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I Am Your Shield

This was an extremely weird day in so many ways. A whole bunch of weird shit hit very close to home. I called my friend Dan, who is a professor at Utah State University, and told him about threats to kill people if they dared to let feminist Anita Sarkeesian speak about the fact that maybe video games are a little bit sexist (which I've been saying since I started playing them 20+ years ago). He told me about a student who came into his office with a gun clip attached to his backpack with velcro. Then he realized he had a class in the very same room where Anita Sarkeesian would be speaking. And his class was there in the hour before she spoke. Then when Anita justifiably backed out, I figured out how truly weird the gun laws in my state are. USU issued a statement that they couldn't ban people from bringing loaded guns to an event, even though they'd received terrorist threats against the speaker. Utah is the only state in the nation that actually forces state colleges to allow guns on campus. Although, I think the Utah State University administrators might possibly have been able to find a way around this if not for the fact that they were probably completely relieved to offer Anita Sarkeesian an excuse not to come, after all.

I also wrote a letter to Intel. I want to save it here for myself:

I'm writing to thank you because your support of GamerGate has saved me a lot of time. Next time I need to upgrade my gaming PC, or my husband's, or one of my children's, I will not have to read any reviews about which chip is best for gaming. I will simply tell myself that AMD is surely good enough.

Your spokesman said "We take feedback from our customers very seriously especially as it relates to contextually relevant content and placements." Next time a vocal minority organizes a letter-writing campaign to you, perhaps you would be wise to consider the contextual relevance for the silent consumers of your ad campaigns. In this case, at least one of those was me—a woman who has identified as a gamer and spent many thousands of dollars on my hobby (and computers to play it on) for many, many years before most of the GamerGate boys reached maturity and started telling me and my daughter that we couldn't possibly be real gamers, because we were "girls."

Despite the fact that even I was a bit appalled by Leigh Alexander's unfortunate article, where she basically gave the power to define the term "gamer" to the kind of guys who have been trying to be its gatekeepers all along, supporting GamerGate is not an ethical or appropriate response.

If you want to convince me that "Intel does not support any organization or movement that discriminates against women" you cannot do it by supporting GamerGate. Behind its thin scaffolding of "corruption in journalism," GamerGate is entirely about silencing and threatening women. And by pulling your ad campaign, you are definitely saying that you support them over women like me, who have been playing games for more than 20 years, despite always wishing for better representation of female characters in the medium. So put your money where your mouth is and reinstate your ad campaign, and I may begin to believe you mean it.


I also want to save these thoughts posted somewhere else for myself:

Even though the extreme factions in GamerGate are utterly horrifying, can I just say that the so-called “moderate” and “reasonable” factions are the ones that scare me almost more. Almost anyone with any degree of sanity can get on the boat when we argue from a point of “harassment and death threats are bad,” which is why I think the GGers tend to gain some traction on comment threads by pretending to support this position. On the other hand, from what I’ve seen, the more “moderate” argument they’re pretending to is that they just want games journalists to address things like game mechanics and playability. I think we need to start hitting these pretend moderates where it hurts, as well. In my opinion, no one (even these asshats) wants a review of, for instance, an RPG, that doesn’t address story elements of the game. Even dumbass FPSes like CoD and Halo have a semblance of “story.” The “moderate” elements are truly calling for story to only be addressed from a traditional male asshole point of view. They don’t care if reviewers discuss “story” a little bit. They only care if they critique the story from any “non-alpha-male” perspective. They truly almost bother me more than the horrific people making threats, only because the subtle misogyny in their message is getting lost beneath the furor of “you doxx, we doxx.”

Fired and Hired

My employer fired me one week ago today. I have never been fired before and was in absolute shock. Their trumped up reason was that I was underperforming. After I spent four years telling them that I need more objectives, that I needed clearer priorities and expectations, that I was underworked, that I was downright bored, they told me that despite the fact that I met every deadline and clearly stated expectation within a specific time period, I hadn't shown enough visible work within a single 24-hour period, and they were going to terminate me. I will never believe that their real reason for firing me didn't have more to do with the fact that I finally told them I thought my team lead was incompetent, and they thought I shouldn't have said that about someone who has a penis.

