Saturday, May 31, 2008

Second Life, Part II

NOTE: The following is from a Second Life travelogue I wrote for one of the masters-level classes I'm taking this semester. More from it to follow.

Book Island Publishing Village

Woo-hoo! So, you’ve written a book and want to get it published? Visit Book Island and find everything you’d want, from freebie bags giving your avatars free t-shirts, books and pirate gear (and what writer could possibly pass up free pirate gear?) to publishers form the vanity press to art and technology houses. And Scandanavian printing houses, in case you’ve written something that appeals specifically to Finns or Danes. Again, the networking angle is in high play here. Chat with fellow budding writers, find out how you might could get that dumb book you’ve been working on since high school published and in general make a high-falutin’ snobby fool of yourself. What could be more fun than that?

How about talking with a potential publisher, or at least the hired flunky of a potential publisher? E-mails and letters to the publishing houses won’t get you as close as Second Life, though, as you’ve guesses, there’s really no assurance you’re talking with a power-broker or the Intern they hired to run their SL site. But it’s worth a try, eh?


Written Word

So, you’re a writer. Writers write, don’t they? Yes. But they apparently also visit Second Life, where, at The Written Word, they can exchange ideas, texts, criticisms, snotty Oscar Wilde-is witticisms and then listen in as SL denizens interview a published author. Hey, that could be one of us pretty soon, eh?

Again, the networking possibilities here are staggering. The art of writing requires constant feedback, and here it is in the offing, if you’re brave enough and can figure out how to talk in Second Life, rather than relying on text – though they do say they will critique text if you’re shy or your voice sounds like Snow White on Helium. But they want you to speak. So on the Waterstage, they offer the most succinct tutorial on activating voice I’ve seen in weeks of trolling through Second Life – so they certainly do want to hear from you.


Friday, May 30, 2008

Second Life, Part I

NOTE: For one of the classes I'm taking this semester, we've become heavily involved in Second Life. The next few posts will be part of my introduction to that world, and contain some of the assignments from the class. Today, avatar customization. Tomorrow and into the future, a Second Life travelogue.

Meet Jacob Rabinowicz (aka Brian Davidson) -- Happily sporting a Linux penguin shirt and some pretty hefty sideburns. And this is the boy next door? Well, considering I grew up in Mormon Idaho, I guess ol’ Jacob here isn’t all that bad. But not necessarily me. So we start with the customization. Here's what I look like to start with:

Easiest thing to do: Complexion. I’m not a white as this guy. Oh, I’m white as they come, but given that I’m half Dutch, I’ve got a bit more ruddiness in my complexion than this guy. And I’m stockier. Fatter. My ears and nose are much bigger. So I play around with the facial and skin modifications, and get this:

Whoah! Mister Clean, lookin’ good, my man. Nose is great. I’m known far and wide for my sizeable honker. And that chin. Those wide lips. The slight smirk. Looking more like me the whole time. But no glasses in Second Life, at least none for free. I’ll just tell everyone I had Lasik. The ears, however, are too tiny. Gotta fix those. But gotta do something about the hair first.

I had a lot of trouble with the hair. And I mean a LOT of trouble. First to go, of course, were the sideburns. I just don’t sideburn. In fact, if I had the ability, I’d travel in time and take a razor to good ol’ Admiral Burnside and that would be the end of it. Well, probably not; they’d just have a different name.

The hair tools in Second Life are not at all intuitive. I didn’t want the big bangs Jacob came with. But when I tried to reduce their size, I ended up with a rather embarrassing bald spot on top, what Scott Adams calls the Pink Yarmulke look. Not good at all. So, I thought, I’ll drop all the hair sliders to zero (hence the Mr. Clean look captured here) and start from scratch. No good. No good at all. I managed to get rid of the sideburns, but kept on making myself look like a radiation victim or Ed Grimley. After a half hour of trying, I thought I had a pretty good hair style. But when I spun the camera around to look at myself, I realized I didn’ t have a hairstyle -- I had a hairdo. A serious do. A serious, bouffant, wife of an Apollo 13 astronaut hairdo. I looked like a chubby Doris Day in a penguin shirt. It was so repugnant and disturbing, I didn’t even take a picture. I couldn’t wander Second Life looking like an idiot. So I hit that trusty ol’ revert key and got back Jacob’s original hair, which I tinted to look a bit more like mine.

This is what I ended up with:

Not startlingly different from the original Jacob -- but this avatar looks more like me, though my pecs aren’t this magnificent, nor my shirts this tight. After an hour of experimenting with clothing, I can tell it’s not something you can pick up in just an hour of experimentation. I did ditch the shirt, though, for another freebie in my inventory. And, befitting my new, more medieval look, I opted to visit the castellated Administration Building at the University of Idaho, my alma mater. I think I look rather dashing, like one of those idiot young knights in those movies, the one who is too damn spunky for his own good, gets knocked off his horse a lot and gets a nickname along the lines of Wormy, but then, at the end, proves that his skills are at least as good as the schmoes who have been farting around in Knightland for twenty years or so. I did toy with the idea of a beard (I don‘t have one in real life, don‘t really like to wear them because they‘re too itchy. But the iterations I tried made me look too much like a blond Hitler or an undernourished Hulk Hogan. But here I sit:

Oh, I have ideas for more customized looks -- including a t-shirt I may try to build when I get a little more time. (I’m out of town this weekend, so that’s why the assignments are coming in a bit earlier this week.) I’d also like to create a Peter Lorre avatar, with the buggy eyes, the greasy slicked-back hair, but, again, that’ll have to wait until I’ve got more time on my hands.

Overall, I think the hour I invested in avatar customization was time well spent. I don’t look startlingly different than I did on the outset, but you can look at me and know now that my avatar isn’t just one of those off-the-shelf models. I feel better about that.

Does my avatar appear technical? No. I’m not sure that, in real life, I appear especially technical myself. I would have added glasses to my avatar had glasses been immediately available, and that in of itself might have added to an aura of technicalness -- but only in a stereotypical way, discounting the fact that many who require glasses get Lasik surgery and thus remove the necessity -- and stereo typicality -- of glasses. Leaving the Linux penguin shirt on might have added to a technical aura, but the shirt also adds to the aura of a newbie, as it’s a standard-issue article of clothing. I opted for the chain mail shirt (also a standard-issue bit of clothing -- because it appeared to fit the ruddy appearance of my avatar better than the pale penguin shirt. So to say my avatar is technical would be a lie.

