Arizona SB 1062 Postmortem: President Obama’s Silence

Political bloggers and pundits have been talking for a few days about the fact that President Obama hasn’t publicly spoken out against Arizona SB 1062, even as others on the national political did. Both Senators John McCain and Jeff Flake spoke against the bill. Even Mitt Romney is on the record calling for a veto. But not Obama.

If you’ll allow me to be cynical for a while (and you really should, because it’s part of the title of this blog), I think this is reflective of an understanding of the heat Obama’s presence brings to any particular issue. Republicans might be fragmented and on the verge of splitting into two (or even three!) different parties, they might be realizing that hardline religious conservatism is a bad marriage for fiscal conservatism, but damn it, if there’s one thing that can bring those crazy kids back together, it’s how much they hate Obama and his progressive-fascist-socialist-liberal-anarchist-whatever-ist agenda.

If Obama made a comment on this issue, I think it’s a safe bet that Republicans would bunker down together and tell Washington “stay the eff out of our business” and promptly pass the bill into law. Would Jan Brewer, who was the last line of defense against this bill and is pretty famous for not really getting along with the President, have bunkered down with the rest of her party if the President had tried to tell her what to do?

Considering how the current Republican strategy is exactly that (do the opposite of everything the President wants to do), I think it’s likely.

It’s not like Obama needed to weigh in on SB 1062. His base isn’t going to start wondering, hey, does the President dislike gays? We know he’s our guy on this.

I think Democrats have realized the aggro effect Obama has on Republicans and hopefully this silence on 1062 indicates that they’ve realized how to weaponize it. Silence from the President denied the Republican party its one source of glue which allowed the fractures to widen; fractures which allowed Brewer to veto the bill without expending too much political capital within her own base.

Those fractures are turning into a canyon (Arizona metaphor alert!) and Brewer has one foot on either side on that canyon. Pretty soon she’ll need to jump to one side or the other, but that’s an issue for another day. Right now, what matters is that the President didn’t say anything and that kept the Republicans from building a bridge over their own chasm.

It’s fairly shrewd of Obama’s administration if that’s what they’re doing, even if it’s also depressing to consider how much it illustrates the level of dysfunction that’s going on if it’s better that the President didn’t get involved in this issue. Ah well. The bill is dead and that’s what matters.

Arizona SB 1062 Is Dead But Arizona HB 2379 Is Very Much Alive

Arizona SB 1062 is dead and that is a very, very good thing for everyone, both in Arizona and the other states in the Union who were considering their own versions of this bill. It’s even good for the people who were supporting the bill, although they’ll never admit it.

But although the “Gays Stay Away” bill is dead on arrival, the other piece of legislation that has my ire raised is still very much alive. Despite reports to the contrary, Arizona HB 2379 is still very much alive.

The Arizona Daily Star reported that:

A major change to House Bill 2379, written by Rep. Justin Olson, removes language limiting how much the secondary property taxes levied by county free library, county jail and public-health-service districts can be increased.

A strike everything amendment, passed by the House Ways and Means Committee, replaces the original text with new language requiring the taxing entity to annually disclose tax-rate information.

County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry said the bill has essentially been neutralized and the county does not oppose the current version of the bill.

On the one hand, hooray for us, we get to keep our libraries, the state government doesn’t get to arbitrarily tell us what to do with our communities and I get to keep my job for at least another year. But to celebrate in the streets à la the protesters of SB 1062? Not so fast.

This is where an understanding of language in politics comes in handy. Politicians choose words very carefully and words don’t always mean the same thing in a political context as they do in others. Sure, “neutralized” might mean “killed” in a military context, but in a political one, it means exactly what it says; the bill is neutral now. It’s not moving forward . . . but it’s also not dead. It’s “gutted” . . . but a gutted beast can recover. It can still inflict harm.

Neutralized is a good thing, but it’s not a great thing for fans of public libraries in Arizona.

