really hypocritical.

But if I'm following a blog on tumblr that I started following for a specific reason- cute pictures of birdies or kittens, fandom stuff, nail art and makeup, and most of what you post is that, it is extremely disconcerting to me to read your Sociology 101 manifesto all of a sudden. I don't mind it once in a while, since I have been known to post some of my own rants there. But seriously? If I'm clicking through a blog that's full of cute baby penguins, all of a sudden I don't want to read a bunch of angry rants against the Republican Party. What the fuck do Republicans have to do with cute baby penguins? The blog is a blog specifically about baby penguins. Unless Mitt Romney is suddenly a baby penguin, I do not want to read about him on a blog about baby penguins. Same with your feminist manifesto. I clicked here to read about motherfucking My Little Ponies, not shrieking rants about how Person X called person Y a bitch and why that means Person X is Hitler. Want to rant about global warming? Fine, but don't do it on a blog about nail art!

My point is, if you're a topic-specific blog, it really weirds your readers out if all of a sudden, SURPRISE POLITICS! Don't get me wrong, I find politics interesting, but there's a time and a place for everything. If I'm looking for pictures of adorable baby penguins, I want something cute and fuzzy, not your political opinions. I probably won't unfollow if it's an occasional thing, but today I had to unfollow a fanart blog that I used to really enjoy, because the blogger had basically stopped posting fanart at all over the past three weeks and just kept on spamming my dashboard with quotes from Shakesville and reblogging a bunch of stuff about how guys in the fandom need to get the fuck out, since fandom is a ~*woman's space*~, and it wears me down. That kind of shit really rustles my jimmies. I come to fandom to relax and hang out with my friends, not get screamed at by people with a cactus up their ass. I get enough of that at my job. Why in Longcat's name would I want to deal with that in my free time?

Like I said before I know this makes me hypocritical as fuck, but honestly, I'm really tired of the way certain parts of some of my fandoms have basically turned into this political pissing contest. Yes yes, it's very nice that you have those political views. But I don't give a fuck. Post some penguins already.

Apr. 27th, 2012

Attention Congress:

Last night in IT Security class, I found out that CISPA passed the House of Representatives. And, really? The Democrats and Republicans can't even agree on what to name the damn post offices or what color to paint the walls, but they'll put aside their differences to pass laws that violate the Constitution of our country? What in the actual fuck, seriously- they can't agree on anything but screwing over the people? Yeah, that totally fills me with confidence for the future. Or not.

Apr. 26th, 2012

The Absolute Moron's Guide to Search Engines

Quick, let's do a little thought exercise- When, say, Google returns a list of businesses in the area after you search for, say, “takeout,” how do those results get there? Did some drone at Google put them there, painstakingly searching through the vast void of the Internet just to find your local Chipotle? Of course not, that's ridiculous. That would take ages, and it's not efficent. For IT companies, time is money, and the longer it takes for the user to get their search results back, the more money they lose.

Search engines use specialized programs called web crawlers, or spiders, to trawl through the Series of Tubes looking for keywords and content, based on the search criteria that the user inputs. So if the user isn't really sure what they're looking for, or how to optimize their search, they might not get the exact results they want. Another drawback to the search engine is that it can't read your mind, nor can it read the mind of the website creators. If you want to search for “ice cream” to find a really good ice cream shop, most of the time it wll work. But let's pretend there's a really good ice cream store called Snowflake, just to make this explanation simple. This is the text of Snowflake's website:

Welcome to Snowflake, home of the world's best frozen treats! These milky, creamy confections are a delight to adults and kids alike. Stop by our location in Springfield, USA today and try some!
Tel: 123-456-7890

Notice that the body text of the web site does not include the exact words “ice cream,” although a reasonable person could probably figure out that is what the site was talking about. But a web crawler isn't a person, it's a computer program, and computer programs can't do everything that a person can (duh). However, just because the body content of the website doesn't contain the words “ice cream” doesn't mean that it's not included in the code of the site at all.


