Wednesday, June 25, 2008

The IGNORE operator

It occurs to me that Google (or, really, any keyword-style search engine) could use a new operator.

At the moment, I can specify that a keyword or phrase either be included or excluded. A search of A -B, for example, includes all hits of "A" that don't also include "B." So "A" gets found, but "B" doesn't. So far, so good.

But most web pages are not so simple - they have multiple occurrences of keywords, especially when I'm looking at the most relevant results. So "A, and also A and B" may be relevant to what I'm looking for, but that pesky B keeps the result off my list.

A more concrete example: I was looking up uses of the word "patriarchy" on blogs I comment on. There's a quite popular (if quite controversial) feminist blog known as "I Blame the Patriarchy" that's on quite a few blogrolls. If I simply search for jfpbookworm patriarchy, I'm going to get a hit on every single page on Feministing that contains my username, regardless of whether "patriarchy" was included. On the other hand, if I search for jfpbookworm patriarchy -"i blame the patriarchy", I'm going to miss all the results on any site that includes the blogroll on article pages, not to mention any article where IBTP was named.

What I want to look for is all pages that contain the terms "jfpbookworm" and "patriarchy", except that I want to ignore instances of "patriarchy" where it occurs only as part of the phrase "I Blame the Patriarchy." I don't think this is possible by stringing together OR, AND and NOT operators, because there's no way to limit the scope to less than the entire page. What's needed, I think, is an IGNORE operator (I'd propose using "!" as the shorthand, because as far as I'm aware the symbol isn't used and it already has a negation connotation), which says "this phrase is not what I'm searching for, but it's not so obviously wrong that its presence connotes irrelevance." Its use would look something like jfpbookworm patriarchy !"i blame the patriarchy", which would take all the hits for "jfpbookworm patriarchy", "de-highlight" instances of "i blame the patriarchy," and then check again to see if all the keywords are highlighted. (There may be a more efficient way to do this; that's left as an exercise for the reader.)

So what do y'all think? Good idea? Idiosyncratic grumble? Just plain incomprehensible?

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

4th ed, 2d look

I took a quick read of the 4th edition Player's Handbook last night, and looked at a few more reviews online.

From a comment by rentagurkha at a review by Chris Pramas:

D&D is inspired by, and should be able to feel like, the works of Lieber, Howard, Burroughs, Vance, Tolkien, and Moorcock, among others.

That's the big issue so far for me, I think. This edition of D&D doesn't feel like it's inspired by them, but rather by the computer-based RPGs that were themselves inspired by D&D.

Some of this is game mechanics (the Vance-inspired spells are gone, as are the Moorcock-inspired alignments). Some of this is just an instinctive feel - AD&D always had this 70s/80s vibe to it. This edition seems meant to appeal to the folks who think Conan started with the Schwarzenegger movies, and would criticize Elric as being a ripoff of Drizzt.

Will I use 4th Edition? It depends. If there's enough people around to start a new campaign (and now that I'm near the university, that's likely), and that's what they want to play, then sure. Though it doesn't really have the same feel, it looks like it could be a fun tactical combat game. (On the other hand, I wouldn't be at all surprised if 4th Edition turns out to be the RPG equivalent of Windows Vista.) If it's totally up to me, I'd rather use a classless, more freeform system like FUDGE or FATE, and a non-fantasy setting.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Nice Guy Wars, part Who the Hell Knows

(I've lost count.)

From Feministe, among others, comes this story of a study testing for a correlation between a "dark triad" of negative personality traits (narcissism, impulsiveness and deceitfulness).

The sample was entirely college students. College students, while they're easy to get as samples (just make the study mandatory for an intro psych class), are not representative, because:
  • They skew young - teens and early 20s. Younger people are more likely to be susceptible to both manipulation and to societal messages about these traits. (Similar to how there's a difference between a Nice Guy(TM) and a good man, there's a difference between a Bad Boy(TM) and an asshole.)
  • They skew privileged - healthy, wealthy and (primarily) white.
  • They may skew with respect to personality. If being narcissistic, impulsive or exploitative makes it tougher to get into college, then the ones who do may be more likely to have some compensating characteristic.
Other flaws:
  • They're asking about total number of partners, not partners over a given time period. Especially when you're talking about college students, total number of partners is heavily dependent on age of first sexual activity.
  • The number is self-reported - it's not inconceivable that the "dark triad" personalities are more likely to lie about the number.
  • The write-up conflates number of partners and desirability, which assumes that all these encounters were of the "enthusiastic consent" sort. (Especially since this correlation seems to be especially true of men.)
  • It's also quite possible that those "dark triad" personalities are the sort that buy in to the "number of partners is your score," and so make more of an effort to increase the number for its own sake.
  • The write-up also conflates number of partners and frequency of sex, which may not be - lots of people are in monogamous sexual relationships, which get counted as "one," just the same as a one-night stand, even though the amount of sex is very, very different.

