pktechgirlbackup: (pktechgirl)
Via Captain Awkward, I would like to present this perfect, succinct definition of Ask vs. Guess culture, which I am going to rename the Ask-Guess Continuum because why have a dichotomy when it could be a continuum?

Given the choice, I think I'd push my culture further towards the ask side. And yet, my immediate response to this article was to list the ways Ask culture is terrible. I think what I'm actually reacting to is the fact that people can be jerks under both systems, and either ask-jerks are more obnoxious, or I've just run into them more recently.

First, there are the people who say (implicitly or explicitly) they are participating in ask culture, but get really mad when they don't get the answer they want. Presumably they would be just as mad about not getting what they want under a guess culture system. Given the guess level of the current system, saying direct nos to these people feels worse than indirectly refusing guessers. This is on my mind recently because there is someone out there who is very angry at me, and phrases it as a reaction to me being rude and uncommunicative, when I in fact very clearly and respectfully communicated something they didn't want to hear. Okay, fine, I communicated it imperfectly but way clearer and more respectfully than they are giving me credit for. And it hurts, knowing that I pushed myself out of my comfort zone a bit, and it was taken so poorly.

Second, there is the issue I talked about here, in which my main thesis was that when you are operating outside a social norm, you incur some extra obligation to engage in smoothing behaviors, even when the norm is stupid. That holds true for ask/guess culture.

Third, no matter how far on the ask continuum you are, there is always information in the asking. Take this letter from Carolyn Hax. A woman asked her fiance if they could shorten a date so she could catch up with a friend. He said yes, but later expressed unhappiness that she had even asked. On first glance, it looks like he expected her to be psychic, which is unfair. But on second, I think he actually had a reasonable point. First, his complain wasn't "I said yes and you believed me", it was "you asked." Hax unpacks how this unfairly places the decision burden this places on him, and it's all true.

But there is also the fact that the asking contains information. She isn't definitely saying she values her friend more than him, but it that is one reasonably possible condition that could lead to that question, and she isn't doing anything to alleviate it. [date proceeds without being questioned] > [Fiance blows off date to talk with friend] > [Fiance honors date, but you know she's rather be talking with her friend] is a valid preference set.

Another angle: asking to reschedule communications potential data on three things:

  1. How much he would enjoy spending that time with her
  2. His perception of how much she enjoys spending time with him
  3. His perception of how much she values his time

Even the most graciously accepted no would only remove questions about #1, leaving #2 or #3 in doubt. Which doesn't mean you can never ask, or never reschedule. But it does mean that if you don't take time to address *all* the issues asking brings up, they're justified in drawing some data and having feelings about it.

More generally, both foot-in-the-door and door-in-the-face techniques are real phenomenon. Asking a question has an effect independent of the answer, and I want to keep that in mind as I personally transition into a more ask-oriented world.
pktechgirlbackup: (pktechgirl)
Having taken a stand disparaging charitable gifts of goods over gifts of money, I feel obliged to report that I just donated a physical good. My employers gave me a piece of expensive electronics, and I passed it on to Treehouse For Kids, who will offer it in their !store for foster kids. Here is why I think it was okay:

  • The ratio of dollar value to physical mass and volume is quite high.
  • I already have the device and I'm not allowed to sell it, so giving them money isn't an option.
  • Even if I did give them the money, they don't buy this item in bulk, and while they may sometimes get opportunistic discounts, they do not have a regular supply.
  • I checked, and this is a type of item they have great demand for.
  • The fact that they are getting one unique item is not a problem, because one of their core competencies is accepting material donations and distributing them. They have chosen to prioritize variety over economies of scale.
  • I get a warm fuzzy feeling from being able to give something really cool and brand new to a kid who gets too litle of both.

So all in all: if I had $600 cash I wanted to donate, I should give them the cash, not buy and donate electronics. But given that I have a $600 toy I don't want and no way to turn it into cash, donating it to them is still a net good.

I suppose I should also note I donate to thrift stores all the time. I don't turn down the tax deduction for it, but I don't put that in the same category of giving as donating money or even this toy. That is a way to get rid of my stuff that gives someone else an opportunity to get some use out of it, and lessen the landfill load.
pktechgirlbackup: (pktechgirl)
I am very glad to see people acknowledging and examining social norms, and pushing back when appropriate. Many social norms don't work, or don't work for particular people, or used to work but could be replaced by something better now, and I'm glad we're calling them into question.


The fact that social norms have been used to oppress people for a long time, and that fighting back against those is good, is not carte blanche to pretend they don't exist. Let me give you a few examples.

I had a professor whose "I'm thinking about your interesting question" face was indistinguishable from most people's "I'm in incredible pain" face. He could have tried to conform to the social norm of what an "interested face" looked like, but it probably wouldn't have worked. He could have spent a lot of time lambasting students for not accepting his facial expressions as they were, or just wondering why kids these days were so quiet. What he actually did was announce his pattern in the first day of class, that in fact the more pained he looked the better we should feel about our question. And he lived up to that, and found other ways to demonstrate his appreciation of all questions throughout the class. To me, this is the perfect example of how to be when you don't fit into social norms in ways that are keeping you from getting what you want (in this case, student engagement): acknowledge the norm, explain how you are different and how you hope people will interpret your actions, and go out of your way to affirm people's code-switching efforts.

A PT I saw would be an example of a bad handling of divergence from norms. This PT charges for things other PTs don't. I'm okay with this, and in fact think that the current model of medical business where you charge for face time and only face time is harmful to all parties. I think you can do that without nickle and diming patients or in any way operating in bad faith. But. Given that face-time-only is the predominant model, I think she has an ethical obligation to go very out of her way to warn patients about her policy ahead of time- and that warning them means doing so in ways that are unambiguous in the current climate, where people will assume certain services are included for free unless explicitly told otherwise .

Lastly: I have a friend of a friend who brides herself on keeping good boundaries. Like all people who talk loudly about being good at something, she is terrible at it.* She thinks she is good at boundaries because when someone says a clear, unambiguous no, she doesn't fight it. In some contexts, that would be sufficient. In current American culture, dodging a question five times and displaying avoidant body language is understood to be an unspoken no. Missing/ignoring that is not only rude, it's informative. People are allowed to conclude from her behavior that she is a person who does not hear no, and to make predictions about her future behavior based on data from other people who don't hear no. Such as "she is not safe, and something so rude as a direct rebuke will make her even less safe."

There's a lot of room for debate here on when the aggrieved party is expecting boundary-violator to be psychic and sense the boundary without any clues, and when the boundary violator is refusing to respect "nos" except for those given in very specific formats (which can very easily be used as cover for violating boundaries until the risk of social punishment is sufficiently high). There are people who have sufficiently different zones of comfort that they can't be functional friends, and that doesn't automatically make either of them bad.

