Discussing software, the web, politics, sexuality and the unending supply of human stupidity.

Peyton Manning has been doing as good a job at giving things away as Chelsea Manning.

“Hey, this is the 90s, we’re bored with your shit and are invading your Superbowl Halftime Show.”

Homophobia at the happiest place on earth

Names removed for anonymity.

At Disney’s Hollywood Studios today, we were at the car park entrance. Two male friends in the front seat, one wearing a “just engaged” badge, with his girlfriend in the back of the car.

Disney cast members usually wish people with these badges (or the “happily ever after” badges) congratulations on their engagement or marriage.

The lady at the car park entry gave the two guys a puzzled look and said something like “you two are engaged?” The guy wearing the badge said “oh, no” and pointed back to his girlfriend.

The cast member then said something like “oh, I was going to say. That’s a relief” and then made a cross–as if exorcising a demon—with her fingers as if she was demonstrating what she would be doing if they actually were engaged.

I complained on site but felt that the small everyday aggressions ought to be documented so companies can be held accountable for fighting discrimination.

I have a tough skin about stupid crap like this but I can remember exactly what daily pummellings of this kind of nonsense does on a younger person afraid and in the closet. For a company like Disney that prides itself on courtesy towards their guests, this kind of thing just beggars belief.

There have been a few amusing slip-ups where cast members assumed same-sex members of our party were engaged or married but this was the only time that mistaken assumption came with a side-serving of visible disgust from a Disney cast member. Most of the cast members have been wonderful and courteous but jaw-droppingly stupid shit like this made a day at Disney slightly less magical.

Update (2014-02-17): I heard back by phone today from a man at Walt Disney World Guest Services apologising. They told me they take complaints of this sort very seriously and that senior management will be informed. They informed me that they could not tell me the outcome of any staff discipline process for the Cast Member concerned. Most importantly they said “sorry”.

Day-to-day American oddities

I’m enjoying my holiday in Florida, but there’s a few things I still find puzzling about the US.

  1. The coins are funny. Why the hell is a dime (10¢) smaller than a 5¢ coin? Dimes look just like UK 5p coins. I do like e pluribus unum though. Warms the secular Enlightenment heart inside me far more than “Regina Fid. Def.”
  2. Sales tax. Why is it not rolled in to the price of things like VAT?
  3. If you pay for something with a UK credit or debit card, you have to show ID and sign with a electronic stylus. Checkout clerks get a bit weird about UK provisional driving licenses as they are green rather than pink.
  4. So much sugar. I make a conscious effort to avoid soft drinks and either go with alcohol or with water. Drinks like 7-Up and Fanta have much more sugar/sweetener in them in the US than they do in Europe. I was in a gay bar in DC two years ago and ordered a lemonade and couldn’t finish it because it was too sweet.
  5. You can buy imported cheese, just not easily. We found brie and camembert and gorgonzola and so on in Publix, a Florida supermarket chain. You pay a big premium for it, but it’s so worth it because it’s just streets ahead of US cheese. I love the US, but the French beat them on the cheese front. But because of import restrictions it’s hard to get hold of European cheese. I don’t get this. Unpasteurised milk isn’t the killer in the cheese supply, it’s the fat content.
  6. Political advertising is amazing. I’ve seen ads for both local Democratic and Republican candidates—or rather, ads against both Democratic and Republican candidates. They are basically a high-speed pummelling of the audience with logical fallacies.
  7. Pharmaceutical advertising is even more amazing. Saw an ad yesterday which went on in detail about how the drug increases your likelihood of getting tuberculosis. Really sold it to me.
  8. I still don’t get why they say “congratulations” to you at Disney. “Have a nice day” I can deal with, but constantly being congratulated for wandering around a theme park is a bit much.
  9. Cheese-stuffed pretzels are a wonderful but dangerous creation.
  10. The Waffle House is a work of genius.

The Minimal Viable Vegetarian test

I’ve recently been turning down a lot of people who want to go to dinner. I do so on one simple basis: failure to offer a reasonable menu for vegetarians.

The lesbian writer and critic Alison Bechdel introduced the infamous Bechdel Test for representation of women in movies. To the same end, I present: the Minimal Viable Vegetarian test.

The test is very simple and only a little bit subjective. To pass, a restaurant must offer at least two non-token vegetarian options. What does non-token vegetarian options mean? That means they must have the same level of ingenuity, quality and interestingness as the meat options. This is because vegetarian food is often a dull afterthought. I’ve been in restaurants and they’ve had a rich and varied range of meat or fish dishes, with a complex range of flavours and styles of cooking. Then there is a “token” effort in the form of a mozarella and sunblushed tomato sandwich. Usually for silly money.

The reason for the Minimal Viable Vegetarian test is to raise consciousness that vegetarian food should be held to the same standards as non-vegetarian food. Vegetarians pay for food in restaurants too.

I’ve turned down invitations precisely because if I’m going to pay good money for food in a restaurant, I expect to get something that isn’t an afterthought or a token effort.

Vegetarians, please use this test: if you look at a menu for a restaurant and they don’t meet the MVV test, walk away. There will be restaurants who do pass the test. Give them money instead and use your economic power to push more restaurants to take vegetarian food seriously. Tell the restaurants that you would love to eat there but they need to actually cater for vegetarians.

Bought some hummus in a supermarket here only to find out the manufacturer is an “official dip sponsor for the NFL”.

I am waiting for the NFL to auction off the rights to be their official consulting neurologists and head trauma specialists.

I am shocked that a Bitcoin meetup might be less than welcoming to women. Who could have predicted that a crypto currency might attract the most horrific specimens of socially clueless neckbeard?

Rock 'n' Roller Coaster
attraction in Bay Lake

This is Disney’s Aerosmith themed coaster.

I am disappointed the roller coaster doesn’t finish with the car emerging from Steven Tyler’s enormous mouth.

Had to buy a needle and thread today in an American supermarket. It was located right next to the feminine hygiene products rather than in the homeware aisle. Go go, stereotypical gender roles!

Tinker Bell II: Francis appoints an anti-gay bigot edition

Cardinal Fernando Sebastián has lots of nice things to say about gay people, like: “Homosexuality is a defective manner of expressing sexuality, because [sex] has a structure and a purpose, which is procreation. A homosexual who can’t achieve this is failing. Our bodies have many defects. I have high blood pressure.” Sebastián also said it is “possible to recover and become normal with the right treatment”.

The idea that homosexuality is treatable is a view that every mainstream psychological organisation rejects as being both scientifically inaccurate and harmful.

The Cardinal has been appointed by Pope Francis, a man who—if you believe his press—is a hippy-dippy queer-loving atheist-respecting reformer. As I’ve said before: Tinker Bell only exists if you continue to believe in her. Idiots seem willing to continue believing that Francis is a progressive in spite of the ghastly things he seems to be doing.

I will shortly watch a rocket blast off from Cape Canaveral. Making giant rockets take off is something that needs science and a fuck-ton of engineering rather than vague hunches and religious nonsense.

Every time a rocket launches into space, it is science and human rationality scoring a goal against bullshit and stupidity, and against the potent forces in the world that capitalise on unreason and self-deception.

Science: it builds fucking great big rockets. And propels them into the stratosphere. Call me when the Pope or Sarah Palin does that.