Special feature: I go to Amsterdam!

Hey everyone, so as I mentioned, I was out of town this past week. I am in fact still out of town, but at least I am back in the country. Where was I, you ask? Well, as the title probably tipped you to, I was in Amsterdam, Netherlands. I had two poster presentations accepted at the IASLC’s World Conference on Lung Cancer. This is kind of a big deal, career-wise, since it’s a high-profile venue for me to showcase not only my work, but myself as a researcher.

While I was there for work, I did manage to find time to explore the city and see some things that I think you might find interesting. I’m going to try and summarize as much as I can in one post, but it’s probably going to be a long one.

The City of Amsterdam

Amsterdam is the capital city of the Netherlands, and has a long history that relates predominantly to two things: land reclamation and banking. See, the Netherlands used to be largely under water, so the Dutch used windmills to pump water away from the land, creating a harbour. They dug canals that surround the city, allowing buildings to be constructed. They used materials exploited from colonial territory to establish Europe’s first stable banking system. It’s not really an exaggeration to say that Europe would not exist in the absence of the financial stability that was afforded by Dutch banking institutions.

Of course, one has to remember that when we say “the Dutch” dug canals and “the Dutch” exploited resources, we are referring predominantly to Dutch slave owners. The labour responsible for the human-made miracle that is Amsterdam was stolen from Africans, Indonesians, and Caribbean aboriginals. It is certainly no exaggeration to say that Europe was built on the backs of slaves. This is me at a monument to those slaves in Oosterpark on the east side of the city:

There is a nearby museum devoted to exploring and discussing the slave trade. Of course I couldn’t pass up the opportunity, and I went. Unfortunately (for me, anyway), the entire exhibit was in Dutch. Dutch is actually a remarkably easy language to learn, provided you speak English and have even just a little German. So, while I missed some of the meaning, I did manage to catch most of the general idea of the displays:

Want to be flip about this, but can't

The people of Amsterdam

I have never been to Europe before, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. One of the first things I noticed about people in Amsterdam is that they’re all really good-looking. There were stunningly gorgeous women everywhere I went – riding bicycles, running, working, pushing strollers with good-looking kids in them. It was like walking through some kind of eugenicist’s wet dream.

The next thing I noticed was the sheer amount of race mixing happening. In addition to the fact that there was a large proportion of black people in the populace, I noticed that there wasn’t any kind of “sticking with our own” going on, at least not along race lines. Groups of teenagers, kids, adults, rich, poor, young and old – all sprinkled with people from around the globe. It was pretty amazing to see, especially coming from a place where despite our vaunted tolerance we don’t see a great deal of heterogeneity in peer groups.

There were also a number of interracial couples and people who were clearly (like me) the product of those couplings. I was expecting that everyone was going to confuse me for American because of my skin colour. That definitely wasn’t the case – they took me as Dutch until I began speaking. Then it was my accent rather than my appearance that got them to make that conclusion. Everyone was still very friendly though – maybe the stereotype about the way Europeans treat Americans is a bit out of date.

Life in Amsterdam

I was told by people who have been before that the way to get around Amsterdam is by bicycle. Everyone bikes here. All of the streets have separate lanes for bikes, and bike traffic has right of way. Since it’s a small city and parking is a motherfucker, biking is definitely the most convenient way to get from A to B. While the conference provided me with a transit pass, I only used it once.

Of course Amsterdam is famous for its Red Light District, where prostitution is legalized. I checked it out while I was there (of course) – it was pretty exciting and definitely worth seeing, but I’m not much of a sex tourist. Most of the stuff there is only appealing in the sense that you’ll have a great story to tell afterward. Plus, being there on my own meant that if I wanted to check out some of the more exciting shops, I’d have to go in on my own. That crosses a line in my mind from ‘hilarious curiosity’ to ‘full perv’. Wasn’t ready to make that jump yet.

