Archive for the ‘Minority Reports’ Category


Fake geek girls

July 25, 2013

The longer the ‘fake geek girls’ meme continues, the more I’m persuaded that this is basically a case of people talking right past each other. Let me see if I can straighten this out…

Firstly, geek girls are my favorite people. I married one. I have another for a sister and scores as friends. My very favorite people, no doubt. You might be the impression this is an immunity statement (some of my best friends are black!) and perhaps it is, because every time somebody says “there’s no such thing as a fake geek girl” I have to bite my tongue to keep from saying

“Of course there is.”

And fake geek boys, too. We call such people poseurs, and every subculture has them. I’ve seen them with my own eyes. When I worked in a music store, you’d see them quite frequently, people wearing shirts for bands they had literally never listened to. You see them at concerts, name dropping from some crib sheet of band names they knew were hip, but had never listened to. In comic book stores it was the same routine. And later, when computers and design became suitably fashionable, I saw it again.

Sometimes the poseurs like the crowd, sometimes the clothes, sometimes the prospective romantic partners. There are lots of reasons to fake it. Most of us have faked greater interest in or knowledge of something than we have to get in with a certain crowd, or to get a date, or just as a change of scene. It happens, to boys and girls alike.

But when it happens in a hobby or a scene which is not gender balanced, it gets noticed. Anybody in the minority sticks out, people engage them out of genuine excitement to see somebody different from the usual demographic. As a male who is interested in weaving, I’ve often received a chilly reception in fiber arts circles, and the assumption has often been made and occasionally stated outright that I’m just feigning my interest to get sex. As it happens, I have a fair chunk of fiber knowledge, and that accusation rarely holds up. But it gets made for a reason. People fake it all the time. This brings me to my main point…

We must embrace and mentor the fakes among us.

If they’re trying to get an in, or get geek cred, there’s a reason for it. They like something about our scene. Find out what it is. Nurture it. Teach them. Help them find the good stuff.

Most of the time, a fake geek is just a real geek who hasn’t found the good stuff yet.

We were all fakers, before we knew stuff.


Yes, Even if he’s a Nazi.

July 23, 2013

So there’s been a lot of hoopla over a Microsoft call center employee who got fired for hanging up on a customer with an anti-semitic handle on his account. You can go read the story if you wish, the account is telling in a number of ways, but the discussion at BoingBoing (asit’s one might expect at BoingBoing) has been rather of the pearl clutching write-to-her-employer-and-complain variety. I should know better than to be surprised by this by now, but still, my immediate reaction was “Of COURSE she was fired.” – let me tell you why.

For a very long time, I worked at a music store. As with any service job, you quickly realize many people are jerks. Some of them are jerks to get a rise out of you, some of them can’t help it. Some of them are jerks to impress their pack. There is a diverse rainbow of jerkiness which you are exposed to, from the pretentious jerk (frequently purchased : quazi-obscure punk), to the wannabe thug jerk (frequently purchased : ‘hardcore’ rap), to the man hating jerks (frequently purchased : Paula Cole), woman hating jerks (again with the hardcore rap), jerks who hated black people (lots of metal heads, here, and the occasional country fan), and jerks who hated white people (You guessed it : hardcore rap) every imaginable kind of jerk was represented. My job was to sell music to them all. That was my entire job, it was not my job to judge them, or the crappy music they were buying. My job was to help them find it, and ring them up at the register. Simple. If you’re going to serve the public, you have to start with an understanding that many members of the public are jerks. Every imaginable hue of jerk. Even people who aren’t jerks to other people will frequently be jerks to retail employees, and do you know why?

Because it’s your job to take care of them anyway.

That’s not a job for everybody, and I have no problem with anybody who can’t deal with it. In fact, I know from training and managing people that LOTS of people can’t deal with that. Lots of them don’t know it until they’re in the situation. Fine. But if you fail to do your job, you’re going to get fired. Your job includes taking care of jerks. It really is that simple.


But this guy isn’t just a jerk, he’s a Nazi!

Maybe. Though if every guy who ever said a racist thing on an xbox console was actually a committed racist not just a socially maladapted twerp trying to get a rise out of people, the world would look pretty different. Don’t get me wrong, plenty of real life racists in the world, even a few proper neo-nazis, but I wouldn’t take somebody’s gamer handle as persuasive evidence that he’s anything but a dick. Even if he were a Nazi, your job is to take care of him. You do that job, or you don’t.


