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Men Go Their Own Way?

Posted by Jean Valjean , in Wisdom Jan 31 2019 · 106 views
Feminism, MGTOW, male insecurity and 2 more...
:kaukau: For the last few years, I've had a certain perception of masculinity. Just before I sat down to write something, I noticed that someone had carved into the public desk I was using a rather rude way of saying, "Earn lots of money and get girls." This struck me as peculiar. Since when was a man's masculinity dependent upon picking up girls? Why should men obsessed with masculine things find so much value in mingling with some"thing" so fundamentally opposed to their masculine pursuits?

Sometimes a video pops up on my feed on Youtube by a pickup artist or dating coach. Some of them are sleazier than others, and I give credit to the ones who I don't find outright chauvinistic. However, it strikes me as curious that so many men are insecure about their ability to attract members of the opposite sex. After a while, it becomes rather toxic and unattractive, especially when all other subjects of interest to them mirror their own masculine nature.

It would be different if a man wanted to start a relationship and if his concern wasn't ultimately selfish. But so long as you're going to be selfish and only care about living the high life, I'd imagine that having girls would be a drag. They would surely hold such men back from their natural wont, and obsessing over them makes a man look rather feminine himself. Okay, I suppose that it socially validates you, and that validation might get you other things that you want, but in a life of purely material pursuit, I don't see the appeal of attaining women in and of itself.

About a year ago, I discovered insecure men of a different stripe on Youtube when I stumbled upon the hashtag MGTOW. It was on a video where a woman described herself as a classical feminist but not a contemporary feminist. You'd think that she would gain a lot of support from the many men who are reactionaries to today's feminism, but those reactionaries disliked her, too, because they knew that she would only marry a man who could be a breadwinner, and they deemed this against their economic interests and offensive to their demographic. Hence, MGTOW, "Men Go Their Own Way."

In some ways, I have more respect for people who insist that men go their own way than men who just want to treat women as a luxury item. Both groups are looking for lives of luxury, and both want those luxuries to share their masculine personality. At least one of those groups knows that one such "luxury" doesn't march in step with their masculinity.

Really, though, both of these outlooks are ridiculous. Men, don't focus on whether or not you have girls. It shouldn't matter. You should look after your own holistic health, and share that health with others when it's appropriate to do so. You can never rid yourself of your insecurities, but you can control them instead of letting them control you. Act mature. Live a while, and you'll get even more mature. If you're pursuing women for your own validation and gratification, you aren't going to be happy. This feeds into your insecurity, and it gives you an incorrect and juvenile perspective on your masculinity. There is absolutely nothing emasculating about being single without escorts.

One day, your outlook will change, if you let it. I know it sounds cliche, but you end up finding things when you aren't looking. When that day comes, the question will no longer be "What can or can't women do for you?" but "What can you do for others?" You'll have a servant's heart. You give to others because you care, not because you're showing off. You'll appreciate how humility doesn't emasculate you; it makes you a truer man than anything else you pursued before.



Free Speech in Thailand

Posted by Jean Valjean , in Events, Wisdom Dec 20 2018 · 676 views

:kaukau: Recently, charges were laid against a popular Thai Youtuber because she criticized a dress worn by Ms. Thailand. The dress in question is designed by a fashion company run by a member of the royal family, Princess Sirivannavari Nariratanna. National law makes it illegal to criticize or speak ill of the royal family, although this only applies to the king, queen, and immediate successors to the throne. Sirivannavari Nariratanna is not an immediate heir, but there is still an argument to be made that she has been defamed. She has filed no lawsuit, but Thai law allows for people to sue for defamation on behalf of others.

As an American, I look at this and think that these are some odd laws. I enjoy living in a country where I can call out president D.J. and make fun of his hair, and I can call our oldest Supreme Court justice "Skeletor" if I'm feeling facetious or "The Notorious RBG" if I'm feeling reverent. Upcoming speaker of the house? She's Italian, I'll call her Nanny Pepperoni. I can refer to Alxandria Ocasio-Cortez as Alexandria Santa-Anna-Pinta-Nina-Maria-Quintinilla-Poco-Loco-en-el-Coco-Buffalo-Buffalo-Buffalo-Buffalo-Buffalo-Buffalo-Buffalo-Buffalo-Pinocchio-Picasso-Ocasion-Cortez. I can (and have) tell Steve King to his face that he's ugly.

So long as I stick in this country, I can call Princess Srivannavari Nariratanna simply "Siri."

Coincidentally, also the name of my girlfriend.

But if I were to move to Thailand, then I'd possibly be in trouble, if abbreviating her full noble name was considered a disrespectful slur.

It's interesting, because when I first saw the headline, I thought that someone was fined in the United States for criticizing a dress. Obviously, there is no legal basis for fining someone for disliking a dress, none whatsoever, so I thought that the story was ridiculous. However, when I found out that this was under Thai jurisdiction, I conceded that this person was subject to Thai law.

Granted, as a very Western individual I find this a bit strange. I would also make the case that this is against natural law, as Western philosophers have opined in past centuries. However, national law in Thailand is what it is, and I do believe that it should be supported and followed. I might vote for something else, but the actual people implementing the law need to simply follow the authority commissioning them.

