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Aaron McLin
Attended University of Illinois at Chicago
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I was checking out +Aristotle Bancale's stream, and was suddenly reminded of one of those bizarre things that happened in my life, more than half a lifetime ago that had a much greater effect on me that I would have thought at the time, mainly because it "inspired" my parents to teach me to not take myself so seriously.

Anyway, if you know me reasonably well, you've likely heard "the Bonnie Story," before. But there are a number people in my circles who haven't ever met me face to face, and they'll be completely unaware of it. It's a long story, so if you decide to read it, make sure you have a bit of time to spare.

I'm posting this publicly, so that anyone who happens to come by my profile page can see this particular post, and hopefully, have a laugh out of it. But rest assured that you'll be laughing with me if you do.
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Ah... Bonnie wasn't that bad. Like I said, she just watched WAY too much television for her own good. But we were all in our twenties once.
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A lot of people claim to never have met a hateful Christian. And I can get behind that. I don't see most people as being actively hateful - there are other, equally powerful, emotions at work, I think.

h/t: +Arlene Medder.
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I agree. That being said, fear and hate are close enough that they are often nigh indistinguishable from each other. Also not mutually exclusive of each other. I have met hateful people who were not afraid, and fearful people who did not hate, of all faiths and no faiths. Most people who are afraid, hate what they are afraid of. Which has some pretty deep implications regarding the nature of God fearing folks.
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The man's pants and baseball cap bore the chaotic black, brown and greens of camouflage. His long-sleeved shirt was olive drab. His face was set and grim; he made no eye contact with anyone as he strode purposefully down the sidewalk, his tread precisely measured.

He held a large white sign in both hands, it covered his torso as if it were a barrier against the world. On it, written in black, in large capital letters were two words:

BUY SILVER

I thought of the coin my father had given me. There was a tradition, he said, of giving people a silver coin that had been minted in the year of their birth. But by the time I was born, there were no newly-minted silver coins, and the ones that were out there had disappeared into personal hoards, safe-deposit boxes and dealer display cases. And so my coin is more ancient than I, by nearly twice.

I knew the man did not have gifts on his mind. Instead, he was warning those of us too poor to buy gold to still prepare for the coming Collapse. Did he Fear it, I wondered, or did he Welcome it as a reckoning.

Silver, huh, I said to myself, as drove past. I'd have taken you for the sort who preferred lead.
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Woodinville.
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"This alarming development coincided with the state’s decision to slash its family planning budget by two-thirds in 2011—an attempt to shut down abortion providers that ultimately forced 82 clinics, many of which never performed the controversial procedure, to close. The study’s authors do not posit a correlation between this draconian policy change and the shocking increase in pregnancy-related deaths, but women’s health professionals have."

For the record, here is what the study's authors, Marian MacDorman, Eugene Declercq, Howard Cabral and Christine Morton, have to say about the topic:

There were some changes in the provision of women’s health services in Texas from 2011 to 2015, including the closing of several women’s health clinics. Still, in the absence of war, natural disaster, or severe economic upheaval, the doubling of a mortality rate within a 2-year period in a state with almost 400,000 annual births seems unlikely. A future study will examine Texas data by race–ethnicity and detailed causes of death to better understand this unusual finding.

In other words: The jump is strange even given the clinic closings and budget cuts, so we'll try to see what's going on with that in the future. Which is to say: They DO note the correlation - what they don't do is assume a causal link.

Neither Brittney Martin from The Dallas Morning News or Nora Caplan-Bricker from Slate seem to understand the difference between the definitions of "correlation" and "causality," apparently expecting that "suggesting" or "positing" a correlation means saying that the sudden rise in maternal mortality was triggered, directly or indirectly, by the budget cuts, instead of being coincident with and/or trailing them.

This strikes me as poor editing, especially at The Dallas Morning News. You'd think that someone would have caught that the writer was conflating the meanings of "correlation" and "causality." XX Factor being a blog, is likely subject to less rigorous scrutiny. But even there, it's stated that women’s health professionals have posited a correlation between healthcare policy and the increase in maternal mortality. The quote that follows, however, says nothing of the sort. You can take it as implying a link, but nothing in Ms. Wheat's statement, either in The Dallas Morning News or Slate comes out and says either that the clinic closures are related in time to rise is deaths or are a cause of them. That is to say that Ms. Wheat speaks to neither correlation nor causality - she simply notes the effects on the clinic closures to the time required to obtain appointments or referrals. There may well be a connection between that and the maternal mortality rate, but Ms. Wheat doesn't make that connection in her quoted statement.

