Monday, March 31, 2003

Conflicted about the Conflict: Protests

I’m not one to participate in protest marches and sit-ins and so forth.  It’s not that I don’t believe in their value and power, just that they aren’t for me.  I did participate in one, back in 1989 or 1990, a gay rights march at the University of Oregon, but that’s it.  (Or maybe it is that I don’t believe in their value and power, that they don’t have enough.  I don’t join them because I have better things to do.  “Better” meaning selfishly personal things.)

Nonetheless, three observations about the anti-war protests.  Or perhaps about the opposition to them…
  • I read a lot these days about people opposed to the anti-war “Support the Troops” protestors, focusing on the idea that now that we are engaged in the conflict, bringing the troops home (pulling out) is not an option.  This is of course a common response (by people on any side of the question) to protestors opposed to your view: dismiss them by targeting only the most surface view of the opposition’s claims rather than seeking any real meaning.

    In his recent column in The Stranger, Josh Feit does this, but he also includes the nugget of truth that is at the core of this “Support the Troops” anti-war stance.  Feit writes, commenting on the fallout of the Vietnam Conflict:
    “We could’ve won that war, the revisionists insisted, if only everyone had supported our troops.  It was a neatly effective way of blaming the Vietnam disaster on the people who were right all along--the protesters--while at the same time exonerating the politicians who led us off the cliff.”
    In other words, it is easy to blame the war, deaths (both military and civilian), and assorted atrocities on the people doing the actual fighting, but we should not.  (Although we shouldn’t exonerate them for anything bad that happens because they were “just following orders,” either.)  “Support the Troops” really means “Don’t blame the soldiers, blame the politicians who got us all into this mess.”
  • Conservative commentators have denounced many of the protests and the protestors as being anti-Bush more than (or rather than) anti-war.  That is, the protestors don’t really care about the war issue, but are instead carrying on the “Bush didn’t win the election” fight, years after the fact.  I think the commentators are partly right: that is what a portion of the protestors are all het up about, but it is only a portion.  Those same commentators tend to then launch into yet another diatribe about how everything wrong with the country is Bill Clinton’s fault, which leaves you asking just which group can’t get past the politics of a few years back.

    (Of course, I do have a brief comment on the election, summed up best by a comment I heard a couple weeks ago: “Bush stole the election fair and square.”  If the popular and electoral numbers had been shifted just enough in the 2000 election to reverse the Democrat and Republican results and court decisions, you know that the Republicans would still be howling about disenfranchisement and “every vote must count” and the Democrats would be saying “move on” and “just get over it”.)
  • The backlash against the anti-war protestors is taking a disturbing turn, lately, and it’s one that I’ve encountered from both the liberal and conservative sides of the spectrum (that should be enough to scare you right off the bat).  And that is that the anti-war protestors should shut up and go home.

    From the conservative side, the complaint comes fairly readily and obviously, and has been coming since well before the fighting actually started: your protests aren’t going to do any good, you aren’t going to change the President’s mind, you might as well give up.  Frankly, I wouldn’t expect anything less from Rush Limbaugh (et al), as this group is solidly behind the President (and company).  This is the same group that pushes high approval ratings for the President and the war and complains about a massive liberal bias in the media; it is their job to pump up how good their side is and pooh-pooh the strength of their opponents, especially when preaching to their side of the choir.

    But from the liberal side, though, I’m hearing almost the same thing: the troops are already in battle, the President isn’t going to pull them out, you might as well give up.  I fear that the biggest part of this is just boredom: “Oh, God.  Not another protest.  Will you people please just give it a rest?”  But there may also be a facet where the unstated goal is to have the protestors let everything slide for a while but come back with a vengeance in a few months or even a year or two (however long is needed), after the general population’s tolerance for the war will have slacked off significantly, at which point maybe the protests can make a bigger impact.

    The boredom angle flows into the “wait a while” one, perhaps: the anti-war movement risks burning itself out and wearing out its welcome in the media.  By being a constant presence, it may become “noise” which we (and the media) will simply stop paying attention to.  The more you repeat the same thing, the less anyone hears it.  God knows, this has already happened with the war news: the same picture of a distant burning something in Baghdad for an hour or more, with a dozen different talking heads telling us nothing new; you can get the entire day’s war news in five minutes, but it’s the only thing on, every channel, all day long.  Because heaven forbid some station miss a breaking item.

Updated on July 7, 2010

Sunday, March 30, 2003

You Like Me.  Right Now, You Really Like Me!

Sally Field-isms aside, I’m very proud to be one of the recipients of the 2003 Leather Emerald Awards, presented by the Washington State Mr. and Ms. Leather Organization.

The award recipients for Community Service are the Capitol Hill Alano Club, Paul Best, Guppy’s, the Seattle LGBT Center, and Miss MeMe.  The other Leather Emerald Award recipients besides myself are the Seattle Eagle, Gene Romaine, Bill Manning, and Corky D., plus awards from the 2002 titleholders to Tim Parsons and Mark Colter, and the National Leather Emerald Award went to Sandy “Mama” Reinhart.

