The awesome Cobwebs over at Art of Darkness (she also runs a fantabulous store at Shadow Manor) is hosting the 3rd annual Secret Santa Can Suck It, a virtual gift-swap. It’s not the swap that’s virtual, it’s the gifties.
This year, I pulled WitchArachne’s name out of a witchily webby hat. Read more >>
I have to post this, since it’s lolreligion. By now, I’m sure everyone has heard that a particular Christian called others to join in prayer at the bronze bull on wall street to ask god to “shift from the bull and bear markets to what we feel will be the ‘Lion’s Market,’ or God’s control over the economic systems”. Which itself sounds super creepy. via etal. Now, attentive biblical scholars will tell you that there is a huge difference between worshipping a golden half and worshipping a bronze bull. I mean, they’re both metal cows, but that’s where the similarity ends. God didn’t say anything about bronze bulls. Just trees, golden calfs, & so on. So, they’re obviously in the clear. Still, this is funny:
from sf_drama stolen without permission.
One of the more popular genre of games right about now is a cross between full RPG and general story game. The most highly anticipated was Fable, where you start out as a young boy and grow into a hero…or a villain. And this was the major selling point: a slightly more sophisticated Choose Your Own Adventure book, without the possibility of getting caught in an endless loop (that happen to anyone else?) or for some reason falling off a cliff face & dying, even though you’re on a pirate ship (seriously, continuity was not invented until after the 80s). Perhaps because it was so highly anticipated, Fable fell on its face (like me, off that damned cliff): the choices were either mundane (which is more evil: bread or chicken?) or bizarre (lessee: I can go on your mission or rip your head off & drink your blood); you didn’t grow up so much as wake one morning with muscles, a deeper voice, and a god complex; and clichéd (when you’re good, you glow and when you’re bad, you have flies circling your head). My major complaint about it, since all of those were actually rather charming in a strange way (one of the missions actually required that you stand in front of a cave and eat 50 live chickens to prove your evilness) was that, if you actually did all the missions before the final mission, it was far too easy.
But the point is this: I spent days playing that game. Crunchy live chicken bones and all. I’m the kind of person who explores maps in their entirety, just to make sure I didn’t miss the 3 gold that might be hiding in that garbage can. So when I got my hands on Fable, I played it through, thoroughly; but since you can’t do that and be good, I played it through again. Thoroughly. Jade Empire was my next good/evil game. I played that one through 3 times (once good, once bad, and then another two times half way through bad because there were four endings…).
The most popular is undoubtedly Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic. Morality game and you get to choose the color of your light saber’s crystal. Pure geeky fantasy.
This post came out of a comment about video games and exploration of morality. There are social rules that we live by on a day to day basis (most often not involving falling off cliffs, eating live chickens, or light saber dilemmas). The little moralities of “should I speed” or “whose pen is this” are petty next to the epic good vs. evil that’s waiting at home on a shiny silver disc.
Not only are these games popular as a genre, they’re starting to bleed into the other genres. Mass Effect, which as far as I could tell was a Halo-meets-EVN knock off had “being evil” an option in most of your choices. This caused my husband to play it through twice: once as a beautiful but tough woman with a nice ass (since the third-person perspective meant that was what you got to see of her most of the time) and once as a large man with a larger nose and a scar over his eye. Nothing subtle there.
What do these [socially acceptable] role-playing games show us about ourselves and others? In the safe space between the video game and you, the opportunity to do anything you want to exists. Will you fire at those ugly aliens and become humanity’s hero? Or will you negotiate with them and become the peacemaker? Either way, you’ll get XP and renown, so the choice really is completely up to the player. Incidentally, I don’t know anyone who plays these games down the middle: I’ll negotiate with these aliens but blow the next ones out of the sky. Everyone hits the extreme.
Is our world so grey that we need these little hits of good vs. evil? Or do we all secretly wish that we were saints (or satans)?
I know I have a (possibly not that hidden) dark streak: I’ve always been the black mage, the live chicken eater, the Marauder. I also don’t often work well in parties. I could go all sorts of places analyzing those two statements…
This is a beautiful story from a favorite blogger, discussing why she gives money to beggars on the street. To religionists who say that morality may only come from the Divine, I give you this story. Love for fellow man need not be based in religion. This is a simple story that affected one person’s life in a manner that will affect many others.
