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irony

What is “white fragility”?

I posted the following as a comment on the “What is ‘white fragility’?” article on the Oxford Dictionaries blog, but that was a week or so ago and the moderators have not approved it, so I’ll post it here instead.


TL;DR: You’re damned it you do and damned if you don’t.

The problem with inventing a pejorative, racist phrase like “white fragility” and then defining it as any possible reaction a white person can have to being presented with information that casts his or her race in a negative light in a discussion he or she knows she or he cannot win — including silence and the simple act of “leaving” or not participating in the discussion — is that it’s a blatant attempt at actively marginalising a definable group in a “damned if you do and damned it you don’t” way. So then, you might ask, what’s the point of inventing the phrase and defining it? It’s to be “reverse” racist! So yeah, since I’m white my reaction is yet another “textbook example” of my “white fragility” because any reaction, including clicking the back button and choosing not to engage, is (by definition) “white fragility”! There’s nowhere to hide in this maddening circular argument in which there is no possible way for a white person to save face or even ameliorate the position presented, and it’s designed to pre-emptively cut the legs out from any possible position a white person might take by allowing every non-white person to dismiss their position, no matter how valid, as just another “textbook example” of “white fragility”.

In the “textbook example” given, Captain Scott Arndt is simply ignorant of the statistics and a denier of (I can only assume) valid statistics collected using valid scientific methods. That just makes him an idiot, and idiots come in all hues. He then responded in a typically American fashion, which is to whine and file a complaint over something that could have been resolved in minutes if more mature and intelligent people were involved, and the American media responded in typically American fashion by making a mountain out of a molehill. If the statistics he couldn’t stomach only involved transgender people and not “transgender people (of color)” (one wonders why the author bracketed those words, when they aren’t bracketed anywhere in the media release [not “scholarly data”] to which she links) then this whole “textbook example” of “white fragility” would fall apart! It is not, in fact, a “textbook example” of “white fragility”; it’s a “textbook example” of two police officers who have poor interpersonal skills (and probably other undocumented issues between them) and as much an example of “cisgender fragility” as it is “white fragility”! But the latter doesn’t conveniently feed into the author’s racist narrative.

And let’s not even get into how it should be “politically correct” for people to issue “trigger warnings” to their fragile, white friends to whom they might be about to say something that will trigger “white fragility”! On the one hand political correctness demands that we be super-sensitive to others’ feelings, and on the other just blatantly and gleefully tramples all over my feelings of “white fragility”! Oh the irony!

Charlie Hebdo se souvenait

"Charia Hebdo" cover defaced with a "Keep Calm and Carry On" pencil.

Charia Hebdo: Keep Calm and Carry On

It’s one year on (from 7 January 2015), and I’m remembering the attack on the offices of, and the cold-blooded murder of members of the staff at, Charlie Hebdo in Paris. Also of note is the concurrent murder of the protection officers that were detailed to protect certain Charlie Hebdo staff members after a previous terror attack in 2011 and two bystanders, as well as others who were murdered — another police officer and shoppers at a grocery store in Porte de Vincennes (a suburb of Paris) — in associated attacks in the days following.

I read somewhere recently that Charlie Hebdo was on the verge of closing down when the attacks happened, and that they have experienced a renaissance since. Perhaps that is the point behind their rather graphic tank cartoon, of which I heartily approve. If you believe in a higher power — Allah, God, whatever — I would call the recovery divine intervention. Take note: Your god does not approve of you killing people, certainly not in his name, and he’s not so fucking vain and insecure as to have issues with being drawn.

Vive la presse libre!

Android issues

Google+ has stopped, which is very unfortunate.

Google+ has crashed, burned and died, which is terribly unfortunate

As I’ve alluded to before, my disappointment with the Android operating system created by Google is mighty. However, it reached a new low last week.

Suddenly I kept being presented with “Unfortunately, Google+ has stopped” errors that prevented me from doing anything until I tapped either “Report” or “OK”. I tapped “OK” the first few times, but then I thought, “Well, maybe I should be a good user and report this problem.” At first my reports were polite, but after being presented with this error every few seconds, sometimes one on top of the other while I was still trying to report the previous instance, I started to use four-letter words, usually two per report. Then I just gave up, and hit a few random letters before sending my report. I figured that after a few dozen reports something might be done. I am so naive!

