“Van Control”

(I’m re-posting a Facebook comment here, because it might be useful in the future. All snark has been preserved, because I’m sick of this crap.)

The post:

When a 64 year old white man kills 58 and wounds 500 in fifteen minutes from 1200 feet with a knife, I will absolutely call for knife control. Until then, you've made the world's shittiest point.

The response:

A van killed 86 people in less than 3 mins, van control anyone????

The comment:

Oh, you sweet, sweet man. You’re obviously new here.
Continue reading


The Tragic, Yet Probably Inevitable, Snapchat Porn Scandal

I had no idea what Snapchat actually was until a few days ago. I had heard the name, but thought it sounded like something that would shortly go the way of Chatroulette.

Apparently, however, its owners and investors are so confident in its $4 billion valuation that they felt comfortable turning down a $3 billion cash buyout offer from Facebook. This made me realize several things:

  1. I may never understand how Silicon Valley determines “value;”
  2. Even a system specifically designed to delete pictures as a privacy measure is beatable;
  3. If it’s popular with teenagers, they’re gonna use it for sex somehow (cf. xkcd); and
  4. Sooner or later, someone’s going to use it for revenge porn.

I don’t always hate it when I’m right, but sometimes I really do. Sometimes I really, really do.


My Live-Facebooking of the Presidential Debate, October 3, 2012

For the heck of it, I went back and copied my stream-of-consciousness rants from Wednesday night’s debacle. I mean debate. The now-mythical evening will probably puzzle political scientists for a few minutes, but it at least gave us some memes. (Edited for typos and whatnot):

7:59 p.m. I’m live tweeting this bee-yotch! (I give my ADD 10 minutes before I start seriously thinking about boobs) #debate

8:02 p.m. The last time we had a Presidential #debate, I didn’t even have a Twitter account. How did I share my thoughts? How did we do anything???

8:04 p.m. I’m sure Jim Lehrer is a great #debate moderator, but you know who we need? Mills Lane, that’s who.

8:06 p.m. Obama may have the best excuse in history for skipping out on an anniversary dinner. #debate

8:07 p.m. Since the candidates always answer the first question with a “glad to be here” soliloquy, shouldn’t the first question just be “‘Sup?”

8:08 p.m. Is someone writing down Romney’s 5 points? Because I’m sure he’ll change them tomorrow.

8:12 p.m. Just for the record, Lehrer asked Romney if he had a question for Obama, and he’s making a speech. #debate

8:13 p.m. Okay, seriously, Jim, cut Romney off if he won’t ask a question!!! #debate

8:17 p.m. It’s hard to make accurate statements about Romney’s tax plan when he stays so coy about it. #debate

8:19 p.m. “Now he’s saying that his big bold idea is ‘never mind.'” #debate

8:22 p.m. Romney keeps referencing conversations he’s had with ordinary people. We’ve seen how that tends to go for him, though… #debate

8:23 p.m. Did Romney really just say his first priority is jobs? #debate

8:27 p.m. “Going forward with the status quo won’t work” says Romney. You mean like Republicans blocking everything Obama tries to do? #debate Continue reading


A quick thought on privilege

(This was a comment a made on a Facebook thread centered around this article, to which someone added this video, which ended up bringing in race, religion, and LGBTQ issues–in other words, a normal Friday morning for me. I figured I’d cut and paste my comments here for an inexpensive blog update! This is all verbatim what I wrote, except that I corrected a few spelling and grammar errors inherent to the Facebook commenting format.)