First thing that entertains me about these shots is that they were taken with the same flash—and the background to the white one is darker.
First thing that you’ll probably notice is that my head is missing. So are my pants (and I did wear underwear). This is a response to this (solidarity, sister), which is a response to this, which is a response to this.
I think at this point, we’ve moved past the question of which is better: black or white and on to the question of what’s the difference of response to John in (just) a shirt vs. to me in (just) a shirt.
So: objectify away! Which is better: Black or white? Which is more normative: male or female? Which do you prefer (regardless of sexual preference, although that information might make it interesting)?
There’ve been a couple articles about gender & children’s clothing that recently got me thinking. One of my sisters has 4 boys and one girl (the youngest). Her boys all wear hand-me-downs (as I remember doing, myself), but the girl has new clothes. New, pink clothes. Sometimes not pink but instead lavender and frilly. I’ve never seen her in pants. This is absolutely baffling to me.
As the first article discusses, this is mostly a function of culture. Baby clothes simply do not exist for girls that aren’t gendered. The “neutral” (and perhaps “normal”) clothes are for boys. While the “of course boys can’t wear girls’ clothes but girls can wear boys’ clothes” aspect of this annoys me, what is really interesting to me is how important this early cultural gendering is. Obviously important enough that it doesn’t even occur to most people that it’s going on. By the time a girl grows up, she’s spent so much time playing with dolls, ironing fake clothes, and looking “cute” that she doesn’t even realize she has choices available to her. By the time a boy grows up, he’s spent so much time playing with action figures, putting out fake fires, and looking “tough” that he doesn’t realize he has choices available to him. This is why it’s so hard, as an adult or near-adult for either to be taken seriously in the fields that culturally are peopled by people of the opposite gender (male nurses, female techs).
The second article is interesting because it shows how pervasive these cultural norms are. To the point that western cultural assumptions have bled into cultures that may have other cultural gender norms. Which serves as an introduction to the third article, which claims that the pink-blue paradigm is universal and not cultural at all. They claim that, since they used Chinese children in the study, this proves that pink is universally “female”. The second article, of course, debunks this, although it would be interesting to see what colors children from cultures who have not been subjected to western influences might prefer.
[I was looking for an article I read awhile ago about how the pink-blue has switched; that in Victorian times, pink was seen as a color for boys since red was bold and manly (like blood) and pink was pastel color—appropriate for children. If anyone can find it, please let me know, I'd like to know I didn't just completely make that up...]
I just have to post this to all and sundry: perhaps Fry’s is trying to make a new image for itself. Perhaps this is one lone, respectful employee. Perhaps the stars were aligned or the interaction was so short he didn’t have a chance to insult me. Perhaps the Fry’s in Woodland Hills is different from all other Fry’ses. Here is my story, as I just explained it to Fry’s website’s Contact Us form:
I just got home from the Fry’s in Woodland Hills and I have to say, I am very impressed.
I choose to go to Fry’s because I know that, whatever I need, Fry’s will have it and have it at a good price. When I choose not to go to Fry’s, it is because it is difficult if not impossible to find one item in the warehouse of a store and it is unlikely that I shall get any help from knowledgeable sales staff.
Today, you proved me wrong. I went to Fry’s looking for one item, looked for it briefly in the area it should logically be, and then asked the first salesperson I could find for it. Not only did I have no trouble finding a sales person, the sales person knew what I was talking about! Read more >>
Microfinance is the lending and borrowing of (relatively) small amounts of money. Generally, the lender is a (relatively) rich Westerner and the borrower a poor citizen of a developing country. And I don’t mean relatively poor; I mean abject poverty, where $25 to buy a goat means the difference between being able to feed your children and death. 95% of the world lives on less than $1.25 per day. 95% of the world lives on less than most Americans spend daily on a cup of coffee. I say relatively rich because most people consider themselves to be middle class and because “rich” is a very relative term (Can I make impulse buys? Absolutely. But when was the last time I gave a grant to fund education? Umm, how ’bout, not even thinking I might reach that in my lifetime.). I feel it’s necessary to define these terms & to use them, because generally speaking, they’re terms people are not comfortable with.
