For holiday considerations: my Amazon wish lists, or a few organizations that I think are worth donating to.

Because…well, why not? My Amazon wish lists are more a way for me to keep track of things I’d like to pick up someday, and not really kept with any expectations that some random person out there will spend money on me. But I’ve been surprised a time or two in the past. So here, in roughly ascending order from “most likely to be reasonable gifts” to “not at all likely”, here are my lists:

Random Nifty Bits: A catch-all list for stuff that catches my eye but doesn’t fit into one of the other lists.

Print Media: Books; things to read.

Movies: Movies and TV shows; things to stare at while sitting on my butt.

Lego: Little colored plastic bits to assemble.

Electronic Gagets and Gizmos: Right now, just a DJ controller.

Photography Bits: Cameras, lenses, and other accessories.

I’d also be quite happy to hear of donations to organizations like Planned Parenthood, the ACLU, the EFF, the SPLC, Amnesty International, Doctors Without Borders, or other such groups.

Post-Thanksgiving Status

A brief note on this year’s Thanksgiving break activities, and minor updates to this blog.

This year’s Thanksgiving break was just what was needed: four days of virtually nothing of import whatsoever. We spent the weekend relaxing at home, reading books (I finished four over the four days (all of which were old Star Trek novels…yes, it’s escapist fluff, but that’s the point, especially as the Star Trek universe is based on optimistic ideals, which is just what I need these days), and in doing so completed this year’s Goodreads challenge, which I’d had set at 52 books), watching Netflix shows and upbeat movies from our personal collection, and eating lots of good food. We didn’t even leave the house for three of the four days, only venturing out on Sunday to do our grocery shopping for the week and a little Christmas book shopping at Goodwill.

I did spend some time tweaking Eclecticism, now that I’m paying attention to it again. I removed somewhere over 1,600 posts from a period where I was mirroring every tweet I posted to my blog…it seemed like a good idea at the time, but just ended up dumping a lot of noise into the archives here. I’ve also re-enabled Google Adwords advertising. I’m keeping it minimal, as I don’t want to unduly annoy any visitors, but it’d be nice to get back to making a little bit of money off of my years of babbling (at one point a few years back, I was pulling in about $100 every three months…nothing major by any means, but enough to cover my hosting costs, which was all I was really concerned with).

And that’s it for now.

A Thanksgiving Prayer

Thanks for the last and greatest betrayal of the last and greatest of human dreams.

It’s been a while since I’ve posted this. Unfortunately, I find it all too topical these days, thirty years after it was written.

Thanks for the wild turkey and the passenger pigeons, destined to be shat out through wholesome American guts.
Thanks for a continent to despoil and poison.
Thanks for Indians to provide a modicum of challenge and danger.
Thanks for vast herds of bison to kill and skin leaving the carcasses to rot.
Thanks for bounties on wolves and coyotes.
Thanks for the American dream, to vulgarize and to falsify until the bare lies shine through.
Thanks for the KKK.
For nigger-killin’ lawmen, feelin’ their notches.
For decent church-goin’ women, with their mean, pinched, bitter, evil faces.
Thanks for “Kill a Queer for Christ” stickers.
Thanks for laboratory AIDS.
Thanks for Prohibition and the war against drugs.
Thanks for a country where nobody’s allowed to mind their own business.
Thanks for a nation of finks.
Yes, thanks for all the memories — all right, let’s see your arms!
You always were a headache and you always were a bore.
Thanks for the last and greatest betrayal of the last and greatest of human dreams.

Being feminist is not a shield against criticism

I’m far from perfect; I can, do, and will make mistakes; and when I do, I need to own up to them and try to avoid doing so in the future.

From Robot Hugs:

Feminism doesn’t give you a shield, it makes you a work in progress. Feminism shouldn’t protect you from criticism, it should give you the tools to critique yourself.

I consider myself to be a feminist — but as with all such things, I endeavor to recognize that I’m far from perfect; that I can, do, and will make mistakes; and when I do, I need to own up to them and try to avoid doing so in the future. Being on the side of women (or people of color, or Muslims, or Jews, or LGBTQ+, or any other marginalized or oppressed population and the intersections among them) doesn’t mean I can say “But I’m one of the good ones!” when someone calls me out on something; instead, it means I have the responsibility of recognizing when I’ve failed in that goal.

Eclecticism is Now Secure (HTTPS)

Thanks to Dreamhost’s Let’s Encrypt initiative, my site is now HTTPS enabled.

Thanks to Dreamhost’s Let’s Encrypt initiative, plus a little nudging while setting up the iOS version of Ulysses, the (simple but very powerful) editor I’m using for writing posts here, my site is now HTTPS enabled.

For those who don’t know the terminology, all that means is that all traffic between my blog and your web browser is encrypted, and cannot be read by anyone who might intercept the data stream in transmission. You don’t have to do anything, it just happens automagically in the background.

While there’s nothing here that really requires the transmission to be encrypted — I don’t sell anything or have any reason to ask for sensitive information, which is the primary use case (and why HTTPS is used by financial institutions, shopping site, and so on) — I’m increasingly of the opinion that it’s just good practice to encrypt whenever possible.

