Of Ancient Plate Tectonics and Unknown Carbon Reservoirs By Stephanie Osborn

Of Ancient Plate Tectonics and Unknown Carbon Reservoirs

By Stephanie Osborn



A couple of articles were recently brought to my attention by my particle physicist friend. One of them is a patently alarmist article in a UK newspaper. (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-4226566/Scientists-discover-massive-reservoir-greenhouse-gases.html) The other is the scientific article it purports to reference. (http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0012821X16307543/#ec0040) [NOTE: this one is behind a purchase wall, but the abstract is available to read.] I won’t go into the whole contents of the articles; you can read those for yourself, or at least the abstract of one. The gist of it is, the UK newspaper is claiming that a recently-discovered deep-Earth structure and a possible ‘volatiles’ reservoir associated with it could create a catastrophically huge release of CO2 into the atmosphere.

This brought on some brief email discussion, as not everyone has a strong background in some of these sciences, and I thought it might be good to explain some of the things being discussed in the articles.

Now, I don’t know how much the average person knows about seismology, but it’s one of the reasons I picked up an undergrad minor in geology and did some graduate subspecialty work in geology, as well. I grew up in an area of the country that regularly felt quakes from the New Madrid Fault Zone, which is a whole ‘nother article in itself — several, actually. I can do those at some point, if there is enough interest. Anyway.

Seismology is really a form of optics; the very same rules apply, since you are looking at wave propagation, reflection, and refraction. (Having just finished the Optics sequence in the Physics dept., when I got to seismology in my Geology studies, I was better and faster than the Geology majors, because the concepts were already very familiar to me. For that matter, I made use of the concepts in my racquetball course, too, and the coach couldn’t believe I’d never played the sport before. Hee!)

So there are various ‘types’ of seismic waves, which is really just another way of saying they are polarized differently. (The only kind of wave that seismology has that optics doesn’t is the longitudinally-polarized wave — aka the acoustic wave. And so if you’ve studied acoustics, you even already have THAT.) Now the interesting thing is that certain of these wave polarizations create differing effects on the ground surface, and the budding science of seismology therefore named them accordingly. (A ‘shear wave,’ which the article references, is a ‘transverse body wave’ — this means that the wave motion is perpendicular to the direction of motion, and it moves through the body of an object like the Earth via elasticity within the object. It was named ‘shear’ by geologists because it had a shearing effect upon structures when it arrived.)

However, just like in optics, when the medium changes, so does the refractive index. And just like in optics, the boundary between media creates a reflective surface, which in turn also generates additional polarized reflected waves. And this is what complicates the thing so much. But certain polarizations are easier to ‘read’ than others, and they can tell us a lot about the various strata, including what state of matter they are in — liquids tend not to transmit some of those waves at all because, once inside the melt, the waves usually experience total internal reflection, and thus you get a blank zone.

So we know when there is a blob of actual melt down there, because we get all reflections from it, and no refraction through it to speak of. If it’s partly molten, you can get some refraction, but it tends to generate ‘mushy’ surfaces, is maybe a way to put it.

Now, the Farallon Plate referenced by the articles is an ancient oceanic-floor tectonic plate under what has become the Pacific Ocean. There are a few remnants of it left that have not yet been subducted under the North and South American plates; they’re most notable in the Cascadia Subduction Zone, where there are some triangular bits, now known as the Juan de Fuca Plate, and the adjacent Gorda Plate. Another notable remnant is the tongue-shaped plate (Cocos Plate) that forms the west coast of Central America, and the better-known Nazca Plate just off the western South American coast. In all cases, the principal direction of motion takes them east and under the continental plates in intensive subduction zones. (It’s worth noting that these are serious quake zones, capable of generating monster quakes and tsunamis, in some cases equivalent to the Boxing Day quake/tsunami combo in 2004.) You can find out more about it by plugging in ‘Farallon Plate’ to Wikipedia.

Now, it is also worth noting that there are volcanic and regular mountain ranges that run parallel to, and just inland of, the west coast from Alaska/Canada all the way down to the tip of South America, and it is this subduction of the Farallon Plate that is responsible for both types of ranges. Obviously the whole ‘big crunch’ thing is responsible for the standard mountain ranges, in various forms — when two plates slam together, buckling occurs, and mountains result. But what about the volcanic chains, such as the heavily volcanic Cascade Range?

Well, since most crustal plates are a mixture of mineral types, and various families of minerals melt at different temperatures, as the plate is subducted, low-melting-point minerals melt out of the solid plate. Being liquid, they’re more buoyant and rise upward through whatever cracks and crevices and imperfections they can find in the overlying plate, or force such cracks and crevices to open by dint of increasing pressure (which, I might note, tends to form magma chambers, either way). When they reach the surface, blooie, volcano.

Note also that the type of volcano tends to change as you move from the coast inland; this is because, as you go farther inland, the plate being subducted is being shoved deeper and deeper into the mantle, encountering hotter and hotter temperatures, and thus melting out minerals with increasingly higher melting points. This results in a separation of the minerals, and a corresponding chemical difference in the melts, in a smooth transition moving from coastal volcanoes and progressing inland. It’s been theorized that this is the reason why certain areas have more explosive volcanoes — the chemistry resulting from the melt leads to a more viscous lava, trapping the dissolved gases inside and allowing for pressure buildup.

There is also increasing evidence that the heat resulting from subduction was insufficient to fully melt the Farallon Plate, and the continental plates overrode the Farallon, which may have fragmented/faulted and ‘stacked up’ in slabs under the continents. According to a NASA research group, a significant portion of the Farallon sank to the bottom of the mantle, and is much farther east, most likely under the eastern USA. (http://svs.gsfc.nasa.gov/vis/a000000/a002400/a002410/) The footprint area is quite considerable. And no, it wasn’t that the Farallon drove so far eastward, as much as it was that the North American Plate just moved over it. Still and all, dang big plate, when you think about it.

That said, it strikes me that the Daily Mail has once again gotten its science mixed up. (Yes, I’ve dealt with anxieties produced by articles from this and other similar UK newspapers several times.) It references the same area that the Science Direct article does. And it does link to the Science Direct article. But that doesn’t mean they interpreted it correctly.

They, of course, immediately focus on the fact that the Yellowstone supercaldera is supposedly in the middle of it. I say ‘supposedly’ because the NASA research plainly indicates the Farallon Plate remants in a VERY different location from that depicted in the Daily Mail article. I’d really love to know where they got their graphic, and how accurate it really is, relative to what they think they’re talking about.

HOWEVER, all that said:

1) The Daily Mail article immediately assumes that virtually the entire volume of ‘volatiles’ referenced by the scientific paper is carbon, when the first volatile mentioned by the science paper is hydrogen. And even that is speculative, as denoted by the phrase, ‘such as.’

1a) Typically the constituents of volcanic gases are: water vapor, carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide, hydrogen sulfide, nitrogen, methane, carbon monoxide, hydrogen, and several of the noble gases such as neon, helium, and argon. (Other gases may be found in trace quantities as well.) According to Wikipedia (and this matches my training), “The abundance of gases varies considerably from volcano to volcano. Water vapor is consistently the most common volcanic gas, normally comprising more than 60% of total emissions. Carbon dioxide typically accounts for 10 to 40% of emissions.”

2) The Yellowstone hotspot is separate from the Farallon Plate structures, and goes far down, into the mantle. Its upper regions have been 3-D mapped, and are not a part of the Farallon structures. More, it has a tracked geologic history of eruptions, with fossil calderas that can be traced back from its current location, regressing southwest almost all the way to the northeast corner of California. There is no indication of catastrophic gaseous emissions of which I am aware; the volume of ejecta ultimately came from much deeper. The danger from a Yellowstone eruption is in the massive blast which would devastate the area for at least 1-2 hundred miles in every direction, followed by the truly titanic volume of ash which would be pumped high into the atmosphere. There have been discoveries of fossilized, fully-articulated herd animals in mass deaths from acute silicosis as far east as, if memory serves, at least the vicinity of the Mississippi River. (I distinctly recall reading this, but cannot now find the article online. However, not so very far away, near the Missouri River somewhat westward of my recollection, is also found the Ashfall Fossil Beds State Historical Park in NE Nebraska. A huge die-off of animals, from turtles all the way up to herds of horses, camels, and rhinos, are found intact, embedded in what is evidently the Mesa Falls Tuff — tuff being a type of loose, porous rock composed of ‘welded’ ash. The Mesa Falls Tuff was the ash layer deposited by a Yellowstone eruption some 1.3 million years ago. Evidence indicates they died of acute silicosis and were then entombed in the very ash that caused their deaths. You can find lots of information here http://museum.unl.edu/research/vertpaleo/ashfall.html and here http://www.rhinoresourcecenter.com/index.php?s=1&act=pdfviewer&id=1378684580&folder=137 )

Is it possible for some of these volatile gases to ‘leak’ into the Yellowstone magma chamber? Sure it is. That’s how natural gas and petroleum get around, after all, not to mention groundwater. But there are limits; impermeable strata effectively block such migrations (which is how artesian wells occur).

