Ke Huy Quan and my intellectual quibbles with boycotting JK Rowling

Apologies for typos. My anemia is back, and thus my dyslexia and focus are troubling me worse than ever.

First of all, we should get the following out the way:

1) I wish JK Rowling would either:

a) Get her head out of her ass or

b) Shut the hell up.

She’s awful. Trans people deserve to be loved and cherished and supported just like everybody else. Rowling is not only just wrong, she’s being deliberately obtuse. Anybody can be wrong about something the first time they encounter something they don’t understand—that’s the nature of privilege. But she’s been told and told and pleaded with again and again. Doubling down on her transphobia after everything that has happened is mean and dumb beyond comprehension.

That said, I’ve always been “eh” about corporate boycotts for multiple reasons. 1) I don’t know that they work and 2) I don’t know that they sanction the people they are supposed to because of #1; and 3) I suspect that the real gains in joining the boycott are performative (ZOMG A DIRTY WORD AMONGST liberals BUT….it’s a way of signaling values and in this case, it’s a signal that you are willing to go without something and avoid somebody who is awful to people you seek to support. I think that signaling can matter quite a bit even if 1) and 2) don’t quite work out.

Which of these things is true, or all of them maybe, hinges on the question of what do I mean by “Does it work?” What are boycotts accomplishing? Well, Chick-Fil-A is still here. No, they don’t get to have my money to put into their shitty foundation, but for each ally who doesn’t do go there, it seems likely there is a bigot who rushes up to buy extra chicken sandwiches because they love the values expressed by that same foundation. I worry sometimes that boycotts have a Streisand effect, in other words. Does anybody know of research that might help me know whether the “I’m not shopping there” effect outweighs the “hey, I’ll shop there, these people hate all the same people I hate” effect?

SO JK Rowling. Don’t buy the new whatever game they just put out (ok). That makes sense to me (and it’s pretty obvious I wouldn’t buy it anyway) because the entirety of computer games is largely lost on me besides Plants vs. Zombies and Angry Birds) because that came out long after her transphobia became public and grew in obnoxiousness. Those game designers chose to associate with her and work with her long after it was obvious that she was nasty.

But her movies: maybe I’m not remembering this right, but Rowling’s transphobia became common knowledge largely after the movies came out. And movies—it should be clear from the Oscars—are not a one-woman show. If you watch the credits on those movies, hundreds and hundreds of people, very likely people innocent of her evil, worked on that movie.

I’d be pretty upset if nobody read my articles because it turns out one of my deans was secretly doing something shady or mean that only later came later. TRUST ME: I know what it’s like to be fighting like hell to do my job properly, to try to create good and safe spaces at a university, only to have the more powerful decision-makers around me cover us all in shame. It’s a terrible feeling, and I empathize.

Anyway, none of that was Ke Huy Quan’s fault. He was a child. It just doesn’t sit right with me to condemn a franchise, though, if in so doing we erase him. That’s part of his story, even if it is associated with a nasty racist movie that probably does deserve to be sent into oblivion.

Which brings me to Ke Huy Quan. What a pleasure it is to see him as a grown-up actor, doing well, because Temple of Doom is a terrible, racist movie. From its gross-out scenes making crap out of other people’s food, the death cults to…oy to the vey, it’s racist. And it’s objectively a bad movie. Kate Capshaw’s fish-out-of-water character is sexist garbage, and honestly even Short Round is nasty to her—and it’s supposed to be…funny? I don’t know. (Raiders is racist, too, but that’s discussion is a little off track; I don’t remember the other two very well, except that I remember being shocked at how great Karen Allen looked.)

Right now, I tend to observe boycotts because of my sense regarding #3. The people who matter in this discussion are the trans folks, and if they think it’s the right thing to do then I’m willing to do it. I do worry about the Streisand effect thing, but that’s an empirical question. I have to believe somebody in a B-school has done research on this somewhere.

Conservative arguments against HR8 and HR9 (Don’t say ‘trans’ bills): An open letter to my Iowa state assemblymen

Since sending this only resulted in a MailChimp reply, I decided to share my letter here.

Dear Sirs—

I write to you today to express my opposition to HR 8 and HR 9 for the following reasons:

1) Legislating what can and can’t be said, including in school, is about as un-American as you can get. Let’s not.

2) Children deserve some privacy, and having teachers or other school staff running to parents over gender-varying comments or requests, such as pronouns, is more likely to harm kids than do any child any good. Let kids decide whom to talk to about what. They deserve the same respect the rest of us demand when it comes to discussing our bodies.