Long story short, if this person wanted to criticize a dress made by fashion company run by a tertiary royal, she should have done so outside of her country's jurisdiction. Otherwise, she did technically break the law and does have to pay the legal penalty for that. Since I would argue that the national law in this case goes against natural law and humankind's inherent right to freedom of speech, though, I do think that an appropriate course for action in defying her country's laws lies in a form of civil protest, or in applying for asylum in another country that will recognize her rights. Should she opt for the latter, I suppose that she's free from Thai jurisdiction, although the country letting her in would explicitly have to take her on asylum claims so that it wouldn't have to honor any agreements to return criminal expats (if it had agreements with Thailand to begin with).

Anyway, I bring this up if only because it raises some interesting legal conversations. I do find courtroom topics and legal philosophy all very interesting. There's a certain intellectual feast to be had, and people like me who love the generating discussions with the Socratic method thrive off of this.



Dumbest Thing I've Ever Done

Posted by Jean Valjean , in Life, Wisdom Apr 23 2018 · 207 views
masochism, sadism, Bullet Ant and 2 more...
:kaukau: I've alluded to it several years ago on this blog before, but anyway, someone recently asked me what the dumbest thing I've ever done was. It's often hard to answer questions like that, but after high school I began to consistently answer it with the same example.

My father once dared me to go streaking during a blizzard. It was thirty degree below zero, plus wind chill. I followed through on his challenge, and ran nearly a mile. It gave me frostbite, and I nearly lost my toes.

So in my opinion, if I go through with my desire to get stung multiple times by Bullet Ants, it won't be the dumbest thing I've ever done. The Blizzard Streak will still hold that title. Insect stings don't dismember you.



Let the Past Die

Posted by Jean Valjean , in Wisdom Jan 01 2018 · 245 views
STAR WARS, The Last Jedi and 2 more...


Shid auld acquaintance for fergot

and ne'er brought to mind?

Shid auld acquaintance be fergot

and auld lang syne?

Should we forget those times? Or perhaps we should never forget, when the past strengthens us, when the past reminds us of who we are and where we belong, of who our friends are. When we remember the good things, and not cry that it's over, but be happy that it happened.

Incidentally, I have a great memory with a friend of mine. Great memories. And this midnight, I think of her and our auld langs. She's my Jo. As in, she's my friend who's name is actually Jo.

The funny thing is, the auld lang in question is when we traveled a great distance to see each other in order to watch a movie. It was the first and so far only time anyone has ever driven outside of their own town to meet me, which has a greater impact on me than people may realize, since otherwise I have always been the one who has had to travel across the country to visit others.

The movie in question was the seventh episode of a popular series. Incidentally, the movie was all about auld langs, and also incidentally, we're watching its sequel next week, which is also about auld langs, but additionally about the future and making way for newe langs. And the film begs the question, shid auld acquaintance be fergot?

I don't think so. But on the other hand, my friendship with Jo is still a fledgling acquaintance in the grand scheme of things. I'm not necessarily going to let the past die, as our lovely movie suggests, but I certainly wish to make that past worth every moment of what it was by building a future worthy of it. I'm optimistic. I believe that the best langs are yit ahead of me. I raise a cup of kindness for those days of newe lang yit. This Hogmanay, I've decided that I'm going to completely embrace my friendship and not treat it like a passing acquaintance. It absolutely deserves to be brought to mind.

Now as it happens, there's another friend of mine. She's my best friend, actually. Back in the day, I gave her a giant, impressive art project when she graduated college. Perhaps I'll share a picture of it someday. The interesting thing is, I gave her that gift in part because I didn't expect anything in return, even a continued friendship. I thought that we would go our separate ways after that. At the time, we were both done with college and moving to other states, but we ended up keeping in contact. We continued to talk. Back when our friendship was only fledgling, but still good enough to give her a tremendous gift, I was content to let go of it and move into the future without her. We now have more memories, even better memories than we ever did before, but if I am to be true to that original turning point in our friendship, I should be able to accept that it's in our past and move on if the time zones and the schooling gets in the way. We made our lives better, and that's what matters. Over Christmas, she told me that she's going to a graduate school in the currently United Kingdom, and there's no telling if our friendship can survive that. If it doesn't, than it's important that I don't let that loss hold me back, or even treat it as a loss. It will be a sign that, perhaps, I am ready for a significant new chapter in my life. There will be new friends, new journeys, new passions to follow. For an optimist who finds meaning in life, who believes that no man is a failure who has friends, it's a wonderful life indeed.



Internet Bullying

Posted by Jean Valjean , in Wisdom Dec 01 2017 · 147 views
bullies, bullying and 1 more...
:kaukau: In an earlier entry, I said that this decade saw a dramatic decrease in tolerance for bullying, but I realize that this is only part of the story. Bullying in schools has gone down and rarely dips into the realm of physical violence, the type that my father used to brag about witnessing in the 70's and 80's when people were apparently as bad as that kid from It (part I). Obviously, we don't see too many of these things anymore, right? Even since I survived middle school, it sounds as though younger family members never endured what I went through that I considered normal. They didn't have to deal with getting punched in sensitive places, having their shoes tossed out of the school bus window, being challenged to fights, and receiving swear words for nicknames. They didn't have fathers and authority figures who called them weaklings, thing-skinned, and pathetic for complaining about this kind of bullying. That makes me happy, because they won't end up as psychologically broken because of it.

However, over the last few years, I've been noticing a new form of bullying, one that we've heard people talk about for a while, but which has escalated to a point that I find incredibly unhealthy for us as a society, if not outright dangerous. In dearth of opportunities to bully others in public physical forums, people have turned to bullying and demeaning others in public virtual forums. Yes, we know that internet bullying is bad, and we launched campaigns against it, but I do not believe that the campaigns are working. I believe that they can work, if delivered with an inspired execution, but what I see now is a downward spiral in this new age.

