Archive for August, 2007

It ain't the heat, it's the inanity other people

August 23, 2007 - 11:07 am Comments Off on It ain't the heat, it's the inanity other people

Attention: If you live in a state such as Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, etc that is specifically known for getting Fucking Hot in the summer, and you complain about this heat more than ten times in the space of five minutes, you are fair game for a good old fashioned burning at the stake. The twist is that instead of gasoline and logs, we will use a giant magnifying glass.

Talk to me, Pt. 2: p's and q's

August 21, 2007 - 3:39 pm Comments Off on Talk to me, Pt. 2: p's and q's

Manners have been one of the primary preoccupations of humanity, possibly since the beginning of civilization itself. People have been complaining that the young don’t have any for at least that long, and some cultures have been so rigorous on the point that having bad manners can end up carrying the death penalty.

When people have nothing else, it seems they hold on to this: prisons have some of the most byzantine rules of respect and custom around, as new inmates find out through blood and violence. People in very poor societies often have some of the most elaborate and fervently observed customs, especially relating to rules of hospitality.

Civilization runs on a series of abstract conceits. You can spend a lifetime delving into the natural laws of the universe, and never once will you run across any energy or matter that adds up to justice, or mercy, or law, or morality itself. Without these conceits, there is no civilization; it relies on a system of agreed beliefs, and also upon penalties for rejecting them. When someone institutes their own rule contrary to the most basic- usually something along the lines of “If I can take it from you, it’s mine”- we punish them. The recognition of this is what the original idea of the social contract rests upon; sacrificing the freedom to do absolutely anything you wish in order to gain some measure of peace and protection from those who are exceptionally good at taking. Otherwise, most of life would be spent as it is for low-ranked primates or animals in a sorry position on the food chain, on obsessively finding and attempting to secure food and mates, if only for a brief time. Specialization of any kind would be impossible.

Unlike justice, mercy, or post-modernism, however, manners are not entirely a human invention. All social animals with brains more complex than a sardine’s have some version of them. Mammals especially have body language rotating around eye contact and raised or lowered body posture; they are social tools for resolving questions of status or conflicts of interest without bloodshed. Fighting wastes tremendous amounts of energy and puts individuals at risk for long, debilitating healing periods, infections, or worse. These basic gestures solve most problems before they become truly problematic, in a physical sense. The more complex the animals, the greater the number of possible types of interactions, thus the greater the risk of conflict, and the more important these little rituals become. They are a universal enough concept that useful domestication of animals beyond a role as a penned food source becomes possible: training a dog or a horse for serious work relies first upon the animal recognizing an individual outside its own species as having some kind of authority over it, and second upon the animal and the human working out systems of acceptable behavior based on both species’ rules.

While we are not animals, we have replaced a great deal of these systems with shared abstract concepts*. If this were not true, instead of angrily bitching about snotty teenagers with their jeans hanging down to their knees, there would be a mass epidemic of teenagers with swollen ears and noses to go with the ill-fitting clothes. More than that, we have introduced huge social systems that not only are largely free-for-all zones, but put people out of all physical range of the person they’re talking to. It was noted that people are ruder over the phone when that was introduced, and we now have a system that removes the voice as well as the face. (The face being where all of the most primal “stop fucking with me” social signals show most clearly, and are hardest to ignore.) Thus was born the flowering diversity of internet irritants, all thanks to the disinhibition effect.

Which brings us to the question of why, if all the physical and most of the traditional cues relating to manners have been removed, should we even care about manners on the internet, provided we aren’t talking to someone we already have a relationship with? Why can’t we take the next step as creatures of reason and respond purely to factual content, with no mind paid to complicated cues and subtle shadings?

Well, for starters, the day we become creatures of pure reason is probably the same day we achieve functional communism and universal pacifism. As long as we think of ourselves as relating to another being, all the primate baggage kicks in- even if we know we aren’t really, as when we lose it and yell at a customer-service voicemail maze.

But we’re not monkeys or chimps, we’re people with math and computers and everything, so why should there be any more reason to be polite to a faceless person of neutral relationship online (or in correspondence, or any other setting in which the risk of physical confrontation is low to nonexistent) than there is to be nice to the voicemail system?