And frankly, if we have a Yellowstone eruption, we got way bigger, and much more immediate, problems than trying to figure out how much carbon dioxide the thing is belching.

If They Take Milo Down, You’re Next

*I’ve spent the last day and a half in dread, looking at the coordinated attack on Milo, and the debacle on the right.  As someone who was never-Trump before it was cool, and who only capitulated because she was never-Hillary more, and an anti-communist from the time she could understand the word, I felt divided when people piled on on never-trumpers.  But this is ridiculous and has passed all bounds of civilized behavior.

The charges against Milo are contrived from a) video editing and b) rumor and innuendo and c) pretending no one ever used the word “boy” to mean man, thereby meaning playboy is for 10 year olds and “playing with the big boys” means middle schoolers.
IF the attack on Milo were about, say how outrageous he got before the election (he’s been walking it back since.  I suspect he gets a little battle mad as I tend to.) I’d shrug and say “whatever”.  However this is a contrived and false attack and one that apparently came from the right but is teaching the left the way to take every one of us down.  You might not like Milo or his lifestyle, but you should not under any circumstances, applaud this means of taking him down.  And if you do, I hope you experience likewise and get to experience what you like so much.  There is a good chance you will.  They’ve tasted blood with Milo.  We’re next.
Links: the full unedited thing
The other full unedited thing
Milo’s press conference.
Possible McMullin involvement
Milo fighting pedophiles: here, here and here.  And now, what I have to say.*

If You Let Them “Get” Milo, You’re Next


Look guys, this is where Sarah takes her gloves off, turns the picture of Heinlein to the wall to spare him the worst of the rant, puts her hands on her hips and gives you the blunt and painful truth.  I swear you’re not going to like it and I swear to you that you need to hear it.

So, this kerfuffle with Milo Yannopolis, let’s be frank: have you seen the non-edited videos?  Have you been to his page?  No?  Then shut up.

He might have used infelicitous terms, but not all that infelicitous.  He might have got caught in explaining too far – as someone who used to write for Classical Values, the blog devoted to overthinking it, I can’t complain –  but he’s always been a bit more intellectual than the rest of the right and VERY intellectual for a shock-Jockey.  But that is it.

Yes, he used “boys” when he meant men.  So do you, every fricking day.  No?  Then what’s with Playboy, “one of the boys”, “playing with the big boys.”  Unless you mean kids under the age of 12, you too used boys to mean men.

Second he talked about relationships between younger men and older men as nurturing, comfortable.  Yeah, and?  He also said that he thinks the age of consent is about where it should be.  And for the US he is right.

The US, you say?  What does that have to do with it?

Well, dear heart, if you think that the age of consent being 18 (it’s actually 16 in most states, but never mind) is a law of nature, you should perhaps meditate on George Bernard Shaw’s dictum: Pardon him, Theodotus: he is a barbarian, and thinks that the customs of his tribe and island are the laws of nature.

This is where Milo got into overthinking, when he started discussing how strictly speaking pedophiles are attracted to those people who haven’t undergone puberty (or are undergoing puberty.)  He’s absolutely right, but he was perhaps over-intellectualizing.  The truth is that laws of consent usually slice the do no harm/prevent harm very finely indeed, and are set when most of the population of the country can be assumed to have passed through and undergone puberty.

For instance the age of consent in Portugal is 14.  By 11 I had undergone menarche.  My best friend, OTOH, didn’t go through it till 16.  However hers was very late, and doctors were involved.  Most people got it at 12. So 14 seems like a fairly safe age of consent.

You’re not going to prevent people who go through it earlier from having sex (OTOH I found an interest in physics and electronics prevented me pretty effectively till much, much older.)  But you want to discourage outright predators.  So 14 is about right for Portugal.

Do I mean girls of 14 (or boys for that matter) know what they’re doing?  No.  But I also don’t think they know what they’re doing at 18.  Left to me, I’d set the age of consent at thirty, and human population would plummet.

You can have an unequal relationship at any age, one that scars you and breaks you for life.  You can’t really legislate those.  The best you can do is stand by to pick people up when they fall.  And the best you can do as a parent is make sure your kids know how complicated a decision it is, and how many ramifications sex can have that they don’t understand.  (I keep telling my kids “Wait till 45!”  I don’t think they’re listening.)

The best you can do as a legislator is keep people from making decisions when their bodies are still not working right and they know nothing of life.

No Milo was about right and the law of consent in the US of about 16 in most states and 18 in some is about right.  It’s just about protecting kids who are still not physically adult.  It’s all the law can do. the rest falls to parents.

Now leaving that aside, and returning to this.  Milo has busted three pedophiles.  He is vocal in saying that pedophilia can’t be condoned.  BUT an unholy alliance of left and right  edited a video of him talking and did away with his book deal and removed him from Breitbart.

And idiotic socons are piling on, telling us that “Milo doesn’t belong on the right” and that his (rather effective, frankly) talks about his private life are “disgusting.”

Maybe they are, but if you’re going to kick out everyone who isn’t middle class US, blond, Southern Baptist, you’re never again going to hold power in this country.  Which is exactly what the left wants, and what you’re preparing.

Because NONE of you are clean.  It is possible to demonize all of us, with ridiculous things NO ONE should believe.  I’m sure somewhere or other (often) I made a joke about “Mediterraenan people uber alas” usually when people accuse me of being racist or white supremacist.  It wouldn’t take much to plaster those everywhere and have some idiots say I don’t belong on the right, either.  The fact that I’ve been accused of being a White Supremacist is proof to you that the left SMEARS.  It’s what they do.

For years, in publishing and in the arts, if you weren’t a hundred percent behind them, the whisper campaign started: “She’s white supremacist.” “She’s racist.” “She’s an homophobe.” (Yes, I have been accused of that.  By the left AND the right.)

And if the right buys into this, denounces and piles on, it just gives power to the left.  Do you see them distancing themselves from irresponsible, economically corrupt Hillary? No.  But you self-righteous little goody two shoes can’t wait to distance yourselves from Milo.

And his is how you give the left the rope to hang you with.

Milo is taking fire, because he can communicate with college students; because he’s getting a following; because his VERY EXISTENCE denies the stereotype that the right is racist/sexist/homophobic.  The left HAS to destroy Milo.

And if you cooperate in his destruction, you are next.

You can tell them “you took that out of context, and you should be ashamed of yourself for rushing to judgement.”  You can mock them with the Shaw quote.  You can call them the judgmental prudes they are.

Or you can let Milo be taken down and cower in the dark, waiting for the knock on your door.  It WILL come.




The Collective Journey, or The Hero’s Journey? by William Lehman

*I’m working on a book that drops dead tomorrow, but now William has made me aware of this insanity, I’ll have to write my own post about it, probably tomorrow.  Part of it being Mr. Gomez (I liked his relative, Wednesday’s father better) doesn’t get the Hero’s journey.  And isn’t that bog standard?  Another fricking collectivist trying to replace what he doesn’t understand?- SAH*

The Collective Journey, or The Hero’s Journey?  by William Lehman

A friend of mine called my attention to a series of essays about a concept the author (Jeff Gomez) calls “The Collective Journey”. Mr. Gomez is the “CEO Starlight Runner. Brand and cause-related consultant, producer of franchise storyworlds and transmedia entertainment properties.” Says so right there in his autobiography. He’s also worked as an editor (Palladium books) a producer of comic books, etc.

In this concept and series of essays, he proposes that the “hero’s journey” is out moded, and should be scrapped.  He then goes on to suggest that the narrative we should be telling, and writing as story, proposing at all turns is this “collective journey” where winner and looser are no longer part of the real world, and we must learn to cooperate with everyone and find common ground with all people…  In many ways, he’s right (in how he describes the concept, and that it works well for selling the “we’re all in it together”, for example) But I have real issues with his lauding and supporting of moral relativism as right, and good. This is the mindset that has brought about most of the story lines in modern comics that do things like make Captain America an agent of Hydra.  It also brought about the sorts of novels that created sad and rabid puppies as a backlash.
He holds forth shows like Game of Thrones, Orange is the New Black, and Walking Dead, as ideal storytelling, with the message that “no one is going to come to save us, we must gather together and save each other:“These stories are not about the glorious eternal return of heroes. They are about communities struggling to achieve efficacy through the power of their own diversity.”