Regardless, I'm feeling almost grateful to them for firing me. I spent the rest of the day last Monday and all day Tuesday wallowing. Wednesday, I picked myself up and tried to get a better handle on my finances, then updated my resume and posted it to a couple of online job boards. I also sent my resume to several jobs listed on those boards. I stayed up very late Wednesday, and by the time I got up on Thursday afternoon, I had a response from one of the companies I'd sent my resume to, as well as a spontaneous offer from a headhunter company with a position they needed to fill. I followed up with those. I also got another response on Friday to one of the resumes I sent out. At this point, on this Monday, one week from being fired, I will be starting a two-month contract on Thursday, but I also have two job interviews tomorrow with companies that know I am committed until June, but that might be willing to wait for me. I am feeling very good about myself.

My only remaining fantasy is that my previous employers will call me up and tell me they made a huge mistake and want to hire me back, at which point, I can laugh at them and say, yes, you did make a mistake and I hope it really bites you in the ass. Ciao!
I'm not a scientist. But since our metabolism controls the way we break down food and convert it into energy, and Diabetes 2 is a metabolic disorder, I can't figure out why no one seems to be asking whether morbid obesity might be one of the symptoms of the underlying metabolic problem, rather than a cause of Diabetes 2. Is there something wrong with my logic for this question? I have reasonable Google-fu and will keep looking, but so far I've found nada on this.

Mission, Mormonism, and Morality

This entry is actually a comment I made on another post on Facebook. It may not make much sense out of context, but I wanted to preserve it for myself, anyway. It's been a long time since I rethought anything about the LDS mission, and it was a nice purge, even if I just continually recogitate the same old shit. I don't know if my friends I subjected to it on Facebook appreciated my long-windedness, but I hope they (and anyone who visits me here) will forgive me.

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Fuck Your Brownie Points

I had a lot to do at work last week. In a lot of ways that was a welcome change. But as I came up on the end of the week, I was ready to start updating an installation guide for a patch release that added some new features. I hadn't been ignoring it, anyway. I'd analyzed the changes earlier in the week and identified (and let everyone know) that the new release had a dependency on another product and that that product would also have to be updated and released, and QA would have to test and install the dependency, anyway, before this product could go through QA. Why it's up to the technical writer to identify this shit, I don't know, but I do it (I can't help it, really), and it's one of the things they like about me.

So it's 4:30 last Friday and the acting team lead for the team in charge of this product release (the real team lead is in Japan) comes to me to ask when I think I'll be finished. He mentions that the software is finished and I'm the hold-up for promoting it to testing. I ask him what the status of the dependency I'd identified is. He doesn't know. So already I think, "I'm the hold-up? Like hell." But whatever. I tell him I wasn't likely to finish it on Friday, but would finish it on Monday if I rushed, although rushing meant I would be adding information about the new feature to support static IP addresses (the priority new feature) but not the Cassandra database. I asked what the actual deadline was. He wouldn't give me one, but he said that he thought I'd earn brownie points if I finished the document before Monday morning (although he said he didn't want to put any pressure on me). I didn't commit. I said I would look into it.

Um, maybe you could be more passive-aggressive, friend?

I took information home with me, thought about it for about 10 minutes, and decided I wasn't going to do it. I wasn't going to work on Friday night or over the weekend for some bullshit false urgency and brownie points. I had it finished by Monday at 1:30. I sent it out with a note about having added the IP address feature and not the Cassandra information, because I was told it was urgent to get it to QA. At this point, the QA team lead finally noticed that this dependency I'd identified for him a week previously. Nice. Fuck him, too. The real team lead e-mailed me from Japan a couple of hours later to say they did want the information about Cassandra in the documentation. What a shocker.

So I started looking at the Cassandra information today and emailed them about how the installation process was fucked up and they needed to fix some software rather than having me document cloogy shit. The real team lead replied that, yes, he planned to fix that but hadn't yet. Oh okay, so I was given this sense of urgency when the software isn't actually finished?

So, honestly, fuck all of them. I don't need brownie points. I need sensible project plans with deadlines. I need decision makers to tell me how to document shit in a reasonable way, not engineers passing on their clooges to me and then telling me "I don't know" when I point out that something stinks here. I especially don't need to be told I'm the "hold-up" in something like this so I should work extra hours. What a load of bullshit.

"This has to be done now" when I know for a fact that "These other things haven't been done, anyway" is never going to motivate me, no matter how many brownie points someone promises me for it. I swear these guys have never heard of a Gantt chart. I never thought I'd miss working for a company with really strict project management, but damn, no project management is so much worse.