Because as with the nonverbal cues of a normal conversation, civility- if only in the subtleties of text- still gives us a lot of information that saves us from an otherwise long and frustrating filtering process. There are a great many motivations for communication, and the sheer commonness of trolls tells us that there’s a great deal of basic satisfaction in talking (or typing, if you want to be literal) simply to manipulate someone else into being hurt, angry, or even just confused. It’s certainly no new phenomenon; every toddler discovers this basic power to annoy as the earliest and simplest way to have power over others, and every toddler is trained out of it. Either the child is civilized, or simply taught that annoying someone for the sheer joy of it is a fast route to pain or loss of something valued. More subtly, any form of emotional manipulation- be it trolling, appeals to sentiment (as in the sob stories the Snopes archive calls glurge), or great self-righteousness- is the fastest and easiest way to hide a weak argument. If the reader is feeling more than they’re thinking, they may miss it entirely.

Being a jerk (or a crusader, or a preacher, or a whore) is vastly more commonly employed as a tactic to hide poor reasoning than it is employed because the person talking has such excellent knowledge and reasoning that they can afford to indulge the impulse. And as such, it creates extremely useful filters for the reader.

Civility eliminates the time and effort involved in determining if an argument is worth pursuing. It even applies to less obvious areas; a person in a totally writing-based environment who takes no time or trouble to make sure his prose is easily readable** is sending the quieter message that he doesn’t give a damn about the time and effort necessary to sort through the mess.

That’s why.

*Unless you’re in prison. Or school.

**And to that end, we’ve hopefully resolved the brain-text problem. There will be a new format in the future once we figure out what we want and how to do it, but this should make life easier for y’all.

On the way…

August 20, 2007 - 8:27 pm Comments Off on On the way…

Part 2 of “Talk to me” is sitting in my drafts folder, awaiting cleanup and posting tomorrow. I need to go in with a virtual machete and prune the forests of semicolons and emdashes. Also, I’ve learned never to say when something will be coming again. Works great when I’m trying to meet a deadline I’m avoiding because the work is boring and tedious, not at all when I’m trying to write something readable.

In the meantime, go here for a marvelous celebration and compendium of regional food to be had for the traveler. I can’t say I whole-heartedly agree with every entry- in Albuquerque, they recommend the mediocre Frontier grill and ignore the wonderful Hurricane’s, for just one example- but you won’t get sick, you won’t be bored, and it won’t be standardized.

Stingray vs. Nature: Pt. N

August 20, 2007 - 1:33 pm Comments Off on Stingray vs. Nature: Pt. N

My parents moved me to this hilltop Geek Storage Facility when I was about six months old. Since then, I’ve grown up playing with the local bugs, being wary that the possibility of rattlesnake was out there, watching for packs of coyotes that might find a small child a tasty treat, and generally being unimpressed by the local dangerous, poisonous, or painful residents sharing the plateau. I knew that a Jerusalem Cricket would give you a nasty pinch (and that tarantulas absolutely loved their flavor), I learned about the tarantula mating season, and I cornered more than a couple of bullsnakes, terrifying one or two other kids who swore they were poisonous.

Unfortunately, at no point do I feel I was properly briefed on the subject of scorpions. “It gets too cold in the winter,” I was told. Or sometimes the line would be “It gets too wet in the summer.” “The altitude is too high.” “There isn’t enough __________ for them.” Certainly, I knew they were in the state somewhere. I’d seen one that took up residence under the leg of our camper once at Conchas Lake. Obviously they had them down south, since to my young mind anything south of Albuquerque may as well have been the Sahara. Thus, a few months after finishing the move to our current house last year, I was in for something of a surprise. We had grown fairly adept at corralling and disposing of the steady march of centipedes stampeding their twitchy little way through our living room, and had a reasonably efficient drill in place. Someone would see the little (or not so little) bastard tearing across the living room floor, and a pair of pliers would be dispatched to transfer the creepy-crawly into the nearest critter disposal, be it toilet, garbage disposal, or blowtorch.

What we hadn’t prepared for was that sometimes the smaller specimens would be using our living room as an escape route rather than a hunting ground. One evening about this same time of year, several beers into the evening, a small centipede was spotted. Coming in well under an inch, this was not cause for alarm in any way shape or form, and it was swiftly dispatched. Less than five minutes later, however, I heard a disconcerting “Ummm….” come from LabRat’s end of the sofa. A brief discussion followed, most likely including the phrase “Dammit, I don’t want another brain-sucking hat you bastards!” while she attempted to bring the new intruder to light. Zydeco, meanwhile, was on full alert thanks to the centipede, and was already investigating. I was finally distracted from the Space Pirates just in time to see Zydeco batting at something that looked suspiciously lobster-like on the carpet. Lobster-like with an arched tail. Lobster-like with an arched tail that just stabbed Zydeco in the nose.


