The Dragon of Rosemont High, ch. 9.

“Stars of the sky and spirits of the land, we call upon your aid.”

It’s nearly eleven by the time Eli gets to Zoe’s place, mostly care of him taking a good twenty minutes trying to figure out how to change back into a human. When he finally gets it, he’s surprised how . . . wrong the shape feels; too small and too fragile and too smooth. Widow Adeline just laughs at his discomfort, feeds him another plate of bacon and sausages, and sends him on his way.

Eli’s head is in such a spin by the time he’s standing at Zoe’s front door that he’s almost forgotten why he’s supposed to be here. His eyes keep drifting to the sky, at the blue peeking between silver clouds. He could be up there, right now. Just him and the wind. It’s a strange thought; makes him feel restless and uneasy.

The Chungs are not early risers, so Eli gets offered breakfast for the third time. Mr. Chung is making crepes, stuffed with mascarpone and berry compote and smothered with maple syrup. Eli loves Mr. Chung’s crepes, except today something about the smell of the syrup and berries makes his stomach turn. He tries one anyway, minus the syrup; the crepe is like eating paper and the berries are so sweet it makes his teeth hurt. The mascarpone tastes okay, so he eats as much as he can, then pushes away the rest with a muttered apology about having already eaten.

“Your loss!” Zoe announces, and promptly devours everything he didn’t.

Today, Zoe is in her Supernatural outfit; a cute black dress and little blue tie underneath a long tan duster. Her earrings are two little black feathers, which Eli finds somewhat ironic when he pulls the tattered peryton feather from his satchel.

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2019-02-19T17:41:58+00:0019th February, 2019|Tags: books, DRAGON OF ROSEMONT HIGH|

Unchallenging action.

I said to [Bill Clinton], “Mr. President, this seems as clear a case to me as any could be of a place where government is a legitimate actor. I’m not sure why you need to work with the soft drink companies to make smaller cans. You have products that have no redeeming nutritional value for children. […] You have children who cannot vote and cannot easily organize to thwart the power of these products, which have addictive qualities. This seems as clear a case for using political action and collective action.”

He said, “No, that doesn’t really work because you gotta make sure the companies have a business model. If you don’t help them continue making money after you fix this, it’s not gonna work.” I just thought that was such an astonishing moment. A man who had actually run the most powerful machinery of state in human history saying, “No, we can’t use that machinery of state to protect children from harmful products. We have to make sure the companies have a business model on the other side.” Part of what I’m trying to interrogate in the book is: When did many of us start to believe that social change must be congenial to those profiting from the status quo?

Anand Giridharadas on the status quo.

2018-09-06T08:44:51+00:0019th February, 2019|Tags: culture, economics, politics|

Unintended consequences.

I wrote the law that allows sites to be unfettered free speech marketplaces. I wrote that same law, Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, to provide vital protections to sites that didn’t want to host the most unsavory forms of expression. The goal was to protect the unique ability of the internet to be the proverbial marketplace of ideas while ensuring that mainstream sites could reflect the ethics of society as a whole.

In general, this has been a success — with one glaring exception. I never expected that internet CEOs would fail to understand one simple principle: that an individual endorsing (or denying) the extermination of millions of people, or attacking the victims of horrific crimes or the parents of murdered children, is far more indecent than an individual posting pornography.

Ron Wyden (D-OR) on the horror he hath wrought.

More specifically, Section 230 is the portion of the Act that explicitly states social media platforms (among others) are not publishers and therefore not liable for content posted by users to their sites.

Wyden’s point is that the whole “lulz freeze peach!” crowd is fundamentally wrong; freedom of expression on social media platforms is protected not by the constitution (i.e. the First Amendment), but by legislature. Which, of course, can be changed, limited, or revoked at any time. Without Section 230, everyone who’s ever been the target of, say, a Twitter hate mob could sue Twitter for facilitating it and that, fundamentally, the aggregate of all these lawsuits would put the company out of business.

It’s worth pointing out that Wyden thinks this would be a bad thing. YMMV.

