Posted by: CJ | December 8, 2012

Modern Ethics

What’s the right thing to do when you start hanging out with someone b/c you are attracted to them, realize you don’t want them as a friend–just a dating relationship or nothing–and they aren’t interested in dating? Just walk away? Is there a way to avoid this situation….I find it rather awkward.

Posted by: CJ | November 10, 2012

“You are very curious”

Hearing someone say, “You are very curious” is generally the first sign they’re actually getting to know me. At least getting to know me past the, “Is there anything you don’t think should be razed to the ground?” phase.

But my curiosity can have very weird consequences when I’m with a group of friends with different backgrounds. I’ve regularly met with two friends, M and J, for years to play boardgames. I can talk to M about what he does professionally in a fair amount of depth. Ditto for J. But neither M nor J know too much about what the other person does. So I can easily have a fairly in-depth conversation with each person individually, but I have a difficult time having a conversation with both of them at the same time.

I’m not sure if this is a common problem or not. I’m also not sure what the remedy is. Talking about the whether can be rather boring….

Posted by: CJ | November 7, 2012

real america

One of the great joys of growing up in a small, nearly rural town in the midwest is that in any given group of latte-sipping liberal academics in the ivory tower I’m generally the authority on Real America and what Real Americans Do.

Posted by: CJ | October 31, 2012

Just another chance…

George Lucas selling off LucasFilm so Disney can make new Star Wars films gives me one stark thought: “Great, just what I needed. Another chance for large groups of idiots to screw the pooch. Especially in making films that don’t involve taking a mammoth dump on my one of my fondest franchises.” It’s even worse since I can’t remember the last time Disney released a non-Pixar movie that didn’t suck.

I guess I’ve dealt with Star Trek doing that on-and-off for the past decade and a half, though. Not to mention the prequels themselves. So at least I have some training in dealing with this kind of crap.

Posted by: CJ | October 30, 2012

Chris Christie

Generally, I like to think of Chris Christie as a hybrid merger of Joe Pesci and Fat Bastard from Austin Powers. But I just watched him very directly tell off some of the Fox News talking heads for asking him about presidential election politics while he’s busy trying to figure out how much of New Jersey has been reclaimed by Poseidon. That wins him some brownie points. Much like Ben Stein telling the Fox News talking heads off about taxes won him some brownie points. (Though Stein has, over the years, dug himself a far deeper hole than Chris Christie has so far.)

Posted by: CJ | October 26, 2012

The trampled upon

A couple days ago a friend talked about how poor he was growing up. Which was tragic to listen to and all…….it’s just that his notion of poor had me shedding crocodile tears. Being from a socialist nanny-state, everyone in his family had basic healthcare for free, and he graduated from college with essentially no debt. Despite his parents having only a high school diploma, his family highly valued education and hard work. They also owned their own house–small and dilapidated though it was–in a very well-to-do area, with very good schools, in a very large city. This friend’s high school peers went on to become doctors, lawyers, accountants, and scientists. His claim for being poor was based pretty much entirely on his family’s yearly income and his parents’ lack of education.

But this compares to my notion of what it means to “be poor”. It includes not only a family with low income, and parents with low education, but also lousy schools, lousy health care, broken families, peers no better off than you are, a community that’s largely without resources or ambition, utter cluelessness about the concrete steps to take to set oneself up for success later in life, and a state apparatus that’s largely indifferent or hostile to the plight of the community and individuals within it. In comparison, my friend’s notion of “being poor” is really something of a cruel joke.

Unfortunately, having heard such arguments from friends in college before, I was somewhat brusque in brushing off this particular friend’s sob story. Though honestly I’m not sure if listening more intently to things I think are BS is a life-skill I desperately need to improve.


Posted by: CJ | October 25, 2012

Modern Feminism is complicated….

There’s an article on slate today about sexism in the atheist community. It’s one of those pieces where the speaker makes important, relevant points. Except that I’m unsure how far to take them. She, more or less, says (some parts of) the atheist community have been very critical and derisive of atheist females that are uncomfortable being sexualized/objectified. Which is, of course, a fair and valid opinion to have, and one that should be respected. I don’t have any issue with that. Or any issue saying that the people that have harassed the author and her compatriots should probably learn the art of self-censorship.

