Thursday, October 19th, 2017 02:45 pm

Riding into work on the vanpool this morning, my mind started musing on transformative technologies — specifically, the beam. Just think about it for a bit. What transformed a simple small room residence into a castle was the ability to have large roofed congregating areas — great rooms. What made the Great Room possible was the beam: a single long span strong enough to support a roof without the need for pillars in the way. But what did it take to get us the simple beam?

In the days when all we had was wood, we might be lucky to find a single tree that was large enough to give us the beam, but we then had to mill it to make it be what we wanted. That milling required small metal devices: axes, saws, sawmills. This is why the ages of metals were so important: they gave us the ability to mill wood (and cook, and so many things).

Suppose we couldn’t find a single tree long enough. We might combine multiple smaller pieces to make a beam. That required two more transformative technologies: glue and the nail. We don’t often think about glue and adhesives, but they are what make it possible to create long beams by gluing together multiple small beams. These are then strengthened by nailing them together (and later, screws and bands). Nails and screws are a key technology: they allow us to fastened in a strong manner. Just think about the difference in strength between a peg and a bolt or nail.

There are other technologies that the beam leads us to. Consider beams made out of metal. That requires, at minimum, foundries and forges to make long long pieces of metal: longer than can be worked by a single individual alone. There’s also cement, which can combine with natural objects to give us concrete. Concrete allows us to move from whatever natural rock we can find into shaping rock into the image we want. In some ways, brick is less transformative, because brick requires mortar for longer pieces, and mortar can fail.

Now, when we look at today’s world, what is the key overlooked technology? Looking at the last 300 years, what invention completely transformed society? My answer is the same as was given in the classic movie The Graduateplastics.

When we think of hydrocarbons, we generally think of oil and gas and how they changed transportation and make large scale electricity possible. But now think about the role of plastics in your everyday life, and just try to imagine a world without them. Insulation on wires. Cases for computers. Uses in circuit boards. Medical uses, from syringes to pill bottles to gloves to sterile enclosures. Think of how much plastic goes into a car. Think of how much you use everyday — and how much you throw away, from sandwich bags to trash bags. Think about the use for leftovers, for piping, even in the clothes and buttons we wear.

When we worry about the impact of the cost of oil and the fact that it is a limited, non-renewable resource, think about where much of our plastic comes from. A small percentage is recycled, and a small percentage comes from renewable oil — corn, soy, etc. But the bulk? Petrochemicals.

When you look around your world, what little technologies do you realize are critical to life and society?

===> Click Here To Comment <==This entry was originally posted on Observations Along the Road as Transformative Technologies by cahwyguy. Although you can comment on DW, please make comments on original post at the Wordpress blog using the link to the left. You can sign in with your LJ, DW, FB, or a myriad of other accounts. PS: If you see share buttons above, note that they do not work outside of the Wordpress blog.

Thursday, October 19th, 2017 01:57 am

The recent flurry of “#MeToo” postings, and the responses thereto, have been quite interesting. But there’s another interesting aspect that hasn’t been explored: How they came about. Specifically, the flurry was started in reaction to an opinion piece by Mayim Bialik where something she hadn’t intended to mean was taken as offense. That aspect — taking offense — is what I’d like to discuss.

As we become more and more aware of marginalized groups, cultural approbation, sexual assault and harrassment, micro-aggression, and similar things, the more and more we see them. What was once considered innocent is now seen as offensive. A classic example from a few years ago is the winter song “Baby, It’s Cold Outside”. It is a date-rate anthem? Does it need to be written with consent in mind? Or is it just a product of its times, with a nice melody? This is true for many many songs and movies. For example, just today I saw an article in the University of Wisconsin paper reconsidering the harrassment and abuse present in Disney’s Beauty and the Beast.

I think it is all well and good that we are sensitive to these cultural artifacts. They serve as reminders of the culture we are moving from, and like any folk music, will adapt in meaning over time. There are loads of folk songs that would be so culturally insensitive today.

My question is, however, how do we respond when presented with one of these? I found a really interesting article yesterday about how someone who is culturally sensitive is still finding that they hesitate when speaking up in various forums …. because they are afraid of being misinterpreted and becoming the start of a pileup. They self-censor potentially valuable content because of fear of harassment. Here are the first few paragraphs:

Callout culture. The quest for purity. Privilege theory taken to extremes. I’ve observed some of these questionable patterns in my activist communities over the past several years.

