Monday, October 30, 2006

How Many of Me? 

Hurray! Here is an utterly frivolous use for the (US) census!

I now know that I'm the first living person with my name to enter the country. A pioneer at last. That is, unless we're just census-avoiders...

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

NJ Equal Rights 

The New Jersey supreme court today ruled that the state legislature must introduce a bill giving gay couples equal rights with straight couples. This is great news.

However, they have not specified whether these rights should take the form of marriage or civil partnerships. Less good. Now three of the legislators - Assembly Speaker Pro Tem Wilfredo Caraballo, Assemblyman Brian Stack and Assemblyman Reed Gusciora - are putting forward a bill for full marriage equality. So we'll see what happens.

Here's this from a Garden State Equality communique:

"As the late Lt. Laurel Hester and too many other cases across New Jersey have shown, half-steps short of marriage -- like New Jersey's domestic-partnership law and also civil union laws -- don't work in the real world. Hospitals and other employers have told domestic-partnered couples across New Jersey: We don't care what the domestic partnership law says. You're not married.

That's why it wouldn't matter if the legislature added all the rights in the world to the current law without calling it marriage. Marriage is the only currency of commitment the real world universally understands and accepts."

So Garden State Equality will be running a commercial for the proposal, a rally of same-sex couples will be held tonight in Montclair, and many other events will be happening state-wide as the legislation gets discussed.

A poll has revealed that New-Jerseyans favour full marriage equality by 59-39 percent.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Nunc hic aut numquam... 

"The legend of Elvis Presley lives for ever, and it's of course very important to sing Elvis Presley's songs in the Latin language, because Latin is the eternal language"

The Finns go straight to the heart of things here.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Alternative Source Citations 

For the academics among you, there's no longer any excuse for not knowing how to cite body art, magic 8-balls and toilet graffiti. And if you were wondering how to cite wise words from your alien encounter, you can do that too.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Robot Sex: For The Ugly And Socially Awkward 

"To the ugly and socially awkward: How sad that you are so repulsive to
people around you that no one wants to be your friend or lifetime
companion. We won't make it up to you by being your friend or your marriage
partner--we have our own freedom of association to exercise--but you can
console yourself in your miserable loneliness by consuming these material
goods that we, the beautiful and charming ones, will provide. And who
knows? Maybe you won't be such a loser in love once potential dates see how
rich you are." - Elizabeth Anderson

This is the letter that Anderson imagines being written to those chosen for material compensation on some "luck egalitarian" schemes. (It is, incidentally, also my favourite single paragraph in any of the contemporary equality literature in political theory). She argues that their discussions of who should be compensated and how in an egalitarian society imply the kind of patronising mentality depicted here.

But how far is it from how people really think? Just replace "how rich you are" with "how much you've learnt courtesy of Robosex", and you get a sense of why David Levy thinks sex robots will be both popular and useful.

First, he makes great claims for what these robots will be able to do:

Scientists have already developed artificial skin sufficiently sensitive to distinguish between a gentle caress and firm pressure; and the complementary capability - an artificial finger that can apply sensuous strokes. There is also research into silicone-based and similar types of materials used in the RealDoll and rival products, materials that provide for the user a measure of simulation of coupling with a human sex partner. Then add one or more of the specifically sexual electronic technologies that are already available, such as those employed for the benefit of women in the Thrillhammer, the Sybian, or the hugely popular vibrators that pleasure so many millions of customers; or the male equivalents - vibrating penis rings. The combination of these technologies and others will enable robots to deliver sexually awesome experiences.

Then, knocking back claims that people wouldn't want to use them for embarrassment, he says "I hope and believe that one of the great benefits of sexual robots will be their ability to teach lovemaking skills, so that men who do feel inadequate will be able to take unlimited lessons".

But its real target market soon becomes clear:

...What I am convinced of is that robot sex will become the only sexual outlet for a few sectors of the population: the misfits, the very shy, the sexually inadequate and uneducable...

So there you go: robot sex will redeem the marginalised, teaching them new skills in order to gain re-entry into mainstream society, and consoling those who just can't learn with a "sexually awesome experience", human-contact-free!

Anderson follows on her imagined compensation letters with a question: "Could a self-respecting citizen fail to be insulted by such messages?" The case of robot sex, however, brings to light a perhaps unexpected response - "We might be insulted, but that doesn't mean we won't keep the free gift..."

Atlantic City 

A couple of weeks ago I took up an opportunity that was advertised to the graduates as "Trip to the Jersey shore!". Of course, I'd heard of Atlantic City, but since the place name wasn't included in the notice (maybe to get more people to come), I was picturing a nice day by the sea, with a book, and maybe some snarking at Germans colonising the beach. This being the gambling capital of the East coast, though, I was very wrong.

We arrived into the bus depot outside Caesar's casino and were given $17 to spend there. Naturally, most of the slot machines I found wouldn't accept under five dollars, so that money was gone pretty quickly, and after one good win of $50, I ended up $60 out of pocket. Not as bad as most who go there, I reckon, but not good with payday not for another week.

So, knowing I now had forty bucks to last me another week, I spent the rest of the day wandering around and seeing what the town had to offer other than gambling. The answer being "not a whole lot". The boardwalk, which runs the length of the beach between the sea and the casinos, is a nice promenade, with strange little boardwalk-buggy rides for hire every few paces. At least, it's a nice walk on the casino side, but if you go North a bit from Caesar's, you soon reach the other side, with 99 cent shops abounding, ferocious seagulls diving into near misses with your head, and everywhere signs saying "Cash for Gold", "Dinero por oro".

Having earlier passed expensive jewellery shops, I began to get a sense of a cycle to A.C. life, at least for its busloads of visitors. If you arrive in the morning, when most of the people in the casinos are pensioners and disabled war veterans, you can spend a lot of money and make a little back before lunch, smoking away in the one place left where it's legal now in Jersey. Then perhaps you feel guilty for leaving your partner at home, looking after those hungry kids, and buy her a bit of jewellery with your winnings.

For lunch, you grab a nice enough meal, before heading back in, losing what little you'd gained and deciding "if I could just have one more bet, I know I'd make that money back!" So away you go, getting your cash for gold on the nice necklace you bought earlier, and head back inside. Everything dies, though (baby, that's a fact), and with all your hope and money gone, you head back on the last bus, maybe stopping to grab a cheap hotdog and some 99 cent watch on the other side of the main drag before you go - "at least she'll see I bought her something..."

Okay, so maybe this little tale was something I thought up to pass the time while I was there, losing my own money, but A.C. may well be the most depressing town I've ever seen, and I've spent time in Medway, so that's saying something.

I ended up my day there sitting on the almost deserted black-grey beach, struggling to breathe the polluted air, and reading "Deliver Me From Nowhere" by Tennessee Jones, a collection of stories with titles from Springsteen's "Nebraska" album, including 'Atlantic City', the story of a couple who take everything they have from the bank in their home town, before going to the A.C., gambling it all away and throwing themselves off the pier. And that sounded about right.

The town sign should read "Welcome to Atlantic City, the fag end of the world".

Which Jane Austen Character Are You? 

Which Jane Austen Character Are You?

You are Eliza Bennett from Pride and Prejudice! Yay, you! Perhaps the brightest and best character in all of English literature, you are intelligent, lively, lovely-- in short, you are the best of company. Your only foibles are that you stick with your first impressions... and your family is quite intolerable.
Take this quiz!

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Well, clearly that's me... But I'm sure I'm much more intolerable than the rest of my family.
[Via Chris]

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