Sunday, April 27, 2008


I've done the math, and if gas reached five dollars per gallon, it would more cost-effective for me to own a horse. Sure, convincing the places I go that horse-parking is OK may take some doing, but it would be worth it.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

The Racism Post

In Which the Blogger Goes There

I sincerely wish that we could look back on racism and laugh. In a time when high-schoolers have never lived a moment of their lives without the faceless internet, one might think the concept that you can tell what a person is going to do by looking at them would be over, a relic, a foolish notion of our ancestors. Like the divine right of kings or war being good for the health.

Alas, no. The practice of categorizing people based on ethnic lines still thrives, and not just with the aged, at whom we can shake our heads and say they don't know any better, but with everyone. Racism, like the inalienable human rights we claim, seems to recognize no boundaries,

Part of the issue stems from ethnic pride, of all places. We wave our foreign flags, toast in the few non-English words we know, and tell our children that the nationality of our forefathers is superior to the others. Our food is the best. We built this country. Our noble ancestors did this or that great thing, and our fellow Blankians (where blank is some race, creed, or nationality) conduct affairs in the best way possible. Not like those other people.

By aligning ourselves with things we did not do, with a history we took no part in creating, we put ourselves and our children into a category. And if we're in one, everyone else must be as well.

Another source of the persistence of racism is far more wide-reaching than holiday bluster. Turn on your TV and see how Obama is doing with white Catholics. Go to work and talk to the marketing people about their strategies for the urban vs. suburban markets. Institutions which make their living based on what people choose perpetuate the concept that groups of individuals can be fit into tidy, preordained boxes.

On one side, this is nonsense. Chaos theory can't predict the movements of caribou – why would statistics predict what free-thinking humans will do? The trouble is, on the other side this makes perfect sense. Of course people from the same background who live in the same neighborhood, attend the same church, send their children to the same school will tend to do some of the same things. As social beings, we feed off of each other, learning our language and behaviors from those surrounding us.

So, fine. Some tendencies of pockets of people can be predicted. I'm from New England and I drink too much. As all animals do, we learn. Last time I touched a porcupine, I ended up with these weird needles stuck in my hand – best not do that again. So, if the first few times I see people from New England they're drunk, I learn.

As an employer, then, should I assume that if I see UVM on a resume I should not hire this person? I mean, they'll be late all the time nursing that hangover.

But people aren't porcupines. Plenty of people in New England don't drink at all. We've all met Irishmen that have never been in a fight, Italians without mafia connections, anglos that can dance, Latinos that aren't emotional, etc.

That last bit raised an eyebrow, yes? We have no problems discussing the irish, italians, and anglos, but throw in a protected class and the racism-ometer spikes, doesn't it? And not because we're afraid someone might hear us, but because we're afraid we might be tagged as racists and lose our jobs.

This seems unfair. It's not. When our parents were kids, a few black guys tried to go to college and the National Guard had to show up. When our elderly remember their grandparents, they remember people who lived with – and fought a war over – the concept that people from Africa were better off living as Christian chattel than pagan free men. If asking people to tip-toe around a few issues is all it takes to bring our nation closer to the vision laid out in the Declaration, then too bad. Next time you swell with pride over the accomplishments of your ancestors, consider a little political correctness to be the payment. I know you never owned any slaves; you didn't fight in WWII either.

Any time we give the government the right to decide what people can and cannot say or think, we should get very nervous. A watchful eye must be kept on this, to be sure, but until we stop both individually and institutionally classifying people into genera based on tannin-level, it is for the best.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Not with a bang, but with a whimper.

I start a new job Monday, a new position within the same company. This has been coming for quite some time, and while I understood it intellectually, the emotional wallop of passing my life's work on to another person did not hit home until I moved my stuff.

I wrote an article for Artvoice a while back on how to decorate one's office/cubicle, a subtle art to be sure. Just what does one want to represent? And how to do this? For now, my trappings are all hidden away. As I assert myself in the new space with time, though, these question will raise themselves again.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Hey! Listen!

Allow me to geek out for a moment. I share with a life-long obsession: familiars.

I don't know what else to call them really. Pet-like little guys that fly around your shoulders and help you with stuff. These are, of course, completely fictional to date.

I believe it started with Tron. That little Bit guy (in Spanish below) flitting about left a serious imprint on my young geek sensibilities.

Years went by, and as a college graduate I played The Legend of Zelda: The Ocarina of Time. Widely considered the best game ever created, many people criticize Navi, Link's constant counterpart. Yes, perhaps her persistent wheedling can get a little annoying, but she certainly fits the bill as a familiar, and thus I love her.

Not geeky enough? OK, fine. Once I got an Xbox, the mysteries of Halo became my playthings, including 343 Guilty Spark. A lunatic librarian made by an long-dead alien race. How could I not go for that?

Still not satisfied? My favorite of all time is Bao-dur's remote from KOTOR2. It's a Jedi training remote familiar. FEEL THE AWESOMITUDE!

Now, what's a boy to do? Essentially, what I'm dreaming of here is a flying, voice-activated iPhone with a great AI system and a personality.

Well, seeing how this would require a level of tinkering far beyond my own, obviously the only option is to build my own steampunk familiar in Second Life. And yes, Sparky the etherworks pet is coming along just fine, thank you for asking.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Mean, mean pride

Has anyone else noticed how many songs from Rockband are on the radio?

Sure, it might be an increased awareness thing, but following Gimme Shelter with Tom Sawyer just smacks of a bit more than coincidence.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Get me my walker!

Two "you're getting old" face-slaps within mere moments today.

The young woman who sold me my fries had a picture of The Fonz next to her register. When I inquired about it, she told me her coworkers had brought her the grinning Henry Winkler jpeg because she had never heard of him. The Fonz. She had never heard of the Fonz.

Shortly afterwards, a fifty-year-old man walked by me wearing a T-shirt featuring Sonic the Hedgehog. It said "Old School" on it.