Think of it like sending a physical letter to a friend via traditional snail mail; there might not be anything in the letter that needs to be kept private, but I’d still be pretty disturbed if I got a letter from someone and saw that the envelope had been opened so that someone else could read the contents.

Of course, with electronic communication, there’s no ripped envelope to let you know that someone’s taken a peek at what you’re saying or reading. Unsecure websites (or emails) are more like sending postcards: while for most people it’s pretty unlikely that anyone between the sender and receiver would be reading the postcard, it’s entirely possible that it could happen. Adding encryption means that not only is there an “envelope”, but it’s an envelope that can’t be opened by anyone but the receiver.

Good security isn’t paranoia. Just a good idea.

(Incidentally, I’m also set up with PGP encryption for my email, and would use it more often if I knew my contacts were similarly set up. Just contact me for my PGP public key if you’d like to securely email me (I’ll get it posted here eventually, I’m just finding bits and pieces of my site that need to be recreated after letting it lie fallow for so long, and that’s one).)

Star Wars Without Politics Wouldn’t Be Star Wars

Please note that the Empire is a white supremacist (human) organization. Opposed by a multicultural group led by brave women.

Disappointed that these two tweets by Star Wars: Rogue One writers were removed (but not terribly surprised, especially if the deletions were decreed by the Powers Above):

On November 11, 2016, Rogue One writer Chris Weitz tweeted: “Please note that the Empire is a white supremacist (human) organization.” He later deleted that tweet after receiving lots of complaints from other Twitter users, many of whom asked him to stop “injecting politics” into Star Wars. Weitz clarified in one response tweet, “My apologies. You have a right to enjoy it as you wish; and I don’t wish to harm my colleagues’ work either.”

Weitz’ colleague, Gary Whitta, had already written his own response to the tweet comparing the Star Wars Empire to white supremacy, which said: “Opposed by a multicultural group led by brave women.” Whitta’s tweet has also since been deleted.

I have just as much sympathy (to wit: absolutely none) with people whining about “injecting politics” into Star Wars as those who did the same with Star Trek (most recently, regarding Bryan Fuller’s preparation for Star Trek: Discovery). Politics are integral to these stories. Even if you try to ignore the parallels between the Empire and the Nazi regime (which were explicit and intentional in both the original films and in The Force Awakens, so attempting to ignore that is rather ridiculous), the Star Wars prequels open with the Trade Federation controlling a blockade around a planet at the bidding of Chancellor Palpatine…but, no, sorry, that has nothing to do with politics. How silly of me.

All these people really mean is that they don’t want their politics to be called out as the bad guys…but, c’mon, if the shoe fits….

So Rogue One has already been passing the Furiosa Test (Do people on the internet get mad about it being feminist?), and now Trump supporters might be staying away as well (though, really, the two groups do seem to have a lot of overlap)? I don’t see much of a downside to that. I’d certainly be quite happy going to a movie knowing that there’s a smaller-than-normal chance of being surrounded by those types of people, and given the juggernaut that Star Wars is, I just don’t see a major impact on their bottom line from this. Win-win for everyone!

Except the Empire, perhaps.

In Regards to Our Company’s New Phone Plan

‘Now, some of you are complaining that you don’t feel safe working with a phone that could randomly explode on any given day.’

Brilliant piece from McSweeny’s: Now is not the time to criticize the Galaxy Note 7.

We all have a lot of work to do if we want to get this company to be the best in the world, and I believe that if we work together, we can accomplish just that. However, I do have a message for those of you who have been complaining about our new company phone plan the past few days: Now is not the time to criticize the Galaxy Note 7.

Now, I’m not going to stand here and pretend like this phone doesn’t have problems. After all, the proof that it gets overheated and explodes for practically no reason at all has been evident for months, but now, we need to focus on its positive aspects and wipe the slate clean. It is our company phone now, and there’s no use complaining about it anymore.

Thank you, Wen Powers, for finding a way to actually make me laugh about this mess.

Word of the Day: Kakistocracy

Kakistocracy: Government by the worst persons; a form of government in which the worst persons are in power.

Kakistocracy n. (kak·is·toc·ra·cy / kækɪsˈtɑkɹəsi)\
Government by the worst persons; a form of government in which the worst persons are in power.

More background, from Jury:

The origins of kakistocracy are actually pretty neat. The term was first used around 1829 and was coined as an opposite to “aristocracy”. It comes from the Greek “kakistos” or “worst”, which is the superlative form of “kakos” or “bad”. Switch the “k” to a “c” and you have the root of modern words like “cacophony”.

But here’s where it gets even more fun. “Kakos” is closely related to “Caco” or “defecate”. As we saw above, it’s essentially the same phonetic sounds and has similar modern words derived from it.

Today, you’ll find this in the Greek “Kakke” “human excrement”, Latin “cacare“, Irish “caccaim“, Serbo-Croatian “kakati“, Armenian “k’akor“, Old English “cac-hus” or “latrine”, Dutch “kak“, German “Kacke“, and the school-yard favorite “caca“.