I think, however, that my avatar appears much more approachable -- the primary reason being it does not appear to be a standard-issue avatar. The proof will be in the pudding, however. Given the variety of avatars wandering Second Life, approachability is in the eye of the beholder.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Interesting . . .

Here's the latest news from CNN, my commentary appears below the story

SAN ANGELO, Texas (CNN) -- Texas officials had no right to remove more than 440 children from a polygamist sect, the state Supreme Court ruled Thursday.

The Texas Supreme Court agreed with an earlier lower court's ruling, possibly clearing the way for the children to be returned to their families. They were removed in April from the Yearning for Zion (YFZ) Ranch, near Eldorado.

The ruling means that each child's case must be weighed individually, not all together, to determine if abuse has occured, according to an attorney close to the case. The ruling does not address the abuse allegations.

"We are not inclined to disturb the court of appeals' decision," the ruling said. "On the record before us, removal of the children was not warranted."

The court's 6-3 ruling came in the case of 38 mothers who had appealed the removal of their 126 children, but attorneys in the case have said the reasoning behind the court rulings can be applied to the removals of all the children from the Yearning for Zion (YFZ) Ranch in a raid that began April 3.

About 460 children were removed, although 20 were later found in court to be adults.

The state has maintained that FLDS members live in an environment in which the sexual abuse of underage girls is allowed through forced marriage to older men, and that young boys on the ranch are groomed to be perpetrators.

FLDS members deny any sexual abuse takes place and claim they are being persecuted because of their religion.

The 3rd District Court of Appeals said in its ruling that the state's Child Protective Services did not demonstrate that all the children on the ranch faced imminent danger, as necessary for their removal.

Attorneys for the mothers argued in documents filed Thursday, saying the child welfare workers failed to satisfy any of a three-pronged "test" in Texas law, which must be satisfied before a child can be removed from its parents.

"Rather than meaningfully address the three statutory criteria, the Department (of Family and Protective Services) offers diversionary reasons as to why it would be impractical, or 'wrong,' to return the children to their parents," the brief said.

Meanwhile, the ACLU added its voice to the argument on the mothers' behalf, saying in its brief, "the state's sole evidence ... was limited to general allegations that these parents are part of a 'culture,' and subscribe to a 'belief' and a 'mindset' that girls as young as 14 may be considered of age to marry," but that the state put forth no specific allegations of the harm the children face.

And a chaotic appeals court hearing last month, in which attorneys for groups of children were heard, was not sufficient for the state to retain custody of the children, despite a judge's ruling to the contrary, the ACLU said.

"When the state forcibly removes children from their parents' care, subsequent hearings must be held, must be adequate, must be fair and must include evidence sufficient to meet the state standard for every child removed," the organization said. "The state has broad powers to respond to actual threats of child abuse, but it may not separate families based on a parent's mere adoption of or association with a particular belief system."

Texas attorney Barbara Elias-Perciful supported the state in her filing. She has been a guardian ad litem -- an attorney representing children's interests -- in child protection cases for 16 years and is also the director of Texas Lawyers for Children.

"This case involves the systematic rape of minor children -- conduct that is institutionalized and euphemistically called 'spiritual marriage,'" she wrote. "Typically, there is no media coverage of the horrific acts sexual predators commit against children ... if the media showed the actual events of adult males demanding sex with 11-year-old girls, there would be no one questioning the graphic danger of returning these children to their home at this time."

Now, my comments:

Before you get all whacked out: I am not an advocate of polygamy. I am, however, an advocate of keeping families together. If a state sailed in and took the children of a same-sex couple, alleging abuse but offering no proof, I'd say something stinks. I'd say the state had gone in and taken the children away because the state did not approve of the parents' lifestyle. That is wrong. That is Orwellian. That is unconstitutional.

If Texas' child protection services had been worried about abuse, why not take the men into custody, rather than the women and children? That's what I've wondered all along, and, it's apparent now, that is what the Texan court system is wondering.

Would I want my daughter involved in a polygamous marriage? Absolutely not. But would I want her taken from me and my wife simply because the state believed my religion and mindset put her in harm's way, even if they had no proof of abuse or mistreatment; indeed, if they had evidence to the contrary, that she was well cared for, happy and screaming about her separation from her mother and father? Absolutely not. Are we innocent until proven guilty, or guilty before proven innocent in this country? In Texas, the latter seems to prevail in this case. And that's shameful.

Is it possible there is abuse going on at Yearning for Zion Ranch? Absolutely. It's possible there's abuse going on in Anytown, USA, but you don't see the state descending on entire towns and ripping mothers and children out of their homes on a wholesale scale because of that risk. If there were a town of same-sex couples in which a state had performed a similar action, you can bet there'd be metric tons of angst, especially if the appearance were that the seizures were done because of lifestyle, not proof of abuse. Are there towns just as religiously homogenized as YFZ? Yes. I can name a few. I've lived in a few. I live in one now -- Sugar City, Idaho, is very likely 98 percent LDS (for the uneducated, that's The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which renounced polygamy at the turn of the 19th century; so call my membership in this church a bias if you want. Then tell me my arguments are wrong. Go ahead). If the state descended an some of the towns I've lived in and pulled this kind of stunt, I guarantee it would not be as peaceful as the events that took place at YFZ Ranch on April 3.

There were allegations of sexual abuse of children at David Koresh's ranch at Waco, Texas -- and Texas CPS didn't go in there; they let the Feds take care of things and let Koresh burn the place down.

Texas CPS is now waving around photos of FLDS Prophet Warren Jeffs kissing young girls as proof of abuse. Well, there's a difference here -- Utah and Arizona put Jeffs in jail, they didn't go after the girls and their mothers.

Bring on the General Election . . . or Lethal Injections, I Don't Care Which

This post is a little late, considering the primary elections are over. But just in case any of the three regular readers (yes, I discovered over the weekend that I have yet one more loyal reader, thank you) are considering a run for the public office where I may be enticed to vote, here are a few things to consider:

I’m a sucker for anyone who’ll visit me face-to-face. Knock on my door and talk to me for a while and your chances of getting my vote soar.

I’m not a pushover for a face-to-face visit, however, so behave yourself. Above all, don’t remind me that you’re a proto-politician. A few years ago, a woman running for a city council position where I live visited and asked if she could put a campaign sign up in our yard because we happen to live across the street from the son of her political rival. Guess what our answer was. Guess who we didn’t vote for.

