Friday, December 16, 2016

Inform the Electors

My message to President Obama via the contact page:

In a situation like this, it isn't appropriate to be politely nonpartisan with regard to the intelligence on Russia's influence on the election. If the Electors would change their minds regarding the scope of the influence when given access to the intelligence, and they are denied access, then they are being forced to make their electoral decision "blind." I'm surprised by your decision to decline to make the information available to the Electors. It's one thing to declassify the information, and we understand your reluctance to do that. But the intelligence is precisely relevant to the decision the Electors will be making. It's recently been said by individuals from both parties that this isn't a partisan issue, it's a constitutional issue. Please rethink your decision regarding the intelligence. The information is precisely relevant to the decision the Electors will be making. They need to be able to make an informed decision.

While I'm at it, I want to thank you for eight years of level-headed even-handedness. Even in the face of ad hominem verbal abuse from a good percentage of the American population and petulant resistance from legislators, you, like the Queen, have never "put your foot wrong." It's been amazing to see you continuing to be positive and professional. We will greatly miss your leadership.

Monday, December 05, 2016

The Whitelash Cycle

Sounds like a new style of eye makeup. An article on, "This is what 'whitelash' looks like," explains that the term refers to the white backlash that historically has occurred after every era when progress against racism has been made. I wasn't aware of this historical pattern before reading the article, but in thinking about it now it's fairly clear. Reconstruction after the Civil War, the post-war era from 1865 to 1877, was a time when former slaves gained more influence in the country. The article's author, John Blake, says that a century of Jim Crow followed the Reconstruction. He continues "The civil rights movement of the 1950s and '60s was followed by President Ronald Reagan and the rise of the religious right." The article was also enlightening for me regarding Obama's presidency, the he isn't "post-racial" but "post-Reconstructionist," with Trump's election echoing the whitelash that occurred in the fourth quarter of the nineteenth century. Hm. It's difficult to analyze history while one is in it.

My own belief, actually deeply held, is that the outcome of the Civil War was the wrong one. There should be, right now, a nation called the Confederate States of America existing beside the USA as peacefully as Canada does. How hard is that to visualize? Crossing the national boundary into the CSA and back again would be no more difficult than entering Canada from Washington State. "Anything to declare?" As it is currently, those we identify as Southerners, which is a term becoming increasingly diffused as that population moves around, also deeply hold the belief that the outcome of the Civil War was the wrong one. For many of them, now, their experience is that they have a dual citizenship, because many believe deeply, down where God and love and country reside, in the deepest part of the heart, that the Confederate States of America was never completely dissolved and still exists in spirit. Evidence of that is the number of Confederate flags currently flying. Dual citizenship is obviously okay and a lot of people are in that situation. The problem comes in when those citizenships conflict. If citizens of the CSA feel that the spirit of the CSA is embedded within the definition of the USA, then they're patriotic for and fiercely supportive of the USA. But if the USA is defined as a forward-thinking nation whose responsibilities and privileges relate equally to all her peoples, their CSA citizenship takes precedence. And actions that could be considered treasonous in one nation may be considered heroic in the other.

The problem of conflicting allegiances probably can't be solved. The constitutional, legal, financial and logistical hurdles keeping the Confederacy from peacefully, bloodlessly seceding from the US now are probably insurmountable. But I can't think of anything that would generate more euphoria among Southerners, especially the straight white Christian blue-collar males who are diehard Trump supporters, than the South actually rising again. Even the return of Jesus in glory wouldn't be quite as exciting for them as the Confederacy peacefully, legally becoming a real entity. If SWCMs feel disenfranchised in the modern world of immigration, workplace equality, and automation, finding a way to make the Confederate States of America a reality—without bloodshed and with the assistance of legal professionals all the way up to the Supreme Court—would give that whole population something to focus on and work toward, a monumental, historic effort in which to take great pride.

Thursday, December 01, 2016

Rather Than Skewering Republicans

My email to Rachel Maddow:

Here's something I've been thinking about for a while. Instead of skewering conservatives for the falseness of their claims and for their wealthy-favoring policies, what if we focused instead on conversion? I know it sounds dumb, and I am naive enough to think of something like that. But while I watch you and Chris Hayes and all being uncompromising in your fact-checked roasting of the right wing—and you are world-class in generating moral outrage and/or unbelieving laughter in your viewers—I'm thinking that the very entertainment-value itself is what keeps people on the right from watching your show and learning something. It probably doesn't even cross the minds of most conservatives to watch TRMS because of how the right is ridiculed, although I do remember from a while ago some conservative Congressmen referring to the individual dressing-down they got from your show as a rite of passage. But generally TRMS and All In and all are environments where only masochistic conservatives would venture. While I'm listening to you presenting lucid arguments against different aspects of the right's agenda, I'm thinking "Conservatives should be hearing this!" But the way the information they'd benefit from is presented, they would only feel extremely insulted and as a result would shut out the information. For your typical viewers, it's like emotional support to hear their complaints against the right couched in arguments that are so logical they make the right look ridiculous. But still I frequently think "Conservatives should be hearing this."