ASDers are the obvious example of people who just can't pick up on socially-expected cues, but I don't think you need to fit into an established pattern in order to avoid having your weaknesses viewed as moral flaws. Under my paradigm, the correct thing to do is what my professor did: tell people you miss these cues**, but respecting their boundaries is really important to you, so please tell you as directly as possible. You acknowledge that this is asking them to do some additional work to accommodate you. And then you accept it and thank people when they do so, even when it hurts. You accept a duty to respond well to very direct statements of discomfort beyond what would be expected from others***, because you have removed a set of options from people's toolboxes. You do not insist that they are rude for violating a social contract you have walked away from.

In some ways this is unfair, and I think I might have gone too far. I cherrypicked examples where either the norms were well intentioned, or there was some affirmative moral obligation on the part of the norm-violator to be extra straightforward. Lots of times norms are used to oppress people and it's not fair to say they can only get out of them by doing more work. There's a lot more here to work through.

*She also hates drama.

**As opposed to "these cues are stupid".

***There are limits, of course.
pktechgirlbackup: (pktechgirl)
Everyone reading this should know that except under very specific circumstances you donate cash to charity, not goods. And you never, ever, ever buy goods for the purpose of donation. Either acknowledge this charity is better than you at fulfilling its goal or do it yourself.

Work is having a big donation drive for an anti-starvation-in-Africa charity. Specifically, they distribute plumpynuts. It's pissing me off on a number levels. For one, I don't like a large, rich corporation trying to tell me the moral thing to do with my money. I work for them, they pay me, end of transaction. TI love their donation matching program, but that is them being generous with *their* money towards a thing *I* chose. This is pretty much the opposite.

Second, I don't like the charity. It advertises itself as "curing hunger", when what it means is "give profoundly malnourished child nourishment for six weeks". Hunger isn't a disease you catch and fight off and then it's all good. Unless you've fixed the underlying conditions that led to that starvation, you've done nothing. At best. There's a million ways charity can make things worse.

it nags at me because the African poor are objectively worse off than the American poor that are helped by the charities I donate to (Modest Needs and Treehouse for Kids). I give to those American-focused charities anyway because I feel competent to asses their goals, approach, and a bit of their implementation. Not perfectly competent, because the whole transaction is premised on them having better information than me, but competent enough to be confident enough I'm not making things worse. But in the back of my mind I keep thinking "when it's your kid, it's priceless." I feel like I'm throwing up my hands and saying "sorry African kids, I'm going to leave you to suffer specifically because your suffering is so immense."

I guess the fact that this bothers me so much means I should at least look around for good charities addressing 3rd world poverty. I feel helpless in the face of it, but there are indirect routes. If I can't asses efficacy directly, I can find people who do, and I can assess them. It's not perfect, but I don't think perfection is a fair expectation here
pktechgirlbackup: (pktechgirl)
You're allowed to have novels with strong characterizations but weak world-building, why not the reverse? Twice in the last month I've read books with really interesting settings, settings I would happily have read novel-length descriptions of, but found anything involving the characters' actions or emotions terminally dull. Come to think of it, that's how I read Song of Ice and Fire: I gave up on the novels, but I will spend hours on wiki pages explaining the world. And yet I don't want to name the two books I'm thinking of now, because describing them as "Awesome if you just skip the 1/3 of the book where things happen" feels mean.
pktechgirlbackup: (pktechgirl)
I'm trying to lead up to a big post on affirmative action, but I keep getting side tracked by other things I need to explain first. So here's my latest one: I think discrimination against women and LGBT people is fundamentally different than racial discrimination.

I ran into someone at a party last week who gave me some really awesome career advice. She didn't know me very well, but then it didn't take much effort from her to be really helpful to me, and most people like feeling helpful. I may never see her again, but then I may never again see the man whose brother I saved from wasting four years at Digipen either, and I still feel good about telling him to direct his brother towards a real CS degree. And there are probably thousands of smaller examples of people I knew socially moving something from unknown to known that have benefited me.

Men probably get more of this. It is mostly men in power, and people especially like to help people who remind them of themselves. But the only thing keeping those men from helping me are their choices and mine. I run into men with power as much as my male friends in similar jobs and social strata, and if those men started evenly distributing their largess, I'm in position to benefit. Similarly, while LGBT people face horribly discrimination, as soon as people stop doing that, the wound will close.

This is substantially less likely to be true if you're black, because black people are significantly more likely to be poor. Even if you're black and have money, most of the people you know and are related to don't. I spent my entire life preparing for four-year undergrad college and then grad school, and while it was stressful as hell, it was also very known. Just considering a different kind of schooling (and funding type) after 8 years in the workforce is scaring me; I can't imagine what it's like doing it at 17 when no one you know has been to college.

There are white people with these difficulties too, of course. I know some of them. Part of me thinks it's not fair to devalue their struggle just because of their skin color, but then I remember that white privilege is a thing, and the fact that it would be unfair to group certain people together as then declare that group worse off in an alternate universe does not have a lot of bearing on what I should do in this universe, where there is systemic discrimination.

Because women and gay people don't come from women and gay people, the impact of discrimination isn't heritable.* And that's before taking into account how much easier it is to get white men to empathize with someone who reminds them of their sister or cool uncle. And thus there will be substantially less overlap in remedy than a naive interpretation would have you believe.

*Fun fact: the way heritability is defined scientifically, sex is not heritable. The difference between heritability and genetic determinability is is important to keep in mind when reading genetics studies.
pktechgirlbackup: (pktechgirl)
Another metaprinciple is "equality." What do you do if you have an opportunity to advance one of your principles, but only for some people? For example, the GI Bill that sent WW2 veterans to college. I haven't thoroughly researched it, but my gut feeling is that was a pretty good idea: it rewarded people for risking themselves in the one war no one has moral qualms about, it was short term economically beneficial by mitigating a post-war recession caused by a sudden glut of labor during a simultaneous demand drop, it was long term economically beneficial by raising the education level of the country at a time when we had a shortage of educated workers.

The G.I. Bill as written was race neutral, but it was implemented by people, and people implemented it in a racist way. Black soldiers were guided/nudged/pushed disproportionately into trade schools, sent to worse trade schools for worse trades than their white equivalents, and disproportionately denied aid entirely. Even if aid distribution had been truly proportionate, you had to be admitted to a school in order to attend, and universities admissions were still quite racist. There are some very good HBCUs, but not enough to absorb so many new students.

So the bill will disproportionately help poor white people over black people. It may well widen the wealth gap as measured in dollars. But the poorer you are, the more utility you get out of each dollar, and poor black people have fewer alternatives than poor white people. Trade school isn't Harvard, but it might still be better than nothing. Tressie Cottom says functionally the same thing about grad school. It might have a terrible average payoff and have an even worse payoff for black students, but it still might be the best option for some black people, at a higher rate than it is the best option for white people.

