No, I Still Do Not Support Gun Control

Just personally, as a queer and an anarchist, I’ll be doubly targeted if the fascists (already in control of the national government, albeit and thankfully with a comically incompetent leader) decide to send their enemies off to the camps. If they come for me, I want to be able to take some of them out.

Beyond just personally, if enough of those targeted have this attitude, those doing the targeting are likely to reevaluate their decision to be fascist collaborators.

The USA is a failing empire on the brink of going full fascist and anyone harboring delusions about it being able to magically achieve some version of late 20th-century European Social Democracy (complete with the requisite social peace and low levels of firearm ownership) just because they’d like it to is pursuing a fool’s paradise.

Besides, those European paradises of government control and regulation are far closer to going fascist than many may realize, as the recent growth of parties like Alternative für Deutschland and Lega Nord illustrates. Even Europe isn’t really the Europe that liberals tend to imagine it is.

The State and the Right have a near-monopoly on the ownership of weapons, and have been taught (in no small part by liberals who refused to prosecute the Bush Regime for its crimes in Iraq) that they can engage in excesses and get away with it. This is a recipe for disaster, and the absolute last thing we need is to give the State more power to render the oppressed even more powerless.

Science Can Not Save the World

Science is merely a process by which an external reality can be observed and verified, nothing more. Science can document as accurately as possible, given our personal failings, how the world is going to hell in a handbasket, but in and of itself it can’t actually change much of that process.

That process is governed by ruling classes and power hierarchies that run on threats, force, human conformity, appeals to emotion, widespread indoctrination, and so on. Science can help understand those processes but again it can only describe them.

Science is about knowledge, not action.

Changing things will require a process of revolutionary struggle; ruling classes never voluntarily relinquish power just because it’s the nice thing to do (and you built and enunciated a convincing fact-and-logic based argument).

There Is No Shortage of High-Tech Workers

There is a shortage of decency in the high-tech industry.

I base both these assertions on my experiences at the symposium today, where I met not one but two other individuals in basically the same situation as I am. As long as the high-tech industry considers the following non-qualifications to be job requirements:,

  • Male,
  • Between the ages of twenty-five and fifty,
  • Thinks coding is the most fun thing in the universe,
  • Thinks coding is about the only truly fun thing in the universe, really, and
  • Outside of role-playing games, martial arts, and science fiction and fantasy fandom, thinks there’s basically little else of interest besides computers.

Then, yes, that industry will continue to suffer a “shortage” of “qualified” people.

Well… Here Goes Nothing

Not quite “nothing,” but let’s be brutally honest: that’s the most likely outcome of my going to the Washington Botanical Symposium to do some job networking. First, I totally fucking suck at anything that requires social skills, and networking requires such skills in spades. Second, the odds in general are bleak, even if I do try a few strategies to cope with the first issue (which I plan to do).

Still, the odds are better than staying at home and not making any attempts at networking at all.

The Trick to Using Fontforge

The trick to using Fontforge is to realize: (a) that its Apple Mac support is broken, and (b) Apple Mac support really isn’t critical; in fact, it’s missing from most non-Apple-supplied fonts anyhow, yet Macs manage to work just fine with them. A further wrinkle is that Fontforge tends to want to gratuitously foist its broken Apple font features onto you, and having done so, to then conceal this fact from you when you examine the broken font files it has generated.

Naturally, you must leave “Apple” unchecked in the File > Generate Fonts > Options window. But that’s not enough! Unless you go into File > Preferences > Mac, delete everything from the Features tab, then verify the Mapping tab is also equally empty, you’ll still get a broken font that will fail to work properly on a Mac.

Having done all that, though, I’m finally able to edit out the stupid kerning pairs that have been vexing me and no longer have to cope with them after-the-fact. Hurray!

So I’m now not only taking offense at the way stock fonts I find work but also editing them to suit my preferences. I guess this officially makes me a font geek.

Font Frustrations

Trying to edit free fonts with Fontforge is something of a challenge. That’s because Fontforge is open-source software and falls victim to the bane of open-source software: documentation. Writing code tends to be more fun than documenting it, so open source projects that depend on unpaid volunteers tend to lag way behind in documenting. Fontforge is no exception to this general rule.

I could probably address the issue by purchasing a commercial font editor, but that would cost more money than just purchasing some commercial fonts that don’t have the sort of issues my free downloaded ones do. So I’m stuck living with the issues (related to broken kerning definitions) as best I can.

On Settling Down in Life

Last night I fed “people who can’t settle” into my search engine of choice. I was surprised, but only for a brief moment, when most of the responses were geared to people (mostly men) who couldn’t settle down romatically. Of course. That does apply to most men, which is 90% or more of why I cannot and never will self-identify as a gay man; their subculture is so much geared around anonymous and casual sex, which I want basically no part of.

There were basically two responses that did not fall into the sexual category: one, two. 

Interestingly, they both said basically the same thing; namely, that some of us simply have a stronger sense of purpose and ideals and higher personal standards, and this prevents us from being pleased or at least accepting of situations that most would find worth settling for. They also said that those of us who fall into that category should not water down our standards and settle. (It usually doesn’t turn out very well for us if we do.)

Well, OK. That’s basically what I had already concluded on my own. So there it is.

However, it raises an issue: About three years ago, I decided to embrace being more settled, because (a) I thought I could, and (b) being settled does have its advantages.