The other thing that is legal in Amsterdam is marijuana. I live in Vancouver, where we have a sort of “hear no evil, smoke no evil” policy. I wasn’t altogether that fired up to smoke pot, since the novelty is blunted by how readily available it already is. I did, however, try some space cake:

I definitely recommend trying it if you haven’t before, but I also definitely recommend only eating half! That’s all I think I’m comfortable saying about the whole experience.

Concluding thoughts

I really enjoyed being in Amsterdam, and would definitely go back again. The city seems to be inhabited exclusively by happy people, who are also really attractive. Despite the rich heritage and beautiful scenery, it’s important not to forget the country’s history with slavery. Understanding that history is key to understanding the contemporary situation, just as it is here in Canada.

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Movie Friday: Deconverted

Hmm, my bad. I missed today’s post. In my defense, I spent the entire day at museums or on brewery tours. More on that hopefully next week.

Here’s a great story of a Christian missionary who was deconverted by his experience ministering to a non-literate, non-believing tribe. It’s amazing what can happen when you strip away the assumed veneer of respect that religious beliefs have – try explaining what you believe to someone who’s never heard of gods before. You’ll be laughed out of town.

Apologies again for the late posts this week. I did try to warn you.

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Deport the reporter

Canada is a nation that was built by immigrant labour. Under the auspices of French and English immigrants, generation after generation of immigrant populations have left their mark on what has become a great nation. Canada’s birth rate is such that without an influx of at least 200,000 immigrants per year, our population will begin to dwindle. The implication is clear – without immigration Canada will fail.

There are few in this country that will deny these facts. We are lucky to be mostly insulated from the kind of “illegal immigrant” hysteria that has gripped the European countries, and even our friends to the south. A major part of this insulation is the fact that we share our only land border with a country that is (for now) a more attractive target for immigration than our frozen north. We don’t have to worry nearly as much about people sneaking across the border.

All that being said, it is no less true that the United States relies on its immigrant populations for its survival as well. Far above and beyond the jingoistic image of immigrants “doing the jobs that Americans don’t want to do” – which is certainly part of the picture of the immigrant experience – immigrants are and have been an integral part of the development of the United States since the very beginning. There is a strong move afoot in American politics to round up and deport anyone who has come into the country illegally, which on its face sounds like a reasonable idea, until you consider the sheer number of people who are undocumented.

While it might make good political sense to be against immigrants, it makes poor economic sense. Immigrants, even those that haven’t entered according to the rules, provide essential services in many walks of life. Rounding up and deporting them would create huge vacancies in the job market, and while the ranks of the unemployed will fill some of those spaces, the training and skill needed for many of those positions would preclude most on the unemployment rolls from entering without doing lasting damage to the economy. For example, how many unemployed people do you think are capable of winning a Pulitzer?

One August morning nearly two decades ago, my mother woke me and put me in a cab. She handed me a jacket. “Baka malamig doon” were among the few words she said. (“It might be cold there.”) When I arrived at the Philippines’ Ninoy Aquino International Airport with her, my aunt and a family friend, I was introduced to a man I’d never seen. They told me he was my uncle. He held my hand as I boarded an airplane for the first time. It was 1993, and I was 12.

Antonio Vargaz, New York Times reporter and Pulitzer Prize winning journalist ‘came out’ as ‘an illegal’ in the pages of his host paper, without knowing what the consequences of such an action would be. His story is amazing:

I decided then that I could never give anyone reason to doubt I was an American. I convinced myself that if I worked enough, if I achieved enough, I would be rewarded with citizenship. I felt I could earn it. I’ve tried. Over the past 14 years, I’ve graduated from high school and college and built a career as a journalist, interviewing some of the most famous people in the country. On the surface, I’ve created a good life. I’ve lived the American dream.

