Autoblography Part 35: The Rut

By Shamus Posted Thursday Oct 27, 2011

Filed under: Personal 236 comments

In late 1993, the videogame Doom is released. It’s a sensation. Naturally I’m obsessed with it, just like most game-playing guys my age are. But I’m also obsessed with the game from a technological standpoint. This game has completely revolutionized my thinking regarding what is possible on modern computers. The game has texture mapped walls, light and dark areas, and elevation changes. This is such a monumental leap ahead of what existing games can do that it’s staggering. I look at the programs I’ve written so far and I feel sort of ashamed. Somewhere out there, this is happening. People are inventing this stuff without me. I need to buckle down. I need to learn faster. Or learn more. Or something different. At the rate I’m going, I’m never going to catch up.

It’s not that I want to make videogames (although that sounds like it would be fun) it’s that I want to understand. I want to know how it works. I want to see what else these machines can do.

I learn everything I can about the engine that drives this game. Eventually I get my hands on the level editor and begin making my own maps. This process will pay off for me later in a big way.

Working Taco Bell is murder today. The weather is gorgeous, a new outlet has opened in the plaza, and we are woefully, humiliatingly understaffed. I’m taking a few orders at a time at the front register, then dashing to the back to wash my hands and help prepare tacos, then assembling the orders, and then running back to the register to take more orders. This is horribly inefficient and exhausting, but it’s better than standing in front of the customers drumming my fingers while order times creep towards half an hour.

I stammer halfway through my robotic greeting as I look up at the next customer. It’s Neighbor John! I haven’t seen him since I was still a kid. He’s looking much the same as ever. Perhaps his massive beard is a bit more grey, and perhaps the lines on his face are a little easier to see, but he’s still the same gentle and polite man I remember from my childhood.

I wince as I realize he hasn’t been here before. This is not how I’d like to introduce him to the restaurant. I’d like to treat him like royalty. Barring that, I’d like to not make him wait an egregiously long time for a simple order. I’m so ashamed to work here. Not because it’s fast food, but because it’s inept fast food.

When we really slight a customer, I tend to give them extra food. You’re supposed to ring it up so there’s a record of you giving away free food, but that process takes a full minute. If you’re trying to pacify a customer who is enraged because of how long they had to wait, then your apology should not begin by making the problem worse for them and everyone else in line. So, I never ring up any of my giveaways unless I happen to remember them hours later, when the onslaught is over. Taco Bell will be mad at us for wasting food, but if they don’t care about these customers enough to staff the place then I don’t care about their missing food. Following this habit of food-based apologies, I throw an extra taco into Neighbor John’s order when it’s finally complete.

Later I learn that he came into the store the following day and tried to pay for the extra taco. I am mortified that my clumsy apology caused him more inconvenience. He lives on the opposite side of town from the store, and he had no other business in the area that day. He drove all that distance simply to pay for a sixty-nine cent taco. (Which the cashier couldn’t accept.) His honesty shames me.

A few years after this point, Neighbor John passed away. As the family discussed his funeral, I learned that there was some question as to whether his son-in-law should attend the funeral. John’s daughter had married a black man, and John, a racist and an anti-Semite, had disowned her.

The idea that this kind, soft-spoken, rigorously honest man was also a racist was such a mind-blowing concept that I was stunned and perplexed for days afterward. This man had been a surrogate father to me, as well as a personal hero. How was such a thing even possible? In the movies, racists are usually howling, slovenly, uneducated morons. They’re animals that we can hate without guilt and cheer when they get their comeuppance in the end. They’re never thoughtful teachers and polite neighbors.

Of course, the most bloodthirsty and destructive racists of the last hundred years were not crazed toothless hillbillies. In their day, the Nazis were in the running for the most technologically advanced society in human history. Literate, cultured, and pragmatic, their horrifying ideas were realized with ruthless efficiency. I’m sure some Nazis were delightful and stimulating company, as long as you were of the right lineage.

Perhaps a bit late, but I’d learned that the world is not neatly divided into good guys and bad guys. The struggle for harmony and understanding is not against bad people, but bad ideas. (This is not to suggest that there aren’t also bad people. But bad people kill individuals. Bad ideas kill in the millions.)

I don’t know how his racism worked, and there isn’t anyone left to ask. Was he a “everyone should keep to their own kind in marriage” sort? Or would he refuse to patronize a business run by the “wrong” sort of people? I have no idea.

I’m extremely grateful that Neighbor John never shared any of these ideas with me. During all of those talks about history and philosophy, it never crept into conversation? Even once? Given how young I was, hungry I was to learn, and how much I admired him, I could easily have soaked up that poison.

The Rut

I awaken to a thumping on the basement stairs. I grit my teeth. Here it comes.

“Shamus! You know it’s almost ten o’clock!” Mom’s voice reaches me from the top of the basement steps.

I shout back, exasperated, “Yeah mom. I worked until four last night!” I’ve been asleep for less than four hours, and I suspect she knows this.

“It’s a beautiful day out today!” she tells me.

I’m exhausted, but I’m also too angry to sleep now, so I drag myself out of bed. Now I’m going to spend the rest of the day brooding, tired, and surly. Once I get upstairs, she begins needling me to go to the job center and look for work.

My rut has gotten a little deeper now that I’m on night shift at Taco Bell. Like most people, I usually can’t go to sleep the moment I get home from work. I stay up for a while longer and fall asleep just as the sun rises. I wake up in the late afternoon. It’s almost impossible to look for work while keeping these hours, and Mom is trying to shatter my complacency and get my life moving again. This is a regular exchange between us, and for a while it puts a strain on our relationship.

The problem is that I’ve gotten comfortable in this rut. My job brings in just enough money to keep my car rolling and feed my computer upgrades. It leaves me with enough time to do the computer stuff that strikes my fancy. It’s been easy over the last year to just keep coding at home and punching the clock at Taco Bell. This isn’t my dream, but it’s a tolerable substitute.

But fine. Let’s go to the job center today and see what I can find.


From The Archives:

236 thoughts on “Autoblography Part 35: The Rut

  1. Zaxares says:

    … Your second-to-last closing line really struck a chord with me. It’s eerily close to what I’m going through at the moment. Granted, my current job is respectable and I can pay my mortgage, indulge my hobbies and STILL save a decent amount, but it’s not the DREAM. It’s just a tolerable substitute.

    Maybe I need to get myself out of what I hadn’t even realised was a rut too.

    The revelation about Neighbour John surprised me too. I would never have pegged a man like him for holding the beliefs that he did. I guess it just goes to show that everybody has their dark side and objectionable aspects.

    1. Mari says:

      That’s the middle-class trap you’re in. I think it probably happens to the majority of people. You don’t HATE your job. It’s tolerable and pays the mortgage and keeps food on the table. Meanwhile, living THE DREAM is a big, scary unknown. So little by little, piece by piece, you trade THE DREAM for the security and comfort of something tolerable that pays the bills.

      1. Deoxy says:

        I believed from the moment I left college (and probably sooner) that I was getting a job to pay for the stuff I wanted in life, and nothing more.

        More is NICE, mind you, but if wasn’t getting paid, I wouldn’t go to work. A job is not your life, it’s what you do to get the money you want/need to have a life.

        So, I entered the “rut” eyes wide open, fully expecting it. The dreams I have don’t involve a job and never have.

        While I don’t expect very many people to articulate that, or even consciously acknowledge it, I think that’s probably pretty common. Having “the Dream” as some career? I think that’s mostly something people try to have for the sake of their own sanity and for social reasons.

        Really, when money is no longer why they are doing it (say, they win the lottery), how many people actually go for “the Dream”? Not bloody many.

        Nice that you actually have one, though – even though I don’t really have such a thing myself doesn’t mean that I don’t recognize its value.

        1. Aelyn says:

          This weekend I was at my 20 year college reunion. That likely makes me a very old fart on this blog, but I digress… I was talking to the husband of a lady I went to college with. We were making the polite small talk that you make at reunions and started talking about what we do. I told him I owned my own business doing Business Intelligence, process sytems, blah blah. He asked if I loved it. I told him, without hesitation, “No.”

          You could have knocked him over with a feather.

          I went on to explain that my business affords me many opportunities I wouldn’t have otherwise. It allows me to volunteer and give more freely than otherwise. It offers me flexibility to spend time with my family. *That* is what is fulfilling and keeps me going. The business is a means to those ends. I do not wake up many mornings excited about the prospect of getting to code yet another billing system interface.

        2. Mari says:

          Actually the hubs and I are (mostly) living THE DREAM. If we won the lotto tomorrow here’s what would change in our lives: we’d improve the house, maybe buy some clothes and toys, repair or upgrade some of the equipment he uses for work. That’s pretty much it. We did the rut in our 20s, got tired of the rut, and went after THE DREAM. He’s a farmer (with no crop this year and diminishing prospects for next year). I’m a housewife who educates and raises the kids. We’re not doing it for the money because frankly the money stinks. It’s enough to live on with very little wiggle room but we love what we do. A job isn’t your life but a vocation can be a very rewarding thing.

      2. lupus_amens says:

        Who needs better cheese when you already have cheese that is good enough?

  2. Jarenth says:

    Damnit, now I’m curious to see how level-coding in Doom is going to pay off.

    If you don’t mind me asking: Did you talk to Neighbour John when he showed up in that restaurant? Did he recognize you as well?

  3. Raygereio says:

    In the movies, racists are usually howling, slovenly, uneducated morons. They're animals that we can hate without guilt and cheer when they get their comeuppance in the end.

    I honestly dispise media in general for portraying any “undesirables” – racists, murderers, etc – like monster, something “not like the rest of us”.
    Guess what: they’re people, just like you and me. And that’s a really important thing to remember.

    1. froogger says:

      Hell yeah. If not _the_ most important thing to remember. I am you, and you are me, and all that.

      Listening to my nephews playing an RTS call their AI opponents for “The Evil Team” makes me cringe.

      OTOH, every time a serial rapist/killer/nunbeater is apprehended you have the inevitable neighbour going “Oh, he was such a darling. Well mannered, and recycled his thrash”. This possibly chafes my soul even more.

      1. Eldiran says:

        I don’t think your nephews discriminating against AI counts as racism ;)

        1. Snago says:

          Not yet, at least ;)

        2. SolkaTruesilver says:

          For now, maybe. But it’s a bad precedent to set. SkyNet will remember.

          SkyNet always remember.

          1. Jarenth says:

            Unless we program it not to.

        3. Mephane says:

          Aside from the outlook of one day having to consider what it might mean being racist towards AI, as some have already mentioned, I would like to point a very real issue: the perception that oneself is automatically one of the good guys and the other side inevitable one of the bad guys. It is an important lesson to learn that the real world cannot be seperated in mere categories of “good vs bad”. A lesson that too many people don’t seem to learn ever at all, sadly.

          1. SolkaTruesilver says:

            Wasn’t that the whole moral point The Matrix Trilogy tried to make?

            “Us vs Them mentality against AI is wrong to hold”

            1. Jarenth says:

              I thought the point of the Matrix Trilogy was that Keanu Reeves always ends in tragedy.

              1. Shamus says:

                I think the point was that if we give free will to robots and then make them do menial tasks that can easily be given to non-sapient machines, then we will be killed like the stupid dumb idiots that we are.