I suppose it has to be this way. Your viewers expect skewering of the right. They'd be annoyed if you spent the entire show politely trying to convince conservatives to see the falseness of the right's arguments and you then held an invitation at the end for any conservatives who wanted to convert and they could call the number on their screen. "Call in the next twenty minutes and we'll send you a..." Even having a conservative-friendly segment of the show probably wouldn't work. I doubt they'd tune in even if you identified an upcoming segment as "Safe for Republicans." It's a conundrum. The very information they should hear to get a clearer picture than they get from Fox News, is bristling with comical insults aimed at them. It probably has to be this way. But I just wanted to pass the thought along to you, although I doubt I'm the first viewer who has brought this up. It does seem now that, when the right realizes that Trump isn't going to keep very many of his campaign promises, it would be a time when they would be slightly more willing to listen to the left. Just a thought.

I also wanted to mention that everything I know about the Electoral College overturning the popular vote in the Harrison-Cleveland election I learned from The One and Only Genuine Original Family Band. Disney, 1968. It's a hoot. You might even find yourself singing along. [I saw the film in 1973 and still remember some of the lyrics. "Let's put it over with Grover. Don't rock the boat, give him your vote..." Don't ask me why.]

Sunday, November 27, 2016

PCs to the Back of the Bus

Dear Dr. Apple:

Have you thought of this? Picture an Apple store in a mall with a sign over the door that reads "Whites Only." Picture in another part of the mall an electronics store with a sign over the door that reads "Colored." Have you thought about that? It's amazing that Apple is continuing with its separate-but-superior OS segregation policies. It should be easy by now to flow from Windows-based applications to Mac-based applications. There shouldn't even be the Mac/PC dichotomy anymore. But there still isn't the free flow of equals between the two segments of the population because a Wall is in place intended specifically to make access to Mac applications difficult for Palestinians, I'm sorry I meant Mexicans, I'm sorry I meant PC users.

It's well past time for Apple to drop its elitism and stop positioning the Mac in the marketplace as if it's a purely Aryan race of computers. That kind of elitism is more attuned to the world of the 1950s. I can easily picture people who were vehemently opposed to school desegregation flocking to stores that sell these clean white machines assiduously designed to appear different from and better than the hordes of common machines in the other stores. That's how we thought then. But now?

The sleek white surfaces of the Apple product line look so sophisticated and forward-thinking and uncluttered by the past. But beneath those surfaces? It's just old white guys being themselves.

Sunday, November 13, 2016's Electoral College Petition Is Back

I haven't been this motivated to be political since Dubya's reelection campaign. (The war we could not stop, the reign we could not end.) It seems that every time I sit down to my computer now I see something or other that triggers a need to respond. This too shall pass. Or something like that. The petition to tell the Electoral College to cast their votes for Hillary was taken down yesterday, and I sent them a message on the order of "I can't believe you did that!" I see that the petition is back online now but all of the previous signatures must have been deleted. They sent out an email this morning asking for financial support and they made no mention of the petition being back online. I went to the site to check that it was still down and found it online again. This is my reply to the fundraising email:
MoveOn totally messed up when they took down the Electoral College petition. I couldn't believe it. In my previous note I speculated that you'd been infiltrated by a conservative plant or two. I don't know if that's the case or if it was just wanting to appear less like sore losers. In most cases I would agree that being a good loser is the best strategy, but the Trump campaign has been outrageous.

Thank you for bringing back the petition! I see that it's down to 50,000 signatures now. I think I remember it being over 200,000 when I signed it the first time. Let's hope momentum can propel this petition past the highest total number of signatures of the previous petition.

Thanks again for bringing it back!

Saturday, November 12, 2016

It's Worse Than We Thought

Scrolling through the news articles on Yahoo, I saw this headline: "The Mike Pence (Donald Trump) Assault On LGBTQ Equality Is Already Underway." It linked to an article by Michelangelo Signorile, Queer Voices Editor-at-Large at Huffington Post. I may have read the entire article without blinking. OMG. Who knew? They're speculating that Mike Pence "could be the most powerful Vice President ever." More powerful than Chaney? Is that physically possible? Signorile writes "Mike Pence is perhaps one of the most anti-LGBTQ political crusaders to serve in Congress and as governor of a state. Long before he signed the draconian anti-LGBTQ 'religious liberty' law in Indiana last year, he supported 'conversion therapy' as a member of Congress, and later, as a columnist and radio host, he gave a speech in which he said that marriage equality would lead to 'societal collapse,' and called homosexuality 'a choice.'" The article is especially unsettling because we believe we've been making halting progress through the years since the turn of the century, that the population has been gradually, grudgingly accepting new ways of thinking about certain segments of the population. But all along there have been influential people plotting ways to roll time back and undo that progress because they feel this progress has been an ooze downward toward depravity rather than a march upward toward enlightenment. Signorile advocates moving through the grieving process quickly and beginning the fight to retain the progress we've made.

I shouldn't scroll down to look at the comments at the end of articles. I know better. I'll have to break that habit if I'm going to get anything else done besides blogging, tweeting and facebooking. But one reply to a comment after this article was just so... dumb that I had to respond:
Kiran Suresh · Los Angeles, California
I'm not afraid of Trump because I know he will do nothing. I'm worried about a republican dominated house and conservative SC which could roll back years of progress. And everyone knows Pence is the scariest wolf in the White House.

Tim Daugherty · Jamison, Pennsylvania
Kiran Suresh: Yes, we need to roll back soooo many things liberals have put into place! This is should not be viewed as a fear but rather the consequences for losing an election to conservative issues. The DOW is up huge... but I guess you do not look at those things.