Maya Castillo, president of SEIU Arizona had this to say about the neutralization in a Facebook post:

HB 2379, despite Joe’s [Arizona Daily Star] article, is not dead. The striker does gut it to an extent. But I hate this striker too! Why? First, there shouldn’t be any additional restrictions on how library increases happen. It’s our money and any additional requirements are designed to hinder increases– we shouldn’t be hindered, especially when it comes to our library.

Second, it’s a legislative trap. So here’s what happens: we choose through our elected to raise the rate 3%, have public hearings, etc. The next year we do the same but say 4%. Year three, the state leg[sic] comes back and says “See! We told you they needed more oversight! 7% in two years?!” And then we’re back where we started!

Consider the fact that Justin Olson, the sponsor of this bill, has been trying to pass a version of this legislation since 2009. Consider that it seems like Republicans were trying to fast track this bill before anyone could raise an outcry. With that in mind, I don’t think that anything short of a resounding defeat in the state House or state Senate or a veto from the Governor will fully kill this odious bit of legislation.

There’s some lobbying muscle behind this bill and I doubt we’ve seen the last of it. I’d rather not have to worry about half the libraries in Pima County suddenly vanishing every single year and I don’t think members of the public (who have been overwhelmingly supportive of us) want that, either.

I hope the momentum keeps up against this bill. We saw the power of political pressure against SB 1062. Hopefully that power will kill HB 2379. If not, the library’s collective neck will certainly come up on the chopping block again, perhaps even from the next version of the same bill.

HB 2379 isn’t dead. Until it is, it’s too early to let our guard down.

Should Rowling Stop Writing? Spoiler: NO

A writer named Lynn Sheperd has committed the cardinal sin of speaking out against one of the gods of writing: J. K. Rowling. Even more shocking, Shepherd did it in public, where other people could hear (or read) her!

Audible gasp!

The rules of talking about the gods of writing have always been thus; if you’re a writer, you CAN criticize the gods of writing, but only if you are also a god of writing. Thus, Stephen King can talk trash about Rowling (although he’s on the record as generally loving her). James Patterson can talk trash about Stephen King (although actually it’s the other way around).

Here’s Shepherd’s reasoning for why Rowling needs to stop after unleashing the Casual Vacancy and the Cuckoo’s Calling on the publishing world:

It wasn’t just that the hype was drearily excessive, or that (by all accounts) the novel was no masterpiece and yet sold by the hundredweight, it was the way it crowded out everything else, however good, however worthwhile. That book sucked the oxygen from the entire publishing and reading atmosphere. And I chose that analogy quite deliberately, because I think that sort of monopoly can make it next to impossible for anything else to survive, let alone thrive. Publishing a book is hard enough at the best of times, especially in an industry already far too fixated with Big Names and Sure Things, but what can an ordinary author do, up against such a Golgomath.

I believe that I understand what Shepherd is talking about, if only because I remember the seething jealousy I used to feel when I was getting into writing myself.

It wasn’t just about comparing myself to every other person I met who told me “I’m a writer” or “I’m working on a novel” or whatever; comparison was part of it, the worry that their writing was better than mine. It was a competitive sort of hate, a feeling that every time one of my fellow neophytes managed to score a publishing deal, they weren’t just succeeding on their own merits. No, my seething jealousy was due to the fact that I believed they were sucking up publishing contracts that were rightfully mine.

Never mind the fact that I wasn’t submitting my work to the same market or the same agent or the same publisher. In my logic (and I use that word loosely), there were a finite number of book publishing deals in the world and every time someone else succeeded, it made my own chances go down. Even though it’s technically true that there are only a finite number of publishing deals in the world, my reasoning is still flawed and I was silly to have believed such a thing.

Fortunately, I’ve gotten over this particular mental peculiarity as I’ve gotten older.

Shepherd feels that writers like Rowling “suck the oxygen out of the room” via the sheer impact Rowling’s work makes when it arrives on the scene. Any other poor book that’s out there at the same time is capsized by the waves made as Rowling’s gorilla jumps into the pool. And maybe this is true for those books published right around any of the behemoths unleashed by the gods of writing.

