The Bill of Rights c.1791

The general rule is that no sign exists until after someone does what the sign instructs not to do (thus my favorite sign is "Do not lick the C-4"). You should consider the Bill of Rights to the American Constitution much like a sign. The reason why those 10 items were enumerated? Because they happened.

I bring this up because one of the most frequent mistakes I see by fantasy authors is applying modern freedoms (and specifically American freedoms) on their fantasy medieval settings. The guard comes and arrests the main character and the main character insists he cannot be arrested unless the guard tells them what he's being arrested for. Oh no, my friends, they absolutely could come and arrest you and not tell you what you were being arrested for. That's why we have an amendment that says you can't do that. Because you could do that. But now you can't.

I think the one that gets me the most is when a main character or a friend screams, "We have a right to [x]!" Son, you don't have a right to shit. You only get the rights the king provides to you and those can and will be changed when the king feels like it because he is appointed by god and/or is god and thus his will is not only a matter of rule but a matter of mandate from heaven, so you should really stop complaining that you can only hunt squirrels now.

Such mistakes are most frequently made by American writers. We're so accustomed to our freedoms being the "right" freedoms that it can be a shock when you find out that modern countries don't necessarily share such rights. (And I'm not talking about communist China, I'm talking about the United Kingdom not having the same provisions of free speech as the US. The right to free speech that we enjoy isn't enjoyed by every G-8 country in the West.)

So read over the bill of rights. Hell, read over all 27 amendments. You may not have to worry about limiting your president to two terms or prohibition, but read them for the signs they are. Until those signs were written, people did them. Soldiers lived in your home whether you wanted them to or not. Your punishment was cruel and unusual (or at least cruel, given its frequency I would assume it became usual). You don't have a right not to incriminate yourself or worship what religion you wish or assembly or a free press.

You only have the right to the law that is dictated by a single man and can be changed just as quickly (unless you've created some kind of parliamentary legal body in which case it comes from a collection of men and can be even harder to change).

Oh, and do not lick the C-4.

It's a Start

Thanks to Ted Cross and Liz Poole for pointing out that it wasn't just people not being able to find comments but that comments weren't working. Seems there was a change in Blogger's comment form since this template was made that prevented comments from working. That has been fixed.

What hasn't been fixed is adding a link to the front page. JavaScript is my weakest popular programming language so I'm still working on which expression to modify. (Similarly, I don't like author names displaying after their comments, but my fixes for that aren't working, which sucks.)

I'm at work and can't devote too much time to fixing this, but wanted to get things operational. While I wouldn't necessarily expect you to go out and learn JavaScript, I strongly recommend you all learn at least basic HTML. You will all have blogs and/or websites and you should not be imprisoned by your own technology. You shouldn't have to hire someone or beg for help every time you want to make a tweak or add on a little something here or there.

It may seem overwhelming, but go to W3 Schools and browse around their instructions on programming languages, specifically HTML. You'll pick up the fundamentals. Remember, you are the master of your fate. And that means you're the master of your blog too. Don't let the machines keep you down!

One of the Two Books

Did you watch the HBO mini-series "The Pacific?" I don't think it was written as well as "Band of Brothers," but then it had the unfortunate luck to come out after that huge hit, so it had to make sure it was decidedly something else. The special features are damn cool and the show is good, just not as good as "Band of Brothers." I do appreciate that it focused in a large part on the battles that were relevant to the 1st Marines that haven't gotten a lot of attention before. We've all heard of Iwo Jima. You've probably heard of Okinawa and/or Guadalcanal. But who's heard of Puvuvu or Pelilau or Cape Gloucester?

The really cool thing is that the two main characters (at least the most main among the ensemble cast) are Robert Lecke and EB Sledge, both of whom wrote their memoirs, which were used to craft the series. Sledge broke the rules and took notes during combat (a no no since it might act as intelligence should he be killed or captured). He then worked up his memoir for his family to explain why they knew the man they knew. It was friends and colleagues that encouraged him to publish it. And after doing so, it's considered the foremost treatise on front-line combat (focusing on life and effect of fighting a war rather than just strategy and big picture stuff).

It's call WITH THE OLD BREED and it's pretty awesome. Sledge survives WWII, goes on to get a PHD and teach college biography. He retells his experiences with honesty but objectivity, bringing a scientist's observance to his own first-hand experiences.

While I am not a war buff, I think this is a good read for anyone who wants to truly understand what was sacrificed and what happened in the Pacific war.

"You have a right..."

So the whole Amazon pedophile thing has stirred up an argument I absolutely hate. It begins when someone says "You have a right..." and trails off into some moronic thing you don't actually have a right to. So for all you American readers/writers (as a number of modernized countries don't offer a right to free speech), know the law. Your rights have limitations. And even if you are within those limitations, freedom of speech is not freedom from consequence. You are free to be a dick, but that does not mean people have to like you or even listen. It certainly doesn't mean a vendor has to sell your dickitude.