The first and most obvious case of internet bullying comes in the real of politics and culture with some political subtext, and this is also where I began noticing a marked decrease in quality of conversation. Politics always had heated, emotional discussion, enough so that it's banned on BZPower. I've heard BZPers make cases for why politics should be allowed on the site, because we're supposedly mature enough to have these discussions and we have such a great sense of community, but I've begun to notice that even in communities organized around incredibly mature leadership and moderation, any discussion about politics will get ugly. The sign of the times that tipped me off about how bad things are getting now is that I used to get rude comments only from people who disagreed with me, but now even conversations with people I agree with tend to lose their decency from the get-go. I remember reading through political threads and encountering about a 50/50 ratio of hate-fueled comments and careful comments that were considerate of everyone's feelings. Now, the vast majority of comments make me cringe.

People are perhaps the most honest about their opinions on their fellow man in politics: everyone else is the the stupidest, least competent, most misguided, most fragile, most morally reprehensible person to exist. Anyone who doesn't conform to you exactly. And gradually, I see that trickle down to non-political things. People will say absolutely horrendous things about a celebrity, usually for the most trivial reasons. Everyone gets paranoid and assumes that everyone else represents a social movement that's abhorrent.

This contempt that we used to only see in political and religious discussion is now airborn. It contaminates even the most unifying aspects of our culture. BZPower forbids politics and religion, but these days I wonder if we should ban all discussion on STAR WARS, too. I remember that I gathered a lot of heat back in the day for saying that I really like Episodes I-III, and the treatment that I got on BZPower is nothing compared to the various Youtube discussions that I've had, where people will say the cruelest things simply because someone likes a movie that they didn't like. Alternatively, if you didn't like something that others like, then you must be self-righteous, pretentious, or you're over-sensitive. Those are the most polite insults I've heard, but most of us are sadly all-too familiar with how the internet works and how terrible this discourse can get. For example, I just saw an article entitled "Seven Things Justice League Did Better the Avengers, and Seven Things It Did Worse", and in the comments section, I saw one comment that I think does a pretty accurate job of representing what the average comment looks like these days: "1 way this article could improve: the writer kills himself." Surprise, surprise, it had zero dislikes.

I think that this is the unspoken message behind a lot of comments on the internet, isn't it? We want people that we disagree with to kill themselves. If they aren't moral abominations, then they're complete freaks. If they're not complete freaks, then they're stupid. If they're not stupid, they're functionally stupid, and so forth. We simply cannot believe that perhaps, just maybe, the people that we address on the internet are just like the people that we meet on the street. Perhaps, when a person complains about something, they're not nagging, but just expressing an opinion about something that they don't like?

Until then, we live in a world where apparently anyone who liked Marvel blindly supports a corporate empire as a brainwashed sycophant, anyone who likes DC must be a prejudiced fanboy, anyone who likes The Phantom Menace isn't worth talking to and is a blasphemer, anyone who dislikes Christopher Nolan must be an insecure haters who are full of themselves, anyone who likes Titanic supports bad romances, anyone who likes Toy Story has no culture, anyone who liked the new Les Miserables has even less culture, anyone who enjoys Michael Bay movies must be the lowest common denominator, anyone who watched Twilight must be too dumb to be allowed to breed, and anyone who likes that one unpopular sequel must apparently kick puppies. Take your pick. It has become bad that ScreenJunkies, the people behind Honest Trailers who make money by making fun of movies, even began requesting that people try to have friendly discussions about movies and realize that it's okay that we don't all like the same things. They realize the type of influence that they have, and they decide to use it in their small little sphere, and I for one really appreciate that.

At the end of the day, I think that it's incredibly important for people to realize that we're all just people who have our own opinions on what we think is great, and we like different things. People don't too often intentionally hold an opinion just because it's nefarious. A person who disagrees with you, or who has different tastes than yours, isn't necessarily a corrupt, despicable person who's light years behind your intellectually and emotionally. They're probably just a regular person. As inconceivable as that may seem to some. Who knew that we could be unique human beings? I, for one, choose to have some faith in the people that I meet everyday, because we just might be more alike than we are unalike. We are, after all, human beings.



Hunting Ethics

Posted by Jean Valjean , in Wisdom Nov 17 2017 · 225 views
riflery, archery, falconry and 2 more...
:kaukau: So recently a news story came up about hunting. It got me wanting to talk about hunting, since it's something that I take some interest in. As it happens the news story involved political debate over some laws that are being passed on the federal level, but I don't want people thinking that I'm making a veiled political commentary; I genuinely had a sudden desire to talk about a sport that interests me. I also wrote a blog entry elsewhere on gardening and nature, which primed me for this topic. I haven't written an actual essay of any sincerity on this blog for a long time, and it's about time that I do it again.

Honestly, I've never hunted, because I never had the time. Back when I was a kid, I took a hunting class that included a lot of details about safety. That was the main thing, safety. A lot about safety. I do think that that's the most important thing to keep in mind when hunting. If you learn nothing else, you must know how to never shoot yourself in the foot, or worse, accidentally shoot someone else. One of the #1 rules of hunting is to always know where you're aiming your rifle and always know what you're shooting at before you pull the trigger. Always be aware of whether or not a shot is safe to take before shooting. Always take extra precautions to know with absolute certainty that you're the only person in the area. There are also many rules for handing a gun safely from one hunter to the other, how to handle guns in groups, how to cross fences with a gun, and even how to pass axes between two people (upside-down, with the blade perpendicular with your arms).