Let me explain: the HTML language and it's offspring, XML and XHTML, contain something called “meta tags.” These tags do not appear anywhere on the website at all, but they are very important. These tags are specifically for indexing by search engines. So theoretically, our fictional ice cream shop would be able to never type the words “ice cream” on their website at all, but put the words in their meta tag and still be able to be indexed by Google or whatever.

Here's an example of meta tag code, which goes in the <head> portion of your website. The meta tag codes are in purple.

<title>Snowflake Frozen Confectionery</title>
<meta name="description" content="Springfield, USA's best frozen milk confections">
<meta name="keywords" content="Snowflake, frozen confections, milk, freeze, sweets, confectionery, Springfield, treats, Snowflake shop">

Notice that in the above code, I never actually put the words “ice cream” in there. This, coupled with the lack of those same words in the actual, user-visible content of the page, means that a web crawler would not pick up on this site for a search for ice cream.

Now, the web developers for Snowflake Frozen Confections would be really dumb if they didn't do this, and if they're that incompetent, I kind of doubt that Snowflake Frozen Confections would be in business much longer. But again, this is for demonstration purposes.

What prompted me to write this? In a few days, I've seen about nine different articles bitching about how Siri doesn't find the exact things the phone's owner wants when they want it, and a lot of these issues could be resolved if people actually knew how the technology they're bitching about actually worked.

Apr. 2nd, 2012

A Rather Alarming Realization

You ever have one of those moments when you click through your Internet browsing history and think “Mother of god, what am I even doing with my life?”

Yeah. That happened to me today, when I looked at my most frequently visited websites (these aren't in any particular order)

Online retail (JetPens, Amazon)
Banking stuff (PayPal, bank website)
University Blackboard page.

Outside of most of the online retailers, university crap, and banking... I am the kind of people my parents warned me about. And I'm not sure how that makes me feel. I AM SORRY UNIVERSE!

Mar. 17th, 2012


It has recently come to my attention that there are some bloggers out there who do not work an actual, legitimate job and expect to get paid for their blogging. I am not talking about official corporate/news bloggers (Washington Post bloggers, for example, blog for their job, but they do it because that's what they've been hired to do, and they're generally held to more rigorous standards than people who blog for fun are). I'm talking about people who just sit in their momma's basement all day and throw up angry ranty posts. Apparently, there's a subset of bloggers who feel that they're providing a valuable service, dammit, and that you'd better appreciate their work and pay them for it! So you have five bucks left to live on until next payday? Whatever, hand it over you lazy moocher! I'm not doing this for my own benefit, if you wanna keep the content coming you're gonna keep forking over the cash!

Seriously, are you running a blog or the mafia?

And this is just a friendly reminder: The Lawn is free. The Lawn will never NOT be free. Of course, if you want to give me free money I'm not going to say no ;), but honestly, that's just bad form, demanding cash from your readers if they want you to keep posting lolcats or whatever.
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Mar. 13th, 2012

Fanfiction, Writing, and Omnific Publishing

I write fanfiction.

It's not exactly something I'm ashamed of, although if you asked me in real life and I didn't know you all that well, I would probably deny it. It's not because I'm ashamed of my “goofy-ass hobby” (to paraphrase someone on Fandom!Secrets a while back), it's because to be honest, it really is just a hobby for me. It's something I do for the lulz and to exercise my creative side (in my current line of work, and what I'm going into once I get a degree, there's really not a lot of freedom to be creative). And depending on what the hypothetical relationship between us is, I might have other reasons for denying it. I'm not about to tell my boss or my coworkers about my hobbies- that's none of their concern, and besides, I know them well enough to know that they probably wouldn't approve. Since it's not something I make income on, it's just a way for me to blow off steam, I don't really feel like anyone but me needs to know about it.

I am not delusional, I know I'm not going to make tons of money if I just decided to write something original. And, if I may be blunt, I don't really want to publish my original fiction- most of it I don't even publish online at all. To me, my original fiction is more personal, and a lot of it I wrote during more difficult times in my life, and the content really kind of reflects that.