In the end, I suspect this is neither here nor there. After all, it is, to a degree, simply me being pedantic. But I find it interesting how people use language and how they understand events, and the media people interact with plays a large part in both of these. And the online reactions I saw to this blog post seemed driven by the same misunderstandings that appeared within it and the newspaper article it used as a source.
Pregnancy-related deaths nearly doubled in Texas between 2010 and 2012, and researchers are at a loss to say why. According to a new study, published i ...
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Texas screwed up. Only way to interpret the data.
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So there's a new (?) hashtag, #firstsevenjobs , going around, and I decided why the heck not. So here are the first seven things that I was paid to do. And some of the memories that came along with them.

1) Paperboy - Interestingly, you'll find no record of my ever having done this. Pay was based on tenure, and when I gave the job to my younger sister, the delivery director altered all the records to make it look as if she'd been doing the job all along, so that she'd start at the pay rate I left off at.

2) Fast-food burger-flipper - Typical suburban Wendy's. I was the only Black kid. Five of my coworkers were named "Scott." One day, Richard (imagine George Michael working as a fast food manager), assigned all of them to the same shift. I thought that Margaret was going to blow a gasket. One girl who worked there was my age, to the day. We convinced a couple that we were fraternal twins from a mixed marriage, our parents were divorced and that we each lived with one of them, hence our different last names.

3) Telemarketer - I turned out to be a bit too honest for the job. Telling people that, in your opinion, they can do without the service being offered isn't the way to career advancement. Who knew?

4) Busboy - I nearly shot one of my mother's coworkers in the face with a champagne cork. It fluffed her bangs and left a divot in a ceiling tile.

5) Bartender - A strange job to give someone who's not old enough to drink. I watched a lot of television, drew a lot of bad sci-fi and fantasy art, and nearly floored a woman with a Gin and Tonic (turns out the old ladies liked them stronger than most other people could handle). The Bonnie Story originates here.

6) Security guard - During training, we spent a day learning how liability law limits what you can do to intruders in your home... and how to make a murder look like self-defense. When the week was done, we received Private Investigator licenses. I spent the summer guarding a small suburban airport and talking Battletech with my coworker. Low flying private and commuter jets are really loud. (Shocking, I know.) I got this job specifically so I could get...

7) Student patrol - Basically a student extension to the University of Illinois at Chicago police department. I didn't party in college, so I needed something to do. One day I noticed smoke coming from a dumpster. It was still burning when I came back from class so I called it in. The dispatcher said: "An observant Student Patrol. There's something you don't see every day." On a gray, dreary day, I was on one of old concrete causeways that used to connect a bunch of the buildings via their second floors. I heard someone below me mumbling about what a bad temper he had and how "she" needed to watch out. I called it in. But because I was on the causeways and he was on the ground, I lost track of him, and by time officers responded, we couldn't find him. Then there was a call from the Administration building - a man had assaulted his wife as she was leaving. We all rushed over there. I don't think the guy expected to be mobbed by a half-dozen officers. But I still feel bad that I didn't keep an eye on him.

And there you have it. The first seven paid jobs I've held.
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You have a very good memory!
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Why I love going to Ren Faire.
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#leftshark   still out of sync
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Aaron McLin

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Posting this separately rather than replying to the original post because, honestly, I'm not attempting to start a fight. I might end up starting one anyway, but that's not the intent.

And I quote:
concept: instead of the words ‘trigger warnings’, academic institutions and academics who are against them must use the words ‘accessibility for students who have overcome trauma to work for their education’

The post goes on from here, but I want to focus on this part, because I think it's what we should be talking about, but aren't.

Not to be pedantic, but when I parse this out what it says to me is that "trigger warnings" should be considered a necessary, but not necessarily sufficient, component of "accessibility to those who have overcome trauma to work for their goals." (Were trigger warnings sufficient but not necessary, the equating of the two would be nonsensical, and if trigger warnings were both sufficient and necessary, then both supporters and detractors alike should be expected to make the substitution.)

And to me, the idea that trigger warnings should be considered a necessary, but not necessarily sufficient component of accessibility to those who have overcome trauma to work for their goals (and note that I'm referring to more than just higher education here) begs a question. Are trigger warnings a necessary, but not necessarily sufficient, component of accessibility to those who have overcome trauma to work for their goals?

In other words, if I take an institution, be that a university, employer or entertainment venue, and aggressively strip it of each and every thing that falls under the heading of trigger warning, does it become necessarily inaccessible to people who have overcome trauma?

And here comes the next question - can we even answer that question?