But I am still an undocumented immigrant. And that means living a different kind of reality. It means going about my day in fear of being found out. It means rarely trusting people, even those closest to me, with who I really am. It means keeping my family photos in a shoebox rather than displaying them on shelves in my home, so friends don’t ask about them. It means reluctantly, even painfully, doing things I know are wrong and unlawful. And it has meant relying on a sort of 21st-century underground railroad of supporters, people who took an interest in my future and took risks for me.

I am the child of a “legal” immigrant. My father emigrated from Guyana in 1978, and has since become financially independent and has contributed to Canada both economically and politically. Even though I am not an immigrant (the technical term for me is “second generation immigrant”), I am acutely aware of carrying the stigma of someone whose ancestors are “not from here”. This is, perhaps, a very small price to pay to be born in a country that has helped me survive and flourish from literally the time I was conceived.

While my classmates awaited their college acceptance letters, I hoped to get a full-time job at The Mountain View Voice after graduation. It’s not that I didn’t want to go to college, but I couldn’t apply for state and federal financial aid. Without that, my family couldn’t afford to send me. But when I finally told Pat and Rich about my immigration “problem” — as we called it from then on — they helped me look for a solution. At first, they even wondered if one of them could adopt me and fix the situation that way, but a lawyer Rich consulted told him it wouldn’t change my legal status because I was too old.

Eventually they connected me to a new scholarship fund for high-potential students who were usually the first in their families to attend college. Most important, the fund was not concerned with immigration status. I was among the first recipients, with the scholarship covering tuition, lodging, books and other expenses for my studies at San Francisco State University.

Immigrants have to work hard to get ahead in this country. That’s a good thing – allegiances easily won are just as easily forsaken. That being said, it is to the benefit of us all to create ways to make getting ahead a little less fraught with pitfalls. Especially in a place in which immigration is the lifeblood of stability, it is simple spite that motivates us to demonize those that weren’t born here – spite that only ends up hurting ourselves more in the end.

Early this year, just two weeks before my 30th birthday, I won a small reprieve: I obtained a driver’s license in the state of Washington. The license is valid until 2016. This offered me five more years of acceptable identification — but also five more years of fear, of lying to people I respect and institutions that trusted me, of running away from who I am. I’m done running. I’m exhausted. I don’t want that life anymore.

So I’ve decided to come forward, own up to what I’ve done, and tell my story to the best of my recollection. I’ve reached out to former bosses and employers and apologized for misleading them — a mix of humiliation and liberation coming with each disclosure. All the people mentioned in this article gave me permission to use their names. I’ve also talked to family and friends about my situation and am working with legal counsel to review my options. I don’t know what the consequences will be of telling my story.

So anyone who is a rabid anti-immigrant crusader, even if they restrict their condemnation to those that are “illegal”, ask them this: is the world a worse place because Antonio Vargaz was allowed his shot at success?

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Learning a new language

Part of my reason for starting this blog is because I have been led to believe by multiple interactions with people my own age (and occasionally older) who are terrified to discuss race. Part of this comes from a general distaste for even the concept of race, such that certain people think it is not a subject to be discussed in polite society. Still others (fewer of my own friends, to be sure) think that the discussion of race is redundant, and that talking about race is what causes racism in the same way that Wile E. Coyote was immune from the effects of gravity until he noticed he’d walked off the cliff.

Those two camps aside, the most common response I get from people when discussing why they don’t like talking about race is that they are uncomfortable discussing the subject for fear of being perceived as racist. We have a strong societal taboo about racism – so strong in fact that it has begun to interfere with our ability to discuss strategies for dealing with racism. We thereby get mired in the morass of a kind of “hear/see/speak no evil” approach to a major societal problem.

My reason (one among many others) for speaking about racism as candidly and frequently and publicly as I do is to try and equip the average person with some basic vocabulary that we can use in our discussions of inequities of various types, racism being one of those. Given that our (my) generation is born into a discussion of race that has never really happened before, we are in the unique (and perhaps unenviable) position of inventing a new language to talk about it:

There’s little question that most Millennials [those people born after 1980] struggle to articulate their views on how race and racism operate in their lives. But our focus groups’ deeper discussions revealed that a structural understanding of racism—of racism as something that grows out of political and economic systems rather than individual animus—is not completely lost on this generation. And that, of course, has serious implications for how they will go about eradicating it from our society.

