Ask the Boffin

Photo portrait.  We got his good side.  "Cuff Hill logan stone 2" by Rosser (talk) - I created this work entirely by myself. Roger Griffith.
Photo portrait of The Boffin. We got his good side. “Cuff Hill logan stone 2” by Rosser (talk) – I created this work entirely by myself. Roger Griffith.

I am adding a new feature to the blog.  Every so often, The Boffin will answer some of your questions.  Do you want to know why he came here?  Are you curious about how Margaret Thatcher ruined his life?  He will tell you.  All you have to do is ask.

He also loves giving advice, and some of it may actually be useful.  But don’t ask me to guarantee the results.

The only way that can happen is if you submit the questions in the first place.  So how do you get a hold of him?  E-mail him at theboffin@thisbritishamericanlife.com.  You can also go to the Contact page too.

I can’t wait to see how this experiment turns out.

We Are All Journalists

Media is defined as a means of mass communication.  If we use social media, by the inherited definition of media, we are journalists.  We just don’t get paid for it.  And if that is the case, we have to be held personally accountable for what we post.  So if we are to be held accountable for what we post, we have to check for factual errors, shouldn’t we?  Now I am not referring to libel or any murky waters of the legal world.  It’s more of a self-regulation.  Thinking before we post.

It’s so easy to fall into the trap of “I’ll post this article/meme/rant because I agree with the conclusion” without seeing all the flawed thinking behind it.  For example, I have this blog post that appeared on my Facebook feed written by a woman named Marcella Piper-Terry, founder of VaxTruth.org, all about her declaration of independence from government tyranny after California enacted a law requiring specific vaccinations for children (with medical exemptions) enrolling in public school.  My main point is not to argue with Ms. Piper-Terry’s anti-vaccination stance.  It’s the way she makes her argument.  If you read her post, she admits that she is a poor student of American history, and then she goes on to Google bits of it to co-opt major figures of our past in inaccurate and inflammatory ways to support her point of view about how our civil liberties are being crushed.  Instead of putting out a cohesive, thoughtful argument, she is playing on our emotions and using the same tactics that the politicians that she criticizes use to manipulate the public.  And you know what that is called?  Propaganda.  It’s hypocrisy writ large.

Or, let’s get to my bugbear…crappy, ill-conceived memes.

fingerobama

I hardly had to scroll to find this one when I Googled “Obama meme”.  Regardless of how you feel about President Obama, in what way is any of this true, and is this any way to write about our president?  Like he has this much power over the United States’s economy.  Right.  Where’s the proof of this monetary catastrophe to this ill-mannered child?  There is no satire or important points made either.  So, how does this meme add to the national dialogue in any way?  Of course, we all know that it doesn’t.  So the amateur journalists are really falling down on the job on this one, big time.  If I were their editor, their tuchuses would have been pinkslipped ages ago.  And maybe even the rest of their bodies.

Now I am an advocate of 1st Amendment, but can’t we make more of an effort to not propagate the waste, so we can get to what is worth reading a little more easily?  Is that too much to ask?  No one is expecting hours of research behind every little thing that comes across everyone’s screen.  However, all of us who read these things have the responsibility to stop posts and other useless bits like these in their tracks instead of passing them on.  Is it so hard to stop and question the validity of what we are seeing?  I know I have hit the forward and share buttons and then exclaimed, “Aw shit, it was a hoax.”  But that is when I go back and correct my mistakes when I do get the facts.  Now I am a lot more careful with what I do share.

Casting a critical eye on the information you take in, even in the face of what you believe is right, is an essential skill to have in a world where the reality is in shades of gray.  It’s not the easiest way to live, but it makes you more adaptable to the flux that modern life brings.

Maybe we have to start a “Think Before You Click” campaign?

Much ado ablaut shitting

Strong Language is a blog that help you rationalize your filthy mouth because it adds an intellectual bent to it. If you want to dig deeper in the history and the hows and whys of the art of swearing, this is the place to go. Enjoy!