3) Parents, teachers, and children should be left to develop their own relationships and ways of communicating with each other about sensitive topics like gender, rather than having the state barge in with inflexible rules. The state does not have a legitimate role in dictating how people should discuss, let alone deal with, issues of personal identity like gender. That’s what families, churches, and communities are for.

4) The language in both bills, but especially HR 9, is vague and impractical. Just as one example, according to HR 9, parents aren’t to be “pressured” into allowing children gender-affirming care. When does “suggesting” or “encouraging” become “pressuring?” People who feel like a teacher behaved wrongly already have ways to call those teachers to account. Let’s not set up school districts for “Wahhhhh the teacher looked at me funny, call the police” nonsense. We all know there are whiners who live for opportunities to make drama because they don’t have enough to do. If a parent can’t deal with a teacher’s comment, even if forcefully expressed, that parent should try growing a spine. Parents do have rights, of course, but I very much doubt those rights include “never having to hear things they don’t like” or “never having their feelings hurt.”

5) Proposals like HR 8 and HR 9 copy policies cookie-cutter style from places like Florida, and as such, they erase Iowa’s own conservative traditions in favor of conservatism imported from the American South. If Iowa wants to compete for business and residents, the state needs to have its own political identity and culture. Copying DeSantis makes Kim Reynolds look good to the powers that be in the national GOP, and while that’s swell for her on her way to cabinet positions or ambassadorships, it degrades the state of Iowa in insidious ways when we do it time and time again. The world doesn’t need Iowa to be a mini-Florida. It already has a Florida.

Iowa has a conservative tradition of our own and we don’t need to subjugate our ideas to those of other, louder, more populated places willing to use the state to regulate what ought to be entirely matters of private choice—even if it means letting people do things and call themselves things that others do not like. Toleration as political virtue has always been something that I cherished about my neighbors here in Iowa. Localism and sensitivity to local character is a founding principle of Jeffersonian republicanism, and it merits respect and preservation rather than rushing off to make sure we’re all marching lockstep with whatever the loudmouths on FoxNews are ranting about from day-to-day.

The Iowans I grew up with knew that sticking our noses into other peoples’ conversations, private lives, and gender is simultaneously rude and very likely futile. The Iowa this bill’s sponsors seem to want is a place where the state rules over private thought and initiative. If individuals do not like gender fluidity, they are free not to associate with gender-fluid people—that’s sufficient to the point—without having the state intervene to boss people about.

Thank you for your time and for your public service.

All good things

Lisa Schweitzer

Address deleted

PS please don’t propose or support any upcoming book-banning bills either. In 2023, those bills just make their sponsors look like internet-ignorant rubes. There is no faster way to make a kid read something than to tell them it’s a dirty book.

Has the e-book killed cover art?

Before anybody yells at me and calls me Luddite, let me just say I have the tech and the streams, etc. BUT:

I still maintain that album cover art was A LOT better for records than it was for cds, and that liner notes were better (the ones for cds were basically micro printed and I hated them). CDs had better cover art than anything you can stream, though with streaming at least you get readable notes.

I’m starting to believe that e-books have killed off book cover art. There were some new editions of beloved classics in recent years with covers that made me shriek. But today I think I may have found the worst example ever.

Little backstory: I have decided that in 2023, I am going to reread Sci-Fi books that felt pretty life-changing the first time I read them. The first one I picked was Solaris by Stanislaus Len. I figured, well hell, that book is so old, there have to be paperback copies everywhere. I’ll just go grab one.

Google of course kept shoving me towards kindle versions on Amazon. I resisted. But then I discovered the monstrosity that is the currently marketed cover for the book, and I died inside a little. You see what I mean here in this little progression.

this is the first paperback cover. Pretty cool, suggests something important about the book.

I didn’t read this version. I read the following version, back when I was in high school in the 1980s, one summer, in between dodging my parents who wanted to me work (always best avoided) at various things.

Still good, right? This cover I found at Goodreads, and I think it’s damn good.

So when I go over to Barnes and Noble to look at their inventory for a new paperback copy, I don’t find much, but the site is pushing the e-book on me, but with this cover, oy to the vey God help us:

Ok, yes, a large part of novel is about the narrator being tormented by sad memories of lost love, but this….no. I know lots of people like the 2002 movie, but I don’t, and I REALLY think we do this book a disservice by giving it a romance novel cover.

Now, regular readers will know that I am perfectly happy reading trashy books. I have nothing against romance novels. But this is way not a romance novel. It’s not even a happy novel—Lem is Polish and the Poles didn’t have a ton of things to be happy about, and this novel, brilliant though it is, is not happy.