So in this trying time, remember the word “kakistocracy”.

Quite literally, government by the shittiest.

Not alt-right, just neo-Nazi

I’m far from the only person to be noting this, but I’m continually annoyed by the willingness of people to accept the term ‘alt-right’ rather than just calling these people out for what they are: neo-Nazis.

There’s a lot that’s disturbing in this report, but the opening few paragraphs alone should be enough to raise a lot of red flags (specifically, red flags with a white circle and black swastika in the center):

By the time Richard B. Spencer, the leading ideologue of the alt-right movement and the final speaker of the night, rose to address a gathering of his followers on Saturday, the crowd was restless.

In 11 hours of speeches and panel discussions in a federal building named after Ronald Reagan a few blocks from the White House, a succession of speakers had laid out a harsh vision for the future, but had denounced violence and said that Hispanic citizens and black Americans had nothing to fear. Earlier in the day, Mr. Spencer himself had urged the group to start acting less like an underground organization and more like the establishment.

But now his tone changed as he began to tell the audience of more than 200 people, mostly young men, what they had been waiting to hear. He railed against Jews and, with a smile, quoted Nazi propaganda in the original German. America, he said, belonged to white people, whom he called the “children of the sun,” a race of conquerors and creators who had been marginalized but now, in the era of President-elect Donald J. Trump, were “awakening to their own identity.”

I’m far from the only person to be noting this, but I’m continually annoyed by the willingness of people to accept the term “alt-right” rather than just calling these people out for what they are: neo-Nazis.

While many of its racist views are well known…the alt-right has been difficult to define. Is it a name for right-wing political provocateurs in the internet era? Or is it a political movement defined by xenophobia and a dislike for political correctness?

Oh, come on…this is just sad. Difficult to define? It’s not like they’re trying to hide it. This isn’t just some little offshoot of the conservative party, this is full-on white supremacy.

“America was, until this last generation, a white country designed for ourselves and our posterity,” Mr. Spencer thundered. “It is our creation, it is our inheritance, and it belongs to us.”

But the white race, he added, is “a race that travels forever on an upward path.”

“To be white is to be a creator, an explorer, a conqueror,” he said.

More members of the audience were on their feet as Mr. Spencer described the choice facing white people as to “conquer or die.”

If you’re writing about these groups, call them what they are. Don’t fall for their attempt to rebrand and obfuscate the truth. Listen to what they say, pay attention to what they’re advocating and pushing for (and likely doing; the SPLC’s count of post-election day hateful harassment incidents is now up to 701 in a single week), and be honest about what this is.

If you voted for Trump? Whether or not you think you share beliefs with these people, you enabled them. You listened to Trump, and you agreed with enough of what he said (or, at best, didn’t disagree strongly enough to vote against him) to give your stamp of acceptance to his rhetoric. You told these people, through your vote, that this was acceptable. You share responsibility for the resurgence of this movement.

And if you truly voted for Trump for reasons other than these; if you truly don’t support this behavior; if you really believe he’ll be just fine as a president and these are just a few problematic loudmouths (even though he’s named one of their patron saints as chief strategist), then I absolutely expect you to be calling these people out on their abhorrent behavior. If you voted for his economic policies but disapprove of the racist rhetoric, then prove it. Act. Make your voice heard. Make it clear that these aspects of his campaign and his followers don’t reflect your views.

Because if you don’t do so, I’ll assume that your silence is acceptance, if not outright support. And you’ll have a damn hard time convincing me otherwise.

Criticism is Patriotism

To announce that there must be no criticism of the President, or that we are to stand by the President, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public.

Important words, from a former President:

The President is merely the most important among a large number of public servants. He should be supported or opposed exactly to the degree which is warranted by his good conduct or bad conduct, his efficiency or inefficiency in rendering loyal, able, and disinterested service to the Nation as a whole. Therefore it is absolutely necessary that there should be full liberty to tell the truth about his acts, and this means that it is exactly necessary to blame him when he does wrong as to praise him when he does right. Any other attitude in an American citizen is both base and servile. To announce that there must be no criticism of the President, or that we are to stand by the President, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public. Nothing but the truth should be spoken about him or anyone else. But it is even more important to tell the truth, pleasant or unpleasant, about him than about anyone else.

— Theodore (Teddy) Roosevelt, in “Sedition, A Free Press, and Personal Rule”, published May 7, 1918; excerpted from Roosevelt in the Kansas City Star: War-time Editorials, Volume 2

It’s obvious that our current President Elect would disagree with these words, as would many of his supporters…who, ironically, are likely to consider themselves more “patriotic” that someone of my ilk, precisely because of their unquestioning support, even though this hews far closer to nationalism and fascism than it does patriotism.

“My country, right or wrong,” is often quoted. It’s a shame that many who toss that around omit the latter part, and to my estimation, the most important part of Carl Schurz’s quote: “My country, right or wrong; if right, to be kept right; and if wrong, to be set right.”