Do not, under any circumstances, call me on the phone with one of those “Hi, I’m (insert name here) and I’m running for (insert political office here)” recordings. I listen to them long enough to memorize your name. Then I go out on Election Day and vote for your opponent. Even if your opponent was found guilty in those machete slayings. If you want my vote, have the guts to talk to me in person. But remember the advice in No. 2 above.

Don’t assume I’ll vote for you because of your party affiliation. This goes equally for the liberal wieners to the right-wing nut jobs.

Don’t tell me you’re running to represent me unless you’re going to call on me personally for every action you take, if elected, and then follow my advice to the letter. We live in a republic, not a democracy, remember.

If you run ads in the local newspaper, personally proofread them. I won’t hold you personally responsible for the errors in your ads unless you don’t act to correct them. In this election cycle, I considered voting for the opponent to our incumbent sheriff because the sheriff was running ads begging voters not “to be mislead.” Someone corrected the typo, so he got my vote. Remember, it’s the little, absolutely anal things that count. (Side note: A few years ago, the local paper I happened to be working for at the time misspelled the name of our state governor in an ad for the Republican Party. This ad was personally supervised by a psychotic production coordinator who, just the week prior, had railed on the news staff for errors in our copy. Justice has never, ever been as sweet.)

Most importantly, once the election is over, GO OUT AND TAKE DOWN YOUR DAMN ELECT ME SIGNS, no matter if you won or lost. I want them off my commuter landscape. Now. And if you’re running unopposed at the general election, don’t put them up again.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Just Wait . . . Someone Will Blame This on Industrialization

Jupiter, it seems, is popping out with new red spots like a teenager whipping through puberty.

As reported in this heavily copyrighted story (,2933,358704,00.html) Jupter has sprouted a third red spot as its second red spot (dubbed Great Red Spot Jr.) achieves winds as brisk as its larger counterpart.
One of the theories is that Jupiter's climate is changing -- getting warmer -- a pheonomenon which is causing these greater-that-hurricane-force storms. You can bet there are environmentalists out there right now plotting how they can pin the blame for this on western Terran civilization, or at least the Bush presidency.
Here are a few examples:
  1. Broadcasts of Bush speeches, policy announcements, et cetera, from Earth have been striking the Jovian atmosphere for years, generally increasing temperatures due to the interaction of Jupiter's hydrocarbon atmosphere with bombast, lies, and quotations such as "I'm the decider."
  2. Dick Cheney found the secure, undisclosed location on Jupiter to be a bit nippy, so NASA has been heating the atmosphere up with giant laser beams shot at the planet from its orbiting probes.
  3. So much carbon has leaked out of Earth's atmosphere that a gigantic Carbon Cloud is now enveloping the entire solar system.

These are only a few examples. I'm sure you can come up with better ones.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Soapbox: Injustice

Two things are on my mind today:

First of all, my 72-year-old mother was denied a drivers’ license last week. She passed all the required exams – but as she was signing her name, the clerk asked, “Oh, do you have trouble with shaking hands?” Yes, my mother does have some trouble – but it’s with fine motor skills, like signing her name, not gross motor skills, like driving a car. The clerk denied her license.

I’d like to see that same clerk when some teenager comes up, signing his application with one hand as he texts a message on his cell phone with another. Bet she wouldn’t even blink.

Last time I checked, it was young males, distracted by whatever including text messaging, who cause the most automobile accidents, not gray-haired grannies with “the shakies,” as our daughter calls it. Her entire driving record: One speeding ticket for going 35 in a 25 mph zone. Tell me she’s a menace on wheels.

Second of all, there’s this story:

In case the link dies, I’ll sum up: A kindergarten teacher allowed her class to “vote out” a classmate because of discipline and social problems brought on by Asperger’s Syndrome. The class voted 14-2 to kick the boy out of their class, as he stood in front of them after returning from the principal’s office. His classmates told him to his face he was disgusting and annoying. And the teacher encouraged this. Encouraged it.

We have a son whom we believe to be borderline Asperger. He has difficulty in social situations, both at home and at school. He’s also a delightful, imaginative child who is very sensitive – as all children are – as to how his peers treat and regard him. We’re careful with the discipline. Oh, we dole it out when it’s necessary. But it’s always in the frame of mind that he’s a good kid, just with occasionally bad behavior. He’s never called disgusting or annoying – even if he is sometimes. That’s just not how you work on behavior. He responds much more favorably – and with better discipline – with positive reinforcement (Here’s what you’re doing right, versus here’s what you’re doing wrong.) I’m grateful he’s had teachers with a better head on their shoulders than this kid’s teacher.

Now, I don’t know the whole story here, obviously. Maybe the precious snowflake’s momma was using the proto-diagnosis (the story says the boy was “in the process of being diagnosed” (which isn’t at all odd, considering the hoop after hoop after hoop you have to go through with this kind of diagnosis; believe me, we’ve been through them all) but to get back to the subject – using the proto-diagnosis as an excuse to excuse his behavior. We certainly don’t – and we don’t even have a proto-diagnosis. But it’s my growing experience that there are some adults out there who look at even mild forms of autism like Asperger’s and then write the kid off as a problem, rather than working with the kid. Like those old t-shirts say, “God don’t make no junk.”

And I’ve been on the other end of this spectrum: When I was a kid, a mentally handicapped kid in the neighborhood tried to choke me when I wouldn’t get out of my brother’s car to let him “drive.” The memories still freak me out, but I don’t brandish pitchforks and torches every time I see a mentally handicapped person walking toward me.

Final note: This teacher has been “reassigned” by the district. Hopefully, to the janitorial staff. Though you’d hate to wish that kind of witless behavior on the other janitors.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Mouse Hand

I may be at the forefront of a new malady that could make me more famous than Thripshaw's Disease made Dr. Thripshaw in that old Monty Python sketch: Mouse Hand. Which is, of course, my malady, not the title of the Monty Python sketch. Good thing I'm a professional technical writer and can catch things like that before they've been up on the ol' blog here for, oh, say, two or three hours.

My job entails a lot of computer work. But because we have a text processor and are obliged to keep her busy, most of the work I do on the computer is mouse work, rather than keyboard work. That means at the end of each day my right hand is cupped in the shape of a mouse. At the end of each week it's almost debilitating. My mouse-clicking finger is especially sore. That's the finger, of course, that our youngest son loves to pull on all the time when Daddy has to play horsie or car or something like that. He just about pulled it out of the socket this afternoon.