Anyway, after a day or two of not being able to do anything on my tablet without constant interruption by the Google Plus app apparently crashing, I decided to take matters into my own hands. First of all, I don’t use Google Plus in any shape or form, but (of course) it’s a “system app” that you are forced to keep, so I rolled back the updates and disabled it. Then I went and disabled every single Google app I could identify except the six that I’m actually using:

  • Chrome,
  • Gmail,
  • Google Play service,
  • Google Play Store,
  • (Google) Maps, and
  • Youtube.

I have no doubt that there are more Google services on my tablet “phoning home” at every opportunity, but I probably can’t do much about those. As for the six that are left, short of “rooting” my device I probably can’t operate without the two “Play” apps, Gmail is on my list of things that I won’t need in the near future (and will disable) as I work diligently to stop using all Google services (I’ll be writing about that when I have some time), Chrome I’m keeping for now as I think it’s a good idea to have a second web browser on any machine (even if one of them is Google crap), Google Maps I will replace if or when I find something as good (in the meantime I’m fine using it with location services turned off), and Youtube … well, since it’s the world’s video sharing service, I won’t be disabling that any time soon, I suppose.

Speaking of rooting, I’m now way more inclined to do that than I was a couple of years ago when I bought this tablet. The only issue is that I don’t have the time to spend managing all of my computing resources. Technology was supposed to save us time, allowing us to frolic in fields of green with our friends and families while the computers did all the work. Instead we’re chained to them like slaves. How bloody ironic! Anyway, my tablet doesn’t seem to be on a list of supported devices for which there are instructions and software for rooting. Further digging reveals that I could probably work on it but … here we are back at the time excuse in this circular argument.

But here’s some further irony in this story: Once I had disabled all of the Google apps I could get my hands on, suddenly I could multitask again! Well, as well as you can on a tablet, I suppose. Where once I couldn’t switch to another app without it completely reloading from scratch, now I can get back to where I was mid-session with some of them. Firefox is the exception, which annoyingly reloads tabs from scratch every single time they’re re-selected.


Update, 29 November 2015: Having got on a roll and removed or (if it’s a “system app”) disabled any app that I’m not using, I was left with Samsung WatchON, which (after rolling back all of the updates) I can neither disable nor remove nor even stop. And yet, according to its Wikipedia article (as much research as I am willing to waste my time with), “App is discontinued on December 31, 2014 worldwide except US and Korea, and June 15, 2015 in those remaining two countries.” (The wording of that is not the only problem with the Wikipedia article.) When I try to run the app I’m told that it won’t run because the time on my device is wrong. Well, actually Samsung, it’s not. And so, having rolled back all of the updates so that I could disable this “system (cr)app”, I’m now running an out-of-date and possibly vulnerable app that I can neither stop, disable nor remove, and I keep being prompted to update it. Well, I guess I’d better update it then to stop the annoyance! Now when I try to run it I get an error message about not being able “to retrieve data from the server.” It helpfully suggest that I “Try again later. (1) [sic]

Thanks, Samsung, you useless bastards.

Can I have a DF steer?

The old DF steer came onto my radar today (if you’ll excuse the irony), so not having flown for far too many years I thought I’d look it up, just out of curiosity. Seems they are being or have been decommissioned in a lot of places.

But what really struck me in the few discussions I read about them was the incredibly narrow view of some of the pilots discussing them. Sure, as we all know, the USA is the centre of the universe in many ways, not the least of which is aviation, but the ability to fly is supposed to broaden your outlook (and particularly your world view), especially if you can talk about zipping a couple of hundred nautical miles away (or over to the next continent, depending on your equipment!) to have lunch and be back in time for dinner. And yet, here were all these pilots (most of them US-based) talking about DF steers and radar coverage as if the former are no longer available anywhere on the planet, and the latter covers every square centimetre of the planet.

Weird.

Fashion

Boring. Boooooooring! That one word pretty much sums up my fashion sense, if you can even call it that.

I vaguely remember — in the seventies — having a “parachute jacket” that I thought was pretty cool. All I can remember now is that it was bright yellow (probably not quite as bright in reality as it is now in my memory, or maybe it was brighter!), had zips and press studs and the texture of the material out of which they make parachutes — hence the name. And I think I probably bought (or had bought for me by my parents) a few pairs of jeans that were probably fairly cool back in their day … flares, stovepipes, pockets galore with flaps and/or zips, etc.