John Evan Garvey · Burbank, California
Tim Daugherty: I imagine Jamison is in central Pennsylvania? Do you own cows yourself? I imagine you're married; nope, looking at your profile you appear to be single. You don't know what your girlfriend or your mom is really thinking about the reduction of women's rights that appears to be coming. She hasn't told you what she's really thinking because she knows better. You have an LGBT brother or sister or niece or nephew or cousin who hasn't told you because they know how you'd react. So much going on around you that you don't know about. And you're thinking "It's a man's world again!," meaning straight white Christian man's world. There are people whom you love, who are close to you, whom you are hurting with your support of a narrow conservative agenda. The soooo many things liberals have put into place have benefited people you love. When those rights are taken away, it will hurt them, but they won't let you know that, because they know better.

Say It Often Enough, It Becomes True

An informative article by Neil Buchanan on the Newsweek site: The Cruel 'Crooked' Caricature That Doomed Clinton. Very interesting reading. He trashes the media on the left and right equally, so Conservatives could benefit from reading the article too without feeling too much nausea.

At the end of the article, the Comments section shows that there are currently 600 comments. A reply to the first comment started a long, long thread of people telling the replier how stupid she is. And it rolled on and on. Following are the first comment and the first two replies:
James Johnson
Wow. Rush Limbaugh was right, as usual. The leftist, leg-humping-poodle media is simply incapable of any semblance of balance or introspection. They continue to run interference for a miserable, socialist, elitist candidate.

Sheila Merritt · Darby High School
AS soon as you praise Rush Limbaugh that qualifies you among the thoughtless ditto heads.

Carl Savant · Lamar University
Sheila Merritt: And you sound like PeeWee Herman! "I know you are, but what am I? No real response to anything. Typical Demo"scat"!
Lots of anger addressed directly to Sheila in the long scroll downward. I came to a comment with a picture of Princess Leia from Episode IV as the avatar of the comment writer, and I wrote a reply but it appears several comments down from that one:
Nancine Pike
Sheila Merritt: Dare you to listen for 6 weeks every day...Your bubble will burst.

John Evan Garvey
Nancine Pike: Listen to Rush for six weeks to burst the bubble, Princess Leia?? Coughcoughhack, sorry pardon me, you caught me by surprise there. Ahem. Okay, here's a counter: Listen to Rachel Maddow for six weeks every day. Picture that. You would spend every hour saying "Lies, lies, lies, lies..." Wouldn't you. But then, if someone meticulously went through the two show transcripts and fact-checked, you wouldn't like the outcome. Rachel is a meticulous researcher. Even after fact-checks, though—fact-checks—you would still find a way to keep your bubble intact.
A little ways further down the page is a comment that ended with a reference to Christianity and I replied to that:
Steve Peck
Steven Dickerson: It’s true Rush Limbaugh had the misfortune, to get hooked on pain pills prescribed after botched back surgery. When this happens the left tells us that such failings by conservatives negates the validity of their arguments. No they don’t. A lapse in judgment is not an invalidation of one's principles. Nor, does it make a person immoral or unethical. A continuous pattern of behavior defines character and people like you have defined theirs for over half a century. Their complete lack of compassion and desires to humiliate and misrepresenting things like Rush’s misfortune as moral failure speaks more about your character than his. For people like you, the concept of redemption, like the golden rule and civil rights, is only to be applied to other leftists. A KKK leader can be the “dean of the Senate” if he’s a Democrat because redemption is only for your own.
   Where did the left get the idea that only perfect people can exalt virtue? Certainly not from Christianity, which assumes we are all sinners.

John Evan Garvey
Steve Peck: Excellent cherry-picking technique. That takes skill and practice. Now, picture Jesus having dinner frequently with Muslims and Mexicans. Can you? I really think that, if Jesus were here on Earth today, that would be a familiar image. "Wine-bibber" would be replaced with "alcoholic" wouldn't it? I expect you would be totally disappointed with Jesus, today, not being very Republican. If you want to pull Christianity into the discussion, Jesus gets pulled in along with it. (I'm a grad of BJU and I aced all their doctrine courses, so proceed with theological caution.) Jesus represents some awkwardnesses for the right. He doesn't quite fit. Picture Trump giving a speech with Jesus nearby. If He looked like He disagreed with Trump on some point, would Trump call Him corrupt? I do believe Jesus would shush all the liberal indignation over Trump's groping women, but He probably would then say "Go, thou, and sin no more." Or "Yo, Donald, don't think of women like that anymore." Oh, you mean 'Dean' Robert 'Pork Barrel' Byrd? He filibustered the Civil Rights Act and supported the Viet Nam war. Quite a character. Sounds like he was in the wrong party. You can claim him if you want.

Thursday, November 10, 2016's Petition to the Electoral College has posted a petition to tell the Electoral College to vote for Hillary.

The site displays this note: "MoveOn volunteers reviewed this petition and determined that it either may not reflect MoveOn members' progressive values, or that MoveOn members may disagree about whether to support this petition. MoveOn will not promote the petition beyond hosting it on our site."

The comment I added to my signature was "I know this seems like we're sore losers, and I wouldn't advise this for a less outrageous candidate. But this is Constitutional. This is what the Founding Fathers provided for a case like this."

My email to Rachel Maddow regarding this petition:

I'm sure you've been sent this link to's petition to tell the Electoral College to cast their votes for Hillary, many times. I can also understand your reluctance to advocate this course of action.