This four-day weekend has been nice, since I haven't had to slouch at the computer all weekend. I've still done computer work, obviously, including a ton of homework for the classes I've been taking. But since the work there means a lot of typing, it's a lot easier on my fingers and hand, and actually gives it enough exercise it feels better after a while.

Other exercises I do to keep the ol' hand working:
  1. Mowing the lawn.
  2. Thumping on kids' skulls.
  3. Holding a diet Coke.
  4. Manipulating my "mini-mouse" for the laptop, whilst holding my pinkie to my lips and blackmailing the world for one million dollars.
So at work I've instigated a new regime -- I try to type at least 45 minutes a day, whether it's work-related stuff or not. As Cal Meacham says in "This Island Earth," I hope you taxpayers don't mind.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Modern "me," Ancient "me"

Note: Another essay excerpt from a class I'm taking. I'm such a smart-ass.

As Hiro Protagonist attempts to comprehend why a modern demagogue would want to revive the language of ancient Sumer in Neal Stephenson’s Snow Crash, Protagonist and the Librarian have an illuminating conversation about the power and banality of words.

In discussing the writings of Sumer, including the me – “rules or principles that control the operation of society, like a code of laws, but on a more fundamental level (251),” the Librarian assigns them the following qualities:

1. Fragmentary (251)
2. Bizarre (251)
3. Untranslatable (251)
4. Monotonous (251)
5. Promotional (251)
6. Fundamentally religious (251)
7. Banal (257)

The most important descriptor, however, is thus: Sumerian myths, the Librarian continues, “are not ‘readable’ or ‘enjoyable’ in the same sense that Greek and Hebrew myths are. They reflect a fundamentally different consciousness from ours (251).”

Throughout his novel, Stephenson offers glimpses that the me of Hiro’s world match perfectly with the Librarian’s description of the Sumerian me. The me of Hiro’s time remain translatable, enjoyable and readable to our ears because they are not fundamentally different than what we’re used to hearing, they do not reflect a “fundamentally different consciousness from ours,” as Stephenson writes. Given time, however – say, a few thousand years, or the chronological difference between our time and that of Sumeria – and the me of Hiro’s era (and of ours) that survive may very well sound as bizarre as the stories the Librarian shares of Enki and Ninhursag (see pages 251-257).

Take, for example, the “usual” text that accompanies introductions to Mr. Lee’s Hong Kong burbclave: “It is my pleasure to welcome all quality folks to visiting of Hong Kong. Whether seriously in business or on a fun-loving hijink, make yourself totally homely in this meager environment. If any aspect is not utterly harmonious, gratefully bring is to my notice and I shall strive to earn your satisfaction (98).” The text is written in perfectly flawed English. To Mr. Lee, the English reflects the English that Anglo-Saxon Americans expect to hear from foreigners: the misused words, the odd sentence constructions, and the weird phrases. A native speaker of English can read the notice and feel a slight superiority, despite the fact that the Hong Kong burbclaves are among the most stable in the United States, and that its currency is of a much higher value than the American dollar. The me of Hong Kong burbclaves mocks the outsider’s sense of superiority with the expected mangled English and obsequiousness. In its banality and promotionalism, it is a powerful me.

Another example is the advertisement for the RadiKS Mark IV Smartwheel, which Y.T. purchases for her Kourier duties: “CHISELED SPAM is what you will see in the mirror if you surf on a weak plank with dumb, fixed wheels and interface with a muffler, retread, snow turd, road kill, driveshaft, railroad tie or unconscious pedestrian (27).” This advertising on a cutting-edge product – where rhetorical reliance is on the immediate here and now as compared to there here and now of six months ago has a me that has power among its intended audience, but like the flowery advertisements for cemeteries or the Sears catalog ubiquitous at the turn of the twentieth century, its me loses power exponentially with the passage of time. The me of wanting to buy the latest product may indeed be translatable, but the product itself may not.

These examples of Snow Crash me may indeed be incomprehensible to those who dig them up thousands of years hence. They had power when they were created, but like the Sumerian myths Hiro and the Librarian talk about, “the characters are legible and well-known, but when put together they do not say anything that leaves an imprint on the modern mind (251).”

Friday, May 23, 2008

Structurally Thinking . . .

Should it worry me that as a professional writer I'm having a seriously bad time writing a four-page essay (double-spaced, even) on formal writing? And should it worry me that earlier tonight, when I was talking to my wife about this essay, we had the following exchange:

ME: I don't think about structure when I'm writing.
SHE: You don't think about structure.

So I'm feeling a little self-conscious.

I think part of my problem is that I'm such an ur-writer, getting into the whole thing without taking classes and fussing a lot about how to write; I just write. It's probably evident that I don't have a lot of formal training, or a lot of coaching. But gosh darn it, I'll keep up with it all.

It also probably doesn't help that I'm sick to death of hearing how Michael Patterson is doing with his writing. Two novels now, the little shit. And he's a fictional comic character from Lynn Johnston's "For Better or for Worse." Is it wrong to be jealous of a fictional character? I think I need serious mental help.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Socialability Leading to Professional Work in Second Life

NOTE: This post is a short essay I wrote for one of my tech comm classes this week.

Nardi and Whittaker seem to have hit on a key component of establishing and nurturing useful, professional communication in virtual worlds like Second Life when they write “The creation and maintenance of communication zones involves two key processes: establishing social bonds that enable people to feel emotionally connected to one another, and managing ‘attentional contracts’ in which people agree (sometimes fleetingly) to pay attention to one another’s communications (page 4) ,” in their essay The Place of Face-to-Face Communication in Distributed Work.

I have noted that in the distributed environments in which I’ve worked, good communication hinges only secondarily on the necessity to exchange information, including small talk. I’m more willing to communicate – and communicate more honestly and openly – with co-workers with whom I’ve had positive social interactions, whether they take place inside or outside of work. Because our relationships with others tend to be dynamic rather than static, I agree with Nardi and Whittaker when they write that despite the advent of technology that makes distributed work easier, face-to-face communication remains “the most information-rich medium,” because “it is the surest way to establish and nurture the human relationships underlying business relationships (page 2).”

What is required is for technical communicators to think outside the box when it comes to using technology to create virtual (not literal) face-to-face communications that bring with them the social bonds and attentional contracts Nardi and Whittaker attribute to physical face-to-face meetings.