Nobody has a right to tech support if they’re offensive or awful human beings.

That’s true. Microsoft can decide not to serve them, unless they belong to a legally protected class. But shockingly, they haven’t given the authority to decide who deserves tech support to the folks manning the phone lines. Microsoft can decide not to serve anybody it likes, but if you take it upon yourself to decide for your employer when that isn’t your job, you can’t be surprised when they fire you for making decisions which are over your pay grade. Simple.


The operator is entitled to an act of conscience. 

Absolutely. But the operator is not entitled to be shielded from the consequences of that act. If acts of conscience were without any sacrifice, they’d be easy. I’ve left jobs for ethical reasons before, and I’ve risked losing my job over ethical stands as well. It’s difficult, it sucks, but if you end up on the wrong side of it, you can’t pretend your employer was obligated to agree with you. They aren’t.


But this is hate speech! isn’t it our job to drive it out of public discourse?

As a phone tech support operator? No, it’s not. Of course not. You weren’t hired to do social activism on the clock, what the hell is wrong with you? You’re a representative of the company, be an activist on your own time. If you aren’t comfortable with the company’s ethics, you need to find another job. Easier said than done, I realize, but ethical choices are like that.


Hate speech should not be tolerated anywhere!

Balderdash. The solution to the expression of hateful, ludicrous, dangerous, harmful ideas is the expression of better ideas. Nobody ever killed a bad idea by turning it into a taboo.

If you don’t believe in the freedom to express offensive ideas, you don’t believe in freedom of expression.

If Microsoft decides its gaming network will not permit that kind of expression, I have no objection to that, it’s their network. They aren’t obligated to publish anything they don’t want to. But anybody who thinks the solution to bad ideas is suppression rather than counter argument needs to read more history and anybody who thinks hanging up on some twerp with an offensive handle on a computer game rather than transferring his call in a professional manner is some kind of victory for the forces of freedom and tolerance needs a tall cold glass of perspective.


But every little bit counts.

No, it doesn’t.

If the man is not a neo-nazi but just a twerp trying to get a rise out of people, he certainly won’t stop because tech support hangs up on him.

If the man is a neo-nazi, he certainly won’t stop because tech support hangs up on him.

At the end of the day, he’s the same jerk he was before the phone call. The stakes were never that high.


In conclusion…

Your job is to take care of the customer, if you don’t do your job, they’ll fire you. How hard is this? Probably harder than you think, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t get fired for screwing it up.


Minority Report : Change

May 27, 2011

“This law – the very purpose of which was to protect us – [is] also threatening to violate our rights and freedoms as Americans. … We have been forced to consider a piece of rushed legislation that fails to address the concerns of members of both parties as well as the American people. … Giving law enforcement the tools they need to investigate suspicious activity is one thing – and it’s the right thing – but doing it without any real oversight seriously jeopardizes the rights of all Americans and the ideals America stands for.”
-Senator Barack Obama, December 15, 2005

“The bottom line is that if these provisions are allowed to lapse, even temporarily, the nation will be less safe. … We cannot allow political brinksmanship to put our nation’s security at risk. Congress must pass these provisions of FISA immediately.”
-Obama Administration, May 26, 2011


In this matter, I much preferred the President when he was a Senator.


Minority Report : The Photographs

May 4, 2011

I think the photographs of the body of Osama bin Laden should be released.

I want those pictures to come to the mind of those who will follow after him, when they consider organizing the slaughter of my neighbors. I want them to know, not fear, or suspect, but know with certainty that if they do so, sooner or later, angry men with guns will knock down their doors and shoot at them until they look like that picture. I want it to give them a moment of pause. For some of them that may be a price worth paying, but I suspect it would discourage some as well.

Certainly, despite all his fearless talk about martyrdom and rewards in the next life, Osama himself went to great pains to stay out of the crosshairs for as long as he could. Are there jihadis who don’t care if we find them and exact revenge? Certainly. Are there many more who are more likely to become jihadis if they think they can get away with it? I don’t think we can discount that possibility.

Make them remember the image of the consequences when they decide.