[Please also read this account of a VA bureaucrat trying to talk a black veteran out of attending a 4 year school he was already admitted to. The counselor couldn't legally say no, but he did everything he could to deny the man his rights. Now read Tressie Cottom's post on how dressing "up" enabled her mother to convince government workers to give her benefits she was entitled to but otherwise would have been denied. ]

So if you're president in 1944, what is the moral thing to do? Is helping some worse than helping none? What about minimum wage laws that exclude primarily-black occupations? Great Depression public works programs that will only hire white workers? A universal health care program that leaves care of the absolute poorest to the states, and states with high numbers of poor POCs are refusing to participate?

[Full disclosure: I opposed the Affordable Care Act act at the time for many reasons, but I have to admit I was against universal health care. Now I see a place for it, but maintain my belief that the ACA was one of the absolute worst implementations that could possibly exist.]
pktechgirlbackup: (pktechgirl)
There's a category of things I call metaprinciples. It includes things like states rights and libertarianism. There is never a situation involving just these principles, you can only apply them to other principles. For example, in deciding whether to support a federal law on credit card disclosures, you must both decide how you feel about the actual disclosure, how you feel about it being mandated at all, and how you feel about the federal government being the one doing the mandating.

When you have a metaprinciple and a controversial issue, you have two options:

  1. Only invoke the metaprinciple when it gets the answer your primary principle suggests, e.g. "I'm for states rights when they're passing abortion restrictions, but not when the state is allowing Terry Schiavo to be taken off life support." Opponents will accuse you of hypocrisy and the population at large will dismiss the metaprinciple as political noise.
  2. Invoke the metaprinciple even when you find the particular application bad or even abhorrent, e.g. "I want women to receive equal pay for equal work, but don't want a law mandating such". Opponents will accuse you of holding the opposite view on the primary principle (in this case, "you must want not care if women are underpaid" or even "you must think women deserve less").

Of course, that's only for important and controversial issues. If you ever bring up a metaprinciple in regards to a non-controversy, you will be called pedantic and annoying. See this Colber Report clip:

The Colbert Report
Get More: Colbert Report Full Episodes,Video Archive

Summary: a woman attempts to poison someone and is convicted under a federal chemical weapons treaty statute. She challenges on 10th amendment grounds and it reaches the Supreme Court (Bond v. United States). Colbert's response "I've always said poisoning was a state's rights issue." Because if you challenge the methods you must oppose the outcome.

I believe that your commitment to metaprinciples is measured by how much violate of your primary principles it will make you tolerate. In what meaningful sense can you be said to value something unless it changes your actions or beliefs? This makes it frustrating for me when proponents of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009 accuse opponents of hating women, with no further evidence. It erases the possibility of someone genuinely wanting fair pay and genuinely wanting something else even more.*

Of course, many people are committing choice #1 from above and using a metaprinciple to justify something they wanted to do anyway. You can prove this by looking up their record and finding situations they advocated the opposite, but it's time consuming and much less satisfying.

The other reason metaprinciples are meta is they are often shorthand for primary principles that look unrelated to the question at hand. For example, I think discrimination based on race is morally wrong. But I think private individuals (and thus the companies they own) have an absolute right to choose who they hire and fire, that anti-discrimination laws violate that by making them prove their decisions were just. I worry that this power could be used to for evil, like deny unemployment to anti-government activists, or even allow individual employees to punish their personal enemies.

Of course, the Civil Rights Act and Ledbetter decision suppose the government *does* have that right, they're just arguing over how long it has to enforce it.**

If I say this, and my opponents understand it, we can argue about the second order effects of the laws and come to conclusions about the relative costs and benefits. We might disagree, and I might maintain that the law of unintended consequences means we are likely to underestimate costs, but at least it could be an honest debate.

*In the particular case of the fair pay portion of the Civil Rights Act, that could either be "the federal government has no standing to intervene in private contracts" or the more practical "It is impossible for a jury to evaluate the merits of a wage decision made 50 years ago and I do not believe the documentation costs and uncertainty this law would impose on corporations, some of which will come in the form of reduced risk taking, justifies the benefits for women. I'm worried it may even come back to bite women, Americans with Disabilities Act-style" or even "I want the statute of limitations to extend from last the last paycheck and believe it would be constitutional, but also believe the text of this specific law mandates first paycheck and believe observing the text of laws is important. I support passing the Ledbetter act to change this."

**Although enforcement, and paying for it, falls to the individual. This is one reason I hate these laws: invoking them requires a certain about of social and economic capital, and the more of these people have the less they need the protection. You're imposing a burden on companies to protect themselves from law suits (expensive even if they never lose. Expensive even if a suit is never brought) to give people above a certain critical threshold a tool to get richer, while leaving the truly poor (in money or knowledge or connections) out in the cold. That there are charities that occasionally enable people below the threshold to use the law is great, but insufficient.
pktechgirlbackup: (pktechgirl)
You could be forgiven for thinking that getting "The HPV Vaccine", or worse, "The Cervical Cancer Vaccine" means you will never get HPV and/or cancer, because that's what a lot of news coverage has indicated, and because public health workers tend to overpromise and obscure details in order to motivate. The truth is that there are many strains of HPV (NIH says >100), there's no reason to believe our list is comprehensive, and a vaccine against one is not necessarily effective against another.

That's okay. HPV is incredibly common, to the point that some scientists think some strains be commensal. That makes it hard to prove what it's effects are: does increased prevalence of strain in renal patients mean it causes renal disease, that it's harmless but increases in prevalence in response to renal stress, or that it's harmless in healthy patients but harmful in the quantities seen in renal patients?

What we can agree on: some strains cause warts. Warts won't kill you, but they can hurt and create a vulnerable point other infections could use. How bad is that? For a modern American who wears shoes all day, plantar (foot) warts are more likely to harm you through bad ergonomics than an opportunistic infection.* If you are poor and shoeless in a sub-saharan Africa that vulnerability is a really big deal. Genital warts make it easier to catch another STD, but the exact probability HPV leads you to another STD you wouldn't otherwise have caught depends on the STD status of the people you have sex with.

We also agree that HPV can cause cancer. You can't prove it's impossible to get cervical cancer without it, but it's probably safe to say that if you do so you've either been storing nuclear waste in your vagina or severely pissed off a vengeful deity. Now that we're looking for it we're also finding certain strains associated with penile, rectal, and oral cancers.

Given that there are a large and growing number of identified HPV strains, some of which might even be beneficial**, and each strain must be separately cultured, increasing expense how do you decide which to vaccinate against ? When making Gardasil, Merck chose four strains, two of which caused 90% of genital warts, and two of which caused 70% of cervical cancer.

Or did they? New data is out suggesting that the vaccine is less useful in black women than white women because black women are more likely to have strains the vaccine doesn't cover. Some people are describing this as "less effective in black women", but that's misleading. As far as we know the vaccine is equally effective against the strains it claims to be effective against*** on a biological level. It's just not useful because black women are much more likely to be exposed to strains the vaccine doesn't protect against. By far the simplest explanation is that whatever study generated the prevalence estimates oversampled white women.