As an activist, I stand with others against white supremacy, anti-blackness, cisheteropatriarchy, capitalism, and imperialism. I am queer, trans, Chinese American, middle class, and able-bodied.

Holding these identities scattered across the spectrum of privilege, I have done my best to find my place in the movement, while educating myself on social justice issues to the best of my ability. But after witnessing countless people be ruthlessly torn apart in community for their mistakes and missteps, I started to fear my own comrades.

Sound familiar?

Is all harassment equal? Is being ruthlessly torn apart justified in the face of a misstatement or an honest mistake (I’m not talking about trolls here)? I know that I have some friends that are strong advocates of social justice, and there are many times I would like to speak up on their posts. Yet I hesitate, because I’m afraid I’ll get it wrong and end up creating pain — especially for me. It is almost the same feeling I have regarding commenting on far right conservative friends — it’s just not worth the effort.

So, I guess the debate is: When can one be too pure? When is it better just to let the small offenses slide, working on the adage “Never ascribe to malice what you can to stupidity?”

P.S.: It’s not only men that lie to get what they want. Studies show that dogs lie too.

===> Click Here To Comment <==This entry was originally posted on Observations Along the Road as Offensive Balance by cahwyguy. Although you can comment on DW, please make comments on original post at the Wordpress blog using the link to the left you can sign in with your LJ, FB, or a myriad of other accounts. PS: If you see share buttons above, note that they do not work outside of the Wordpress blog.

Wednesday, October 18th, 2017 12:23 am

A meme is going around Facebook highlighting a draft HHS Standard that supposedly defines life as beginning at conception. As Snopes notes: “Conservatives and pro-life organizations have welcomed the change as a much-needed corrective to Obama-era policies, but women’s health and pro-choice advocates see it as a harbinger of future federal efforts to restrict access to medical services such as contraceptives and abortion.” As an example, Snopes quotes the document’s second paragraph: “HHS accomplishes its mission through programs and initiatives that cover a wide spectrum of 61 activities, serving and protecting Americans at every stage of life, beginning at conception.

I was thinking about this proposed definition this morning. In many ways, it struck me as lip-service to the notion of life beginning at conception, just as the whole abortion debate is lip-service concern about life (for, after all, if there was real concern about life, then that concern would continue after the child is born — ensuring health care and minimal living standards).

Just like we know that a concert isn’t over until the instruments stay off the stage and the house lights come up, “life begins at conception” won’t be the real until there is elimination of the birthday. After all, why celebrate the day you were born if that isn’t when your life began. Being born becomes just another milestone, like starting kindergarten or going to college. Get rid of the birthday entirely. Put the date of conception on the drivers license. All those age based limits — those are based on birthday, not conception day. You should be able to vote at 18¾. Drink at 21¾. Collect social security at 65¾.

But as long as our society remains centered around the birthday, the whole notion of “life begins at conception” is bullshit. In society, life begins when you are born or able to live independently from your parent’s body. Earlier than that, and you are theirs to do with. You are, pure and simple, a body part. You are like a fingernail, or a finger, or excess belly fat. It sounds crass, but that’s what it is. If you are unable to get a government ID card or a social security number, are you alive?


I’m not saying this all to be silly. There is a reason that the Supreme Court decided as they did in Rowe v. Wade. If the foetus cannot live independently, the mother must have the right to treat it as any other part of their body. Once it can live outside their body, it can apply for a social security number and get a birthdate. Conception date is not a birthday.

===> Click Here To Comment <==This entry was originally posted on Observations Along the Road as Essay Prompt: How Old are You? by cahwyguy. Although you can comment on DW, please make comments on original post at the Wordpress blog using the link to the left you can sign in with your LJ, FB, or a myriad of other accounts. PS: If you see share buttons above, note that they do not work outside of the Wordpress blog.

Tuesday, October 17th, 2017 06:12 pm

As I have been reading Facebook the last few days, I’ve been seeing the flurry of “MeToo” posts from far far too many of my friends. As a hetero cis man, I’ve been trying to figure out what is the proper response. At one point, I wanted to write a post about how I never understood how men could behave that way. I don’t get why men are punitive in divorces towards their partners. I don’t get why men would force themselves on someone who is unwilling. I certainly would never behave that way (or at least I thought). Then I saw a friend who had a different take on the situation, acknowledging our role in the process. Then I saw a third friend with an interesting take on how to fix the problem. Then last night, I began to wonder how this fit into my earlier discussions on Culture Wars, and how the universe of entitled “traditional” males would receive all of this. The result: This essay prompt, asking the question #NowWhat?