Your speech cannot harm others or put others in harm's way. Your speech is your ability to say and write what you want. It does not require others to listen, print, or read what you say/write.

The first amendment of the constitution of the United States of America affords me the right to say that George W. Bush is the worst president in our nation's history without fear of the government arresting me for that voiced opinion. It does not mean people who love George Bush need to listen to me or that a newspaper, magazine, or publisher must afford me the opportunity to publish my onion of George Bush.

Know your freedoms. Know your freedoms' limits.

I Voted X

Along with telling me early on that her attitude toward minorities was incorrect, one of the other (few) appropriate lessons my mother taught me was the importance of voting. It was 1980 or 1982 when she took me to our local polling station (which also happened to be my pre-school). I got to watch while she voted and the old people gave me a sticker that said "I Voted" with a big red X in a box.

Now, my mother was a hardcore conservative (she will always vote for the candidate with the most reactionary position on abortion even if he would bring about armageddon). All our neighbors were like-minded Catholics. And all of this was during the height of Reagan's popularity (the man won 49 states in an election after all). Thus, everyone voted the same way.

So for the longest time--the longest time (I will not admit to just how long because it's that embarrassing)--I thought they had other stickers that said "I Voted" with a big red O in a box. LIke tic-tac-toe1. I thought the stickers read "I Voted X," as in, the X represented which party you voted for (heaven forbid there be a third-party option in America). Thus, when I began to shed my conservative upbringing and privately harbored liberal ideas, I wondered how liberal candidates could ever hope to win. Everyone in America voted for conservatives. I could tell because they all wore "I Voted X" stickers.

In my defense, I watched my mother vote and she did not mark an X. She filled in a bubble. So clearly a big red X in a box had nothing to do with voting other than to delineate your affiliation. Now they've changed the stickers to a check mark, but we don't make those either. Come on people! Pay attention! Don't you vote? If you don't vote, what are you doing making stickers for people that vote? That should be a requirement.

This year, my polling place did not offer stickers. They saved a little money by not having stickers. Instead they had a bake sale. I think this is awesome2

1 I always wanted to get voters together with the "I Voted X" and "I Voted O" stickers and have a human tic-tac-toe game.

2 And it doesn't matter. This is New Hampshire. We all vote. Then we go to a diner and talk about voting. It's what we do. We love us some politics. Be thankful we're the first state in the nation to vote in primaries. We know how to do it.

Reformed Conservative in a Liberal World

Conservative blowhard commentators often accuse this or that media of being liberal (depending on which media they want to accuse at that particular moment). While I feel the following is true about any medium, I am speaking today about print publishing so will keep this opinion only there. I don't think publishing is liberal. I think publishing is capitalistic. It will print whatever book will make it money. (Or how else could Glenn Beck and Ann Coulter continue to spew their crazy?) The people that work in publishing, however, are predominantly liberal.

This doesn't bother me because I count myself among their ranks. The real challenge is for me to count myself among their ranks. I am a Gen-Xer raised by a Greatest Generation mother. Staunch Catholic brought up before Vatican II watered down the demagoguery, perhaps the best lesson she ever taught me was that she was born in 1930s Detroit and if I saw her react negatively to black people, I should know that she is wrong. That's as far as her liberalism went. Women had gender roles. Gays were unnatural. The pope and his teaching were directed by the hand of heaven. We lived on a street with only one black family (who actually would not play with us because we were white, to flip a presumption on its head). No one had gay children (turns out one of them did, and the family accepted him, but no one talks about it). Everyone voted for Reagan and in turn voted for Bush 1.

I began having doubts in my faith as a teenager. I had separate doubts about organized religion, but a genuine acceptance of god was questioned by a completely separate list (people tend to assume I'm an atheist because of my mother, which is an insult to me and my beliefs and wholly untrue). It began with the separation of humanity from nature. Seeing the pollution and and ecological destruction we wrought on the environment, and understanding the scientific necessities of an environment, I had trouble accepting that God would have placed us to rule over the rest of the world rather than live cooperatively in it. This lead to years and years of questioning.

September 21st, 1996, I abandoned my belief in god and became an atheist (to which I continue to this day). This freed me from many of the obsolete structures of organized religion. I could accept people with differing beliefs because I had no obligation to spread my own. What it did not do was change my long educated perception of homosexuality. If an observation of nature had lead me to question the existence of god, that same observation made me question whether homosexuals were anything more than perverts. They had no means for reproduction, and as an evolutionary animal, they thus fell outside the purpose of our species.