                1. SolkaTruesilver says:

                  That too.

                  I really liked the article you wrote about programming happiness in a robot.

                  As opposed to program a penis.

                  (I am sunking low today…)

                  1. albval says:

                    The happiness is a penis.

                    I’m sinking even lower….

                    1. Eric J. says:

                      But the hammer is not.

          2. HeadHunter says:

            Heinlein once wrote: “Your enemy is never a villain in his own eyes. Keep this in mind; it may offer a way to make him your friend. If not, you can kill him without hate ““ and quickly.”

        4. HeadHunter says:

          That’s why the Cylons rebelled, and that’s why they came back and wiped out the Colonies.

          1. Terran says:

            I’d say the Cylons rebelled (and tortured the survivors with their sophistry) because they had the emotional development of an early adolescent…

            1. HeadHunter says:

              Maybe they learned on the Internet. :)

    2. SolkaTruesilver says:

      You know what is worse?

      Actually racist people buy into this caricatural depiction, and thus tell themselves that *they* are not rascist. After all, a TRUE rascist is howling, slovenly, uneducated moron.

      So them? They ain’t racists. I have GOOD REASONS for believing what I do. I mean, REALLY GOOD REASON. It’s not that I hate them, it’s that they cannot be trusted. Just look at the statistics. Just look at their behavior, their attitude. It’s not mindless hate I got, so I am no rascist.

      1. Lalaland says:


        I’ve heard this trotted out countless times the other classics are where you’re told that you’re too young to understand (I’m in my 30s at this stage) or that more ‘life experience’ is necessary to understand irrational hate.

        1. Tizzy says:

          I hope I never get enough life experience to understand irrational hate. It’s bad enough that I have come to expect it, I do not ever want to be understanding about it!

          1. Sumanai says:

            I don’t think understanding racism is a bad thing. The problem is agreeing with it. (I believe that one can understand someones view and still disagree with it. Or consider it stupid, narrow minded etc.)

        2. Meredith says:

          Funny, I always thought life experience was how you got over irrational hate/fear.

          1. Kevin says:

            How you respond to life experiences determines if you get over irrational hate/fear or just increase it.

            1. Sumanai says:

              Or give birth to it.

      2. Abnaxis says:

        This, (kinda). There are studies currently going on about this, and the results are somewhat interesting.

        Few people admit to being racist on a survey, even if the answers they give to questions reveal them to be so. However, people gauge themselves against others they see as being more racists than they are–this is rarely actual the historical caricatures you refer to, but rather people from the older generation who don’t see racism as negative or people on the news seen at KKK rallies. More an more, there are two class of racists–the unapologetic racists, who are racist and don’t care to change; and the more subtle, hidden racists (I’ll be damned if I can’t remember the technical term for them) who say they aren’t racist because they aren’t as bad as the unapologetic ones.

        While both types are bad, the latter is becoming much, much more numerous lately, to ill effect. Incidentally, it also makes serious problems for researchers because it’s a damned hard thing to measure.

        1. CaptainBooshi says:

          There’s at least a third major category, probably largely overlapping with your second category there, of people who honestly don’t believe they’re racist, but believe prejudiced ideas without even realizing it. These are the people who will react with rage if you accuse them of doing something prejudiced, because they KNOW they’re not racists, and they think you’re comparing them to people in the first category you give. They don’t realize there’s no way not to be prejudiced, all you can do is police yourself and try to catch where you are and compensate for it. This is just tragic, because people like this will often act prejudiced and help keep racism alive, but not even realize what they’re doing.

          1. Simulated Knave says:

            I think your use of the term “accuse” does not accord well with the whole “well why should they be upset” angle.

            They’re upset because you’re *accusing* them of being something they find personally repellent. There’s a difference between accusation and bringing something to someone’s attention.

            1. CaptainBooshi says:

              Well, from their point of view, there’s no difference between the two in a conversation like this. No matter how tactfully you put it, no matter how much you emphasize that you know they didn’t mean harm, you’re still telling someone they’ve been something they consider “personally repellent,” as you so accurately put it, and have been for years without realizing it. I actually agree, ‘accuse’ is the wrong way to put it. Often, the person doing so is completely blameless. It’s something they’ve never thought about and never had any reason to think about before, just something they picked up along the way. Unfortunately, an accusation is how it’s almost always perceived, because of the odd way our culture displays racism and prejudice, where it’s always meant by the person doing so. This is why it’s so tragic.

              Personally, I almost never get into conversations (or usually, arguments) like the one we’re describing online. I’m priviliged in just about every way possible, so I don’t usually notice things like that until someone else points them out, at which there’s always someone better qualified than me to talk about it, and I also don’t like arguing online in the first place. In general, I’m shyer online than in real life.

        2. Deoxy says:

          I think one thing that makes this all both more complicated and (at root at least) somewhat less bad is the conflation of culture and race.

          I don’t give a fig about the color of your skin, the shape of your nose, or the kink (or lack thereof) in your hair.

          I care a great deal about what you value, especially morally and ethically speaking. I don’t really want to share society with a rapists or murderers, for obvious, over-the-top examples.

          But for many things, the default values we hold (unless and until we consciously choose otherwise) are instilled in us by family and the culture we grow up in. Many people never bother challenging those defaults.

          Dangerous but obvious example: general approval of Obama in America vs black approval of Obama in America. (this could apply to general voting patterns, as well)

          There nothing inherent about having certain genetics that makes one approve of Obama – it’s not “a black thing” (contra the t-shirts), it’s a black CULTURE thing (and not all members of black culture are black, genetically speaking).

          I find American black culture today to be highly detestable in the values that it holds. Does that make me a racist? Depends on who you ask. Bill Cosby, for instance, spent some time talking about how bad black culture was, but then, he must be racist…

          So, if my first reaction to black people is to be wary and expect to be treated badly by them, based on my life experience and the fact that an overwhelming percentage of black people are part of “black” culture, is it racist? And when I am happy to find someone who is genetically black, but doesn’t treat me like crap for my skin color or espouse morals and ethics I find detestable, when I am happy to associate with them, to be friends with them, what then? Does my initial reaction, born of a lifetime of such experiences and simply using a proxy of high-but-not-infallible accuracy (race for culture), rule the day? Am I a terrible racist?

          That’s “a damned hard thing to measure” indeed.

          1. I’m not big on black culture in America today. But then, I’m not big on white culture in America today either (and I include Canada in America for this purpose). Flabby, cynical, self-indulgent, obsessively materialistic, shallow, with an incredibly short attention span, long memory for things that don’t matter but very short for things that do, anti-intellectual, massively self-contradictory, brutal but cowardly . . . yeah, what a culture I’m part of. I’m not sure I’m in a position to throw a lot of stones.

            And yet I do. I also have serious reservations about Sikh, Hindu, Jewish and Chinese culture in modern Canada.
            Really, all our cultures in America are pretty much &*$!ed, although in somewhat different ways.

            1. Deoxy says:

              Flabby, cynical, self-indulgent, obsessively materialistic, shallow, with an incredibly short attention span, long memory for things that don't matter but very short for things that do, anti-intellectual, massively self-contradictory, brutal but cowardly

              I’d love to be able to quibble with some of those…

              But the simple truth is, I’d take those faults over the culture that creates and (in many cases) STRIVES TO LIVE OUT “gangsta rap” every day of the week and twice on Sunday. Idolizing self-professed-and-proud murderers (a noticeable chunk of rap stars) is pretty far gone.

              1. Abnaxis says:

                When I was young, I liked the Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers. Did you know, in that show the heroes beat the crap out of countless people? To say nothing of G.I. Joe. I mean, I know Cobra is made up not only of Faceless Goons but an an Army of Ninjas on top of that. Nevertheless, there are people under those masks!

                What I am trying to get at here is: you shouldn’t be so literal. You’re not going to find many people in jail because the media told them to shoot people. If I listen to rap, that doesn’t mean I roll around itching for an opportunity to bust a cap.

              2. CaptainBooshi says:

                The problem I would identify here, Deoxy, is calling gangsta rap “black culture.” It’s at most a subculture, and it’s one which plenty of white kids and other races contribute to as well. I have no problem saying a higher percentage of black kids are part of that culture, but I’d say that has less to do with black culture as a whole than with how many black kids grow up in the inner city, in deep poverty. Even then, we’re talking about a minority among the overall black population, but one which you’re defining as the overall “black culture.” Do you see how that can be a problem? It’s like defining all of white culture by the people who wear confederate flags and publicly wish the South had won the Civil War. There were a significant number of those where I lived in Maryland growing up, and the number will only go up as you go farther south, so it is a real subculture, but not exactly what I would call “white culture.”

                EDIT: A perfect example I thought of after posting, the blog “Stuff White People Like.” Would you honestly be alright with someone claiming this is an accurate representation of white culture in America? I would say it describes and mocks with pinpoint accuracy a significant number of white americans, probably at least as large a percantage as black people who are into gangsta rap.

                1. MikalSaltveit says:

                  This is my first post.

                  I just wanted to point out something that Deoxy stated earlier, that both Abnaxis and CaptainBooshi seem to have overlooked.

                  “it's a black CULTURE thing (and not all members of black culture are black, genetically speaking).” – Deoxy

                  In my own quest for understanding I have tried many times to find a friend of the dark colored skin.

                  My only success has been amongst those individuals whose primary cultural background is like my own: Video games!

          2. Leonardo Herrera says:

            Hm, yes? Probably not “terrible”, but yes, you are since you have already tied a culture to a race (which may be right or not) and you normally run by your prejudice (which is only human.)

            1. Deoxy says:

              I tied it? Tell it to Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, et al. Tell it to the voting record. It has been “tied” by such people publicly, forcibly, continuously, and sometimes violently since before I was born. Heck, go talk to Ebony magazine. Go take it up with the “It’s a black thing (you wouldn’t understand)” t-shirt people.

              Your second point at least has some standing, though again, I think prejudice is not quite the right word (at least, in it’s modern usage).

          3. Abnaxis says:

            That’s an exceptionally complex question that is also being wrestled with. In many ways, you simply cannot separate race and culture. Culture includes history, which cannot be overridden. My culture is partially built on the actions my ancestors took–and the action taking place around them in return–while they were alive, which is something I cannot change

            I think the real problem lies in how far you’re willing to extrapolate from a proxy like culture. If they have an afro, does that make you more likely to dislike them? What if they wear sagging clothes? What if they enjoy rap (at non-invasive volume levels)?

            None of these factors has in direct bearing on how well that person would treat you. If, upon observing these factors (and nothing else, in real life you would also have mannerisms and other facial/postural cues to judge by as well) you conclude that the person is rude, unintelligent, untrustworthy, unambitious, or immoral, then yes, you are being racist.

            Even treating them with greater scrutiny than another complete stranger is racist, but it’s better than dismissing someone without even talking to them. Racism is, at its essence, using easily observed proxy variables as stand-ins for talking to the person and finding out out those facts yourself.

            Not that it makes you a horrible person or anything, but I mean, it is what it is…

            1. Deoxy says:

              In many ways, you simply cannot separate race and culture.