Immediately and full of calm rationality, I scooped the cat up, deposited him to safety with LabRat, who was already checking to find out if we should be calling a vet. I proceeded to test the crush strength of our foundation by beating the ever-loving unholy stabby poison out of our new friend. I am told that in no way did this display resemble a child with ADD and full of caffeine attempting to play golf using whatever vaguely club-like instrument came to hand. After the initial shock of discovering an unprecedented creature in the house passed, we were left with this:
First visitor

LabRat determined it was a mostly harmless bark scorpion, and I spent the next few weeks glaring angrily and readying a club at every piece of dust that happened to twitch at ground level while coming to terms with this new threat. It was not a peaceful period.

Last night, while in the process of looking for heart pieces, I heard from the opposite end of the sofa “Don’t freak out.” Naturally, I began freaking out. After a quick look to determine that a) nothing was on fire, b) there were no intruders standing in the doorway with explosives and ropes made out of poisonous snakes, and c) none of the animals appeared distressed, I deactivated the death-ray security system and looked around to find out what it was, exactly, that I should not freak out about. On the carpet, a few feet away, I saw a suspiciously familiar outline.

“Is that…?”
“I think so.”
“Hold on to Zydeco.”

With ninja-like dexterity, I improvised and adapted the standard issue centipede drill and nigh-soared across the room, pliers in hand. With a year’s worth of mental training, not to mention a year of festering grudge to work out, I quickly disarmed my opponent, leaving the tip of its tail in a puddle of goo while I addressed the other end of the vile bastard. After a summer of extraordinarily large centipedes, I also discovered that scorpions are not particularly speedy in comparison, a finding that delighted me to no end as it tried to escape.

I am told that the sight of a grown man lecturing something less than an inch and a half long on the complexities of the food chain, the proper preparation of lobster, and cackling madly while wielding a leatherman is a stirring one. Obviously I can issue no commentary on this display, as I was involved with the scorpion and didn’t see whoever this stranger was that was making such an ass of himself. Our new friend has joined the companion he sought to avenge.

The Avenger

Naturally, I made sure to get the stinger in the jar too. Everybody knows if you don’t get the stinger, it’ll grow a new scorpion twice as big and flashing red. I intend to keep filling this jar, seeing as how the first one survived a year under glass without so much as losing a leg. Eventually, this will mean I will have a jar full of dead scorpions.

If luck smiles on me, I will someday have the opportunity to fling a jar full of dead scorpions on Sarah Brady.


August 18, 2007 - 7:14 pm Comments Off on Bleh.

I’m still learning what conditions are necessary for me to sit down with an idea and turn it into coherent words. This one isn’t going anywhere, but my attention span has been on a whirlwind world tour. My next hypothesis, to be tested tomorrow: apply excellent food and margaritas to the problem. If it doesn’t work, I feel I will have lost nothing.

So here’s more filler:Throwing Tiny Pies At Insects. Some folks will have seen this before, because when I initially discovered it I was utterly mesmerized and could not look away. It still gives me a little geekgasm to think of the level of technology, precision, and engineering that went into… well, throwing tiny pies at insects. I think most other people have to take illicit drugs to feel like this.

You got a grant for this? The study’s thrilling, revolutionary conclusion: if you aren’t sleeping you pee more. Really. I’d point out that everyone who’s ever housebroken a puppy knows this basic principle, but I suppose it was a matter of vital importance that this be confirmed in human studies.

I love surrealist art, but my near-total inability to take life seriously on a consistent basis means that I start wanting to draw in little smiley faces on, well… most modern art in general. Ursula Vernon does surrealist, she does fantasy, and she does Battle Hamsters. Several of her prints (all from the Weird Fruit series) are awaiting framing here, and the number of drawings and paintings of hers that I would like to hang on my wall vastly exceeds my wall space. Fortunately for Stingray’s sense of aesthetics, framing is expensive. Browse the galleries- at least half the fun of each image is the explanatory captions.

Here’s an ethical dilemma for dog people: the rare breed you are working with is just about universally burdened with a genetic disease that often renders the dog beset by horrible gastrointestinal issues for life, and will almost certainly shorten its lifespan to well under ten years. However, the breed you’re dealing with is so incredibly unique in having features like voluntarily closeable ear canals and insane flexibility for cliff-climbing that ceasing breeding would probably lead to the extinction of those features, and opening the gene pool might well lead to the same. Useful rare mutations or healthy animals?

