Monthly Archives: November 2014

Keeping Animals

As the greatest power on this earth of all time, ever, we hold enormous sway over the animals that stand below us in the cosmic order of space and time. They turn to us for food, shelter, love, and spite and desire to be left alone. To stand alone at the top of a tree, to gaze down upon us with no sense of any order but this: Man is one of many, and one above. We alone can fire a bullet from a hundred yards and snuff them out. Our tractors rip the ground fast as avalanches, tear everything away, scrape out the trees and hollow out the rocks. We stand alone above the world. Our command was not to rule, but to serve as stewards here.

And here we are, each with our different ways of keeping animals. There’s even a numbering system in the butcher shops, declaring the way the animal was treated and quantifying it. Factory farms, with animals piled into crowded silos, or crowded pens, jostling in a crowd, is obviously the lowest. The best is to let the animal roam free and be an animal. I imagine hunting wild animals is the best way. Take only what you need and leave the rest, and take them with a clean kill shot in the moment of their life where they are ignorant and blissfully wild.

Also, the way you keep your animals, your personal flock or pack or partnerships, is regulated. We look upon each other and try to create a baseline – let’s call it welfare rating 1 – for the keeping of dogs and cats. Shelter from the rain, a tag, and food. Untreated diseases are not legal, generally. Barking in the night is frowned upon in the more civilized spaces. There are less rules in other places, perhaps. Dogs are traditionally used to guard us and hunt with us. They keep us safe from the wild things that don’t obey the master’s command.

The bare minimum standard is enough for many people. They call it their culture to leave their dogs chained out in the yard, gnawing at bones and sticks, mindmute and angry and ready to hurt anyone who approaches their misery.

Dogs are born to love. No matter what you do to them, they will still love you. They are the ultimate vessels for human misery. Animals can not bear witness with words. If they run away, they will never speak to law enforcement. They are the very lowest place of society, and have no power to call their own, no vote, no voice, and when they are chained in the yard, locked in there, all they can do is bay a little, wordlessly at the indifferent world around them until someone here’s them crying.

Standards change with time. It used to be legal to beat your wife. The Rule of Thumb comes from this. The standards of wife-beating were felt, by the general public, to be detrimental. The law shifted, then, and the rule of thumb was created. A man could not beat his wife with a stick that was wider than his thumb. Even today, just a hiccup of generations later, this law is a ridiculous nightmare of pain and misery. It used to be the minimum.

The arc of history, as they say, always bends towards justice.

Once standards are created, it is the beginning of the shift towards justice. We all decide what the minimum is, and that minimum will be perceived as lower or lesser. We will begin to move away from that minimum standard, as a group, because we do not want to do ill to our fellow creation.

Things with eyes and souls that look up at us with such longing are, in fact, our equal. They have been separated from the pack of wild dogs, and bred and integrated into the uplifting influence of civilization. It is inevitable that when technology integrates into the minds and neural nets of living things that dogs will be uplifted before mankind.

Ergo, the minimum standards will always drop away as the goalposts shift. No one wishes to be cruel to animals. A balanced approach – an animal welfare rating of 3, for example – will become the new minimum in the minds of society, eventually. This, too, will drop away.

To stay on the right side of history, and to get ahead of the changes, favor the ethical treatment of animals that aims for the higher welfare status. Saying the words, “I uphold the minimum standard applied by law” makes you sound like a jerk, because apparently the absolute minimum is enough for you with living creatures, who hope, love, dream, and feel. Minimal standards are not enough.

Aspire to improve the life of other creatures, for whom you are responsible. They have such small lives, but it is the only life they get to have, and we know better than to treat them like objects or tools or mere machines. Ultimately, we get better machines out of them when we treat them better, anyway. The food is tastier and more nutritious from ethically-raised animals at the upper end of the welfare scale. The working dogs are more loyal, more reliable, and easier to train, when the animal that lives to love is allowed to feel love back.

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MAZE is up on something called VODO, and I hadn’t heard of it before, this site, but there it is and it looks to be quite a good deal, to me.

Go forth and tell everyone.

http://vodo.net/apexbooks/maze/

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Math Saves, Don’t drink Starbucks!

I was trying to get something caffeinated to push me through a long workday and got the best of what was available. Starbucks Vanilla thingum, presumably lowish in calorie with 290.
I stopped drinking it in horror the moment I noticed how much sugar was in the bottle. In 13.7 ounce of drink, there are 46 grams of sugar. That’s 11.5 teaspoons of sugar, in a drink that weighs 13.7 ounces. [ETA: A mathematically-inclined person on Twitter pointed out my conversion error. I’m going to adjust, now. Basically, I should go straight from grams to ounces, and not grams to tablespoons to ounces. Maths is VERY HARD when you’re high on sugar. It is literally like cocaine at high levels, with similar effects on the brain.] If these were circus peanuts, that would be 11.5 of them. Right, so, that means the drink is 1.6226 ounces of sugar. Do you have a kitchen scale handy? Go measure that out. It’s actually quite a lot for a 13.7 ounce beverage. Now, the percentage of this “drink” that is sugar is… 1.62/13.7=11.8% sugar. THAT’S A VERY HUGE AMOUNT FOR ONE DRINK.