Strong Language

pile-of-poo

Shit has been with us an awfully long time—it appears in Old English as scitan—yet we can’t seem to agree on the past tense of the verb. Is it shit? Shat? Shitted?

My theory for why we haven’t settled this issue has partly to do with its ‑it ending, which, based on similar verbs in English, can get pulled in several different directions as we try to derive a past form. And because shit is vulgar, we generally use it less often than other verbs ending in ‑it.

Screen Shot 2015-07-07 at 11.11.02 AM Not exhaustive, obviously, but an example showing the relative frequency of English verbs that SHIT might emulate.

So rather than having a past tense at the ready, maybe we build it on the go, by analogy:

View original post 691 more words

Who’s Easily Offended?

You are just easily offended.

When did this get to be a legitimate “get out of an argument” card?

The more I am in this writing and blogging world, the more I am making comments on other sites.  The more logical points I make, the more I am being tagged as easily offended.

Sometimes, all I have to do is post two sentences.  I can give you a recent example of this trend.  Every so often I read the blogs on ScaryMommy.com and found one citing reasons why you “should” have a second baby.  Yes, that was the word that was used in the title.  And I am only citing this article out of blog etiquette. It’s not worth reading. Trust me. Regardless, the author had the tone like she was an authority, and having a second child was exactly like trying a holiday in Ibiza or taking up Zumba.  I shared my thoughts, and two people named “s” and “Jennifer” shared theirs.

Screen Shot 2015-06-04 at 1.21.39 PM

Ladies and gentlemen, proof that we are still in high school no matter what age we are.  Did these two expect me to don black, curl up in the corner, and start playing my Cure cassettes again? Well, if we were in high school, I would have been tempted to put their panties up their cracks via an atomic wedgie. I must say, it’s nice to mellow with age and be on the other side of a monitor. Anyway, if you do go into the comments, I did gain some allies, but I really didn’t lose sleep over this exchange. After all, I wasn’t offended.

I am more like this when idiocy happens.
I am more like this when things go off the rail.

Annoyance is a better word to describe my feelings. All of these accusations of being thin-skinned is just another argument tactic to put the opposing party on the defensive without adding anything to the discussion. This is the equivalent of having a temper tantrum and yelling or just dismissing someone’s ideas as being “liberal” or “conservative” without taking in anyone’s points.  And as much fun as it is to call people on their weak tactics, it gets old because you want actual productive discussions with intelligent, mature people.

And we hear this all the time.  People are crybabies.  People are whiners.  People just complain and never do anything.  Our friends bitch about their kids.  Our siblings complain about their jobs.  Our parents bang on about whoever is running the government at the moment.  On top of it, I get that we are living in a hypersensitive age where there are plenty of talking heads out there shoving their opinions down our throats at every turn.  And we blow off steam too.  Glass houses and all that.  Sometimes free speech can be overrated.  Maybe we are too quick to take offense over every little thing.

I am wondering if we are just on such information overload that we are not picking up on the subtle nuances of language anymore.  Maybe we are at the point where some of us cannot filter out who is making the salient points and who is just complaining to complain.  In the blog post that I mentioned above, Those Who Gave Me Shit may not have picked up the author’s tone in her blog post for many reasons.  That I am able to understand.

When I talked to the Boffin about this, he had a different take on it.  He said the people who also deploy this tactic are the Hyacinth Buckets of the world.  If you are not familiar with the character, she is the protagonist of the British sitcom, Keeping Up Appearances.  Hyacinth is solidly middle class but aspires to be upper class.  She pronounces her last name as Bouquet.  She obsesses over her china and longs to get invites to the local elite’s parties.  But the worst thing about her is her tendency to railroad everyone around her to get them to do her bidding.  She is a bully to the core.  And the Internet is full of people like her who cannot empathize with others.  What works for me has to work for everyone else.  He certainly makes a case there.

However, that does not justify jumping out and playing the “you are butthurt” strategy.  Defend your own viewpoint.  Poke holes in the other’s person’s argument, but don’t poke holes in the other person.  If you are going to put in the effort to type, put in the effort to think too.

