My Valentine’s Day Poem

I don’t know if I ever told this story and published this on LJ, and I’m too lazy to look, and I don’t care.  About twenty *cough* years ago I was dating The Girl Who Broke My Heart, and we went into an Italian restaurant called Ceatti’s for Valentine’s Day (this was before she Broke My Heart, y’know).  Turns out they were having a poetry contest.  You had to write a poem that started, “Roses are red, violets are blue.”  I don’t remember what first prize was, but third prize was dinner for two, and second prize was a silver bracelet.  I won the bracelet; I never got to see the poem that beat me.

Anyway, in celebration of Valentine’s Day, here it is:

Roses are red, violets are blue

How peculiar if the reverse were true.

If roses were blue and violets were red

Would violets have the thorns instead?

Would lips be violet in poem or prose?

Would Liz Taylor’s eyes be compared to a rose?

Wine-lists would be only to smile at:

“Would you care for white, or red, or vio-lat?”

What odd confusion would ensue

If violets were red, and roses were blue.


Orson Scott Card, DC Comics, and Censorship

First of all, here is Will Shetterly’s take on the matter, with which I pretty much agree.

The issue, for those who don’t know, is that Orson Scott Card, who has consistently expressed homophobic opinions, and supported anti-gay laws, is doing some Superman comics for DC, and some people are trying to get him fired.

I need to be clear: unlike Will, I am not 100% against censorship.  I can easily imagine circumstances where I favor it.  The press (in the broadest sense of the “the press”) is a weapon, and in a war, you use all the weapons you have, and attempt to deny weapons to the enemy*.  My opinion on censorship, therefore, flows from this.  In a revolutionary crisis, I would be delighted to deny the enemy the means to spread his ideas and organize counter-revolution.  In the meantime, I support free speech and oppose censorship because the forces that would prevent the enemy from speaking can easily be turned around on those I support, and, as I am convinced I’m right, I have no fear of battling in the arena of ideas.  It is practical question.

In this case, there are many things that bother me, in various degrees.  For one, what is happening is that people are attempting to deny someone his livelihood on account of his beliefs.  That’s been done before.  And because it was done by the Right before is exactly why the Left ought not to do it now.

Here is another aspect: Card wants to deny Gays the right to marry.  I oppose him on this, because I believe the right to marry is a basic human right.  But there are other human rights as well.  People, are you aware of how many Libertarians and Randites there are in the SF/F community?  Tons.  And it is my sincere opinion that these people, if they get their way, will deny far more rights to far more people than Gays being unable to marry.  Their policies favor the absolute crushing of the working class, and all means whereby the workers can resist attacks on their living standards and basic rights.  To me, that is exactly what those philosophies are: justifications for brutal attacks on the entire working class, in defense of unfettered profit for a tiny minority.

So why is it no one is organizing a boycott of Jerry Pournelle, John Ringo, &c &c?  No one is, including me.  Nor am I in favor of doing so.

Because when you deny someone a living because of his beliefs, you are denying a basic human right.  And we do not defend human rights by sacrificing those of others.

That’s what the enemy does.  Let’s not do it ourselves, all right?


ETA: When I speak of the policies of Libertarians and Randites, I am speaking of where I believe those policies will lead, not necessarily of the desires or intentions of those who subscribe to them.


*Seriously.  I have fantasies of traveling back in time and explaining to W.T. Sherman that, however much he hates the press, by his actions he is simply handing weapons over to the Confederates; that it’s no better than returning cannon to them after capturing them.  Of course, he wouldn’t have listened.


The Catmobile vs the Snowplows

The following happened back in 1991. I thought it lost forever until my friend D.W.James let me know that, in fact, he had saved it as it happened (then posted on the old bulletin board system GEnie).

So, without even fixing typos, here, as it unfolded at the time, is the saga of the Catmobile vs the Snowplows

Category 8, Topic 17
Message 483 Thu Dec 05, 1991

Bill, it was *great* doing tunes with you. More! More!

So, for those of you who like stories, a funny thing happened today. Or, actually, is happening now (pause to go look out the window), yes. Well, you see, when I got home from Silicon, I found about fifteen or twenty more inches of snow than there’d been when I left. The Catmobile (the ambulence pictured on the cover of ANOTHER WAY TO TRAVEL) was burried. Not only that, but it needed a jump-start (I left the headlights on last time I drove it). Not only *that* but it was parked on what we Minnesotans call a “Snow Emergency Route”– the first areas plowed during a snow emergency, and you’d bloody well better not leave your car there.

So, there’s the Catmobile, dead, burried, and in the wrong place, with a nice ticket sticking out of the snow mound. Not much I could do about it right away, but I figured I’d try to get some help and move the thing this weekend.

Too late. About 10:00 this evening, the city towing service arrived, dug her out enough to attach chains and stuff, and started pulling. The Catmobile didn’t want to go. They argued. The towtruck lost. I looked out the window about 11:00 and saw the poor man standing out there, scratching his head. I went out to talk to him, and found out that his truck had burned out. No engine, no power, nothing. I invited him in. He came in and used the phone. Seemed like a nice guy.

The second tow truck arrived about midnight.

The third tow truck arrived about 1:00.