I’m in very good company.

[Weblog title reference: From Sally Field’s 1984 acceptance speech for the Best Actress Oscar for Places in the Heart.]

Updated on October 21, 2003

Updated on July 6, 2010
Over the course of the next couple years, I also received Man of the Year awards from Seattle Men in Leather, Generic Leather Productions of Washington, and Seattle Boys of Leather, followed in 2006 by a Pantheon of Leather / Northwest Region award.

Thursday, March 27, 2003

How to Ruin a Carpet in Ten Easy Steps

  1. Decide to make a nice stir-fry for dinner.  Perhaps chunked mahi-mahi, radicchio, Napa cabbage, and edamame, seasoned with garlic and lemon pepper, to be sautéed in a light sesame-flavored dressing, and then served over couscous.
  2. Set the wok to heat on the stove.
  3. Chunk and season the fish, then begin prep on the radicchio.
  4. Pour a couple tablespoons of virgin olive oil into the hot wok.
  5. Say “Yow!” as the oil superheats and bursts into flame.
  6. Don’t panic.  Take the wok off the heat.
  7. Realize that the burning oil is also smoking, and that will set off the smoke alarm in a few seconds.  Flip on the fan on the range hood, and then scramble to open the door out to the deck.
  8. Come back to the stove and see that it’s still burning.  Pick up the wok, still aflame, and make a beeline for the door to outside.
  9. Say “Yow!” again as you curve toward the door and there’s a burst of flame right in front of your face.  Get outside and have burning oil slosh out of the wok, over the edge of the deck, and completely dissipate before burning anything else.  Realize that the previous gout of flame was a similar action.  Go back in and examine the melted pockmarks in the carpet.
  10. Enjoy your meal.  Yummy!
Affected area is about the size of a dinner plate.

The Sound of One Hand Clapping

Yesterday, we had a company meeting at work.  Because our company has divisions all over the world — North America, Europe, India, Japan, etc. — these meetings are done with video conferencing.  And that works just fine.  Of course, meeting like these bring one person after another up on the stage: the CEO, the CFO, the head of Human Resources, an important customer, and so on, each to give their little portion of the meeting.  They come on the stage, the music swells, and everyone applauds.

Why?  No, not why do people applaud, but why does everyone applaud?  Why do the people at remote sites, receiving a video feed from the main site but without one going the other direction, bother to applaud?

There seem to be three reasons why people applaud:

  • To give direct recognition to someone, to stroke their ego.  “I’m happy, and I want you to know it.”  The people at remote sites aren’t doing that with their applause (or at least not successfully!).
  • To let the people around you know that you are giving recognition.  “I’m happy and I want everyone to know it.”  This probably comes in two flavors: normal and peer pressure, the latter being “I’m happy and I want you to (feel compelled to) be happy, too.”
  • Because we are supposed to.  Because we’ve been trained to.
The second of these comes up on occasion.  I’ve been to a couple films in the past few years where the audience applauded after the film.  Obviously, there was no one on the receiving end of that recognition, but after so thoroughly enjoying the film, it felt like the right thing to do.

This last one is what was really going on in the company meeting.  At our site, my guess is that about 2/3 of the people clapped at all the expected, standard moments; the rest of us typically did not, perhaps being aware of the lack of real purpose to the clapping.  But even then, I found myself occasionally making clapping actions — often with one hand against my shirt or jeans.  I couldn’t help myself, and that bothered me; this sort of herd behavior is so ingrained into our society that even when we’re aware of it, we can’t stop it from happening.

I’ve noticed it before this meeting, of course.  The most significant example, I think, is the standing ovation. We have to see what is happening, we have to be heard, we have to be herd.  And thus when someone else stands up to applaud at the end of a performance, even one we didn’t think was that special, we end up doing so as well, because if we don’t, everyone around us knows that we aren’t being good sheep, er, audience members.

A parallel circumstance is the television laugh track.  These laugh tracks are added to sitcoms on television; we are supposed to think they are the responses of studio audiences — and there may be some of that in the mix at times — but with a close listen to many of them, you can tell that someone has a knob and they are turning up and down the volume of the laughter.  This becomes particularly evident when the laughter goes way up on a line where you end up wondering what was so funny about that bit of dialogue.  The use of these laugh tracks has become so ingrained over the years that we as the audience have come to depend on them to tell us when something is “funny”; with a laugh track, we’ll laugh at anything, but without one, we don’t know what to think.

Remember the final episode of Ellen, a parody documentary look back at her career as though it had spanned 50 years?  (My favorite bit was the animated show, Ellen and the Harlem Globetrotters in Outer Space!)  They intentionally left the laugh track off of that episode.  I remember talking to people over the next couple days: some thought it was hilarious, some thought it wasn’t funny at all, and at least one person commented to me that she was confused through the entire episode, that she didn’t know what was supposed to be funny and what was supposed to be serious.