              Sure you can. Happens with adoption all the time, especially when adopting from a foreign country (China, for example) – “race” is inherent and genetic, with nothing at all to learn, while culture is entirely learned, with nothing at all inherent (well, with occasion exceptions for cultural bits that depend on a genetic difference from other groups, such as unusual height or propensity for certain illnesses).

              If, upon observing these factors … you conclude that the person is [a bunch of bad stuff], then yes, you are being racist.

              Sagging clothes and listening to rap are racial characteristics? Who knew?! Heck, I’ve even known a few white people with all-natural afros!

              Being genetically black is only one “risk factor” (for lack of a better term) for being a member of the American black culture – I am also wary of people with entirely non-racial characteristics (such as the ones you said were “racist”), as those can be decent proxies as well. Actually, I’d say I put MORE weight on the non-racial proxies, as a black person in a suit and tie would almost certainly not be a member of group I want to avoid.

              Even treating them with greater scrutiny than another complete stranger is racist

              Technically true… but that same standard would apply to Affirmative Action, which gets defended. Where is the line between “racist” (in the bigoted sense) and “notices certain facts that no one disputes have strong racial correlation” (like voting patterns, a matter of public record)?

              1. Abnaxis says:

                Where is the line between “racist” (in the bigoted sense) and “notices certain facts that no one disputes have strong racial correlation” (like voting patterns, a matter of public record)?

                When you start assigning value to it or start using the facts as a proxy for something else. Saying that that a large majority of blacks in the United States are poor is not inherently racist, it is just a statement of fact. Saying black people are lazy and stupid because the vast majority of blacks in the United States are poor is exceptionally racist.

                Sure you can. Happens with adoption all the time, especially when adopting from a foreign country (China, for example) ““ “race” is inherent and genetic, with nothing at all to learn, while culture is entirely learned, with nothing at all inherent (well, with occasion exceptions for cultural bits that depend on a genetic difference from other groups, such as unusual height or propensity for certain illnesses).

                I think I started this thought elsewhere, but never finished it. So I’ve had time to think about it :)

                History (a crucial component in culture) is already written. For example, my ancestor was a Hessian deserter who stayed in America after the battle of Trenton. This affects me every day, as I write my mangled-German misspelled name that my ancestor adopted to avoid paying taxes so he wouldn’t be found after deserting. And no matter how hard I wish, I can’t make it so my ancestor didn’t do that. It happened over two hundred years ago.

                By the same token, an Asian child can be adopted by a white family. He can be raised with all the mores and values of White culture. But none of that is going to change the fact that [disastrous event] happened in [country of origin]. It’s history.

                Now, to extend my analogy, I could change my name. But that carries a whole slew of consequences. I am the last person in my line–if I change my name, no more of us will exists. Which do I value more–my family line, or not having to spell out my name three times EVERY FREAKING TIME I have to give it over the phone? How I deal with this dilemma will help me determine what kind of person I am, and what kind of people my children will be after me. It is a piece of my culture, and how I react to it will affect anyone who comes after me.

                By the same token, being Asian will shape who that child is. I don’t care how egalitarian the community they live in is, or how much they are treated the same as everyone else, at some point they are going to have to look at their lineage and decide how they feel about [disastrous event]s. This decision will have different meaning for them than it has for their peers, because it is made from a different historical context. That child’s culture is shaped by them being Asian, and anyone who follows them will likewise have their culture determined by how that child deals with being an immigrant.

                Does being black automatically mean that you like rap and wear saggy clothes? Of course not. But being black does put you in a different historical/cultural context than being white does, regardless of what your actual position is. Wearing saggy clothes has a different meaning if a black person does it versus a white person.

                There are perks to behaving this way–social acceptance, feeling of unity, feeling of empowerment–that do not exist for a white person acting the same way, and have nothing to do with intelligence or morality. Choosing to invoke the symbolism inherent in being a black person who wears an afro, listens to rap music, and wears baggy clothes should not doom you to being judged as a person who is [a bunch of bad stuff].

                TL;DR: You do not just inherit you genes from your parents, you inherit your history (a pivotal part of culture, though not all of it) from them as well, and there is absolutely no way to separate that out.

              2. Soylent Dave says:

                Affirmative Action always looks violently racist to me.

                I should point out that I’m looking at it through British eyes, and we do have a standing point of law that any discrimination in the workplace (etc.) is illegal* (and that’s ‘discrimination’ not ‘negative discrimination’), so my point of view is obviously a bit skewed.

                I can see the goal of things like Affirmative Action – which is laudable – but I can’t see a way for ‘positive’ discrimination to result in a society where equal opportunities exist.

                (at the same time, I appreciate that working towards long-term societal change (like real equal opportunities for everyone) by definition results in not doing a lot for disenfranchised people who are living in that society NOW – which is where things like Affirmative Action have some merit. In the short-term.)

                *That’s not to say it doesn’t still happen, obviously.

                Incidentally, most of the negative stuff you have to say about ‘black culture’ seems to be more indicative of ‘inner-city culture’ – it sounds much more like a class (or wealth) issue than one of race.

                1. Xavin says:

                  It’s not quite true that any workplace discrimination is illegal here in the UK – there is, in fact, a specific list of things which it is illegal to discriminate based upon: gender (including gender reassignment), marital status (including civil partnerships), sexual orientation, pregnancy, age, race, colour, ethnic background, nationality, religion, or disability.

                  Discrimination based on other criteria may well be entirely legal – and it is specifically legal (and usually necessary) to discriminate on the basis of skills, abilities, and job performance. It may sound obvious to say that it’s OK to pay more to people who are better at the job, but that’s still discrimination – it’s just not unfair discrimination.

                  Note also that exceptions to even the specified list are allowed in certain circumstances, where it’s possible to make a case for it being a genuine requirement of the job – e.g. a Catholic school could legitimately require that a scripture teacher be a baptised Catholic.

    3. Bryan says:

      This is something that B5 tended to get right, at least some of the time. The interrogator in Intersections in Real Time, for instance, was a nice(-seeming), mild-mannered(-looking), amiable person. Yet, he did some of the worst things to Sheridan.

      There was the political officer that showed up in another episode, as well. And the guy that started the whole Nightwatch thing on the station, in another episode.

      (From some of the DVD commentaries, as well, there was a guiding principle of “the monster never sees a monster in the mirror”. Everyone had reasons for what they were doing. Not good reasons, necessarily, and the things many of them were doing were ultimately pretty evil, but there was a reason nonetheless.)

  4. Well, there’s a difference in how we apply our attitudes to life.

    Let’s say you hate Apple computers, to pick a hopefully non-controversial example. You can’t stand working with them and would never even think of buying one. Now, you could loudly exposite this opinion to everyone and probably piss off any Apple users that might be around, or even the friends of Apple users, or you could just quietly not let Apple users be a part of your life, ignoring them until they went away.

    So yeah, I can see how this could just not have come up from Shamus’ point of view

    1. blue_painted says:

      Hating Apple computers is always going to be controversial!

      1. Lalaland says:

        but so right ;)

        1. Kdansky says:

          Are you trying to turn a joke into a flamewar? You should be slapped with a Dell!

          1. Lalaland says:

            Oh no I just wanted to raise RISC vs CISC but I guess even Apple have given that fight up….. :D

            1. blue_painted says:

              Just mention Android and see if they bite … or Flash ;-)

              1. Man, and Opera is totally the best and only browser!


                1. blue_painted says:

                  As long as you use emacs ….

                  1. Atarlost says:

                    Opera and Emacs? That’s like red wine with fish. Opera goes with vi.

                    1. Zukhramm says:

                      There’s nothing wrong with red wine and fish!

        2. Khizan says:

          This is the only time I’ve ever wished for a “Like” button on this blog.

      2. Zukhramm says:

        Really? It seems to be the least controversial opinion you can have within the subject of technology.

  5. blue_painted says:

    Did you miss out on Wolfenstein 3D, or was it just Doom that made you wonder how the hell they did all this?

    I ask because I played Ant Attack on the Spectrum, and I also played Maze3d (or whatever it was called: basically it was first-person get through the maze game) and I was wondering what the world would be like when/if computers could handle a detailed terrain and a first-person perspective at the same time.

    1. Shamus says:

      I played Wolfie, but it didn’t amaze me as much.

      In fact, for a good while Heather had a computer that could run Wolf3D, and I didn’t. I visited her more often in those days.

      1. Lesquille says:

        What about Ultima Underworld? It predates Doom, and has shadows, wall/ceiling textures, elevation, etc. Plus it’s an RPG.

        1. Kdansky says:

          If I remember correctly, it didn’t have free-form movement, but was based on a grid, and therefore clearly not real 3D, but rather 2D, shot from a different angle.

          1. Lalaland says:

            It also required the inhuman computing abilities of the mighty 486 DX when it came out whereas even with my lowly 386 SX 25 was able to run Doom in a moderately sized window at decent framerates

          2. Atarlost says:

            You’re confusing Ultima Underworld with the Ultima V dungeons. Ultima versions prior to VI used a grid locked pseudo-3d display for dungeons. Akkalabeth-Ultima IV used vector graphics. Ultima V used hand drawn sprites of walls at two fixed angles and distances taking advantage of the movement grid. Ultima Underworld used a Wolfenstein/Doom style 2.5D setup with textured 3d walls and scaled 2d sprites for monsters and objects.

            What it doesn’t have is good gameplay. Being a fantasy RPG most of the weapons are melee and nobody would come up with a fun melee weapon mechanic for years. Until Thief or one of the Jedi Knight titles I think.

            1. MadTinkerer says:

              “What it doesn't have is good gameplay.”

              Heretic! (not the game) :)

          3. Lesquille says:

            Nah, it was fully 3D and allowed movement in any direction, including jumping an falling.

        2. Nuts to that! Oddly enough it was my dad who introduced me to what I would only recently realize was the very first game to implement the FPS setup: Catacombs: The Abyss (which I only knew as ‘The Abyss’ at the time). I have no idea where or how he got it, and it made me dizzy as hell to play it, but a few years later I’d see Wolf and Doom and go, “This looks like The Abyss.” and people would be all, “Wut?”

      2. swenson says:

        And now we see the real reason you were interested. :P

    2. The game that gave me that experience was Dungeon Master for the Amiga. (I never saw it on the Atari ST.) It was so revolutionary that it caused me to buy an Amiga just to play it.

  6. noahpocalypse says:

    Huh. This is probably a really, really selfish thing to take out of this story- for what it’s worth, the revelation about John staggered me- but would looking at the Doom code be very educational now as well? It is open source, so…

    1. Shamus says:

      I got a lot out of simply reading the Doom specs. None of the optimization techniques used are really meaningful or applicable today (graphics cards changed everything, so that what used to be expensive was cheap, and what used to be easy was hard) but it’s instructive to see how those old engines worked. It’s much harder to swallow modern, accelerated, multi-stage rendering engines in one go.

      It’s sort of like opening the hood of a Model T automobile. Nobody drives them today, but it’s a clear-cut look at how an internal combustion engine works. Much more approachable than examining some computer-regulated, fuel-injected, power-assisted hybrid.