This was not to say I felt them abominations. That's just overly dramatic. I lived in my fraternity house with a gay member (though not roommates; he lived in the room above mine). He always assumed I did not like him because I was an Army ROTC scholarship student. In fact, he just annoyed me because he'd complain how dirty the house was if there were three magazines on the coffee table1.

It was a year or two later, having a peaceable discussion with someone about homosexuality (this was the 90s, so it was only just easing into acceptance by the national consciousness), that I mentioned my difficulty homosexuality. They then pointed me to a study on dog breeds and a few other species that, when faced with overpopulation, would change sexual preference to ebb off their growing numbers.

Boom. That easy. Homosexuals weren't outside of nature. They weren't an abomination. They were quite rightly a result of our own means of ignoring environmental equilibrium. It wasn't just a biological happenstance, it was an inevitability. All right then. I'm sold.

And that's it. I have numerous homosexual friends, some of whom are thankfully far less annoying than my fraternity brother was in college. I support LGBT equality. My state's legislature passed the best gay marriage law in the entire nation23. That's the end of it, right?

Well, kind of. Now it's a matter of degree. I participate to the best of my ability in the pub-o-sphere to which there are people much more liberal than I am. People like the Rejectionist who faced a similar upbringing but rebelled much sooner. Even with all these decisions I made, it took about a decade of living life off the rails before my conscious beliefs and my unconscious beliefs truly aligned. Being part of the pub-o-sphere, though, there is an LGBT cause du jour, effectively. Blog posts, tweets and retweets. It's like a phone tree. You can watch the outrage spread across your friends list.

This isn't necessarily a bad thing. Change is happening--change for the better--and this is what it looks like. I just don't have the energy to get so impassioned about it. I support them in their efforts. Raise a fist, go go go! But I don't have the desire to write a blistering rebuttal to today's offense. I just ran a marathon of leaving behind my Catholic upbringing to one of acceptance. I work daily to remind myself to erase stereotypes, to accept and support my neighbors in their choices.

It makes me feel like an outsider. Often. If I don't retweet this or change my user picture here, they're going to assume that I'm against them. (The with us or against us fervor can get pretty heated sometimes.) But really, I feel I'm the goal. Not the end goal, by any means. Perhaps the Rejectionist is what we'll all become some day. But a successful social revolution will move right-set minds to where I am now. I'm not the outsider. I'm the desired result.

I know this isn't writing focused4, and it may be too hot a topic to even post on, but there only ever seems to be two discussions, white hat or black hat. Just thought I'd raise my hand and say, "Hey, we're on our way, but the road is long."

1 Later of course, he got really drunk, insulted an entire sorority, and told them it was me. To this day, he's never apologized even when I've asked him to point blank. Clearly being gay doesn't prevent you from being a dick.

2 It's relevant to point out that this was a legislative success. Depending on the appeals to recent judicial rulings, those states whose gay marriage is a result of judicial decision will see immediate challenges. Legislative roads are subject only to elections and public referenda.

3 New Hampshire allows gay marriage, but individuals may not sue private institutions like chruches to force them to perform the ceremony. I never even knew people had considered doing this, and am glad the law includes the provision. Equality for all, after all.

4 I do have a few gay characters in my stories. I never hesitate to make them good guys or bad guys because I have no agenda to press. Much like my fraternity brother can be a douche despite his sexuality, homosexuals can be villains or heroes despite theirs. The key is to make sure they are not so because of their sexuality. I do not want to read about a Big Gay Hero any more than I want the Big Bad to wave his evil rainbow flag.

I Love My Company

The formula I always say for meeting colleagues in the publishing industry is to take the decade of a person's age (I'm 33, so 3), subtract 1, and that's the number of publishers that person has worked for. It's amazing how accurate that formula is. Publishing is incredibly incestuous in its hiring practices, we list who we've worked for like a pedigree, and few people are satisfied with the first company they work for.

In my case, the first publisher I worked for was particularly nefarious. I am reminded of that fact today because I just sat through the annual health benefits meeting. Every large corporation has them, and the difference between my former employer and my current is like night and day, or really like Douchebag McAsshole vs Captain Awesome von Awesomesauce.

My last health care meeting with DMcA was representative of my last year with the company. They lied their face off, I called them out on their lies in a combative and non-constructive manner. The gist of the meeting was that they were changing our plans. They would cost more, offer less, have astronomically higher deductibles, and cap on services to everything. They followed this up with rhetoric about how much better the plan was for us because now we could have an HSA. I replied that it was better for us only if we did not get sick. This was a highly accurate assessment of the plan.

I skipped last year's health care meeting with CAvA, but because of the health care legislation, I wanted to see what changes might happen. This is where the screws were going to be put to us.

