[ideatrash] They Saw The Sign, But They Didn't Get The Point

The superhero quotes were not the only poster designs that I had at the March For Our Lives last Saturday. I saved one other design for myself.

(Top is a M16, bottom is an AR15)

I wasn't about to give this poster design to someone else. I knew it would probably draw attention from any pro-gun folks around... and it sure did.

Me holding the sign.

They tried to trip me up on the history of the two weapons, the difference between them, and what makes something an "assault rifle". They didn't expect me to know it, to know about conversion kits, and to know the definition is arbitrary (and that it doesn't matter since the assault weapon ban reduced mass shootings).

They wanted to know what the "point" of my sign was. They wanted to know its "purpose". They said it wasn't informing people. They criticized it because it didn't educate my fellow protesters.

And on that last point, they were right.

My sign wasn't a dissertation. It wasn't an informational handout. Those pro-gun guys weren't going to be swayed by facts; they're part of a different "tribe".

It was designed to do two things:

1. To motivate and inspire those who were at the protest so they'd not only feel energized (as part of our tribe) on Saturday, but would carry that energy forward into further action.

2. To draw the attention of any pro-gun folks at the protest so that I could deal with them so others wouldn't have to deal with them.

And I'd say that for those criteria, my sign did exactly what it was supposed to do.

[ideatrash] HOWTO get striking and inexpensive foam board mounted posters for the next protest

I handed out posters at the March For Lives event in Dayton last Saturday.

They weren't flimsy posterboard; they were full color printed and on foamcore, and each cost only around $5, instead of the $12-$15 that you might otherwise pay.

And because we aren't done protesting, in this post I'm going to tell you how to do it too.

I'll quickly note that the images on the posters themselves are (IMHO) fair use, due to the transformative nature, purpose of the signs, and that they were not sold.

Some of them in the wild.

You don't need Photoshop; I designed the images in a free image editing program. You can use The Gnu Image Manipulation Program (Win/Mac/Linux) or Paint.NET (Win). The key is to make sure you have a large and easily-read (and classy) font. Trajan (pay, from Adobe) or Cinzel (free Google font) work well.

The secret sauce is that the printing of the image and the foamcore are assembled afterward. I use ShortRunPosters for pretty much every poster need that I have. Their turnaround is quick, they don't require CMYK separation (if you don't know, be thankful), and the price is right. The size these kids are holding are 14" x 20", and are $2.75 each (not counting shipping). If you'd rather use your own printer (and a lot more elbow grease) you can use a service like BlockPosters.

I then ordered foam board sheets from Wal*Mart. The best price I found was $34 for 10 sheets measuring 20" x 30". While not the same size, they're large enough we could use each sheet for two posters, and the price of these sizes worked out to the cheapest possible combo.

When all the material got to me, we used spray adhesive to attach the posters to the foam board (two posters per sheet). Be careful with the adhesive; some got on the T'Challa poster above and we had to fix it with markers as best we could (you can still see the marks in the image above). Then it was just a matter of cutting them apart and trimming the edges.

This size also turned out to work well with the wind and carrying them. If they were any bigger, the wind would have blown them around and I would have had a hard time carrying them to the rally from my car.

The result was exceptionally striking, and I was thrilled to be able to hand them out to kids and teens who didn't have signs of their own.

[ideatrash] Three signs that middle management in your company is in the service of The Old Ones

Here are three quick signs that your company's leadership is not really... getting it.

(These are inspired by things that I've been told; if they match your company, I probably didn't actually hear about your company. Unless I did.)

You know there is a manager whose meeting agenda looks like this.


There's a longstanding way to get a kid to agree with you. Offer them only two (or three) choices that you approve of so they feel like they made a choice. It is especially insulting when you're suckered by an email claiming that you get to have a say.

Greetings fellow workers! We want you to feel engaged with us, so we're turning to you to make an important decision for our new building. Would you like for it to be BLUE GREEN, GREEN BLUE, or BLUE AND GREEN?

Don't you feel engaged, fellow workers? Take our follow up survey to let us know how engaged you are!


After teaching research methods and how to make a good survey, bad surveys cause my stomach to twist and churn in ways usually reserved for bad cases of the flu. A survey not too unlike this (sent to me by a worker who wants to remain anonymous); my stomach did, in fact, churn.

We are sensitive to the employee feedback that you do not feel like you're part of the decision making process. Please take this follow-up survey to help us assess the problem:

Management is:
o Awesome
o Pretty Great
o Super

Management has improved in:
o Most areas
o A lot of areas
o Areas that I care about

Thank you for taking our follow up survey.


There are some statements that, when strung together, create a vortex, a rip, a tear in space-time itself. Like this one.