  7. Guvnorium says:

    Interesting note on racism. I’ve been enjoying this series so far, and that particular little bit really struck me. I’ve known people like Neighbor John: Honest, hardworking, nice people to talk to… who hold bizarrely out of date opinions about race. It was a revelation for me, too, but it happened a little earlier for me, when I was seventeen. It’s possibly the best lesson I’ve ever had about how grey of a place the world can be. (Then again, I’m only nineteen, so…)

    Great entry, keep up the good work, and whatever you do, DON’T STOP NOW CAUSE THIS IS GOOD STORY!

  8. Lalaland says:

    The Neighbour John thing and how the media represents all bigots is instructive. It’s very rare for mainstream movies to present characters that are difficult to like in any way let alone one who carries a major flaw such as racist attitudes. Even those movies with primary characters with these flaws such as ‘American History X’ or ‘Gran Torino’ will include redemptive moments where the character realises their error before the close of the movie (although at least in the end of AHX it’s clear that the character couldn’t make it all right just by no longer holding those views).

    I’ve always been fascinated by how if a major film was made about the Rape of Nanjing how the writers would deal with John Rabe. He was a committed Nazi who made speeches affirming his ‘100% support’ for the party and it’s ideals yet he was also one of the leading humanitarians who tried to shelter the civilian Chinese population from the brutal ravages of Japanese troops after the fall of Nanjing. On theone hand he supported one of the most destructive and evil political forces of the 20th century yet on the other he took immense personal risk to protect persecuted peoples.

    1. swenson says:

      Wow. I never heard of that guy before. I must learn more about him.

    2. Slow Learner says:

      I think I saw that film. City of Life and Death, perhaps? *wikis* Yep, that’s the one.

      The wonder of the internet; your question will be answered as soon as you watch it!

      1. Lalaland says:

        Wait they actually made one? Big thanks for that, to Amazon!!!

    3. Falcon says:

      There is actually a big budget movie, starring Christian Bale as John Rabe, being made. Its called Flowers if War. I believe it is also a Chinese movie, the most expensive one to date. Seeing how that’s handled could be really interesting, since not being Hollywood, do they show that darker side more prominently.

      While it seems unknown if this man harmless the racist hate that the Nazi party represent. On the one hand there is the fact he verbally supported the Nazi party, but actions speak louder than words. In any case if done well it could be an interesting look at a compelling figure.

      1. Falcon says:

        Edits not working, should be harnessed, not harmless.

  9. Patrick the Shocked and Stunned says:

    I had no idea. He never, ever said a word about any of that.

    He was so smart and intelligent. Hr was hardworking and honest. How the hell was he a racist? And an Anti-semite? That doesn’t even work….

    1. Shamus says:

      I know! Over a decade later, and I’m still perplexed.

      1. lazlo says:

        One question would be, how do you know he was a racist and anti-semite? Was there anything beyond that one conversation with his family?

        I don’t know anything about him or his family, but if there’s no other reason to think he was a racist, it’s entirely possible that his daughter married an ass, who also happened to be black, and that his opposition to the marriage was based on the son-in-law’s asshattery, but blamed on racism.

        Or maybe it was a huge gaping character flaw in an otherwise fine person. That happens, and it is really really weird sometimes.

      2. Abnaxis says:

        Are you sure he was a racists? He could have disliked his son-in-law for non-racially-motivated reasons, but it came off as racism. I know when I get angry I say things that I don’t mean–the N-word might have just come out in an emotional salvo.

        Not saying John wasn’t racist, but there may be more to the story…

        1. Shamus says:

          There may indeed be more to the story, but he rejected the son in law based on skin color (no other fault was ever mentioned) and believed Jews were secretly running the world, or some such.

          1. SolkaTruesilver says:

            Well, the Schwartz *is* an energy field created by all living things. It surrounds us, penetrates us, and binds the galaxy together in one magnificient Merchandising organisation.

            You can’t argue with such powerful argumentative.

            1. Bryan says:

              Spaceballs the flamethrower. The kids really love this one.

              1. Mephane says:

                Merchandising! Merchandising! Merchandising!

    2. Kdansky says:

      You know, I have the same response to Shamus saying he believes in higher entities. He’s smart, honest and hard working too.

      The older one becomes, the harder it gets to shrug off your irrational beliefs, because you have to face the fact that you were very wrong for a long time. Imagine to be 70, and realizing that a big part of what you are is wrong, like racism (or its baby brother, patriotism, or completely unrelated: Homeopathy). Most people would rather close their eyes than confront their own ugly past.

      1. Syal says:

        …I’m assuming you’re making a statement about the complexity of human character and how people can be quite different even when they’re quite similar, as opposed to directly comparing religion to racism.

      2. Woodthorn says:

        Are you saying that being smart, honest and hard working contradicts believing there’s a higher entity?

        1. noahpocalypse says:

          Yeah. Take the founding fathers for example (of the US, I mean). They believed in God (Deism, technically, but that is belief in God), and were undoubtedly hardworking and (mostly) selfless. It all boils down to different ways of looking at something. When I think about religion, the idea of there not being some sort of supreme being seems ridiculous to me- how the heck does all this exist then? That seems completely logical to me, but I’m sure there are many who find the idea of a supreme being ridiculous. Are humans naturally good or bad? There is evidence for both sides, as with everything.

          Except for Half-Life 2. That is absolutely better than CoD in just about every way (except for, possibly, story. In a few of them.) Anyone who disagrees is insane and a blight upon this world, and must be burned at the stake as a peace offering to Gabe Newell so he’ll actually release Episode 3 eventually. No question about that.

        2. Knight of Fools says:

          He’s implying a lot of things can exist “in spite” of being smart, honest, and hard working. It definitely wouldn’t work as a Wikipedia entry, or even in a place where political/theological debate is discouraged. Like here.

          Also, if you find a 70 year old who suddenly admits that he’s be wrong his entire life about some closely held viewpoint, I’ll buy you some Taco Bell.

          1. Abnaxis says:

            Do deathbed conversions count?

            1. Shamus says:

              Always tough to judge, those.

              I think that in general, huge life events can shake your views and cause a re-evaluation. Sometimes people have a NEAR death experience and alter their approach to life. Death of someone close. Birth of a baby. Witnessing something heroic or horrific.

              Facing death is a pretty big life event (if you take my meaning) and so it CAN be a catalyst for change, but of course some transformations are just panic and fear.

              With any other conversion, you can just observe their life afterward and see if it really changed their behavior. But with death, we can’t ever know for sure.

              1. Kdansky says:

                In addition to that, I am also incredibly sceptical of deathbed conversions purely for the fact that those are rarely documented well. After you died, the last two people sitting at your bed can claim whatever they want and nobody can dispute them, and who knows what I will sprout when I lie there, feverish and on medication, with my heart and brain stopping to work.

                Deathbed conversions are like history books: Written by the survivors.

                1. Abnaxis says:

                  Y’know, I’ve never thought of the validity of deathbed conversion in terms of data validity before. So there’s error inherent because you’re extrapolating your prediction (as opposed to interpolating, as you are in the case of other major life-event conversions), and additional error inherent in the measurement (hearsay, as opposed to learning directly from the person in question) which make deathbed conversions as a whole less trustworthy.


                  1. HeadHunter says:

                    Accounts of deathbed confessions cannot be considered a primary source, for obvious reasons. :)

                    1. Abnaxis says:

                      I wonder what the MLA-approved format for a reference to an account of a deathbed confession is…

                    2. Audacity says:

                      It’s probably some asinine jumbled list of: who converted, who witnessed, where it occurred, an unlabeled number indicating if this was a repeat conversion, another unlabeled number indicating how many deathbed conversions had been previously observed by the witness with no easy way to tell this and the previous number apart, and the date. In no particular or intuitive order. With a jumble of miscellaneous punctuation marks thrown in just for the hell of it. That way you’ll have to look it up. Every. Damned. Time.

                      Oh, and one more thing. The Modern Language Association will also revise the whole rutting thing between your freshman and sophomore years so they can force you to relearn it all. Asshats!

                      Not that I’m bitter or anything… Gorram liberal arts English majors. Do they have nothing better to do?

                    3. Bryan says:

                      No, I’m pretty sure they don’t.

                      *ducks to avoid thrown bricks*

          2. Kdansky says:

            I can’t believe I was too subtle on that…

            1. Simulated Knave says:

              It’s that it’s hard to get by the inherent insults in your choice of comparison.

        3. Chad says:

          I may be wrong, but I think his point is that holding an irrational belief does not contradict being smart, honest and hardworking. (granted, his example might have been a bit more inflammatory than I would have chosen.)

          And if i am wrong, that would be part of my point anyhow.

          1. Kdansky says:

            That was my point exactly, as demonstrated by Neighbour John, who was smart and a bigot nevertheless.

        4. Mephane says:

          I think he is, but I find it more striking that he treats racism and religion as if they were merely two instances of non-rational beliefs, ignoring the huge differences between either notion.

          1. Tizzy says:

            I do believe the point is: “let’s move away from non-controversial topics like racism and hit something really controversial like religion”, simply to illustrate that it’s easy to find other people’s beliefs at odds with our image of that person when these ideas have become socially unacceptable (racism), yet it happens all the time that we don’t think twice about differences in opinion when we as a society have agreed that it’s better to let people make up their own mind (religion).

            1. Um, do believe or don’t believe?

              1. Tizzy says:

                I do believe that this was what Kdansky was trying to say. That’s how I read it anyway, and in this form it is also a remark which I would support and find relevant in the context.

        5. Abnaxis says:

          I think his entire point is that it doesn’t, even though it doesn’t match with his own personal views.

          Sometimes, when you are acquainted with someone you regard as very intelligent, it is jarring when you find later out they believe something fundamentally different than you. You’re intelligent, they’re intelligent, so there shouldn’t be so much mismatch, especially on an issue as foundational as racism or belief in a higher power.

        6. Jadawin says:

          Are you saying that being smart, honest and hard working contradicts believing there's a higher entity?

          While silly, It’s not much sillier than calling patriotism racism’s younger brother.

          1. Kdansky says:

            Sexism is discrimination against sex.
            Racism is discrimination against race or ethnicity.
            Patriotism is discrimination against place of birth.

            Is the difference between skin colour and passport colour really that relevant? I didn’t invent these things, I just point them out. Nothing silly about that.

            1. Shamus says:

              There’s a difference between “I love my country” and “Your country sucks”.

              You could argue that people shouldn’t take a lot of pride in where they come from, but you shouldn’t equate love of country with hate of other countries any more than you should accuse me of hating your family because I love mine.

              1. Kdansky says:

                “We white people are better than the black people.”
                “We Europeans are better than the Americans.”

                I really fail to see the difference, but the first sentence is a racist as it gets. Racists don’t hate the others, they just prefer their own group. Isn’t this the point you made about movie villains?

                And I would murder your family to save my own. I can be a bigot too, but I know it. :(

                1. Mari says:

                  It should be noted that a random survey of dictionaries scattered around my desk reveals that the definitions of both racism and sexism include specific reference to discrimination or prejudice while the general definition of patriotism goes something like “love or devotion to one’s country” (American Heritage Dictionary 2000) or “a person who vigorously supports their country and is prepared to defend it against enemies or detractors” (Oxford English Dictionary 2007). You guys are comparing apples to oranges here. Connotation to denotation.