It’s certainly unusual to find yourself in the position of having to describe something that operates outside our capacity to tangibly identify. Racism is a bad idea – a product of crappy human brains and superficial but prominent differences between groups. Because it is folded into our societal interactions, most of it happens in such a way as to appear completely normal, but resulting in disparity that runs in a consistent direction.

This report, abstracts of which are published in Colorlines, is an attempt to determine how the conversation is having on the “front lines” of the discussion – the people who are inheriting the problem and charting the course for society’s future:

“This is a hard one. Racism today would be, um…” stumbled Jenny, a 21-year-old Asian-American college student in the Los Angeles area, where we held focus 16 groups in late 2010 and early 2011. “I guess discriminating based on the color of someone’s skin,” Jenny continued, falling back upon the type of relatively generic description that many participants of all races and ethnicities used.

I have given my own ham-handed attempt to define racism, or at least what racism means to me. Briefly, racism is what happens when ideas about an ethnic group are applied to an individual. So when someone thinks that I am handy in a fight because I’m black, or assumes that my buddy Joel is good with money because he’s Jewish, or assumes that Brian is a habitual drunk because he’s Irish, we’re all being judged as individuals by group characteristics. Inherent is this judgment is the embedded assumption that your ethnic group comprises a meaningful encapsulation of your entire persona – that there is enough truth in stereotypes that you can judge someone entirely based on something as superficial as skin colour or cultural background.

What’s interesting is that while we all struggle with this problem, some differences in understanding do seem to fall along group lines:

Of course, the fact that most Millennials believe race still shapes American life should not mask the very real differences of opinion both across and within racial groups about the extent to which it matters. Which is the second theme that emerged from our focus groups: There are real differences in how young people of different races and ethnicities think and talk about this subject. Young people of color are more likely to independently bring up race, resources and access to them, while white Millennials are less likely to make connections across systems like housing and education, and less likely to prescribe political action to fix it.

It is fairly elementary psychology to understand why white kids may see racism as being an individual failing, and youth of colour are more likely to see a systematic process. These are more or less th realms in which these groups experience racism – white kids as seeing the actions of racist people as those people victimize people of colour (PoCs); PoCs seeing a systemic lack of both respect and access coming from all areas in their lives, without having to encounter too many white-hood-wearing “racists”. In this way, both groups are protected from having to make negative judgments about themselves: white kids don’t feel like they’re responsible for a system they can’t exert control over (and which was laid down before they were born), and kids of colour can point to racism as a reason for lack of success.

Whether either of these narrative is true (it is my opinion that they are both false), it reveals a significant disconnect between the way that white people and PoCs understand race and racism:

[One participant's answer that the public school system isn't racist...] revealed a broad tendency among our participants who were white college students, and came from comparatively privileged backgrounds. They didn’t believe their high schools intentionally discriminated against anyone; the segregation they witnessed and the corresponding difference in resources were just “the way it is,” and there was no need to question that fact. Participants like Justin generally did not talk about the policies and practices that created their public school systems—property tax-based funding, abundant availability of college-prep courses, and low student-counselor ratios, among others.

And until we can begin to speak each other’s languages and learn from each other’s experiences, we cannot get ourselves dislodged from our reluctance to talk to each other about problems and potential solutions. I strongly recommend, regardless of your pigment, you read these articles in their entirety. They’re quite interesting.

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Getting your priorities… straight

Sorry, I couldn’t help myself. The pun was just too appropriate:

The Toronto Catholic District School Board (TCDSB) may soon try to pass amendments to its equity policy that allow religious doctrine to trump the Ontario Human Rights Code. Among the eight amendments, only two passed at the last board meeting, on May 16. The meeting came to an end before trustees had time to vote on six other proposed amendments that appear to directly target queer students.