“Hero’s Journey stories are about how the individual actualizes by achieving personal change, but Collective Journey stories are about how communities actualize in their attempt to achieve systemic change.

“These stories tell us that if we are awaiting a savior, we are consigning ourselves to doom, and to erect one in his place can be just as bad. We, collectively, must become our own salvation.”

Horse shit.

I prefer stories in which it’s pointed out that “yes there are dragons, but you can fight them, and they can be beat.”  The “hero’s journey” that Mr. Gomez feels is oh so last century, is not about awaiting a savior, or erecting one, nor is it about “actualizing, by achieving personal change”. (my dictionary tells me that “actualizing” means: making real, so please explain how one “makes real, by achieving personal change”) Actualizing has become one of those “buzz words” like “paradigm” that has become a shibboleth. “Oh look, I use this word, I’m one of the intelligentsia, you must believe me.”

No Mr. Gomez, the hero’s journey is about a common man, not a perfumed prince, or a chosen one, seeing wrong, and making it right.  It’s about recognizing that, in the words of John Wayne’s character from a movie a long time ago, “There’s right and there’s wrong. Y’gotta do one or the other. Do the other and you may be walking around, but you’re dead as a beaver hat.”

Mr. Gomez goes on to tell us that “Conflict is violence” and “We’ve become wired to hunger for violence” that “conflict is masculine”, that in the hero’s journey it’s all about killing a single villain, not achieving systemic change, that “good versus evil is binary”, that the female is either a temptress, innocent, a goddess, or a stand in male, and that the hero’s journey is “Not conducive to communications technology.” It’s “Narrative built on knowledge scarcity.” Mentors are rarefied elders.” It’s a “Celebration of heroic power and glory.” “The hero loses.” and “The community loses.”  Oh, my aching back.  Where do I begin?
Well yes, conflict is violence.  News flash ace, everything is violence when you break it down that way, including harvesting wheat. (the classic song “John Barleycorn” ring any bells folks?).  We’ve not “become wired” to hunger for violence, at the level that you identify violence (IE: “either real or implied”) we have always been all about violence, and short of some miraculous change in the human condition, we always will be.  No, conflict is not masculine, conflict is inherent.  Be it conflict against other people, nature, or our own baser instincts, conflict is the fucking world.  Yes, the hero’s journey is often about killing or vanquishing a single villain, but there’s always another one waiting in the wings.  That’s life.

Systemic change can happen in the hero’s journey, the classic that jumps to mind is “Mister Smith goes to Washington”. But the sort of change you propose in your essays doesn’t lead there.  It leads to the sort of “community good at the cost of individuality” that has been tried so often.  That’s 18th century thinking sir. The classic pamphlet on it was written in 1848.  Dude named Karl Marx.  The most recent example of how it ends up is Venezuela. If it’s all the same to you, I’ll pass.  (in fact, whether it’s all the same to you, or not.)

This bit about “not conductive to communications technology” seems to be because in several films the hero gets frustrated and throws his phone… Really? Moving on… The “narrative built on knowledge scarcity” bit seems to be about the hero not reaching out and using his networks to get the answers.  Again, we’re on the whole “you must go to the community” thing.  Sometimes yes, we should.  Sometimes that’s not a viable option, for whatever reason.    That’s storytelling.  It’s not a reason to go communist.

“Mentors are rarefied elders”.  Gomez would have you believe that all hero’s journey type stories require a wise man or woman to give the hero his clue, without whom the hero would be lost.  Again, Horse Shit.  “Celebration of power and glory” … Yeah, whatever.

“The Hero loses” and “The community loses” the first is based on the complaint that in Hero stories the hero is changed, and can no longer be what or who he was.  Well sir, maybe you have never done anything since school that is outside an office, and the very strange world that is the entertainment industry, but let me explain to you that in point of fact YES the sort of shit that makes a story something more than “he went to work, he made cartoons, he argued with the boss over the story line, he went home”, in short something that makes the story worth reading, does change a man (or a woman).  Ask anyone who has been in a life or death situation, be it combat, or man v nature, or any other formative experience. (hint, the operative word is FORMATIVE, meaning it changes you).  The second part of this bit proposes that the community is reliant on this mythic hero, and without him we all are lost…  One last time, I say: “Horse shit”.  The whole thing of the hero’s journey is usually about some guy having to step up and be the hero, because stuff needs done.  The point of it, which you somehow seem to have missed in your communistic indoctrination, is that ANY man can step up and be that hero.  That it may suck, the road may be hard, and you may even die, (not all hero’s journeys end with the first hero living through it) but it’s better to stand forth and TRY.

In the end, all of his screed boils down to Moral Relativism, and Communism. Communism is a dead and failed philosophy, a model so bad, that the only way to get people to stay in it, is by bruit force.

Moral relativism is maybe the biggest lie of our time. The collective idea that “there is no “good” and no “bad”, just what you have to do.” Now that’s not to say that some bad choices must be made, when your choice is between bad, and “oh FUCK no”, you will end up choosing bad. BUT if you don’t do it KNOWING it’s bad, even though the alternative is worse, you wind up down that slippery slope that so many civilizations slid, and are sliding. The slope where “what I want, and what I need, is worth doing anything I want to do, because after all, what is “bad” but an arbitrary decision?” That way leads to things like “work makes free”, and gulags. Or in personal life, that way leads to things like the Mafia, which started out as a community protection group, when the government was too corrupt (NYC) or just nonexistent (Italy) to protect the people. Where it wound up, was a result of that same sort of moral relativism.
Yes there are shades of grey. LOTS of them. (don’t know if there’s 50, but…) Still, you must choose, and, in the end, if you decide that it doesn’t matter, because everything is grey, you are an animal, and I stand against you.

Balancing the Scales

Equality is a wonderful thing.  Everyone agrees.  Every little kid born in the US should be able to aspire to becoming president or the head of a company.  Every little kid born in Europe should be able to aspire to becoming a head of its country in the US.

I think this ties in with the monkey brain (but not, mind you, the Monkey brain.  I make no representations about the functioning of Dr. Monkey’s brains, which apparently involves sharks and gratuitous danger, sometimes underwater danger with sharks.) because when you had small bands of hominids or hominins or other things started with hom that were ancestral to us, equality was a good thing — at least once you got past the “big man/head of tribe.” — if Ogg was eating all the fat off the mammoth carcass, and leaving Mogg to chew the little bits of sinew off the bone, Mogg would either die or bean Ogg with a mammoth bone, thereby starting trouble in the band and weakening it.

Okay, that’ half-assed (more like quarter assed) speculation.  But the one thing that’s true is that there seems to be a category for “fair” in our brains.  Dr. Monkey who should know — because he’s a biologist and for the unitiated Dr. Monkey is my friend, Dave Freer — says that even chimps try to establish “fair.”

We all like to see fair play.  We all get incensed when the game is rigged in someone’s favor.  And Americans have a mile-wide love for the underdog.

But let’s talk sense, shall we?

Life isn’t fair.  I was going to say the only place life is fair is kindergarten, then I thought about kindergarten.  Yeah.  Try for instance, judging a dispute between a grubby, overlarge boy and a cute, perfectly coiffed and dressed little girl.  Who do you think the teacher will think was being the bully?

Right.  There ain’t no justice.  Pretty much never.

Take my kids: because Dan and I started off on our own, with minimal to no help from either family, and because both of us struck out into fields where we had no friends, no family, no acquaintances and frankly didn’t even know how the game was played (particularly in my case, since I changed countries, languages and cultures) our progress has been difficult and hand over hand, and sometimes by the edge of bleeding fingernails.

Our progress would have been infinitely faster, given the same ability and level of effort if Dan had taken good care to be born to a family with contacts in his field, or I’d had the good sense to be born to even a minor science fiction writer.  If I’d been born to Robert A. Heinlein, it would have been an instant move to the front of the class (or heck, even if the spheres had aligned and Robert and Ginny had decided they needed a Portuguese exchange student back in 80-81.)

So? Life isn’t fair.

But more importantly, it is impossible to make it so.

A lot of our government’s more insane interference into realms in which it frankly has no business is in the realm of trying to make things fair, trying to level the playing field, and in general blundering about like a bull in a China shop.

Right now you’re about to tell me that affirmative action has done a lot of good.  Has it?  Has it really?

Because from where I stand, what affirmative action has done is erase the idea of a meritocracy.  It has forced employers and universities to take an interest in things other than “can you do the job I want to hire you for, and can we come to a mutually agreeable agreement?”