Am I just being an Oldy. McOldface or are other people bothered by this? The only explanation I have for it is that ebooks are a big part of the market, and nobody pays attention to ebook covers. I don’t. Do you? So why put in the time and money to get art done when nobody is looking?

I have told myself a dozen times that the cover doesn’t matter, that I should grow up and just deal with the kissy face cover.

But I may have found an old copy at the Independence public library, and I think I may just check out that one.

A few things the Hallmark Christmas movies seem to get right

A few years ago, we had to sit through the endless online deconstructions of how Love, Actually is terrible et al because all the relationships aren’t healthy (of course not) and that got kinda tedious. FWIW, there are some fantastic love stories in that movie if you ignore the romantic ones: Liam Neeson and his little guy, the one lady who yearns for one of her office colleague loves her disabled brother without reservation, Emma Thompson’s character loves her kids enough to hide her own heartbreak to make sure their Сhristmas pageant memories are good, etc.

So now we have the memes making fun of Hallmark channel movies, about how the big city girl should stick with her job and avoid her loser high school boyfriend, where were those loser boyfriends on Jan 6, etc. Those are all funny, but I have THOTS and this here is where I share them, so here we go.

First off, as solidly red as rural areas are, let’s not act like all the major metro areas aren’t surrounded by wealthy suburbs absolutely teeming with Trumpers, and a lot of them at that. Take a look at a bunch of the organizers getting sentenced in Jan 6. They are not redneck stump jumpers necessarily. I looked up some Iowa defendants—of 6, four are from the largest cities in the state or their suburbs, and the one who is very likely going to jail is from Des Moines. (The CA defendants are split about 50-50 between major cities (2 out of 53 are from Beverly Hills and I don’t think they are married, but not sure; 2 are from Huntington Beach (no surprises there, etc. etc.

So while I am surrounded in low-density rural Iowa by people who are definitely voting for the wrong guy, it looks uniform because there are so few people per square mile. The big metros are contributing whackos aplenty, though, and I think it’s time the FBI and Homeland investigate Yale Law School as a radicalizing organization.

The second thing the movies get right: breakups. Maybe I haven’t seen a sufficient number of them, but I feel like I’ve sampled pretty widely, and in general, the city guy who gets dumped is a complete gentleman and behaves decently about the entire thing. The breakup happens because the individual members of the couple want different things—and to be honest, I don’t really see that Hallmark really judges the city guy for wanting what he wants. In my experience wanting different things is a REALLY VALID reason to go your separate ways in a relationship. And if we want to help men find models for behavior that aren’t based in toxic tropes, we could in general do worse than the dumped city slicker whose reactions are reasonable, supportive, and consist of a largely of a wistful backwards glance…and that’s all.

Finally, that high-powered city job is often not particularly good, lets be real. It seems to me that a lot of women in these movies have middling corporate jobs. It’s not like they are CEOS or upper management making boatloads. Instead, they answer to a shitty boss and their offices are, as often as not, in cubicle-farms. In a LOT of US cities, jobs like these allow these women to work themselves to death for a salary that covers housing and not all that much else. Big whoop if you are surrounded by urban delights and a million restaurants if you can’t afford to go to any of them.

No, I don’t think it’s particularly realistic that you can afford to make a living in your small-town Poinsetta Farm/Cookie Bakery/Flower shop but…the urban hustle of working long hours into the night gets PUH-LENTY of air time in US television.

My point isn’t really that rural life is great and wonderful and whatnot. My point is that her job in the city sucks because most jobs suck. Just saying.

As for me, I’m really forking cold because it’s snowing. But it is pretty.

“It’s only an animal”

Oh, bug off.

Since I began rescuing animals about a decade ago, I’ve heard a lot of stupid crap, and the stupid crap I’d like to address today is the “it’s only an animal” comment. You know them, the people who respond to friends grieving over a lost pet with impatience and comments like this.

These people think they have their priorities straight, and anybody who grieves over an animal doesn’t. After all, it’s not like a person died. It’s just an animal.

Here’s the deal: these people do not have their priorities straight. Because if they did, they’d shut their face and support their friend through their grief—because even if you think an animal’s life or suffering doesn’t matter, your friend’s grief does matter. Nobody ever, not once, ever in the history of the world ever stopped feeling grief because somebody told them to. They just learned to hide it, which is about the comfort and convenience of those around them, nothing else.

People who treat their friends like their problems are dumb or inconsequential are bad friends.