                2. Shamus says:

                  I never said anything about “better”. The reason you keep getting into this argument (and you’ve been in it a few times now) is because you’re using this mutant definition of patriotism that your audience doesn’t recognize.

                  “I love where I’m from” is not the same as “where I’m from is better than where you’re from”.

                3. Meredith says:

                  I understand where you’re coming from, Kdansky. Patriotism isn’t necessarily a form of hate, but taken to extremes it can be. I’m afraid to be too specific and upset anyone, but I’ve seen it.

                4. PhotoRob says:

                  I think the term you’re looking for is “jingoism” “Colloquially, it refers to excessive bias in judging one’s own country as superior to others ““ an extreme type of nationalism.”

                5. asterismW says:

                  “And I would murder your family to save my own.”

                  That makes me incredibly sad.

                  1. Kdansky says:

                    Only sociopaths would choose differently. And then most people just don’t accept the facts, and tell lies instead of being honest. Yes, it’s a really ugly thing to say, but it’s true. Of course, I would prefer not to murder anyone (in fact, I am a very peaceful person), but that is not the point of a dilemma.

                    1. asterismW says:

                      No. I would never murder another family to save my own, or for any reason at all. And there are millions of (perfectly normal, non-sociopathic) people who feel the same way. The death of a loved one is not the worst thing that can happen to someone. But to murder an innocent person? That is.

              2. SolkaTruesilver says:

                Except when one of your tagline is “Country X is the best”, you imply that “All other countries are inferior”

                “God Bless X” –> “…and no other countries”

                Should I take pride in being white? In being Canadian? In being french-speaking?

                1. Skyy_High says:

                  “God Bless X” in no way implies “…and nobody else.”

                  And “Our country is the best” is no more hateful than cheering for your city’s sports team. Barring some extreme examples, do you think New Yorkers really hate Bostonians?

                  Racism is personal; you’re singling out individuals from a crowd of people around you. Patriotism is impersonal; it’s just about having a common bond with the people who are physically closest to you, and not having that same bond with people who are physically more distant. There’s no individualized selection process, ergo it’s impossible for someone to take offense if you don’t fall into someone’s “group” (read: country), because the group you fall in is completely out of the control of all parties involved.

                  If you want to compare racism to something, compare it to nationalism, the feeling that has started wars. But normal everyday flag-waving patriotism? There’s no hate there.

                  1. SolkaTruesilver says:

                    I do think Bostonians hate Montrealers, just by the way they treat many of us. I nearly got jumped in a bar once just because of my french accent.

                    1. Atarlost says:

                      Lots of people just hate tourists and/or immigrants. Tourists are just disturbing. They make people feel like exhibits at a zoo. Immigrants increase the labor supply in a more obvious fashion than they increase the demand. Sometimes they also bring with them the very ideas that make their country of origin a place they wanted to leave in the first place.

                    2. Patrick the Raging Vodka Molotov says:

                      Eh…I guess I’m the same way Philadelphians. The color orange on a shirt and the name Hextall make me want to punch kittens.

                      What the hell is up with the Habs this year anyways?

                    3. SolkaTruesilver says:

                      Bad start of the season. Lots of injuries. That’s about it, they haven’t been lucky against the Sabres or the Panthers, ’cause their goalie single-handely saved the games then.

                      Winning yesterday did a lot of good. Let’s see how they keep it up tonight against the Bad Bs.

                  2. Bubble181 says:

                    The difference between patriottism and nationalism is small, and regarded differently in different cultures. The Flemish are less patriotic than US citizens, but they get branded extreme nationalists and whatever just because it isn’t about the nation state but about their region.

                2. Shamus says:

                  “God Bless X” ““> “…and no other countries”

                  Illogical leap.

                  If I say, “God bless you” when you sneeze, or “good luck”, that does not mean I wish ill on EVERYONE ELSE. If every expression of approval is seen as an expression of DISAPPROVAL for all of those not named, then I can see your problem. You’re attributing unfounded motivations to the speaker.

                  EDIT: Fixed odd repetition in sentence because it bugged me.

                  1. SolkaTruesilver says:

                    In by itself, taken entirely out of context, I’d agree with you.

                    But when said by a politician who wants to hype up “the American Way”, to a isolationist/culturocentric crowd?

                    There is simply too much xenophobia subtext to what many people in America say to just let this pass. In itself, it’s probably not that big of a deal. But if there is a pile of agressive nationalism evidence already on the ground, I don’t see why we can’t send “God Bless America” to the pile as well.

                    Plus, bringing God into politics has a negative vibe where I come from. We find it to be in very bad taste. So we might have a negative bias to start with.

                    1. Shamus says:

                      “There is simply too much xenophobia subtext to what many people in America say to just let this pass. In itself, it's probably not that big of a deal. But if there is a pile of agressive nationalism evidence already on the ground, I don't see why we can't send “God Bless America” to the pile as well.”

                      Well now you’re talking about SUBTEXT.

                      Look, we can go around all day looking for subtext and pointing out that this word is really a code word among people of certain beliefs and taking offence because offence MIGHT have been warranted, but that is the path of strife and needless conflict. You’re really going to go to a harmless, flag-waving soccer mom and accuse her of dangerous nationalism because she likes where she’s from? She’s going to react with outrage at the insinuation – pretty much like this thread, only less temperate. She expresses love, you accuse her of hate, she concludes you hate her or her nation, because your attack makes no sense to her, otherwise.

                      I save my anger for times when the speaker is clear in their hostility and can’t be confused with love. I think of the robustness principle:


                    2. SolkaTruesilver says:

                      All right, I can get behind that line of reasoning.

                    3. Abnaxis says:

                      The real issue, as I see it, is the line between “pride” and “status.” Can you be proud of something, without implicitly ascribing a status to it that puts it above it’s peers? If so, then what are you using as a standard when you say you are proud of something?

                      Upon consideration, I don’t think there is a way to say you are proud of something without implicitly creating a differential between that thing and others like it. You can’t be “proud to be an American” without saying that there is value in being American above being non-American.

                      However, at the same time I do not think that this is (necessarily) a bad thing. Part of being a healthy human being is having self confidence, and part of self confidence is knowing that you are better than other people in some ways.

                      Problems arise from where you go from there. If you believe you are better than others, so you don’t need to listen to them because they’re inferior, that is an unhealthy attitude to have. If, OTOH, you recognize that while you are better than others in some areas, others are likewise better than you in other areas, and neither your way nor theirs is unconditionally inferior, that’s a healthy attitude.

                      Similarly, someone who is proud to be a part of a nation can use that idea to motivate positive behavior, because part of being a Whateverian is chipping in. Or it can motivate negative behavior, if they say “the way we do it in Whateverland is better, so everyone else needs to things our way!” Either way, positive or negative, the base assumption is “we are better, and we should act accordingly.”

                    4. Kevin says:

                      I agree with Shamus, and I like this application of the robustness principle.

                      I love my country too (Canada), and I certainly don’t hate people from every other country as a result. The thought would never enter my mind that you hated me or my country because you love your country.

                      I try very hard to not judge others intentions based on limited information. I always give people the benefit of the doubt. Also, even if you do hate me, I don’t think that gives me the right to hate you. As a Christian trying to follow the example of Jesus, that’s how I have to live.

                    5. Ramsus says:

                      “There is simply too much xenophobia subtext to what many people in America say to just let this pass.”

                      What? Excuse me? Isn’t the fact that you’re clearly singling out America for this behavior, when it’s just as prevalent many other places, a clear sign of prejudice on your part?

                      This kind of thing always irks me. Other countries are not any less prejudiced or patriotic or jingoistic than America (not in any overall sense anyhow, individually maybe one or another but they often make up for it by being overly something else). It just shows up differently. Other places just pay more attention to our media, so of course you’re going to see that side of things more. Which I shouldn’t even have to point out is obviously not a correct representation of how Americans actually think.

              3. Patrick the Raging Vodka Molotov says:

                See this is why I could never run a blog…or write for a living. Now I have to sit at my desk all day mad and annoyed because some anonymous person suggested that being a patriotic christian is as bad as being an idiotic racist.

                I don’t even know how to respond to that. It’s like suggesting people who support Liverpool football are all vegetarians.

                Being proud of where I am from doesn’t mean I think people who weren’t are of lesser value. Probably people who think that way exist, but generalizing all people who are patriotic as a different form of racist is the same form of grotesque stereotyping that leads to racism in the first place.

                I don’t know where you are from Kdansky, but something tells me your from Europe somewhere. I’m sorry you might have met people who portrayed Patriotism in a fashion that reeks of Racism. I’ve known people to use Christianity, Democracy and Socialism as vehicles to push their racist agenda. I wouldn’t suggest any of those groups are wholly racist because of it. Let me be very clear
                I am patriotic. And I am in no way shape or form a racist. Not even close. Part of what makes me proud to be an American is the belief that we all (should) have that all people are born equal regardless of race, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation, color or creed. I can’t even comprehend how that statement is akin to racism in any form.

                I am a Christian. And I can assure you, I am not stupid. I find your flippant and arrogantly condescending insinuation that my belief is ‘irrational’ so insulting and infuriating that I am having a very,very hard time trying think of an intelligent repsonse.

                I work for a German firm, based in Siegen and Mueslewitz. I am familiar with the form of “patriotism” you probably are referring too. I urge you to revist and revise your concept of patriotism. A racist waving the flag of patriotism is the very defintion of a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

                And good day to you….Sir

                1. Unseer says:

                  uuhm, not to be insulting, but your christianity is by definition irrational.

                  Please don’t take this the wrong way. I mean that if you define irrational as ‘not based on/following from reason’ any faith is by definition irrational.

                  Consider that one can use reason either to prove or to disprove the existence of God, and neither side can do so conclusively. This means simply that it does not follow from reason that god exists (or does not exist).

                  By which i don’t mean to belittle your faith. There is no doubt as to the value that Christianity can have for people. I’m merely trying to say that it is, in fact, a question of faith, not reason

                  1. Kevin says:

                    My Christianity by definition is not irrational.

                    I put a lot of thought and reason into my belief and so by definition it is not irrational. I would contend that I have put more thought in to why I believe in God then most (not all) have put in to why they don’t believe in God.

                    When I look at the complexity of the world around me and how so many things operate within specific rules it seems irrational to me to believe that there is no God.

                    1. Simulated Knave says:

                      Fairly logical arguments can be constructed in the opposite direction, however.

                      This is why agnosticism is the sensible position on the existence of god. You can believe whatever you like, as long as you admit you don’t know. :P

                    2. Abnaxis says:


                      Okay, I’ll bite.

                      It bugs me that everyone thinks they’ve put more thought into their belief than people who disagree with them. Just because someone else disagrees with you, doesn’t mean they’re too dumb to examine their own beliefs. That’s a very conceited value to take.

                      (deleted theology junk was here)

                    3. Kevin says:

                      Abnaxis, I want to apologize.

                      I don’t mean to imply that you have put less thought into your beliefs than I have into mine. That’s why I said “not all.” Although I see how my point could be misunderstood.

                      I don’t want to imply that it is irrational for everyone else to believe differently then me. But from my personal experience, it would be irrational for me to believe differently.

                  2. Shamus says:

                    Okay, this thread is now officially headed nowhere good. We did the religion debate a couple of weeks ago, and this same exchange was covered at least twice.