Talk to me, Pt. 1: f2f?

August 17, 2007 - 6:59 pm Comments Off on Talk to me, Pt. 1: f2f?

Once upon a time, I was shoved into a sociology course called “working in small groups” as a requirement for my degree course. For some bizarre reason, the Powers That Be had gotten the impression that the kids that didn’t necessarily play well with others tended to be over-represented in the technical and scientific tracks. I haven’t the faintest where they could have gotten that idea, but it led to yet another unwanted semester of incarceration in the sociology department.

For the most part, the course was a dull real-time exercise in the inefficiency of meetings, not to mention the inefficiency of a large number of annoyed geeks forced to work cooperatively on projects they saw as pointless. (In yet another totally unforeseen development, a lot of people chose that class’s work first to blow off, much to the aggravation of their fellow group members.) I was deeply struck, however, by the textbook’s sections on the effect of new technologies on group communication and cooperation; it quickly betrayed the authors’ near-total ignorance on the subject. Virtually all of their models were from business and business management; there was nothing from the scientific communities that first took advantage of nationally networked communication, nothing from the IT end of the corporations, and nothing on self-created communities (like Wikipedia or Usenet) either. In other words, their idea of technology and small groups consisted entirely of people who had virtually no idea how to use what they had and little enough inclination to use it unless they were otherwise out of options.

The text (and course material, as the professor didn’t stray far) went very heavily into the non-obvious aspects of communication and cooperation, and spent a good deal of time on varying kinds of nonverbal cues. Tone of voice, posture, syntax, and all the rest were extensively covered, and given so it should not be all that surprising that their coverage on various electronic means of communication (basically everything that wasn’t videoconferencing) mostly focused on the negative: no nonverbal cues means a high chance of misunderstandings, pointless animosities, and generally “half-there” information.

And if you’re talking about someone who’s spent most of their working life in meetings and views their computer as a strange and potentially malicious totem for data entry, this is absolutely correct. Tone carries poorly, information that would ordinarily be conveyed by expression disappears (“I am being sarcastic” being one of the most frequently absent cues), and it’s a generally unsatisfying and relatively inferior way to communicate and collaborate.

However, people who depend on technological mediums that don’t necessarily involve much face to face or voice to voice contact have done an interesting thing: they have adapted. Folks who spend a great deal of time communicating by e-mail, chat, wiki, or other text-based medium can become exquisitely sensitive to changes in syntax, grammar, word choices, timing, and other between-the-lines textual cues. Internet culture also drives a good deal of this; most people who spend a lot of time online know that if someone normally coherent starts typing LIEK THIS WHOA, that means they are being sarcastic. Even something as ridiculous as “lolcats” can evolve its own grammar through simple common usage. I’ve wound up conducting a lot of long-distance friendships, since I don’t tend to make new ones easily and like to hold on to old ones; since text-based communication is infinitely cheaper than phone bills or or travel tickets (not to mention makes it easier to manage time, thanks to multi-tasking), they tend to be conducted mostly if not entirely through e-mail, chat, and blog/journal commenting. One thing I have noticed there is that, over time, people who know me well tend to acquire the ability to read my mood and intent no matter what the medium of interaction is- the majority of my friends can tell if I’m happy, depressed, anxious, or angry within a few lines of text, even if it’s just about the weather of something similarly inconsequential. They’re not psychic and I’m not talking about how I feel- they’ve just talked to me in that medium often enough to be able to instinctively recognize that the way I say things changes based on how I’m feeling, and internalize and categorize those changes. It’s not a localized skill, either; I’ve also noticed that I’ve gotten much better over time at learning a new person’s patterns. The way people write in casual conversation is individual, but still has a lot of commonalities.

It has also been suggested- and forgive me for not providing the cite*- that people who have a great deal of social competence in face-to-face situations often suffer in the spare environment of text-only, while people who excel in text environments often aren’t nearly as good at face-to-face interaction. (Of course, there are some people who are just plain insensitive to social cues in ANY environment, as well as the adepts that master both with ease.) Most of the issue would seem to be in the relative centers of information- you can get away with vague speech face to face if you make up for it with tone, expression, and other emotive gestures, and you can get away with flatness of affect in text by simply being very clear and precise in exactly what you say and how you say it. Each group tends to drive the other a bit batty- the texters are taken as icily standoffish and the talkers as hopelessly vague.