I, for my part, think I can. But I understand that it's only by making certain assumptions about what certain words mean, and I am not at all convinced that those assumptions are shared. In other words, while I think I understand what "trigger warnings", "accessibility" and "trauma" mean, I don't know if I share those understandings with others. After all, I'm pretty sure I know that "racism" means, and I've had some pretty intense arguments with people over whether or not a particular incident counts as racism, bigotry, prejudice or simple dickery.

Part of it is that I learned what racism meant when Jimmy Carter was still early in his tenure at the White House. And that was a long time ago. For some people, the definition has changed since then, and for others, 8-year old me was simply part of a society that didn't really understand was racism was, and was miseducated. And some people simply use a different dictionary.

And I think that this becomes part of the issue. As I've grown old, I've come to understand, and to expect, that language, especially English, is not objective. The words trigger warning, accessible and trauma don't mean the same thing to everyone. They've become loaded terms, and to a certain degree, overloaded.

I read an article today by an academic who took issue with the University of Chicago letter, but never actually cited it - all of the links that referenced it pointed to other articles that spoke of it, but themselves never directly quoted the letter. That, to me, was a bad sign. But I think that it's indicative of how this entire debate is playing out.

People appear to be standing on their own definitions of words and presuming that those definitions are universal. And once they've decided that they know what other people mean, there is also a tendency to believe they know how other people think. In other words, once you presume that "trigger warnings" are, by definition, necessary for "accessibility for students who have overcome trauma to work for their education," and any sufficiently educated speaker of English must treat them as such, then it becomes fairly easy to make attributions of intent. (Because if you don't make that presumption, then that attribution simply becomes an intentional straw man.)

One of our great failings in public debate is a failure to realize that English is about as precise in everyday speech as a drunken marksman with a blunderbuss. That often leads us, and I'll admit to being guilty here, too, to not ask other people what they understand certain words - especially the words that are important to us - to mean. Assuming, that is, that we even understand when certain words are important to us.

I'm willing to give the University of Chicago the benefit of the doubt. Not because all of us native South Siders need to stick together, but because I went to school in the days before trigger warnings, and I think I knew some people who survived trauma who found school accessible to them. But, like I said, I'm making some assumptions with that, and other people may not hold to them.

In any event, I do think that we often have the wrong discussions about topics like this. Which may be why they become so contentious.
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One major point of contention I've seen on the matter involves a disparity of meaning, and it comes from someone who has PTSD. They talk about having psychological triggers that are incredibly idiosyncratic, mundane things. (In the psychological world, a trigger is something which prompts an automatic reaction, and is heavily linked to PTSD.)

They contrast this with things like "this language or content makes me feel unsafe/uncomfortable/I don't like discussing this content". Things that would be better addressed through content warnings akin to the things that get added to movie ratings.

So effectively, they raised the notion that the concept of "triggers", which is very useful for recovering individuals, has been co-opted for broader purposes, rendering things much more difficult for the people that it was originally intended to help.
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The University of Chicago saying that it does not support trigger warnings has started another small skirmish in the new culture wars, bit it seems to me that people are fighting over the wrong patch of ground.

Because when I was in school, it wasn't the teachers and professors you had to watch out for - it was the other students. Maybe this is just a side effect of having grown up in the suburbia (Chicagoland, no less) of the 70s and 80s, but if you didn't have a thick skin by the time you made it to college, you had to have lived a sheltered life, indeed. The kids I went to school with were indifferent to the feelings of others at their best and could slip into outright cruelty at a moment's notice. I was never taken off-guard by anything my instructors did. But even into college, the capacity of my fellow students to set out to hurt one another seemed endless.

Maybe it's because I'd shaded into a muddled state of Gray by the time I'd made it halfway through school, and always felt like an outsider. Maybe it was because I never knew when to simply walk away from a conflict with someone. Or maybe it was because I was acutely aware of just how mean children (and adults) could be.

And it wasn't like we didn't understand how people could be traumatized by things. Enough of the people I went to junior high school with used such things as weapons that I'm impressed that any of us made it out with our sanity intact. (And I don't think that everyone got out okay.) But I was never in a class where it seemed that people were blindsided by what was actually being taught. Rather, it was the other students in the class who seemed to be the ones to push people's buttons. Sometimes innocently, other times most definitely not. And that's a much harder thing to guard against.
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I think that for me one of the biggest problems with trigger warnings is that people very quickly come to expect that there will be a trigger warning for any mention at all of whatever it is that might "trigger" them. I have witnessed a protracted argument because someone used the phrase "the rape of our natural resources" (or a very similar phrase) without issuing a trigger warning before using "the R word" (which is not at all what I understood "the R word" to mean). I have also witnessed a discussion in which a whole raft of people agreed that biology textbooks should have trigger warnings because some people are so afraid of spiders that photographs and illustrations of them can be intensely disturbing.

