Friday, October 24, 2014

A Woman's Place Is in the Dojo

I don't usually flaunt my blog at other people's websites, but I'm posting a link to the comment threat on Amanda Marcotte's post on the doxxing of Felicia Day. In her piece, Ms Marcotte writes about a depressing trend in all too many "fandoms":

But still, I recognize exactly the phenomenon she’s talking about and it happens to a lot of women who have interests in stuff outside the female ghettos of fashion and domestic arts. (Mine would definitely, beyond a shadow of a doubt, be music fandom.) The desire for camaraderie with your fellow hobbyists outweighs nagging doubts you have that many of the men in your world think you don’t belong or that you deserve to be put in a second class position, forever having to defend your right to be treated like an expert compared to men who are simply assumed to belong. You decide those men are outliers or, if they are relatively quiet about their beliefs, you convince yourself that you’re being paranoid. Hell, if you worry about it out loud, you may even be told you’re paranoid. Often by other women who, like you, are so eager to believe that men welcome your presence that you may overlook evidence that suggests otherwise.

It's infuriating and depressing, so I figured I'd put up a feel-good post to alleviate some of the frustration that many people are feeling in this era of #gamergate foolishness.

Last Saturday, we had a special guest in the dojo to teach our students:

The woman in the blue gi with the blonde ponytail is one of the top-ranked judo players in the world... she won the gold medal in her weight class in the London Olympics (while I'm not posting her name, there aren't too many Olympic gold medal winners, so a little research will show you her stellar record). I snapped a picture of her teaching a bunch of seven-and-under girls zenpo kaiten, or forward-roll breakfalls. She taught four classes for us, boys and girls ranging in age from six to fifteen. After each class, she let the kids dogpile her while touching her gold medal... it was quite a sight to see her jovial face peering out from a passel of children, her smile shining brighter than the medal.

Also in the picture, from left to right: the gent sitting on the windowsill is a good friend of our gold medalist, visiting from London. The gentleman in the white gi next to him is a dear friend I jokingly refer to as "Morocco's George Clooney"- he visited Shanghai on business and a bunch of the locals took him for the real deal. The woman in the red polo shirt is one of our soccer coaches, who hails from Argentina... her daughter is one of the rolling students. The gentleman to the left of our guest Olympian is the father of one of our students. The imposing gent to the right is a dear mentor of mine, also from Morocco ("Berber Badass" would be a good nickname for him). On the uttermost right, that cascade of hair belongs to one of the teenaged counselors who shepherd the kids from activity to activity... I have known this young woman since she was small enough to fit in a peanut shell. I know you're not supposed to play favorites, but it's hard not to, and she has always been close to our hearts. The Italian guy and the Brazilian guy aren't in the picture because they are off to the right sparring. The other Olympic gold medal winner is also off to the side, teaching an adult student. Gentle Jimmy G. from Jersey hasn't arrived yet, he comes in on his lunch break to get his fight on before returning to work.

So there you have it- an amazingly competent, dynamic woman who excels in a largely male milieu of international scope, teaching a bunch of young girls with gusto and humor. The haters can go stuff their precious game controllers up where neither Sol nor any alien sun shines. The good guys want women to be fearless.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Ottawa Outrage, Ottawa Outcome

I was shocked and appalled by the murder of Canadian soldier Nathan Cirillo by a career criminal who decided to embark on a jihadi's course. One thing that struck me, though, is that the shooter was only able to kill one individual before being shot by House of Commons Sergeant-at-Arms Kevin Vickers.

Imagine how different such a shooting would have been in the United States, the land in which porn magazines are more heavily regulated than gun magazines. Only one victim? Here in 'Murka, there would have been many more, perhaps a double digit body count. How's that for American exceptionalism?

While the outrage is just as appalling, the outcome was a lot better in Ottawah than it would have been stateside.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Buon Viaggio Mama!

My mom left today on a trip to Italy. My brother Vincenzo, who is a career officer in the U.S. Army, is stationed in the vicinity of Vicenza, and is attached to the African Command. He shipped out to Liberia to oversee the construction of medical facilities to combat the Ebola outbreak. Mom is flying out to help my sister-in-law take care of the kids. Vin's deployment is somewhat open-ended, and he will have to undergo a three-week quarantine when he leaves the "hot zone". Mom is retired, and she has a neighbor she refers to as her "other son" who can take care of her house and yard while she is away, so her European trip is open-ended, like Vin's deployment.

My mom was understandably concerned when she learned that Vin was deploying to Liberia. In a long conversation with her, I noted that the hype and fear-mongering about Ebola was overblown. Vin would be engaged in logistical support- he won't be acting as medical staff, so his risk of exposure to the virus is pretty low. We then had a lament about the failure to fund and support the State Department, so a lot of the tasks that should be performed by our diplomatic and developmental professionals now fall on our military... if the only tool you have is a hammer, then every problem looks like a nail.