On the other hand, do we want to see a publishing world without the gods of writing? Rowling might not be good for those first-time authors trying to get noticed, but she is DAMN good for the health of the publishing industry as a whole. Names that get people to remember why they like books and why they like to buy books are names that get people into the stores or onto Amazon or whatever. Simply put, without Rowling (and those like her), publishing as a whole suffers.

The general public has a notoriously fickle attention span and I don’t think a publishing world filled with nothing but scrappy up-and-comers is going to be enough to remind the consumer why he or she likes to buy books. The best case scenario is when the consumer heads to the bookstore (or the library!) for the new Rowling (or Patterson or King) and picks up the new title by their favorite and also decides, “hey, this other book looks interesting” and adds it to their stack.

I used to do this all the time as a kind when I’d roll into the bookstore with my $50 gift card.

I don’t actually agree with Shepherd that Rowling is bad for new writers. I happen to believe that evolutionary pressure applies to writers and their work, and if you’re writing into a market dominated by gods, that inspires you to dig deep and create the very best book you can manage. But even if Rowling is bad for first-time writers, she’s good for the health of publishing as a whole. I’ll happily deal with a turbulent month of sales (or even a torpedo in my own book deal, whenever that finally happens) if it means one of the gods is out there reminding people while it’s still cool to buy books.

And Now For Some Good News

Nope, nothing good yet on the “politics of Arizona” front. Our state legislature is still bigoted, removed from the actual desires of its constituents, and dominated by fringe elements. But there’s good news on other fronts!

There’s going to be a new FarScape movie! FarScape was one of my favorite shows of all time, so this is very exciting news for me. It’s nice to be able to return to one of my favorite sci-fi universes, especially since a new anything for Firefly seems more and more remote with each passing year. But new FarScape? That’ll soothe my fandom wounds nicely.

For A Moment, I Was Worried

Thank God, you guys. Thank God. For a minute, I was worried that Kansas, of all places, was going to eclipse Arizona in vying for the coveted “most bigoted state in the Union” award. I mean, we’ve got a reputation, you know? We’ve got Sheriff Joe and tent cities and pink underwear. Remember SB 1070? That was us! We can’t let some glorified cornfield best us in trying to single out people that don’t fit a narrow definition of what constitutes a “proper person.”

(Straight and white and preferably male, if you were wondering what defines a “proper person” in these states, but we’re willing to slide on the third one… sometimes. Depends on a lot of mitigating factors.)

Fortunately, our state government is taking steps to make sure that Kansas doesn’t surge ahead in the discriminatory law race. We’ve got our own version of the “refuse service to gays for, like, religion and stuff” law in the works.

Thank God. I mean, can you imagine having to do business with somebody who you disagreed with? What if somebody came into YOUR business and asked you to engage in commerce even though they were clearly living their lives in a way that that was offensive to your sensibilities and maybe even morally bankrupt according to your deeply held beliefs? Can you imagine the horror? It’s unthinkable!

After all, it’s not like customer service is about dealing with people and helping them even when you don’t like them or agree with them on things and even though they bother you a lot and-

Oh wait.


Guys. You guys. I forgot something really importantI feel so stupid. It’s this rule I learned somewhere about business and capitalism and how to make money and all that jazz. It’s like, Rule number one of business, or something.

As business owner/service provider/whatever, I want your money and I will do whatever I can to get your money as long as those ways are in accordance with the law because that’s how I stay in business.

Even more astoundingly, it turns out gay money spends just as well as straight money! In fact, interest rates and inflation rates and all the other rates are exactly the same! I HAD NO IDEA. I don’t even think banks or the IRS can tell the difference between gay money and straight money.

I think I might have to rethink my entire position on this issue.

If You’ve Ever Wanted To Feel Like Iron Man

Think about how much stuff Tony Stark needs in order to be Iron Man. He needs to have access to the different suits of armor in different places. He needs all the different pieces and the infrastructure to service those pieces. It takes a lot of work to be Iron Man, far moreso than it does to be Superman or Spider-Man, both of whom just have to worry about someone seeing them while they’re doing the laundry.