But these days — and for most of my life from my teens onwards — my attire has been pretty utilitarian. Truth is, if the law and the weather permitted it and I had somewhere to put my wallet (a sporran perhaps?), I’d walk around buck naked all day. So my default attire in public is shorts (I mean real shorts, not those stupid “short trousers” that go all the way down to your knees, or further!) and T-shirts and slops in the summer, and jeans, T-shirts and shoes & socks in the winter. In the winter I’ll take a jacket if I’m driving somewhere (I’ll actually wear a lighter one if I’m walking), but it will likely stay in the car until my return home. (Friends are always asking me, as I leave their places after an evening, “Didn’t you bring a jacket?!”) My use (or lack thereof) of jackets is a topic unto itself for another time.

I do own khaki pants, golf shirts, plaid shirts and other long- and short-sleeved collared shirts, dressier black Oxford Brogues than my current, everyday, brown Derby-type shoes, a sports coat, suits (double- and single-breasted), about two dozen ties (ranging from plain black for funerals to far more ostentatious and whimsical ones) and half a dozen bow ties. However, the dressier things get the fewer the opportunities I have for wearing them, especially considering I work from home. Actually, I really do lament that as I do like to dress up (and I think I rock a well-fitting suit, even if I do say so myself), but I can’t make up events that don’t exist and I’m too practical to put on a suit just to go and visit friends for the evening.

I do care what I look like when I leave the house, but I don’t care enough to go to ridiculous ends and spend ridiculous amounts of money and time on my appearance. And I mostly will not wear what mainstream fashion tells me I should wear, so I’m a bloody-minded contrarian to boot.

The reason I bring this up is an article on “lumbersexuals” on The Daily Beast. One paragraph really spoke to me:

But the rough-looking, dependably butch lumbersexual, despite his honest-guy uniform, is a drag queen, just as we all are. On go our costumes every day, and so it especially is with those whose uniform is dedicated to looking like they care least of all what they look like. The lumbersexual is the biggest drag queen of them all.

Now, I have never until today heard the term “lumbersexual”; I own two plaid shirts that I rarely wear (and only one of them is flannel) and it is quite clear to me that the guys I have seen pictured in articles I have now read about them spent a lot more than “20 minutes of [their] morning[s] delicately trimming [their] beard[s] in the bathroom mirror“. I have also grown full beards, although I’m not that fond of them. But I squirmed uncomfortably at the thought that maybe the attire that results from my “studied disinterest” (to quote my father) in fashion is, in itself, a fashion statement.

If it is, I may as well pull out my wallet and head to the nearest trendy clothing shop and ask someone there to dress me properly in some hip new threads. (Irony intended.) The problem is, I just can’t stand waste, and I’ll still be wearing in five years what is trendy today. I can’t win!

“Comply or Die”

Yet again we have Canadian police killing civilians, acting as judge, jury and — most importantly — executioner. While we wait for a thorough and impartial investigation — in our dreams — of the shooting of Sammy Yatim in Toronto, as with the killing of Robert Dziekanski at Vancouver Airport in 2007 it’s certainly telling to note that the cops had apparently killed him within 39 seconds of arriving on the scene, even as he stood alone inside a tram car! Do the cops not learn anything from their past behaviour?!

Unlike the Dziekanski case though, this cop clearly shot to kill. You don’t fire nine shots into someone expecting that they’ll be providing fingerprints and a mug shot down at the cop shop later. Oh, and just for good measure (kind of a “fuck you, punk”), one of the 23 cops on the scene (because apparently all the thugs in town wanted a piece of the action) then tasered Yatim’s lifeless body, before ironic first aid was performed on him. (Actually, one can’t help but wonder if the taser was deployed only so that the cops could say that they tried to subdue Yatim with it. A little fudging of the time line in the cops’ notes would have been required of course, but that’s OK, as long as the bad guy dies.)

Part of the report on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s The National on 28 July 2013 included an interview with a former Toronto cop who, while being critical of the speed with which Yatim was executed, used the term “Comply or die.” I’d never heard the term before, but it so poetically and succinctly seems to sum up what appears to be the motto of most police forces these days.