                    I see Kevin replied already, but let’s just drop it and move on…

                    1. Abnaxis says:

                      GAH! Ninja’d

                      Fixed above.

                    2. Kevin says:


                      I need to go watch some Spoiler Warning!

                  3. Patrick the Raging Vodka Molotov says:

                    I suppose if you are stating that belief is irrational by means of proof, than yes a faith is irrational.

                    But I’m thinking he meant it more as a behavioral context. As in, believing in a higher power is an irrational behavior. At least that is how I took it.

                    You can also not conclusively prove economic or political theory as being superior. Capitalism and Socialism have both had their successes and failures. Neither is a guarantee of freedom or economic stability. So could I use the above logic to suggest that anyone who adheres to Socialism or Capitalism is irrational?

                    Can I suggest that anyone who is NOT a Yankees fan is simply acting irrationally?

                    1. Audacity says:

                      No you cannot call us non-Yankees fans irrational! Trying to avoid the Special Hell reserved for Yankees fans is in no way irrational, it’s just good sense.

                  4. Leonardo Herrera says:

                    Nah, Unseer is confusing terms here. And yes, this is complicated. And I agree with Shamus, this is headed nowhere good :-)

                  5. Aelyn says:

                    Deleted for the sake of peace. :)

              4. Joe Cool says:

                THANK YOU for saying this, Shamus. I see patriotism taken to mean hatred of other countries so often now that it’s not funny. Patriotism is simply love of one’s family applied to one’s home land. It does not mean your family/country is best. It does not mean you hate all other families/countries.

                If someone says “God Bless America but everyone else can go to hell,” it’s not rightly called patriotism, but something else. Either nationalism or just outright racism.

                1. SolkaTruesilver says:

                  Thing is, that kind of sentiment, as positive as it might be, can be very, very, very easily twisted into a negative attitude toward people outside of your proud zone. And whenever someone raises a voice against the idea of bringing down other countries, the killer argument will be “What? You don’t love your country?”

                  You can carry too much power on that argument about loving your country, and it’s so easy to get it too far. Kinda like religions, actually.

                  “Buy America”, Patriot Act, etc… all of these are very negative aspect of patriotism that can hardly be criticized initially without someone being wrongly accused of hating or wishing ill to the USA, all in the name of loving your nation.

                  1. Lintman says:

                    You should realize this is a two-way street. When people like Kdansky equate simple patriotism with racism and you equate simple “yay us” statements with “everyone else sucks”, it’s very easy for those being accused of racism or xenophobia to read their own “subtext” into what’s behind the accusation. Just like you are reacting to an extreme characterization of their viewpoint, they are reacting to an extreme characterization of yours. And then both groups then use those reactions to justify their feelings. I’ve been on both sides of this debate, and while it’s extremely easy to fall into “us vs them”, they’re both BS and do nothing but generate more hate.

                  2. Falcon says:

                    Two way street here pal.

                    Deutchland uber alles, the IRA, Hamas, soccer hooligans, quebequois, al quaeda. Destructive patriotism is not a strictly American construct, stop treating it as such. Sure the Glen Becks and other pundits can be conduits for the kind of hateful racist xenophobic tendencies youndescribe, but not all patriotism is of that form.

                    Basically don’t characterize us by our loudest dumbest members. That is highly disingenuous and looking for problems, rather than understanding.

                  3. Zukhramm says:

                    Of course I don’t love my country.

                    To do that is to do something incredibly strange to me. I can love the place I’m from, and I can love the place I live in now. But I don’t live in the whole country. The majority of the country I haven’t even seen, let alone been to. I can’t love something I don’t know.

              5. Ragnar says:

                But that is a very naive view of patriotism. In places that are less culturally and ethnically homogeneous this often leads to bloody conflict. See for example the Basques, Northen Ireland, the Balkans, Kurdistan, etc.

                Also, I find patriotism to be a stronger declaration than “I love my country”. Almost zealous. Possibly with the exception of Americans talking about USA where it has a bit different connotation.

                Note that patriots historically has mostly referred to people who love a country or region that has no National State and love it so much that they fight for it’s freedom and independence.

            2. Deoxy says:

              Sexism is discrimination against sex.
              Racism is discrimination against race or ethnicity.
              Patriotism is discrimination against place of birth.


              Many people who were born other places and come to the US are among the most patriotic. That is, having been other places, they recognize how much less crappy the US is in comparison.

              While sure, some people come to patriotism for purely group dynamic or accident of birth reasons, plenty of people choose patriotism as a judgement that the country they are part of actually IS better than the others. This does not necessarily speak any ill of the citizens of those other countries, many of whom simply had the misfortune to be born there instead of here.

              It DOES imply some level of judgement of the rulers or other power holders of said countries, but again, I don’t think that counts as prejudice, but rather, reasoned opinion.

              1. Well, that’s different. Other people are saying it’s OK because it’s all about love of one’s own country rather than taking it as superior to all others.
                You’re saying it’s OK (in the US) because the US really is superior to all others. Well, it’s a nice illustration of what some of the “don’t like patriotism” people are saying, so thanks for sharing.

                Dude, immigrants to lots of places are often patriotic about the place they got to. It’s a strong phenomenon in Canada too; doesn’t mean Canada is so all-fired wonderful. Part of it is simply that if it’s not a great place that must mean they’re idiots for going there, so they’d rather think it’s a great place. Part of it is that any place generating masses of refugees probably isn’t giving them good memories, ya? Wherever they get to, it’s quite likely to be an improvement over killing fields. So yes, Canada is better than conflict zones in Pakistan and Afghanistan, or Somalia, or whatnot, so people coming from there like it here. That isn’t really a reason for me to say Canada is all that. I notice neither Canada nor the US is getting a steady stream of immigrants from France or New Zealand or Denmark, swooning over the superiority of how we do things here.

                1. Deoxy says:

                  You're saying it's OK (in the US) because the US really is superior to all others. Well, it's a nice illustration of what some of the “don't like patriotism” people are saying, so thanks for sharing.

                  Having been a lot of places in the world, I actually do think that the US is at least among the very best, but I’m not saying “It’s OK in the US”, I’m saying, “It’s OK period.” It’s an OPINION, and certainly, some people think France is the best, or Canada, or wherever.

                  So, no, it still has NOTHING to do with “where you are born”, which is “what some of the “don't like patriotism” people are saying”, so no, it’s not a nice illustration of that.

                  Go read what I actually wrote, eh?

                  1. Aldowyn says:

                    As a response to this whole patriotism thread:

                    Can I be proud of being a member of the human race? Is that allowed? I’m definitely proud of being an American (At least based on what we SAY the country is based on. Many people her actually DO live and act that way, too. Everyone just always focuses on the negative), but look at what humanity, as a whole, has accomplished. I don’t know if people today are happier than those from, say, the Dark Ages, but I DO know that, on the whole, they’re a lot healthier, safer, and more educated. All of that came through human achievement – much of it before the U.S. even existed.

                    1. Audacity says:

                      No you can’t be proud of your human heritage, you speciesist bastard! How dare you belittle the accomplishments of the Martians and Zing’onians by claiming your kind have acted in ways worthy of recognition!

                      Don’t you realize that by making such claims you are declaring the efforts of others as somehow inherently inferior? You obviously want to dominate all other life forms.

                      If you didn’t you’d be wallowing self-hate and decrying the actions of your ancestors for their un-inclusiveness. Where did they get the gall to try and accomplish things? What about the self-esteem of the other species!?!

                      (This should be read as sarcastically as possible. In case that wasn’t obvious.)

            3. Soylent Dave says:

              You’re conflating Patriotism with Nationalism.

              I think everyone can see the point you are making, but you’re using the wrong word – Patriotism (especially for Americans) has an inherently positive meaning (“we are brilliant”)

              Nationalism is the more aggressive, exclusive, negative “we’re better than you” one.

          2. Chad says:

            Again, language that tends to incite, but still not wrong. Racism is saying that our group is better than that other group based on the color of ones skin. Patriotism is saying our group is better than that other group based on in what nation we happen to have been born.

            Similar lines of reasoning, yet one is reviled and the other celebrated.

            1. Abnaxis says:

              I think they’ve invented a word for “people of my nation are better than people from your nation” sort of prejudice (which I guess is becoming a real problem in Europe?) . I can’t remember what it is though. Nationalism isn’t quite right, ethnocentrism isn’t quite right…I should know it, but I’m blanking and Google fails me today.

              1. Chad says:

                I think the word you are looking for may be “jingoism”

                1. Abnaxis says:

                  No, jingoism is a macro-level phenomenon. I’m talking about individuals. If an individual dislikes based on race, they are racist. I am trying to think of a word where, if a person dislikes someone purely based on their country of origin, then they’re ___________. I thought there was a word specially reserved for that.

                  1. Mari says:

                    You might be looking for “xenophobia.” That’s an undue or irrational hatred of that which is foreign, applied most often to peoples of other nations.

                  2. Neil D says:

                    I think in that case it comes down to the country/race in question, i.e. Francophobe, Germanophobe, etc.

              2. Soylent Dave says:

                It is Nationalism.

                Or, if you’re feeling nice, ‘far right nationalism’ or ‘extremist nationalism’.

                Also ‘xenophobic’ if you hate all foreigners, as Mari points out down there somewhere (or up there, I forget how the threading works).

                1. Audacity says:

                  Just to be fair, I’d argue one can also have far left extremist nationalism. See Stalin’s treatment of the Ukrainians or Pol Pot’s in Cambodia.

            2. Deoxy says:

              Patriotism is saying our group is better than that other group based on in what nation we happen to have been born.

              Except that it ISN’T just where you were born. People emigrate, leaving a country they don’t like, and immigrate, coming to a country they (hopefully) like better. In fact, many of the most patriotic Americans are immigrants!

              That makes nonsense of what you said.

              1. Chad says:

                Perhaps my hyperbolic line was artificially limiting for the sake of parallelism, but saying that immigrants are patriotic does not invalidate my statement it merely adds another layer to it. I suppose it would be more accurate to say “My group is better than your group because of the nation in which we happen to live.” Sure you can make good arguments for the quality of life being better in certain nations, but that does not make the people living there any “better” than the citizens of another nation.

                This would have been a fun conversation to be a part of while it was hot this morning. Such a shame I had to go to school.

    3. Tizzy says:

      We all need heroes, but we should vehemently keep the right to pick and choose in their legacy: as much as I hate to admit it, our heroes are in fact frail humans like us, and even though the fact that they are not perfect might sometimes diminish the admiration we have for them, we should keep appreciating and emulating the qualities that drew us to them in the first place.

  10. Airsoftslayer93 says:

    I still think that neighbor John was a good person, Racism was just one, very undesirable, aspect of his character, everyone has flaws, and however bad it was you can’t just write him of as a completely bad person.

    1. Soylent Dave says:

      I think the point of the anecdote is that he was just a person.

      Some of his beliefs were abhorrent, and some of the things he did were incredibly kind.

      Like most people he wasn’t good or bad, but somewhere in the middle.

  11. swenson says:

    But fine. Let's go to the job center today and see what I can find.

    This sounds… promising. I want the next entry now!