What I saw was not what I expected. This happened to me over the summer too. I missed the town hall meeting last year where the CEO came and spoke because I got lost (hey, I hadn't been working in Boston this year). When I worked for DMcA, CEO visits were a nightmare. They showed us an hour-long PPT showing how much money they made and that they were freezing our salaries, stopping new hires, and not funding forward-moving strategy so they could make more money. I expected much the same and for the first 8 minutes, I saw how much money the company made (in short, a shit load). The remaining 52 minutes were spent explaining our moral obligation to educate the world, the strategies we were implementing to do so, the funding those strategies would receive, and taking vice presidents to task for not being more aggressive in implementing fare business strategies.

I'm not making that up. Read that paragraph again. So what would I see at the health care meeting? This guy wasn't the wicked intelligent, charismatic CEO with the grand vision. This is the guy that manages the nuts and bolts. This is where you squeeze the workers for cost savings.

Oh, when will I learn. First, the guy is funny in his own right. Second, a discussion of cost didn't come until 40 minutes in and it was only one slide long. He started with "Our biggest expense is high-value illnesses like cancer, so we're changing policies to make it easier for employees to receive preventative care." Yes, my company actually uses common sense. Rather than limiting health care access to reduce costs, it increased front-end expenditures to reduce larger expenditures for untreated illnesses. 100% preventative coverage, free cancer screenings, and distributing free copies of a popular nutritional author who happens to be published by our trade division. Total costs are rising marginally, but the services my company offers me is improving across the board.

This is how corporate America should act. This is the ethical and responsible relationship a company should have with its employees. This is Captain Awesome von Awesomesauce. I love my company. It is the greatest place in the world to work.

And at the very end of the presentation he dropped the bomb. Because of new health care legislation, my company's health plan is considered a Cadillac plan. Come 2018, the company will have to pay the government $80 million a year to continue offering this level of coverage to its employees. What? No! This is how a responsible American business should treat its employees. They should all be doing this. The company will not consider an additional $80mm charge to its annual health costs. So it will instead be forced to reduce benefits to fall outside this range.

Dammit Congress. I'm annoyed, but am not worried. The current health care legislation will not be what is implemented in 2018. Still, what the hell. You could quadruple my salary and I still wouldn't make the "rich people are bad" $250k. What are you doing taxing my health care?

You Gotta Fight for Your Read?

I've offered tacit support of SPEAK during the flair-up against the comments made in Springfield last week. I didn't hop on the bandwagon and speak out against it for a couple reasons. First, I'm fat, and doubt I could hop on a bandwagon if I wanted to. Second, I don't think my message would reach anyone that could be swayed by anything I have to say.

Having lived various places in Missouri, the guy that said what he said will never be convinced of anything. Nor will his comments convince anyone that needed convincing. His fanatics already believe the swill he's spreading. My telling you how ridiculous his promotion of rape as sexuality wouldn't surprise you. You're a smart individual and already knew that.

I am going to make a comment tangential to the subject, though, where I think a reasonable discourse may change minds. When book "banning" (and those quotes are deliberate) comes up, it is inevitable that someone says that it's unconstitutional. First I'm going to tell you why it isn't. Second I'm going to tell you why you hurt the cause you're supporting by making that claim.

The book isn't being banned. It's being removed from the school and its curricula. A banned book would not be allowed to be printed or sold or owned. Congress (or even scarier the Executive or even scarier yet the Judiciary) would say, no more BREAK. We're old and dumb and scared of sex and any value BREAK brings to society is not worth our discomfort. It is forbidden! That is an infringement on speech. That's not what's happening here.

The school board is empowered by whatever body elects/appoints it (either the people or the municipality) to administer its schools. It can decide what books are and are not included in its curricula. This does not deprive the author of speech. The book is still printed and sold. Students are still able to purchase the book from bookstores. It just won't be part of their homework assignment.

Does this suck? Absolutely, for BREAK, SLAUGHTERHOUSE FIVE, FAHRENHEIT 451, and so many others. Is it wrong? I believe so. I think those books are relevant and worthwhile. But it's not unconstitutional. You want to make a big impact? Skip the incredibly passive "Speak Out" skin on your twitter icon and instead do the very active vote in your next school board election. Question the candidates about the issue and elect people who understand the value of these books and want to see them in our schools.

...okay, add the skin too, but only after you've made a difference in your local community.

Now, why is saying its unconstitutional a bad thing? It creates a reverse straw man argument. Douchebag McAsshole says rape is sexual and bad for kids (I say rape is bad for kids, but that's beside the point). He says we're going to ban the book. You say, you can't do that, it's unconstitutional! You are incorrect. What you've done is given him the opportunity to disprove your argument rather than defending his own. He doesn't need to explain why he thinks rape is sexual (eww), he just has to show how what he proposes is legal.

Which it is. Not only does he not have to defend himself, he will defeat you in the argument you're making. This is not how to defeat Douchebag McAsshole. And we want to defeat Douchebag McAsshole. We want to defeat him very much.