[Weblog title reference: From the Zen koan, “What is the Sound of the Single Hand?”]

Updated on October 21, 2003

Updated on July 6, 2010
Added and corrected links.

Tuesday, March 25, 2003

Conflicted about the Conflict: I Hate America

I hate America.

Well, it’s true.  It must be: Rush Limbaugh says so.  All the conservative radio talk jocks say so.  If you’re a liberal and you’re against the war and you oppose the President, why there’s simply no other answer.  “If you’re not with us, you’re against us, and since we love America, you must hate it.”

This subject is what prompted me to start this WebLog in the first place.  It just took me a while to get around to typing it up.

For shits and giggles, though, let’s assume they are right.  If I do hate America, what is it I actually hate?  It’s unlikely to be the land itself, with its purple mountains majesty and fruited plains; I don’t hate physical things.  That’s America the place; it’s America as an idea or an image which I must hate.

So what is America-the-image?  Let’s look at it how the rest of the world does.  “America” is a land of dreams and promises and potential for success.  “America” is Hollywood.  “America” is McDonalds and Starbucks.  “America” is a country which thumbs its nose at the United Nations.  “America” is a country which won’t sign the Kyoto Accords, which backs out of the ABM Treaty, and which won’t permit gays and lesbians to serve in its military.  “America” is George Bush and Colin Powell and Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld.

As an aside, I note that I am guilty of conflating Saddam Hussein and Iraq in my own writing.  The leader and the nation are not the same, but our national media and rhetoric make them the same to the point that even those of us who know better can only separate the two with difficulty.  It is thus very true that to the rest of the world, “America” is George Bush, and vice versa.  The Seattle Weekly had a take on this in Geov Parrish’s “Dubya War Glossary” from their March 19, 2003 issue:
Saddam Hussein n: The nation of Iraq, pop. 224,002,000 (2002 est.); area 172,476 sq. mi. (slightly larger than California), centered on the Tigris and Euphrates rivers in Southwest Asia, previously known as Persia and Mesopotamia; one of the oldest continually civilized regions in the world.  “Iraq” and “Saddam Hussein” are generally used interchangeably; e.g., “We’re going to bomb the hell out of Saddam Hussein.”
To the rest of the world, “America” is a big bully which likes to throw its weight around, both monetarily and militarily; a bully which insists that everyone else behave according to its whims.  It’s no wonder I hate America.  Nobody loves a bully.

Updated on July 2, 2010
Added link to a story not avaialble online when entry was originally written.

Monday, March 24, 2003

Conflicted about the Conflict: Show of Strength

I heard a bit of pro-war commentary over the weekend which made me nod in agreement.

In a recent interview with an Afghan warlord in a British Arab-language newspaper, a man who has also done training camps for Al Qaeda, the interviewee spoke of having lots of recruits currently coming in for training, but that he expected an abrupt halt to the influx once America started to attack Iraq.  Basically, terrorist attacks like September 11 come because they can, because we (America, the West) are perceived as weak.  The terrorists believe that they can get away with it, that we won’t hit back.

(There is certainly support for that belief from the past decade, I’ll admit.  Clinton wasn’t great in that regard.)

Thus, the attack on Afghanistan was proving that we will slap back… once, and quickly.  The attack on Iraq, though, is proof that we won’t slap back only in response but as a continued show of strength.  Therefore, pulling back from Iraq would demonstrate that we have no balls, no willingness to follow through.  By going forward with the attack, we show our strength and commitment to a cause.  And that will serve both to impress the Arab world and to cow would-be recruits.

There is some good logic there.  But it is still logic which supports taking some action, not necessarily this one, in this way, at this time.

Conflicted about the Conflict: Support the Troops

The pro-war crowd cannot (will not) see the difference between support for the troops (the people) and support for the war (the action).  This allows them to equate being anti-war (specifically anti-this-war, but anti-war in general) to being anti-America.

The best way to “support our troops” is to bring them home.  All of them.  Alive.  As soon as possible.

Sunday, March 23, 2003

What Were They Thinking?
    — How Many Weeks in a Year?

“What Were They Thinking?” highlights products and presentations which just don’t make sense.

This is one of those subscription cards which annoyingly fall out of magazines; in this case, from The New Yorker.

Where I come from, there are 52 weeks in a year, not 46.  But maybe I’m making a bad assumption, and the magazine actually comes out once every eight days rather than every seven?  Or maybe they take off a week at Christmas each year, a week at Easter, and an entire month in the summer to go to the Hamptons?

Remixed into original weblog on June 28, 2004

Conflicted about the Conflict: Question Authority

I listen to talk radio a lot while driving to and from work, to and from the bars, and so on.  I listen to both liberal (KIRO and the NPR affiliate KUOW) and conservative (KVI).  I get a broader picture of things that way, and it is useful to know what those you disagree with are saying in order to better respond to them.  So yes, I even listen to Rush Limbaugh.