We’ve all experienced examples of virtual relationships establishing social bonds. For example, for the past two years, my wife and I have corresponded with a man in England, whom my wife first encountered when she responded to e-mails he sent to an archery equipment company she worked for. They built an easy e-mail friendship on mutual interests – she’d lived in England, both were interested in archery – that has been maintained and expanded, long past the time my wife quit working for the company where the initial contact was established. We have never met face to face, but through years of interacting via e-mail and with the occasional phone call, we have built a relationship that is “grounded in social bonding and symbolic expressions of commitment (page 2).” The symbolic expressions have gone beyond e-mails and phone calls to the exchange of gifts by mail, photo exchanges and ongoing letters to our eight-year-old son in which our English friend pretends to be Roddy from Flushed Away. We also maintain attentional contracts by responding to e-mails and listening to the mp3s and podcasts we exchange via e-mail, keeping up constant written correspondence that shows we care to listen to what the other has to say or share.

The same bonds, obviously, ought to be achievable in virtual worlds like Second Life, once users realize, like Tex Avery cartoon characters, that to truly interact that fourth wall (the screen) has to be broken. (A simple example: Droopy Dog is known for forever turning to the audience and exclaiming, in his sad voice, "You know what? I'm happy.") To tell the truth, I’ve been handicapped a bit in building social interactions in Second Life, but I’ve come to realize it’s not the technology that’s getting in the way – it’s the personality. It takes me a long time to make and maintain friendships in the real world, so I should not expect anything different in the virtual world. I should not get hung up on the fact that I’m having a difficult time with the shorthand communication that seems to be the norm in Second Life. I should, as Nardi and Whittaker recommend, focus on “not what people communicate about, but how they create a social environment in which they can communicate at all (page 3).” I can see now that my attempts to communicate with random strangers on Second Life were as fruitless as such attempts in the real world not because of the virtual environment, but because the social bonding and attentional contracting had not taken place.

Obviously, participants in our class’ Second Life meetings have found a way to create that social environment. Just in reading the discussions about that meeting in Blackboard have shown that Second Life does indeed have potential to bring people together socially to form those bonds necessary for work. The meetings seem to resemble a dinner Nardi and Whittaker write about: “The dinner was not a forum for exchanging business information; rather clients used the occasion to share details of the minor miseries of their work lives. It facilitated social bonding after the initial, task-focused pre-production meeting. As far as the work itself was concerned, that was already accomplished (page 10).” Obviously, if we could build on our sociality in Second Life, transmuting our interactions into a professional classroom setting, where we exchange ideas and information could also easily be accomplished. Rather than posting assignments such as this on Blackboard, we could just as easily exchange them with the virtual cards we’ve all received, giving us instruction on various Second Life aspects, much as Hiro and Juanita exchange information via cards in Snow Crash. With a little more practice and a stint at looking how Second Life could help us organize exchanged information, I can see how we could easily move our interactions from Blackboard to Second Life – barring the inherent difficulties with synchronous participation versus the advantages Blackboard’s asynchronous communication offers.

Many of us were critical of the DIVE approach to communicating and organizing – but upon further reflection, it’s clear how such organization could work to bring together the advantages of synchronous and asynchronous communication in a work setting. The possibilities, I see, are only opening.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

A Paperless Parent

As parents of three young children, it goes without saying that we get inundated with artwork, schoolwork and other such papers that we "have" to keep. If you've never experienced the tears and recrimination you get when your six-year-old daughter finds one of her prized works of art mushed up and squeezed into the trash can, you won't ever understand why "having" to keep this stuff is so important.

I had files of the stuff. And piles. And files and piles I hadn't filed or piled yet. So I scanned it all into the computer. I let the kids watch. They thought it was pretty neat that their art was in the computer. Then I showed them that after I'd scanned it, I was throwing it all away. But I wasn't, because it's all in the computer. They liked that -- especially the six-year-old. So, from time to time, I'll start displaying their art on this blog.

I know there are sites on the Internet that make fun of kids' art. Well, they're run by snotty people who call kids "crotchfruit" and other derogatory names and sincerely believe they're doing the world a favor by not bringing kids into the world (I have to agree with them on the last one; that'll kill of those genes in a generation, just like the asteroid that got the dinosaurs). But I like my kids' art.

Here's one from the aforementioned daughter. Her mother helped her spell my name:

In case you can't read it, yes, my name is spelled "Boob." It's fitting.

Somehow, I wish I'd saved more of my things like this from childhood. As it is, I have just a handful of drawings and a few minor samples of my otherwise poor handwriting. That's it. And I used to have boxes and boxes and boxes of this stuff. But it's all gone, thrown in some trash heap.

Yes, there are storage problems if you want to keep a hold of this kind of stuff. But that's where I've been using the computer once again. I have an apple box filled with journals, dating back nearly 18 years. They're all scanned into the computer. I still hold on to the paper, yes, but I do have them all copied onto CDs. From 2000 on, my journals are all electronic -- right down to the comics I've cut out of the newspaper to illustrate my days and years. Ditto for the research I've done for the novel I'm working on, and all the creative writing I've done over the years. I used to have binders of the stuff clogging up an entire shelf in the study. It'sll all electronic now, but this time the paper is gone. Recycled, of course. I still have a box of newspaper clippings from my era as a journalist to take care of, but I've been whittling away at it, slowly. So that's going away. It's helped to get rid of the clutter, but keep the memories.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

The Peter Pyramid

Been reading an interesting book this week – “The Peter Pyramid,” by Laurence Peter. I’ve written about his first book, “The Peter Principle,” before on this blog.

In Pyramid, Peter proposes that as society advances, our propensity to develop hierarchies that protect themselves with busy work is, in part, what’s killing our society. He points out that companies that start small with a customer-focused base can, over time, evolve into companies that are more interested in preserving inner peace and structure than in serving customers, who provide the money to keep the company going but constantly interrupt the peaceful, non-productive flow that hierarchies tend to nurture.

To quote from a story he writes of such a company: Back near the beginning, Andy was in the grocery business. He did all the paperwork during the infrequent quiet periods in his thriving business. As his business developed into a working bureaucracy, he had less and less to do with groceries and more and more to do with paperwork. Most of the people who work for him now are not in the grocery business, but are rule makers, rule enforcers, and rule followers. The rules and regulations have become more important than the people and the products.

In some ways, I can feel this happening to Uncharted. Elsewhere in the book, Peter writes about companies that become so proficient at making rules, writing memos and status reports and such that they forget to maintain proficiency in what got them into the business in the first place. In Uncharted’s case, it’s getting to the basics of sharing our love of writing about our adventures with the rest of the world. I haven’t written an Uncharted story in a long time. Jason has pointed this out, and, at first, I felt pretty defensive about it. (He pointed out our wavering from what we love.) But he may be right. We’re in that nebulous, evolving stage.