When as an institution you tell people they are entitled to trigger warnings, what you are telling them is either that you commit your institution to successfully anticipating what will disturb any one of them, or that as an institution you will define a list of words or topics that are "legitimate" triggers, thus implying that other words or topics are not legitimate triggers. You can't win in either situation.
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The quick and dirty: A 3rd generation Indian-American is thrown out of a rally for Donald Trump because someone in the campaign determined that he was a known anti-Trump demonstrator.

“I thought (Trump) was for all people. I don’t believe he is for all people anymore,” [Anantha] said. “Why are all these white people allowed to attend and I’m not?”

The Long Form: As the Trope says, Good Job Breaking It, Hero. As much as Donald Trump says that he has great relationships with minority voters, even going to far as to say that he'd rack up 95% of the African-American vote in a hypothetical re-election bid in 2020, some of Mr. Trump's campaign staffers seem to be convinced that the minorities who show up to hear the man for themselves might be enemy agents. And that's going to be a problem, especially if they also refuse to consider the idea that they may have screwed up.

When the Observer pressed for an explanation of whether the campaign still believes Anantha has disrupted previous events or whether this was a case of mistaken identity, Bell said the identification was made by Trump’s security director, former FBI agent Eddie Deck.

“You’d have to talk to those guys,” Bell said, adding that he had not asked for details but would follow up.

You could make the point that "the media" only focuses on screw-ups like this. And I'd agree with you. The media thrives on conflict - because conflicts attract attention, and attention is currency of the modern media landscape. Knowing how to stay out of the spotlight by fixing things quickly is a key skill.

Stories like this are unlikely to benefit the Clinton campaign directly. A campaign's negatives rarely drive people over to the other side. Mr. Anantha says that he's considering voting for Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson. But people who move to third parties or simply stay home on Election Day don't make the job of winning any easier. Remember Florida in 2000 - a relatively small number of voters who turned their backs on Al Gore effectively decided the race.

It's not enough for Donald Trump to stand on stage and talk about what he's going to do for people (especially if he seems unwilling to take that message to where the people he's supposed to be appealing to actually live). Even as President, he'd only be one person. Where the rubber meets the road are the people who will be actually carrying out policy. If he's not making his people read the memo during the campaign, where he's got a fair amount of control over who can work for him, it's going to be an uphill battle for him to convince people that he'll change an entrenched bureaucracy that's watched any number of chief executives come and go.
An 18-year-old Charlotte college student who was ejected from Thursday’s Donald Trump rally says he went from avid backer to disillusioned opponent after Trump’s security staff accused him of being a known protester.
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An interesting piece on why the health insurance exchanges set up by the Affordable Care act are having difficulty attracting insurers.

It's too bad that this isn't a piece of long-form journalism/advocacy, because there are some statements in there that really should be unpacked. To wit:

"In this situation, there are two things that matter most. One is lowering the real price of health care, which is the only way to reduce the overall losses in the insurance system. The other is distributing the losses as fairly as possible. The simplest way to accomplish both of these goals is a universal, government-sponsored insurance program. The most effective way to control prices, used in every other developed country in the world, is to consolidate buying power. And the fairest way to distribute losses is to do so via a progressive tax system."

There is nothing wrong with these statements; but in the absence of supporting material, they become simply ideological assertions, because a reader cannot evaluate them. And this is especially important when we're talking about adjectives such as simplest, most effective and fairest, which tend to be value judgements rather than objective descriptors.

And value judgements raise another point - to what degree do we value them? People tend to present the things that they value as unambiguously universal positives, desired by all right-thinking individuals. But values are functions of life experience, not a facet of simply being human, and so it's worthwhile to understand why we value the things we do, to see if those values make sense in light of the myriad of unique experiences that we encounter.

Part of this is simply the nature of mass media. If you read James Kwak over at The Baseline Scenario, (like I sometimes do - although not as much as I should - I've allowed my blog-reading to slip), you'll notice that he can go into a LOT of detail about things, and toss around some fairly impenetrable jargon. (I have no idea what a "probit regression" is...) So I'm not faulting him for writing what is, in effect, a short guest editorial.

