Tuesday, June 2, 2015

I DON'T Beg Your Pardon

The "Civility" Con Game

I am a believer in civility, both in interpersonal relations and in controversies being thrashed out in the public square. Of course, I am talking about actual civility (click on the word in the previous sentence for a definition). Nowadays, however, the word "civility" is often used as a sort of code for proposals to make people shut up. I don't really feel like going into a full-on rant about this today, so permit me to condense my thoughts into a few helpful bullet points, to wit:
  • I am not being "uncivil" if I publicly disagree with you about something.
  • I am not being "uncivil" if I point out flaws in your reasoning and/or evidence.
  • I am not being "uncivil" if I explain to you that a word doesn't mean what you think it does.
  • I am not being "uncivil" if I decline to give you veto power over my opinions or my word choices.
  • I am not being "uncivil" if I point out inconsistencies in your belief system.
  • I am not being "uncivil" if I decline to join your online lynch mob, but criticize it instead.
Have you ever had a conversation online go something like this?
Me: Pardon me, but you are simply mistaken about _____.
Other person: Why should I care what a fascist, bead-fumbling, racist right-wing nutjob says?
Me: Because you look foolish when you say such obviously mistaken things...
Other person: “Foolish”??? There's no need to start name-calling, asshole!
 I'm a big boy...

"And getting bigger every day..."
That's not very civil of you, you know. Anyway, as I was saying, I'm more than capable of taking care of myself both in real-life conversations and in the hurly-burly of online debates. It would be really welcome, though, if people would stop using the notion of "civility" as a stalking horse for silencing dissenting voices.

Every time I think I have seen it all in this sort of Big Brother-ism, something new comes along. For instance, there is now a "bot" on Twitter "correcting" people for their pronoun usage. It isn't clear to me how long Twitter will tolerate this sort of "polite" browbeating of its users, but they ought to be mindful of what might be the long-term consequences. Here's a heads-up for anyone who thinks it is a good idea to try to "police" what I write online:

Thugs of the Avian Community

Perhaps it's just me, but these guys basically operate like a feathered street gang, don't they? Always travel in bunches, try to intimidate the other birds, steal their food, make a tremendous racket, etc. As a general rule, I love all of God's creatures, but sometimes...
"What are YOU lookin' at, buddy? You want some real trouble?"

Things That Make Me Happy: Home Game Edition

After a dispiriting 1-4 road trip, my beloved Kansas City Royals return home to Kauffman Stadium tonight to take on the Cleveland Indians. The Royals will start Jeremy Guthrie, who in his previous start against the New York Yankees gave up 8 runs in the first inning, then came back out for the second inning and gave up three more runs without recording an out. It is small comfort that it wasn't even among the Top 25 worst starts in MLB history (it was No. 32). We need Jeremy to get back on track, and I am hopeful that his spacious home park will help him right the ship.

"Nowhere to go but up, right?"

"Well, that's ONE theory, yes..."
Zip it, buster. Don't be a jinx...

For The Record

Since one purpose for this blog is to provide posterity with a fuller understanding of me and my life, from time to time I will attempt to correct misconceptions along those lines, starting with the canard that I am afraid of flying. That is utterly false. I am NOT afraid of flying. My dad spent most of his life leading maintenance teams for Trans World Airlines, and since his family got free tickets, I got to fly many times...

TWA Boeing 707

Sometimes, if the trip was far enough away, I got to ride on a plane like this one...

Boeing 727

Most of the time, though, the trips were short enough that I'd wind up in planes designed for intermediate routes...

Lockheed L-1011 TriStar
Because he was a crew chief, my dad got to work on everything TWA had, including the globe-hopping jumbos. My need to fly places commercially ended before I ever got a chance to fly in an L-1011, of which my dad used to speak very highly.

Boeing 747
I also never had a chance to fly in a one of these, which my dad considered the finest commercial airliner ever built. He retired before having a chance to work on later aircraft, but I don't know if any of them could have changed his mind...

My dad was also a pilot himself, going back to his days in the service, and for a brief while even gave flying lessons. He owned one of these:
Grumman American AA5 Traveler
I flew with him in his Traveler on many occasions, and even took the controls more than once. Even though the cockpit in a small aircraft tends to be very noisy, I enjoyed those experiences. I actually preferred them to flying commercial, in no small part because I knew my dad was a great pilot...

So, No, I am NOT afraid of flying.

"Now CRASHING, on the other hand..."

Public Service Announcement

Things That Make Me Happy: Board Games Edition

There is one, and only one, board game that I truly love: Chess. I learned the moves from my dad, and played the game sort of casually with friends during elementary school, but I didn't really get serious about the game until high school. My best friend and debate partner played, and our junior year we had a debate coach who loved the game, too. I was on the school's team, but the vast majority of the games I played were against my partner and my coach.

For a variety of reasons, I basically stopped playing for more than a decade after I graduated, although I didn't stop reading books and studying. When I returned to the game, I actually began participating in tournaments rated by the United States Chess Federation, earning an official Elo rating.

Every once in awhile I would win a bit of prize money in these tournaments, and I always spent it on chess gear. I now have a nice collection of boards, clocks, and chess literature. The pride of my collection, though, are my tournament sets...

House of Staunton's Zagreb '59 set
I have one of these sets in ebonized boxwood, and one in painted and lacquered boxwood. I don't usually use the nicer lacquered set at tournaments, but every once in awhile I will if it's a really important game...

They're even more beautiful in person than in pictures, believe me.

I do still study, and every so often I enter an over-the-board tournament, but it has been a few years since I won any prizes. I always enjoy the intellectual stimulation, though. I also take advantage of the internet's ability to let me watch top players at strong tournaments anywhere in the world play each other in real time. That's a blast!

Until Next Time...

For today's fine arts send-off I chose an airplane-themed tune from one of my favorite groups of the 1970s. Enjoy...

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