This demonstrates a couple of things. One, the importance of sampling across the entirety of the population you want the data to apply to even if you are really, really sure they're genetically identical. I would not be at all surprised to discover geographic differences in strain distribution. But if I'm correctly interpreting this newspaper article with no link to the underlying study, participants were recruited at the same site and so roughly the same geographic area. Assuming no racial influences on susceptibility or response, this suggests that white and black women, and their partners, are swimming in entirely separate sexual pools.

I'm not that naive. I knew people tended to have sex primarily with same-race partners. But my epidemiology intuition says it shouldn't take *that much* cross over for strains to reach prevalences much closer than what's being reported here, because once a strain has crossed over, it should rapidly colonize a wide open pool.

Alternate possibilities:
  • exposure to one strain makes you resistant but not immune to another, so which you strain you have is correlated much more heavily with early sexual partners than later ones. Without looking it up I'm pretty sure people's first partners are much more likely to be the same race as them. This suggests that the wrong-strain vaccines are still likely to be some helpful, but not as helpful as the right strain.
  • People who engage in interracial sex are atypical in their engagement with their own race. They might have fewer partners, observe a higher standard of sexual safety. or have sex nearly exclusively with members of that race, making them part of that cluster.
  • the true clustering is around a factor other than race but with a heavily non-random distribution, like location or SES.

    *True story: the only time I've ever used crutches is after having a plantar wart burnt off.

    **Commensal is defined as one side (HPV) benefiting and the other side (humans) receiving no benefit. However, if harmless HPV is taking up space on our skin that would otherwise be occupied by something damaging, that's a benefit, like those spiders that avoid humans and eat black widows. Or the HPV could be involved in some weird but ultimately beneficial cycle with the bacteria on our skin. We don't understand the ecosystems within our own bodies at all, and our overconfidence at what can be safely removed has caused a lot of trouble over the years.

    ***Never say never, but I'd be shocked if the per-strain effectiveness differed significantly between races, because even if there was a genetic component, race is a stupid categorization that tells you very little about an individual's genetics.
  • pktechgirlbackup: (pktechgirl)
    When the Mother Jones article on worker condition inside an Amazon warehouse came out, I was not sympathetic. Yes, the company wants you to work fast. I don't consider it damning that a writer on an assignment was unable to meet quota for a highly physical job. Okay, it sounds mean that they will fire you for saying "This is the best I can do" but again, they have the right to retain the fastest workers. It is weird that they will fire you for missing a day your first week, no matter what the excuse, but then hire you back. That's expensive to them and could be fixed with some discretion. And not giving employees lockers is a total dick move. They can't even keep their keys or phones on them in the warehouse, so they have to hide them and pray. Making all the employees break at once is pretty cruel too, given the bottlenecks of metal detector and bathroom.

    Debt talks a lot about how slavery, debt, and ripping people from their contexts are intimately linked. Slaves don't get to have social networks like owners, or even poor free people. Slavery often originates as a way of paying off debts/response to debts unable to be paid. Debt itself is about removal of context- people will do things to get out of debt they never would have for the the same amount of money outright. People will accept treatment of debtors for being debt that they would never accept as conditions for getting out of whatever caused the debt in the first place. Somehow the gap between original conditions (sick child) and when the payment comes due changes the moral calculus. And since money's entire purpose is to reduce the context necessary for economic exchange, it does the same thing.

    I've had shitty jobs, but I never had a McJob, and I am beginning to recognize the importance of that distinction. I have never felt interchangeable. My shittiest job was summer school tutor. The teachers didn't even want me, my position was funded by a federal grant meant mostly to help the tutors themselves, finding people qualified to take the position would have been trivial... and yet, once I was in the classroom and working with kids, I was an individual with an individual position. I was not irreplaceable, but replacing me had a cost. If I had screwed up, the school would have had reason to pause before letting me go. The thing about McJobs is that no matter how good you are at them, you're replaceable. Even the fastest warehouse picker can be replaced by a finite number of other pickers. It's not until you get late 90s level unemployment levels that unskilled labor any leverage over your employers.

    Which explains the unmeetable picker quotas. But why can't they get some g-ddamned lockers? I know the employees are replaceable and the margins low, but I can't imagine there wouldn't be some productivity benefit to employees not spending their entire workday wondering if their car will be there when they get back, and that that benefit exceeds the cost of the lockers. I'm having trouble typing this because I feel like a dirty commie*, but I believe my friends' explanations that it's a deliberate attempt to keep the workers down. That if you consistently tell them they're not even worth lockers, they won't be able to ask for more. I've talked about government and sick systems in poverty, and those are at least nominally designed to help people. Corporations will proudly state they're not allowed to have morals.

    Yesterday I talked about the gaslighting involved in subtle racism: why wouldn't the same thing apply here? Once you've accepted that employers want you to fear losing your phone every day, it's not crazy to wonder if they're deliberately setting your quota beyond what a mortal is capable of so they can yell at you. Especially when they will fire you for not promising to try harder, regardless of what your numbers do. Maybe the McWorkers aren't in a position to judge exactly where economic rationality ends and arbitrary cruelty begins and letting that devalue their point is choosing to let the toxin win.

    *And then I swing around to "only an unfeeling neocon would be feeling that"
    pktechgirlbackup: (pktechgirl)
    Like rape jokes, I think jokes about racism are powerful and important, and follow roughly the same rules: kick up, don't minimize, don't use it cheaply, and remember that people are worse than you can possibly imagine and your obvious caricature of how awful an opinion is is someone else's reality. I have less freedom to joke about race and racism than rape, because I'm white (which is totally fair and not me being oppressed), but that is not the same as saying white comedians can't talk about race. For example, please enjoy this clip from my go-to social justice comedian, Louis CK*

    [Louis CK: Being White]

    Key phrase: "I'm not saying that white people are better. I'm saying that being white is clearly better"

    Or Wanda Sykes on reverse racism:

    Key phrase: "That's not reverse racism. What you're afraid of is called karma"

    Or Chris Rock on when white people can say the word nigger.

    ETA: Lenny Bruce on the word nigger.

    On the other hand, I have really limited sympathy when your entire schtick is using emotionally charged words, and someone becomes emotional in response to them This seems to be Sarah Silverman's problem. In her autobiography The Bedwetter she talks about telling the following joke on Conan:

    I got jury duty … and I didn't want to go, so my friend said, "You should write something really really racist on the form when you return it. Like, you should put 'I hate chinks'." And I said, "I'm not going to put that on there just to get out of jury duty. I don't want people to think that about me." So instead I wrote, "I love chinks." And who doesn't?
    Note: the original slur was nigger, but NBC made her change it to chink. So it's not like anyone was unaware what the driving force of the joke was.

