Aahz's Not-a-blog

This isn't a blog. It's a series of mini-essays arranged in reverse chronological order because I don't currently have a better place to put them. I welcome e-mail, but I don't guarantee that I have lots of time to discuss them.


No Wife


Although I'm a man married to a woman (but not legally married), I usually correct people who refer to my primary partner (or spouse) as a "wife". I tell them that I don't have a wife. People who know that I'm married get surprised by this.

It's actually pretty simple: the phrase "the little wifey" has no equivalent diminutive or derogatory counterpart for "husband". As a feminist, I find this lack of symmetry repugnant and therefore refuse to use "wife". Of course, I practice a minimal politeness and use whatever words other people prefer for their relationships; all I ask is the same respect in return.

SF vs Fantasy, Polyamory vs Swinging


My primary pointed me at Papersky's LiveJournal, which had a post about the border between SF and fantasy. And I realized that this had a lot of similarity to another discussion that vaguely annoys me, about the border between polyamory and swinging. I think most people agree that at the core, SF/fantasy and polyamory/swinging each are two different things. I can't see much point in expending lots of effort in establishing a precise border because each of these pairs has in common much difference from the surrounding larger culture.

In science fiction, the centrum is the focus on "What if...?" and spaceships. Fantasy has its focus on magic. Polyamory focuses on multiple relationships; swinging focuses on sex. What's so hard about it? If something partakes of both, just say so -- these are not mutually exclusive categories that are in opposition. They are simply labels for convenient discussion, because humans need labels for everything.

Cell phones good, cell phones bad


I've always been ambivalent about cell phones (and pagers). As a technophilic Luddite, I think that being able to reach other people no matter where I am is a wonderful tool, but I hate being reachable by other people at their convenience rather than mine. I'll probably never take a job that requires me to wear a pager.

For many years, cell phones weren't even an option for me because they didn't work well with my hearing aid. Once I got a cochlear implant, I was amazed at how well cell phones worked -- often better than regular phones.

Recently, I was forcefully reminded of just how glad I am to have cell phones available. Stef's car broke down on 880 while we were driving to visit friends in Berkeley. That's about 25 miles from home, and having a car die on the freeway is Not Fun. Fortunately, AAA was an easy phone call away, our friend was an easy phone call away, and when I remembered that my partner Paula was nearby, that was an easy phone call, too. (We had the car towed to Paula's place, where we were able to effect emergency repairs, thanks to Paula's other partner.) No worrying about finding a phone booth, no scrambling for phone cards or loose change.

Basically, having a cell phone changed a minor disaster to a major nuisance, and I'm extremely grateful for that. But I still want to strangle people who use cell phones in restaurants, and I'm still tempted to say things such as, "That tumor on your head looks remarkably like a cell phone."

Health care, not health insurance


Why do we keep focusing on "health insurance"? When we do, we invoke the same categorization as auto insurance and fire insurance -- paying into a risk pool for something we hope/expect never to need. But the vast majority of people do need regular health care. So we should stop falling into the debate trap around insurance and focus on the reasons why universal health care is a Good Thing.

From my POV, the simple reason for needing universal health care is the changed nature of society's needs for a public health system. For most of the last couple of centuries, public health focused on cleanliness for improving individual health (building sewer systems and removing pollutants from water sources). More recently, mass vaccination provided the next step in public health. Now, though, we're faced with public health threats that don't have effective vaccinations available (such as tuberculosis and HIV and herpes), and for which treatment requires detection. TB in particular is contagious; do you really want the person coughing next to you to have TB? And antibiotic-resistant strains of TB are evolving....

Once one builds a system of universal health care for any reason, it just makes sense to scale it up. Society would be much better off, for example, if people with diabetes saw a doctor regularly instead of showing up in emergency rooms in a diabetic coma. That's not even counting the greater productivity of healthy people.

Note, though, that I'm a socialist libertarian, not just a socialist. I'm not advocating unrestricted access to health care. I do think that wealthy people should be able to purchase health insurance (or direct access to doctors) to cover more expensive needs. But reducing our reliance on the insurance industry and giving basic health care to everyone will make us a more productive and happier society.

When to break the Bechdel Rule


a suitable movie must A.) feature two women,
who B.) talk to each other,
about C.) something other than a man.
This is a paraphrase of a strip in Allison Bechdel's Dykes to Watch Out For, where the character notes that the last movie she was able to see was Aliens. Many people in my social circles call this "the Bechdel Rule".

A lot of the movies I enjoy break the Bechdel Rule so hard it isn't funny (consider my favorite movie, Singin' in the Rain), but there are plenty of movies that break the letter of the Rule while keeping the spirit, IMO. A good example would be Royal Warriors, a martial arts flick that's one of Michelle Yeoh's early movies. Although Michelle's (her character is also named Michelle in a startling display of originality) male partners save her bacon several times, and although one of them is chasing her romantically, it's clear that her competence is never questioned, and she's the one who beats the bad guys in the climax.

I'd argue that even someone who makes the Bechdel Rule a primary criterion for choosing movies ought to enjoy Royal Warriors.

Globalization: How the IMF Fucked Up


No, that's not the title of a book, but that should have been the title used for Globalization and Its Discontents by Joseph Stiglitz. Stiglitz, winner of the Nobel Prize in economics, is generally in favor of globalization, but he's harsh in his condemnation of the tricks played by the Internation Monetary Fund (IMF) and its supporters.

Here's a sample quote on currency speculation:

In treating the symptoms directly, by pouring billions of dollars into the market, the IMF actually made the underlying disease worse. If speculators only made money off each other, it would be an unattractive game -- a highly risky activity, which on average made a zero return, as the gains by some were matched by equal losses from others. What makes speculation profitable is the money coming from governments, supported by the IMF. When the IMF and the Brazilian government, for instance, spent some $50 billion maintaining the exchange rate at an overvalued level in late 1998, where did the money go? The money doesn't disappear into thin air. It goes into somebody's pockets -- much of it into the pockets of the speculators. Some speculators may win, some may lose, but speculators as a whole make an amount equal to what the government loses. In a sense, it is the IMF that keeps the speculators in business.
Stiglitz marshals an impressive array of facts and anecdotes to illustrate his points. Globalization and Its Discontents isn't heavy reading, but some background in economics will make it much easier to follow. It's certainly a must-read for anyone concerned about the politics of money and trade and their affects on humans and the environment.

Copyright 2003, 2004, 2005, 2009 by Aahz
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