Sure, you’ll tell me, but it was necessary to overcome institutional racism and–

And we should talk about what caused that institutional racism, which was a series of laws designed to keep the two races apart and the black race subordinate.  These didn’t arise spontaneously from the way people behaved, no.  It was laws created to make it happen.  There were people — black and white — who’d have acted quite differently, long before the civil rights struggle.  (Note to pussy-hatters, the civil rights struggle was about removing unjust laws, not about screaming you’re discriminated against because …cheese. Not about claiming a patriarchy where none exists.  Note to the clueless, for what a patriarchy really means, go study Saudi Arabia or Iran.  I know what your Marxist professor told you, but no, covering women in sofa slip covers is NOT a mark of respect, unless getting whipped by the morality police is also a mark of respect, and if you, unspanked child that you are, really need to be whipped, there are bespoke clubs, that don’t involve enslaving your whole country.  Get your head out of your rectal cavity and start thinking.)

Anyway, the government swung from one side to the other, and suddenly its purpose was to make the races (and sexes) equal. This is laudable, I suppose, at least by comparison to keeping 14% of the population subjugated.

Except that instituting — or even promoting — equality via the federal government is akin to performing brain surgery on the kitchen table with a wooden spoon.  The intent might be laudable, or even life-saving, but the patient is going to die.

The patient — our public life, our culture, our industry — is not dead — yet — but it’s limping badly.

This lurch for establishing equality by fiat, and from above, has created a culture that no longer believes in meritocracy.  You’re seeing the end result of it in science fiction “powers” being more interested in the color of the author’s skin and what’s between the author’s legs or where the author puts what’s between the author’s legs than in the written story.  Now imagine that where it’s more important, like… managing companies, and you’ll start seeing the shape of the problem.

A technical/scientific civilization cannot possibly survive on less than competent managers, no matter how tanned they are, or whether they’re female, or whether they like to sleep with octopi.

I’m not saying all of these are incompetent.  I’m saying we’re not picking them for competence.  We’re picking them for “interesting side characteristics” (which btw keep multiplying) which have nothing to do with competence.  Given equal competence between all populations, this method will still lead you to pick less competent person of favored characteristic x than more competent person of no particular characteristic, (don’t believe me? Model it.)  and when the pool of talent is as narrow as say “technical ability combined with managerial ability” is in the human race, you’re going to get some very incompetent people in.

But beyond that, it is poisonous to the “favored group x” itself.  I know.  I started down that path when I first came to the US.  I hung out with mostly minority people (see where apparently people identify me as Latin more than I identify myself) and it was very easy not only to make use of your “race” to get what you wanted (and this attracts a certain number of grifters, too, particularly in the US, see Dolezal or her counterpart in SF/F) but also to be really insecure about anything you got.  No more joy and pride in accomplishment, as you were never sure “is that because of my skin?”  And then you started seeing discrimination under every bed.  Look, you knew that your skin color/country of origin/whatever mattered enough to get you a position.  So even if it didn’t matter to you, it obviously mattered to other people.  From that to assuming every slight, every snub, every even vaguely unpleasant interaction was the result of discrimination was a step.  That road lies the “micro-aggressions” madness and the “The US is a white supremacist patriarchy” paranoia.  Because every time you’re thwarted and can’t get what you want, it MUST be discrimination.

Or you can choose to assume there are racist/sexist assholes — like the time I worked for a store where I and the black girl were the only ones not given the combination to the safe, but the first questioned about missing money — but the majority of people aren’t racist/sexist assholes, and you’ll make your way the best you can with what you have, thank you very much.  Then when you fail, you study what went wrong and improve your strategy.  Did you fail because of discrimination?  Maybe.  But eventually you’ll get SO GOOD you won’t fail.  And at least you’ll know you did it yourself and not be looking for racists under every bed.

The problem with the government promoting equality is this: the government doesn’t know you.  The government can’t read minds.  The government can’t even balance the odds between individuals.

The best the government can do is make broad ‘protected’ classes, like people of a certain skin color/ancestry, people of a certain (okay, female) gender, and people of certain orientations.

But classes aren’t people.  I’ll bet you dollars to doughnuts that whatever the relative performance of Portuguese Immigrants and Black People in the US (I don’t know.  Haven’t looked it up) the Obama daughters have WAY more advantages getting where they want to go in life than my kids.  Even if on paper my kids belong to a more privileged “class.”

Or take my friend Kate, an immigrant from Australia, and me.  Our journey into publishededom (shut up, totally a word) has been about the same, if you take in account she started ten years after me and as the field was starting to collapse, and the rational manner of making your way up no longer existed (It’s Kate’s fault.  Ask her.  She does this to every field she enters.  That’s why she has like 4 degrees.)

She’s blond and blue eyed.  I am a certifiable mutt with an accent that doesn’t trigger “oh, how smart” among American born people.  (No, seriously, they confuse Australian and British.)

Does our skin color have anything to do with success?  No, see, they don’t paint-chip authors.  Or at least real publishing houses don’t.  We’ll leave the unreal publishing house alone.  Heaven knows that they do.

HOWEVER make one or the other of us the daughter of an sf/f writer, and it would be completely different, irrespective of our particular skin color, or frankly talent.

This is the thing.  What determines success for a human being might have some component of race/gender/orientation.  Certainly in truly racist (vast portions of the world outside the US) or truly sexist countries (see most of the middle East, and vast portions of the Mediterranean) one or the other of those can be a huge handicap.  Certainly being gay in Muslim countries can cause you to be crushed under a wall or hung from a crane, which, strangely, puts an end to your striving.

But absent extreme circumstances, is that the whole picture of a human being?

Oh, hell no.  Human beings are not widgets.  Let’s start with external circumstances, like affluence at birth or the relative knowledge of the field you’re entering, or even your parents’ achievements and your relationship with them: those can make huge differences between people who are externally alike.

Let’s continue with what’s inside the person, and which can be much harder to quantify/understand and into which the government FOR SURE has absolutely no insight: intelligence is probably the lowest in importance when it comes to success.  Drive, personality, capacity for work and what we’ll call, for lack of a better word, charisma and the ability to create connections, count for more than raw IQ.

Once you take external and internal circumstances into account, and absent the government’s thumb on the scales, what does skin color, sex or orientation have to do with success: bloody little.

Worse, the government’s arbitrary rules have caused the not-inconsequential lunacy of having girls treated with kid gloves in primary school, which means they’re badly prepared for science in high school, where they’re also treated with kid gloves, until they hit college, where they can’t be treated with kid gloves.  My younger son, in engineering, has seen all his female class mates drop out leaving what he calls “a sausage fest” which he — as a male who likes women — finds disturbing.  And most of it? Bad preparation because no teacher wants to be thought too harsh to girls.  Except good teaching involves being harsh and demanding.  Some of my best teachers chased me all over the map, testing for smaller and smaller flaws. I’m not as conversant with race, but I’m fairly sure that kind of “discrimination by making life too easy” is going there too, combined with hiring teachers for “diverse” schools by “diversity” not competence.

By itself, on its own, government -imposed equality is enough to destroy western civilization. It can be argued to be doing that.

I am not a racist (unlike our government’s bureaucrats) and at any rate in the US it would be laughable to be a racist, given how mixed the populations are.  (Quoth older son “I’m often taken for black in the US, which is only possible because US blacks are so pale.) I believe left to their own devices, the races would have equalized long ago, and done so without the resentment/self doubt/paranoia now plaguing race relations.

Oh, it would have been grossly unfair to the first generation after the racist laws were removed.  Sure.  There had been after all legal discrimination, and those people would have lacked the ability to reach their full potential.

But the thing is, who judges full potential? The government?  HOW DO THEY KNOW?  We come back to “from each according to his ability; to each according to his need.” WHO decides?  Every time governments try to figure that out it turns out your ability is sorting caterpillars by touch and your need is 50 size 30 shoes.  For the left foot.  Which is what made the USSR happy and prosperous (people of Brutopia.)

The government functionaries are humans too. (Probably.  Most of them.  The story my friend Rebecca Lickiss wrote where the IRS was staffed by vampires is fiction.  PROBABLY.) They don’t know the inside of anyone’s head.

We’re back to kindergarten.  Faced with a boy who weighed a good 90 lbs in kindergarten (I wish I were joking.  #1 son was always oversized) and a little blond girl who weighed 30, who would you think was bullying the other?  And yet the boy had been trained not to even think of bullying anyone.  And the girl was a conniving little Livia Drusilla-wannabe.

And that’s with kindergarten students, just starting on their life journey.