One proposed amendment states that the Catholic board’s denominational rights “take precedence over human rights protections.” Another takes aim at gay-straight alliances (GSAs): “The board will approve only clubs which [sic] have goals that are not inconsistent with Catholic faith and the Catholic Church’s moral and doctrinal teachings. Equity and Inclusive Education policy amendments ”

We all have things in our lives that require careful balancing and triage. For example, I work a 9-5 job, and play in a band. I also try to have some kind of social life outside the band, and then of course there’s this blog. This is a lot of stuff to juggle, so I have to make sure I keep my priorities very clear. Everything else would fall apart if I lost my job, so that gets the majority of my attention and focus. Conversely while I would be personally disappointed if I had to stop blogging, it’s the easiest thing on that list to sacrifice if it came into conflict with something else.

We all do this on a day-to-day basis. If you’re married, you have to find a way to prioritize your needs and those of your spouse (which is to say nothing of being a parent). If you’re a student, you have to find a way to make money that enables you enough free time to complete your readings and assignments and so on. Accordingly, there are always times when our priorities conflict with each other and we have to make a decision we’re not happy with.

What we have to do when making those difficult decisions is think what is in our long-term best interest – which of these prioritization decisions will yield the greatest benefit? Well, unless you’re the TCSB – then you just stick your fingers in your ears and insist that your stubborn refusal to accept reality is more important than the well-being of your fellow creatures. It is a particular brand of conceit that tells the world “my personal beliefs are more important than your equality under the law.”

The bizarre thing to me is how anyone in the board could possibly think this is a good idea. We’re not talking about some podunk town where the only gay guy within a 50 km radius lives in denial and constant fear. This is Toronto

Pictured: Toronto Chamber of Commerce

In a city with such a large, visible, and popular gay community, it is incomprehensible to me that an entire school board would fail to recognize what a PR disaster a movement to shame gay Catholic kids is. Ignoring for a moment the issue of human rights (since the board is happy to do so already), just on the simple basis of how this looks to the city at large, the board has stepped in it big time. Catholic organizations do not need to be caught showing their intolerance and bigotry out in the open, especially when it comes to matters of sex and morality. The entire church needs to rehabilitate its image, and pick its battles very carefully. Purely from a PR standpoint again – this was the wrong time and the wrong place to take a stand on making life harder for gay teens.

In general, however, the point needs to be made that human rights legislation was crafted for a reason – when left up to the mercy of society allowed to express all ideas in the open marketplace, we saw centuries of oppression of gay men and women from religious organizations. It’s only very recently, when public opinion underwent a sea change (due in no small part to the tireless efforts of gay rights activists), that churches began to revisit their stance on the issue. Human rights need protection, and while freedom of belief is indeed one of those rights, that does not license you to enact the consequences of those beliefs on others.

This decision was both philosophically and ethically wrong (nothing new for Catholic organizations, I’ll admit), but also extremely stupid from the perspective of rehabilitating the faith at a time when it needs all the allies it can get. Smart would have been to read the winds of public opinion and quietly shelve opposition to LGBT groups. Smarter still would have been to recognize that doctrine is not more important than human rights, and that students need the guidance and support of teachers – not condemnation affixed with an official seal.

Of course, smartest of all would be to simply recognize that the doctrine is stupid, and refuse to waste any time thinking about it, the way most Catholics do.

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Fair warning

Hey everyone, just want to give you a heads up that I am on the road this week and next week, so blogging may be  a bit spotty. I will do my best, but this is a work trip which means that I will be dividing my time between work things and trying to get in as much tourism as possible. Blogging will therefore take a bit of a back seat, but my material buffer is overflowing so the only thing between you and your regular dose of Crommunism is me finding the time/inclination to sit down and blurt some stuff out.