If you’d like to get an idea of the logistics that Tony Stark would have to go through each day (assuming he wasn’t a fictional character, of course), consider riding a motorcycle as your primary means of transportation.

The logistical consideration that goes into this process is rather intricate. I have to plan out which pieces of gear I’m going to need, where I can store it if I don’t need it at that moment, and how I’m going to carry it all. Here’s what a typical day looks like:

  1. Since I started wearing riding boots and armored pants, I need to bring a pair of jeans and comfortable shoes with me to work. Into the backpack they go, with the shoes wrapped in a plastic bag so they don’t get anything else dirty.
  2. I wear a smoke-tinted visor for the morning ride, but it’s still a little too dark by the time I leave in the evening, so I pack the clear visor and swap them out for the ride home.
  3. Since it’s still chilly out in the mornings (that 85+ mph freeway commute doesn’t help), I wear an extra layer over my riding pants. They’re snowboarding pants, which are great for being wind resistance, warm, and waterproof, but they’re bulky as hell and don’t provide any protection so I can’t wear them in lieu of riding pants.
  4. The wind chill also means wearing something under my riding jacket. Since I bought my jacket used and the guy had lost the warm insert lining, this ends up being a hoodie on chilly days (and on really cold days, a snowboarding jacket).
  5. What about gloves? I actually have three different pairs of gloves and can layer them in different ways, depending on the level of windchill. These are actually the least space-consuming part of my gear, since I can shove the unused gloves in my backpack’s external mesh net.
  6. Here’s where things get tricky: this setup works for the morning ride, when it’s about 40 degrees before factoring in windchill. But on the ride home in the evening, it’s too hot to wear the warm layers. So now the hoodie and the warm pants have to get crammed into my backpack along with the shoes, the jeans, the unused visor . . . and, you know, whatever things I might have needed to take to work with me that day, like my laptop or books or whatever.
  7. As a fun aside, I tried wearing the warm layers home once in the afternoon even though it was 80 degrees. I nearly passed out after an extended pause at a long stoplight.

That’s a brief look at how I’m handling the logistical side of clothing now that I’m living life on two wheels 100% of the time. I’m considering buying an extra pair of shoes just to leave at work so I don’t have to haul my sneakers back and forth every day.

One thing that’s nice is that the amount of gear I need to be able to haul in my pack is very temporary. In cold months, I wear my warm layers both to and from work and in the summer, I don’t need the warm layers at all. It’s only this weird time of year when we have chilly mornings and hot afternoons that I have to work around the space considerations. The longer summer days will also remove the need to swap visors, making that one less piece I need to carry.

So, yes, there’s a lot of gear and logistics that go into motorcycle commuting, especially if all the gear, all the time is your MO. I could make things easier on myself by not bothering with so much gear, but then I run the risk of one day knowing exactly what cheese feels like after meeting a cheese grater should I go down without that stuff. So I’ll keep wearing it and just work through the logistics with a smile, because the alternative is cheese graters except on my legs and feet. Yeah, no.

Finishing Books After I’ve Decided I Dislike Them

If you take a look at my Goodreads page, you’ll notice that I’ve had a book on my “currently reading” list that I started in December. It’s not a particularly long book, so it really shouldn’t have taken me this long to finish it. Except that it’s not very good and I’m not really enjoying myself. I’ll save the particular reasons for my review; that’s a thing I’ve started doing since several people informed me that they were actually interested in what I thought about particular books, instead of just the star rating. Imagine that! To be honest, I’m still trying to get used to the idea that people pay attention to the things I do here. I know I’m posting in a public space, but for the most part, I still tend to assume that I’m talking to myself.

Anyway, back to the books.