Beyond that, I don’t have any need to prioritize what I love or care for. I’m not Sophie in Sophie’s Choice—thank heaven. The love I give to a dog or a cat or a lizard is not a lizard-or dog- or cat-sized amount of love taken out from the finite amount of love I have available, gone forever, squandered on an animal when it could have gone to a precious human. My ability to love gets bigger, not smaller, the more I do it. My time and energy may be finite, so I can’t take care of everything and everybody—and love may involve recognizing those limits —but my capacity for love is, I’ve found, pretty damn capacious.

If yours isn’t…well, that must be nice….I guess.

I can simultaneously be sad a gorilla is shot dead to protect a child AND be overjoyed the child is ok. I’m rich and complex in how I love and care.

If you are not…ok.

But don’t judge my kind by your kind.

How I would reform the US Supreme Court

Attention conservation notice; if you want to skip the rant-y bits, skip to the two numbered points.

So SCOTUS this week did everything women said they were going to only to be met with “OH SHUT UP THAT WON’T EVER HAPPEN STOP BEING SO HISTRIONIC YOU DUMB BITCHES” and here we are.

The court has been captured by religious minorities in the US who are also welll-funded. The Court has always, however, been stupidly undemocratic, and it should be reformed.

Five of the six people who voted for the garbage we got this week (STATE’S RIGHTS…but not with guns) and (ERMERGERD YOU CAN’T FORCE PEOPLE TO GET A VACCINE IT’S A BIG GIANT MEDICAL PROSHEDURRRR but giving birth? Meh, NBD, right?) were appointed by presidents who lost the popular vote.

So here’s a start on how to fix it:

1. End lifetime appointments. Replace it with a well-enumerated 8-year term. That way when you get complete duds like Clarence Thomas or Anthony Scalia, they eventually cycle out and those of us who read their opinions aren’t stuck reading their garbage reasoning and terrible writing for decades.

2. Select judges at random from the circuit courts instead of through presidential appointments. That way you get judges that have been in a court room instead of the fed society professor types. I am a professor type, I think profs can do great things and I have no patience for the whole academic practitioner sandbox fights, but in this case, various law schools have a stranglehold on the court, and it’s time that stopped.

Yes, a lot of those circuit court judges are also religious weirdos but it’s a much bigger pool and it decreases the likelihood that the fed society can do what they did with Amy Coney Barrett—groom them from undergrad to do exactly what she just did—and Brett Whatshisface—brought to us by his lifetime of relentless ass-kissing.

I don’t think necessarily that expanding the court changes what needs to be changed. There are an endless line of fed society drones with their palms out willing to sell out women and minorities to feather their nest with a SCOTUS appointment. I don’t think it makes any difference to have the votes go 16 to 13 as long as SCOTUS is a sinecure for conservatives from Yale and UChicago and the religious unis.

Fiddling around with Japanese multiplication

I lurve the idea of teaching students lots of methods for solving math problems because I just plain love math problems and I can’t help but think that there has got to be a better way of teaching concepts than the humorless, awful, dry, disempowering way I was taught. Follow the blue box. OR ELSE. You will be WRONG. WRONGITY WRONG WRONG WRONG. Oh, don’t fret, dear, girls aren’t good at math anyway. Yeah, maybe because boys in my childhood were the only people raised with the kind of self-esteem and security that lets you face that kind of instruction.

ANYHOO, I will watch “new math” tutorials online until my eyeballs bleed because they are so fun and I am so curious. I decided over the weekend to take a whack at the visual line-factoring method that is variously referred to as “Japanese multiplication.” I really couldn’t find out whether it was Japanese or not, or who was the originator of it; most websites are focused on teaching you the how and why of it, not the history of it. But whoever made it up, good job.

The method is explained very well here. In sum, you draw out lines for each digit of each number in one direction, and then you draw outline lines for each digit of the multiplier crossing the first, and then you add the intersections of the lines that occur at specific locations: the hundreds, tens, and ones.

I didn’t happen upon this site until I had been noodling around a little bit and gotten myself in a little trouble, and then that site made sense: it’s not an efficient method for numbers with large digits: I got myself in trouble pretty fast getting ambitious with 973 x 819. It’s not that it doesn’t work; it’s that it’s a PITA to draw all those damn lines and count up all the intersections, and it gets messy. AHA. So THAT’S why all the exemplars are things like that 321 x 123.

It’s not an efficient method of calculation, but it is a very good way to understand what is actually happening with multiplication. Using this method, you see how factors work. So you don’t really need to do examples with the larger digits–you can just use the standard algorithm or a ubiquitous calculator if you want to calculate efficiently.