Mourning the Unborn

Since so many people believe that life begins at conception, and others claim there is science to prove that half or even more of fertilized eggs never implant (although I unfortunately can't find the actual science, anywhere), it seems like women should save all their tampons and pads, and any other discharges they can figure out how to collect (just in case). We should bury them in mass graveyards so that we could all go mourn the unknown unborn.

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Moral Imperialism

I remember how embarrassed I was for my gender when I first learned about the Women's Christian Temperance Union. But in an age where temperance is healthier than it has ever been before, I can only look about me and wonder how a country that holds religious freedom as one of its basic and most sacred tenets can so freely embrace imposing morality on others. I must not understand freedom of religion very well. Then again, since I don't really have a religion to protect my most deeply held beliefs, I think I have always thought that freedom of religion sort of meant that other people weren't supposed to impose their morality on me. Apparently, it doesn't. I'm feeling pretty disillusioned with my country.

Happiness, Lack of Productivity, Idiocy?

I should be working. I have some product sheets I need to have finished last Thursday night and it's now early Sunday my time. Since Thursday, I keep sitting at my computer all day and staying up late promising myself it's because I'm going to work on these three pages of content and page layout I need desperately to do (and that I should be able to buckle down and do in a short time period), because it's pretty much for the livelihood of my family and all. But the sitting at my computer now just leads to endless Internet browsing and reading, reading, reading. Reading whatever. Reading people's opinions on whatever I find and whatever it links to, and other people's comments on those opinions, and on and on. And if I didn't have this underlying stress because, for fuck's sake, I need to do the shit I'm supposed to, I'd be so very, very happy. I love just reading and learning and reading and learning some more. I love the way the Internet gives me pathways into people's weird brains. I'm endlessly fascinated. But the happy with the underlayer of stressed out hurts. The fact that all of this is really stimulating my brain at the expense of doing something else because it's the way I make money, or cleaning my house because it's the ultimate pigsty, means I'm so happy and stressed at the same time. And so I just end up at what is wrong with me? I can't do anything in moderation. Posting and reading stuff on the Internet really makes me happy, but I can't do it just sometimes. I get compulsive. I can't stop. I can't do what I need to do. So then I end up at I can't do this Internet posting and reading thing at all, even though it makes me happier than just about anything else, ever.

Coming Out: Not a Conservative

So I was just thinking that it's kind of shitty that I come back to livejournal for the first time in four years and then post something where I rail on Michelle Obama's school lunch program like I've turned into some conservative extremist asswipe. I don't know what I am these days. I keep trying to say shit like "I'm still a liberal." But that's probably bullshit, since extremists of both varieties make me want to tear my hair out.

Frankly, I think protecting smokers and the obese from unreasonable invasion and unreasonable hatred is a liberal issue and that it's the liberals who are being completely illiberal on this one, but that's an aside.

I'm not moderate about most of my viewpoints. Really? Is there any such thing as a moderate? People are passionate about this issue or that, but moderate? No, it's just that sometimes people are passionate about issues in ways that place them sometimes on the conservative side and sometimes on the liberal side.

I have some libertarian stuff going on: more freedom, less federalism, fewer laws. Those work for me. But the libertarians are pretty nasty sexists with no reasonable support for women's reproductive rights or even notable disagreement with slut-shaming, rape culture, and violence against women (or at least not against women who are "sluts"), so I can't go there. And women aren't the only group they fail to protect from egregious harm. They want fewer laws but are happy with laws against abortion (presumably because they need to protect unborn children), but are perfectly happy to sound off with "it's not the government's job" in situations where people older than fetuses need to be protected. I need a better balance and a bit less hypocrisy in the "less government" idea.

I looked into the centrist part recently. They got it maybe a bit closer for me. I really wanted to like them because I read this article in Salon and thought, wow, those ideas work for me, but the "Centrist Party" Web site, which may or may not be related to Wheelan, has a whole section dedicated to the "serious health crisis" of obesity. I figured it wasn't even worth looking into their attitudes about smokers. So, I guess the best I can do is come out as "not a conservative." I don't know what I am, but I know I'm definitely not a conservative. I've done this kind of coming out before. I don't know what I am, exactly, I just know I'm not straight.

Science and Obesity

I have been posting a lot of criticism lately about science on my Facebook: specifically, the science that is used to persecute smokers and obese people. I'd like to state a partial retraction. It's not the base science itself I have a problem with. It is the ways in which it is used to scare people and drive social policies.