I try not to abandon a book once I’ve started reading it, even if it’s bad. Of course, I don’t always hold myself to this ideal and there are several books that I’ve abandoned over the years. But they are decidedly in the minority and even if a book isn’t very good or even just overwhelmingly mediocre, once I start, I feel compelled to finish. I’m not sure why this is. Is it due to some sort of feeling of professional responsibility to other authors? “You wrote this thing, so the least I can do is give you the courtesy of reading it all the way through before I render my judgement?”

Maybe it’s just stubbornness? Or some sort of weird OCD compulsion that only manifests in reading tendencies? I’m certainly not OCD in any other aspect of my life. The current state of my apartment can attest to that.

Regardless, I’ve books on my reading stack that I really want to get to, but I feel compelled to finish the ones that I began first. Even if I put them off for several months in the process, it seems. I wonder if anybody else does this?

This Is The Advice I Wish I Could Give

But cannot, because being professional in a professional customer service related position means keeping my mouth shut and my opinions to myself, even when asked. Especially when asked.

But if there was one thing I could say to customers in the hopes of bettering their lives and improving their social skills, it would be this:

I understand that you did not vote for Barack Obama in 2008 or 2012. I understand that you disagree with his policies and his political directions. However, picking up a children’s biography of the current president and flipping through it while making sarcastic and racist remarks does not make you seem interesting, cool, or learned. You do, in fact, sound like an ignorant moron for pointing out all the “lies” in a children’s book in which the signature factoid is that the President’s dog is named Bo.

I didn’t do this in 2007 when George W. Bush was president, despite how much I disliked him and how little I thought of his presidency.

Seriously, stop it. It makes me want to throw a book at you.

In fact, don’t try to discuss politics at all with someone who is working, because the fact that they are working means they are hamstrung in how they can respond.

I think this nugget of wisdom would make the world a better place for everyone.

A Not-So-Live Post From The Not-So-Wilderness

This post is being typed in offline mode. It’s Sunday, February 9. I’m sitting on a cold bench in a little campsite just outside of Payton, Arizona. There’s a fire going beside me and the sun is setting; already, the light has gone from “hey, it’s getting dark” to “the only light source is your laptop!”

Hilariously, although I don’t have Internet access out here, I do have three bars and my 3G connection on my phone. This is an unusual luxury for me since normally I tend to operate in areas where the cell coverage is best defined as “hell, no.” We’re not really in the wilderness here, though. The main road into town is about twenty feet from my tent and there’s a Wal-mart less than two miles from here. I know it’s two miles because we stopped there to get those enviro-logs for the campfire.

Like I said, this is a little bit different than what I’m used to. Having a laptop along is another difference, if you were wondering. Fortunately, the laptop is running on battery power. If I was able to plug this thing in, I think that’s the point in which I’d call it quits and just go stay at the nearby best Western.

My phone insists that the temperature is still 57 degrees. It certainly doesn’t feel like 57 degrees at this point. I can see my breath when I exhale and I’m wearing all my layers. The forecast calls for 37 degrees as the low tonight. That will be fun. I’m not overly worried; I’ve done winter camping before, with varying degrees of success. My sleeping bag is rated to 10 degrees. I’ll be fine.

A coyote just howled from somewhere off to my right. Pretty cool.

Does it sound like I’m miserable? That I’m questioning why I’m sitting here in the dark, illuminated only by the glow of a laptop screen, with a Best Western a scant two miles down the road? I’m not miserable. The truth is, I love this stuff.

I love being outside. I love the funny little ways that nature and technology intersect and dance around each other like middle schoolers at the spring dance. No wireless, no electricity, but you still have Internet access! And you have coyotes. The park bulletin board said there were bears in the area. Bears tend to not make much noise, though.

All I really want is for my phone to admit that it’s not the brisk 59 degrees that it currently claims. It’s also not “mostly sunny,” since the sun has already gone down in this part of the world.

In some ways, camping so close to a town is an unusual experience for me. I’m virtually always either backpacking to some remote destination in the mountains or camping in some site that’s three hours away from a town. Having civilization nearby is strange. I’m not sure if it’s comforting to have that as an escape route (if the camping is miserable, there’s a hotel nearby!) or ends up making me feel more forlorn. Hard to say.