But it would have been interesting to really get into the whys and wherefores of this. You can never know too much about how people understand things to work.
It’s not just Aetna: The way Obamacare handles the excessive costs of treatment simply doesn’t work.
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In this excerpt from the film, [Yuval] Orr is at the start of his journey of uncovering the deep web; it's an unregulated marketplace, a space for hidden revolutions, drugs, terrorism, and child pornography.

"Beware the Four Horsemen of the Information Apocalypse: terrorists, drug dealers, kidnappers, and child pornographers. Seems like you can scare any public into allowing the government to do anything with those four."
Bruce Schneier, Computer Crime Hype 16 December, 2005

The Atlantic introduces us to this documentary about "the deep web," titled Down the Deep, Dark Web with a short piece they call The Dangers of the Deep Web. And, likely without realizing it, they invoke three of Bruce Schneier's four horsemen. (And I'm pretty sure they'd have hit the fourth if they'd thought about it. Although one could make the point that revolutionaries often kidnap people...)

There is a statement that Yuval Orr, the filmmaker makes in the beginning of the clip that, viewed in this light, is deeply ironic: "Fear can be a misleading emotion. What appears frightening on the surface isn't always so when you draw closer. We're often scared of the things we're conditioned to be."

(The "deep web," for those of you unfamiliar with the term, simply refers to all of those "places" on the Internet that are not indexed by search engines, and thus they are difficult to find, even if they aren't access controlled. Despite The Atlantic's invocation of Bad People, most of the Deep Web is perfectly legitimate. Think of it like cell phone numbers. There's nothing nefarious about having a cellular telephone, but phone directory makers are prevented from compiling a list of those numbers and putting them in the phone book.)
The new documentary Down the Deep, Dark Web explores the promise and perils of the deep web—the part of the internet that isn’t indexed through search engines. Yuval Orr is an Israeli journalist who became fascinated with the darknet, and spent months talking to tech experts and crypto-anarchists about what the deep web can be used for. In this excerpt from the film, Orr is at the start of his journey of uncovering the deep web: it’s an unregulat...
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Aaron McLin

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Hello, everyone. I have a question. I like to work out maps in my spare time. Castles, dungeons, buildings, the occasional cave, that sort of thing. It's a zen/keep the brain exercised kind of deal - something I do more for the activity of it than anything else.

One of the things about computerized cartography applications is that it's relatively easy to make changes, and I'm always making changes. Anyone have a program that they'd be willing to recommend. I'm not limiting myself for "free" or "freemium" here - I'm willing to slap down some cash in order to walk away with a full-featured (and high-quality) piece of software that I can use for my tinkering. If you can point me to samples of the chosen program's output, so much the better. Something that I'll need a PhD in computer science or CAD in order to work likely won't make the cut, by the way.

Thanks, everyone.
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ProFantasy Campaign Cartographer.
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Basic Information
Gender
Male
Story
Tagline
I'm Nobody In Particular. Just Another Random American.
Introduction
My name is Aaron McLin. I'm an Ineligible Bachelor™.

When I'm not busy with other things, I have two hobbies that I fall back on: Role-playing games and photography. Despite having gotten into RPGs about 35 years ago, I don't consider myself a gamer. (Although I do own a "Role Playing Game Designers" group here on Google+ and on LinkedIn.) Rather, I'm a collector, and I now have way too many games. I used to play fairly regularly, until I started seeing my most recent girlfriend. RPGs made no sense to her (which I understand), and so I set active play aside to spend time with her instead. I own a few different cameras, and take pains to always have one with me to take pictures. I don't go out shooting as much as I used to, because I've got about a thousand shots of most of things around here that I actually want to take pictures of (that I know of). Instead, I look forward to taking a camera (or two) to interesting events in the area. I used to be a fairly enthusiastic animé fan, but have drifted away from it in recent years. Except for Gundam (Universal Century timeline) - I'll always make time to check that out. By the same token, I'm an ex-comic book and video game aficionado. I also have a blog, unimaginatively named "Nobody In Particular." It likely really should be called "Things Aaron Hates," although do work at being more positive about it - which really means staying away from talking about politics. I've had it going since late 2006, and am at just shy of 1,500 posts at this point. Keeping it updated has become something of a compulsion for me. I'd like to try my hand at podcasting, but I can't imagine that I'd be all that interesting to listen to. Maybe if I find a partner I can discuss things with, it would be worth a shot.
Bragging rights
You know how Lily Tomlin said: "No matter how cynical you become, it's never enough to keep up?" I have the sinking feeling that not only have I managed to keep up, but I'm starting to pull ahead.
Education
  • University of Illinois at Chicago
    Psychology