Did Elizabeth Warren spoil things for Bernie Sanders (by the numbers)

Sorry I have been MIA. I’ve been having procedures that suck.

Ok, there is no way this “Spoiler” question gets answered just with primary outcomes simply because of things like momentum and other things that are pretty intangible, but I remember a lot of kvetching from Bernie camp about Warren. My own position on this is that

  • Primaries are there to let people get on the big national stage, get their name out there, etc, and that a lot of the kvetching about Warren as a spoiler amounted to “Girls shouldn’t run for public office, let alone for the big chair” and
  • If you can’t win the primaries, decisively, then you are going to get routed in the generals.

but I always planned to go back and look at the states where not having Warren in the race would have made a difference for Sanders. I put together data from Wikipedia—I am assuming these are probably fine. If they aren’t, then let me know a better source. From this I patched together a Google sheet that got so messy I am loathe to share it. If you really want it, email me.

I’m going to go forward with the assumption that every single Warren vote would have gone to Sanders and not Biden or Bloomberg, which is a pretty big assumption, but I don’t actually have a good reason to parse the votes any differently.

It looks like Biden walked off with a total of 19,080,152 votes and Sanders got 9,680,042, so that the overall vote gap was 9,400,110. Warren got 2,831,566. So the aggregate level isn’t even interesting, even if you dump in Bloomberg at 2,493,523. (Sanders plus Warren plus Bloomberg would put the gap between Biden and Sanders at 4,075,021. Why in heaven’s name did people vote for Bloomberg? Why do people think rich buttheads from New York are good candidates? Why? And BTW, I am not in any way of the mind that rich buttholes from California would be any better. )

So going state by state, I calculated the gap between Biden and Sanders and compared it to Warren’s vote take. Then I compared: which was bigger? I threw out states with caucuses because those are weird and I threw out states that Sanders won. I found there were six states where Warren not being in the race might have helped Sanders: Maine, Massachusetts (the state she reps), Minnesota, Oklahoma, Texas, and Washington. But, Bloomberg actually beat Warren in Texas and Oklahoma–in Texas, he beat her by kind of a lot.

The plot below shows the votes needed and votes available if you kick out either Warren (W) or Bloomberg (B). So there are two states that stand out: Texas and Massachusetts and they split between Warren and Bloomberg.

So who was the spoiler for Sanders? I think the argument is that the people who voted for Bloomberg would never vote for Sanders, and that Bloomberg was a spoiler for Biden if anybody. But I’m not sure about that–Trumpism is populism led by a rich guy from New York, and I don’t think the left is immune from becoming enamored of rich dudes from New York. Nobody asked whether Bloomberg had any business running, and nobody that I followed ever ragged on him to endorse Sanders the way Sanders people went after Warren to do so. Misogyny, of course.

But also, I think a lot of the Bernie people just didn’t watch Bloomberg too terribly closely, and it’s one of the blindspots that I think needs to get some attention. Bloomberg is arguably more of a center-right candidate that Barack Obama was. The idea that somehow challengers from the left would drain much from Sanders, as well as the grumbling about “centrist democrats”–a straw man construct that online lefties like whip for their (legitimate) gripes with the Democrats–masks the fact that the center among Democrats is actually pretty big swath of difference in policy positions if you are going to count Warren as a “centrist” when Democrats like Bloomberg are getting the vote take they are.

Are you watching The Repair Shop? You should be.

I don’t have any data things to relate today, just a recommendation.

The Repair Shop is…”reality tv”, very light, about the heirloom restorers who work at the Weald and Downland Living Museum in Singleton, West Sussex. I LURVE it. I love to watch people make and fix things. It’s the only kind of reality TV I can stomach.

It is hokey, but it’s awfully sweet to see how attached people are to the material things of their family history. I have absolutely nothing like that from my family, and Andy has only one or two things. I want to be best friends and have tea with the ladies who fix teddy bears. I want to to ask ask Suzie Fletcher, who fixes leather, if she wants to be my girlfriend (whooooo! Leather! Wheee!)

Mostly, it’s nice and wholesome and it is very, very reassuring to me at the moment that broken things might be repaired.

It also makes me think about material culture and the things that are worth treasuring.

By way of getting something visual on this post that I don’t have to steal off the inter webs, here is my attempt to save something–I made Andy candy corn socks for Halloween a few years ago, but an evil moth got in and at holes in them. So I darned them. I am pleased with them.

Hey, Jay Blades, if you need a fabric restorer, look me up.

I maybe should have just cut the toes off and re-knit the toes but he’s wearing them, so….if it rocks, we use it.