The impact of the Harvey Weinstein sexual abuse revelations, Mayim Bialik’s opinion piece in the NY Times, and the #MeToo response thereto has demonstrated that sexual abuse and harassment is far too prevalent in society today. As men, the question is: How do we respond? Saying “I hear you” is insufficient, as is believing that it is all those “other” men that have caused the problem. The way to move forward is to start by acknowledging our culpability as men in society, and establishing a new path forward. We also need to figure out how to address the inevitable push back that will come from the Culture Wars.

Our Culpability

In examining the part we play as men in creating the problem, we need to realize that what most of us have been taught is flawed, and it resulted in some level of flawed behavior. One friend on Facebook posted the following:

I have acted as if I was entitled to my partner(s)’s attention and body.
I have pushed boundaries to get what I wanted.
I have put my wants in front of my partner(s).
I have guilted partner(s) into feeling obligated to intimacy.
I am sorry.

Reading this, as Noel Paul Stookey said in one of his Peter, Paul, & Mary comedy routines, brought me up by the short hairs. It is highly likely that most older men have behaved in this way towards their partners or potential partners at some point in their lives. After all, we’re products of the time and society we grew up, much as we hate to admit it. Much as we might have consciously tried to avoid the behavior above, we have slipped into it a few times. As we teach our children, apologizing cannot make something right. Changing the behavior can.

But behavior towards partners is not the only place we’ve likely fucked up. Some of us may have done similar behaviors towards co-workers, friends, and colleagues. From a sexist comment, a gesture, an oogle — all can come across as a form of harassment.  There are those, I’m sure, that have done even worse. After all, all those #MeToos came from somewhere.

No one can promise that they won’t slip into that behavior at times. We’re human, and we all slip up. But the first step in not doing a behavior is realizing that you do it. Then you can be increasingly aware of when you are starting to do it again … and stop before you do.

Whether you are in your 50s like me, or a young teen or twentysomething, society has learned and changed from when you were little. What might once have been acceptable is no longer. What you see in older movies, TVs, and in popular song is not the way adults should behave today, no matter how you rationalize it. We are not entitled to anything with respect to sex or intimacy; it must be given by our partners freely, with cognizance, and without coercion.

Moving Forward

Another Facebook friend shared something from one of his friends that was a succinct summary of how to move forward. It begins by recognizing that almost all your female friends have been sexually harassed or assaulted. The harassment started when they were children. The catcalling, the groping in a crowded place, the sudden rage when a man realizes that a woman won’t sleep with them. All of them. So what do we do?

  1. Stop harassing women. That includes asking strangers to smile. That includes raging at your female friends who “friend zone” you. That includes not taking no for an answer. At this point you know what’s right and what’s wrong and what’s unwanted. Stop.
  2. Stop interrupting conversations about harassment and assault. Stop pointing out that not all men are harassers. No shit. But clearly enough do that this is a problem. You aren’t contributing
  3. Stop victim blaming. Entirely. We need to move the conversation away from what the victim could have done to prevent it. Don’t ask what they were wearing, why they were traveling alone, if they fought back, why they didn’t come forward sooner. This isn’t a problem that victims need to solve.
  4. Stop injecting yourself into the discussion. Can men be harassed and assaulted? Of course, and it’s terrible and we wish it didn’t happen. And we can have that conversation, but not while we’re talking about this. Two separate problems, two different solutions. Don’t derail this conversation so that we’re addressing that this is two problems that affects some people instead one problem that affects all women. Especially if you don’t want to talk about your experience, you’re just diluting the discussion.
  5. Shut it down when you see it. Call out harassment when you see your friends do it. Maybe they’ll change, maybe they’ll stop being your friends. Either way, call that shit out. Dudes, this is where you are most powerful. Stop letting this sort of thing be ok. Public stuff like catcalling. Private stuff like ranking women. Shut it down.
  6. Fathers, uncles, older brothers: if you have young men in your lives, teach them early about respect and consent. Don’t let them joke about a cartoon “raping their childhood” or laugh about grabbing a girl’s butt. Make sure they grow up knowing this isn’t normal and it isn’t ok. Make this behavior extinct.

