Thursday, September 18, 2014

About all this rage

I encountered my first serious online troll / bully in an most astonishing place. It was the late 1990's and I was working for Amoco, BP Amoco, or BP. Take your pick, and there's a joke about all that I could tell you. In a fit of naive optimism they set up chat boards. They thought it would encourage communication between disparate parts of the BP empire.

Communication isn't the word I'd use. Picture this. We all have to log into our computers to get at this on line chat board. You could choose the name that would be visible to other people, but the admins knew who you really were. There were some work related stuff that was pretty good. There was some non-work related stuff that was interesting.

Then there was user S&W45. I kid you not. This person spat vitriol, hatred, foul language, stupidity, and all sorts of general nastiness everywhere. Sometimes on topic, but mostly off. What we saw was what the moderators let through so I can only imagine what got censored. Once they got tuned into that user they moderated more, which inspired even more ranting. It was probably a contributor to getting the whole thing shut down. I'd like to think it got his employment shut down while they were at it, but I have no way of knowing. It's like he (assuming it was a he) thought he was truly anonymous.

Of course, previous to that, the internet was pretty primitive. There were a few trolls, but either I didn't go where they were, or they weren't as bad then.

I was, for my sins, the chief administrator of of a non-profit group for a while. This group had it's share of (shall we say) socially challenged people. They were utterly baffled at how I could disagree with someone and not be angry at them. How I could listen to various points of view, restate them accurately, then proceed to provide counter arguments, without descending into yelling, or putting up with other people yelling. People don't yell in meetings I chair. Not more than once.

Now you see it everywhere. Edit wars on Wikipedia. Comments on newspaper articles, youtube videos, and well, just about anything on the web that allows comments. Especially anything to do with politics. Even more especially anything from the USA in general. It's like they don't think you're serious unless you're screaming and look like you're about to blow a gasket.

But where did it come from? Why? Is it because they think they're anonymous, and can say what they want without being called on it? Do they have all this rage bottled up and this is the only outlet? Whatever happened to going to the gym and beating on a punching bag?

Don't get me wrong. I don't mind someone being excited, even passionate about their position on something. Just as long as they realize that other people can be just as passionate about their position, and that both people can come by that honestly. It's hard to ask that someone take your passion seriously, especially when there is no rationality supporting it, when you don't take their passion seriously.

I love the English language. It's my mother tongue, and I like to think I've got a good grip on it, both verbally and in writing. I shake my head at the crudity of the expressions of hatred. Poor spelling, poor grammar, and extraordinarily bad usage of language. Not only are they saying stupid, hateful things, their very means of expressing it are barbarous.

Even though I'm not religious I recognize that the language in the King James bible is magnificent. It is a very great pity that some people who profess to believe what the bible says find it necessary to express their opinions of those that believe differently in such cant terms.

There are people that say that we should require a real identity to publish on the internet. If people knew they could be connected in real life to comments made on line, they would be politer. I thought that too, for a while. Then I realized there were any number of reasons why someone might want to publish anonymously. The main one being they were saying something that the powers that be disagreed with. Some of these powers that be are quite willing to "disappear" someone.

Whatever happened to "I disagree with what you say, but defend your right to say it"? One of the favourite tactics of the political bully (hello Mr. Harper) is to try to muzzle people and organizations that disagree. It's often said that the proper response to intolerant speech is more speech not less. I thought that too, and mostly still do.

The problem is that the people who spout the vile hatred live in an echo chamber. They only listen to people that hold like opinions. Anything else gets the barrage of contempt, and sometimes even death threats.

So if requiring a real ID doesn't work, and if the reasoned responses don't get read, what do we do? Aggressive moderation seems to be the key, but who has the time, or the stomach for the work? Where exactly is the line that triggers moderation? Suppose someone wrote an eloquent, carefully argued article saying that people who preach extremist positions should be deported. The article makes clear that it applies to any religious group. Should that be moderated? Probably not, but it depends. What if it's only religion x, and none other? Is that hatred and should be moderated? I'd say probably, but again, it depends. Consider a screed saying that all adherents of religion x should be deported because they are !@#$, @#%^, and &*(%!. Most people wouldn't have much difficulty in saying that should be moderated.

Does the eloquence of the language make a differences? How about the inclusion of swear words? How about racial epitaphs? Would we, should we, trust a computer intelligence to do that moderation? How would we trust a group of humans to moderate sensitive topics, since there would always be someone to claim that someone hadn't in fact gone over the line, or someone else had?

One can understand to a point, passionate disagreement on topics such as abortion, the death penalty, going to war,  and other big issues. But the outbursts can happen over the smallest of things. Things that most people would say are trivial, except to someone for which it isn't, for whatever reason. That other people continue to think it's trivial just sets them off even more.

Frankly, some days I'd like to give the whole world a valium. A couple giant valium pills forcibly administered in Washington DC, a few locations in what is called the middle-east, maybe North Korea, and it probably wouldn't hurt to do one in Moscow too. Unfortunately this isn't terribly practical. Sigh.