    In her autobiography, Silverman is really upset at the idea that anyone was offended (i.e. hurt) by this joke. She defends it as not being about Chinese people (or black people) at all, but about her being an idiot. I don't think that's a good defense. At a bare minimum, just using the world chink is reminding every Chinese person who has ever been a victim of overt racism (and I would be shocked if there was anyone who had been completely unscathed by racism) who hears it that racism exists and it is hurting them. That hurts. That invokes pain. And it's not incidental, it is the entire point of using a racial slur. Every joke involving race or racism invokes that pain, and it is their duty to have a point that is worth that cost. Louis CK's joke does: he's making people more aware of how racism is not a thing of the past.**

    Here is the thing: just like jokes can reinforce rape culture without being about rape or sex, and without anyone wanting to imply that penetration without consent is okay, jokes can be racist without being about race. Kayne West (about whom I know almost nothing) said some batshit things on TV. Jimmy Kimmel did a bit on his show where he reenacted the interview with 9 year old children. I didn't see it until after I read the the criticism of it, but if I was seeing it fresh, I don't know if I would have picked up on the racial overtones. It would have been equally funny if it had been a white person spouting nonsense. But as Cord Jefferson points out, calling a black man a boy has a very long and specific history. I knew that intellectually, but I have no faith I would seen the implications in this particular instance. I was going to say that is many ways the greatest white privilege, but generations of accumulated wealth and not having my neighborhood torn apart by militarized police are pretty neat too.

    My comedian boyfriend interpreted Jefferson's article as saying that any mockery of West was off limits. I don't think that's what he meant. I don't think he said anything about jokes one way or the other. I think he was trying to convey that West's abnormalities are not randomly distributed. West doesn't just live in a world where he's discriminated against, he lives in a world where people refuse to acknowledge he's discriminated against. Where the burden of proof is on him to prove the discrimination was racially motivated and not random noise. Which is just about impossible to do in any one instance- some people are universally assholes, some people are nice but having a bad day and sharing it with everyone. And yet over the some total of her life, a black woman will be the victim of a lot more of other people's bad days than I will. Telling black people they're not experiencing racism unless they can prove it is gaslighting.

    For a really good, pure example of this, see the comments thread on a BoingBoing post about a Biology Online editor asking black female scientist Danielle lee, who blogged under the name "Urban Scientist" to write for him for free, and calling her an "urban whore" when she refused (she didn't name him, so I'm not going to either). One of the first comments is someone asking why BoingBoing mentioned her race. From there, the conversation devolved into "but you can't know for sure he was racist! It's a parallel to her blogging name! The fact that he was already using a misogynistic slur has no relevance to his argument! I am so logical and you are being ruled by emotions! Being offended is a choice!". The message being that 1. this man's intentions were the only thing that mattered. Pain caused by a slur used unintentionally is a moral failing of the victim. 2. some people on the internet incorrectly believing this man did something racist is a million times worse than some people on the internet incorrectly believing he didn't do something racist.

    And it's all so focused on a word. Even as they made themselves look like ignorant, racist buffoons, his supporters successfully prevented the conversation from reaching the deeper issue of the severe entitlement issues this man displayed towards Lee, much less the fact that lots of other people, people in power, have those same entitlement issues and the good sense not to call their victims whores in a recorded medium.

    To return to the subject of comedy and subtle racism: let's talk about the Smith kids. Everything I know about them I learned from Suri's Burn Book, but I'm prepared to admit they probably are arrogant little fucks whose parents are buying careers for them. That's what happens when your parents are that rich and famous and beautiful. Are they worse than white children would be, given similar parents? Do they receive more criticism than white children in the same situation displaying the same attitudes? Is that the right question, given that the situations are not the same, that these kids are growing up in a racist world? Are Willow and Jaden entitled to more leeway over attitude problems than white kids? Isn't that the path to infantalizing and invalidating black people?

    The best answer I can come up with is that abstract opinions and interpersonal interactions are very different thing. A young black celebrity offspring is not entitled to cut in line at the DMV (an example I just made up), and if they did the people involved have every right to tell them to cut it out. Race blindness is sufficient to get the not-racist merit badge. But celebrity news sites should go softer on them*** , and adults as well. And yet, coverage on celebrity news can help a celebrity's career. But it seems entirely possible for coverage to be net positive for the individual celebrity but net negative for black celebrities as a whole, or black people as a whole, because it reinforces negative stereotypes.**** But it's the fault of a racist system that black celebrities idiotic actions hurt black people in ways a white celebrity's don't.

    There may not be a fair outcome here. And I hate that. I want there to be something I can do, now, that means I don't have to think about hundreds of years of oppression or violence. Contemplating that there may not be, or that it may require sacrifice of things I feel like I earned, is really scary.

    *Who I learned while researching this post is Mexican. As in, born in Mexico, learned English when he came to the US at age 7, still has Mexican citizenship. Ethnically he's 1/2 Irish, 1/4 European Jewish, and 1/4 Spanish/Indigenous Mexican. HH looks white, and his schtick is very much privileged white guy so I still feel like this is a valid example of how you can talk about race while looking white, and also I didn't want to rewrite 3 paragraphs, but it does complicate the point somewhat.

    **I know I'm spending a lot of time praising Louis CK, but see also this clip on how recent slavery was. "Every year white people add 100 years to how long ago slavery was. I’ve heard educated white people say, ‘slavery was 400 years ago.’ No it very wasn’t. It was 140 years ago…that’s two 70-year-old ladies living and dying back to back. That’s how recently you could buy a guy. And it's not like slavery ended and then everything has been amazing”

    ***To the extent they are talking about children at all. I mostly don't they should, except for Suri's Burn Book, because that is really making fun of the rest of the media. But like I said about feminism last week: being not-racist is not the same as being good.

    ****See: the Flavor Flav Minstrel Show.
    pktechgirlbackup: (pktechgirl)
    The Hardcore History podcast is another one of those things that makes me mad at my childhood history classes. It is full of context and explanations of why people did things/were driven to do things, not just what they did. With the caveat that I don't know enough history to spot subtle lies, the episodes seem rich and insightful. And the author is just so happy and excited to be talking to me. It's like a really interesting friend wanting to share a really interesting book she just read: you might not have been interested in the topic before, but you are now.

    The episode I am listening to now* is most proximately about US-Cuba relations circa the 1890s and the Spanish American war, but in order to talk about that properly has to talk about American identity politics and how they were affected by the closing of the frontier, the state of journalism**, naval warfare, the views of the time on war in general, impact of the business community on foreign policy, the Cuban revolution and Spain's response, some of the factors that drove Spain's response... And I'm only 1/3 of the way through. This is not a short podcast.

    Here is what strikes me: as the podcast describes it, President McKinley was being driven by two things: fear that Spain (then a fairly weak power) would transfer Cuba (whose location gave it incredible strategic value in war against the United States) to a power that was an actual threat against us (England and Germany being the biggest concerns), and an abhorrence of war after seeing the devastation of the Civil War first hand. Neither of these are bad motives: the abhorrence of war is obviously more universally moral, but I don't think it's ridiculous for the president of a country to worry about expansionist countries with strong militaries gaining an easy foothold near his country. Earlier in the podcast he talks about the US business/economic interests in Cuba, but does not mention them influencing McKinley directly on this issue (although gold-standard wise he was closely allied with the business community, and business interests were influencing the news coverage that influenced popular opinion).