Or take my son’s first grade teacher who every year selected and made the life miserable of a child she judged to be “half breed.” (Took us forever to figure that out, because we don’t think of our marriage that way.)  She thought she was helping, she really did.  Given prejudices that she probably couldn’t see, she assumed all such children were less than normal, and she interpreted every sign (such as our son being bored out of his gourd, since he was reading YA books for teens) as a sign they were struggling with the material.  And she tried to get them into special classes, to equate odds.

But she was a racist, you’ll say.  Sure.  though not really, as what she seemed to get exercised about was MIXED races.  But insofar as she was making decisions based on race, yes, she was a racist.  And yet I’m 99% sure what she was trying to do was out of good intentions.  And nonetheless, she made my kid’s life a living hell (and the life of his elementary school girlfriend a living hell.)

Because the people judging what’s needed to equalize the field are humans, and humans by definition come with a whole set of assumptions and prejudices of which they’re not conscious.

It doesn’t make it any better to codify that into law, where, say Obama’s daughters are considered a down-trodden group but, say, Amanda Green’s kid who is red haired and who grew up with a single mom in middle-middle class isn’t.  Or even better, Rebecca Lickiss’s sons, who grew up with the financial drain of their father fighting cancer, and now have to make their way without him, are on paper much better off than Malia and Sasha or even my kids.

Humans aren’t widgets.  Widgets can be equal.  In humans, even identical twins have differences.

The equality guaranteed under the constitution is not the equality of the Jacobins, which can only be enforced with the guillotine, and which, by creating paranoia and insanity ALWAYS leads to the guillotine or its equivalent.  The equality in the constitution is equality under the law.

We can’t make humans equal.  No one can.  For those interested in leveling the play field a little, such things as scholarships for the DESERVING children of the poor or first person to go to college in a family or such SEEMS like a worthy endeavor, and if I ever win the lottery I’ll do those.  Will it make everyone equal?  Oh, hell no.  Doubtless, circumstances being sometimes deceiving, it will help some people who don’t need it and pass over some who do.  BUT that’s… well… neither here nor there, in the end.  It’s at least a finer comb than “race/sex/place of origin/sexual orientation.”

But the government should get out of the business of discrimination for or against any given group.  Sure, this will lead to some injustices.  It will also, in the end, lead to a far more functional world, one where people can actually look past external characteristics.

The world I’d like my descendants to live in.


*If any of you is a member of Audible, A Few Good Men Audio Book is on sale for 4.99If any of you is a member of Audible, A Few Good Men Audio Book is on sale for 4.99

Also, while on that, Kim du Toit is back to blogging and in fine form.*




This, That andSunday Vignettes by Luke, ‘Nother Mike and Mary Catelli

Yeah, we have Sunday Vignettes on Sunday, an act of reckless exuberance that will probably go down in history.

Normally there would be a promo post, but the Ambulatory mollusc has a new minion and is working very hard.  I’m trying to automate the process, because otherwise, putting in my associate’s code, by itself, takes two hours or so. In two hours I can write a short story or an article for PJM, or pet cats, or cuddle my husband, or go for a walk.  The rather tedious code inserting job is simply not at the top of my list.  And I’m very grateful to Freerange oyster, when he does it, and I understand his other demands.  Speaking of which, the Oyster does copy-editing and other stuff and is looking for work to help feed the new minion.  I understand you can reach him at his editing address.

Also, a frequent commenter here, Kim Du Toit, just lost his wife Connie.  Many of us read them and listened to their podcast.  Her prolonged battle with cancer left him in rather tight financial straits, as such things do these days, because snatching another day of life from the jaws of cancer is an heroic and expensive endeavor. He’s started a gofundme to try to get his life back together and himself back on his feet.  If you have a few shekels you can spare, please throw them his way.  Bloggers don’t have insurance, they don’t have unions, and they most certainly don’t have government programs.  All we have is each other and our loyal readers.

He will be starting a blog again tonight, and I’ll come here and put the link here, when it’s live.

And now I’ll go to try to finish UNCHARTED:Lewis and Clark in the Arcane Territories which I am writing with Kevin J. Anderson.  Once that is in, I’ll start on Guardian.  Since I can’t excerpt Guardian here (I’m sending Larry VERY raw first draft) but I’m going to be too immersed to do much of anything else, when I start working on Guardian again, probably next week, I’ll probably excerpt Grant in Portugal, aka Dark Fate here, every day for a week or two.  I hope you guys will stick around.

And now I’m going to have a massive quantity of coffee and work.

D*mn it, forgot because I do that: if you haven’t got the idea this year is shaping up to be one long sprint in terms of work, let me assure you I am booked to a fare-thee-well.  If I can get in a couple of guest posts a week, it would greatly help.  So if you want to see your name in lights (little blog lights.  Pixels, really) email me at scifi*mylastname* at gmail.  Remove the asterisks and replace what’s between them with my last name, and finish the domain name.  FOR THE LOVE OF BOB (Heinlein) put BLOG POST in the subject line, or I’ll lose them and not be able to find them.  One of you has made me a folder to upload them to, but considering how things are and my endemic disorganization, having that subject line doesn’t hurt.

Also if you need structural edits, the person I use is D. Jason Fleming.  It’s one of those things, you either have a talent for or you don’t.  He does.  I don’t have his editing email, but if you email me, I’ll have found it by then and let you know.  Again, structural edit is not copy-edit, it is rather “I feel I lost my way in this novel, where did I do wrong?”  Or “this never seemed to come together, can it be saved?”  I understand he’s also willing to do audio books, and depending on how things work out (I’d approached another friend first but he’s really busy, and it keeps getting put off) he might be doing a large portion of mine.

And NOW the post is complete.

Sunday Vignettes by Luke, ‘Nother Mike and Mary Catelli

So what’s a vignette? You might know them as flash fiction, or even just sketches. We will provide a prompt each Sunday that you can use directly (including it in your work) or just as an inspiration. You, in turn, will write about 50 words (yes, we are going for short shorts! Not even a Drabble 100 words, just half that!). Then post it!  For an additional challenge, you can aim to make it exactly 50 words, if you like.

We recommend that if you have an original vignette, you post that as a new reply. If you are commenting on someone’s vignette, then post that as a reply to the vignette. Comments — this is writing practice, so comments should be aimed at helping someone be a better writer, not at crushing them. And since these are likely to be drafts, don’t jump up and down too hard on typos and grammar.

If you have questions, feel free to ask.

Your writing prompt this week is:


I’m Not Sure What to Write

For the first time in a week, I slept through the night.  The last echoes of the flu seem to be a massive auto-immune attack that left me coughing and having asthma issues at night.  So, yes, you’ve been listening to the ramblings of a woman with almost no sleep.

This weekend I need to finish the collaboration with Kevin Anderson — well, my parts of it — so I don’t kill his schedule.  It’s going to be tough, and my mind is already on it and not on this blog.

I haven’t had any promo posts, and I’ve asked Charlie Martin to create a widget to send your books url to my associate account, so that I can run whatever people send through it, and not be dependent on our ambulatory mollusc’s very fraught time. Only for now I don’t have it.

I didn’t forget the vignette contest and if I owe you a mailing for various things, be patient for now.  I have to finish this novel and possibly the other collaboration, before I can turn my hand to stuff like that.  As usual, work with other people must take precedence, because I hate to be late on things and impact other people’s schedule.  (I also hate verbifying nouns, but I haven’t had enough caffeine to look for another word, just now.)

I’ve resumed work for PJM, with the proviso that a) it will be done around my fiction work, meaning they might at times have a bit of famine and glut, depending, and that I won’t be caught in an endless rewrite cycle.  My first post, on how we nuked the moon with Trump is up.

Yes, I know you have complaints about their interface, but honestly it’s much improved, and also I’ve never known any site that people don’t complain about.  Including my own.  (And heck, I complain about it too.)

Part of the reason I MUST do the collaborations ASAP and then probably sit down and write like a mad woman is that my ideas keep stacking up.  Those who’ve read From Out The Fire or Where Horse and Hero Fell probably know I have a “magical legion” thing in my head.  It’s lately gotten very loud, and I’d like to send it to Baen after the collabs.

Not that I’ve forgotten the dragon war and all the rest.  It should all be coming relatively soon. I only intend to take a few weeks off this year, and they’re not off from writing, just writing from a different location.  So–

Provided the health holds, and hopefully it will — this horrible flu was horrible for everyone and three and a half weeks to recover is NOT unusual or bad, actually.  And before I get the usual admonitions in the comments, yep, I had a shot in December.  There just was no covalence between it and this year’s strain, or at least this year’s strain in CO.

I’m going over page proofs for Dipped, Stripped and Dead, but I might not put it up this wekend, or at least not the paper version, since that takes at least 3 hours.  OTOH I could find myself fried around Monday (it is a three day weekend) and put it up.  Who knows.