After seeing our daily productivity report, it turns out that we were six people short in the department, causing budget problems. And of those working today, we were also four people over budget. So we were short six people, and simultaneously four over budget.

The non-Euclidean warping of reality as this statement floated in the space between cubicles remained uncommented upon, with only my eyes as witness.

Ia! Ia! Buzzword Fthagn! Buzzword Fthagn!

[ideatrash] My ex-wife's advice to my son is horrible. That's a good thing.

My ex-wife's advice to my son is horrible. 1

Photo by Daniel Cheung on Unsplash

Well, mostly horrible. There's some good bits spread in among it. In general, though, there's a lot of unexamined assumptions and rationalizations disguised as logical thought.

This is actually a good thing.

And I realized it because someone shouted "FAKE NEWS" at me on Facebook.

Allow me to explain.

Last week, I was involved in a big political thread on Facebook. It doesn't matter what it was about, just suffice to say that I eventually linked to a CNN article. It didn't matter that the article linked back to primary data to support itself.

Not. At. All.

Minutes after I posted that link, the reply came... and at the end of it, he said:

And I knew that conversation was 100% done. Not because he disagreed with me, but because he was no longer thinking critically about his information sources. If he'd referred me to Fox News, I might have looked at it more critically than another news source, sure. I might have checked to find corroboration. But I'd think critically about it.

Which brings us back to my ex-wife.

She's a smart person, and has a lot of knowledge and expertise. But there's a great deal of chaff in there: unexamined assumptions, rationalizations, biases, and so on.

And this gives us a lot of teachable moments about critical thinking.

I do include my own screwups in these teachable moments. If it's not inconvenient, it's not a principle. I urge him constantly to use these skills on what I say, and how I say it.

Because at this point in his life, in this point in our country's history, I'd much rather that he thinks critically about what I (and everyone else around him) says than simply have him agree with me.

1 In my opinion, of course. She probably thinks the same about my advice, and that's okay!

[ideatrash] You cannot neglect yourself.

There's a special kind of horror if you are the person who does not want to upset anyone else.

Photo by Joshua Rawson-Harris on Unsplash

It does not take long for you to be mired in competing demands from others around you.

And when that occurs, two things happen.

First, you lose sight of your own desires and your own wants. Rather than looking for the things that would make you happy it becomes all about what would make someone else happy.

Second you end up caring more about the views of the person who makes the most noise. This is something that I once suffered from. I was so used to someone making a huge case over every little thing they wanted that I neglected those I cared about - and those who cared about me - in order to appease someone who really didn't hold that big of a place in my heart.

Both of these effects are tragedies, and they will not stop until you prioritize those who are important to you...

...and until you realize that you are someone who is important to you.

[ideatrash] Fellow White People: Our Immigration Laws Are Racist. What are you going to do about it

Photo by Emmad Mazhari on Unsplash

Hey fellow white folks: the history of immigration (hell, the history of damn near ANYTHING in the United States) is shot through with racism.

The question, as always, is whether or not you're going to let it keep going or not.

Yeah, I know, you didn't start it. You're not personally responsible for it being racist. I'm not either. This isn't guilt talking.

This is seeing something that is unjust for what it is and dismantling it, simply because it's racist and unjust.

[ideatrash] They do not care about your children, or your children's future.

It is a horrible thing to harm a child. It is a common and noble thing to ask for fair pay for fair work. And it is a corrupt "boss" who then strikes their pay downward, harming both the workers and the children.

This is the situation in WV, where after reaching an agreement with the Governor, the state senate there cut their pay raise after the strike began.

In a joint statement Saturday, the American Federation of Teachers-West Virginia, West Virginia Education Association and the School Service Personnel Association said Senate President Mitch Carmichael and his leadership team had left them with no choice after they voted to reduce the raise to 4 percent.

Photo by pan xiaozhen on Unsplash

Imagine you have a choice of sending your child - your child - to a school where the teachers get paid less...or a school where the teachers get paid more. Which school would you want your kids to go to?

The legislators of West Virginia are clearly not interested in the well being and education of the children in that, my home state. They are clearly not interested in investing in the future; they are more interested in lining their pockets in the present.

After all, they are frightened of education! They are frightened of people who know - and can expose - their lucrative donors, the filthy wealthy who exploit our people, our citizens, our children for their own gain. You shall know them by their works.

Do not be silent. Do not accept their excuses.

Demand that the teachers in West Virginia be treated and paid fairly. Demand that the teachers in your state be treated and paid fairly as well.

This is not for mere ideology.

This is for your children.

[ideatrash] Write with us this weekend! (And you don't have to "compete", either!)

