Too Busy For Posts Today

But over the past couple of days, I’ve tossed off a couple of FetLife posts (they’re the Facebook for kinksters!) that might be of interest, even if I consider them a tad too sexually explicit for here:

As usual, you’ll have to register for an account for them if you want to read them, but otherwise they’re pretty much open.  Enjoy.

The Strange And Wondrous Adventures Of My Very Popular Vacuum Cleaner

I admit it’s unusual for my vacuum cleaner to have a Facebook account, but I assure you there are legitimate reasons.  But first, let me introduce you to my vacuum cleaner. I assure you, he doesn’t bite.
Opposite Cat!
That is Opposite Cat, my cute little robotic vacuum.  He’s a Roomba, which means that I press a button and he goes off scurrying around the floor in a random pattern, beeping when he’s full.  We named him Opposite Cat because unlike a cat, he sucks up hair instead of shedding it.  We think Opposite Cat is really neat.
But that’s not why I made Opposite Cat a star.  I made him a star because I’m a web developer, and occasionally I have to program Facebook applications.  I’m often the admin for these apps, and so if I want to see what it looks like for a “normal” user, I need another account to log into.  I could have created a fake name, but instead I just created a toss-off email address and made an account for my vacuum, who I thought no one would ever see.
I did not count on Facebook’s relentless friends-making algorithm.
Within moments, Facebook had tracked down Opposite Cat’s email account, and decided that since its email address was also from and we both lived in Rocky River, it must be related to me.  So within seconds – eerily – Facebook provided a list of several people my vacuum might know, which included me, my wife, and several friends who had, in fact, met my robot.
My vacuum, being a solitary sort, opted not to friend them.  But Facebook contacted some of those friends, saying, “Hey, d’you know this robot?” and lo, two of my buddies sent friends requests.  (Ironically, neither of them had met my robot, apparently preferring its online presence.) And so a brief social network had been formed.
In the months to follow, Facebook has been very concerned about my vacuum cleaner’s lack of an online presence.  It sends emails, reminding me I have an account.  Once a day, it tells me what my friends are up to, summarizing their best posts in an email.  Occasionally, Facebook sends my robot a mail saying, “Here are some new people you might know!” and damn if they’re not good friends of mine.  And it keeps reminding me that I can log on, am I okay, how are you doing, Opposite Cat?
Today, I logged in, and Facebook immediately splooged all over, sending me a congratulatory email – “WELCOME BACK TO FACEBOOK!  Do you want to post some pictures?  Write an essay?  We’ll help you find some friends!”  In fact, Facebook is positively nicer to my robot than it is to me – one suspects that because, like a real cat, my vacuum cleaner is aloof.  It senses that my robot needs a little more connection in its life.
Which is funny, and creepy.  I know Facebook has turned down Native Americans for having “made-up names,” but perhaps it senses a kindred spirit in Opposite Cat’s mechanical nature.  And the way in which Facebook has successfully extrapolated much of Opposite Cat’s limited social life from a handful of data factors is an object lesson in how much can be gained from powerful computing sources.  It still wants Opposite Cat to friend me, and my wife, and Cat Valente, and Eric Meyer.  Facebook has got a good bead on who Opposite Cat is, and absent of the fact that knowing that Opposite Cat is in fact an inanimate object, it has a terrifying bead on who it usually hangs around with.
I wonder how far I could take it.  If I started posting appropriate statuses about Opposite Cat’s daily activities, would Facebook figure it out and start offering to sell Opposite Cat floor-cleaning products, replacement Roomba parts, offer rug-cleaning deals?  Facebook has done so much with so little, one wonders how much it’s collecting on me, who’s been freely giving it reams of data on a daily basis as I like things and comment and wonder.
If it knows my robot as well as it does, what sort of a profile does Facebook have for me?
It’s been suggested that I should hook Opposite Cat into Facebook – adding a webcam to take pictures, letting it post statuses (“I’m all done!  My bag is full!”), occasionally checking into FourSquare.  I’m too lazy to do that, but it’s an interesting idea.
Even if I was really into the hardware hacking movement, I probably wouldn’t make my vacuum Facebook compatible, though.  It’d be a string of sad statuses – because for Opposite Cat, life truly sucks.

