November 1, 2010
Recently girls everywhere shrieked hysterically because the interwebs was rude to one of them. An anonymous troll complimented a female cartoonist with an over-the-top joke playing on her gender. She felt offended by the comment and a minor fracas ensued. I will now fulfill panel #9 in the linked cartoon above and Mansplain why women are wrong.
The Internet is rude, crass, juvenile and funny. There’s a style of humor that is popular on many forums dominated by grown-up boys that is similar to Beavis & Butthead. Unfortunately, this style of humor doesn’t go over well with everyone. For example, the phrase “sandy vagina” is hilarious to some men, but some women find it offensive. When a friend is complaining about something, I might say, “What’s the matter Bob, got sand in your vagina?” It’s intended as a humorous way of saying Bob is getting worked up about something trivial. Why use this particular phrase? Honestly, I don’t know where it came from but the imagery is funny. I might have said “Bob has a bee in his bonnet”, but that’s a dated expression and not at all funny.
When someone utters the phrase “sandy vagina”, does the intent and context of the comment matter? Some women are arguing that if they feel offended, it is offensive. I think many men consider the intent of the comment before deciding to be offended. Of course this can also lead to confusion: if I call Bob a douchebag in jest, he may think I’m serious and punch me in the nose. For some reason this doesn’t happen often. Men don’t seem to take these comments too seriously.
This all reminds me of the court cases involving the Child Online Protection Act (COPA) in 2004. In an attempt to attack Internet pornography, federal prosecutors twisted the “offends the community standard” test by filing suit in the most conservative community they could find. They argued that if any one community is offended, then that porn is offensive and should be stopped by COPA. Lewd and crude comments on the Internet are similar. I’m not offended, nor are most people on Fark, reddit, Digg, Youtube, etc. But some women believe that if any one person or group is offended, then those comments are, de facto, offensive. I disagree based on the same logic that defends porn from COPA. Those women need to get the sand out of their collective vagina and toughen up.
September 14, 2010
I might have a teeny tiny bit of Asperger’s syndrome. Whenever I take those online tests for empathy or systematizing I score far into the autistic range. Of course, these are just online tests and should not be taken seriously. The thing that struck me is that many people who scored very low on empathy described exactly my experience interacting with people. I can’t read how people feel at all. In the absence of information, I assume people dislike me. If I’m talking to someone, I’ll assume they’re bored and end the conversation quickly to let them escape from me. Smalltalk bores me to tears. I am entirely logical and rarely feel strong emotions. I don’t understand other people’s motivations. And women are especially perplexing because they seem to be a giant bundle of contradictions. Women seem to find my sense of humor off-putting, which then makes me nervous talking to them. I have to censor everything I say to carefully be as banal and non-threatening as possible. With men, on the other hand, I can let my humor rip because only pansies are going to get upset. Nevertheless, I’m going to try to do something about it. I’m going to try to chat with people until they punch me in the face. No pain, no gain.
August 4, 2010
Everyone says that the male/female ratio in NYC is so favorable to men that it is trivially easy to get laid. And yet I still can’t get a date. I must be horrifically ugly. Then I found this guy’s explanation for my lack of luck with the ladies: the stats are a lie, there are more single men than women everywhere if you narrow it to the prime dating ages of 20-40. So there is not a bounty of desperate women in NYC willing to hook up with a hideous troll like me.
July 22, 2010
I am a cynical person, as explained by the first definition of cynical: “believing or showing the belief that people are motivated chiefly by base or selfish concerns”. This is also underlies the economic principle of rational choice theory. I also believe people are sometimes dumb and emotional, so they don’t understand or act against what is in their self-interest. I am not, however, “distrustful or contemptuous of virtue, esp selflessness in others; believing the worst of others”. Most of my understanding of people is centered on the question, what’s in it for them? It makes it easier to understand politics and business, and sometimes relationships.
July 16, 2010
I was banned long ago from Yahoo Answers after several months of harassing teenagers. Many of their questions were so stupid and/or naive they were begging to be insulted. How could I resist? The Internet gives me a place to vent without directly offending people. That’s why /b/ is fun, though it can get monotonous.
Of course, I would never say anything like that to someone’s face. My sense of humor is basically The Family Guy without the FCC watching. After college I realized that many people are easily offended by off-color humor. Since the ratio of female to male viewers for Family Guy skews heavily towards drunken frat boys, I’m particularly careful around women. In real life, I talk with a 3 second delay to filter my speech for anything that might offend. Once a gal said I should speak freely because she’s cool and all. I said, “Good, ’cause I was wondering if that fishy smell was the appetizer or your pussy. I’m sending one of them back to the kitchen.” She was not amused, and I learned to cauterize a knife wound with a candle.
So a lot of trolling is just people venting and joking around, not the breakdown of civil society. It only gets viscous when someone discovers your soft underbelly of emotional vulnerability. That’s when things get really fun.
August 21, 2007
Jean-Jacques Rousseau wrote the creationist’s argument for an intelligent designer. That is, if you find a watch, you recognize that this thing was created and it is not natural. So, too, are birds and people and whales marvelous machines that must have been created by God. He also made the argument that God must be the first cause that set the universe in motion. Two absurd religious arguments found in Book IV of Emile (read it here). Religious nuts quote these arguments, but they avoid the rest of that section where Rousseau says he does not believe in organized religions. Instead, he’s a theist who thinks organized religions are scams (he’s much too verbose). That’s why his books were burned at the time by Christians. I’ll have to bring that up the next time some moron preaches about creationism to me.
I was lead to Rousseau’s writings by this excellent article by Mark Lilla, who wrote of this book: “It is the most beautiful and convincing defense of man’s religious instincts ever to flow from a modern pen.” Frankly, that’s bull. If you read that section where the Savoyard Priest rambles on and on, you’ll see that it is full of holes and logical leaps. He argues for the existence of God by a thought experiment. But without any real data, thought experiments can go anywhere you want. It would be like asking a senile Senator to describe how the Internet works. He might describe it as a “series of tubes” because he is forcing a limited set of facts into his existing mental frameworks (i.e. plumbing). It sounds convincing to other ignoramouses, but it’s completely wrong. Rousseau is forcing his limited knowledge of physics to fit his preferred idea of a God. Like every crackpot conspiracy theory, a few facts can be a dangerous thing.
August 13, 2007
I’m a big fan of great product design (the iPhone is fantastic). I love great product design that’s targeted towards developing countries. For example, the PlayPump is a wonderful, innovative, brilliant idea. Problem: it takes a lot of effort to pump up well water when you need it. Solution: put a merry-go-round on the pump and let hyperactive kids power it. Watercone is another good product: put a tray of dirty water in the sun and collect the clean condensation. The AfriCart is a simple hand cart made from bicycle parts. The key is it can be made and repaired in rural areas without any special tools or materials. There must be lots of interesting ideas that can help the poor live better lives. I’m annoyed, however, that Africans haven’t come up with these ideas themselves. There are lots of smart people in the developed parts of Africa who have real experience with these issues. They should be the main source of new ideas, not rich Westerners halfway around the world.