And the front presumes to brag about how low the calories are.
Starbucks, I call shenanigans. You are supposed to be ethical. You push yourself as the just and ethical alternative. You brag about one thing… And of course there would be so few calories in the drink if it had absolutely no meaningful quantity of milk in it… You do realize, Starbucks, that obesity is a crisis in this country and sugar turns into calories in the system almost instantly without any nutritive elements to slow down the insulin rush, right?
We should all be talking about this. We should all be writing about this. These companies are literally selling us our own early grave and refuse to be honest with their products. 46 grams of sugar should be the most important thing to know about a 13.7 ounce “beverage” and it is hidden in the fine print and masked as grams instead of ounces or tablespoons. The WHO recommends no more than 25 grams of sugar per day per an adult, less for children. 46 grams is almost double that, all by itself. If you ate nothing but lettuce for two days, you’d still likely be over your daily limit of sugar per day with just one of these horrible drinks.
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Don’t even drink this shitty diabetes juice. It has 2 days of sugar in a single glass. It is trying to kill you. Starbucks, per its products, wants you to think their drink is relatively low-calorie. They want you, then, to pick their healthier-looking option against the soda and energy drinks on offer. But, with two days worth of sugar hidden behind a misleading label, they also seem to want you to get diabetes and die young in terrible pain from chromic, preventable diseases.
They used to call Type II Diabetes “Adult-Onset Diabetes.” It used to be something kids just didn’t get. Now it’s an epidemic. Starbucks, if you’re seeing this, well, this aspect of your products are to blame. Do you have kids? Would you want them to drink this, with all that sugar in it? Would you want your spouse to drink it, knowing how much sugar is in it?

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Paying Money To People to Read Your Work is Bad

It is a dream of many a reader to be paid to sit in a room and read books. Professors sometimes pull it off when they get close to the end of their career, and they can coast through committees and coast through minimal classes and focus solely on their own interests of research. Naturally, it is quite rare, because it is no small task to be a tenured professor on copious, copious committees. Some literary critics are able to pull it off, as well, but they have to be working for major publications, and they have to be very, very lucky. Most reviewers are not able to do it full-time. I can think of no one able to make their living from reading things except for a certain breed of editor. They put together a little literary magazine or two – which is, itself, no small feat – but they raise revenue on two fronts. They sell the literary magazine, absolutely. They also sell the opportunity to be considered in that literary magazine to aspirants.

Do not pay reading fees. Do not pay contest fees. Do not bother reading magazines that charge those fees.

We are already entering a world where the bar for entry for those of us who come from marginalized communities, and working communities, face a series of stiff barriers. And, one of the many ways that the bar for entry is increased is the rise of reading fees, for the magazines that exist in some genres cannot maintain their lights and electricity without the very artists inside of their pages kicking in a few dollars every time a story is submitted. It has been touted as a way to weed out the flood of stories. The few times I’ve been involved with the editorial side of things, the simple way to handle that problem was not to be open to submissions, at all, and to solicit stories and writers, instead. Ultimately, my responsibility in all I do is to readers. I would sooner flip the submission switch off (as many publications do) than to consider charging a penalty for submissions from people who probably don’t have a lot of money.

Also, I’ve heard editors state that they also need to be paid for their time for reading those stories that they read, and they say they offer feedback. This does not pass the smell test. Your time, as an editor, is paid for by selling magazines and advertising and possibly a kickstarter. Your time is not best spent formulating feedback on stories you don’t like, either. That is a giant waste of everyone’s time. I could offer feedback all day on clean romance stories about Mormons, and it would be completely useless to the people writing them because I am not the audience for that kind of story. (Which is fine! Not everything is for everybody, nor should it be construed as a snipe about these sorts of stories other people like quite a lot! But, don’t ask me to offer feedback on your technical manuals, either! I’m not the guy for that! Nor is Harper’s!)

Anyway, to stay on target: I am not a rich writer. I actually do count on my writing work to pay some bills and bump up our meager retirement portfolio. Telling me I could submit to three magazines, one of which requires a reading fee, and two of which do not, is telling me that I can submit to only those two magazines and the other one doesn’t even exist.

If you charge a reading fee for your magazine, to me, it doesn’t exist. I don’t even read these sorts of magazines. I don’t read them not only because I would never submit to them, but because experience tells me that the stories of marginalized communities will not be present inside of them.The bar for entry, no matter how small, will strike the poorest first and hardest.

I have friends who run reading fee magazines, and I’m sorry, but we did talk about this and you know my feelings very well. I think you’re very nice, very smart people, but you are not engaged in your work in a way that will lead to the outcomes we all desire.

One of the things that keeps me writing SF, also, when I do ponder changing genres, is how I know I can sell short stories to good-paying, high-impact markets without reading fees. There are some bad things about being slow to change, but this, at least, is a positive. We have yet to swallow that pill that mainstream publications have long ago devoured. So, hooray for us?

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