And yet……….my inner-small town Methodist midwesterner has to ask…..WTF did you think was going to happen when you ditch communal belief in an anti-materialist, anti-sexuality religion and instead start big events like “boobquake”, where you show off your busts en masse to show there’s no correlation between bare bosoms and tectonic plate shifts.

Similarly, my inner-socially awkward geek (actually that’s my outer personality too) has to ask…..WTF did you think would happen when you start hanging around the traditional warrens of very socially awkward geeks? We’re rabid, hateful, spiteful jackasses that routinely cross whatever lines are laid down. That’s why so many of the geeks are agnostic or atheist–we can’t abide anyone else telling us what to do. Why would you think it’d be any different when the issues relate to you?

It’s not that females in those communities deserve the treatment they’ve gotten, or even that they were asking for it. It’s that they perhaps sound a little clueless when they complain that they’re getting objectified too much for their liking after reveling in freedom from sexually oppressive belief systems in a community with a large number of socially awkward horny males that aren’t getting laid enough.

I guess what I’m getting at is I’m not sure how far to push these arguments. There of course should be anti-harassment policies in place at the conventions, and guys should behave themselves, etc.. But at the same time…it seems like there’s more to be done than just say, “guys don’t bother the ladies”. It seems like there should also be discussions about appropriate norms in general. Is “boobquake” appropriate, or is that too sexualized? How do we dispel the assumption that the guy has to make the first move? Or is the bigger issue not that the guy shouldn’t make the first move, but he needs to be aware of when is/is not the appropriate time to do so?

I suppose many of these issues are just typical things for males and females to learn as they transition from adolescence and young adulthood to a more settled, and wise, state of being. Learning when is/isn’t an appropriate time and place to proposition someone, and knowing how and what is appropriate to flaunt when. It perhaps just seems like more of a clusterfuck now. Instead of individuals embedded in a tightly knit multi-generational community going through it we have a mono-generational, multi-regional subcommunity in a very not tightly knit distributed community very publicly going through these issues.

Posted by: CJ | October 23, 2012


Finally, we’ll get to see a good American hero take down the scourge of populist anti-colonialist evil.

Of course, I’m referring to the new Iron Man movie, where Robert Downey, Jr. will get the opportunity to beat the starving Indian leader Gandi while wearing a high-tech American-made armored exoskeleton.

Posted by: CJ | October 18, 2012

Not enough engineer talking heads

As the debates and election cycle reporting heat up, I’m reminded of my physical disgust and revulsion at the people we allow air time. Even Ben Stein looks more sharp, honest, and truthful than most of them. Ben Stein!

Why, oh why, can’t there be more talking heads that aren’t scientifically illiterate?

Why, oh why, can’t there even be more pundits that aren’t numerically helpless toddler-like balls of flesh.

There’s really no point in allowing them to breathe our good, clean air if they’re just going to foul it up with their idiocy.

And yes Malcolm Gladwell, I DO still hold that birdbrained “igon value” blunder against you. If you’re going to write about science at least have the decency to get an actual scientist to proof-read your manuscript. Particularly when the blunder you made was with freshman-level linear algebra for a scientist. Even the engineers–who physicists and mathematicians generally consider mathematically incompetent–know about eigenvalues by the end of sophomore year.

Egads and shades of HL Mencken…..

Posted by: CJ | October 16, 2012

New Litmus Test

Netflix showed me the series “How It’s Made”, which I’ve really liked so far. But the episodes have some danger of becoming repetitive, just because you can only watch industrial robots meander about for so long.

Which made me realize that I should be wandering around engineering departments looking for people to date. Giant robot minions in an automated factory can go a long way to voiding any other shortcomings someone may have. It’s an added plus if they can’t be bothered to talk about philosophy because they’re too busy deciding the proper layout for a mammoth factory.

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