To recap:

  1. Shut up
  2. Stop other dudes from harassing
  3. Make sure the young men who learn from you never start harassing.

My wife also pointed me to another list of how to treat women better from The Guardian. Here are some  items from that list (adapted just a bit); I recommend you read the full list:

  • Talk to your friend who is “kind of a creep” at work. Don’t need to literally witness a man being horrible in order to believe that he’s horrible. Trust and believe women.
  • Don’t talk over women. When you see another guy talk over a woman, say: “Hey, she was saying something.”
  • If you are asked to be on a panel/team and see that it’s all men, say something. Maybe even refuse the spot! [Read this great post by Spaf on the subject]
  • Don’t call women “crazy” in a professional setting. Don’t imply that their success due to their looks. Don’t imply their success is due to anything other than their talent and hard work. [Read this great sermon on sexism and implied sexism]
  • Don’t use your “feminism” as a way to get women to trust you. Show us in your day-to-day life, not in your self-congratulatory social media.
  • Do you feel that any woman on earth owes you something? She doesn’t. Even if you’re like, “Hm, but what about basic respect?” ask yourself if you’ve shown her the same. If you do the right thing, don’t expect praise or payment or a pat on the back or even a “thank you from that woman”. Congratulations, you were baseline decent.
  • Don’t send pictures of … anything … unless she just asked for them.
  • Consent: Obtain it, and believe “no” when it is said. If a woman says no to a date, don’t ask her again. If a woman has not given an enthusiastic “yes” to sex, back the hell off.  If a woman is really drunk, she cannot consent to you and she also cannot consent to your buddy who seems to be trying something. Your buddy is your responsibility, so say something and intervene. Don’t touch women you don’t know, and honestly, ask yourself why you feel the need to touch women in general.
  • Involve women in your creative projects, then let them have equal part in them.
  • Don’t make misogynistic jokes.
  • Don’t expect women to be “nice” or “cute” and don’t get upset when they aren’t those things.
  • Don’t make assumptions about a woman’s intelligence, capabilities or desires based on how she dresses.
  • Pay women as much as you pay men.
  • If a woman tells you that you fucked up, and you feel like shit, don’t put it on that woman to make you feel better. Apologize without qualification and then go away.
  • Don’t punish women for witnessing your vulnerability.
  • Don’t get defensive when you get called out.
  • Don’t use your power to get women’s attention/company/sex/etc. Be aware of your inherent power in situations and use it to protect women, especially via talking to other men.
  • Stop thinking that because you’re also marginalized or a survivor that you cannot inflict pain or oppress women.
  • If women’s pain makes you feel pain, don’t prize your pain above hers, or make that pain her problem.
  • Don’t read a list like this and think that most of these don’t apply to you.

If you want yet another list, here’s something from Groknation on combatting toxic masculinity.

Culture Wars

In my essay prompt on culture wars, I discussed how the “war” has come about because society is changing in a way that many don’t want. Entitlements and privileges that some segments had in the past are disappearing; the segments are also being “forced” to accept as equal segments of the population they previously viewed as inferior. A primary segment feeling this way are the cis het males in society, particularly White cis het males. This is what led to the election of Donald Trump; this is why Donald Trump’s boorish and insulting behavior towards women was ignored by this segment. Bluntly: The way they were raised, they saw nothing wrong in the behavior. Men have power and authority over women; they should use it.

Those men among us who are enlightened see the fallacy in this attitude, but then again, we see the fallacy in many attitudes of this group.

So now ask yourself:  How will this group react to the #MeToo flood. I’m sure some will be in the “They asked for it crowd.” Others will be in the “Well, I treat my wife with respect, it was some other guy.”. Even more will be: “So what?” There will also be the minority that begin to see the problem, and then ask themselves, “Who have we elected?”

But for many, this will just be another salvo in the Culture Wars. It will be yet another attack on male privilege and power, and they will likely double-down on the behavior.

We must, in response, emphasize that society has changed. As the friend from whom I snarfed #IHave said:

The good news is that our culture’s perception of sex, consent and negotiation is changing. When I was learning about this stuff, and/or trying to figure it out for myself, the assumption was that the person interested (usually a guy) would attempt to “up the game”, by kissing, touching a bit further etc. The other person (usually a woman) was expected to decline the advance at first, and then until the initiator had sufficiently turned them on to be interested in going further.