Okay, that’s about it.  Now I go shower and have coffee and work.

The thought police strike again – Amanda S. Green

The thought police strike again – Amanda S. Green

Recently, a story hit the media in the DFW area about a local high school student being disciplined by his high school for “racially insensitive” comments made in a group tweet. The comments are alluded to but the context in which they were made remains a mystery. (At least I have been unable to determine what they might be.) I have seen nothing describing who might have been taking part in this group text, whether the student in question sent the tweet while on school grounds, while taking part in a sanctioned school activity or while representing himself to be a member of or representative of an organization associated with the school.

Then there was an earlier incident that took place in the same school district – but at a different high school. In that case, students at a pep rally held up a large sign which said “colleyville is going to TRUMP trinity tonight.” It also said, “paid for by Trinity” and had been designed to look like a wall. Few looking at the sign could mistake the message. The more affluent Colleyville Heritage High School students were throwing down on the more racially mixed, lower income Trinity High School, a major football rival, from the neighboring Hurst-Euless-Bedford School District.

Then there was the situation that arose when a 19-year-old student from TCU in Fort Worth was initially suspended from the university and who later had his suspension lifted but was still placed on disciplinary probation. Why? The student had tweeted comments about Islam that the university deemed offensive.

On the surface, each of the cases appear to be similar and, in some ways, they are. They each involved students, whether they be high school or college students. They each took place in the DFW metroplex. (This isn’t something that is exclusive to DFW. If you do a google search, you can find similar situations occurring not only throughout the country but around the world.) They each have led to either new rules or to disciplining of the students involved or both.

So what are the differences and why am I up in arms?

Let’s start with the TCU case first. For those of you not familiar with the university, Texas Christian University is a private, religious-based university. That means it can set rules about how its students behave that publicly funded institutions might not be able to get away with. It also means there is a student code of conduct which will be much more restrictive that you will find with most public universities. A code of conduct that is enforced. So, while I applaud the university for backing off of the suspension, I can’t argue too much about it keeping the 19-year-old student on probation. He had violated the school’s code of conduct.

Now, that doesn’t mean I agree with the code of conduct but the student chose to go to TCU. That means he agreed to the code of conduct and either didn’t read it or didn’t think the university would enforce it.

My issue comes with public schools, especially junior and senior high schools, that become thought police. I’ll admit that schools have the right to enforce rules of conduct when students are on school district property, when they are taking part in officially sanctioned activities or when they are representing the school in some “official” capacity. By that, I mean I have no problem with school districts disciplining band members on a trip to a competition who trash their hotel rooms or cheerleaders in uniform caught drinking alcohol or football players hazing new members, etc.

My issue comes when school districts start trying to police what students say or think when they are NOT representing the schools. In the latest case, yes, the student was foolish for posting a tweet that contained racially “insensitive” language. But, if he wasn’t representing the school or wasn’t on school grounds at that time he sent the tweet, does the school have any right to discipline him?

In my mind, no.

Let me give another scenario. When my son was in elementary school, there was another kid who kept picking on one of my son’s friends. His friend was a great kid, lots of fun, but he was smaller than some of the others in their class. This other kid took to picking on the friend, trying to get him to throw the first punch. But, my son’s friend was smart and remembered the zero-tolerance rule.

However, the day finally came when my son’s friend had enough. This time, however, the bully wasn’t smart enough to pick the fight on school grounds. They boys were almost a block away from the school. He pushed and picked at the friend one too many time and the friend wound up wiping the floor with him.

That should have been the end of it but nope. The school had to get involved. Why? Because an assistant principal had seen the fight happen. It didn’t matter it was well off the school grounds. It didn’t matter that the friend didn’t throw the first punch or that he – and his parents, as well as other students – had reported the bully time and again. Nor did it matter that the school had done absolutely nothing to stop the bully. Oh no. Punches were thrown and the bully’s feelings got hurt and his nose bloodied.  So the friend was even more at fault than the bully was.

And remember, this took place off school grounds.

The administration immediately took action against both boys, giving them in-school suspension. For an action that took place off school grounds and under absolutely no conditions that could tie what happened to the school or the administration. It took the friends’ parents threatening to sue not only the district but the administrators involved to have the kid’s suspension lifted. Even then, they were told it would be best if they moved their son to another school.

That’s right. The kid who had been the victim and who only stood up to protect himself, was being told to leave the school. For something that took place off school grounds. And for something that could have been avoided if action had been taken before blows were thrown.

The only reason the admin wasn’t able to get away with it was because the action took place off district property and at a time when the students weren’t taking part in anything associated with the school or the district.

So, getting back to the policing of thoughts and words by schools, I also have no problem with Colleyville Heritage disciplining those students who put up the “wall” sign at the pep rally. Why? It was an officially sanctioned school activity. It took place on school property. Except, well, there is one little problem. At that time, there were few, if any, rules in place in the school or the district governing what signs could say. There was no official committee with guidelines that had to approve signs before they could be shown at school activities. Therefore, if the students received anything more than unofficial counseling, the school and the district overstepped.

What about the tweet?

This is where things get a bit more difficult to come up with a firm response. There have been few details about the context given. We know it came after a basketball game. But I haven’t seen how long after the game or, as noted earlier, where the student was when he made the tweet. We don’t know if there is anything about his Twitter handle that associates him with the school, etc.

Where do we draw the line? If schools are going to start disciplining students over what they post on Twitter, etc., are they also going to patrol their parking lots and make sure students aren’t listening to “offensive” music? Can you imagine the uproar if there were monitors going around, telling students they can’t listen to rap music because it has the reputation of using “offensive” language and for denigrating women? The uproar won’t come from the students, although they will be sure to let you know how they feel about it. Nope, the uproar will come from adults who will be screaming racism because most rappers are not white, Anglo males. Yet, if you are disciplining students for tweeting racially insensitive comments, why are you allowing them to sit in the parking lot, blaring out music that does basically the same thing? (Not all of it but enough that the genre has that reputation.)

Are schools going to start policing what is said or done in the privacy of a home? (Remember, there has already been at least one school/district that had the laptops sent home with students set so video ran and teachers could check to see what was happening in the home.)

What I’m seeing is an attempt to police what our kids are thinking and saying. It isn’t teaching them anything but how to resent authority. It is an attempt to quell free speech. Does this mean I think students, or anyone, should go around spouting racist comments? Hell no. But I also don’t believe it is something school should be trying to combat when students AREN’T AT SCHOOL.

One of the strengths of this country is that we have the freedom to say or think pretty much whatever we want. However, that is quickly eroding and that scares the hell out of me. I may not like what someone says but I have the option of either walking away from them, ignoring them or trying to have a discourse with them. That was easier back in the days before social media. Maybe that’s why we see more and more about schools and employers, etc., taking steps to make sure people associated with them don’t do bad think.

However, where do we draw the line? Sure, an employer has the right to protect its brand. But does that give them the right to punish an employee who says something offensive even if the statement cannot be associated with the employer? For example, say a person is at a football game and gets caught up in what was going on and shouts something about a player that comments on race, religion or sexual orientation and that comment is shown on the jumbotron. That person is dressed in team colors for the home team. There is nothing about them that identifies them as working for Company X. They aren’t high enough in the organization that no one outside of those they work directly with know who they are and who they work for. Does the company have the right to punish the worker for what they said, especially if there is no company code of conduct in place?

I say no. Again, if the company is really worried about it, an unofficial counseling might be called for. But even then, it isn’t any of the company’s concern – as long as the person involved doesn’t act that way when doing their job and doesn’t act that way in such a manner that it calls attention to the company.

The same thing applies to students, in my opinion. In fact, there is something else we need to consider here. Do we really want to stop our younger generation from speaking its mind? Sure, some of the stuff coming out of their mouths will be objectionable. But how do they learn if they don’t make mistakes. Believe me, they will remember the lesson a great deal better if they are told by their peers why what they said crossed the line than they will if an administrator lands on them with both feet. It’s called peer pressure and it goes to what matters most to a teen.

Schools need to remember that their role is to educate and not indoctrinate. Parents need to remember that their role is to parent and guide. Somewhere along the way, too many parents forgot that and schools, with approval from the local, state and federal governments have become more indoctrination camps than institutions of learning. It’s time we either turn that clock back or we find alternatives. Otherwise, we are going to find ourselves having to wonder what new unwritten rule our kids – or ourselves – have violated and how that will impact the student’s ability to get into college, etc.

I may not agree with what someone says but, as long as they aren’t yelling “fire!” in a crowded theater, I’ll fight for their right to say it. Everyone has the right to make an ass out of themselves and to learn from it.