Please consider adding your influence to this movement, Rachel. Please. It isn't that we can't tolerate losing elections. Of course we can. We survived the Dubya years. It's because this candidate has stated such outrageous intentions that the situation is more serious than usual. The fact that Hillary won the popular vote would serve to bolster the unprecedented move of having the Electoral College delegates vote independently. If it were explained clearly enough to the public that this is an extremely unusual situation, the rioting might be minimized.

Please consider advocating this solution to a very serious problem. Four years of both Democrats and Republicans in Congress blocking the White House and getting nothing done is not a pleasant prospect.

The Electoral College is EXACTLY what's needed now

The comment I left on Michael Moore's blog post "Day Two's To-Do List":

#5: Absolutely. #6: Wrong, Michael. Wrong, wrong, wrong. It's now for the Electoral College to perform the function for which it was created, to protect the people from themselves. The Electoral College was put in place to prevent the direct election of a charlatan. The expectation was that delegates to the College would cast their votes for the appropriate candidate in spite of the popular vote majority being for the scoundrel. In this case, with Hillary as the winner of the popular vote, it's even more essential that the College perform its intended function. The majority voted for Hillary and it's clear that the declared winner is unfit for office. The Electoral College should do its job. Killing the College would only leave the system open to future Trumps being elected directly by popular majority.

Michael, if you persist in pushing for the elimination of the Electoral College through the ponderous amendment process, it will deflect attention from the College doing its job NOW. The casting of delegate votes for Hillary instead of Trump would solve the problem quickly and would employ the safeguards the Constitution's framers provided us with. PUSH for the Electoral College to elect Hillary. It's legal, it's Constitutional, and it would provide an instantaneous fix to the problem. With your influence and public profile, you would help the process immeasurably. Would you shift your focus to UTILIZING the Electoral College now? Please? People will listen to you. Please do this!

[Note: Since my previous blog post, I found an article on Salon that addressed the questions I'd posed to Rachel Maddow.]

Wednesday, November 09, 2016

Snuggie time?

My email to Rachel Maddow today:

Are you going to wear your Snuggie on the show tonight? Seems like all of us in your audience need to hunker down with some comfort food to help ease the pain of the election loss last night. I remember you wearing your waders on the show once, and your Snuggie made at least one appearance in the past. Of course I can just as easily picture you appearing on the show tonight in mourning black with a black veil draped over a very stylish wide-brimmed black hat, looking like you stepped out of a Dynasty rerun. In any case, we'll be looking to Aunt Rachel for comfort tonight.

One point that's been nagging at me a little since the Dubya reelection was the intended role of the Electoral College. In my thinking, the Framers of the Constitution probably created the Electoral College as a buffer to protect the people from themselves when they've been induced to elect a charlatan/scoundrel type to the White House. By having them elect delegates, rather than the President directly, the Founding Fathers offered us a final opportunity for common sense to prevail, with the expectation that the more-educated delegates would cast votes for an appropriate candidate. At the time, in 2004, I thought the Electoral College had failed to perform the function for which it had been designed. Why have an Electoral College if the delegates are bound tightly to the popular vote? What would be the point? And this election seems to be even more in need of the Electoral College protecting the people from themselves. Does this idea relate at all to the thinking of the Founding Fathers, or is this just something that wandered into my head on its own? It just seems kind of odd to me that the College would be set up originally just to echo the popular vote. The people elect delegates rather than the President directly. So? Some civics professor a long time ago may have planted in my head the idea of the people being protected from themselves by the Electoral College, but I don't remember. Just thought I'd ask.

Friday, October 21, 2016

A Little Red Flag for Gamers

A comment I left for a YouTube video demonstrating GTA5 with very realistic, detailed graphics.

Um, the closer the graphics get to real life, the closer you come to murder. [Shrugs] You don't like hearing that, but now that the NPCs aren't cartoon characters anymore, you can't really use the defense "Nobody dies in a video game." It's creepy to the rest of us that you find bystanders being popped like water balloons funny. No, you're right, video games don't make people violent. They already are.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Apples and Orangutans

A comment I left after reading Survey Finds High Support for Communism Among Millenials by Nicole Russell:

Nicole, what we usually refer to as communism and socialism are actually totalitarianism pretending to be communism or socialism. In its fundamental form, socialism doesn't have anything to do with murder. The mass murders and imposed poverty of these societies result from the totalitarian regimes controlling these societies, and those regimes, living in luxury, are hardly socialistic or given to sharing everything in common. Differentiate between ideologies. Lumping everything non-capitalistic under "mass-murder-enabling ideologies" is too simple and easy. It's lazy writing. I'm not a big fan of socialism, since hundreds of years of people attempting it and failing indicate that humans are too self-oriented for it to work, but I have to object to your lumping Bernie Sanders socialism with the former Soviet Union and similar totalitarian societies. Completely different animals.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Ol' Rockin' Chair'll Get Me

The self-description I submitted on my application for membership to the Creative Talent Network, an online group based in Burbank for artists in the animation industry:

My reel of LightWave models is at and includes two of the models I built for Dan Dare and Max Steel when I worked briefly at Netter Digital just before it closed. I abandoned 3D modeling in 2004 because it was a crowded field in a lousy economy, and I went into web and print graphics. But my head never completely left 3D. Even though I'm not overly interested in the animation on the screen now (why all the bathroom humor?), I nonetheless would love to work on the beautiful interior and exterior environments in which some of those scenes take place. Game environments can be beautiful too (like GTA5), but I'm disgusted by the violence in games.