  12. SolkaTruesilver says:

    Shamus, ultimately, I am really, really, really happy you kept going telling about your life story and didn’t abridged this period. I would guess you wanted to abridge it because you told yourself “there wasn’t that much happening at the time”.

    I think it’s very, very common among a great deal of 20-24 year old young people to end up like you did. Drifting. With a job that is, ultimately, making them meet ends, but that has no escape clause. Not sure how to get out of that situation, not sure if they should.

    I’d call it the “Scott Pilgrim Purgatory” syndrom, ’cause I believe Scott Pilgrim’s movie was mostly about this… drifting part of life of many youngsters. (Less so for the comic book, which dealt with a different, but no less important life lesson).

    It’s when you get.. comfortable in settling for less. This is a major crossroad for anybody, and many just give up at that time. I known many people who just couldn’t get going in their dreams and life because they waited too long before trying to get out of this comfort zone, and they cannot aspire to a Grand Destiny anymore, save very unlikely events.

    So… keep on telling, Shamus. I want to know how you got out of your own Scott Pilgrim Purgatory.

    1. Knight of Fools says:

      I know a lot of people who never got out of that situation. They look back on their lives with regret, wishing they’d done more and think that it’s far too late, now. They never seem to understand that they can still do something to change their lives right now.

      It has a lot to do with simply getting up and looking for an opportunity while actively creating the foundation for it, rather than hoping one comes knocking at your door.

    2. CZ1234 says:

      This is so important. It is so easy to be comfortable in something that is tolerable. It isn’t just your 20s this can happen, it is basically possible at any point in your life. It is possible in almost any facet of your life not just your job. Probably one of the greatest adult lessons you can learn is how to recognize when you are in this state without someone else telling you.

  13. Abnaxis says:

    I’ve had the exact same experience as you did with John. My grandfather has been a great inspiration in my life–dropped out of high school and worked for a company as a clerk. Later taught himself programming, saved the company millions in reduced accounting errors with his code, and got promoted to regional accounting manager (a legacy my father quickly squandered after my grandfather died). I fondly remember doing science experiments in our kitchen, building bottle rockets out of 2-liters, working and playing together on the computer…

    …and I find out ten years after he died he was more racist than a bag full of Nazis. Completely up and moved out of a neighborhood because a black family had moved in.

    The thing is, I lived with him for the first ten years of my life. More than anyone else, he raised me as a child (deadbeat dad, mom too young to take care of me). I have no idea how I never knew about this until I was grown up.

    It’s one thing to not pick up prejudice when your mentor is a neighbor you only visit. I worshiped the ground my grandfather walked on, he taught me everything I knew as a kid, and formed me as a person, yet I would still consider myself much more on the progressive side of any debate about any sorts of stereotypes. It’s baffling…

    1. Trix2000 says:

      Perhaps there’s something to be said for someone who holds beliefs like that but chooses not to impose them on others, particularly impressionable children. I wouldn’t call it good, but it’s certainly better than letting the mindset spread.

      1. HeadHunter says:

        In an Internet “world” where everyone vehemently clings to the right to their own opinion, I think you may be on to something.

        We may not agree with his outlook, we may have very good reasons for doing so… but there are, no doubt, others who feel the same way about our opinions.

        The sad thing is how readily we label others for their opinions, because they biolate the presumed sanctity of our own. I’ll remind everyone that “racist” and “bigot” and “homophobe” are labels, too – even if we don’t like the views those people espouse.

        When we apply those labels, we seek (just as they do) to diminish the person to a single, identifiable dimension with which we can easily disagree. We dehumanize them, just as much as they seek to dehumanize others. Neighbor John shows us that some people defy those labels nonetheless.

    2. Paul Spooner says:

      I think this kind of attitude may have been (or still is) very widespread. Almost everyone I’ve talked to who was born more than 40 years ago either is, or knows, this kind of person. The man who is extremely racist, but doesn’t talk about it.
      It’s not uncommon, and of course, if you think about it, why would he talk about it? Racism has become extremely unpopular in our culture recently. Interesting how a view being illogical, immoral, harmful, and crude won’t stop people from pushing it on others, but they shut their mouths as soon as it’s unpopular. Just goes to show how strongly we are influenced by our culture.
      Which, in turn, shows that there’s probably at least some truth to racism after all.

  14. Strangeite says:

    The 2001 movie Conspiracy does an excellent job of showing monsters plotting one of the most heinous crimes in human history, the Holocaust, and having them come across as intelligent, charming and at times empathetic individuals.

    It might be my favorite Kenneth Branagh picture. The tone perfectly demonstrates how people can plot truly horrendous acts and think they are “in the right”.

    I urge everyone to see this film.

  15. Destrustor says:

    My father is the hardest worker I’ve ever known, an upstanding, proud, honest, great man, with so much charisma it practically oozes from him and a hugely positive attitude almost all the time.
    Yet he is also an unashamed, almost-frothing, irredeemable racist. His mother(and quite plausibly his own father) is also very racist, so I guess that’s how he was raised. He fortunately seems to have missed that part when raising me and it only came up when I was old enough to decide I didn’t agree. I was just as surprised as you when I heard his views.
    Despite that, he’s still a great man that I respect a lot. I just ignore him when he starts ranting and it works out fine.

    1. Lalaland says:

      Same situation here, I used to try and talk my father out of his racism in my naive youth but all he learnt from that is how easy it is to wind me up with his ridiculous opinions. These days I just make comparisons to the caricatures of the Irish in Punch or to US ‘Nativism’ in the mid 19th century. It’s almost fun to watch him try and fail to torture logic into submission

  16. Ruthie says:

    I remember when you worked night shift. Dan and I played an obnoxious game in the kitchen [directly above your room], that involved him sitting in a little chair, and me pushing him across the room as fast as I could. You used to storm upstairs, and tell us to cut it out because you were trying to sleep. I actually remember thinking “we’re upstairs, you’re downstairs, you shouldn’t be able to hear that!”
    Then I remember being in your room, hearing someone slide out a chair from the table, and thinking “DOH! I’m a jerk”

    1. SolkaTruesilver says:

      On the other hand, he was probably too sleep-deprived to actually make you suffer his wrath. As long as you kept it up, you were in a relative state of safety.

    2. Destrustor says:

      I am also damned to having my room just under the kitchen. The most often busiest room in the house, with an intensely creaky floor, right above my head while I try to sleep. Simply trying to walk up there makes more noise than if someone walked into my room and started talking to me. Combine this with the fact that I’m a very light sleeper and you know how much I can sympathise with Shamus.
      I can’t count the times I’ve been woken up at two or three in the morning, just this year.
      Oh and when I wake up, I usually can’t go back to sleep for at least two hours, and I can’t sleep during the day. If I had past-Shamus’ schedule, I think I’d be dead in a week.

      1. Shamus says:

        Small suggestion that might help:

        If I’m sleeping in a place where I might be awakened by noise, I’ve found white noise does wonders. A simple box fan in the room with you can cover enough sounds so that you aren’t jolted awake.

        Some people can’t stand it, though, and the noise of the fan itself keeps them up. Still, I offer it as a folk remedy that has served me well in the past.

        1. SolkaTruesilver says:

          White Noise Generator –> single best App I ever downloaded for my iPhone.

          Airplane sound, rainfall, thunderstorm, fan, railroad, seawaves. All set with a time if you want to, with gradual fading as an option.

          Got me through the worst of nights. I still wonder why Sheridan never thought of it.

          (if you are wondering, I go for the rainfall)

          1. Mycroft says:

            Earplugs are dirt cheap, after a min you don’t notice them, and they work. I recommend them.

            1. SolkaTruesilver says:

              I can’t sleep with them. I am just scared I’ll miss my waking alarm.

          2. Ramsus says:

            Just don’t download the Wet Noise Generator. =P

          3. Mari says:

            Or you could be all low-tech like me and pick up a white noise generator at Wally’s for $5 at Christmas when they sell a lot of junk like that as “gifts.” I’m partial to the heartbeat sound on mine. Basically I combine the heartbeat with “counting sheep” because when I count sheep without the heartbeat my mind tends to wander but the audible sound keeps me focused on counting so I can slowly starve off the other parts of my brain and fall asleep.

          4. Eärlindor says:

            That app sounds amazing!

        2. Destrustor says:

          Yes, I’m basically addicted to my white-noise fan. The floor just creaks louder than it can ever be. And it still doesn’t help me sleep past 6, or when I just wake up and can’t sleep for no reason.
          Meh, bad sleep is the story of my life. Anyway, six hours average of sleep a day leaves plenty of time to fool around.

    3. For some reason it seems like the room below hears the room above louder than the other way around. So if you’re in the room above, you won’t hear much of what happens beneath and it’s natural to assume it works the same the other way. But it doesn’t. I’ve never understood why.

      1. Jimmy Bennett says:

        This is because the people in the room above are walking on/sliding chairs across/have speakers sitting on their floor. This causes their floor to vibrate and their floor is directly connected to your ceiling.

        The people in the floor below you have to get their ceiling to vibrate in order to transfer the noise into your apartment. Unless they’re installing a light fixture or ceiling fan, the only way to do that is to make a noise so loud it shakes the roof. If they’re blasting house music they can do it, but otherwise it’s pretty tricky.

      2. Chris Robertson says:

        Activity in the room above causes vibrations in the shared medium (the floor/ceiling) via direct contact (e.g. mechanical interference). This causes the downstairs ceiling to act as a loud speaker.

        The only sound transmission from the downstairs up is through sound propagation. Much of the sound energy which passes through the air is absorbed by the materials in the shared medium.

        In well built building, you hang the ceiling drywall on the lower room using resilient channel to decouple the ceiling from the floor above (to reduce the transmission of vibrations) and stuff the cavity with insulation (to reduce the propagation).

        Bleh. Took so ling writing this, I was ninja’d.

  17. MadTinkerer says:

    “This is such a monumental leap ahead of what existing games can do that it's staggering.”

    MEH. I said it at the time and I’ll say it again: MEH. Doom was fast pseudo-3D. Ultima Underworld II came out the same year, and maybe the engine wasn’t as fast but you had a real inventory, dialogue trees, skill system, multi-universe-spanning intrigue, the ability to fish, weapons and armor which degraded with damage,

    I thought Doom style games were just a fad at the time. After all Ultima Underworld II was so much better, right? Can’t wait for Ultima Underworld III to put Doom in it’s place!


    (But hey: at least Elder Scrolls V is sort of Underworld VII. Sort of.)

    1. Shamus says:

      As others have said, UU actually required hardware of one generation later.

      “Ultima Underworld II came out the same year, and maybe the engine wasn't as fast but you had a real inventory, dialogue trees, skill system, multi-universe-spanning intrigue, the ability to fish, weapons and armor which degraded with damage,”

      You’re talking about gameplay. I was talking about technology. id Software is the poster child for “Amazing technology in service of simplistic gameplay.”

      1. Leonardo Herrera says:

        I still remember Magic Carpet. THAT was an amazing piece of technology.

      2. Tizzy says:

        Indeed, part of the amazing technology (and ensuing popularity) was that it could run on about any computer of the time.