The Return of The Clarion Blog-A-Thon!

So as you’ll recall, I took a two-week break in the middle of the Clarion Blog-A-Thon to deal with my mother’s medical issues – but now I’m back, and I want your dollars!  But no worries, I give value for coin.  There are fabulous prizes for donation, and today is no different.
If you’ll recall, the previous prizes for donating $5 are:

Today’s prize involves another Clarion classmate of mine – the frock star Monica Byrne, who’s become an up-and-coming playwright.  Her most recent play, “What Every Girl Must Know,” is a fascinating feminist play about four girls in the 1914 reform school, living out fantasy lives of freedom as they read smuggled pamphlets of sexual education.  (It’s worth noting that at the time, people were locked up for passing out information on birth control – because simply the idea that birth could be controlled was crazy dangerous.)  The play was well-reviewed – but here!  Look at the trailer video for it!

If this all sounds very interesting – and it should – Monica has graciously agreed to provide a signed copy of her play, as well as a one-off poster she’ll have printed especially for you!  Donate $5 and get into our raffle of many, many prizes to come.
The reason she’s willing to donate prizes is because, like me, Monica’s writing was helped tremendously by going to the Clarion Writers’ Workshop.  We critiqued each other, we savaged each other’s stories, we agonized over what this week’s tale would be, we analyzed how to make things better… and by the time we were done, we were stronger writers.  Monica’s already planning her next play, and she’s asking for information about how athletes have sex inside the village at the Olympic games.  Personally, I can’t wait.
Plus, if you donate $10, you’ll gain entry into the super-secret Clarion Echo community, where I am plotting my next novel.  Later today, I’ll be rewriting my first chapter, with an eye towards actually generating character conflict and getting past the first act.  I hope to have the whole thing plotted in the next three weeks, and the feedback in the community has been phenomenal, so please – donate if you can.  Every bit helps.

The Tintinnabulation Of Those Little Doggy Bells

This is my mother’s dog, Koshi:
Mom and Koshi
I’d say Koshi is five pounds soaking wet, but as it turns out she’s six pounds.  In any case, Koshi is the least harmful dog in the history of canines.  I’m pretty sure that if I laid limp on the floor completely naked, Koshi still could not seriously injure me.
But at night she becomes a terror.
See, at night my mother’s house is very dark.  We sleep on the far side, in a bedroom around a corner, where there is a bathroom outside.  And when you rise to pee in the middle of the night, Koshi – ever-excitable – hears the noise and comes to investigate.
There is something fucking terrifying about hearing her little doggy-tags, in the stygian stillness of the night, approaching you, growing closer.  It’s the blind knowledge that something is stalking you, growing louder, coming around a corner.  I thought I was a fool for being scared and ducking into the bathroom before she arrived… but as it turned out, Gini was afraid, too.
We know, in daylight, that Koshi is a little fuzzer-pup, harmless as a fruit fly.  But when darkness settles, and those caveman instincts set in, and we’re dressed in flimsy pajamas half-naked, we know that something is coming towards us and yet we’re not entirely sure what it is.  The logical brain tells us it’s a dog; the animal brain tells us to run.  So we duck into the bathroom and slam the door.
The night changes things.  All those years of civilization get stripped away and suddenly you’re running in the night. From a dog no bigger than a football.