They retreated in confusion about 1:30, leaving behind the first truck, which was still disabled–in front of my driveway. Now, you can’t go and block someone’s driveway, can you? ‘Course not. I called the police, and explained that their was a towtruck blocking my driveway. They came by about ten minutes ago (as I was starting to type this message) and looked at it. I don’t know what they’ll do. They’ll probably get my car eventually, but she sure hasn’t made it easy for the bastards.

Category 8, Topic 17
Message 484 Thu Dec 05, 1991

As of now (03:31 zulu) the 4th tow truck has come…and gone. Heh heh heh.

Category 8, Topic 17
Message 485 Thu Dec 05, 1991

03:55 and tow-trucks number 5, 6, and 7 are there. Number 1 is too, still being attached to the Catmobile. Truch number 6 is a big flatbed–they’re pulling out the heavy artillery now.

This is all fun, but I hope they don’t hurt the car, or I will be seriously bummed.

Category 8, Topic 17
Message 486 Thu Dec 05, 1991

04:03 Truck *NINE* showed up–another flatbed, and they’ve finally managed to get truck number 1 out of there. Now there are two flatbeds and a regular truck standing around out there. Presumably they’re finally going to take the Catmobile away, but I don’t see them actually doing anything yet.

Category 8, Topic 17
Message 487 Thu Dec 05, 1991

4:15 Truck *ten* just showed up. Another flatbed. The last regular tow-truck has split. People, I’m not making this up. Now they look serious about towing her. *Sigh*

Category 8, Topic 17
Message 488 Thu Dec 05, 1991

4:31 Yep. Number 10 finally got her. I’ll probably go in on Friday and bail her out.


Afterword added 2/12/2013: One thing I didn’t mention at the time, but clearly remember: As they were towing her away going north on Portland (which is a one-way street going south, incidentally), a bit of snow fell off the left front headlight. I swear to God, it looked at though she were winking at me.

I retrieved her the next day, and I’ll bet to this day those people have never seen anyone grinning as much when retrieving a towed-away car.

Another Way to Travel Cover

Question for Civil War Buffs

Here is a statistic I’d love to learn: What percentage of Confederate officers own slaves versus enlisted men? Further broken down by field officer versus general officer, and by number of slaves. I have a feeling this would shed some interesting light on the “Rich man’s war, poor man’s fight” idea that went through the Confederate Army. If it exists, I can’t find it. If it doesn’t, some graduate student somewhere should use it for a thesis.

Re-Post: Philosophy and Light Bulbs

There’s been a bit of discussion on philosophy (which pleases me, by the way), so I thought it was time to resurrect this one from the vault of Livejournal about 6 years ago, with a few minor edits.

How many philosophers does it take to change a light-bulb?

A preposterous question. Obviously, it depends on what sort of philosopher we’re discussing. I’m sure this has been done before, but here are my answers:

Pragmatist: Hey, if holding the bulb while four of your friends turn the chair makes you happy, then that is the right way to change a light-bulb for you.

Empiricist: We can’t know how to change a light-bulb, we can only know how it has been reportedly changed in the past.  But we can make lists of how big it is, the wattage, the thickness of the glass, the composition of the filiment…

Thomist: When we examine the concept of “light-bulb” one requirement is that it light up. Hence, if it does not light up, it is not a light-bulb.  If it is not a light-bulb  there is no reason to change it.

Aristotelean: Changing of light-bulbs can be divided into: manipulation of the old bulb, and manipulation of the new bulb. Bulb manipulation, in turn, can be divided into: Turning motion, raising motion, dropping motion. We cannot understand motion.

Kantian: While having light is a categorical imperative, by understanding the light-bulb-in-itself, it becomes, for us, a new light-bulb, and thus there is no need to change it.

Platonist: The closer our light-bulb gets to the Ideal Light-bulb, the less it requires changing.

Dialectical Materialist: None. The light-bulb changes because of it’s own internal contradictions.

Skeptic: We can’t know if we’re changing the light-bulb. We can’t know if changing the light-bulb is an improvement. In fact, we can’t really know if it’s dark. Especially with the lights out.

Hegelian: A light-bulb that will not produce light is irrational. When the light-bulb becomes irrational, it ceases to exist; when the light bulb no longer exists, it is irrational. Insofar as a new light-bulb sheds light on the Absolute Idea, it becomes a rational light-bulb  and comes into being as part of our striving for the categories of logic.  Thus the transition: burned out bulb, to changing the bulb, to a working bulb, recapitulates the process of our thinking within the phenomenon of light, which in turns raises our minds to truth and freedom.

Positivist: If we cannot demonstrate mathematically the process of light-bulb changing, the bulb is not important. If we can, then the mathematical demonstration is sufficient for our purposes.

Post-structuralist: By rejecting neo-Enlightenment notions that privilege “light” (which privilege we find textually included in the subject narrative), we can conceptualize the relationship between optically-oriented envisioning and those signifiers that address interpretations of post-colonial modernism as an established text within the framework of which, intertextually, we are lead to reject any causal relationship between the operands and the motivators, thus redefining darkness on an individual basis that turns the meta-narrative into its own form of de-categorized photonic emission.

Memetics: The speed at which the notion “a burned out light-bulb should be replaced” has spread is inexplicable unless one looks at the idea itself.

Existentialist: Why change the light-bulb?