Almost certainly the scariest thing I have heard in the build-up to this attack on Iraq has been on the conservative talk radio stations, with people calling in to say “How dare people question what President Bush is doing!”  (One woman said almost exactly that.)

Excuse me?  Even if we agree with the President’s actions and motives, and those of his administration, how dare we act like passive sheep and simply accept what is being done?  Even if we question and come back with the answer that everything is okay and proper, it is our duty as American citizens to question, investigate, and decide for ourselves.

How dare we not question what is being done?

Saturday, March 22, 2003

Conflicted about the Conflict: Stated Reasons for War

Probably the biggest concern I’ve had about the impending (and now occurring) conflict is the question of why.  What are our actual reasons for attacking Iraq?  (Make that our stated reasons.  More about our actual reasons later.)

The first is that “Saddam is a threat.”  To whom?  He isn’t a threat to us; even if he does have “weapons of mass destruction,” he doesn’t have the delivery systems to get them to North America.  Discarding (see this post) the possibility of his passing such weapons on to those who could use them against American interests domestically or abroad, the weaponry at Saddam’s disposal is not a significant threat to the United States.  Since he has not used such weapons in the past ten years, there is little reason to expect him to attack us now.

Second is that he could be a threat, sometime down the line, in a year or ten.  If he acquires a powerful delivery system.  If he develops a nuclear device.  If pigs had wings, we’d have to take them down before they could come into our airspace, too.  “If” is a good reason to take preventative measures — treaties, sanctions, United Nations resolutions, inspections — but it is a lousy reason to do a first strike.  Striking against Saddam without real provocation, for what he could do someday, opens the door to take on anyone else: Iran, Indonesia, Columbia, France, or Canada.

(As a side to the “threat” angle, it is repeatedly mentioned that he used nerve gas on his own people.  This was on the Kurds, who are Iraqi by dint of living in the artificially created national boundaries, but by no means are they Saddam Hussein’s “people” in any other sense.  It was also a single incident, and it occurred some fifteen years ago.  Not that we should ignore that this occurred, but we should recognize that it was a one-time event that happened before the last Gulf War, and thus we should give it no more attention than it really deserves.)

The third stated reason is that Iraq has not complied with the United Nations disarmament resolutions passed over a decade ago.  This one I can actually get behind, to a degree.  The purpose of weapons inspectors isn’t to enforce the disarmament but to inspect, to find out if compliance has occurred.  We should have pushed matters years ago, when the inspectors were kicked out.  When the Iraqi report delivered to the United Nations was obviously invalid, the United Nations should have moved on things.  The moment the inspectors found missiles or anthrax or whatever, the United Nations should have moved on things.  But the United Nations did not, and they did not via a democratic process.  The United States should not go around the United Nations’ collective back even if we disagree with their decision to drag things out further.  By doing so, by thumbing our nose at the rest of the world, we prove ourselves to be the bully they already believe us to be.  (And if we are setting ourselves up as the world’s police force, using this noncompliance as a reason to go to war, we must be consistent and go after every nation which is in violation of such resolutions.  Israel probably needs to be next, not North Korea.)

The fourth “reason” for attacking Iraq is humanitarian reasons, to stop Saddam Hussein from torturing his citizens. (The bit I heard today is that people who speak out against Saddam are forced to watch their children get dropped feet-first into a plastic shredder.  Woo!)  Yes, there undoubtedly are tragic amounts of human rights abuse and torture and such going on today… just like for the past decade or three, during which we’ve not been worked up over it sufficiently to make a move on Saddam.  Not to mention the vast number of other places in the world where we know such activities occur and we do nothing about them.  This reason is a red herring (despite Colin Powell talking it up as a reason a couple weeks ago); it has only been presented for the purpose of convincing some moderates and even lefties to support the attack (out of liberal guilt) who would not be convinced on other grounds.

Updated on July 1, 2010

Friday, March 21, 2003

Oscar Predictions

I’m going to a gay Oscar night party with Rich on Sunday.  This is only the second one I’ve ever been to, for good or for ill.  And as usual, I’ve only seen a handful on the nominees.  (Chicago, Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones, Spirited Away, and Ice Age are it for this year, while last year, I think I had only seen Moulin Rouge!, Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, and Shrek; pretty consistent, ain’t I?)

Here are two predictions for this year:
  1. The Hours will win, but just by a nose.
  2. Whether #1 comes true or not, host Steve Martin will use that joke.
(Okay, I was wrong.  Denzel Washington used that joke when presenting the award.)