In case you were wondering, I learned all of this in a Boy Scouts-y type organization.

Anyway, that's safety. When it comes to ethics and other traditions, there are certain things to bear in mind. In a nutshell, always respect the law and the customs of the land. This includes:
  • Knowing if you're required to have a permit to hunt.
  • Knowing if you're the right age to hunt.
  • Knowing what hunting equipment is legal.
  • Knowing if you're allowed to hunt in an area.
  • Knowing if a particular animal is legal to hunt and in-season.
  • Knowing what you're allowed to do with an animal once you've hunted it.
  • Respecting people who are uncomfortable with hunting.
That last part isn't a written law, but a custom. In my hunting class, I was taught about how to live in a world where others do not particularly like the idea of hunting. Not everybody supports hunting. Not everybody reading this blog likes the idea. Often times not even the family members of hunters like or support hunting. While I can't say that I will stop hunting for them, I will do my best to not parade hunting culture. It's sort of like nudist culture; fine on your own time, but you don't start displaying bodies out in public, since most would consider that obscene. The most basic rule that I learned is that if you're transporting the carcass of a deer, you should keep it under a tarp in a pickup truck. Do not tie it to the hood of your truck. This will upset people, even other hunters. Most people agree that an animal must be shown respect, and in America it is disrespectful to transport an uncovered carcass. There is some debate over whether or not it is okay to pose for a picture over a carcass; I respect either opinion, but I personally think that it's okay. With regards to the content of the picture, such as whether or not the hunter is smiling, or if the wounds are visible, or if the animal has been gutted, or if part of it has been turned into a trophy, I personally believe that the photograph must reflect what is considered acceptable and respectful in the area where the animal was hunted. A respectful photograph in South Dakota might look different than a respectful photograph in South Africa. When you hang up a photograph in a public space, such as a small private business that you own, make sure that it reflects the values of both the culture of the hunting grounds and the locality of the physical portrait. This is just my personal perspective. It is also important for hunters to know when not to brag about their accomplishments or even talk about hunting at all, since non-hunters might find it socially intrusive.

There are certain things that aren't illegal, but it is still the responsibility of the hunter to act in an ethical manner. A hunter should always make sure that his hunting does not hurt the ecosystem. The law does not always reflect what is healthy for the environment. If you're on a hunting trip in another country where a reckless behavior is legal, that legality does not make the hunting ethical. You must use your judgment. Some countries do not have proper protection laws against endangered species. Make sure you recognize an endangered species and don't take advantage of their availability. A hunter must be a hundred times better educated than the average person on what impact their activities leave on the animal kingdom, since they bear a great responsibility.

Another thing that isn't illegal everywhere, but one should strive to avoid, is any unnecessary animal cruelty. Never allow an animal to suffer. My father, who likes to fish, enjoys catching fish and tossing them back into the water. My sister objects to this, because it's pointless and doesn't serve any point. She does not object to fishing, so long as the fish's body is used in some way and to some end, but returning them to their place worse than how they were found is not only cruel, but completely pointless. I happen to agree with her. I wish that my father would stop that habit if only for her sake. Unfortunately, my father doesn't really care much about hunting ethics, or any kind of ethics, or respect for people, or human decency, or boundaries, or love, or kindness, or any notion that any sort of living people holds any sort of dignity worth his acknowledging, or any sense of obligation to treat people with respect, or comprehension that he has any obligation to follow any sort of reality other than his own, or any ability to show empathy, or any inkling that sadism is actually the opposite of integrity.

[I had to delete this paragraph after I realized just how angry this subject makes me.]

So basically, there are a lot of rules, written in civil laws and in natural laws, for what one cannot do as a hunter. Once you respect those, you have freedom to determine your own hunter's ethics and traditions with what's left over. Different people have their own perspectives on hunting, and hunters are not a homogeneous group. In some places, hunting is seen as a rite of passage or as a means of proving one's worth. it can be a strong tradition, or a weak tradition. Many people have religious perspectives on hunting; for some people, their religion forbids it altogether, and among those religions that permit hunting, there's no consensus of what it means.

How I was brought up, I was taught that a hunter must contribute to the land, or at the very least, do no harm. It's sort of like the Hippocratic Oath. I see hunting as a spiritual experience, one where you bond with nature, one where you take part in the circle of life. I see humankind as holding a special place as both the caretakers and the masters over nature. A friend of mine, a farmer and actress (uncommon combination, I know), takes care of pigs, truly loves them, and holds similar views as me. As it happens, she still ends up slaughtering her livestock. The way she sees it, in her role as master, she determines the course of her pigs' lives; how they're conceived, how they're raised, what sort of health and happiness they will know while they're on this Earth, when and how they will conclude their lives, and to what ends they will die. The deaths are painless, and they are meaningful in her eyes. When I apply similar principles as hunting, I think of my grandmother's garden. She trims her bushes, uproots weeds, and sometimes even uproots beautiful flowers as she alters and shapes her garden into a plot of land that she deems desirable. I see hunting in a similar way; you're in a garden, and the death of a game can be like the trimming of a bush. Hunting shapes nature in small ways. Hunting allows someone to become one with nature, to appreciate the small details of nature's garden. It's more interactive than merely hiking. It has an intimacy to it.

