Snowden's (im)possible pardon

This article (and many others on the topic) are pissing me off.

Every time I see people discussing whether Edward Snowden is a legitimate whistle-blower or a traitor to the cause, the reason mentioned for his guilt is often that he not only published about US government spying on its own citizens (which is supposed to be bad thing to do), but that he also told everyone that its spying on every other person on Earth (which is according to them perfectly okay).

And that is the part that irritates me. From my point of view, Snowden shouldn't be hiding all the way over in Russia. He should be able to live here, in the EU, where his actions have mattered the most. I acknowledge that armies like to keep an eye on each other (to see which one has the biggest rockets, etc.), but the NSA abused the weird protection it has under the US law and started collecting data about the regular citizens of its NATO allies (that is, for example, me).

And that is definitely not okay. And the EU has the same opinion, because the exception in law that allowed transfer of personal data from the EU to the US was struck by the European Court of Justice.

What the lawyers and other people in the US regularly skirt over is that the popularity of the USA and its foreign policies is steadily on its way down. At least one major military project here in CZ has fallen through because of it in the recent years and every time there is a suspicion that US military personnel is driving through, the local populace has mixed feelings about it.

18.09.2016 13:18 · jakub

Why do so many women have dogs?

If you expect an in-depth analysis then brace for a disappointment. This is just an honest question to which I have no satisfactory answer. I however consider the fact quite annoying in the context of dating. What a photo of a woman with her dog says to me is “I have an emotional bond to this creature that requires my near constant attention.”

Though a simple survey among men (sample size = 3 :-)) supports my position, I'm going to speak for myself. What I'd like to have is a relationship with a human female and relationships with humans are complicated on their own, so let's keep each other company.

21.03.2016 18:27 · jakub

Do I have to work on my self-confidence?

Well, I don't know how to start this one, since apparently I've thought of the same introductory sentence the last time. So this an opinion with a short introspection.

I've stumbled upon an interesting blog in which a geeky woman documents some of the online dating failures she has experienced. Overall it's not that different from what other women told me and given her high expectations (ie. being picky), I understand most of her commentary, since I've been told I'm picky too.

However few posts caught my attention, especially this one. While I don't know what either one of them had on their profiles, I think that she seriously overshot on this one (indirectly calling the guy a “douchebag”). Since I've read many of her posts in a short time (while in real life the individual events are weeks or month in between), I can see an obvious possibility why he essentially told her “no”. She'd repeatedly ignored a person who sent a message with poor grammar. And in this case I easily noticed a difference in his and her messages and the thing is that there are still many people who consider the lack of greeting and smiley faces poor grammar.

Another thing is that she has stated her mid-term life goal, which tells a lot about a person. Also, on a pragmatic note, being a geek into anything is still not cool outside of the particular subculture and sometimes not even inside. While studying IT, quite a few classmates told me that I'm weird because I like the theoretical stuff too.

And that leads me to the post title - while self-confidence is generally considered a good thing (or rather that it's bad when you have only little), I think it should be given out with a dose of skepticism against your own opinions. Whenever you become good at something, you also start being right about it most of the time and that over time erodes the innate sense of self-doubt and you tend to forget that sometimes you are not right. That doesn't mean that the other person is right in this case, but it's worthwhile to ask yourself why would that person think that he/she is right.

15.11.2015 21:27 · jakub

Realistic body depiction

Yay! Another purely opinion piece! This time about While the body depiction in video games has never been realistic, including women, men, cats or trolls, the pushback shouldn't go right through realism and stop somewhere on the other side.

In this particular case, the adjusted bikini girl makes sense, more or less (some parts don't exactly fit the right way, AFAIK the skin above breastbone stores very little fat). However the fighters in the group should have some visible muscle definition. And obviously less breast fat - aside from the general bounciness, fat is fat a and it's consumed during exercise.

26.07.2015 13:10 · jakub

Ms. Male Character and gender equality

After watching the Ms. Male Character video (from series Tropes vs Women in Video Games, I've come to the conclusion that not only as the author notes the trope originates far deeper in the culture than the video games (biblical Adam and Eve story is mentioned), it also cannot be resolved at the level of video games, because those only reflect the culture itself.

Obviously the problem has several layers, one of which is that gender and sex are still interchangeably used. Sex is a biological aspect of a person and is by design binary, while gender is a social construct intended to capture (behavioral and other) stereotypes. Therefore although having a specific sex predisposes a person to certain behavior and thus genders, this is not absolute - a person of specific sex can be of an improbable gender. Since in the most situations the sex of a person cannot be observed (or rather validated), we fall back on differentiation on the level of gender.

General effect of this is that the genders that are represented in video games reflect their visibility in the “real world”. The lack of characters in video games, who are not of one of the major genders, is exactly because they are in minority and therefore it is tough to faithfully represent such characters. And even then the creators are likely to be criticized for some specific behavior of the character misrepresenting it's gender as if the point isn't to avoid normalization. This is quite obvious even as characters who are typecast as women are included in the games. The creators, being predominantly men due to the imbalance in STEM fields, struggle with accurate portrayal of women, obviously even more so than professional writers.

It should be no surprise then that the video game creators fall back on the stereotypes that they know, because simplicity is the major reason why gender labels exist (as is true for all other labels/concepts). One of the repeatedly mentioned distinguishing elements is a pink bow on the character's head. I would say that this is because outside video games this stereotype still holds. In the “real life” the way you can guess a person's gender is to watch for typical signs of various genders. For women those are secondary sex characteristics, clothing, hair, nails. Different people look for different things, but the general understanding is, that hair accessories and high heels are reserved for women. Therefore these are used by women to signal to other people what gender they associate with. I don't think it's particularly reasonable to expect the video games (most of which are intended to bring straightforward entertainment) to push the socio-cultural evolution. In the end they are for-profit efforts and very few studios have the track record to afford this kind of gamble.

Another curious thing is that while the idea of gender equality seems like something that should enjoy general support, the word “feminists” still represents a minority subgroup of “women”, even though it should under this assumption refer to a large majority of population. This aligns with my personal observation that gender issues including gender equality are something that most people want to ignore or they actively resist understanding. There are two reasons I see.

Most people like the simplicity of binary gender roles. From their point of view they belong to one or the other and the rest of it are just unnecessary complications. And this is a completely valid point as people with unusual gender or unusual gender preference have more trouble finding a life partner. This is not likely to change as it is based in biology as opposed to psychology (search for “homosexuality is not a choice”).

The second reason is that historically the current gender role stereotypes are so deep that neither men nor women are willing to give up the advantages that this brings them. For men the first that comes to mind is higher pay. This is however so entrenched that some research has shown (can't find the link now, consider this unverified) that both men and women expect the man in the relationship to have higher salary than the woman. What I however consider disturbing is that many women I know, expect men to be less aggressive and more aggressive at the same time without realizing it. Equal pay and equal division of housework (men less aggressive) is a very popular idea among them, but they effectively opposed to any improvements the gender equality would bring to men, like they don't initiate interaction half of the time (forcing men to be more aggressive). Another baffling example is so called chivalrous behavior - many women expect it, but I don't see any way this doesn't directly undermine equality.

It would be nice to hear from members of opposite sex or non-man gender what characteristics they use to determine that a person is a man or male. Maybe there are also tropes for men in video games that are not immediately apparent because men are the expected default.

25.09.2014 19:57 · jakub

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