Talented, but I don't know what to do with it or how to use it. All I've gotten since college is "Thanks, but we were looking for someone with a little more experience." I thought becoming involved in a group like this might help me move forward. But here I expect I'll get "We're sorry, but you need to have a few more production credits under your belt." What to do, especially now that I've turned 60? I suppose find a rocking chair and daydream wistfully about what could've been.

Saturday, October 08, 2016

My ongoing argument with Zazzle

A message I submitted on their Contact Us page:

The problem with fonts being displayed differently on different tees still hasn't been addressed after existing for several years. Please address this issue.

In the attached image of a tee design, which is found at, it's obvious that the design on the first two tees has been corrupted compared to the identical design on the remaining tees. There is only one design, composed of parentheses from the Typo Upright and French fonts at different point sizes, and the design on each of the tees should be identical. If you'll click on See All Styles and scroll down through the styles, you'll see that the problem appears on some of the tees but not all.

The tees which display a corrupted design seem to have a zone around the edges of the printable area that will change the point size of any text object that extends into it. The tees which don't corrupt the design don't have this zone, and image files are unaffected by this zone. I believe that an effort was made to keep designers' texts from extending outside the printable area some time ago, but the project wasn't completed and so some of the tees don't display this function. It may be that the project was abandoned because it was seen not to work, but it was left in place on the tees that had been altered.

It seems that it would be a simple matter to go into the code that controls how, for example, the Women's Basic T-Shirt and the Women's American Apparel Fine Jersey T-Shirt, treats text, and remove that function. This should be done for the sake of the customer shopping for tees. The customer could find a design they like but see that the design is corrupted on the tee they're interested in, and so they don't purchase the item. One wonders how many lost sales have resulted from this glitch over the years.

The design tool is pretty awesome otherwise, and I'm surprised that other POD sites haven't implemented something like it.


Saturday, October 01, 2016

Of Soft Colons and Hard Commas

I couldn't help being a grammar cop when I found on Steam an item titled STEINS;GATE and I posted the comment below on a related forum.

Oh no, I'm two years late to the discussion. While browsing on Steam, I came across STEINS;GATE and wondered why the semicolon was used in the title. I started reading reviews of the game but didn't find anything and so I Googled it and came to this page. From the reviews, STEINS;GATE sounds like an excellent visual novel, and so my comments here shouldn't reflect on the creators of the game; they are quite talented.

It would be interesting if the use of the semicolon here is an example of how World English is evolving. If all through the continent of Asia, for example, the semicolon in English has come to mean "related to but not possessed by" then I'd understand its use here. If not, however, then this is just a typographical error. I've had English professors whose hair would stand on end if they saw the semicolon used this way. If a student submitted a paper with a proper noun styled like this, those professors would circle the semicolon vigorously in red and make a brief comment with a lot of exclamation marks. That would be an overreaction, of course, but you can see that the construction is so odd that even I'm motivated to comment on it, two years late even. [It looks to me like lint has gotten stuck on the monitor between the two words.]

FatalSleep provided a very clearly written answer, but in contemporary Standard English, the semicolon isn't used to connect nouns unless they are in a complex series. If you have a series of three or more elements, and one or more of those elements has three or more elements of its own, 1) a semicolon is used to separate the main elements in the series, to avoid confusion. The only other time a semicolon can be used correctly in Standard English is 2) to connect two independent clauses with no conjunction when they aren't serial clauses. The last sentence of my first paragraph is an example of that. These are the only two correct uses of the semicolon. The semicolon isn't a soft colon, even though that's what the name looks like; it's a hard comma, with only two uses. [It should probably be called a supercomma instead of a semicolon.]

In contemporary usage, STEINS:GATE is more familiar and would've been a better choice. The irony is that, because STEINS modifies the noun GATE, nothing is needed to show that they are connected. STEINS GATE is referring to only one gate, closely associated with STEINS but not possessed by them because there's no apostrophe. A variation of that would be SteinsGate, using camel caps, to indicate the same thing. [Or perhaps STEINS.GATE? How about STEINS|GATE? STEINS\GATE? STEINS_GATE?] Even STEINS-GATE would've been better than STEINS;GATE. But they've also created CHAOS;HEAD and ROBOTICS;NOTES. My professors would've burst a blood vessel over those. What were the designers thinking?

If lots of people start using a semicolon to connect words because they think it looks cool, then eventually it will become standard usage in World English and no one will complain. Eventually. Users of Standard English will wonder why, but they'll just shrug and say "Like, whatever."

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Yo Bezos, fix your website!


Merch by Amazon still has the bugs it launched with. Are you going to commit to it, or just let it hang semi-functional? You didn't budget much for it when you set it up; it's a surprisingly bare-bones service for Amazon. Now, given your reputation as an employer, you will probably give everyone associated with Merch by Amazon a hard time for not setting it up flawlessly, but I would ask that you not do that. It's not their fault. The problem is that you are such an unpleasant employer that those who had the skills to set it up flawlessly are working for someone else now. They know they don't have to put up with that much workplace stress, so they took their talents elsewhere. Apparently you are a lousy boss. The bugs in the service aren't the fault of those working on it; they are ultimately traceable to you, your budget, and your management style. Take responsibility. It really doesn't matter much that you're the third richest person on the planet—it's a very small planet. What matters is how you treat the other members of your team. They deserve much more respect than you give them.

My most recently discovered bug is that there is no delete option for a product while it is under review and also while it's at the draft stage. I have a T-shirt that has gotten stuck in the automated review process and I can't delete it. I tried starting another product to see if that would push the under-review product out of its stuck state, but the new one is now stuck in the draft stage and also can't be deleted. This should have been anticipated when setting up the software and a delete option should have been included for both stages.