Updated on June 29, 2010

Thursday, March 20, 2003

Jenna, Barbara, and George

A few months ago, someone sent me a link to a page with a host of Photoshop touch-ups, attaching Bush’s face to supermodel bodies.  Funniest thing I’ve seen in a long time, even better than Bill and Al as gym studs or Hillary as a dominatrix.  At one time, they apparently came from (dead link), and then from (no longer hosts the images), but as you see if you visit those sites, not any more.  A web search on “WGirls” yields a bunch of sites, but most of them seem to be defunct.  (Do you suppose someone wasn’t too happy about the parody, hmm?)  I finally found a link (nope, that one’s dead, too), although who knows how long it will remain viable.  (If that link goes dead, let me know and I’ll try to find a new one.  This is the web we’re talking about; trying to kill things like this off can’t be done.)

Updated on June 29, 2010
Here’s the latest viable link.  Seven years later, these images still tickle.  Great Photoshopping work.

Wednesday, March 19, 2003

Mr. Monogamy

Moved this post to the Sounds Kinky-er blog:

Ashcroft, You’re Next!

Here’s a fun piece about an upcoming book of repurposed war propaganda posters, due May 1.

Updated on June 28, 2010
Original link from Newsarama is dead, but you can order the books and see the hundreds of remixed posters here.

Monday, March 17, 2003

Big City, Small Town

I’m in San Jose, California, for work this week, and I’m struck again by the “personality” of the city.  (I now live in Seattle, but I used to live in the Bay Area, including a year in San Jose.)  San Jose is a big city by accident and has little hope of ever growing past that.  Twenty -plus years ago, San Jose was a small city, more orchards than high tech.  Its population has grown significantly since then, but San Jose will probably never be a world-class city.
  • San Jose is probably in the top 20 cities in terms of population (it is third in the state of California), but it is undoubtedly also in the top 20 in terms of surface area.  Sprawl says it all.  Miles and miles.
  • The only major league sports team based here is hockey (the San Jose Sharks).
  • The tallest building is less than 20 stories.  (Now go drive down Lakeshore in Chicago and count the buildings under 20 stories.)  This is largely caused by the flight path for the airport going right over downtown: buildings simply can’t be any taller.  Without skyscrapers, San Jose simply doesn’t look like a real city downtown.
  • There are no fantastic views.  No snow-capped mountains.  No great rivers or sea vistas (unless you count when the Guadalupe River floods each winter).  And as mentioned, little in the way of towering architecture.
  • The old song says “Do you know the way to San Jose?”  Being only an hour from San Francisco raises the response “Why bother to go there?”.  Many people who work in San Jose live in San Francisco, simply because it’s close enough that they can.  The San Jose airport (SJC) couldn’t make it as an airline hub; people tended to still fly into San Francisco (SFO) instead.  And then there was the Good Morning America “Good Morning from…” from a few years back: “Good Morning from San Francisco, the heart of Silicon Valley!”  (Oh, the shame.)

Updated on June 28, 2010
Small revisions and a link to the song.

Sunday, March 16, 2003


I never put too much value in horoscopes.  I figure that given the millions of other people with the same sign as me, how often can I expect a generically written one to apply to me?  Still, every now and then…

A year or so ago, I woke up to a very cold house (it was winter, after all).  The furnace had gone out in the middle of the night.  Not quite knowing what to do, I went to the local Starbucks for coffee and pastries, and I happened to read my horoscope for the day, which said something to the effect of “Today is a good day to deal with appliance and home repair.”  (The problem turned out to be just a tripped circuit breaker, fortunately.)

This week’s horoscope in the Spectrum newspaper (by Jack Fertig) says this, in part: “This is a very tricky time for you at work and as regards your health.  […]  Frustrations at work are taking on a more personal feel.  Are you really in a job that you enjoy?  For your own well-being you cannot settle or [sic] less. Yeah, times are hard and don’t give notice until you have a better — and dependable! — gig securely lined up.”

That sure goes hand in hand with what I wrote last night (click here), doesn’t it?

Saturday, March 15, 2003

I Hate My Job

(This is my third draft of this entry.  Both of the first two were too long and probably would have got me in trouble at work if someone chanced upon this page, even though I said nothing about project names, people, or ship dates.  I’ll may still get in trouble just for expressing this at all; so be it.)

My job is not fun these days.  Fuck that, it isn’t even moderately enjoyable.

I get yelled at by my manager for coming in a few minutes late (not that there’s not a time clock to punch).  I’m made to feel guilty for not coming in every weekend.  The team has been missing deadlines, something which inevitably turns back on Quality Engineering later to make up the time, although we didn’t cause it.  Some on the team have said how little they care about the project (and you can include me in that), and you can hear the edge of snapping at people in the voices of others in meetings.  And over the top of it all, one of the recipients of our project’s output has said their group is “this close” to ripping our code out, which would cause all the others to abandon us, too.

I’d say there’s at least a 50/50 chance we’ll all be canned (“reallocated internally”, if we’re lucky) by this time next month.  (Of course, we just missed another deadline on Friday.  There’s probably a 10% chance that our group will get axed by the end of the week.)

I sure wish the market was good enough that I could afford to look elsewhere.

Updated on June 26, 2010
The company here was Adobe Systems, and the project was a piece of what eventually became Creative Suite.