In the real world, I think the only solution is to keep pushing back. We've pushed back on smoking inside. We've pushed back on drinking and driving. We've pushed back on wearing seat belts. Not to say there isn't further progress possible, but big changes have happened.

We've started to push back on bullying, and that's a bigger one that people think. It isn't just kids in school. It's abuse of authority in general. The strong bullying the weak. It's going to take a lot to stop it. But as that Australian general said, "The standard you walk past is the standard you accept" and that applies to public opinions.

I don't mind an opinion of ignorance. I don't mind a forcible opinion. I don't even mind if it's expressed bluntly. What I mind is when differing opinions aren't recognized or respected. I mind when there is a threat implicit in the opinion, when the opinion is an explicit threat. I mind when the opinion is expressed with hateful language.

At the root, I think the issue is fear. Our politicians and news media keep telling us all the things we should be afraid of, and virtually all of it is lies. They're trying to hide the real issues. Climate change is one example. They don't dare do anything real about it for fear of pissing off the corporations that support them. Many of them don't understand the science, so they set off a fog of fear and confusion about the issue. And since they're at it, they do other issues to. Anything to get people worked up and afraid.

All we can do is not buy into it. Start holding our politicians to a higher standard. Starting calling them and other people on the stupid things they say. In other words, behave like grown ups and encourage other's to do the same. I keep coming back to this, "The standard you walk past is the standard you accept".

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

So that was perfect

Some people do stuff on vacation. You know, they DO STUFF. Then come back exhausted. I've done this a few times. Maybe I will again, but it's not something I'll plan.

A few years ago in Nova Scotia was my first real effort at not doing anything. I wanted to be a beach bum for 3 weeks. I even gave up shaving, till the white stripe down my chin horrified me. I didn't want to drive anywhere or do anything but hang out at the rented house and walk on the beach when I felt like it. That meant walking on the beach at 2 am, with a nearly full moon, on a deliciously warm night.

This time I wasn't quite feeling that lazy. There were a few things we wanted to do, but mainly, it was to walk or run on the beach, and get some serious work done on my novel. Mission accomplished. There is still more to go on it, of course, but I got through a couple tough scenes I've been putting off. I now have a couple related scenes left to go. There is still a lot of little stuff to go. Like these chapters things that everybody keeps talking about. I wrote scenes, not chapters. I'll have to figure that out.

But back to the beach. We rented a cottage at the end of Crescent beach. Not the first end, but the second end. It was lovely and secluded, and just perfect for us. At low tide it was almost exactly a 5 K run to the far end of the beach and back, and I did that several times, once with a buddy. And yes, we had to pay attention to the tides. At high tide the only way out to the rest of the world meant getting your feet wet.

We were over to Hirtle's beach several times, and I ran on it once, for a little bit, then went for a short swim. It's by far the nicest beach in Canada, and right up there with some of the beaches in Bermuda. We spent a bunch of time just watching the waves. Very relaxing.

We slept in. Several nights, after the moon set, I stood out on the balcony and looked at the milky way. I met two blog buddies and really enjoyed spending time with them. I ran into one of the neighbours that lived just a bit further down the beach, and had a great chat with him. We bought souvenirs, once of which weights 12.9 pounds. Photos later. And we visited the La Have bakery several times. A bunch of times. Lots. Maybe not quite every time we drove by it, and we drove by it a lot. Butter tarts. Cookies. Molly cake. Date Square. Brownies.

The last couple days were a bit more fraught. We had been told by lots of people that just outside of Halifax is Fredie's Fabulous Fish. We wanted to try it. Finding it is a cast iron bitch. Worth it, but tough if you don't have a native guide. One of the days we went for a long walk in a nice Provincial Park not far from the B&B. My doggie buddies will be happy with me that we rescued a lost dog, and that was a lot more work than it really needed to be.

We stayed at a very nice B&B near the airport. The only thing we didn't like about it was the damned chiming clock, the kind that fire up every 15 minutes, and gong out the hours. Very melodic, but we aren't used to it. Perhaps if we'd been in an upstairs room we wouldn't have heard it.

The cats were sure happy to see us. A few hours later they were back to their normal cat selves, mostly ignoring us unless they wanted to be petted or fed. Linda's garden survived much better than she thought it would, with even some of the annual plants in the planters still with us. There is a bit of clean up of course, but it could have been much worse.

Tired. More later.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Racing the bore

We were late for it in one place, but managed to scoot ahead of it by zooming down the road to Truro.  This is the tide coming in from Bay of Fundy, way upstream. The water level went up about a foot in a few minutes. Pretty impressive.

There's been other stuff too, having friends over for a wonderful afternoon. Spending more time on Hirtles where I did this. It's really darker than this. I had a heck of a time seeing the screen in the full sun.

Other stuff too, lots of photos. Not sure if I've done these. This is the access road at high tide. Planning required to live here. Then the access road at low tide.