This will be a condensed treatment of the concept of privilege, but here goes: I’m a white, heterosexual, educated, affluent, originally-raised-Episcopalian, reasonably attractive and healthy American male. In other words, I am about as high up on the privilege ladder as you can get. About the only “minority” status I have is that of atheist, and people who don’t know me can’t exactly tell that just from looking at me. If I may borrow Stephanie for a second, if I were to tell Stephanie that sexism does not exist in America because I have never experienced it, or because her own stories of encountering sexism just don’t make sense to me, Stephanie would be within her rights to give me an epic rhetorical beatdown. As a guy, I have privilege in this society to ignore some pretty pervasive sexism. If I don’t want to see it or deal with it, it can be invisible to me. The same can be true for me about LGBTQ issues (no one has yet complained that, by advertising my engagement on my FB page, I am rubbing my sexuality in their faces. LGBTQ people don’t get that kind of deference from the whole freaking world). Christians can claim “persecution” when in reality they are just having to share the public sphere with others. Guys can claim unfair advantages for women when women haven’t even achieved parity. My actual point, though, is about the “race card.” When a person of color “plays the race card,” it is pretty much assumed that the sole purpose is to be divisive or to distract from something else, and that is a load of crap. There is racism all around us all the time, but most white (or white-identified) people do not have to deal with it as a daily fact of life. Just one example: I drove by four police cars yesterday, and in two instances I was going about 5 miles over the speed limit, but no one pulled me over. I have never been pulled over without verifiable evidence of speeding or making an illegal right turn on red, and I have never had my car searched for drugs “just in case.” For many if not most people of color in America, though, the simple act of driving a car down the street requires taking on more risk than my privileged ass can comprehend. I’m not claiming any greater knowledge of the reality of life in America, just that I get that there is much of daily life for others that I do not “get.” Claiming that a context-free allegation of racism is playing the “race card” is a cowardly refusal to even consider that the person might be correct. Note also that privilege is not limited specifically to white heterosexual males. The default setting of society is “white heterosexual male,” so nearly anything that unthinkingly falls into one of those categories can have the effect of propping up privilege, without awareness of how it might hurt others.

None of this means that I don’t get to have a say in issues pertaining to other groups. It just means that I need to listen for a change. It is really amazing how little privileged people actually listen to people without their same privilege. Google “mansplaining” if you want to have a sad chuckle.


Blame the humans


This little one had nothing to do with the reported incident. That’s just an awesome smile.

Someone in a pickup truck in Cedar Park reportedly commanded his two dogs, identified by KVUE as pit bulls, to attack a family at a park yesterday. The family was apparently going for a walk the morning of the 4th of July, when a man pulled up in a pickup truck and ordered his two dogs to “get ’em.”

Aundrick Richard told KVUE News around 9:30 a.m. Wednesday, he, his wife, three daughters and pit bull, Cane, were walking at a nature trail off Arrow Point Drive in Cedar Park. He says it’s part of his family’s morning exercise.

Richard pointed to a grassy pathway and said a truck drove up close to the trail, off-road, toward his family. That’s when he says the driver of the truck let his two pit bull dogs out of the back of the pickup, and they came charging toward Richard’s children. Richard says his dog was on a leash but jumped in front of the baby stroller to fight off the dogs.

Richard says the dogs started fighting, the kids were screaming and his wife tried to kick the dog away.

“I’m telling the guy, ‘Hey come get ’em man, come get your dog. Your dog’s hurting my family man. Get your dog. Come get your dog. Please come here.’ The guy’s sitting there, he’s staring at me, and he goes, ‘Get ’em boy, get ,em. Get ’em boy, get ’em, antagonizing his dogs,'” said Aundrick Richard.

Richard says he grabbed a large tree branch and began hitting the man’s dog until it whimpered. Then he says the owner called the dogs back to the truck; they packed up and left.

“His dog screams. He says ‘Come on,’ clap, clap, calls them. They get in the truck. He burns out,” said Richard.

The full story is here (warning for somewhat graphic dog injury pictures).

Note that the only dog in this story that verifiably is a pit bull is the family’s dog, Cane, who by all accounts is a hero.

A friend posted this story to Facebook this morning, sparking one of the most thoughtful, least-combative combat threads in the history of my own Facebook use. Not all discussions of the incident have been so civil, apparently; one person said they were called a “one percenter” for defending pit bulls. Huh? Anyway, I’m re-posting my own comments from the thread here, for posterity or something. Please forgive the off-the-cuff writing style. Continue reading


Everybody pick on Eduardo Saverin!