So there’s something we need to talk about. I see Uncharted in a lot of what he writes:

(Page 96) Bureaucrats are not lazy do-nothing; they are busy people. They attend meetings, write memoranda, plan budgets, organize and reorganize departments, and do many of the other things that administration of thriving enterprises do; but they do them with a different purpose.

They write memos because writing memos demonstrates that they are busy, and because once written the memos become documented evidence that the writer has been busy. Bureaucrats attend meetings because doing so gives the appearance of importance and useful activity, even if meaningful action is seldom taken. Rushing from meeting to meeting, and particularly traveling great distances to attend meetings, gives the impression that participation is of great importance.

This comes a week after I wrote en editorial plan and a memo, and traveled to Logan for a meeting that, really, I didn’t have to attend, but that I wanted to attend so I would be seen attending. I feel soooooooooo stupid right now.

Not that Peter says that everything that hierarchies do is bad. He points out that many things, such as the shipment of good throughout the world, the development of jet aircraft, and the invention of the ballpoint pen had to, necessarily, go through their stages of complexity, but in the end, these things are saving vast amounts of time and money. So I suppose what we need to do is grasp the good in what we’re able to do, but throw out the bad, ensuring that we don’t develop a pyramid that’s inverted, like the ones Peter preaches to avoid.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Priorities, Pillows, Sarcastic Eight-Year-Olds

I think it tells something about me, the results of this latest adventure. We acquire a big screen TV with a pretty good surround sound system and a set of bunk beds, and the one thing I have the time and energy to set up after the excursion to get them is over are the bunk beds.

There is some back story. We had to travel 600 miles round trip, pulling a dinky Uhaul trailer over mountain passes and through thick city traffic to get the bunk beds. So perhaps setting them up was a right of conquest. Plus, we had the boys sleeping on the floor because we tossed their old bunk beds out into the alley for the city to cart away a week ago, and we were getting tired of the following exchanges:

Parent: Liam, go make your bed.

Liam: You mean my mattress.

Eight-year-olds shouldn’t be that sarcastic, should they?

An adventure, was this weekend. We got the bunk beds from Carl and Tani. They’re allowing their daughter Tasha to redecorate her room, and she apparently has plans that involve the new Ikea store in Draper. (Last I heard, she’d stuck to her budget by buying the cheapest bed possible, but putting more than $200 worth of decorator pillows on her wish list. What is it with women and pillows? I suppose it’s the same thing as with guys and electronics.) So we had to take the bed apart, firstly to get it out of the house, secondly to get it into the trailer, and thirdly to get it down our basement stairs. The dismantling took about an hour.

On our way home, we swung through Logan, taking our heavy load through Sardine Canyon and really blocking traffic because we could only go so fast pulling eight hundred pounds of bunk bed wood. We stayed the night there, attended an Uncharted design retreat the next day (more on that later, perhaps) then went back to Iona to where our children and big screen TV awaited at their grandparents’ house. Grandpa Griffin already has a new LCD big screen picked out; he was just waiting for the old one to disappear before he bought the new one and brought it in. So we first had to squeeze all those parts in the truck and trailer. That meant taking most of the bunk bed parts out and tying them down in the truck bed, setting the TV on its side and then cramming it and all the speakers and such into the trailer. Poor Michelle had to ride home with the surround sound unit and the DVD/VCR combo on her lap, as the kids chattered endlessly in the “king” cab portion of our tiny Toyota pickup. I got all the talking-to I needed from the kids in that 45-minute drive home than we’d missed in the previous two days.

So yeah, the beds are set up, and the TV and various parts lay strewn across the floor of the living room. I nearly stayed home from work today so I could finish a bit of homework and then set up the TV, but I thought better of it, especially since there’s no way in heck I could pass that idea through spousal Priority Control. So now I’m in a holding pattern of sorts. I think I’ll wait until Michelle is sick of all the components lying around. Then she’ll spearhead getting the videocassettes off the entertainment center so we can move all that stuff out (including old TV, VCR, DVD, stereo) so the new can go in. We’ll likely keep our DVD player – we can store five in it at one time, versus just the one. Don’t know yet where we’ll put the entertainment center. Ooh. Maybe in our bedroom. That’s all we need there, eh?

Thursday, May 15, 2008

M.S. in Babbling

It's a year now since I started working on my masters degree. I've spent just over $6,000 on tuition, plus a pittance for books. I've earned 18 credits -- just over half of the 33 I need to finish this program. But I wonder: Do I feel any smarter? The mere fact that I've spent money and accumulated credits shouldn't be the only benchmarks for increasing my intelligence, should they?

Am I approaching work differently, applying what I've learned? In some ways, I think, yes I am. I'm thinking more about the audience, more about the form of the document rather than just the words. I'm looking at Uncharted in a different way as I'm applying what I've learned about document design. But there are many ways in which I have not changed, perhaps have not learned as much as I should. I assume that's the same with everyone. But maybe I'm just making an ass of myself. I want this experience to be more than just jumping through the required hoops. It's up to me to make it so.

But I will continue. By this time next year, I will have finished the masters degree. I'm contemplating now whether it would be beneficial to go for a doctorate. As far as advancement on my current job, not even the masters degree will help -- there's simply no room for advancement, or at least room that I'd take. Who wants to be a tech lead here in the writing group, when at Danny's own admission, he's probably the lowest-paid writer on the staff? (He may indeed be speaking out of the other side of his face on that one; if there's a difference between his salary and mine, it's pennies to be sure.)

What would a doctorate do for me, I ask. Locally, it could help me in applying at the local universities. But do I want to teach? That sounds like such an otherworldly thing to approach. But if I want to make more money and stay local, that's probably the best option. I can always get back on the novel writing as well, but for that to happen, well, I've got to get the head pulled out of the ol' butt.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Second Life as the Metaverse: Similarities and Differences in the Rule of Law

NOTE: This post is from a class I'm taking right now on virtual workplaces.