Let’s Talk About Money

Yes, I do know nice people don’t talk about money, and also that it makes the world go round, though I don’t remember anyone quantifying the amount of money necessary for 365 days and nights of Earth-rotation.

If you’re looking at that paragraph and wondering if I’ve lost my mind, I assure you, it’s still here, in the little jar by the bedside table where I keep it.  And that none of those statements are nearly as crazy as the idea people seem to have about money nowadays.

What idea?  Well, it apparently, like other things that the left fails to understand, is now called “A social construct.”

No, seriously, someone tried to make that dog hunt on my post about the minimum wage.  He informed us that it didn’t matter if we paid more to people, and it didn’t necessitate the raising of prices, or replacing of human workers with robots in order for the business to survive, because “money is a social construct.”

Now to an extent he was right.  Put a bunch of children alone in the wilderness, and let them grow up in ignorance of all other human civilizations and culture, and they don’t spontaneously start making currency out of leaves, just like they don’t spontaneously start to talk in a complex language, modern or ancient, and they don’t spontaneously start writing.

What they will do, though, is almost for sure start engaging in some form of exchange: my freshly hunted meat for your bowl of berries, my interesting rock for your flower.  It’s just what humans are.  I don’t think we have ever come across a society so primitive that people didn’t trade with other humans.  Just as we’ve never come across a society so primitive that humans didn’t communicate with each other.

Sure individual languages are cultural constructs, built by cultures over millenia.  And sure, individual systems of currency are social constructs, built by usually modern governments.  The governments of the past, though they coined, often were not very good at controlling the currency used in their territory.  In Elizabethan England, you might find French, Dutch or Spanish currency in circulation alongside the English currency.  This makes perfect sense because the important part of such currency was the metal it was made of, and not the figures stamped on it.

Perhaps it was easier to associate value with the precious metals, but the fact remains that then or now, money was worth what you could acquire with it.  That is, that same chunk of gold might get you a chicken in good times, but when chickens weren’t doing well, and the population was booming, it might not even get you an egg.

The value of an object is what is someone is willing to pay for it.  Conversely, the value of currency is what someone is willing to let you buy with it.  Clear as mud?

You see, money is a language, in the end, a system of information.  It allows people to decide what is valued and needed in society and what isn’t.  Or at least it would be, absent varying kinds of government interference.

If I sell my chicken for two bits of gold, or a pretty picture of George Washington, and then go across the way and convince a guy to take that same currency for a cow, it means that I either found a prize idiot or chickens are so rare in that society that they are worth the same as a cow.

Things like rarity, desirability, need, want, get fed into the system, and decided by human beings who need, want, have trouble finding, or are drowning in a given thing and a currency value is set.

That is, in principle, the idea.  Social construct?  Not so much.  Or only because it is impractical to walk around with a cow, a chicken, or a month’s worth of compute work, to trade with any stranger who might be interested.

It would be impossible for a computer to decide and set a value to things, the same value that is set quite easily in a series of myriad transitions.

The economy is just a way of referring to this system of ordered chaos by which most of us make their living.

But make no mistake, at the bottom of it there’s that “we make our living.”

If you read as many biology books as I do, you’ll come across sentences like “The flyspecked toadswallower makes his living by hunting tadpoles in the shallows.”

Whether you’re raising chickens or cows, writing books, programing computers, or breeding prize angora cats, what you are doing is making a living.

Money is the system we use to be able to have a complex society in which NOT ALL of us need to get up every morning and go find a chicken for breakfast.  That is all it is.  But as such it is a brilliant invention, without which society would never have attained the sort of complexity in which people can be so detached from reality as to say money is a “Social construct” as though that meant it is made up, wholesale, out of air.

And I don’t know about you, but I’d rather use my money as I please and make contracts as needed, than to have a government bureaucrat interfere in the system and tell me what I must pay for goods or services.

Because that is the denial of what money is FOR.

Money is neither good nor evil, neither despotic, nor liberating.

It is a tool.  use it advisedly.


*Francis Turner had a previous post about money on this blog and makes many of the same points: Something About Money (and Cake.)  Because it’s a complex subject looking at two different approaches at explaining it might help.*

The Real Resistance – by Orvan Ox

The Real Resistance – by Orvan Ox

Racist! Fascist! Nazi! Misogynist! Xenophobe! Homophobe! Thank you!


Recently $HOUSEMATE and I were dining out and our server had the curious habit of saying “Thank you” during every interaction, whether it made any sense or not.  This is likely not a quirk of the server, but of a current trend in customer service. A local store suddenly has a “Thank you” policy for every customer interaction as well. Evidently they got severely dinged on a secret shopping rating of late for not having that, so now they have the policy in place. The idea is understandable: promote the idea of gratitude and polite customer service. There is a problem, though. And you’ve likely already figured it out. That “thank you” happens whether it makes any sense or not, and happens at every interaction. Thus it is both misused and overused. Misuse and overuse lead to resistance – that is, it loses the desired effect and becomes useless at best. Here, the worst is that it might be a joke shadow of itself.


The other words in the title are not as polite, nor used for the same purpose as “thank you” yet they have the very same issue: misuse and overuse. Racist once meant someone had an automatic negative reaction to those of some other race. (For this purpose, assume that ‘race’ actually exists and can be determined by trivial observation of skin color, even if that might not really be true). This was, and in a few cases still is, a problem. Racism lead to racial discrimination, unfair testing at polls, and all the other various Jim Crow laws. A society that does this is denying opportunity to some, and thus reducing its own potential. It wastes available manpower and brainpower to its detriment.


Fascist and Nazi are related to each other, Nazism being a particular brand of fascism. And back in the 1930’s and 1940’s they had a set meaning for a particular style of governance. While fascism is decidedly Not Good, the Nazis took to it with a horrifying efficiency that resulted in things so evil that it was truly unbelievable for many until newsreel footage showed things really were that bad. This didn’t merely waste potential, it destroyed manpower and brainpower.


Oh, manpower? In the sense of people available to do things. It’s not misogynist, it’s simply the right English word. Genuine misogyny is just like racism, only aimed at women instead of those of a particular race. This is another one of those “brilliant” ideas that permits a society, if it chooses, to artificially limit brainpower and, yes, manpower even if it is ‘womenpower’.


And then there are all the -phobes. Xenophobe for ‘fear’ of the other, the foreign. Homophobe for ‘fear’ of the same sex (or gender, if you must). There are likely many others, but one needs to stop staring into the abyss sometime. How much real fear is there? Almost none. There are almost certainly a few people who really are genuinely fearful of members of this group or that. A few. Not a majority. Not even a sizable minority.


The idea that these words apply to nearly half of society is breathtaking in its absurdity.  If discrimination truly allowed lower pay for equal work, what sane business wouldn’t be rushing to hire the cheaper labor wherever and whenever it could? Seen any “Men need not apply” or “No Caucasians” or “Non-citizens only” help wanted signs? Me neither. Maybe it’s this bubble I’ve been living in. Oh, wait, haven’t seen the furious cries of outrage that would accompany any of those, either. Hrrmmm.


But if you expose a population to something over and over and over, a tolerance builds up. A resistance, that protects that population from the something it is being misexposed and overexposed to. That is how new antibiotic resistance comes into being. The surviving germs survived… and then the next set will be all from those survivors, and a higher percentage will survive the same treatment. This repeats until the resistance is so effective that the antibiotic is ineffective.


It’s not quite the same for people, as ideas tend not to be immediately fatal – even the astonishingly bad ideas. Systems can develop resistance as well, and society is system or a collection of systems. There is a new theory of Type 2 diabetes emerging, that the problem is insulin itself. The current standard treatment deals with one symptom – high blood sugar, which is more than just a symptom and is a real problem, but doesn’t address the immediate (yes, something else has to start the initial insulin resistance) root cause. “Insulin resistance protects the cell against… insulin.” is how at least one doctor sums it up. More insulin leads to more resistance, which means yet more insulin for treatment, and yet greater resistance in a vicious cycle. Some new treatments are being tried that reduce blood sugar without increased insulin. There is hope that this might break the cycle and have better outcomes – but it’s not common practice, nor the “received wisdom” yet.


Resistance protects the population or system from whatever is being resisted. In that theory of Type 2 Diabetes, the population of cells uses insulin resistance to protect itself from insulin. The cells are stuffed full of glucose and here comes insulin insisting they take in yet more. What to do? Bar the doors and increase the resistance. In antibiotic resistance, germs develop protection from antibiotics. And in our society, we are developing resistance to words that once meant things, but their misuse and overuse has robbed, or is robbing, them of power.