I have outright stated that "there is no obesity epidemic." Technically speaking, I am probably not correct in that statement. If the numbers of people who have a specific disease increase at unexpected rates, that is all that is required in epidemiology to declare that something is an epidemic. Now, whether or not obesity should be classified as an actual disease may be open for debate, but I will grant that there is good science to suggest that health risks exist for the morbidly obese (those with BMIs greater than or equal to 40). So, if we wanted to say there is a Morbid Obesity Epidemic, I would say science probably supports this.

And I have been attacking science without clarifying that I think that, for the most part, scientists themselves do make a real attempt at integrity. It's the way health organizations, the media, and others spin the science that horrifies me.

Here are a couple of my real problems:

  • First of all, notice that I said "Morbid Obesity Epidemic." I didn't say "Obesity Epidemic" or "Overweight and Obesity Epidemic." Even if I agree with the classification of morbid obesity as a disease, there is very little or no evidence to support any idea that overweight and obese types I and II can be classified as diseases. In fact, there's some evidence that the overweight class is healthier than the "normal" class. (http://ije.oxfordjournals.org/content/35/1/55.full)

  • For most of the public, "epidemic" is much more alarmist sounding than it really is. Morbid obesity qualifies as an epidemic because it has increased by 70% since 2000, according to one study. (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22986681) But what does that look like in terms of real numbers? This same study estimated that 6.6% of Americans were morbidly obese in 2010. A Gallup poll provides a much more modest 3.5% (http://www.gallup.com/poll/160061/obesity-rate-stable-2012.aspx). Either way, this epidemic affects well under 10% of the population. And yet, in another Gallup poll (http://www.gallup.com/poll/159083/cite-obesity-urgent-health-problem.aspx), 16% of Americans think that obesity "is the most urgent health problem facing the United States."

So, let's get real. Just because something is an epidemic, which means only that its incident rate has increased at a higher rate than expected, does not mean it is a "public health crisis" greater than all others. Compare the 6.6% morbidly obese Americans in 2010 (taking the higher number) for one second to the 9.8% of children that this paper says were hungry in 2010: http://www.worldhunger.org/articles/Learn/us_hunger_facts.htm. Does your common sense really allow you to see obesity as the most urgent health problem facing the United States?

And now I'd like to talk about some of my real problems with the focus on this one "health crisis."

First, people don't know what "morbidly obese" looks like. Visit any comment thread with a picture of an overweight person, and you will have someone calling that person "morbidly obese" even if they may fall only into the overweight or mildly obese category (some of them may even only be high normal)!

Second, it has enabled and justified fat-shaming to a new and horrifying extreme. You can't even try to post a body-image-positive message for overweight people on a public forum without 15 or 20 people coming on and spouting about how wrong those people are to choose to be unhealthy (and disgusting and ugly, too). Even the people who are uncomfortable with the shaming now are required to make feeble defensive remarks like "well, yes, they're unhealthy, but we shouldn't be cruel to them about it." Morbid obesity is a health risk, not an automatic guarantee that someone is unhealthy. You cannot tell by looking at a person whether or not that person is healthy, even if the person does fall into the morbidly obese category. There are many, many invisible health risks. Thin people are not automatically more healthy.

Third, this irrational focus on morbid obesity as an urgent health crisis, which results in extreme fat-shaming and downright hate speech, as well as allowing people to think they have the right to comment on other people's bodies in person, causes the morbidly obese to have additional (and potentially more dangerous health risks) than their obesity would cause alone, such as severe mental health issues, use of horrifying dangerous weight-loss drugs like fen-phen, and other extreme diets or weight ping-ponging.

Fourth, it causes the creation of paternalistic social policies that affect and limit the choices of all people, not just the morbidly obese. I will harp on Michelle Obama's school lunch program again, because it's such a prime example. In a world where 6.6% of children may be morbidly obese and 9.8% of children may be starving, it still makes sense to Michelle Obama to create a one-size-fits-all school lunch that leaves many children hungry at the end of the meal. This is focus gone insane. Of course, Bloomberg's insane soda law is another prime example. Telling an adult how much soda he or she can drink is, quite frankly, an insult beyond words.

To sum up, there is solid science hidden behind the "Obesity Epidemic." But when we label it as "the most urgent public health crisis" in America, we have taken it so far from any rational perspective that the science is hidden and may as well be junk. Frankly, if public perception could be labelled a disease, I'd say the epidemic of the public perception of obesity is a health crisis far more severe than the obesity epidemic itself could ever be. But then, I think encouraging people to be cruel to other people is a pretty big health risk. But then, I have no science to back that up.