Things did turn around on that project somewhat by 2004, although other major process issues cropped up to the point where I got severely dinged by a bad review around the start of 2005 and was eventually laid off that December.  As I understand it, the project was eventually killed in later 2009, although after releasing several versions as part of Creative Suitee.  One of my teammates left in 2006, another got laid off at the end of 2009, and I don’t know about the others.

I've been much happier since leaving.

Thursday, March 13, 2003

Conflicted about the Conflict: Preventative Measures

Sure to be the first of many parts of my ongoing thoughts about the (currently) upcoming war on Iraq.  The short of it is that am I opposed to the war in general terms — I’m opposed to war period — but there are lots of pieces which need to be examined along the way.  The anti-war protestors are not always right.

One of the reasons the Bush Administration keeps claiming as a need to go to war on Iraq (at this point, potentially go to war, if Iraq doesn’t disarm; more on that in a later item) is the threat of potential terrorism.  The fear not that Iraq itself will launch terrorist attacks on the United States, it’s citizens, or it’s allies, but that any “weapons of mass destruction” they have might get passed to (sold, given, stolen by) terrorist groups and then used by those groups.  Aiding and abetting, if you will.

This plays heavily off our fears from September 11, and the Bush Administration (and with them, the media outlets — liberal and conservative both — who carry the Bush Administration’s comments and then expound on them) wants us to think that Saddam Hussein will deal directly with Al Qaeda.  Al Qaeda is something of a boogie man these days, the only terrorist organization (maybe along with Hamas) which Americans can be expected to keep in our heads; all terrorists therefore collapse into the specter of Osama bin Laden.

The Bush Administration has revealed several specious (at best) “connections” between Iraq and Al Qaeda, almost desperately trying to give Americans a “smoking gun” reason for us to be in favor of going to war on Iraq.  At the same time, the media has tracked out these same “connections” and found very little to run with, and one major thing to run away from: Al Qaeda considers the secular Iraq to be an enemy (albeit not as significant a one as the United States).  And thus the likelihood of Iraq giving weapons to Al Qaeda drifts away like smoke.  (And the same would be true with any fundamentalist religious terrorist group: they are not going to make deals with a non-religious government, because such a government is their enemy.)

Occasional mentions are also made of Saddam Hussein supporting Palestinian terrorists — Hussein is anti-Israeli — but I have not not heard fears voiced that he would supply “weapons of mass destruction” to them.  And since he already has established connections there — donating money to the families of suicide bombers — such transactions would at least make sense.  That we don’t hear howling about that possibility seems to give the lie to fears about him supplying other terrorists with weapons.

In the end, going to war because of something a foreign power might do someday — not have done, but might do — and further might do with weapons they may not have and may not even be developing or trying to acquire, that doesn’t strike me as a good reason to attack someone.  With this rationalization for prevention of potential events, the door is left open to attack anyone at any time.

France, for example.  They are opposing us in the United Nations Security Council (which marks them as a potential enemy), and they have nuclear capabilities.  They could, at some point (tomorrow, next year, next century) pass weapons (nuclear, radiological, biological, chemical) to groups which are actively antagonistic to United States interests (terrorists, that is, although just what that term means is open to interpretation; could that include Quebecois separatists, right on our northern border?).  Perhaps France should be next in line after Iraq, North Korea, and Iran?  Maybe we can’t afford to wait that long?

Today the oil, tomorrow the wine!

Updated on June 26, 2010
Fixed punctuation and added a word for reading clarity.

Wednesday, March 12, 2003

Letter of Comment
    — Monorails and Furries

I’ve now added the text of my “Dear Glenn” letter to the previous Letterhack item.

I might as well dig up the two other letters I had published in recent months while I’m at it…
  • In the November 1, 2002 issue of the Seattle Gay News, I had a letter in favor of the then-pending vote on the Seattle Monorail (online archives apparently only go back to February 2005 these days, so I can't link to it anymore).  The gist of the letter was that Seattle needs rapid transit badly, and while the small initial monorail system won’t solve Seattle’s traffic problems (nothing will do that), it will help keep things from getting worse.
  • I admit it.  I have written to Dan Savage’s “Savage Love” column and had the letter published.  No, that wasn’t my letter about <your favorite kinky fetish here>.  Instead, I tried taking Dan to task for his, um, savaging of “furries” in this column (August 8, 2002).  My letter was heavily edited (and I didn’t save the e-mailed original to compare against); he cut half the letter, and perhaps appropriately, half the signature acronym.  That shouldn’t be a surprise, as everyone looks like an idiot in Dan’s columns.  My letter was published in this column (first letter; August 22, 2002).
Not all of my letters get published, mind you, but I think I have a good hit percentage, something over .500.