Others simply love the primal aspect of hunting. Remember how I compared hunting to nudism? The comparison holds up. It's natural. It's a means of rediscovering our core identity. Some might say that we've grown past this, that we're better and more sophisticated, but others have a mind that technology will never change our core identity. We are hunter-gatherers. We go out and we tame nature. We celebrate being at the top of the food chain. So long as no one is hunting anything endangered or off-season, I have no problem with this mentality.

There are those who do it because it's a sign of independence. It makes a personal statement. There are those who do it because it's better than playing video games. Some do it to be tough, which I find a weak reason, but if they respect the laws of man and nature, then there's no reason to stop them from hunting. Then there's people like my father, who talk about hunting all of the time and never do it, and demean people who don't hunt, and will do thinks that deliberately make people feel uncomfortable for the sake of being macho, and

[Another paragraph and a half deleted.]

Believe it or not, I do want to go hunting with my father sometime. It's an experience that I feel that I need to have, if we can agree on what it ethical and what the meaning of the hunt is. It would probably be one of my better experiences with him. He never developed beyond parallel play; that is, he doesn't actually interact with people all that much, but he still desires for people to do the same things that he's doing as he's doing them. If he's interested in something, he wants to do it, and he wants everyone else that he knows to do it with him. Without copying and pasting a definition of parallel play, that's how I'll describe it. Basically, hunting seems like the ideal situation for this, since you don't have to talk much while you're doing it, but it's definitely something that he reveres and considers constructive, so it just might form a bonding experience. So long as he doesn't revel in his capacity to cause pain and demean everything in this universe that isn't him, it just might work out.

[Fighting the temptation to fit in another rant.]

Outside of my father, I sometimes wonder what people I would want to hunt with. I wonder what sort of father I'd be. When I took my hunting class, I remember a picture in my textbook of a father hunting with a daughter. That image stuck with me, and to this day I see that as something that I very much want. I don't give much thought to these days on romance and marriage and other intimate mushy stuff, and I like the idea of staying single for my entire life because of how hardcore and na-na-na-na-can't-touch-this that sounds, but then I think of these things and remember what I'm missing out on. I think of what things that I can offer someone that I've never witnessed in my lifetime, and hopefully in ways that are far more loving and prosperous than they ever would have been if I had had the opportunity. I only just realized as I was writing this that if this ever happened, there's a good chance that I wouldn't walk with my children in my own homeland of the North American Great Planes, but in a far-off country like China, and this image of hunting with my children that I always had might be completely different from the one that happens in reality. I'm very much interested in international travel.

On the note of China, hunting has been suspended there altogether since 2006. It isn't a permanent ban, but rather the country has been trying to figure out its laws for the last decade. Most people, when they think of hunting, think of the United States, Canada, Australia, Argentina, and the continent of Africa, but China has a rich history of hunting. Eventually, when they figure out their hunting laws, I would be very interested in going to the sparsely populated regions of the country to experience nature in ways that few Americans have thought of. Before hunting was put on hold, they had various species of deer, goats, gazelles, and argali. The argali are a group of wild mountain sheep with twisted horns, with several subspecies, and are the largest type of wild sheep in the world. They are unique to the Himalayan region. There were a few other species, such as the Tibetan Antelope and wild yaks that required special permits. Presumably, most of these will still be legal when hunting is allowed again, with updated quotas. China is also trying to figure out what hunting laws will apply to citizens, since oddly enough it was only legal for tourists to hunt before they started on their revisions.

There's also Australia. I have a friend who was raised in Australia. When we ran in to each other on our first day of college, we went on a nature walk, and we did it regularly. On one occasion, we saw a couple of deer roam by our dorms, and we pulled out knives and chased them through a construction site. We've also done other things in nature, such as camping on the Omaha Tribe Reservation, which we visited regularly (and really ought to again sometime, if we can get in contact with our friends there), playing broomball on a frozen lake, sledding and skiing down the hills of our river valley neighborhood back when winters were cold. He moved back to Australia for a year, and upon his return often asked me if I wanted to move there with him. There we can explore the slot canyons, roam the desert, and skedaddle through the natural parks. He also mentioned legal means of hunting. There's an open season on all non-native wildlife, and it doesn't stop there. As sacrilegious as it sounds to Americans who would never dream of shooting the national symbol of their country, Australians don't hesitate to shoot their signature animal. Kangaroos are considered by many to be pests, and furthermore, though exotic they aren't endangered, so Australian hunters commercially hunt over one-and-a-half million kangaroos per year. Traditional, pre-colonial means of hunting kangaroos included throwing sticks, where people would throw heavy sticks at kangaroos and break their necks. These throwing sticks come in a few shapes, the most recognizable being a boomerang shape. An actual boomerang is considered to be lighter, and it thrown in to trees in order to startle birds into flying up into traps set in the higher branches. Contrary to popular believe, boomerangs were not designed to cross-breed yo-yo's and Frisbee's. I really like my friend's idea, and I am seriously considering it, since our lives are advancing similarly and we will both be in an ideal place to move to Australia at about the same time.

Hunting with throwing sticks fits my idea of hunting. I do not consider hunting with guns to be unethical, and as an American I consider firearms to be a quintessential inclusion in my nation's mythology. However, older tools such as the bow and arrow have always grabbed my attention. They're less precise and more frustrating, but I wanted that challenge. Furthermore, firearms scare me on an innate level, in part because of negative experiences with you-know-who. [Okay, I didn't have to delete a paragraph this time, but I removed a particularly unpleasant sentence right here.] I like that it forces me to conserve my ammunition, and to go search for it when I miss my target. I like the ability to select my arrows and even decorate them, and that arrows can be retrieved from their targets, and that arrows marking special achievements can be preserved. I like that everything about a bow and arrow is completely manual and dependent upon my strength. I like the physical exertion that it takes to create the torque. I love the technical design and the engineering that goes in to a bow.