Neal Stephenson paints the Metaverse in his novel "Snow Crash" as a chaotic, laissez-faire society where laws and computer code suit those who create them and democracy is available only to the powerful or the powerfully talented. It is a utopia – but only for a select few. It is a place of business and commerce – for a select few. It is a place to gather and commingle – but the best gathering and commingling is reserved for a select few. It is a fount of information – for those who want it and can afford it. So it is not a utopia. It is not democratic. The masses do not enter the Metaverse and immediately find themselves on equal footing with their peers. It is, in fact, only a virtual re-creation of the real world Hiro Protagonist and the other characters in “Snow Crash” live in; a society just as ugly, amoral and chaotic as its virtual counterpart.

Second Life, too, is no utopia. But because the society it reflects is more controlled, more serene than the society reflected in the Metaverse, it is a much more pleasant place to visit. Second Life has achieved that pleasantness through creating a basic set of behavioral rules that reflect the accepted norms of our Democratic (with the big D) and capitalistic society.

Second Life’s rules (viewable at reflect our societies thusly:

1) The “Big Six” rules, preaching against intolerance, harassment, assault, disclosure of personal information, indecency and disturbing the peace.
2) “Global Standards, Local Ratings,” which allow for “mature” niches in an otherwise “PG” world.
3) Global attacks, which forbid disruption of the Second Life universe or servers with malicious scripts or objects.
4) Caveat Emptor, or buyer beware. Commerce is allowed in Second Life, but purchases are made at risk, just as they are in real life.

These rules uphold common Democratic principles, in that localities should impose or lift rules on morals without or with minimal interference from a higher authority while accepting that some rules are universal.

Rules in the Metaverse are harder to pin down, partially because they’re not as clearly spelled out in Stephenson’s novel as Second Life’s rules are on their website, and mostly because the reflected society itself gets along with fewer rules. But there are rules to be followed.

In the Metaverse and the society it reflects, law and order are not provided – they are bought and paid for. In reality, Stephenson’s “burbclaves” pay private security firms or engage in their own elaborate security measures (such as the Rat Things in the Hong Kong franchulates and the Vigilante White Rule/Black Power memes of the segregationist burbclaves) to preserve order.

In the Metaverse equivalent of reality’s “burbclaves,” local rules are again the norm. The Black Sun, for example, employs daemon bouncers to roust out anyone who is “being disruptive . . . anyone who is pestering or taping a celebrity, and . . . anyone who seems contagious. That is, if your personal computer is infected with viruses, and attempts to spread them via the Black Sun, you had better keep one eye on the ceiling (p. 55).” The Metaverse, however, allows for clever hackers like Hiro Protagonist to find cracks and niches to exploit, with the understanding – or at least the tolerance – of those in power who allow his activity to continue. Da5id’s tolerance of Hiro’s “Bigboard” program, which occasionally plays havoc with The Black Sun’s programming, is one example of an individual being allowed to break community rules, such as they are.

Buyer beware is certainly a rule applied in the Metaverse – Hiro, certainly, is wary of any hypercards he’s offered, and criticized Da5id for accepting a hypercard from a “black and white,” or an avatar created inexpensively at a public access kiosk.

In Second Life, law and order is the rule of the day. There exist an equivalent of “burbclaves” in Second Life – areas ranked for mature behavior, and private residences of-limits to those not invited. These areas are offered to allow for truly Democratic use of Second Life and reflects our real societal desire for privacy and relative freedom from offense.

Second Life has a similar tolerance of Hiro’s “Bigboard” in allowing untested objects and scripts to be tried out in “sandbox” areas. Second Life’s rules, however, are unclear if tests in these areas that are disruptive will result in disciplinary action.

This is where two critical differences between the rule of law in Second Life versus the Metaverse comes in to play: In Second Life, discipline is left up to a board of humans that will judge the miscreant on the severity of the offense and levy appropriate punishment. In the Metaverse, discipline is left up to daemons – programs like The Black Sun’s Bouncers – and individuals who take the “law” into their own hands (Hiro’s dismembering of the upstart Nipponese barring his access to Sushi K in The Black Sun and his “disarming” of the Cliff avatar trying to infect him with the Snow Crash virus – both acts performed without consequence – stand out as examples).

Additionally, Second Life applies its discipline universally, both inside and out of its “burbclaves.” In the Metaverse, what rules are outlined seem to apply only in selected areas.

That greater rules of law are applied in Second Life reflects well on the orderly society in which we live our real lives. The skewed rule of law in the Metaverse is merely a reflection of the skewed reality.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

I'm Gettin' Old

First, a Norton update: It's gone. Vamoosed. And I did not have to take the nuclear option. I'll give partial credit to the Norton folks -- they offer, buried deep on their web site, a little tool you can use to remove failed installs (or, in my case, failed uninstalls) of their products. It worked like a charm. They point you, of course, to pages directing you how to install new products and even offer them for sale there. Imagine that. But I've got Avast! working, and that's good enough for me.

This will be a brief entry. I think I've strained something in my right hand -- it's pretty sore at the moment. Well, not pretty sore. Just a little achy, as if I've got arthritis or something. Probably has to do with me being at the computer all day. I'll have to train myself to use the mouse with my left hand.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

The Curse

I believe I am cursed. In the past month, I have had two different antivirus programs refuse to uninstall from two different computers. You’d think that programs meant to keep harmful stuff off your computer wouldn’t in of themselves cause harm, but these two have.

First was the adventure with PeoplePC’s internet security system. We upgraded (finally) from dial-up to wi-fi about a month ago. Part of that included installing Avast Antivirus on our two desktop computers. We’d used it before and thought it worked just fine – never had any virus trouble. On one computer, PeoplePC bid adieu fairly easily. On the other, however, the tentacles were wrapped and locked. I eventually had to wipe the hard drive and restore everything to factory settings in order to get rid of the thing.

Now the same eerie thing is happening with my laptop. Yesterday, I tried uninstalling a copy of Norton Antivirus in favor of Avast. No go. Not only won’t Norton uninstall, it won’t let Avast install and instead the conflict is making my computer not want to boot up at all. Fortunately, I’ve gotten around the bootup problem, but still have to uninstall Norton. They offer an uninstall program which I’m hoping will solve the problem, but if it doesn’t, I guess I’m looking at wiping and restoring the laptop as well. Frustration. We finally get service that’s capable of letting me use the wireless capability of my laptop, and now it’s vulnerable to viruses because Norton’s subscription is expired and I can’t install Avast over it. I certainly hope their uninstall program works, or I’ll have some choice words to say. I’m not confident, as PeoplePC offered a similar solution, and it didn’t work.