So you think you might be a troll…

There’s a video that has been running through the feminist segment of the atheism community from popular atheist, skeptic and feminist Rebecca Watson from The Skeptic’s Guide to the Universe and Skepchick:

The video describes an interaction that Rebecca had with an attendee of an atheist/skeptic conference. She had been hanging out int he hotel bar with some of the people at the conference. It was late, and she said goodnight to everyone and went to head back to her room. One of the people who had been at the bar followed her onto the elevator and asked Rebecca if she wanted to go back to his hotel room with him, which she didn’t. Rebecca thought this was a clear-cut example of behaviour that men should avoid when attending conferences – don’t assume that just because a woman is out drinking that she wants to have sex with you. It was particularly on the nose for her, since she was there to talk about how to make these conferences more woman-friendly.

I had a difficult time getting on board with Rebecca on this one, because I couldn’t really see where the offense was. When I read Jen McCreight’s response, I was even more baffled. Surely she wasn’t suggesting that atheists ought not to proposition each other for casual sex – that’s really much more puritanical than the general atheist community tends to be. Was she suggesting that we don’t do it when we’re drunk? Or when it’s that late at night? Or when you don’t know the person well? I was sincerely confused.

Also, there’s Elevator Guy to consider. It seemed as though he was being passed off as a clueless lout that made sexual advances at someone and should have known better. But how? How could he have known his interests were unwanted? We don’t know if they’d spoken before, or if he was just a random creeper. We don’t know if he was drunk we don’t know how he asked the question (it might have been super-awkward, or it might have been with Don Draper-like poise and suaveness). As a guy who’s been rejected for making the first move, and also rejected for taking too long to make the first move, I wanted to make sure I understood what was going on so I didn’t make the same mistake.

So I posted a comment:

“cornering a woman in an elevator at 4AM and asking her up to your hotel room, after not having said two words to her the whole night, is about a 9.0 on the creepy scale.”

And here’s my problem with this whole discussion. Even from Rebecca’s video, we don’t know that he “cornered” her except insofar as there isn’t much besides corners in an elevator. We don’t know that they hadn’t spoken before. We don’t know what his reaction was when she said “no” – he might have just said “okay, cool.” It’s entirely conceivable to me that he was waiting for the crowd to thin out before making his proposition, but when she went for the elevator he threw a last-ditch “Hail Mary” pass, got shot down, and went on his merry way.

I can understand feeling threatened by an unwelcome advance in an elevator, but why are we assuming that this guy was physically threatening her, or that he was particularly creepy about it? There are some salient details missing from this story that we should have before we pass judgment on this guy for being a 9.0 creep.

The response to what I thought was a totally innocuous comment was… less than friendly. I suddenly realized that, to all eyes, I was trolling the comment threads trying to pick a fight, or to make some stupid statement about “men’s rights”, standing up for every guy’s right to sexually harass whomever he wants. Having dealt with trolls before, I knew immediately what would and wouldn’t work, and so I thought I would share some of those insights with you.

If you ever find yourself commenting on a forum where your opinion is in the strong minority (especially if it is diametrically opposed to the position of the author of the forum/blog post), here are some important lessons to keep in mind if you don’t want to get written off as a troll.

1. Listen

The hallmark of a troll, in fact the defining characteristic of a troll, is that she/he is not posting to gain information or change a perspective – she/he is there to propagate conflict. If you are sincerely interested in offering a dissenting opinion, make sure you actually listen to the responses that come back your way.

2. Relax

You will accomplish nothing besides looking silly if you lose your temper. You’re going to need to maintain a level of zen-like calm to avoid being drawn into a flame war. Since you are surrounded by people that disagree with you, they will be ready to dismiss your perspective if you look like a raving lunatic.

3. Realize there’s a good chance that you’re wrong

It’s far more likely that your disagreement is due to misunderstanding some point or nuance of the argument than it is that everyone (including the author) is a moron.