What I didn't appreciate was being asked by a physics teacher to bring my bow to class back in high school without providing a means for me to do it without frightening other students in the hallways. Again, this comes back to the ethics. Hunting wasn't even involved here, but I still wish I had found a way to respect other people's comfort and not to startle anyone. A mature and responsible owner of such a tool ought to know how to never cause disharmony with it, because even freedom from fear isn't a legal right, it is still right to never let them know fear. For those wondering, the bow was brought to class for an experiment in measuring different types of force. In hindsight, I should have proposed meeting him outside of school so that he could have safely and inconspicuously brought it to the lab himself.

As cool and as challenging as it is to hunt with a bow and arrow or just a simple throwing stick, hunting with firearms isn't a walk in the park, either. Many people believe that hunting defenseless animals with guns at a safe distance is cowardly and isn't an accomplishment. Naturally, this has a point, and it's obvious that I agree with it to some extent seeing as I chose to train in archery instead. However, the name of the sport is hunting, not shooting. The weapon is only a part of the hunting experience, and anyone who has taken a hunting class knows this. The reason why I have not yet gone on a serious hunting trip is that the actual act of hunting is time-consuming, and takes a lot of knowledge. A good hunter must know where to find game, how to track game, how to wait for game, and if necessary, how to lure game. Hunting isn't like an arcade game where the deer are right there in front of you and all you have to do is aim and shoot. The vast majority of the time, you aren't aiming at anything. The hunter must use a backdrop of technical know-how to read the environment and find animals. I never quite mastered that level of outdoorsmanship. In addition to knowing the art of hunting in and of itself, avid hunters ought to know how to deal with the elements when things go wrong. If someone goes on a hunting trip in the Canadian shield, he needs to know how to take care of himself if he gets lost, how to cope with hypothermia if he falls into a freezing river, and how to start fires and create shelter. Having a gun makes things a bit easier, but it's still a hardy experience. People can have different opinions on ethics, which all hunters must respect, but I also believe that non-hunters must all understand the challenge that hunters undertake. Hunters can't simply be dismissed as lazy, insecure people who claim a cheap sense of accomplishment.

One thing that most people can agree on, though, is that laser-sighted rifles are unfair. Even in America, these are illegal in every state but the great state of Texas. At least, last I checked. It might be illegal there now, too. I wouldn't argue against its legality if it was legal in my state, but I would strongly discourage hunters from using them and I wouldn't want to hunt with such a person as my partner. This isn't surprising from the guy who enjoys archery. Riflery is more precise, but people still often miss. Having laser sightings is like using cheat codes in a video game. Can you imagine Jumanji if you had cheat codes? Good luck impressing Karen Gillan with that sort of sportsmanship.

Overall, I do still expect to hunt with a rifle someday, especially if I ever decide to get sentimental and have kids, and especially if those kids are raised in America. Rifles are a part of American iconography, just as swords are a part of England's. It's a part of the culture, and I do desire to hunt in part for cultural reasons. They say you haven't truly experienced another country if you haven't tried their food, and in some ways that goes for hunting. Really, any old traditions having to do with subsistence. As I said earlier, if I was in Australia, I would want to hunt a kangaroo with a boomerang-shaped bludgeon, not only because of the sportmanship but also because of culture. I could, after all, hunt with a throwing stick anywhere, but I would specifically do it in Australia because of its connection to the heritage of the land. The same goes with America, which had a history of riflery since its very inception. One simply has not had the "full" American experience without understanding riflery.

This leads me to one last thing with relation to hunting methods ending with the "ry" suffix. I mentioned riflery, archery, boomerangery (that isn't an actual word), and there's one more. It's called falconry. This is, hands down, the single coolest method of hunting ever devised by man. For those not in the know, it's when you capture a raptor and train it to fetch wild quarry, like having a dog catch a . People who practice falconry are called falconers, and come to think of it, that would make for an awesome name for a baseball team. But I should get back to the circle of life before I get off on a tangent. While the game that Thorondor brings home might not make for as impressive of a photo-op as the triceratops that Steven Spielberg shot, you get to pose with a bird of prey on your wrist as your loyal companion. You can be that person. Throw in a steed, and I'm pretty sure that you'll be the coolest person in the room no matter where you go. You win in life. Game over.

Of course, it isn't just awesome because it looks cool, but because it truly is a great achievement and puts you in a rare tier of hunter. Falconers are the SEAL Team Six of hunters. You don't buy a raptor for this. You capture an actual wild animal and forge a bond with it. You need to spend a great deal of time every single day with it. You most likely need to be single. Many places don't hand out permits for it unless you take a written test on it. You usually end up spending a small fortune on books because of the sheer amount of knowledge required for both training and caretaking. It can take two years to finish an apprenticeship, and it takes over seven years to become a Master. Most falconers will refuse to teach you anything unless you provide proof of the seriousness of your commitment. You have to spend great deals of time in the middle of nowhere, far away from roads, rifle hunters, power lines, barbed-wire fences, and all other things that could put all the time that you invested with Hedwig at risk of amounting to nothing. You never feed them food from the pet store, but raw meat that you expect them to later hunt for you. You have to be emotionally prepared for the possibility that Hawkeye might pull a Richard Parker and dump you at any given moment, after so much effort was put in to trying to share your life with nature's most graceful predator?