I'm going to go off on a brief tangent now... given the history of Liberia as a refuge for freed African-American slaves, the failure of the U.S. government to lend support to this nation is unconscionable. We should have backed the Liberian people, recognizing their cultural connection to the United States, and helping them to establish a healthy democratic society in order to help in the development of the African continent. I would hazard a guess that a combination of racism and a desire to exploit the peoples of Africa economically was responsible for the neglect of the fledgling nation that was founded by Americans. It's yet another case of us failing to live up to our lofty stated ideals. Pity we were never as good as we claimed to be.

At any rate, mom's on the move, Vin's in the field against an enemy that all humans can agree must be vanquished. Good voyage to mom, good health and good fortune to Vin and his family.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Securitism and Stealing

Last week, WNYC's Leonard Lopate interviewed James Risen on scams and fraudsters making millions off of "homeland security". The good folks at Crooks and Liars are covering the same territory. Simply put, there were a shitton of grifters, many of them well-connected, but some of them just Walter Mitty types who could spout a line of bullshit that impressed the dunderheads in the Bush Maladministration. Besides being a creepily Orwellian bureaucracy, the "Department of Homeland Security" (can we dissolve it already) was a West-West wonderland for yahoos with power-trip fantasies and for straight-up crooks, and for a third class of creep that were a combination of the two. The DHS hires seem to be even worse than the horse-fancying horse's ass who was tapped to lead FEMA (and who CNN saw fit to bring on to comment on the current Ebola situation). WTF, CNN?

The most damaging legacy of the Reagan administration was the complete denigration of government competence. Somehow, in the past forty-odd years, the American public was sold the notion that the private sector was better able to deliver goods and services than the public sector. Throughout the course of these past few decades, the American people have been transformed from citizens to consumers... now, with the advent of the Sociopathocracy, we have made the final transition, from consumers to consumed, prey to cheats and frauds. The amount of taxpayer dollars that was funneled to lunatics, losers, and liars to keep up an ineffectual security-industrial complex is utterly appalling. In the absence of competent defense and security protocols, we are left with securitism, a self-perpetuating farrago of fear-mongering and empty gestures meant to overawe the true enemy of the DHS, which is the American taxpayer. Meanwhile, real safety falls by the wayside as dangerous industries are allowed to operate without regulation, infrastructure crumbles, and the day-to-day operations of well-meaning, competent public servants are underfunded.

Hopefully, the voting public will come to its senses in time to realize that "small government" advocacy really means "big heist" advocacy in time for the upcoming midterm elections. If we ever want to be able to afford nice things again, we need to stop shoveling millions into the coffers of thieves.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

That Boner Guy Was Right

By the time this post appears, the annual Fall fundraiser will be half over. As of the wee hours of Saturday morning, we've only had one visitor taken to the hospital (passed out due to not eating all day) and one fence-jumper nabbed by security- the kid was from one of the wealthier burgs in this oh-so-wealthy county. When the security guard made him call his parents, the affluent assholes said they were eating dinner. When told that their son would be delivered to the custody of the local gendarmes if they didn't pick him up within a half-hour, they changed their dinner plans. Ah, affluenza... asshole parents, asshole kid, no repercussions for assholery. I hope the asshole's asshole buddies who hopped back over the fence razz the little shit mercilessly come Monday.

So far, it's been a month in which I've typically been getting three hours of sleep on Saturdays, a month in which I've had to excuse myself early from family functions. It's been a typically hectic October. That Boner guy and his band sung about the month:

October, kingdoms rise and kingdoms fall,
But you go on and onnn and oh-oh-oh-onnnnn, you go onnnnnnnnnnnnnn, you go onnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn.

You got that right, mister!

Saturday, October 18, 2014

American Horror Stories

This being October, not only is it the time for me to work my butt off every weekend, necessitating use of the pre-scheduling post setting, it's also time for scary stories. You want scary? Check out Robyn's post about nuclear testing. Yeah, those were some scary times... the U.S. was so afraid of the Soviet threat, it became an even bigger threat to its own existence. Robyn has that covered too.

Personally, I think the scariest of all of the proposals in the New Clear Age of the Atom was Project Plowshare:

No, that wasn't a satire. I sure wish it were!

Friday, October 17, 2014

Remembered Another Detail From Tuesday's Lecture

How the hell could I have omitted this detail from last Tuesday's lecture? In one aside, Dr Mark Siddall exhorted the audience to eat invasive species, just like the Eat the Invaders crew. I do my part, chomping down on the really aggressive Japanese knotweed. Dr Siddall singled out the invasive lionfish and the Asian silver carp which is taking over waterways in the Heartland:

In a bit about eating lampreys (the key is moderation), he mentioned that he had eaten lamprey in, if I recall correctly, Norway, and he exhorted us to depopulate the lamprey population of the Great Lakes, which is injurious of fisheries.

Now, you know what to do... eat the invaders! The only problem is if people like them too much and want to keep them around.