But this is just my own personal opinion. I know that plenty of people write fanfiction to practice to get better with their original fiction, because their end goal is to become a published writer. That is perfectly fine. I am not the Grand High Poohbah of Other People's Business. If your end-goal is to become a published writer, more power to ya. In fact, let me know if you do get something published so I can read it- I like to read good books. If your whole purpose for writing is just for fun, that's great too- welcome to the club. I don't even mind if you enter your fic in a charity auction (like Fandom Helps- last March they did an auction for tsunami relief in Japan)- that's a good way to get fic you want AND to help out people in need. Even though the legality of it is a bit questionable, it's not like anyone other than a complete psychopathic copyright lawyer would care that money was made on fanworks, especially since the writer doesn't get to keep any of the money they make.

What I do have a problem with is repackaging fanfiction to be sold as original fiction, with a few minor tweaks.

I am not talking about official licensed tie-ins. My father has about ninety billion sci-fi books based on Star Trek in the house, using Star Trek characters. All of these books were approved by the official franchise, even though technically a lot of them started out as fanfiction.

What I am talking about is things like Omnific Publishing. At first blush it appears to be your standard self-publishing company- there's a lot of those, you can even do it with Amazon. And from my experience a lot of self-published books tend to be utter crap (there's a reason major publishers like Simon&Shuster and Penguin Books make you get an editor), there are some really good ones out there. So what's the problem? Yeah, they might come up with some lousy books, but then again, that's par for the course in self-publishing, as well as mainstream publishing. I've read terrible self-published books, and I've read terrible mainstream published books. One more self-publishing company isn't spelling the END OF BOOKS AS WE KNOW THEM.

But if you do a little digging online you find that this company got its start professionally publishing fanfiction. (Please note that the above links are all to different social media sites- JournalFen, Livejournal, and Absolute Write, and include information from anons, so not everything may be entirely correct). Which is basically putting a big sign up over your stuff that says “SUE US PLEASE.”

I really dislike how certain individuals and organizations go overboard with regards to copyright infringement. The RIAA once tried to sue LimeWire for more money than exists in the world (several trillion, the worldwide GDP is about $1.4 trillion [USD]). People writing fanfiction is not going to cause the Apocalypse. But even I recognize that there are some things that are over the line, and mooching someone's intellectual property, messing with it a bit, and then trying to claim it as your own is dodgy, to say the least. At my university, if you try to do that with regards to academic work, you literally get put on trial in front of the Honor Society, and if you're found guilty, they'll expel you.

Honestly, though, I don't really care if a few arrogant fangirls get smacked down with copyright law for trying to make money on their fanfiction. What worries me about this is that this could potentially bring fanfiction into the mainstream public eye. I'm not saying that to sound like hipster, either- it could cause serious problems for people who just want to play in the sandbox for their own entertainment, so to speak. I write a lot of fanfiction, and I do it for fun, because I love the worlds and characters. I'm not trying to make money off of it, and neither is anyone else I know who writes fanfiction. But considering what's happened in the past when butthurt people get wind of stuff like this (see:SOPA), I have a feeling that this could eventually blow up into a clusterfuck of epic proportions, culminating in some seriously damaging lawsuits. And then those of us who just want to do our hobby in peace could find ourselves in some expensive legal trouble.

It sets a dangerous precedent, I think. If the enemies of free speech and expression can make a convincing case for “hey look, these people are stealing shit and making money on it,” we could eventually start to lose more and more rights, and what we'd taken for granted since the Internet's inception could come crashing down around us.

I am not saying this to be a doomsayer or a conspiracy theorist. I'm just saying that you might want to keep an eye on this sort of thing, and take steps to protect yourself. All I'll say here is that it might be a good idea to back your stuff up and make sure everything is disclaimed to infinity and beyond. It probably wouldn't protect you in a court of law, but it might offer some measure of security for a time.

Mar. 11th, 2012

SOPA in a nutshell

While it's been killed for now, we need to remain vigilant, because if there's not an attempt to try something similar this year, I'll eat my computer. But until then, here's Kronk trying to explain it.

Video Description: 4-second video of Kronk from the Emperor's New Groove stammering over his words while pointing to a picture saying "SOPA."

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