You whippergamers, get off my lawn!

Jolt Country reviews D&D 4th edition.

Now I was actually a fan of 3d edition - I thought they did a good job of streamlining the game and avoiding some of the problems with the earlier editions. Of course, my main experiences with 1st and 2d edition AD&D were playing premade modules (including the original Ravenloft module) and SSI's "gold box" games; I didn't really get into serious campaigns until 3d edition had been released and popularized.

4th edition appears to be heavily influenced by MMORPGs, especially World of Warcraft. I'm not sure what to think of the "role" system and how it's tied to class (the 3d ed. multiclassing system, which was the only one that ever made sense to me, is scrapped), or the idea of "aggro" (does this mean it's not DM's discretion who gets attacked? Are heavily armored rodeo clowns now a viable combat unit?) The "powers" seem overpowered (a cleric can get an unlimited-use ranged attack that also works as a one-time bless at level 1? Seriously?)

While that sort of thing does solve the ages-old problem of magic-users being useless after they've used their daily spells, it really does seem to be an entirely different game at this point. And since they already have a World of Warcraft tabletop RPG, I don't seen the need for this kind of rewrite.

[Addendum: they changed the alignment system! "When they Chaotic Good is outlawed, only outlaws will be Chaotic Good..."]

Saturday, June 21, 2008

The new place: a tour

Now that we're mostly moved in, I managed to take a few pictures of the new place.


This is a view of the entry hall when you first come in. Pretty basic.


This is the pantry (and coffee nook), with insane amounts of cabinet space. (Turn around, and there's another wall of cabinets.)


The kitchen. (Post-housewarming party, which is why there's so much booze atop the refrigerator.)


A view into the kitchen from the living room. (That opening on the left side should probably get filled with a plant at some point.)

Living Room Living Room

The living room. New coffee table courtesy of my mom and her Crate & Barrel employee discount. The futon/sofa against the wall is going to be supplemented or replaced by a bigger sofa in a couple months.

Living Room

The Wall o' Entertainment Tech.


The main bathroom. (Keri's got a second bathroom off her room, but this is the one with a shower.) I have no idea who chose that shade of yellow for the fixtures (the sink is the same shade), or why.

Me in the mirror

The bathroom is also equipped with a mirror. (Had to supply the cheesy hold-the-camera MySpace pose myself.)

Bedroom Bed

My room. New bed (platform, so no box springs, just the innerspring mattress and a foam pad on top), second bookshelf, etc. (I really should look into getting a proper nightstand though.)

Didn't take any pictures of Keri's room, which is kind of a shame because she's done more to decorate than I have - lights along the window, a desk salvaged from some college students who'd moved out, posters, etc.

So there you have it. Pretty basic, but not a bad place to be. What's left to do is mostly further decoration - break up some of these blank white walls, find a plant to hang in that space between the kitchen and living room, maybe look for a little more furniture (if another round of college students moves out at the end of the month, we may be able to find some good things on the cheap; if not, there are a few discount places around).

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Furniture update

I have a bed and a coffee table! No more putting everything, including myself, on the floor (which is good when I live on the ground floor).

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Feminist-positive sex: some initial thoughts

Inspired by Sunflower's post (::wave::) about sex-positive feminism, and by this thread at Feministe which appears to have turned into a debate between me and Amber Rhea and Renegade Evolution, and somehow keeps getting interpreted as another episode of Kink On Trial:

The problem I have with "sex-positive feminism" is that, a lot of the time, it seems to start with "we find these practices enjoyable" as an axiom, and builds its feminism around that; if sexual practices and feminist principles conflict, the principles lose every time. (Consequently, "sex-pos" can wind up supporting a lot of forms of privilege.) On the other hand, the problem I have with many "radical feminism" approaches to sexuality is that in that conflict, the practices lose every time. (And, conversely to the last parenthetical, "radfem" winds up being a haven for folks who *can* legitimately be described as anti-sex.)

I'm not okay with either of these. I think practice and principle need to be balanced against each other; I call this "feminist-positive sex." The way we get there is by *not* taking desires for granted, but examining them; “this turns me on, and therefore it’s good” gets replaced with “this turns me on, this is why it turns me on, these are elements of it (if any) that I’m less comfortable with, these are why I’m uncomfortable with them, these sources of discomfort I repudiate, these other sources of discomfort I accommodate by choosing practices that reduce or eliminate that discomfort, this is a result that I'm happy with.”