As I mentioned in a recent message to Customer Service through the Contact Us form, I think it's very strange for the designer to decide whether a T-shirt should be slim-fit or regular-fit. The graphic image should be scaled properly to either style so that the customer can make that decision. I also find it odd how few color choices there are. I understand caution when starting up the service, but it should be clear now how things will go, and the color selection should be expanded and also left up to the customer. I think it's odd to have the designer make choices limiting the number of T-shirt colors for a design.

Remember the late 90s? It seemed like a new world was taking shape with e-commerce providing new ways of doing almost everything. Amazon seemed so green and egalitarian and socially concerned then. As it turns out, you were, at heart, just another Flagler, just another Rockefeller, wanting to grab as much as absolutely possible before they started hitting you with antitrust litigation. Old-school with a coat of green paint. Why do you want to own the world? A little perspective never hurt anybody: In astronomical terms, our hearing that you're the third richest person on the planet is like hearing someone in a town in the middle of nowhere with a population of 500 say "I'm the third richest person in this town!" Those of us with a broader view just chuckle at that sort of thinking.

Your shareholders love you for the money you make for them, of course. The real test is whether your employees love you.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Probably, but who knows?

My email to an author, requesting a foreword or review of a novel examining the alien abduction phenomenon:

Would you consider writing a foreword or review for my novel? It’s entitled Probably, and its focus is the fictionalization of some of the experiences of abductees as presented in the current literature on the subject. The novel fits into the genre of New Age science fiction because of its view of the nature of reality and the effect of multiple dimensions and multiple universes on the human experience of everyday life. The novel also explores the role quantum physics may play in the way humans experience reality.

A brief summary of the story: Trevor frequently wakes up from dorky abduction dreams, but when the ufo he’s dreaming he’s in is actually shot down by the military, he learns that he’s been an abductee since childhood and that government agencies will not tolerate crash survivors or escapees from deep underground bases.

At the heart of the story is the relationship between Trevor and a beautiful young woman, about whom, naturally, he doesn’t know very much. It’s eventually revealed that his love interest is a shape-shifting grey alien who had chosen as her disguise a musical/TV celebrity lookalike drawn from among the dozens of women in Trevor’s head. The question then becomes whether their relationship can continue in spite of this knowledge, as when a Nazi learns his lover is Jewish or vice versa, or royalty learns of commoner status or straight/gay or human/vampire or any number of mismatches. The reason for the deception is an experiment the greys conduct into the viability of a human-alien relationship in a human environment, rather than aboard ship as is usually the case. A subplot explores the human main characters’ puzzlement over learning that they have been destined from long ago to perform certain tasks and finding out that the activation of transhuman abilities embedded in their DNA is linked to the approach of Earth’s Ascension to a higher vibrational frequency.

Just so you know, my narrative style employs the present tense, and some readers find this awkward. One of my favorite authors is John Updike, whose four Harry Angstrom novels were written in that style, and my writing style simply emerged from my admiration for his literary talent. Another favorite author is Umberto Eco, who took an unapologetically literary approach to exploring dubious conspiracy theories in Foucault’s Pendulum. From these references you could consider the possibility that I may not be just another Dan Brown wannabe who’s written an Angels & Aliens-type thing. My book is a bit meatier than that.

The novel presents some opposing points of view on ET-related issues and makes no firm statements regarding their truth or non-truth. The story is mainly structured as if some New Age beliefs are true and then explores the implications. My own feeling, after substantial reading on the subject, leans toward the probability that the extraterrestrial hypothesis, at least in some form, may be the right one. But if it turned out that every phenomenon can be explained in scientific terms, that wouldn’t surprise me either because there are strong arguments on both sides. One thing for which we do have convincing evidence is that governments have been studying the ufo phenomenon even while claiming they have no interest in it. The novel also wades into the current scientific discussion of whether the universe is only a simulation, and it picks up on the current popularity of VR.

Thanks very much for considering writing a foreword for my novel. Please let me know if you would like to see a sample of the novel.

John Evan Garvey

Sunday, July 03, 2016

Merch by Amazon, some observations

This is an email I sent to Merch by Amazon after creating the first 20 of my T-shirt designs:

I'm really glad you've made this outlet available for designers. Thanks very much.

In the Analyze section, I would like to see how many views each product has had, not just the number of sales. That would tell me which designs potential buyers find more eye-catching. It would also indicate to me whether or not my designs are appearing in search results. If there are never any views, that would indicate that potential customers aren't seeing my designs. Partly that would be the result of my not having enough appropriate keywords in my description of a product. But it would also partly be because of Amazon's policies regarding search results. Amazon is absorbing the cost of hosting these designs on their servers; it would be in Amazon's best interests for these products to sell to compensate for the cost of their hosting. The higher they appear in search results, the more likely they are to sell.

The Promotions section of the website should include setting up promotions on Amazon, not just offering tools for creating promotions on my own website. I know that promotional space on Amazon's product pages and landing pages is prime real estate and sellers compete for impressions there, but if Amazon is interested in deriving revenue from the servers hosting Merch by Amazon, they would benefit by allocating some of that real estate to items hosted on those servers.