The phenomenon has also led to something of a split in online communities; the folks who started with Usenet and university mailing lists (and later, any other web-based information center) learned to write carefully to make sure complex ideas were understood, and those who arrived mainly for more superficial socialization learned to write faster, with more abstract “friendly” indicators. Thus was born the gap between English on the internet and chatspeak, which in its most evolved form distills to the telegraphic text-messaging pseudolanguage.

To a person who depends on clear English in text, both the digitally clueless (who may see no reason to be careful with their words- they don’t put that much thought into it in conversation, after all) and the chat-speakerss are as socially impaired as someone with a severe speech impediment or a neurological condition. Their words are hard to understand and seem virtually empty of meaning, and no outside social cues at all aside from “:)” and “lol” come across. The chat-speakers, in contrast, find it incredibly cumbersome to wade through complete sentences as though they were reading a book, and they don’t understand why friendly clarifiers- like emoticon smilies and the lol-tag- meet with such an outraged reception when they’re used as punctuation. The newbies are pretty much just screwed until they learn one set of unwritten rules or another.

More tomorrow, this wound up being two ideas when I started trying to write it out. There’s also a repository of fascinating reading along these lines here.

*Trip, if you’re reading, do YOU have a cite?

Readability & Resolution

August 16, 2007 - 12:40 pm Comments Off on Readability & Resolution

Rumor has it that some folks are having a bit of trouble seeing the entire main text area without running into the pickled brain. If anybody having this issue would be kind enough to post the resolution you normally view things at to the comments, I’d appreciate it and will be able to tune the style sheet to a more reasonable width.

Brain go melty.

August 15, 2007 - 3:33 pm Comments Off on Brain go melty.

Yes, I know, nothing for two days. I didn’t expect that “something every day” to last very long. The one larger idea I had seems to have folded in on itself like collapsing souffle*, and a combination of a spike in busy-factor and the temperature have had the overall effect of baking intelligent thought right out of my brainpan. So here’s a bit of filler.

The Yangtze River Dolphin is officially extinct. For those of us sci fi nerds who are also nature nerds, this is very disheartening- the plight of this species was recorded, along with several others’, in Douglas Adams’s funny, warm, and indispensable Last Chance To See. Some of them, like the kakapo, are showing signs of hope, but this dolphin is gone. In either case, this bit of news led to the following bit of conversation:

Me: “So much for the Yangtze River Dolphin. It’s officially extinct.”
Stingray: “And I suppose it’s all our fault.”
Me: “….Honey. Think of the largest and busiest river in China, absolutely covered over with boats and almost completely turbid, and then imagine being a creature living inside it that navigates entirely by sound.”
Stingray: “….All right, yes. This one is indeed all our fault.”

Sometimes, you just can’t save ’em. It was a situation roughly analogous to having a creature native to Manhattan that relied purely on points of light for navigation.

*If YOU can figure out a way to intelligently compare group selection (evo-bio context) and socialism without getting totally sidetracked trying to condense the last forty years of sociobiology, be my guest.

Along these lines…

August 12, 2007 - 4:20 pm Comments Off on Along these lines…

I was struck by a case of whatever-happened-to and went looking for a blog I used to read religiously. I was immediately sorry I had ever stopped, because he’s just as good as he ever was. Here he covers one facet of American health care issues in a way that touches heavily on what we were going on about today- time being money and people being willing to pay for what quality they find acceptable.

If you thought a bat in a dorm-room closet was odd, try a fish someplace even stranger. At least I can about figure what happened with the bat; with the fish I cannot begin to fathom.

Special orders don't upset us, but there's nothing wrong with the menu.

August 12, 2007 - 2:39 pm Comments Off on Special orders don't upset us, but there's nothing wrong with the menu.

LabRat has hit the nail quite squarely on the head for a large portion of what pisses me off on this subject, and if you haven’t read her post yet, please scroll down and do so before reading this one. Now, I’m sure it’s a wonderful experience to go drive the back roads and determine first hand if Flo’s Gulp and Blow really does have the best caramelized possum balls for three counties, but since travel for us for the last several years has been more about appeasing others than it has been about enjoying ourselves, it turns up rather moot.

What she failed to address, however, is the growing volume and quantity of otherwise rational people bitching about McMansions, McGasGuzzlers, McBattlerifles, or any other mass-produced, standardized, middle-of-the-road-quality product. First, I will happily grant that a custom-built product is almost invariably a better one. There is a reason we enjoy Les Baer 1911s over Rock River. My problem lies more with the implication that there is anything intrinsically horrible with a standardized product, and thus the snide and condescending McLabel.