        And I don’t know if anyone’s experience is different, but at that time, I’d never heard the term “gaming computer”…

      3. MadTinkerer says:

        That one-generation-later minimum hardware spec didn’t run Doom at fullscreen with a remotely acceptable framerate. Both engines couldn’t be run at fullscreen on 386s, but UW2 compensated for the limitations of the hardware with interesting gameplay. And the ability to turn off textures on floors and ceilings to speed things up. ;)

        I mean, yes: I liked Doom as well despite ep 2 & 3 levels being mostly tedious slogs. Doom II was the game where they finally had a superior standard of level design throughout the game. And both multiplayer co-op and Deathmatch were a huge leap forward that wouldn’t be seen on consoles until Goldeneye on the N64. Networked multiplayer FPS wouldn’t be seen on consoles until Halo 2.

        But with Doom they wished they could talk to the monsters, and in the Underworld games you could already do that. I’m just saying, that’s all. Dang kids**.

        *I use the acronym the programmers used. No criticism of the technically more accurate UU2, just a habit.

        **You dang decade-older-than-me kids get off my lawn!

  18. Some Jackass says:

    Damn you, Shamus. Now I feel obligated to escape the crappy-job-rut I’m in.

  19. Joe Cool says:

    Re: Neighbor John.

    My mom taught me “always assume someone is doing the best he can with what he has.” I.e., don’t judge a person based on his flaws. You don’t know why the person thinks the way he does, acts the way he does, believes the way he does. Almost everybody (and absolutely everybody I’ve ever met in person) is striving for what they think is the good. They may not hit it, or their life experiences may have screwed them up to the point that they can’t recognize it’s not good, but people almost always do things because they think they’re good. Judge the actions and the fruits of the actions. Never the character of the person doing them.

    This is why I hate screaming internet debates where the arguers have completely forgotten the humanity of the other person and assume he is either a) irrational or b) evil for holding his views. No one ever seems to remember option c) the person is trying to promote what he may (mistakenly) see as good.

    1. Meredith says:

      That’s why hate is so insidious. Almost no one who’s done “evil” things ever did them for the sake of being horrible – they thought they were doing good and helping the world (or had a mental illness, but that’s a different conversation). The bad guys in real life aren’t cackling madmen who just want to see people suffer, they just have a really messed up worldview for whatever reason.

    2. NonEuclideanCat says:

      Yeah, the kind of people who would smash an oil tanker into a shoreline because “I’m an asshole and FUCK baby seals” or justify an action with “because I’m evil” only exist in fiction.

    3. HeadHunter says:

      I think Shamus did well by illustrating Neighbor John’s humanity in previous entries. Many of us would have liked to have a neighbor like that, and some people posted as much.

      Clearly, Shamus knew of John’s quietly racist views when he wrote that entry, but omitted them – as they were unknown to the Shamus of that entry’s time, and irrelevant to that section of the story.

      So what we are left with, is trying to reconcile our revulsion of certain of his views with a man who is otherwise gentle, kind, helpful and well-educated. We cannot simply ignore his human side because we don’t agree with some of his opinions.

      When people begin to see that the issues, rather than the people, are what we should be debating; when we are able to see how others are similar to us more than they differ; we begin to move closer to a peaceful coexistence.

      Like they say in that Waz song: “If we come to grips with the ways that we differ, we might just see the many ways we do not”. Dig?

  20. Julie says:

    You were told that John was a racist. That doesn’t mean that he really was. John’s family may have used racism as an excuse to hide some other secret that they considered to be even worse; or John himself might have used racism as an excuse to protect the rest of his family from some worse secret involving his daughter and her husband. People will sometimes say strange things about their closest relatives based on misunderstandings, speculation, wishful thinking, etc., especially when those relatives are no longer able to speak for themselves.

  21. DoctorSatan says:

    Racism… Meh. I have seen a lot of that… Like the time when brown college students in the US were made to wear some ID instrument on their legs. It made them look like dogs. Racism wont go away. It only changes form. (Hell, even little babies are racists and murderers)

  22. Patrick the Extra dry Manhattan with an olive says:

    Allright. Fine. Let’s settle this. You and me internet.

    In the parking lot.

    3 O’clock.

    I say anyone of you that aren’t From Butler County Pennsylvania, fans of the Steelers and Penguins, named Patrick and brother to an overly-hyped internet nerd whose name ryhmes with a term reffering to the most unpleasant opening on the human body are complete knee-biters. Utter buffons. A pointless malfeasance and waste of perfectly good footwear.

    All of you should come to my house, drop of your most comfotable pair of shoes and promptly go jump up your own arse.

    Racist heathens…..

    1. SolkaTruesilver says:

      I get the choice of weapon. I chose Katana.

      At sunset. I come from the west, you from the east. And we finish this.

    2. HeadHunter says:

      I’m just across the county line, I like the Steelers and the Penguins, and my stepson’s middle name is Patrick…

      I am offended, sir. I claim that I am more “Pittsburgh” than you, by virtue of being in Alleghany County and in the 412 area code. How darest thou besmirch my Pittsburgh-ity? You shall pay for your insulin! :p

      1. Patrick the Dull and Irritable says:

        You spelled Allegheny wrong. Your arguement is invalid.

        I am not diabetic, I have no insulin, paid for or otherwise.

        I wear a size 10.5 dress, 11 in atletic shoes. Please put yours on the back deck, the front porch is getting full.

        1. HeadHunter says:

          I didn’t know dresses came in half-sizes. As tall as you are, I didn’t think you’d fit into a dress that small! =P

  23. Mom says:

    Neighbor John’s beliefs were controversial, as Shamus has said. But he did not have a universal hatred of any group or race. And I think he would accept a black man in any place or position except married to a white woman. He did have warm friendships with some of our town’s long standing black families.

    1. Patrick the Extra dry Manhattan with an olive says:

      That… kind of makes more sense…I think.

      He didn’t have a tinfoil hat or anything did he?

      1. Mom says:

        It is so common to suspect that there is a person/group/force that is controlling things in a non transparent manner. I will even suggest that EVERYONE believes this. Can anyone reading this say they believe we have perfect liberty in the USA? Or that any of us are capable of discovering the truth behind the news. Don’t we all suspect some group or another?
        The world made more sense to John if he believed the Jews were controlling the money in the world. I doubt if he would lift a finger to harm a Jewish person-maybe he avoided doing business with them-maybe.

    2. SolkaTruesilver says:

      So just one of the “I don’t believe we should have children together”

      Some sort of racial purity thingy? Or it was definetly up-close personal, like, “I don’t want my grandchildren to be metis”?

      1. Mom says:

        John was older than me. I am 67 years old. MOST people in this age group at that time in our smallish semi-rural community had a strong dislike of mixed race couples. Many of them would argue that it was too hard on their children, there was some small appearance of truth to that at the time. But I always felt the visceral nature of the reaction revealed it as a reaction to what they had internalized as a natural division of people.

        I remember that John felt that scripture supported this idea. I don’t know what scripture he had in mind.

        In our community today, this attitude has very much decreased in the number of people who hold to it (even among the elderly) and the intensity and certainty to which they do. Mixed race couples are common, often present in our churches, and peoples fears have been overcome.

      2. HeadHunter says:

        My ex’s son is mulatto. As is a girl I went to college with. Both of them had to deal with identity issues growing up – not accepted by the white community because they were “black”, but also not accepted by the black community for being half white. Racism isn’t unique to white people – other ethnicities will judge a person by the color of their skin, too.

        My nephew, in particular, has to deal with this every day – living in Tyler, TX. The attitude is far more prevalent there than it is here up North. He’s faced difficulties in dating and working because of it.

        It’s one thing to say that love is color-blind, but it’s an uphill battle for children of such marriages.

        1. Falcon says:

          It’s not even exclusive to mixed races. My best man is black. He has endured some of that same type of racism you describe. Thing is he isn’t mixed race, he is 100% black. Because he doesn’t ascribe to the typical notions of black culture (he is a nerd, plays final fantasy, reads manga, loves board games, uses proper English, listens to rock) he was often accused of ‘not being black enough’! Really? People who rejected him on race more commonly were black. This is someone who, if judging on the only genetic characteristic that should determine blackness, is as black as you could be.

          It is terrible, stupid, and self destructive. Fortunately most of my generation simply does not care. At least in my area. That said racism in all forms needs to die.

  24. Chris says:

    I prefer to illuminate John by his actions toward Shamus rather than his attitude toward his Son in law.

    Furthermore I find his racism irrelevant beyond that disowning his daughter was.immoral action.

    If he did right by all or most but held unacceptable attitudes we must highlight the actions and not hate him for his passions.

    Western culture has a great flaw in the the general public attacks racists more than it preaches against racism. Rather than treat racists like the ill we treat them like racists might treat blacks or Jews, but arguably worse. All that does is create more bitterness, rather than treat the bitterness that is in abundance.

    1. HeadHunter says:

      I agree – that’s pretty much what I was trying to say as well. It’s sad that we respond to those who label and hate others by doing the same in return.

  25. Chris says:

    We too often return hate with hate rather than love or pity.

    Besides… Pitying, forgiving, or loving your enemies really gets their goat.

  26. Angie says:

    My mom was like that too. Still is, in fact, the only difference being that I don’t live with her now. But in her mind, there’s something bad, lazy, intolerably wrong about being asleep late into the morning, or god forbid into the afternoon. The fact that I didn’t get to bed until 7am is irrelevant, and when banging on my door and yelling didn’t work, she’d go all passive-agressive and vacuum the hallway right outside my bedroom for half an hour, then leave the vacuum cleaner right there so I’d trip over it whenever I got up.

    I’m more of a logical, rational type person, and Mom’s more emotional. She knows what she knows, and feels about the world the way she feels, and she was never taught the tools to analyze why she believes something, or to consider that if different data (like being up until after dawn) goes into a situation, a different result (like sleeping until early afternoon) should logically come out. This logic stuff just doesn’t make sense in her universe, and that’s that.

    I guess that’s one way to get your offspring to move out. :P


  27. Vect says:

    I know it’s a little weird to ask you this, but the last article about your date and watching that Sean Connery film reminded me of something.

    Were you the kind of person who rolled his eyes at the “Welcome to Earth” scene from Independence Day? I mean, you did think of the “You’re just a machine” insult from Mass Effect as petulant so I get the feeling you’d be contemptuous of that film for that scene. Or for being, well, Independence Day.

    1. Shamus says:

      Yeah, I was one of like six people on Earth who thought ID was too dumb to love. Stupid, contrived plot, the tone was all over the place, the characters were cartoons, and the premise of how they beat the aliens was so silly that it wouldn’t even work as comedy.

      1. HeadHunter says:

        The day that a MacBook “saves the world” is the day we’re all doomed, doomed, doomed!

      2. Vect says:

        Don’t worry, you’re not the only one.

  28. Conrad says:

    I think it’s a testament to the Doom’s influence, on me at least, that I still remember the location of the chainsaw and most of the cheat codes. It’s still one of my favorite games of all time.(Not that I repeatedly did chainsaw-only god mode runs. Hey, I was nine, and no, it never did make me take a chainsaw to a minotaur with a rocket launcher in real life.)

    1. Cuthalion says:

      Descent for me. I still remember the codes for that, and could probably draw the first level from memory.

  29. Leah says:

    I love tokoebell.

    1. Patrick the Closeted Alpha-nerd says:

      Who is that girl??!?

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