    McKinley desperately did not want to have to choose between going to war or letting
    a strong power establish a base in Cuba. So he oriented all his actions around preventing it from coming to that. Most obviously by suggesting a limited independence for Cuba, which he hoped would get the rebels to lay down arms while not leaving Cuba free to ally with other powers, but there was also a general policy of "let's wait and see if this solves itself." The problem is that in the meantime, the Spanish were herding Cuban farmers into camps and leaving them to starve or die of yellow fever (the Reconcentrado policy). To be fair, the rebels had extracted resources at the point of a gun from farmers as well, but nothing on that scale. McKinley's wait-and-see policy left these people to wither and die.

    As I see it, the problem was that McKinley applied his moral values to one hypothetical choice, saw it would be a difficult one, and directed his efforts to steering conditions away from ever having to make that choice without applying his values to the choices he made as part of that effort. His abhorrence of war was ultimately born of an abhorrence of suffering, something Spain was causing just fine within McKinley's wait-and-see policy. I think this kind of cognitive dissonance causes a lot of the worst decisions in human history: a decent person, seeing that two of their values may soon come into conflict, compromises those same values in order to avoid that choice. And it's not something you can solve by telling people to buck up and be more moral, because that only makes the aversion stronger.

    * Fine, the only episode I've listened to.

    ** Apparently there is always a new mass media driving people to demand intervention in events they previously would have ignored
    pktechgirlbackup: (pktechgirl)
    Feminism is a very broad term. Every time I start trying to describe how broad I freeze up, because I know I'm only familiar with the kinds you find on the internet, which is not perfectly represented, and even then I'm much more familiar with some parts than others. Mostly the parts that are relevant to me, like consent culture and paying highly educated women more money.

    Feminists make fun of the term "I'm not a feminist, but...", implying that the speakers want the benefits of feminism without the social cost of admitting it. My own mother said I was spitting on the back of Susan B. Anthony when I (age 14) said I wasn't a feminist. This only makes sense if you consider feminism synonymous with equal rights and opportunities for women. That's a pretty bold claim to make. A lot of poor and non-white women have criticized feminism/The Feminist Movement for focusing exclusively on the problems of upper middle class white women (e.g. the leaky pipeline in academia) while ignoring problems affecting them (e.g. the mistreatment of pregnant women in prison). At times their goals can be actively contradictory because their situations are so different- rich white women are denied sterilization they request while poor black women are sterilized without their knowledge. When these women refuse to identify as feminists, they're not saying they're okay with the status quo, they're not failing to give Susan B. Anthony her due, they're just refusing to pretend that TFM is working for them. Which is probably why mainstream feminists get so upset about it.*

    That is a really charged example, but there are lots of other ways that people can disagree about what counts as "advocating for women". I wish I was informed enough and clever enough to point out ways this is happening that no one else has thought of, but I'm a dilettante with a lot of privilege, so I can't. The ways I can think of are things other people have already pointed out: the second wave fought for the right to say no to sex, the third is fighting for the right to say yes. People are simultaneously fighting for the right to have children (and have the costs of those children subsidized by other people**) and fighting the stigma against childlessness. The second wave fought to get women into corporate jobs, parts of the third are fighting for greater respect for the work of childrearing. None of these are strictly opposed, but supporting one without hurting the other requires an inconvenient level of nuance.

    Ultimately the question is: do we want the same world we have now, except without gender based-proscriptions, or do we want a different world, and if so, which one? If feminism were strictly about equality, than success would be black women being discriminated against exactly the same as black men, and racism itself would be orthogonal. I of course think racism is bad and being racist makes you a bad person***, but it's not clear to me it should make you a bad feminist. Feminism is not a synonym for good things.

    The Feminist Movement seems to be a lot of more socialist than I am, and finds severe income inequality in and of itself problematic. I believe that income inequality is often symptomatic of a problem, and extreme poverty is a problem, but do not care if some people make truly ridiculous amounts of money in a fair system. And while I think gender-based discrimination is morally wrong, I dislike a lot of anti-discrimination laws on both practical and moral grounds. I should be able to disagree about means without feminists accusing me of secretly hating women or not caring about discrimination.****

    I wish Lean In had taken a little bit wider view and discussed the work system as a whole. I think the live-to-work mindset is hurting women and men both. I really wish Sandberg had talked about why she finds striving for the top so rewarding, instead of taking it as a given. As I was typing this a friend sent me a link to The Messy Link Between Slavery and Modern Management and before I finished the description I dismissed it as "that's not fair to tar trade by mutual agreement with the same brush as slavery, just because the same tool can make both better." It took me a few minutes to question "why is maximizing number of widgets the goal?". I know why it's the goal of any given company, but how did the system end up that way? I have this nagging feelings that there are systems where that wouldn't be the case, but I can't conceive of them any more than a fish can conceive of brachiation.

    If I have a point, it's that I wish more people questioned more assumptions, and I wish that was decoupled from the feminist movement. I may even wish there wasn't A Feminist Movement, but that feminist was an adjective applied to other movements, like socialism and anarchism and especially libertarianism and/or free market socialism, whichever one I end up going with.

    *I tried to find good blog posts to demonstrate this. The first page of results for "feminism racist" is exclusively white feminists and mainstream news, plus one by a PUA. The white bloggers linked to black bloggers: almost all of their blogs were either gone or restricted access. Part of this is that I still pine for 2007 and have failed to adapt to a post-twitter world, but part is that race and gender bloggers have a frighteningly high burnout rate.

    **My belief is that once the kid is here, it's a defenseless person and society does have an obligation to give in a decent shot at life. But I'm very uncomfortable with that framed as the right of the mother to have as many children as she wants, regardless of her ability to take care of them.

    *** to the extent that being bad person is a thing, which it mostly isn't, and it's even less rarely a helpful framework, but I really want to risk condoning racism and it makes for a really nice parallel sentence structure

    ****Something no one has said to me personally, but is often said about people with similar beliefs. People who may well be acting in bad faith, but the idea that someone could believe in gender equality but think preserving the right to free association and the commerce clause was more important than the marginal benefit from this particular law is never even considered.
    pktechgirlbackup: (pktechgirl)
    My digestive system and my immune system are at odds, and it is annoying me.

    My immune system hates wheat, milk, and eggs. If I eat them, my lymph nodes swell and I feel generally sluggish and icky.

    I don't produce enough digestive enzymes. If I don't supplement with HCl and digestive enzymes, eating anything with real nutritional value, like vegetables and meat, makes me feel ill. I can feel it sit in my stomach and rot. In my stomach's ideal world, I live on bagels and pasta, but of course that is not good for anyone, and is especially bad for people with wheat sensitivity.