I have often heard that giving money and providing education to the world’s poorest women is the surest way to lift whole communities out of poverty. Some say that this is because they reinvest in their families (and certainly, an educated mother would be sure to continued to educate her daughters), but it may also be because women do the bulk of the unpaid work—making them necessarily more industrious, or because the means of wealth are often controlled by the communities’ men. Very often, minimal (Western) amounts can accomplish this: $10, $20, $50. Sometimes, however, more is needed: $1000 to start a small business, for example. And this is where microfinance comes in.
An entrepreneur goes to a local bank (sometimes with 3 additional borrowers as security for one another) and the local bank gets money from Western givers. This is a fantastic deal for the “microentrepreneur” and not a bad one for the knowledgeable Westerner. For the most part, these are “loans” to the borrower but “gifts” to the “lender”. The local bank gets the money and charges interest on it to cover overhead. The Westerner never sees their money again, but gets warm fuzzies.
I recently attended a conference where the founder of Kiva, a microfinance/social networking site, gave a talk about Kiva’s business model. The local bank charges between 20% and 30% interest (which someone put into perspective as being close to the 18% we pay for unsecured loans/credit cards), essentially pocketing the difference. Now, I’m as charity-minded as the next person, but I’m not currently in a position to give away money $1000 at a time.
I am, however, what most Western financial institutions consider a “micro” investor: I have less than $100 000 to invest (a lot less, but that seems to be the general cut-off). I see a huge market for putting my money (that I want to invest) to work in the hands of poor microborrowers across the world (or even here at home). I’m certainly not expecting 30% interest (although, wouldn’t that be great?) but would expect some kind of (at least anticipated) return. Calvert, the “socially responsible” institution my investments are with is considering diversifying into this field but as near as I can tell has not yet done so.
Here. I’ve heard the argument represented in the graph before but, as they say, this is worth 1000 words.
It’s been a while since we had any tea-related postings although tea has been on my mind of late. My good friend, Onigiri, has taken to calling me a tea snob, which I readily admit to, but how did I get that way?
My step-mother-in-law got me into tea big time, while at the same time getting me deeper into pens than I already was. Perhaps she simply validated my pen thing. I started realizing that there was life beyond (and I shudder to think this, now) Constant Comment and Lipton. But I was still very much a bagged tea kind of person. The fact that I am no longer can be illustrated by the following two stories, that Onigiri can testify to:
The moment that I became the tea snob that I am was a moment a few years ago, when my step-mother-in-law was visiting. She woke early and, finding no loose tea in the house, proceeded to rip open some tea bags to make a pot of tea. In the process, she left me with a counter covered in unbagged tea, ripped bags, and a pile of shredded tea at the bottom of my pot. (When tea is bagged, it is shredded, so that it steeps even though it’s confined in a bag.) I immediately went out and bought her favorite tea loose, that I might have it on hand for her next visit.
But then I drank it all. And while I hope never to get to the ripping-bags-open level of tea snobbery, I definitely appreciate the fact that there is a difference between bagged and loose. So now I have mostly loose tea in my home. I have a few exceptions, mostly for teas I really like and simply can’t find loose, but for the most part, I prefer loose tea.
“Hypermiling” has become all the rage in the media sources I frequent (in order of its appearance: Wired, NPR, and GroovyGreen), but it’s always seemed too dangerous and requiring too much thought. I learned to drive on the Autobahn, where there is no speed limit, only a minimum, and a posted “recommendation” of 120kph (about 75mph); where I rarely went less than 160kph, and often had occasion to cruise closer to 200kph (about 125mph); where I once hit 210kph and still got passed.
But the most recent article in GroovyGreen (linked to above) and my most recent fill-up of $60 convinced me that I needed to do something to change my driving habits. So I turned cruise control on (this is a switch on my car, so it stays on even when I turn off the car) and set it whenever I can. Here comes the kicker: I set it to the speed limit. This is new to me and has brought greater zen to my driving. I hang out in the slow lane, passing slower cars languidly, merging away from on-ramps and vehicles on the shoulder, and getting passed by just about everyone. And it doesn’t bother me. Tailgaters amuse me and I no longer antagonize them (I have been known to turn my lights on to simulate brake lights, or simply brake…). I generally stay in the lane that is going my speed, merging away for faster cars when necessary.
I haven’t yet had to fill up again, so I can’t yet say whether this has made any difference to my pocketbook, but it does leave me arriving calmer, driving more nicely, and I’ve not noted any real change in the amount of time it takes me to get places. Ten to twenty miles per hour difference only makes a difference if you can maintain that speed for close to an hour.