A while ago I looked into the cost of ads on Amazon and found that the fees were out of my price range. I don't know what the fees are now, but the problem I have with the business model of paying for clicks on ads is that once there is a click, the responsibility of the company selling the ads is completed. Customers can click on ads for any number of reasons—curiosity with no intention of buying, accidental clicking, sabotage, or any other reason besides intention to buy—and the buyer of the ad pays for the click regardless of whether there is a purchase or not. There really is no incentive for the seller of the ad to precisely target the impressions of the ad, and so the product can end up being promoted to the wrong demographics. When I tried Google Ads a while ago to promote my book, written in English, and clicked on "show only on English-language sites," I still found my book's ads appearing on websites that were in Asian languages. I anticipate the same thing happening on Amazon. I'm willing to spend money on promoting my products on Amazon, but only if Amazon waits until there is a purchase before collecting the fee for the click. Amazon would benefit from that by collecting their percentage of the item's selling price as well as the fee for the click. It's possible that the lost revenue from the no-sale clicks would be compensated for by the revenue from the purchase. Accounting would argue that offering free clicks until a purchase is made would produce too little revenue, but that argument ignores the revenue from the purchase, which could be more than that from the clicks. It would also motivate Amazon to promote an item efficiently since their revenue would only come from an actual sale.

Limiting the number of T-shirt colors available to both the designer and the customer is a little odd. I understand the conservatism of wanting there to be fewer colors for designs to look lousy on so that there are fewer returns, but it seems that more customer interest would be generated with a wider range of colors and, with the previews as clear as they are, the customer should be able to see which colors wouldn't work with a design.

The customer should be able to decide between regular-fit and slim-fit. That choice shouldn't be made by the designer. The printing areas of both types of shirts should be coordinated to allow for the design to be scaled to appear appropriately on either style.

Please consider expanding the line of products available. On Zazzle, I have had some success with clock designs. And of course mugs. Stamps and greeting cards have also been good sellers. Even ties do pretty well.

When a design is printed only on the back, the default view of the shirt should be the back. The view currently defaults to the front view, which would be blank in this case, and a customer wouldn't see any design until they clicked on the back-view thumbnail.

The designer would like to choose which color and style T-shirt is the default because s/he knows which color/style displays the design to its best advantage. Basing the default color and style on the currently most popular choice is haphazard and can result in almost all the shirts displayed in the same color. More customer interest is generated when a line of shirts is displayed in a variety of colors. Having a shirt displayed with a women's style as the default would indicate to most men that it's a feminine design, and they would overlook it, even if it's targeted for both men and women. The opposite seems not to be true. But it is the same with children's styles; if the default is a child's style, adults would assume it's a design for kids and would overlook it.

Thanks again for creating Merch by Amazon.

John Garvey

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Paying It Forward

My email to an author from whom I requested a review of my latest novel:

Michael... I actually wish my first request to you for a review had resulted in a non-response. Y'know? It's what I'm used to. I sent the same request to George Takei and didn't hear back from him. Receiving a glowing review [for my novel Secreta Corporis] from you was a wonderful experience, but since then I've sprouted question marks around my head. Anyone else receiving affirmation like that from someone credible like you would be able to move forward to the next step and then the next step and so on. Me? I receive a glowing review from an established writer and— [Insert long pause and shrug.] I'm just baffled by my life experiences. Anyone getting a "rich and detailed landscape" and a "highly recommend it" could look forward to interest in a subsequent novel. Or interest from a publisher like Cleis. Couldn't they? I don't know, it just seems logical. Is it the men in black warning people not to associate with me? They can be quite intimidating...

A similar instance: Back when I was learning to build 3D models, Geoff Campbell, the head of the modeling department at Industrial Light+Magic, came up to me after he saw my reel and just started chatting with me. At one point, he said something like "They could get you started in the architecture department," because of a cathedral model he saw on my reel. Anyone else hearing something like that would end up as an employee at ILM soon thereafter, wouldn't they? If that had been you, I know you would've ended up working there. It seemed like an open door. Me? [Insert long pause and shrug.] After contacting them several times to follow up, I finally gave up. I'm just baffled by my life experiences.

I'm sure that if you respond at all to this, your email will have an edge and will be on the order of "Life is tough. Don't expect things to be handed to you." Please don't send a response like that; your "Good luck" cut deeply enough, you don't need to cut any deeper. :-} I suspect that your glowing review was intended to help market The City of Palaces because you knew someone like me would display your author information on every webpage around the world to which he has access. I'm not convinced that's true, I just suspect. But that is how the real world works. It would explain why a friendship hasn't developed between us (a long-distance, lite friendship). It would explain why there was no mention of my book in your blog, even though you told me I'd written a good book. Alternately, I suspect that my atheo-agnosticism is something you want to distance yourself from because most of your readers are devout Catholics, or at least somewhat religious. In that case, it's possible that you actually did think it was a good book. Slim, but still a possibility.

One thing I feel is important to mention is how you would have reacted to me, everything about the book being exactly the same, if I looked like the models in the photo shoot. I'm not convinced that this is relevant, but examine your feelings. If it had turned out that I looked as edible as they look, would you have expressed more interest in the book, given everything about the book being identical? I can think of four people off the top of my head who refuse to be seen with me in public. Two will talk to me in private, but being seen with me in public would lower their social standing. If someone is as mentally deficient as that, their opinion really doesn't carry a lot of weight with me. But that kind of thinking does exist. If you actually would be more interested and helpful with me if I looked like one of the models, then that's a character flaw that needs your attention. You know what it's like to be considered inferior simply because of your Mexican heritage. Exhibiting that same kind of bigotry to someone else because of his looks and age isn't forgivable, especially as you're an established spokesman in the LGBT community. Do you associate only with cute young guys, or with homely older people only when they're already established writers? It's certainly possible. Be brutally honest with yourself. If it's true, then you're still at your own Little Rock H.S. prior to 1957 and you have work to do. If it's not true, which is quite possible, then this whole paragraph should be disregarded. Never mind.