    I'm sick. My digestive system is even more sluggish than usual, to the point that real food makes me feel icky no matter how many pills I take. My stomach could handle small amounts of simple carbs- but my immune response to wheat hasn't gone away. There is nothing I can eat that will make everyone happy right now. The compromise has been marshmallows and dark chocolate, which are are easy calories that are nonetheless gluten free. You can tell my nutritionist is cool because she said that was not an ideal long term solution but a perfectly good way to cope with the situation at hand.
    pktechgirlbackup: (pktechgirl)
    I thought this article by an feminist Orthodox rabbi grappling with the traditional daily prayer to thank G-d for not making him a woman was really interesting. I'm not big on observing tradition, but that almost makes me appreciate it more when other people spend a lot of effort upholding it. Both because I think there's some value in the continuity for its own sake, and because things often become traditions for reasons, and those reasons may still be around even if we've forgotten them. And there is something beautiful about submitting to something larger than yourself even when you disagree with parts of it.

    OTOH, I think it's disingenuous to say "but tradition!" when you can see a lot of the social forces that formed the tradition, and they are things you claim to reject. Wedding traditions are the perfect example of this. Asking a woman's father for permission to marry her clearly arose from the tradition of women as property AND is clearly treating her as property now. I don't think there's a feminist way to do it. But even though engagement rings are descended from the same system, and I still think they're sexist and reinforce a lot of bad patterns and I don't want one, I do think it's possible to do engagement rings in an aware, feminist way that, if not ideal, falls well within the realm of compromises we all have to make to live in the world. And I will accept "yes, it's sexist, but the ring makes my life easier because men respect it far more than they respect the word "no"" in a way I wouldn't accept "yes, it's sexist, but it meant a lot to my dad".

    On the third hand, it's not realistic to expect people to go from sexist to perfect. I want to give this rabbi points for thinking about these things even if he hasn't come to a conclusion I like yet, because just thinking about them is hard. I thought his first few paragraphs were really great, honest, explorations of the difficult choice in front of him. If he had just done that, I'd think he was pretty cool. But I found the second half, where he listed all the reasons the being a man was awesome and pledged to make that less true, really evasive. The blessing won't be any less traditional if sexism is solved, is he still going to say it then? All the things he lists are true, but they're also secular- is he working to diminish gender inequity of Orthodox Judaism in other ways? A lot of those are traditional too.

    I came on this article via this response, via the author's blog where she talks about Judaism and gymnastics. I had no idea gymnastics could be so interesting.* Anyways, her response was basically "you don't get to tell women this isn't offensive", and more generally "you don't get to tell the less privileged what is and is not oppressing them." Which are very fair points, somewhat wider in scope than mine, and yet also reflecting that fact that the author (Jewish, formerly Orthodox) has much more invested in this particular fight than I (never Jewish) do.

    *The Judaism part is interesting too, but that didn't surprise me.
    pktechgirlbackup: (pktechgirl)
    A while ago I read Farewell To Alms, whose basic thesis was that Europe industrialized before Asia because Europe had worse hygiene. More specifically, Europe had both a higher birth rate and a higher death rate (in part because their atrocious sanitary conditions encouraged disease), and that led to more selection pressure, making Europeans smarter and more industrious than Asians. At the time I thought the book had some serious holes but also some interesting ideas. After reading more history, I increasingly want to withdrawal what praise I gave it. If disease led to economic prosperity, Africa would look like Dubai.

    Learning history in school, I vaguely knew that at one point China had been pretty advanced, but then regressed somehow. And it's true, they did suppress a few technologies, like gun powder. But China was the world's superpower for much longer than I appreciated- probably right up until the industrial revolution. Europe went off to other lands in search of precious medals because China would give them spices for them*. And a lot of the civilizations they conquered were pretty advanced themselves, but were crippled by European diseases (so I guess the poor hygiene thing did work out for them after all).

    The industrial revolution happened in England because coal was cheap and labor was expensive (why the difference in the cost of labor? I don't know, but I'll bet it's interesting). But more generally: the rules of the game had changed, and the winners under the old rules are never the winners under the new rules. It's true of people, it's true of companies, and it's true of countries. That is because a lot of what looks like genius is actually happening to have your gifts be the right thing for the moment, and happening to bet on the right horse **. Not that success is randomly attaching itself regardless of your skills, but that different skills have radically different values in different contexts. Big tech companies are obsessed with acting like start ups because start ups have the most growth, but that's because we're only looking at the successful ones. Thinking you can predict the next big thing is like thinking you can predict lottery numbers by studying the characteristics of the winners.

    America was the winner under the last system. It was never going to be the winner under the next system. I don't know if the system has changed yet, but it seems highly plausible. So many of America's advantages are due to inertia, or network effects, or the tallest pygmy effect, rather than things we do right now. If we lose those, they are not coming back, even if we fix everything.

    Breaching the debt ceiling may very well be the thing that catalyzes that loss. And then things will get much, much tougher for us. I'm consoling myself with the idea that this was going to happen eventually, and postponing the inevitable will only make it worse. The best case scenario is we pull at IBM/England, and that involves a much more intimate relationship with reality than the country has had recently.

    *source: Debt: the first 5000 years.

    **Queen of Versailles is a documentary about a family that made billions of dollars on time share properties, who are spending a small portion of the proceeds on the biggest/most expensive house ever. The business was built on the worst of the pre-crisis banking practices, and is decimated when the banks curtailed that. There were good businesses that went under because the credit markets froze or demand temporarily dropped, but this is not one of those: this corporation's very existence depended on toxic banking. The money dries up, and you watch them make stupider and stupider choices- to keep going with the $100 million house, to refuse to downsize or sell the business. I couldn't get over how someone smart enough to make that much could money be that dumb. The answer is probably that he would have had the same money making model whenever he went into business, and it just happened to be the right model for the moment.
    pktechgirlbackup: (pktechgirl)
    In American culture, it's rude not to give someone 100% of your attention. I think this is the root of a lot of the problem. Extroverts people who have bought into the American value system, who can be of any persuasion because culture is like that, think they are simply asking for an acknowledgement when they say hi, and I agree with them that a lack of any acknowledgement would be rude. But I feel like what they are actually asking for is for me to drop everything I am thinking about and give them 100% of my attention until they choose to return it, and that is horrendously unfair. It's like walking into a factory where people are working and demanding they scrap everything they are doing (including widgets that are 95% done), pushing one whosit through the production line (necessitating leaving workers idle or throwing away unfinished whosits at the end), and then letting them go back to the original widgets. And being mad at them for being inefficient, although that's probably internal pressure in my case.

    If people would agree that a distracted nod was sufficient to fulfill my social obligations when they held the door for me, I would not resent when they did so.

    It's an issue even with people I like though. I have a good friend with whom I have many fascinating discussions. I tend to clean my house while we're talking. She herself is notorious for having a variety of fidgets in her house. I've taken to doing puzzles while talking with my boyfriend sometimes. It looks like multitasking, and I do feel somewhat less responsive. But what I'm actually doing is taking the energy they're giving me and turning it into something else immediately, so I have more room and can keep talking to them. Going back to the assembly line metaphor, I'm keeping a full pipeline going so I don't get a pile up at their station.