Not the Mama Blog

You would think that because I am a stay-at-home mom it would be natural for me to make this a mom blog. Now I have nothing against mom blogs. Lord knows, I read my fair share when the Sprog was little, and there were days when she decided that Torturing Mommy was the Best Game Ever!

That favorite yogurt you just bought 12 pots of? It's poison! I don't want it anymore!  Photo courtesy  of Wikimedia Commons
That favorite yogurt you just bought 12 pots of? It’s poison! I don’t want it anymore! Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Any words of solidarity were welcome and needed, and I came across a few that were well-written and relevant to my experiences.  Like anything on the Internet, it took a long time to find what I needed, and I had to weed through a lot of crap to get there.

So why am I not returning the favor? Lots of very good reasons actually…

  1. There are tons of mom blogs out there. Women love to write about their kids and their lives with their kids. It’s understandable because once you become a mother, it touches just about every facet of your life from how you arrange your career, how you manage your intimate relationships, how you eat, how you sleep, and even whether you go to the bathroom by yourself when your children are really young. (To those in the trenches, you do get to pee alone. It will happen. I promise.) I really do not need to contribute to that discussion when there are so many women in the mix already.
  2. I always wonder about the role of the spouses in these blogs.  In the poorly written ones, they show up like the goofy neighbor next door in sitcoms.  Perhaps, the writer is just casting the spouse that way for comic relief.  Maybe I am reading the wrong type of blogs here, but I would love to see more where the other spouse is more of an active and engaged parent, like the Boffin, instead of a bumbling fool.  I would love to be proven wrong here.
  3. There is a risk of overexposing the Sprog. I believe children are human beings who have a right to privacy. Just because they do something cute or noteworthy does not mean I need to snap a photo and plaster it all over the Internet. I feel I don’t have the right to tell my side of the story of a fight we had and not give her the forum to tell her side. Yes, I could portray every real struggle and triumph that I have as a mother on the blog, but to pretend that what I say does not effect my daughter is magical thinking at its finest. She may not understand it now, but she will be able to read it later and call me to the carpet.  And rightly so.  Until she is of the age where she can give the proper consent and a rebuttal, I will not give out the details of the inner workings of our relationship. It’s my own personal policy.
  4. The “my type of motherhood is better than your type motherhood” is a minefield I want avoid entirely. Breastfeeding vs. Bottle Feeding. Career vs. Staying-at-Home. One child vs. Two+. Boys vs. Girls. Homeschooling vs. Traditional Classrooms. Soccer vs. Morris Dancing.  No matter what you decide, there will be somebody there to judge or question your decisions. You can’t win with the public, and I don’t feel the need to justify why we do what we do with the Sprog.
  5. I would find writing about the Sprog to be boring. Don’t get me wrong. She is most beloved to the Boffin and me. She is a quite interesting topic of discussion to those closest to us. However…the subject of children can be quite tiresome after a while. We have all been there, and you just want to sedate the people who insist on sticking to the kid subject when there are a plethora of other topics out there. True story time:

I was at a friend’s house who was having a get-together with a bunch of moms in the Sprog’s class. The conversation was all about the kids for an hour at this point, and the current topic was half-day kindergarten. I was sincerely wondering if these women ever read a book or watched a movie.  Anyway, I decided to try to steer the conversation to something else.

“Well, the Sprog had full-day kindergarten when we lived in Massachusetts.”

Dullard Mom #1: “Really? In Massachusetts?”

Me: “Yes.” (Smiling and expecting questions about life in Massachusetts.)

Dullard Mom #2: “Oh.”

Dullard Mom#1 and #2 proceed to turn away from me and start talking about their kids’ diving class, leaving me to stare at the cake on my plate and question humanity.  Just because I am a mother does not mean that I find children infinitely fascinating.

I guess this touches on a grander theme. The Sprog is my kid and very important to me, but she isn’t my life. She is going to grow up and leave home and create a whole world separate from the Boffin and me. I better make damn sure that I am secure in my own identity, develop my own interests, and nurture my relationship with the Boffin and other adults.  And it may behoove the rest of us, ladies, to do the same, if we are not already.