A beach vacation with no sunburn for me, at least! Yay me! More later. Tired.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

I've been told

So we timed the vacation right this time. So often people go on vacation and the weather is just as nice, or nicer at home. Not us, not this time. We heard Calgary got some snow. Lots and lots of snow. The poor trees. We also heard more beach pics, at least for today, probably isn't a good idea. Maybe so. Stay tuned. Later. The deck of the house faces west, and there's been some awesome sunsets. Even by Calgary standards. Oh, I can't resist. It's not a beach photo. No retouching of any kind.

We've had a couple cloudy days, but overall my vitamin D factories are working overtime.

The high point so far  has been my blog buddy Janet and her husband Ron inviting us and my other blog buddy Janice and husband Luke all to dinner. It was lovely. One of the magical things about social media is that this dinner was like friends meeting again and carrying on, rather than meeting for the first time and wondering what to say. Of course, Janet and Janice have been friends for a while, but, surprise, they met through blogging as well. Janet did a great blog, with one of the few pictures of me looking like a regular human, not leaning, not holding a glass of wine, not wearing sweaty workout gear.

Then Janet and Janice came to the cottage this morning. Janice and I ran 5 K down the beach and back, chat chat chat. Linda and Janet walked, chat chat chat. Coffee after. Lovely!

We’ve been having a wonderful time. We’re doing a bit of tourist stuff, and a bit of hanging around the cottage relaxing. I’ve done 4 new scenes in Elixir that needed to be done, and tweaked the interim ending of Bone. I’m a whole lot happier with it than I was. I'm going through some smoothing and checks for pacing, and to make sure I haven't forgotten anything. I may have a third draft soon. Here's me, hard at work. Yes, there is a glass of wine within reach.

We were into Lunenburg for the market on Thursday, then out to Hirtle’s beach. We love it. It was perfect beach weather, warm and sunny, with a bit of a breeze. We walked the whole length of it, enjoying the whole darned thing. There’s one spot where the beach is a bit gravely, and the sound of the water rushing in and hissing out is just magical. Yes, there are photos. Later. Patience.

I ran on the beach, barefoot, for a bit. Maybe 15 minutes tops. Of course I didn’t time myself. That’s not what running on the beach is about. In the end we left because we’d run out of water and were getting thirsty.

I ran on Crescent beach again in cloudy and cool weather, so it hasn't all been sunshine and unicorns. My legs are feeling pretty good out of it all, and the fearsome gear seems to be doing it's job. We are sleeping like a pair of rocks now that we are used to the silence. This cottage has been perfect! Counting down the days left here. Sigh.

Friday, September 5, 2014

The proboscis's were all pointed at me

One thing about the cottage, during the evening if the wind is below a certain speed, there are many hungry critters out there. I went out for some sunset shots and was quickly afraid for my life. Lots of bugs. I was safe on the beach, but the actual driveway is a combat zone.

Here's some more photos.
Me thinking of my yoga teacher on Crescent beach.

Same place, same thoughts, but Linda this time. I hope you noticed.

The soldiers lined up for the next two weeks.

Hirtle's beach to the left.

Hirtle's beach to the right. We were astounded it was so crowded. 3 K of beach, and there had to be 2 dozen people there on a perfect day. I love Hirtle's beach, though I'm looking forward to more beach comparisons. I'm told Carter's beach and Beach Meadows are both very nice, right up there.

Sunset from the cottage. I almost didn't make it back.

This morning. Its hard to do a yoga selfie. Walking on the beach in the morning is an awesome way to start the day. Then a very productive 1500 words of a scene I've been wanting to write for a while, but haven't been able to get my teeth into. Very happy with it, though of course it needs slight editing.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

More photos, not quite so lazy

Where we are staying is a wifi-free zone, which means I'm several thousand words further on my books, two whole scenes written. Scoping out moving some chunks around. I'm writing this looking at a beautiful pool! So if I don't want to swim in the ocean, there is a pool. Though the guy in the "fast" lane is pretty slow. 

More photos.
The soundtrack was light jazz, not quite Dixie-land. Beautiful ad catchy. The sound from the bandstand carried all over the lovely park.

This is probably one of the best burgers I've ever, ever had.

And dessert right after. mmmmm!

The view from the cottage.

The cottage from the beach.

The cottage driveway. I mean, part of the beach.

Hmmm, photostream is being pissy about sharing some of the photos. Like the ones I want to put here. Sigh. Later.

Ran 4 K along the beach in 30 minutes. The elevation is truly whacked. This beach is dead level from end to end. That's what sea level means. From the water line to just above the high tide line, which is where I did most of the running in the nice soft sand, is maybe a couple feet AT MOST! Runmeter is trying to tell me it's 12 meters. 

In case you're wondering, we're having a wonderful time. Though we miss our kitties. I wonder if they've noticed we haven't showed up for a while. We left them a reliable human, so maybe not.


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