Updated on June 26, 2010
Removed a dead link and added explanation, updated other links.
Updated on September 7, 2010

Scott Adams is Listening

A friend of mine (who I won’t name), who works for a large Bay Area-based software company (which I also won’t name, but it’s not the same large Bay Area-based software company I work for) told me that he has filed a complaint with his human resources department about his manager, claiming that his manager ordered him to lie to a customer, telling the customer that a desired feature was in the current version of the software when it isn’t.

I think back across my career in the software industry and come up with some lunatic tales, too.  If you’ve ever worked in a high-tech company, you know these (and worse) are all true:
  • T-Shirts with targets on them, for a product initiative called “FATE”.
  • Management directions that change every two weeks, and then change back.
  • A project gets cancelled, the staff gets laid off, and then the project gets resurrected when a major customer complains.
  • Mergers where the sales force of the smaller company is canned, and then sales on that set of products tank.
  • Continuing to use a Microsoft product company wide despite a merger having acquired something which competes in the same space.
  • Producing a mass consumer product, but laying off the user interface designer.
  • Canning telecommuting employees to avoid having to do payroll for the states they live in, despite the company already having employees and subsidiaries in dozens of states.
  • Artwork in a conference room featuring a gutted fish, or by the elevator featuring what looks like scabbed over wounds.  Or another with a grid of faceless people, some of them X’ed out.  (We had layoffs soon after.)
  • Company-wide e-mails which announce a mandatory meeting and then ask employees not to gossip about the meeting in the halls.  (So we went to the break room instead.)
  • Quantity Assurance, where the quality is determined by the number of bugs posted and fixed, the number of tests run, and apparently the number of employees working seven days a week all summer long with no added pay.  (But they got a few t-shirts and lunch
    on the weekends.)

The San Jose Mercury News long ago put Scott Adams’ “Dilbert” in the Business section rather than on the comics pages (as some papers did with putting “Doonesbury” on the Op-Ed pages).  They know that “Dilbert” isn’t comedy… it’s documentary.

[Weblog title reference: From the catchphrase for THX sound, “The audience is listening.”]

Updated on March 14, 2003

Updated on October 21, 2003

Updated on June 23, 2010
Updated and added some links.

Sunday, March 9, 2003

What Were They Thinking?
    — Maybe They Put It in the Toilet Tank?

“What Were They Thinking?” highlights products and presentations which just don’t make sense.

This came from the Dufferin Hotel in Vancouver, BC.

Not that I’ve ever needed to use a shower cap, but I’m so glad they provided me with the “convenient” one.  As opposed to the “inconvenient” shower cap.

Updated on June 28, 2004
Remixed into Weblog

What Were They Thinking?
    — And What are Little Boys Made Of?

“What Were They Thinking?” highlights products and presentations which just don’t make sense.

Only in restaurants in Vancouver, BC, have I found little packages of peanut butter alongside the jelly packets to put on your toast at breakfast.  I approve, though, because I like peanut butter on my toast.

However, consider what is pictured on the jelly packets: grapes on the grape jelly, strawberries on the strawberry jam, oranges on the orange marmalade.  So given this pattern, tell me what the peanut butter is made of.

Is that a cruel thing to do to little kids, or what?

(Does anyone ever eat the orange marmalade?  Okay, I do.  It’s yummy.)

Updated on June 28, 2004
Remixed into Weblog

What Were They Thinking?
    — Glonous Cultual Chcosticks

“What Were They Thinking?” highlights products and presentations which just don’t make sense.

I don’t know what company makes these wooden chopsticks, but you can find them all over the country.  This wrapper came from Las Vegas, and I’ve seen the same one in Seattle.  There’s a stereotype about really bad foreign translations, but this really takes the cake.  Or the mu shu, anyway.

Here is what the text says, in case you can’t make it out from the image:
Welcome to Chinese Restaurant
please try your Nice Chinese Food With Chopsticks
the traditional and typical of Chinese glonous history.
and cultual.


Tuk under        thurnb
and held firmly

Learn how to use your chopsticks
Add second chcostick
hold it as you hold
a pencil

Hold tirst chopstick
in originai position
move the second one
up and down
Now you can pick
up anything :


Updated on June 28, 2004
Remixed into original blog

Updated on December 14, 2009
They have apparently done some updates to this package over time, since I've seen some more recent versions which fixed some (but not all) of the typos.  I wonder if they are from bad OCR software?

What I’m Thinking

I’ve just added a new page to the site, &#ldquo;What Were They Thinking?”  This features objects and advertising bits which make no sense, and which I thus find horribly funny.  I hope you do, too.<

Updated on June 28, 2004
As of June 28, 2004, I have “remixed” the above sequence of pages into the main Weblog.  The original page will become defunct soon.  Here is the header from that page, explaining the purpose of the entries:

Remember the old ad slogan for Tylenol: “Nothing works better than Tylenol”?  Which leaves you thinking “So why use Tylenol if nothing works better than it?”  Every now and then I encounter similar objects and phrases, so I thought I would share them with others&hellip

Bad Song Poetry

I’ve never really been one who enjoys reading poetry, but I do enjoy certain poetic forms when done well (haiku, especially), and by extension, I despise them when they are done poorly.  Song lyrics, of course, are a small subset of poetry, and in most cases, the poetic nature of them tends to just wash on by.  But not always.