I've heard from a few folks that they find the "challenge" and competitive
element of this flash challenge offputting.

If you are one of those people, and want to write and not be part of the
voting process, please feel free to SHARE your story and just mark it "Not
for voting" at the top.

Also note that the deadline is midnight on Saturday (EST) and the word
count 1500 words. All of this is to help encourage participation; that's
really the point here! FSM knows that without this I'd have a hard time
keeping writing... so with that in mind, join us!

Several of us have started our own, self-hosted, flash fiction challenge
over at a website we're calling Obsidian Flash. It's on a forum behind a
password, so that anything you write and submit is considered unpublished.
Registration is quick, free, and pretty painless.

Seriously, this thing is the perfect thing for you to do if you think
writing is hard (or finding time for writing is hard), and especially if
you haven't been writing for a while. It's also great if you have problems
with getting past ideas that "you suck" (every first draft sucks, face it)
or self-doubt.

Go sign up now at http://obsidianflash.com/forum and we'll see you writing
this weekend!

Here are the rules:

Welcome to the Flash Challenge! Our Flash Master is...me!

Here are the rules, slightly changed for NaNoWriMo:

1. All stories should be complete, written and posted within 24 hours of
the prompt being posted, and can be anywhere from one sentence to 1,500
words in length. Typically the prompt is posted by 8pm EST on Friday, and
stories are posted by midnight EST on Saturday.

2. You may choose to write your story in any genre.

3. Your story must be built around the restrictions—words, themes, photo
prompts, word limits, etc.—provided by the Flashmaster at the beginning of
the challenge.

4. Once the participants' work is posted, the voting and comment session
begins and continues until all votes are in. Time limit for voting will be
determined on the spot, depending on how many people finish the challenge.
Typically this is within 24 hours of the end of the writing portion, or 8pm
EST on Sunday.

5. The winner becomes Flashmaster and chooses the prompt(s) for the next
contest. Also, you get all the Internet Bragging Points you think you can
get away with.

Don't wait - get going and register at http://obsidianflash.com/forum right
now and join us!

[ideatrash] "He's got one of those safewords..."

"Clearly, he's got one of those safewords." She meant me, since I had a bit of knowledge about a kinky subject. Though said with a laugh, it was supposed to shame.

Maybe it was the attempt to shame me that sparked the realization.

"It's not that differ--"

She put their hands over their ears and started "na-na-na-I-can't-hear-you"ing.

Still, the realization's there:

All sex shares a fundamental element with kinky sex. 1 And it's not the sex part.

It's about power differentials, transgressing them, and trusting the other person.

Think about it. It's a one night stand? You're trusting that person enough to be unclothed with them, perhaps even enough to be asleep next to them.

That trust is literally the same thing that exists in a BDSM relationship. Sure, kink tends to draw attention to and codify these power differentials and that kind of trust. Maybe the rules are a little different than what you'd usually use. But still, it's trust and it's explicit, whether through commands or leather or rope or whips.

That same trust made explicit in kink is present - and taken for granted - in every sexual encounter 1 out there.

And it's a shame that trust, that gift, is treated so commonly and disrespectfully by so many.

1 Okay, I'll make the caveat that I'm talking about consensual sex.

[ideatrash] Genre fiction is more important than literary fiction in our society.

Photo by jesse orrico on Unsplash

Genre fiction is more important than literary fiction in our society.

I'm biased, it's true. I write genre fiction. I (when I have my act together) publish it. I read it more often than not... by a large margin.

And there's nothing wrong with that.

Let's face it: the idea that genre fiction is somehow lesser than so-called "literary fiction" is bullshit.

Here's why.

There's plenty of bad genre fiction to point at... but there's also lots of bad literary fiction to point at. The difference to me is simple Dash at least bad genre fiction might be entertaining due to the spectacle of the thing.

But bad literary fiction? It doesn't hit the public eye in the same way. It's simply boring, and nobody cares, reads it, or adapts it into films. That's why it isn't on the radar, and why people don't complain about bad literary fiction... Except for the many parodies of bad literary fiction out there, especially the formulaic types where the protagonist simply muses about the meaning of life while smoking a cigarette, or while writing a novel, or just walking while thinking about the painful humdrum of being a middle-class person in America.

This points to something important that gets missed.

Crappy literary fiction never reaches the mainstream. It never reaches the public consciousness. It simply disappears.

Crappy genre fiction, on the other hand, like every Transformers movie ever, has an audience. It is worth something to people.

So again I say: genre fiction is worth more than literary fiction.

And those who deny their genre fiction roots are simply engaging in classic elitism, nothing more.