Got that? Now throw in ethics. The law mandates that you provide your raptor proper housing, and that you have the proper equipment. The American federal government has no laws saying that falconry impacts the environment, but falconers have to hold themselves to a higher standard than what the law permits. A falconer owes it to other falconers not to damage the reputation of the craft, and must never harm any birds. If you or another falconer looses a bird, then custom dictates that you put serious effort into finding it. If you run out of money to support this lifestyle, you must pass your raptor on to another qualified falconer or safely release it into the wild. The future of the sport rests on your shoulders to sponsor apprentices. You shouldn't let your friends touch it. You shouldn't do anything commercial with it. And remember what I said earlier about photo-ops and being the coolest person in the room? The falconry community actually discourages publicity, and much of what you do will go without recognition. At this point, we're not just talking about ethics, but the mettle of one's character.

Clearly, it isn't for everyone. However, I hold the ethical expectations for falconers as the classic standard which all hunters should take inspiration from. The future of the sport depends on the nobility of its participants.



War is like Love

Posted by Jean Valjean , in Wisdom Oct 03 2017 · 245 views
love, war, peace, what if
:kaukau: The word "war" is like "love." What I mean by that is that I see a lot of people on Youtube who ask questions such as "What if X went to war with Y," or "What if all of the countries of the world went to war with each other?"

The answer is, it depends on what you mean by war. There are many different styles of war, and there are also many different purposes for war. You can't simply ask "What if X went to war with Y;" you have to also consider the goals that each country would have in this conflict and what would constitute as a victory. Are we talking about a Cold War in which countries are trying to gain an upper hand in the balance of power? Are we talking about a war where the objective is for one country to "contain" another? Is one country trying to merely weaken another? Take away a territory? Eliminate a threat? Take a rival down a peg? Force another country to meet some sort of demand, such as "Stop trading with Z?" Is the goal of the war to nation build? Are you uneasy with your allies and only allied out of convenience, or are you actual close friends? Is it an international policing action? Is it a war of conquest? Is it to solve a border dispute? Is it a defensive war where the goal is merely to survive?

With regard to the purpose of the war, how important is it to the countries involved? What politicians were in power at the outset of the war, and will any of the involved countries see a political shift? How important is the war too the politicians? How important is it to civilians? How important is it to the military? What are people willing to sacrifice for victory?

With styles of war, are we talking about a blitzkrieg? Trench warfare? Arms race? Is there an invasion, or are there proxy battles? Is it a siege? Is it merely a standoff, with war only being declared but no one really wanting to cross either country's borders? Are international laws and treaties followed? Is it naval war? Urban war? Guerrilla war? Are civilian casualties on the table? Is it a nuclear war?

How was the war declared? Surprise attack? Formal statement at the E.U.? Was it never declared at all? Did both countries anticipate the war and react immediately when one line in the sand was crossed?

So many things to consider. I find it pretty ridiculous when people take these "what if" scenarios and act like all war is going to look the same, like all war is an invasion.

I end this random ramble with an interesting thought: There's the saying of yester-generation, "Make love, not war." What if we were to make the word "love" even more ambiguous than it already is, and have it become synonymous with war? Boy, that would mess with people. I already had an idea for a language with one word for "love, like, want, and need." Con-langers tend to like breaking the word "love" up into several different, more specific words, but I rather enjoy obfuscating it even more.

Jean Valjean


Tattoos on Children

Posted by Jean Valjean , in Wisdom Aug 29 2017 · 168 views
tattoos, laws, controversy and 2 more...
:kaukau: Would it be considered political if I said that I believe that it should be legal for a child, with his or her parent's consent, to get a tattoo? Some mother got arrested lately because she allowed her daughter to get a tattoo. Furthermore, tattoos were actually introduced to the Western world less than two hundred years ago from Polynesia, where they hold incredibly important cultural significance. Are you going to person from a Native-American, Polynesian, African, or other culture where tattoos or other body modifications on children are normal that they can't exercise their culture? What about Jews and Muslims, who mark their baby boys?

If people want to draw the line somewhere, draw it at foot-binding or blinding the eyes, or even amputating limbs (yes, these things actually happen). Tattoos and scars are only skin-deep, and if done safely are only cosmetic. They don't cripple a person, or leave them with medical issues. If a tattoo artist is unsafe, then that's an issue. But if they're completely professional, and the worst that people have to worry about is aesthetic regrets, why should it be illegal? I might add that some of these tattoos that I hear about that children get are things that they don't really sound like they'll regret, such as religious or ethnic symbols, or medical information, or identifiers put on identical twins. And at the end of the day, it's about freedom. It isn't hurting anyone, so people should have the freedom to do it. Does this mean that a ton of kids are going to get tattoos that they're going to regret? No, because this is one of those areas where I think that we need to trust the judgment of the parents.

(Ugh, don't get me talking about the legalities of "What if the parents are divorced?" Laws for divorced families are such a different ball game.)

On a side note, since it's related to the "blinding and amputating" that I mentioned earlier, there are people in India who will blind and/or amputate children in order to make them more sympathetic beggars. This is a terrible practice. And before you think "I can just pick up a beggar from the street and save them!" be aware that many child beggars get abducted by people who are claiming to be charitable. You definitely would want to go through a legal process if you want to ethically help out this kids.