For the rest of this rant, we’re going to set aside predatory lending practices, people who don’t read contracts and the dumbasses endemic to any population who try to live way beyond their means as an entirely separate topic. Sure, it’s a ripe field for stupidity, but there’s a “smart” side of that bell curve too.

As LabRat pointed out, time is money. Through the miracles of modern technology, engineering, and manufacturing, the prices of lumber, materials and labor are all suddenly something that many more people are able to afford (assuming they take the time to read the contract they’re signing, but again, that’s a different matter). “Gosh, they sure are churning out those shitty McMansions in a big hurry! And so many people are buying them! This is horrible!” Well, yes. People are buying them, because with the standardized production, they can. Sure, it’d be great to have your own personalized from the ground up residence, but that architect costs a damn pretty penny and between his fees, the fees of getting the blueprints approved, delays while tin-pot dictator bureaucrats with an axe to grind with your architect sit on the plans, not only can but most likely will radically change what you were able to afford. Suddenly that 2400 square foot dream home is down to 1000 and the kids are sharing a room again. With the horrible McMansion though, you may get the same floor plan as everyone else, but you’ve still got the space you were looking for. You pay for the quality you find acceptable, and by the very definition, that usually means “average”.

Coffee is another prime field for this McBullshit to crop up, and I’m sure everybody knows the chain I am about to defend. The flavor of Starbucks’ coffee is obviously a personal matter, but again, you pay for the quality you find acceptable. In this case, this quality includes service. The little mom-and-pop shop down the street may taste a little bit better, but then again every time you walk in it looks like a hardware store suffered a nasty explosion in the paint section, given the wide array of unnatural hair colors, metal studding every available skin surface, and shell-shocked attitude of the staff. Maybe for that same $2 I’ll just head down the road to where the staff doesn’t act like they’re doing you a favor to take your order. This same bullshit attitude about how the big corporations are just so unfair and mean doesn’t stop at coffee either, obviously. Others have noticed the problem in bookstores, and just today I had the delightful experience of trying to find building materials from a source other than Lowe’s or Home Depot. Here’s a fucking tip: If your store is only open two hours a day, three days a week, and nobody seems to give a shit about selling anything, you just might be headed out of business when I can find what I need cheaper a half mile down the road during the 80% of the week you aren’t open.

Now I’m not positive what exactly is driving all the McWhining on this crap lately. If it’s over the fact that folks think the middle of the bell curve has moved too far one way or the other, find something else to sit in an ivory tower over. If you’ve ever said or seriously considered the position “It’s a pity they still call it ____________ when obviously it’s so much crap compared to what we like,” then you fall pretty squarely into that camp and should please consider shutting the fuck up. I’ll even cop to that attitude myself sometimes, and I’ve been trying to improve because of it. No, I may not have much use for some bottom-end computer that struggles with large web pages, but if it works for someone else, I really don’t have room to throw stones.

If the sentiment springs from some notion that, like with food, the small mom and pop is intrinsically better than Big Corporate, I’d point out the New Orleans coffee chain Rue de la Course. This outfit’s coffee is so delicious, and the service good enough that Starbucks has not been able to get a major foothold in town. If your product and service is good enough, mom and pop don’t have a damn thing to worry about from GlobalCo; people will pay for the quality they find acceptable, and that could well be your small shop. Interfering with this order is no different than Chavez trying to run his economy by edict in Venezuela, in either case the natural course of capitalism has been derailed. I have a hard time believing this option, since so many of the sources of this rant will say “Yay capitalism!” the very next sentence after they bitch about the McMansion or McWhatever.

The final option that presents itself is the general loathing of conformity that crops up when people think independently. Personally, I find this to be the single most idiotic reason to bitch about the McStuff. Thanks to the same advances in materials and technology that enabled the mass production of your McPeeve, there is now a fucking McAftermarket. “Oh no! My house has the same floor-plan as some of my neighbors!” So the fuck what? Go buy some of that horrible McLumber, or if you’re inclined to the locals, go to In-n-Out Plank and build a god damn porch or something. “My car is too much like the Jones’!” Oh no. However could we change that? “My 1911 is only good for minute-of-barn-door!” Then sit on your paycheck for a week and go buy a better barrel, or have a gunsmith tune it up! Guess what! Thanks to what you saved by buying a standardized product instead of the gold-plated pure custom, you can now start off with a decent level of quality, and IMPROVE ON IT! If you’re just afraid that you’ll be too much like everyone else then either get off your ass and do something about it, or shut the fuck up.