I can’t say I’ll post this when I get back to civilization, since we haven’t really left. It would be more accurate to say that I’ll post when I have an Internet connection again. It’s funny; compared to the shoddy WiFi we had at last night’s cheap motel, I think I prefer having no internet access at all. Because at least then, it doesn’t get my hopes up before half loading a page and then crashing. Maybe not, though. We’ll see how I feel when I’m bored in my tent in a few hours and I can’t get Facebook to load.

Oh wait, my smartphone still works. I think I’m going to be fine.

Signing off now from the not-so-wild wilderness.

Another Look At Myers-Briggs And RPG Classes

Back in October, I wrote a post in which I attempted to correlate different RPG classes with the various Myers-Briggs types. After some discussion in the comments, I decided that it was far too limiting to essentially argue that “all paladins are ENFP or all wizards are INTJ.” Even accounting for the variation within a particular type, it’s still too limiting, especially since one’s RPG class is really more like one’s fantasy career choice than a reflection of personality.

Nevertheless, likely due to some sort of accidental search engine optimization, that post continues to be the largest source of traffic for my site, bringing in a few hundred new viewers each week. Clearly, it’s a topic that people are interested in.

If it’s too restrictive in scope to say that one type correlates to each class, would it be possible to note larger trends? Keirsey considers the second letter continuum (S/N) to be the most important of the four, given that one’s preference for Sensing or iNtuition is what determines whether one is a Guardian (SJ), Artisan (SP), Idealist (NF), or Rational (NT). Thus, the S/N preference is that largest separating factor, at least according to Keirsey.

There are a few other differences but these two are the most relevant for the discussion of type as it relates to roleplaying.

In most fantasy roleplaying games, the largest divide between characters tends to be along the lines of whether or not the character has magical powers. Wizards, sorcerers, clerics, druids, etc. all have magic of various kinds while fighters, rogues, monks, etc. rely on physical ability. There are a few character classes that overlap, like paladins and rangers who are primarily martial characters but posses magical powers. This varies by setting and system, of course.

The question I’d like to pose is whether or not it makes sense to divide character classes along the S/N continuum. Does a preference for intuition indicate that intuitive types are natural magic-users?

Here is how Myers characterizes the preference for Sensing:

Individuals who prefer sensing are more likely to trust information that is in the present, tangible, and concrete: that is, information that can be understood by the five senses. They tend to distrust hunches, which seem to come “out of nowhere”. They prefer to look for details and facts. For them, the meaning is in the data.

Here is how Myers describes the preference for Intuition:

Those who prefer intuition tend to trust information that is more abstract or theoretical, that can be associated with other information (either remembered or discovered by seeking a wider context or pattern). They may be more interested in future possibilities. For them, the meaning is in the underlying theory and principles which are manifested in the data.

On the one hand, magic seems like the sort of thing that would make sense to someone with a natural inclination towards the abstract and the theoretical. Magic is abstract by its very nature . . . except when it isn’t. D&D shows this divide when it comes to the two primary arcane magic-users. The wizard approaches magic in a logical, rules-based way; spells are learned from books and cast through performing the proper incantations. Sorcerers, on the other hand, derive their magic from their own selves, whether through latent power in their blood or through inspiration or intuition or whatever other means. In other words, one could argue that wizards are Sensors while sorcerers are iNtuitives.

And that’s just between two arcane characters. What about somebody like the D&D druid? In Third Edition, the druid is a spellcaster, but instead of using arcane magic, they use divine magic like a cleric, but unlike the cleric (who draws that magic from a deity), the druid derives power from the natural world (which might be what led to the creation of primal magic in Fourth Edition). Regardless, the druid is a nature mage. But is nature-mage the preference of a Sensor or iNtuitive? Concrete or abstract?

What do you think? Does intuitive seem a characteristic for spellcasting character classes? Or do the different discrepancies and conflicts prove that it’s too varied to say for certain, and that mages are just like everybody else; some are intuitive, some are sensory?