Unfortunately, this leads to a lot of cases where one person unknowingly violates another’s consent. Even worse, there are still a lot of people, on both sides, that think that it is still the way things are, or should be, done.

I can’t do anything about things that have already been done, but we can all work to prevent things from happening in the future.

We must make clear that, just like discrimination against Blacks or Jews or other racial minorities is no longer acceptable, this abuse of power and privilege is no longer acceptable. There must be freedom from real or perceived harassment, and it is our responsibility as men to set the example to simply not do it.

P.S.: To explain the user icon: This comes from a campaign in 2006 against men who believed they needed endangered sea turtle eggs as an aphrodisiac. In reality, there is only one aphrodisiac: a freely willing partner.

P.P.S. H/T (Hat tip) to those who have posted or brought to my attention things incorporated herein: David Bell (and his friend’s friend Mitch Kocen), Isaac Brynjegard-Bialik, Larry Colon, Karen Davis, and Gene Spafford.

DW Note: This is a first attempt at trying the SNAP autoposter. Expect refinements.

===> Click Here To Comment <==This entry was originally posted on Observations Along the Road as Essay Prompt: #MeToo, #NowWhat, and Culture Wars by cahwyguy. Although you can comment on DW, please make comments on original post at the Wordpress blog using the link below; you can sign in with your LJ, FB, or a myriad of other accounts. PS: If you see share buttons above, note that they do not work outside of the Wordpress blog.

Monday, October 16th, 2017 05:30 pm
Sunday afternoon we saw the first show of the 2017-2018 5 Star Theatricals (FB) Premiere season, even though we've been subscribing at the theatre for 16 years, since the 2000 season. Perhaps I should explain. Over the summer, what was Cabrillo Music Theatre was rechristened "5 Star Theatricals"; we, however, have been subscribing since Anything Goes in the Fall of 2000 (with the exception of the 2014-2015 season). Over that time, we've seen a wide variety of shows at the theatre -- including, way back in Summer 2003, a little show called Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat as part of the 2002-2003 season. As part of the 2017-2018 season, 5-Star opted to revive the show at 14 years and see if they could find something fresh in it. The result was an interesting updated take on the show: some aspects worked, and some didn't, but overall it was quite enjoyable. [I'll note that 5-Star is reviving yet another show they've done before later in the season: they last did Beauty and the Beast back in 2007, 10 years ago.]

Now, this isn't our first experience with Joseph. “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” is a late 1960’s pop cantata, 35 minutes long— it was the first published work by Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber. After the success of Jesus Christ Superstar and Evita, it was rewritten and lengthened with some novelty musical numbers — but at its heart, it is a simple pop cantata, essentially sung through.  I know, I've had the original pop cantata album for years. It tells the Biblical story of Joseph from the incident with the coat of many colors through the brothers return to Egypt through pastiches of musical styles, and is — to put it succinctly — cute. It requires some strong lead vocals, and has loads and loads of choral parts. The first time I saw the show on stage was the tour of 1982 Broadway Show when it was at the newly remodeled Pantages theatre  — in fact, I think it was one of the first shows after the remodeling. Since then, it has been lengthened a little each time it hits Broadway again. This adds material, not depth. None of this is anything to those who license it can change. The most recent time that I've seen the show was in December 2014, when it was performed by Nobel Middle School.

[Read more at]

Sunday, October 15th, 2017 07:57 am
I just posted my review of Upright Citizens Brigade at VPAC:
Saturday, October 14th, 2017 12:43 pm
Note: Automatic crossposting from Wordpress is still broken. I tried NextScripts: Social Networks Auto-Poster, at a recommendation from someone, but that isn't working either. It appears that Dreamwidth's move to all https has broken the Wordpress plugins that crosspost. A syndication has been setup at [syndicated profile] cahighways_feed  -- feel free to subscribe to that, but I urge you to comment at the Wordpress site.

Monday, October 9th, 2017 07:35 am
The LJ Cross Posting Plugin I use to post from my blog to Dreamwidth is still broken (and likely won't be updated). Until I get off my keister and find another plugin, one of my friends here was so kind as to create a syndication of the RSS feed of my blog, so you can keep up with me. Subscribe to [syndicated profile] cahighways_feed , and you can see my posts sometime after they happen. Note, however, that I may not see comments there -- you should comment on the blog directly.

Thank you for your understanding. Happy Illegal Immigration Day.