One of the few country-western songs that just drives me around the bend is Tim McGraw’s “Don’t Take the Girl” (which I heard on the radio this morning, and thus was made worthy of bitching about here), because of a lyrical line break in the second verse.  There is a term called “enjambment”, dealing with breaking phrases between lines.  When done well, this can add extra depth to a poem.  When done poorly, you get horrors like this:
He kissed her lips in
Front of the picture show
*shudder*  No value is added here, and because of how song lyrics will expand or contract the length and placement of the syllables to go with the music, the word “in” could easily have been shifted to the next line and not broken the prepositional phrase.

What makes this song more notable in this arena, though, is that the third verse does superb enjambment, where the second line of these three works syntactically with both the line before and the line after:
I’ll gladly take her place
If you’ll let me
Make this my last request
For the record, the other two country songs that I utterly despise — but for thematic reasons rather than poetic ones — are Collin Raye’s “That’s My Story (And I’m Sticking to It)” (the “It’s okay to lie to your wife” song) and Reba McEntire’s “She Thinks His Name Was John” (which tells us that casual sex, just once, will give you AIDS and you will die).  Play those and I change the channel; I merely bitch with the Tim McGraw song.

Updated links of March 2, 2011

Saturday, March 8, 2003

Letter of Comment
    — To Meet People, You Have to Meet People

Every now and then, I write letters of comment to various places.  (I used to have a long list of where I had written to and which had been published.  Gave that up long ago.)  This week, I managed to have two of them published:

Regarding this article in The Stranger about a school shooting several years ago, I wrote a letter which got printed, titled “Yanked by the Nose.”  (You’ll find it 2/3 of the way down this page.)

Regarding a letter in the “Dear Glenn” advice column in the Seattle Gay News, I sent in a letter about people joining organizations in order to meet people, which he printed.  The column doesn’t seem to be online regularly, so here’s what I wrote (it was slightly edited in the printed form):

Reading Ivan’s letter in the Feb 28 column, I was struck by something which might be worthy of repeating/running a column on/etc.

Ivan spoke of having joined several local groups in the past in search of relationships and/or friends.  We’re often told this by friends: “You need to go out and join a group to meet someone.”  There’s definite truth in that, but it often seems to get misinterpreted.

First, anyone who is joining a club or doing volunteering or things like that in order to find a boyfriend is bound to get disappointed.  With few exceptions, hooking people up in longterm monogamous relationships isn’t the mission of these groups.  They are usually social groups or fundraising groups; you might well expect to meet people (some of whom might have potential for dating), but being upset that you don’t end up in a relationship from the groups is problematic.

Second, these things take time.  I can’t speak for Ivan, of course, but I’ve seen people who join a group, come to a couple events, don’t get what their misset expectations wanted, and then drop out, all in a couple weeks.  Or I’ve seen people decide to take up sports activities: they take a couple short lessons, aren’t instantly experts, aren’t being continually asked to dance or winning races or whatever, and they stop coming, before they’ve really had a chance to meet people and grow into the new activity.  We’ve been led to demand immediate gratification, and to “change the channel” when we don’t get it.

Third, you get out of these groups what you put into them.  This is especially true with the social groups he mentioned (many of which in the gay community are aligned along sports or sexual fetish lines).  If you’re in a running club, you’ve got to go running to meet the people who run, to hang out with them, and to get to know them.  If you join a leather club, you’ve got to have an interest in leather and some of the associated sex activities, you have to go to their group functions, and you have to dive in there and meet people.  You don’t have to step up to a board position right off the bat, but you can bet there are tasks you could volunteer to help with.  If you aren’t being active in the group, the group won’t be active around you.

Thanks for doing your great columns, Glenn.
At least one person (Hi, Tom) knew that it was me who had written the letter, despite it only being signed in the paper with my first name.

Updated on March 12, 2003

Updated on September 7, 2010

God Help Us All

And with this, I’ve formally gone off the deep end and created a WebLog.  God help us all.  Every now and then, I visit other people’s WebLogs (like my friend Troy’s), and I finally decided it was time to put up a place where I can post my thought du jour.

This isn’t a journal (because I hate the word, and I’ll tell you why someday), and it sure as hell ain’t a diary.  Some of the content will have a political bent to it — given what’s in the news these days, can it help but be that way? — but I hope most of it will be lighter in tone.  Given the nature of the rest of this site, I’m sure a lot of it will have sexual overtones, too.  Titillate while you educate!

Time will tell whether I’ll update it daily or only once in a blue moon like the rest of this site.

Updated on June 22, 2010
  • Merged from old blog. 
  • Looks like Troy’s old blog is now an online placeholder for his resumé and portfolio, and has not been updated since 2007.