4. Assume they’ve already heard your arguments

When dealing with a group of people who are passionately defending a position, it’s reasonable to assume that they’ve already heard what you have to say. If it’s a topic you’re very unfamiliar with, it’s not a bad idea to point that out. Some websites are “101 level” websites, meaning they are populated by people who are willing to explain basic concepts to newcomers. Others assume that you have a certain level of knowledge. Asking “how come there are still monkeys” on a biology blog won’t go over well. (Note: I like to consider this a 101-level blog, although sometimes I forget).

5. Prepare to be Insulted

It’s going to happen. Learn to deal with it. If your self-esteem gets tied up in what people on the internet think about you, then you’ve got to stay away from forums.

6. Don’t respond to insults

The knee-jerk reaction to being attacked is to fight back. Avoid this temptation. You’re only hurting yourself (see #2). A tactic I like to use is to agree with the person insulting you (‘I must be as stupid as you say, but please try to show me where I’m wrong anyway’) – it pivots you away from emotional reactions and shows people that you’re not going to get stuck in the mud.

7. Point out areas of agreement

This one is major. If you can identify where you agree, it’s easier for both sides to tone things down a bit. It may also help you to realize where the other side is coming from (see #1).

8. Admit your mistakes

If you take a statement out of context, get called on a fallacy, or are proven to be incorrect in one or more assertions, acknowledge it. “Yeah, but…” isn’t an acknowledgment, it’s a dodge. It’s a sign of maturity when you can say “You’re right, and I shouldn’t have said that” or “You’re right, and I should have made that more clear.”

9. Prepare to walk away

If after all the talk you still think you’re right and they’re wrong, there’s no shame in just walking away. Don’t burn the bridge (“I’m done with you idiots”) or try to get the last word (“I guess you’ll never understand X”), just bow out gracefully (“I guess I’m just not getting it. I’ll take some time to think about what you said”). Many people will prefer to communicate through e-mail rather than continue spam on a forum. I myself have received e-mails from people who want to talk about an issue outside the context of a public forum – sometimes the venue inhibits the conversation. Be the bigger person genuinely – don’t try to win by walking away.

10. Be honest

This is probably the most important of these points. Don’t go in trying to win, don’t go in trying to score points or shove it in someone’s face. Be honest about your intentions, be honest in your words. Part of honesty is logical consistency – don’t twist or distort facts or others’ statements. This is where every troll fails – if you want to not be seen as trolling then you need to obey this scrupulously.

Keep in mind, of course, that none of this will save you from being seen as a troll, or being called a troll, but then the problem is with your accuser, not you. If you’re not trolling, then hopefully your audience will pick up on that and extend you the benefit of the doubt. Of course, if you’re not willing to do these steps then you probably are trolling, in which case you deserve whatever treatment you get :P

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Movie Friday: Happy Canada Day!

Hello everyone! Happy Canada Day!

For my non-Canadian readers, I should explain. Canada Day celebrates the decisive battle at Confederation Hill where the upstart Canadian army fought nobly against the occupying Spanish forces to secure a Christian nation based on Jesus, maple syrup, and politeness.

Yeah, actually all of that is crap. It’s the day the British North America Act was signed in 1867, creating an independent nation known as Canada. It’s a much less violent version of Independence Day in the States (plus, fewer aliens).

Not only is it a holiday today, but my band is releasing our debut EP record tonight. I am very excited about this, since I’ve never cut a real CD before. It’ll be up on iTunes soon (possibly even today, in which case this sentence here will become a link to the album), and we are having a CD release party at our bar. So, rather than our usual fare of funny and/or provocative looks at religion or racism, I thought I would shamelessly self-promote by posting some of our own videos!

Here’s us doing a new original tune:

Here’s us doing Tiny Dancer by Elton John:

And here’s one where I’m singing:

You can find more videos here.

So yeah, looking forward to a fun day!

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