This Is Not Going to Be One Of My More Popular Essays

Two blocks away from the ruins of 9/11 was a Burlington Coat Factory that some muslims wanted to turn into a mosque. Conservatives went berserk, claiming that the mosque was an insult to all who had died in the Twin Towers attack, that it was too soon, and (not all, but enough) claimed that they didn’t want this statement of a religion they disagreed with in their city.
At which point liberals argued back that America is about free speech. If the space is available, and the Muslims are willing to pay, then they should have the right to open up a temple. Yes, Muslims may be an unpopular religion in certain circles, and no, you may not like some of the causes that this temple may be funding, but your like of their goals is irrelevant. Freedom of speech applies to people you disagree with – and the true test of America’s values is not, “How do we tolerate people we like?” but rather, “How do we handle people with opinions at odds with everything we believe?”
As long as they’re not doing anything illegal, liberals argued, the Muslims should have the right to be there. And they were Very Sure about this.
Then the mayor of Boston slammed Chick Fil-A, urging them in an angry letter to “back out of their plans to locate in Boston.” And liberals shared this letter with a great whoop and WHOO GO TOM MENINO and great acclaim.  Seriously. It was spooged all over my Twitter and Facebook accounts.
Yet I think: What if the mayor of New York had expressed similar sentiments about the mosque?
Before we continue, I’d just like to express my credentials: I’m a big fan of gay marriage. Despite the fact that there is a Chick Fil-A literally across the street from me, and they are my favorite fast food chain, I have not eaten there in two years because of their anti-gay fundings. When the Muppets pulled out of Chick fil-A’s business, I immediately posted a link to Twitter that said, “Muppets do the right thing,” and I think that people have the absolute right to vote with their feet. This isn’t about me not being intensely pro gay marriage, or intensely anti Chick Fil-A, so if you’re starting a response along those lines, stop, delete your comment, and start over.
This is about freedom of speech for people you fucking hate.
But Ferrett, you’ll argue, this is a snack stand, not a temple!, to which I say, “So you’d have been okay with people telling Muslims that opening up a Muslim-run dry cleaning business close to the mosque was an insult?” Or Chick Fil A firing someone because they’re Jewish, because hey, work is different than worship and we only wanna hire nice happy Christians? No, guys, “freedom of speech” doesn’t mean “You get to be religious in firmly-marked areas with big symbols warning you so you know what’s going on,” but rather “People of all religions, even the icky ones, have an equal right to worship AND work, and express those beliefs through both.”
(And, you know, it’s not like all Muslims – particularly the fundamentalist ones – are a great bunch of well-adjusted people. All religions are nut magnets, and there were some very real concerns about where the funds the mosque raised were going. A lot of the mosques were funded by more virulent sects of Islam, even if the one in New York seemed to be largely run by a more peaceful branch.  If your worries about funding anti-gay causes are justified, then at least some percentage of the anti-mosque sentiments carried a similarly valid concern.)
Either way, you have a person in power telling someone, “I don’t like your religious beliefs, I don’t like how you spend your money, and I want you out of my fucking town.”  And your attempts to draw distinctions between that and the mosque are splitting some mighty fine hairs.
I hate Chick Fil-A, and I think they should have every right to build in Boston without having to worry about having permits pulled or being hassled because of their repugnant, stupid, backwater, bigoted, terrified, swamp-ass beliefs. That’s freedom of speech. They should have every right to go to Boston, build a franchise, have a constant stream of gays and gay-friendly straights picketing it and handing out fliers, spend months dealing with bad PR as the funds slowly run out and they realize that their anti-gay stance is costing them so much business they can’t afford to stay, and then maybe they’ll make a better choice. Or pay the cost of their opinions, because every opinion has a cost and if you’re willing to pay that price then you should be able to carry on with it.
The government, however, should not get involved.
This is not a popular stance, because so many liberals I know treat religion as though it were a disease. But that’s the point. Even if you dislike Chick Fil A, they have the right to their say – and part of their say involves selling chicken sandwiches to make a living. And a mayor telling fundamentalist Christians, “You are not welcome here” spreads the message to Christians that yes, they are persecuted, here’s the proof! And those dang liberals don’t practice what they preach.
Let’s practice. Let’s allow religious-run businesses to stand or fall on their own merits. And if it turns out that the fine people of Boston aren’t so pro-gay as to abandon Chick Fil-A, then I say that’s a problem we need to face in a different way than harassing them until they leave, and issuing bold threats from official pulpits. But as a government, let us make room for people of all stripes, even the foul and corrupt stripes of anti-gay bigots.
(And if you’re a conservative who is cheering now, yet was against the mosque? Shut the fuck up. The point I’m making is that we shouldn’t be as bigoted and closed-minded as you. If we should be ashamed, you should be ashamed doubly so.)