2019-02-19T07:17:34+00:0019th February, 2019|Tags: culture, law, social media, tech|

Critical processing.

Up until recently, the average politician, the average citizen, didn’t have to be an information analyst, didn’t have to have critical information processing skills, because the information system for the most part did that on the front end. The consumer very rarely received raw information about the world outside of their own immediate sphere of observation.

Almost everything you knew about the greater world was filtered through information processing systems by experts.

That is no longer true in any fashion.

And yet, we operate as if it still is.

Jim Wright on information warfare.

2018-09-06T08:25:56+00:0017th February, 2019|Tags: culture, politics|

FuturePress.

On the future of WordPress.

I’ve used WordPress technically since before it was WordPress, and I’ve used it as my main blogging system since about 2006.1 I like WordPress, and I still think it’s a better blogging solution than like 99% of its alternatives.2 That being said, I feel it is noticeably…. lagging, in recent years. I suppose radical change is difficult when you power like thirty percent of the internet, but WordPress’s lack of adoption of more recent blog technologies—anything and everything from inline comments to ActivityStream—make it feel kinda… old. And Gutenberg…

Ugh.

Maybe it’s just that I’m starting to want something different than what WordPress fundamentally is. The platform is still great for, say, powering my job’s largely-static corporate website, whose primary purpose is to be basically a glossy web brochure that can be readily updated by people with no webdev skill. And WordPress is still great for, say, the CSFG, which runs a combination ecommerce/forum website. But for my own website, i.e. this one, right here, that I basically use as a hub to all my other online presences, crossposting and interfacing as appropriate…?

I won’t lie: I’ve thought, more than once, about going back to something self-created.

Maybe. If there’s time…

  1. Before that, I used a spaghetti-coded homebrew abortion I’d taught myself to program on in circa 2001. ^
  2. Don’t even get me started on Medium… ^
2018-11-26T08:22:22+00:0017th February, 2019|Tags: blogging, tech, wordpress|

The contrarian.

Leftists, [Natalie Wynn] warns, are in danger of “entombing ourselves in this paranoid world of purity,” impenetrable to those whose past moral failings were even remotely public — a rapidly expanding population in a world dominated by social media. “How was I able to become a leftist figure on the internet? Well, only because I was nobody.” […Nonetheless, she] notes a chronic anxiety among her fans and allies “that I am going to do a face-heel turn… that I’m going to basically go to the dark side and become a fascist or something.”

Katherine Cross interviews ContraPoints.

This is actually only a teeny tiny point from a much broader, and fascinating article, of which it’s worth reading all of.

2018-09-06T07:56:28+00:0016th February, 2019|Tags: culture|

The Dragon of Rosemont High, ch. 8.

“Concentrate on yourself; how you are, how you should be.”

The next morning, when Eli arrives at the mansion at the top of Rosemont Heights, Widow Adeline is waiting for him with a lawnmower.

“You’re late,” she says, peering down at an diamond-encrusted gold pocket watch.

Eli looks at his own watch. “I’m two minutes early!” 6:58am on a Saturday. Eli hadn’t even know this time existed.

“By my watch, you are late.”

Eli splutters at the indignity. His watch gets time from his phone, which in turn gets time from wherever it is that phones get the time from. Point being, a place more accurate than Widow Adeline’s fingers can wind. Before he can figure out how to explain this, Adeline waves towards the lawnmower.

“Well,” she says. “Get on with it. The grass will not cut itself.”

Eli looks between Widow Adeline and the lawnmower. The thing must be older than he is, lurking, rust-covered and vicious, in the grass. “I thought you were going to teach me to be a dragon!” It sounds kind of stupid, now that he says it out loud.

It also earns him a scowl and a tsch sort of noise. “Discretion, boy,” Adeline scolds. “But, yes. That was the arrangement. This is your first lesson.”

“To cut grass?”

“Yes.”

“Which is teaching me what?”

“Well,” is the answer, smirk curling blood-red lips. “You’ll have the entire time you’re doing it to work that out.”

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2019-02-15T16:53:51+00:0015th February, 2019|Tags: books, DRAGON OF ROSEMONT HIGH|