On that first point, it’s looking more and more like I was dead wrong: I managed by sheer luck to find a high-tech company where I could fit in… for a few years… until both the company and the job changed to the point where the magic (and totally unrepresentative) match no longer existed. Ever since then, it’s become increasingly obvious just how badly I fit into that world. I didn’t (and couldn’t) know that at the time, of course. I actually was aware of that possibility; it was one reason I decided to wait several years after landing that job before buying a home. I was waiting for that other shoe to drop. Alas, it dropped after I had guessed (incorrectly, it appears) I had waited long enough.

On the second, I still think it’s valid. Being settled does have its advantages. I’ve been able to better pursue hobbies and interests now that I have a proper workspace for them. And in general, it’s been good to be in the Salish Sea ecoregion, the place I’ve called home longer than anywhere else in my life. There’s real benefit to experiencing the passage of time in a place I’ve known for several decades. I never knew I was missing that sort of experience (which most get to have) until I moved back.

So now I have this house which it appears I will no longer be able to afford and which no longer is appropriate to my needs (the only reason I bought it is because I assumed I had viable economic opportunities in Seattle I wouldn’t have elsewhere in the general region). One insight I’ve had is to drop any reluctance and sell it sooner rather than later, even though I haven’t been here the “standard” five years. That standard, of course, is based on the standard rate of appreciation, and prices have been going up at a significantly greater pace than the standard recently. Therefore, the market lets me get away with leaving early; more than that, the market will reward me for leaving now.

Alas, it’s not so simple. (It never is.) In this case, there’s all the connections, such as the ones at Islandwood, that I’ve built in the past year or two. It would be a pity to burn all those bridges. Together with the other advantages of being in the same region for a long time, I guess that means that if I move, I shouldn’t move very far.

Bengal Famine Makes It into the Washington Post

That happened in this article, whose account of the famine basically jibes with my own understanding of it.

The Bengal Famine is a historical fact, one of many which make the imperialism of the capitalist nations far less distinct from the imperialism of the Soviet world when it comes to ghastly acts of oppression and mass murder than many believe it to be. This tends to be inconvenient for many capitalism fans, who find it useful to use the USSR’s many crimes as a brush to tar all of socialism with. Typically this is done by pointing out things like the Holodomor, the implicit point being that at least the capitalist West didn’t create famines for reasons of political expediency.

Well, sorry, but the capitalist West did. It’s just that the subset of history which most get taught leaves the ruling class’s own side’s greatest crimes out of the picture.

And yes, of course, Churchill indeed did a great good by fighting the Nazis—but then again, so did Stalin. Fighting Nazis shouldn’t be a blank check that gets one excused from all one’s crimes.

Playing with Fonts and Layout

I found a free font called Old Standard TT which seems to be a very faithful reproduction of a late 1800s modern serif font, so couldn’t resist giving it a try. No, it’s not up to the quality of a commercial font (for openers, it’s missing the ff, ffi, and ffl ligatures), but I’m budget sensitive and the price is right. Plus this is just a web page; its not as if I’m setting printed type.

We’ll see if this lasts. Right now, the layout smacks too much of sticking an old-fashioned font into a design which otherwise was intended to harmonize with modernist sans-serif type. I’ve been poking at it trying to change things, so I suspect the answer as to whether the new layout will last is how easy it ends up being to bend CSS to my will and make it generate a more appealing layout.

And yes, this is modern serif you are seeing, despite it today being a style of years past. Much of the serif type one sees in production books (or on web sites) these days are actually far older designs that were revived (the popular Baskerville font dates from the mid-1700s, and Garamond dates from the 1500s).

Update: It didn’t last. First, the fine aspects of Victorian Modern Serif fonts just don’t seem to map well to screen pixels. Modern screens much more closely approximate the papers and inks of 200 or more years ago, which together had difficulty reproducing the fine details that were added in the Victorian era as a sign of modernity. Second, there’s the matter of the missing ligatures. Libre Baskerville, like its original namesake, was designed to cope with less-than-ideal resolution, and it comes with a full set of ligatures. So I think I’ll use that. It has at least some of the look I was aiming for, and it’s better to pull off some of a look and succeed than to attempt all of it and fail.

Double Habanero Hummus

Canned garbanzo beans cost a lot less per ounce than premade hummus, so to pinch pennies I’ve been experimenting with making my own. Plus the spiciest hummus the local store sells is only jalapeño hummus and that’s just too wimpy for my tastes. This recipe is full of that habanero yumminess that will have you going back for more until smoke is pouring out of your ears.

The following recipe was adapted from several online recipes for hummus.

  • 1 15oz can garbanzo beans (aka chickpeas)
  • ¼ cup lemon juice
  • ¼ cup tahini
  • ½ bulb (not ½ clove) garlic
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • ¼ teaspoon cumin
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 2 habanero peppers*

Blend tahini and lemon juice for 1 minute, scrape the sides and bottom of the blender or food processor, then blend for 30 seconds more.

Add olive oil, garlic, cumin, salt, and water to the whipped tahini. Blend for 30 seconds, scrape, blend for 30 seconds more (or until well-blended).

Add habanero peppers and blend until liquefied.

Drain and rinse the garbanzo beans. If using a blender, run garbanzo beans through a food mill twice or until well-mashed, place in large bowl with whipped tahini and spice mix, and stir until well-blended. If using a food processor, add garbanzo beans and process until puréed.

* Or use just 1 or even ½ if you don’t like it as hot as I do (full disclosure: I adapted this from a recipe that used only ½).