Protect the Children!

This article talks about porn, sexual harassment and bullying. If you are uncomfortable with this, you probably shouldn't read it.

In the UK, porn websites will now have to verify that their users are over 18 - perhaps with credit card information. Plenty of people are hailing this as a good thing to protect our children, but frankly, I think it's going to be about as useful as a chocolate teapot.

Firstly, there are a mind-boggling number of porn sites out there and more will spring up. The BBFC is not going to have the time or resources to block them all.

Secondly, not all porn is on sites dedicated to watching people fuck. I think I've gone to a dedicated porn site exactly once in my life, but I've still seen a lot of porn. How? Reddit and tumblr host a fair amount (including pornbots everywhere - spectate lecherous women online!). Snapchat too. Twitter used to be full of pornbots. DeviantArt has been around forever, but has a ton of drawn images and directions on w…

One of those Days

It's one of those days.

I have too many deadlines, the world is run by overgrown toddlers who are going to get us all killed, and May's just called a general election.


I can't hide my cynicism about this. And on top of everything, I would have to be depressed, because the best way to react to turmoil in my life is to stop being a functional human being.

I've been to my GP and am now sitting tight on a referral, but the service is apparently overstretched because the NHS has no money. Right now, all I can do is wait for them to process my reference and see if they think I'm mental enough to qualify for their help.

In the meantime, I've been trying to be proactive, because it beats being miserable and not doing anything. Because I still more or less trust the NHS, I looked at some of their resources for self-care, where they suggested self-help books.

I'm not opposed to self-help books when used in conjunction with some kind of therapy and when they'…

Further plot twist!

...actually, the positive thinking sort of worked. Well, not quite, but sort of.

What worked better for me wasn't trying to cultivate a happy happy shiny shiny attitude. It was doing what my body told me to do and getting some sleep. It was doing what my mind told me to do and getting out of the house to see some green space.

It was seeing my amazing boyfriend and holding him, spending time with him, spending time just talking and making music and exploring new things.

It was realising that I have really, really good friends, who care about me and actually want to spend time with me.

It was realising that all of those things have been there since the beginning and I'm only just noticing them.

It was going to parties and dancing badly and ending up covered in my friend's soft toys.

It was diving deep into physics books and connecting with what made me love physics - with the strange and beautiful and elegant ways of viewing the world - and drawing on that to study hard for …

Plot twist!

(Actually, the inspirational quotes did nothing.)

How an essayist and programmer unwittingly helped me hold on

This semester, I've been taking a C++ course. I like programming. I want to suck less at it. So far, it's going okay. My workload is heavy, so I don't write so much anymore. I don't expect it to get easier.

I find I learn programming decently by reading around - by reading documentation and forums and random pdfs I find lying about. I learn about culture and other people's personalities. Even if something isn't directly relevant to me, I still find it useful.

While trawling the internet to fix my current problem, I came across an essay by Paul Graham. It was useful, but not immediately so; it gave me food for thought, but it's not something I feel I have the free time to learn right now (I should really spend it sleeping).

Somewhere in the back of my sleep-deprived brain, I remembered...something. A website very, very similar to the one I was looking at. In fact, the layout was almost identical - but the essays were different. The one I was reading discusse…

Bah Humbug!

It's two weeks until Christmas, give or take. I could only tell this from a calendar; from my perspective, it's been Christmas since about November. There are things I enjoy about this. I enjoy ambling through the city centre and smiling up at the decorations. I enjoy making fun of the huge, rather unsettling Santa who watches over Albert Square. I enjoy carolling in the freezing cold, strangely enough. I enjoy going round the markets with friends or my partner and picking out nice gifts.

What I really don't enjoy is the pressure surrounding Christmas. There's so much pressure to make Christmas magical; to get everyone the perfect gifts, to cook the perfect traditional meal, to be a perfect happy family, and what usually ends up happening is not knowing what gifts to get, being thoroughly sick of turkey by the end of the month and sniping at each other. And alcohol. So much alcohol.

In my family, Christmas was like any other day and I chilled out on celebrating Hanukka…

"native Britons are bloody stupid" and other shenanigans

Hey! Don't shoot the messenger. Don't shoot Lord Kerr either, since he's the one who said it.

The media is in a tizzy because Lord Kerr called native Britons stupid when defending immigration. I have some poorly organised thoughts about this.

Firstly, Lord Kerr was a diplomat before becoming a life peer. He knows exactly how much shit he's stirring up. Why he's doing this I don't know, but his comments are apparently so inflammatory to the right that Stormfront's cryfest (no links, fascists deserve to be deprived of oxygen) was one of the top results when I googled this. Maybe he's hoping that they get too distracted circlejerking over how racist he is to white people. That's the best-case scenario.

Secondly, I'm actually pretty upset about his comments. Of course I'm angry at xenophobic Brits. Of course I'm even more irritated when they're stupid into the bargain. But he punched down at a lot of the more marginalised people in Briti…


I think redemption as a concept is underrated.

I mean, sure, there are these people who will try and sell you redemption if you follow their book, or pay them enough money, or have someone else treat you as their pity porn. Perhaps that's why redemption is overlooked. Perhaps it's just that we live in a society which exalts violence and vengeance. (Seriously - our justice system is based on retribution, most narratives in fiction involve overcoming an obstacle with murder, and we are encouraged to support armies.)

The main argument against redemption seems to be "but this person had other chances" or "but this means that this person gets off scot free".

I'll admit that I don't have good counterarguments. I have blunt statements and a belief system.

Many people have many, many opportunities through life. Some are easier to achieve than others; some are almost impossible. People will make mistakes. People will actively do malicious things. You are one…

Some thoughts about antisemitism and narratives

Now that America is divided over whether to elect a reasonably competent establishment candidate or a creepy orange fascist, the media have stopped pretending they ever gave a shit about antisemitism; instead, they're pretending they give a shit about the US.

I didn't get to do this before on account of having a massive workload, but a lot of the reactions to the antisemitism shitstorm upset me massively. Many of them were pure denial: "I've never seen antisemitism in my community, so it must not exist." Many of them were denial mixed with tokenism: "I'm going to weaponise Jews who don't see antisemitism and use them as a tool to conveniently ignore people who disagree with me." Many fell back on the old chestnut that "anti-Zionism isn't antisemitism." (It isn't, but blathering about "Zionist control of the media" or "Zionists did 9/11" is very clearly an antisemitic dogwhistle. Regurgitating antisemitic rhe…

Data is Wondrous

I don't know where to begin with this, but I'll try: I am weirdly passionate about graphs. The idea that you can order numbers in space and time, and make them make lines and curves that tell you things, is simple - you're probably used to making graphs (and possibly heartily sick of them). It's so simple that I think we forget how powerful graphs are, that they take millions of experiences and put them in a form we can understand more intuitively.

I'm going to put forward a proposal that will probably make most of you groan in frustration: graphs should inspire people.

Okay, when I write it that way, that just sounds confusing. Inspirational quotes are one thing, but what the hell is an inspirational graph?!

I can't really answer my own question, unfortunately, except to say that an inspirational graph moves you on an emotional level. It reminds you of something beyond the graph, or makes you feel like you had an epiphany, or gives you some quiet satisfaction.