Rather than engage the population they’re supposed to protect in order to use “minimum force” and avoid violence — yes, even apparent bad guys with knives need to be engaged unless loss of life is imminent — cops these days seem to be on a rampage, killing, tasering or pepper-spraying anybody that even dares to look at them sideways. It doesn’t even matter that you’ve managed to live for a half century or more without so much as stealing a penny candy as a kid or getting a parking ticket, you too can find yourself on the wrong end of a weapon held by a mentally unstable cop who is miffed at you for not immediately getting down and kissing his jackboots the moment he (or she in the case of “Constable 728”, aka Stefanie Trudeau) barks a command in your direction, even when you hadn’t heretofore even had a reason to note the cop’s presence.

And that last point is important to note. All sorts of people come to the defence of the cops in cases like this for all sorts of reasons, many of whom probably fit into my penny candy / parking ticket description. Based on their life experiences, it’s obvious to them that anyone who incurs the wrath — or even just the attention — of the police is obviously guilty of something. It doesn’t really matter what that “something” is; for these people you’re guilty until proven innocent, and “you must have done something to deserve being shot, tasered or pepper-sprayed.” Or, in the case of completely blameless Buddy Tavares and his assailant RCMP Constable Geoff Mantler, you must have done something to deserve having said jackboot forcibly applied to your lips to assist you in planting the kiss.

That old adage about walking a mile in someone’s shoes comes to mind.

Related to this story but with reference to my previous post about the Canadian media, I found it odd how CBC television news showed pictures of Yatim looking like something of a gangster but had a former Toronto cop on who questioned the speed of the use of force, while Global television news showed pictures of a clean-cut young kid, but had on their own “expert” who said that cops had no choice but to shoot to kill.

BlackBerry/RIM. Going, going, gone?

A couple of years ago my company had a major server outage on a primary server that brought down websites and email for almost two and a half hours. Such outages are rare, but they happen, and they happen to small hosting companies like NinerNet as well as the giants. After that outage I wrote about the lessons learnt and, without trying to deflect attention or criticism away from us, I pointed out an extensive list of major service outages experienced by the likes of Google, Amazon, YouTube, Barclays Bank, MySpace, Facebook, PayPal, Microsoft, eBay, and so on.

Also in that list was BlackBerry/RIM, and this is what I wrote at the time on them in particular:

Have a Blackberry? Do you realise that all Blackberry emails in the whole world go through one data centre in central Canada, and if that data centre has a problem, you can still use your Blackberry for a paperweight? Nobody is immune; nobody gets away unscathed.

I’m under the impression that, since then, RIM expanded that single point of failure to create multiple points of failure (often under threat of sanctions by governments who want access to their citizens’ communications), and fail they have — worldwide — in the last few days. And for several days, not just a couple of hours.

Without wanting to gloat over a mortally-wounded about-to-be corpse, RIM’s problems weren’t that difficult to predict. Unfortunately for them they are, at this time, the victim of a perfect storm that includes (among other things) poor sales and share performance, product failures, the almost simultaneous (to their technical troubles) launch of a new messaging system on the iPhone to rival BlackBerry Messenger, and these latest technical troubles. But this perfect storm is of RIM’s own making, and their problems go deeper than that anyway; they go to the heart of their core philosophies.

Now, I’m no Apple fanboi (and in the wake of the death of Steve Jobs I commend to you What Everyone Is Too Polite to Say About Steve Jobs), but at least an iPhone more resembles a “proper” computer like the one you have on your desk than the toaster in your kitchen that can only do the one or two things its manufacturer decided in its infinite wisdom it needs to do. Mobile computers (aka “smartphones”) like the iPhone and those running on the Android operating system rely on open standards when it comes to things like email. In short, open standards and systems win. (That said, Apple is not the poster child for open standards and systems, and needs to change that.) There is no central super-server somewhere handling all email for all iPhone or Android users worldwide, just waiting to fail. With BlackBerry there is … or was. End of story.

If you swallowed RIM’s mantra about their system being de rigueur for business and the iPhone being “not for business”, you’re paying for that today.

Sorry for that.


Update, 30 May 2012: Seven months later and Roger Cheng at CNET finally comes to much the same conclusion.

Only in Vancouver …

… will you be approached outside a Starbucks by a guy plugged into an iPod begging — “pretty please” — for a dollar to buy a coffee.