I need the laptop to function, however, because it’s got the best configuration to run Second Life, which I’m involved in now for one of my masters classes. It’s a weird thing to be involved with a pseudo-computer game for a class, but as I’m learning, this is more of a virtual world than a game.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Viva Areva

I, for one, welcome our new French overlords.

Today, French nuclear energy conglomerate Areva announced plans to build a $2 billion uranium enrichment plant in the Idaho Falls area.

The news is good for the economy -- they plan to create about 250 jobs, in addition to the construction work the plant will need before it opens in 2014. Our local paper is calling this the biggest economic news in the past two decades, given the scope of what is coming.

  • The news adds to the area's growing reputation as an alternative energy corridor.:

  • The Center for Advanced Energy Studies will open soon in Idaho Falls.

  • The largest wind turbine array in the state is near town, but will soon be trumped by a larger array near Blackfoot.

  • Pocatello recently landed plants to build wind turbines and solar panels.
With Areva's project, of course, comes the spectre of nuclear waste. But given the Idaho National Laboratory's success in cleaning up waste here, I don't see that as a problem. Waste is, of course, a long-lasting problem that has to be dealth with. But so is the carbon dioxide and other pollutants produced by mainstream power plants. Nuclear has the potential to help reduce our dependence on foreign oil, while at the same time assuaging environmental fears of opening more land in the US for oil drilling.

But the hard-core environmentalists won't see it that way. They want the castle in Spain, which produces pollution-free energy. Wouldn't that be nice? But, before research can get us there, we've got to have electicity. I'd rather see it produced with nuclear power than coal or oil, which have waste problems of their own but are, in my opinion, much more far-reaching.

The United States has wimped out on nuclear power, insisting instead on fossil fuels and a program of carbon credits that really hasn't reduced pollution, but rather shifted who is producing it. Technology marches on in making fossil fuels more environmentally-friendly, and I applaud that. That research should continue. But at the same time, we have the opportunity to further reduce our carbon footprint -- reducing our dependence on foreign oil -- by bringing more nuclear power plants on-line.

Environmentalists point to the specre of Chernobyl as a reason why nuclear power should not be used. That is a weak argument. What happened at Chernobyl was, without a doubt, horrific. But calling for a ban on nuclear power because of one accident liek Chernobyl is like calling for a ban on jet travel because of the tragedy at Tenerife in the 1970s, when two jumbo jets collided, killing nearly 600 passengers. That nuclear power plants and planes operate daily without a glitch does not make the news; the one, horrific accident is always on page one.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Ah, the irony . . .

A few months back, my brother, who happens to be a bishop in Iona, was interviewing a new couple moving into his ward. He found out they were counselors, setting up a home where they could work with troubled young men. The man began to describe the ramshackle old home they'd bought to convert into their home for wayward boys, and asked Al if he knew the house.

"Know the house," he replied, "I grew up in it."

Yes, the house on Hitt Road where we all grew up is now a home for wayward boys.

Slightly ironic, not even considering that we boys weren't all that wayward, at least by modern standards.

But it got me to thinking about that old house, squeezed between the welding gas supply company and the Kennels -- the neighbors, not, literally, kennels with the small K:

  • Does that closet in the bedroom still have the hole in the drywall where the older kids "stashed" money, and where we younger kids, not having money, stashed Monopoly money?
  • Would the new homeowners consider letting me go on a pseudo-archaeological dig on the grounds to search out bones of long-gone family pets and the numerous bags of Legos, marbles and other such stuff that we buried as treasure there?
  • Is the "guest house" Dad built -- it used to be a chicken coop -- still there, complete with the hand-made four-poster built-in bed?
  • Are the chicken tracks still in the concrete in the woodshed?
  • Is the woodshed still there?
  • Does it still say "W is here" above the door of the bedroom Al built for himself in the garage? (I understand the guy who owns the house now is using that room as his office.) Jeff painted the graffiti there in black model paint; the "w" stands for "woman," one of their big insult words back then. Wouldn't work these days.
  • Do the power lines across the street still hum loudly when it's cold and wet?
  • Is the shutoff valve for the water still in that little compartment underneath the plank in the laundry room?
I don't know that I could live in that house any more. It's world has diminished. The house, of course, is still the same, or so I imagine, not having been in it in about ten years. But in those intervening ten years, other people have lived there, making it their house, burying their own memories in the back yard and such. The vacant lots across the street and to the north, where we used to ride our bikes and dig and play and hide, are now occupied by businesses. The big hunks of concrete we used as aircraft carriers are no longer there. The enormous hollow metal posts holding up the sign for the Northgate Industrial Park, filled with pigeons and guano, are no longer there. Why do I remember such pedestrian stuff with such fondness? Guess it's because it's where I grew up.

The neighborhood where we live now, where our kids are being raised, feels sterile in comparison. No dangerous businesses to nose around in, to pilfer through Dumpsters for cardboard and other treasures. No fields in which to make bicycle tracks, because everything is such private, keep-off-my-grass anymore these days. But of course that's my adult perception. My kids, when they begin to wander, may see things differently. They may do as we did back then: Play in the fields no matter whether the property owners wanted us there or not. It's all a matter of perception. And my perception is a bit cloudier these days, cluttered with parental responsibility, the same kind of thing I tolerated as a kid, but mostly rolled my eyes at when I knew eye-rolling was an acceptable commentary on the ways parents do things.

Monday, May 5, 2008

And they got dumber, and dumber, and dumber . . .

I do not profess to be the smartest guy in the world. Even in my household of five, there are days when my intelligence ranks below that of our dachshund. But at least I know better than this:

Nazi Germany did, of course, host the Olympic Games, back in 1936:

I don’t mind if people want to protest things. They ought to be bright enough, however, to do a little research before they make their posters. A few minutes perusing Olympics history would clearly have shown this. Apparently, the poster-maker has never heard of Jesse Owens.

It’s good to see that liberals can be just as dumb as the people they accuse of cornering the dumb market. That's the conservatives, in case you're not bright enough to figure that out.

It's kind of comforting, if you ask me, to see that dumbness knows no political boundary.

And how dare I surmise that the poster-maker was a liberal? I admit to no solid proof. But since it seems to be the (American) liberal thing to do these days to make highly photogenic protests that will amount to affecting no changes whatsoever while believing their actions will severely impact the world on a global scale, I think I'm safe in my assumption.

True, conservatives also make ineffectual protests -- and protest material. But they tend to stick to making highly photogenic protests that will amount to no changes whatsoever on the domestic scale, e.g., immigration, English as the official language, and so forth.