If there was ever somebody to invest good karma into... You already know from my writing that my IQ is on par with the people in your social circle, and there are other talents I could mention like songwriting, painting, and writing computer code for websites. I don't know, I really don't think I'm all that dull. But my life experiences would suggest otherwise. If you were willing to be a sort of mentor for me, or at least to answer my infrequent emails, it would take very little of your time, but it would have a tremendous impact on me. You could at least give it some thought. Sometimes ugly ducklings... take a lot longer than usual!


Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Must have been a newbie

A comment I left after viewing a Disney video on YouTube promoting Disneyland Shanghai:

I'm amazed that the person in charge of this video needs help with editing. S/he got so many little things wrong, like cutting or dissolving too late, panning too quickly, changing camera-movement direction without easing, making the text banner too large, things like that. The video is from Disney Parks, but it looks like a fanvid. I wonder if the Disney Parks office that produced this video is here in Burbank. If so, I could stop by and help with polishing the editing. Let me know.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Quantum physics for the rest of us

The question I submitted to Ethan Siegel at Starts With a Bang!:

Dear Ethan,

I have more than one question, and it seems logical to package them into one note rather than to separate them into separate notes. But if that's against the law, I apologize.

1) I'm pretty skeptical about things, but fortunately I'm more skeptical regarding, say, faith healing than I am regarding quantum physics. However, when I read about the spooky action at a distance, the single particle going through one slot and causing waves to appear in another slot as if the particle had gone through both slots regardless of the distance between them, I can't help thinking "Oh right, they know they're emitting one particle at a time." I imagine the way they verify that a single particle is emitted is with a chain of technologies, with the more sophisticated technologies built on the results of the simpler, unless physicists have really, really good eyesight. I know that the results of this type of experiment are repeatable and that there's been extensive research into this phenomenon to try to understand quantum entanglement, but still. A single particle? Also, if I remember right, the particle can go through either slot, and I don't understand how that's possible. Is the emitter aimed between the slots or at one slot? Also, if there are more than two slots, do all of the slots exhibit the same phenomenon, or just one? And finally, isn't it possible that the phenomenon is produced by the slot itself? Like soundwaves bouncing around within a niche in a wall and producing a different wave pattern than would otherwise be produced by the soundwaves reacting to a plain wall. A weak analogy, yes, but it's the best I can do.

2) From what I know about quantum physics, which isn't much, the various models of, say, string theory are represented by whiteboards filled with equations that the average person finds incomprehensible. Whenever I encounter that, I can't help thinking "Can they write that out in longhand?" I don't know, it seems that the natural-language version of a model is as important as the mathematical version. The way we understand the universe is through language; we generally name things rather than assigning them numbers. I know that translating all of the symbols in a model, all the way down to the arithmetic operators, into natural language would produce text that would probably be book-length. But still, every mark on the whiteboard has a corresponding meaning in natural language. If a physicist doesn't want to translate the mathematical model into text, that would seem to be no more than his wanting to maintain the archetypal boy's club with its secret decoder rings and "No girls allowed" sign. How much is exclusivity for the sake of exclusivity prevalent in the profession? And then there's the quote about being able to explain something so a barmaid can understand it or one doesn't understand it well enough himself. So, can they write it out in longhand; if so, do they; if not, will they? We would really appreciate it. Some of us don't have enough life left to start at physics 101 and work all the way up to quantum mechanics.

John Garvey

Saturday, February 27, 2016

A Zazzle of a Headache

My email to the CTO of

Bobby Beaver,

It's time for you to hand off the management of the website to someone who will devote full time to it. The website exhibits some bugginess that has been there for years. Whenever I use the website, I roll my eyes in annoyance so often that I get a headache. Please don't be defensive about the website and your control over it. It's time for you to retire rich and proud of your accomplishments in building Zazzle into the huge company that it is. I'm sure your Dad has said that you can manage the website as long as you want, but you need to have the maturity to realize that it's time to let someone take over who has a better handle on giant websites. You're holding the company back, and it really is time for you to move on to your next phenomenal startup.

In the development cycle of every family-owned startup, there comes a point when the business becomes so successful and large that the family needs to relinquish control so that those who are better able to handle large businesses can continue running the company well. Families whose startups grow phenomenally, like Zazzle has, are good at growing startups; that's where their expertise lies. But after a startup reaches a certain level of success, those whose expertise is in running big companies should take over, and the family should allow that to happen and take pride in what they've accomplished. And do it again with another startup.

I don't know how many thousands of designers use Zazzle. But every one of those designers runs into the same bugs that I do. We would all be happy if those bugs were finally taken care of.


John Garvey

Dear Trump Supporters

One of my recent T-shirt designs.

In case the image isn't readable, the text on the shirt is: "The rest of us would like Trump supporters to go back to school, expand their vocabulary, have non-White friends, eat less fat and sodium, exercise every day, shower every day, stop spitting, not laugh so loud, read better books, go to museums, watch PBS, bike to work, question assumptions, argue less, listen more, and act like grownups."