Consider that in the 1970’s and 1980’s an accusation of racism was a potent thing, a near nuclear attack on character. In recent years the end of the power of the word wasn’t the election of a black President, at least not directly. The end of the power was the stimulus-response accusation by many that any disagreement with that President was purely and only racist and not a genuine disagreement on policy. If everybody is a racist, nobody is a racist.


Other issues also happened. Gamergate. Sad Puppies. And perhaps others still, but each had nasty accusations that bore no relation to the actual issues being raised. And the result? Immunity, resistance develops. It’s not much at first and it’s rough going, but the result of wave after after wave of misuses and overuse is that more and more see that is indeed misuse and overuse.


And now we have many using the terms xenophobe, misogynist, sexist, fascist, and Nazi. The result is that those words, too, will lose their power as the targeted population becomes ever more resistant to them and regards them no longer as a danger, but as meaningless drivel, or even a joke. “That’s racist!” has already been used as a joke and is its own punchline. The R-bomb has been defused by its very wielders. To them, I have only this to say: Thank you.


There is another problem. That is that having rendered the words powerless, what happens should the actual evils they originally described truly manifest? As some abuse one linguistic “antibiotic” after the next, they each become impotent in turn. The overused and abused tool dulls.  The disease can then run away, controlled or contained only by whatever lingering immune response society has left. Despite hysterical claims, that is NOT the case right now. Yeah, to those doing this and making future problems much harder to solve, thank you – for nothing. Great job, throwing all the antibiotics around for something not even a cold. There should be a statue to your stupidity, for it is monumental. Thank you!

Dance To The Music

The last day I’ve been going “Argh” as I realize the barriers that have been put to thinking and expression thereof, as well as the continuous blast of “this you must think, this you must celebrate” (more onerous than even “this you must not think” and “this you must not do” that Heinlein cautioned us about) just in the last ten years or so.

The first occasion of ARGH was my going over page proofs for my mystery, Dipped, Stripped and Dead (under pen name Elise Hyatt.)

It was supposed to be out in December, then the collapse, and then January turned into “bursts of insane working, punctuated by the worst flu I’ve ever had.”  That extended into February.  Yesterday Dorothy Grant (BTW, her first book is out) pointed out if I didn’t try to use the treadmill desk the first day I feel up to it, I might not relapse again.  It might have been too late for that warning, though this relapse feels less awful than the last.  I should have pointed out to her that sanity is for sissies, but she might be able to slap me, even from Texas.

Anyway, in going over Draw One In The Dark, I came across a character I’d forgotten was in the book.  First I should point out the furniture refinishing mysteries are where I put most autobiographical details, to the point of older son making me change a thing because he uses it as a password.  Both boys refer to this series as “selling our childhood retail.”  As in, E. the little boy character in the book, is a composite of my sons at that age.

The character I had forgotten was a Marine, who was a carpenter and six foot six or seven, whose other “personality” was a female who liked to dress in extremely high heels.  He was completely harmless, and a very nice man, except for a tendency to think my wedding vows didn’t mean much.  THIS part was goofy. (Though he took his rebuff with grace.) And hitting on me in my own kitchen, while wearing women’s clothing was very very creepy.  His other goofy idea was that he passed as female.  (OTOH best line to guys who were making fun of  him in a bar was “How would you like to have your ass kicked by a guy in a dress?”)

Anyway, I use a version him in that book, and gentle ribbing happens.

It occurred to me that I couldn’t get that book traditionally published today for the thought crime of “laughing at the transgendered” (which I wasn’t.  I was laughing at a very specific person whom I actually liked, but who had some odd quirks in his brain, as who doesn’t?)

And I went “ARGH.” Because this is an area in which we must now think that someone’s cross dressing name/persona is as valid or more valid than his male personality/person, and we’re supposed to call his occasionally liking to dress as a woman “genderfluid.” We MUST also not find it funny that he thinks his female persona is beautiful.  (He is/was — we lost touch and he was older than I– a gorgeous man, of the “craggy type” which does not translate well to female beauty.)

In a way, this type of enforcing of what we MUST think of people’s little quirks is less tolerant and makes us less free.  I mean, I honestly don’t know if my friend viewed this other persona of his as a whole other “person” or just as a hobby, i.e. something fun he liked to do/explore.  And that was fine.  I mean, we didn’t hold our noses up at him, and it was none of our business what he chose to do.  But now, by the dictates of the politically correct church, he and I and all our friends would have to think of it as very serious indeed, a “genderfluid” thing that meant he wasn’t the same sex his body was for at least part of his time.

How is this helping? Sure, if you really are a person who thinks he/she shifts genders occasionally, you now have reinforcement/support.  But what about everyone else?  What about the vast spectrum of people, from guys who think women clothes are fun, to guys who just want to explore that side of themselves? WHY must there be only one correct way to be a guy who periodically dresses/thinks he passes as a woman?  And isn’t labeling every other view of it as hateful… rather hateful?

My other moment of Argh was occasioned by younger son.  No, that doesn’t mean younger son did something wrong.  He didn’t.  It’s more that younger son told me about something.  (Oh, dear Lord, why does he do that?) and what he told me about was that some show introduced the concept of “Galentine’s” on the 13th.  This is a day for “ladies to celebrate ladies.”  What was driving younger son bananas (with a side of kiwi) is that he seeing all his female friends fall into this.

The idea is frankly loony.  Valentine’s itself is highly commercialized, but most of the time, my husband I circumvent it by having walks together, or just watching a movie together.  However, a day to celebrate being a couple is useful (and it wasn’t proclaimed by some government.  In fact, I’m fairly sure what it is in the US grew organically, because it’s not the same anywhere else.  In Portugal it’s considered “boyfriend/girlfriend day” but it mostly amounts to some kissing and maybe flowers.  Or it did in my day.)  Trust me, in the years of raising toddlers, any time to remember yes, you’re in love, and what brought you together is important.

But Galentine?  What the actual heck?  It’s not bonding, and it’s not building a relationship that is a cornerstone of society.  No.  It’s … putting up lists of your friends who are female and celebrating them BECAUSE THEY’RE FEMALE.  This is something they were born, and can’t help being, and… what are we celebrating, precisely?

It’s not that I object to “ugly/awkward girls get a day too.”  No.  it’s the undertones of it.  It’s the “It’s just as good to be a woman as a couple (you know, the future would beg to differ) and how being a woman is something you should celebrate because… because… because….  I don’t know?  Because we have vaginas?

Picture guys saying that being a man is something to celebrate, because… they have penises?  Mind you, I’m a big fan of both men and their ah implement, but seriously? It would be laughable.  And celebrating because you’re a woman is equally laughable.

Mind you, I’m probably the voice crying in the wilderness in the days of pussy hats and women marching around with signs painted with vulvas or proudly proclaiming they have a vulva, but it seems to me if what makes you special is the non-thinking thing between your legs, you’re doing life wrong, you’re doing equality wrong and MOST importantly, you’re doing SPECIAL wrong.

I have friends who are female and friends who are male.  Not only do I not care what their equipment is, but frankly I don’t want to think about their equipment.  The only person whose sexual organs matter to me (other than myself) is my husband.  It’s the only one whose sexual organs have an even remote effect on our relationship (I maintain if we lost the capacity to have sex tomorrow, love would go on, so, yes, remote.  But it would be less fun.)

What makes my friends special are the things we both enjoy, the things we like to talk about, their fascinating minds or their generous personality, or their kindness, or their enthusiasm or all of those and more.  None of them, though are “vagina” or “penis.”

Celebrating my lady friends is goofy.  Celebrating my gentlemen friends sounds like I’m having affairs.  I love all my friends, and wouldn’t even be opposed to giving non-romantic valentines, the way elementary school kids do it.  (Only not to everyone I know.) BUT I don’t think of my friends in neat little groups.  A couple of my best-male friends are gay.  I don’t have them in a group for “my gay friends.” I only think of them in those terms when refuting some idiocy from left or right about “all gay males” or when the subject — usually a joke — is one they’d enjoy.  In that sense it’s like thinking of my “writer friends” a fluid group who will appreciate some jokes/situations more than my other friends.

Putting people in groups, some of which are to be celebrated and some reviled is a trick for “governing” and controlling people, which has been used since machiavelli.

What burns me is seeing people willingly cooperate in this, seemingly unaware that any group that’s uplifted can be cast down when policy demands it.  It’s all a game to control people.

They can pipe all they want.  I’m not dancing.

Happy valentines to all my friends, male and female, all of whom are loved even those I’ve never met but who make this blog interesting.

You are loved, all of you, you fascinating individuals.  Now, go be you.