    This makes me wonder if context-switching is less expensive for extroverts than introverts. Maybe they can hold things in their head better, maybe they find it less costly to wind up and spin down. Maybe they are more like craftsmen than assembly line workers, so trashing all in-progress work is less costly.
    pktechgirlbackup: (pktechgirl)
    I have finally found a convincing counterargument to my belief that cash aid is better than in-kind and restricted aid (e.g. public housing and housing vouchers). My belief was based on the following:

    1. Data showing that cash transfers are better at lifting people out of poverty than specific aid.
    2. Intuition that people are generally better at knowing what they need than the government
    3. Intuition that if they don't, they need to learn, and this is how to do it.
    4. A willingness to let mentally competent adults starve for their own bad decisions.
    5. Belief that the government claiming to best know how people should spend their money was inherently paternalistic and poisonous to a healthy citizenry even when it's government provided money.

    My goal in anti-poverty intervention is not to eliminate poverty or suffering, but to make sure that an individual's suffering is mostly a result of their own, recent choices, and not bad luck, environmental factors outside their control, other humans, or shitty choices they made when they were 15. Or even mildly poor choices they made a month ago, depending on the cost to do so.

    Here are two things I have thought of recently. One, decision fatigue is a thing. There is space to recognize and accommodate that without creating a cycle of dependency. Of course, our current programs often manage to be condescending and induce decision fatigue, so this is no defense of them, but the theory is there.

    The second specifically applies to housing, and other consumables requiring extended contracts. Low, and especially high variance, income can easily lead to a poor credit rating. Poor credit makes housing harder to find, lower quality, and more expensive- and justifiably so, since tenants with low credit ratings are more likely to miss payments. You can compensate with a higher deposit, but that doesn't help the poor. A dedicated housing allowance that is paid to the landlord in a timely manner (which the current housing voucher system demonstrably does not do) credibly commits you to paying for housing. That insulates people not only from their own past poor decisions, but from the decisions of other poor people who have created the statistical association between poverty and irregular payment. Stable housing is almost fundamental in establishing a stable life and pulling out of poverty.

    I am more and more seeing poverty not as a problem of too-low income, but of unpredictable income. And some sort of minimum income guarantee makes a really credible solution.
    pktechgirlbackup: (pktechgirl)
    I am tired of hearing "alone time" and "social time" referred to as distinct, fungible buckets. There are lots of different kinds of alone time and people time and they cost and give different things. A teacher friend has described teaching as rather lonely because even though you're surrounded by people all day, they're children, and the energy flow is almost unidirectional. I don't play MMOs because they invoke the worst parts of dealing with people- having to negotiate with them to get a thing I want- without making me feel connected.

    There are kinds of social activity that I need other social activity to recover from. Most noticeably when I'm around my parents for significant lengths of time, I start reaching out electronically. My first choice is chatting with good friends, followed by posting to facebook and livejournal, but when desperate I'll resort just to reading blogs and commenting on them. If you think of all social interactions as energy exchanges: I can't participate in the kind of exchanges that make me feel like me with my parents. It's not even a matter of hiding who I am, it's that they are incapable of seeing it and therefore can't react proportionally. Participating in exchanges with my friends makes me feel more whole.

    Incidentally, I'll do the same thing when pushed into the introvert wall and forced to socialize (such as at work). Work is not such a violation of my sense of self as talking with my parents, but I am more actively suppressing certain aspects. As is appropriate for a professional situation and is totally fine as long as I have the cope, but when I'm depleted than g-d damnit, someone is going to hear the funny innuendo about what my boss just said.

    Alone time that I've planned or deliberately turned down an invitation for is scored differently than incidental alone time. It feels worse, because everyone is hanging out without me/I'm a loser for wanting to stay in/I'm missing an opportunity I may never get again/I genuinely wanted to do that fun thing. But if I'm able to fight through that, it's also more restorative. There's is more flow when there is an event I have separated from than when I am merely adrift.

    So if you assume everyone has some equilibrium they wish to maintain, and no one can balance those perfectly immediate, extroverts whose ballast or rebalancer tends to fall under the broad category of "social time", and introverts are those whose ballast or rebalancer falls under "alone time".
    pktechgirlbackup: (pktechgirl)
    My favorite pants were $30 at Anthropologie. For the uninitiated, Anthropologie's pants are rarely under $90 on sale. I don't even know what their retail price is because it might as well be a million dollars. So to find pants that could be both quirky and neutral, were comfortable, made my ass look great enough to be be-seen pants, but not so overtly as to make them inappropriate for work, for $30, is a truly astonishing feat. And even though I know the odds of a repeat are astronomical, I am compelled to check Anthropologie's sale rack every time I'm at the mall. This despite the fact that I've never seen pants I liked as much or that were that cheap since that first time. Because lightning could strike twice, and won't I feel stupid if I miss it.

    I had a similar experience dating. A guy I'd interacted twice in large groups and had no connection with asked me out because he was horny and okcupid wasn't working (he didn't tell me that until later), I said yes because I needed a practice date, and we hit it off suddenly and violently, in a way that wasn't actually once-in-a-lifetime but generated enough hormones to make me feel like it was at the time. That boy was even better than the Anthropologie pants. It ultimately didn't work out, but it left me with a low bar for accepting first date invitations. I can't risk missing someone who's fascinating 1:1 because they were boring in public.

    This does, however, lead to some really boring dates. Like the one I went on this week. I can now point to a lot of reasons I would never date this guy: he was boring, he performed a number of PUA tricks, all of which were subtle enough that I didn't notice the manipulation until afterwords, but which were numerous enough to be problematic whether or not they were conscious, his only compliments were for my looks despite meeting me at a stand up open mic*, he ordered me to give him a hug as a left.

    But the most interesting red flag was how he kept talking like there was definitely going to be a second date, despite a complete lack of enthusiasm from me. It was always "when we" or "we should", without waiting for any interest in my part. When he finally said he wanted to get together again (without explicitly asking me), I said he was welcome to keep coming to my open mics. When he complimented me I was gracious but non-reciprical. At first I worried I was falling into the trap of wanting to smooth things over and not hurt his feelings, but I now think was me refusing to take responsibility for protecting him from his own his irrational optimism, which I feel much better about. Either way, this projection of enthusiasm without waiting for me to display the same was a serious turn off. At best, he's not reading me well (and not taking appropriate steps to compensate for his inability to do so), at worst he's displaying complete disregard for my feelings. Either way, not someone I want to interact with further.

    But post-date, he has failed to take any of the follow up steps he indicated he was going to. Which makes me think that he did not at any point miss my lack of interest, but was hoping that either his enthusiasm would be contagious, or that I would simply go along with it despite my lack of interest. Assuming I'm correct, the plan backfired horrendously, and while I was originally going to criticize it for that, I suspect this guy is getting exactly who he wants.

    *Even if he didn't genuinely think I was funny**, given an apparent willingness to manipulate me, it doesn't speak well of his intelligence that it didn't occur to him to use that.



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