Quote of the Day (5/13/17)

Posted by Jean Valjean , in Wisdom May 13 2017 · 264 views
STAR WARS, George Lucas, politics
:kaukau: "Never attribute to malice what you can attribute to stupidity and incompetence." - Ben Shapiro

Whenever you think that the world is filled with terrible people, just assure yourself with this. Yes, you still live in a messed up world, but at least most people are not malicious.

So no guys, George Lucas is not evil. Goodness. For that matter, I wouldn't call him stupid or incompetent, either. And I know you would like to argue that, but I don't think that you have the, eh, high ground when it comes to such accusations. I've looked at the BZP library. I've read your fanfics. There aren't exactly too many people who are good enough to write and direct professionally.



How to Rate People, part 2

Posted by Jean Valjean , in Wisdom Dec 19 2016 · 754 views

:kaukau: Alright, so here's me serious, non-sarcastic thoughts on rating people based on how attractive you find them. I don't engage in the practice myself, for a couple of reasons. I don't trust to do it without objectifying women, first of all. Second, and probably more importantly, it offends the person being rated, since I would rarely rate someone above a 6, and everyone wants to be a 10. As I've said in my previous entry, 10's basically don't exist, and anything above an 8 is incredibly rare, or at least that's how it would be if I actually rated people. Anyway, I'm not looking to to hurt people's feelings over something that isn't even worth my time. There's also the fact that people who rate other people rarely ever actually communicate anything through their ratings, because different numbers mean different things to various people. Furthermore, people are rarely consistent with their rating system, so you can't take them too seriously.

All that having been said, I don't necessarily find the practice of rating your attraction to someone appalling. I don't trust myself to do it without objectifying women, but what if someone else can? What if someone is just more inclined to express himself or herself through numbers and has a natural inclination to quantify everything? I know I often try to quantify a lot of things. For example, I give a rating out of ten for every film that I watch, every book that I read, and every television show that I watch. As it happens, those numbers have meanings for me, and I'm very consistent with how I distribute them. What if someone has a similar system for how they rate attraction, and the numbers actually have meaning for them? And they're capable of being consistent with their ratings, too? Good for them. Honestly, I don't actually care.

For those of us who aren't numerically inclined, we have something similar to number ratings. It's called adjectives. Instead of calling someone a 6, 7, 8, 9, or 10, you could say that he or she is fair, lovely, beautiful, irresistible, or perfect. Each of those words kind of imply a different level of attractiveness, don't they? Why is it that we aren't appalled when we call someone fair? In a way, that's quantifying someone's attractiveness without explicitly doing so, because it implies that he or she isn't quite good enough to be called beautiful or irresistible, so why don't we find words like that appalling and objectifying? Just a thought. Language is funny. Perhaps some people do find phrased like that appalling. I'm pretty sure there are. There are probably some people who get really tired of hearing descriptions of themselves that imply that they're moderately attractive, but they can tell that people are holding back from truly gushing over how appealing they find them.

Perhaps some people like the numbers better, because they genuinely like to quantify things, like I do with movies and books. I honestly don't judge them, because I truly don't care. It's just something that people do, and it's part of our language. I just wish that people were far more clear and consistent on what their ratings meant, so I had a better idea of what they're trying to communicate when they say that someone's a 5.5.

As far as communication goes, I also think that if a friend told me that he had a crush on someone and then said that he thought that she was a 7 overall, I'd tell him to not even bother and wait until one day he met someone that he thought was at least an 8.5 (that is, if he rated people like I would if I rated people). If he came to me and said that he was getting along with a girl that he considered an 8.5, or even a 9, I'd feel compelled to be his wingman and make the relationship happen. So I can see how ratings would work well in that regard, if people were consistent and picky with how they rated others.

Let's be honest, though. If he actually met a 9 that he wanted a relationship with, he wouldn't be thinking to himself "she's a 9." Here's why: love can be very emotional, and rating people exercises the left side of the brain, which is the less emotional side. When you rate people and trying to quantify things, you're putting off any emotional attachment. I can actually see the benefit to that, since we ought to refrain from getting emotionally attached to attractive people too easily. If a guy met an attractive person, and then rated her, I believe that he's probably trying to distance himself from her, even if he rated her rather highly. At least, that's the impression that I get. As I said, it can also lead to the objectification of people.

Overall, I don't think much of it when people rate others. It's just something that people do, and it's too trivial for me to find it appalling, and in and of itself I don't object to the practice on account of how it's technically possible to rate people without objectifying them, and we already to similar things to rating people via other linguistic means. It is interesting to speculate on the psychological aspects of it, so I consider it an intriguing phenomenon.



Username: Jean Valjean
Real name: People literally don't have names in my family
Age: 24
Gender: Male
Heritage: Half Dutch, Quarter Hungarian, Eighth Swedish, Sixteenth German and Irish
Physical description: Looks like the eleventh Doctor
Favorite food: Chicken, turkey, and beef.
Least favorite food: Vegetables of any kind
Favorite band: Queen
Favorite singer: Billy Joel
Favorite song: American Pie
Favorite movie: Schindler's List
Favorite TV show: Avatar: The Last Airbender
Favorite play: Les Miserables
Favorite color: Silver
Second favorite color: Brown
Favorite board game: Risk
Favorite athlete: Michael Phelps
Lucky Number: 53
Past-times: Writing, reading, drawing
Political Caucus: Iowa Republicans
Religion: Christian
Language: Iowegian

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