Why do this? Aside from the fact that if one actually believes in one's principles, it's the right thing to do (a sadly discredited argument these days), it helps distinguish "innate" desires from "imposed" desires, and helps make sure that one's really on the same page as one's partner.

And, of course, it helps one feel better about one's self. Though over on the Feministe thread, a commenter pointed out that:

See, I’m not sure about this, because it sounds well good on paper, but this kind of analysis didn’t work for me. It drove me kind of nutty and came close to pathologizing my own sex life. Not only did I end up feeling like crap and feeling guilty about sex for the first time since I actually started having it, I also didn’t come away with any answers.

I'm not sure quite how to respond to that criticism. For one thing, I'm the sort of person who can't *not* analyze things, and who can't silence misgivings, so it was more about what to do with those - try to ignore them and feel vaguely uncomfortable, or follow up on it and try to reconcile that discomfort.

For another, I've seen this form of complaint before - it's a strong part of the "Nice Guy(TM)" paradigm, where the "nice guy" who tries to be respectful of his partner is unable to function and be acknowledged as a sexual being, while the "jerk" who simply doesn't care has no problems. I know this is a slightly different situation, because the analysis is about whether one's self rather than one's partner is being mistreated, but I still think a closer look is a good idea.

One thing that probably needs to be pointed out, given all the miscommunication that seems to occur about it, is that this call for self-examination isn't limited to folks whose desires are generally seen as "deviant" or "problematic." A lot of folks seem willing to interpret this idea not as "we should think about our desires" but "you there, you should think about your desires; mine are just fine." If anything, it's the folks who are closer to societal norms who have the most need to examine their desires, both because it's harder to distinguish "imposed" from "innate" and because many forms of kinky or queer sexualities already endorse a measure of self-reflection.

Similarly, a call for self-examination is just that: a call for examining one's *own* desires. It's not my place to tell someone else they haven't looked hard enough when they conclude they're okay with something, even if I think it's not okay or even that they haven't looked hard enough. Sure, I might ask some leading question, or talk about the public side of things, but to gainsay their reflection process is to deny their own autonomy.

A final observation that was made (and then blown completely out of proportion) in the Feministe thread is that I'm coming from a different perspective than a lot of the other commenters. The social construction of male sexuality is one where a lot of practices and preferences are imposed, whereas for women virtually all practices and preferences are shamed. (Sex class vs. no-sex class again.) In addition, I'm personally easily squicked by shaming, degradation, humiliation, etc. And like I said earlier, I'm prone to hyperanalyze everything. So is this me simply doing what countless other groups have done, and demanding everyone else conform to what works for me? I've tried to avoid that trap, but I'm not sure how successful I have been or will be.

(EDIT: Emphases added because, across the blogosphere, this keeps getting turned into something very, very different.)

Thursday, June 5, 2008

I'm back

We're mostly moved into the new place. No photos yet, not until we get the boxes out of the living room.

All that's left to do at this point besides more unpacking is getting the heat turned on (a week of cold-water showers hasn't been fun, but that should end tomorrow), getting some more furniture in here (we'll probably pick up a bookshelf for the living room, and a bed and coffee table are on the way with a sofa to follow), and figuring out where everything's going to go once it's here.

Same-sex kisses: tougher to explain than the Infield Fly Rule, apparently

Via The Curvature:

Lesbian kiss at Seattle ballpark stirs debate

As the Mariners played the Boston Red Sox on May 26, Sirbrina Guerrero and her date were approached in the third inning by an usher who told them their kissing was inappropriate, Guerrero said.

The usher, Guerrero said, told them he had received a complaint from a woman nearby who said that there were kids in the crowd of nearly 36,000 and that parents would have to explain why two women were kissing.

"Because if they didn't, they'd have to watch the Mariners?"

The code of conduct - announced before each game - specifically mentions public displays of affection that are "not appropriate in a public, family setting." Hale said those standards are based on what a "reasonable person" would find inappropriate.

Guerrero denied she and her date were groping each other, saying that along with eating garlic fries, they were giving each other brief kisses.

If it's just about the PDA distracting from the RBIs, there's an obvious solution here. Simply add more garlic to your garlic fries, Safeco concessioners. Problem solved.

Or better yet, M's management - embrace the embrace. Implement a "Seventh-Inning Smooch" and change the lyrics to "Let's Make Out at the Ballgame."

(For actual funny, go to William Wolfrum over at Shakesville.)