'John, Magna Carta' By unknown, held by The Granger Collection, New York (Britannia.com) [Public domain], via Wikimedia CommonsAs we all know, sort-of Facebook co-founder Eduardo Saverin, who now owns a bit over $3 billion in Facebook stock, renounced his U.S. citizenship from his new digs in Singapore. Whether he did this to avoid paying U.S. taxes on his windfall is a matter of dispute. I suppose it is possible that the timing was coincidental.

Not everyone is buying it, though. Two senators have introduced a bill, cleverly (if awkwardly) titled the Ex-PATRIOT Act, that would build on existing immigration law that makes people who renounce their citizenship to avoid taxes inadmissible to re-enter the country. The bill would create a presumption of intent to avoid taxes if a person with a net worth above a certain amount renounces citizenship.

There may or may not be constitutional problems with that, and while I’m not thrilled with the bill itself, I’m far less thrilled with Saverin’s defenders. Americans generally enjoy the freedom to travel where they will (thank you, U.S. Supreme Court). The thing is, if you renounce your citizenship, you are no longer an American, by your own choice.

That’s what makes Bill Bonner’s piece at the Christian Science Monitor, in which he extols the basic human right to travel, so unintentionally hilarious. He thinks that we should leave Mr. Saverin alone, and he cites various important historical statements of rights to support the thesis that Mr. Saverin should be able to go where he likes. Regardless of the provisions of the Ex-PATRIOT Act, this is absurd.

He quotes the Magna Carta of 1215:

It shall be lawful to any person, for the future, to go out of our kingdom, and to return, safely and securely, by land or by water, saving his allegiance to us, unless it be in time of war, for some short space, for the common good of the kingdom: excepting prisoners and outlaws, according to the laws of the land

Emphasis added, for reasons that I will make clear soon if you can’t figure it out for yourself. Continue reading


Our ungrateful rich

'Singapore Merlion BCT' by Bjørn Christian Tørrissen [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia CommonsAmerica has quite a few brilliant but lucky entrepreneurs who work within the American system to make a lot of money, then whine about having to pay to help sustain that system.

Eduardo Saverin came to the U.S. from Brazil because his parents didn’t want him to be kidnapped:

Saverin, who stands to make billions from his 4 percent share in Facebook, hastily moved here at the age of 13 when his name turned up on a list of potential kidnap victims targeted by criminal gangs in Brazil. His father was a wealthy businessman, with a high profile in their home country, and so his family relocated to Miami to protect the youngster. Eduardo thrived in his new country, eventually attending Harvard University, where he had a stroke of life-changing luck when he was assigned future Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg as a roommate.

After years of reaping the benefits of a society that does reasonably well at preventing kidnapping, he became a billionaire. Then he moved to Singapore. Then, standing to make billions on Facebook’s IPO, he renounced his U.S. citizenship. Continue reading


Yet another reason why social media is actually quite awesome

Tasmania.A2005320.2355.250mIt sounds like something out of a movie or a cheesy Google commercial, if they ran commercials for Google Earth. From Yahoo! News, the story of a boy from India who found his family after 25 years using Google Earth:

Saroo Brierley was only 5 when a train zoomed him hundreds of miles from home. It took 25 years and a technological revolution for him to get back

An Indian man separated from his family for 25 years has defied the odds by tracking them down — using little more than a vague recollection of his childhood and some help from Google Earth’s mapping technology.

In short, when he was 5 years old in 1987, he and his brother boarded the wrong train, thinking they were going home. They fell asleep on the train, and when they woke up, they were on the wrong side of the country, with no money. Also, he was only 5.

A tragic saga ensued. His brother died, and he was eventually declared a lost child and adopted by a family who took him to Tasmania. Tasmania is very, very far away from India.

Finally, using Google Earth and vague memories of childhood, he began searching the area around the train station until he found his hometown, Ganesh Talai. Using Facebook, he corresponded with some people from the town, and went to India and pounded pavement until he found them.

He says he plans on making a movie about the experience. I’d watch it.

Photo credit: Tasmania.A2005320.2355.250m by Jeff Schmaltz, MODIS Rapid Response Team, NASA/GSFC[see page for license], via Wikimedia Commons.