On pronouns

My pronouns are he/him/his. This should not come as a surprise to anyone as I suspect my identity as a cis male is fairly obvious, at least to anyone who notices the traditionally male name affixed to the site, and certainly to anyone who has ever seen me in person. There was a time when my hair was long, curly, and glorious, and I was addressed as “ma’am” once or twice in public in my college years only to have the person hastily correct themselves upon seeing what the front of my head looks like.

To be clear, I think normalizing making your pronouns explicit even if you’re cisgendered is a good thing. At least two of my online profiles (Twitter and TikTok) contain them, and I do my best to call people what they want me to call them. There have been times where I’ve had to discreetly inquire of a third party what someone’s pronouns were, and I’ve had students recently who either wanted to be they/them or were out as trans, at least in my classroom. Those types of kids are the exact reason I do stuff like this. I feel like it’s the right thing to do.

I’m not going to review Dr. Meera Shah’s You’re the Only One I’ve Told: The Stories Behind Abortion, or at least not beyond this paragraph, and the reason is that you already know everything you need to know about the book from the title, including whether you want to read it. It’s not a bad book by any means, but it’s also not really surprising in any way.

Well, okay, the way it handles pronouns is kinda strange, and I wanted to talk about that a little bit. Now, this is a book about abortion, so you won’t be surprised to learn that the subjects of nearly every chapter are people who can get pregnant, and nearly all of those are cisgendered women. One chapter focuses on a cis man, whose name is Mateo, and that chapter focuses on the effect that abortion can have on the partners of the people who get abortions. One subject identifies as genderqueer and is they/them.

Every single chapter is titled with the name of the main subject of the chapter, with their pronouns, italicized, in a smaller font, and in parentheses, below the person’s name, along with the word “Pronouns”. So, like this:

BEATRICE

(Pronouns: She/her/hers)

Also, when other individuals are introduced throughout the text, their pronouns are also provided immediately after their name is first used– but oddly inconsistently, as it’s not used for everyone. (I swear that Dr. Shah directly addresses her rationale for this at some point in the book, but I can’t find it, and it doesn’t appear to be in the introduction, which is the most obvious place.)

At any rate, that’s what triggered the post: because for some reason this became distracting as hell over the course of the book, and I wanted to kind of talk it out and see if anybody pushed back at me. Putting your pronouns on a profile (or, as I did at a con once, on a sticker that you’re wearing) has the advantage of letting strangers know how to refer to you. Again, sometimes it’s more obvious than others– no one is going to look at me and call me “she” unless explicitly told to– but I get why it’s a thing and I participate in it.

This book does things like this:

When I spoke to Dr. Hoobity (Pronouns: she/her/hers), she told me that…

Not a direct quote, but stuff like that happens all the time– an explicit listing of the person’s personal pronouns, annoyingly including the word “pronouns,” immediately followed by a use of one of those pronouns. That risk of confusion or causing inadvertent offense just isn’t present when you’re writing about someone, because you’re going to use pronouns all the time. It’s hard to write about people without using pronouns, and in a book that is about people who can get pregnant it becomes even more ridiculous because nearly everyone identifies as she/her. Even the genderqueer person’s pronouns are explicit nearly immediately; the first use of singular they made it clear very quickly, and they talked about being genderqueer in the chapter. I was fully expecting (and would have been interested to read) a chapter at some point about a trans male’s experience with pregnancy and abortion, but it never happened. The one chapter about a person identifying as male is Mateo’s, and he’s cis, and his chapter is basically about cis men.

It didn’t ruin the book or anything like that, don’t get me wrong, but it was distracting enough that, well, I wrote the post about pronouns instead of about the actual book. Am I off-base here, or do other people feel like this would be distracting for them as well?

Want some, come on and get some!

Some of my parents must think I’m new, I swear.

Just came out of an IEP meeting that went abruptly south when the parent decided to start casting blame far and wide for her kid’s seven current failing grades. Now, here is the thing: I am fully aware of how hard this must be for a lot of our parents. I am keeping track of one child while trying to keep up with my actual students and doing my job to the best of my ability and it is difficult. I am not keeping track of more than one, the extra kids that I don’t have to keep track of aren’t at multiple grade levels, and as things go my actual child tends to be pretty self-sufficient in a lot of ways. And it is still hard.

Now, what that means is that I’m bending over backwards to make sure my students have access to me. They have my phone number, and know they can call or text me basically anytime between 8 AM and 10 PM. I am online in a Google Meet for about four and a half hours a day every single day so that they can come in and ask questions, and I am monitoring my email whenever I am awake. There are no penalties for late work on any of my assignments, and I’ll even allow unlimited retries for anything a student wants to redo. I have posted personally-recorded video lessons for every single piece of new content we’ve done that they can access any time they want through the magic of the Interwebs.

(I am actually at my computer during my lunch break right now, too, because I have kids testing. I’ve left this desk twice in the last three hours– once to pee, and once to get some cold pizza from the fridge.)

This is not for cookies. I don’t want praise. This is because I think what I’m doing is the minimum amount of flexibility teachers should be showing right now. But what this also means is that if you try and come at me for not teaching your child when your child hasn’t taken advantage of any of these opportunities, I may not be entirely sympathetic, and when you try and blame me specifically for your student’s failure I’m going to start bringing out receipts.

Because I have them. I can see every time you’ve logged in to check your kid’s grades, for example, and I see that you’ve done so repeatedly over the last few weeks, so don’t even try and pretend that you didn’t know he was failing. I can also search my own email, so when you claim you’ve emailed and talked to all his teachers? I never delete anything, ma’am. I can assure you that you have not.

Oh, and I see that your email is here on Google Classroom, which means that you’ve been receiving my weekly emails about everything we’re doing in class, all of which contain my phone number and constant reinforcement to contact me if you have any questions or any needs at all that I can be helpful with.

I am not the one, God damn it, so don’t try it. Just don’t.

In which I snitch

I’m in a Meet right now with about ten of my kids, and one of them typed a mildly inappropriate word into the chat. Not a huge deal; I just told him not to put “that word” into chat and he nodded.

And his mother was in the background, off-camera, and she heard me, and she proceeded to come over and look to see what he’d typed, and then chewed him out. I muted them almost immediately and had to decide whether I was going to temporarily boot him from the meeting or not. I ended up not doing it, but it was amazing to see the way every other kid in the Meet just froze, as if it was their moms yelling at them.

So that’s fun.

In which I review THE LAST OF US 2 without ever playing it

I loved The Last Of Us— I bought a PS3 basically just so that I could play it, and I called it the best game of 2013 after I beat it. If you’re not familiar with that review– and why would you be, since I wrote it seven years ago– you might want to give it a quick read before you read this. Also, I intend to spoil the hell out of the sequel, so if you’re going to read this you should probably have either already beaten the game or not plan to play it. Lemme throw a separator in here to help you out:


SPOILERS ABOUND BEYOND THIS POINT


If you didn’t read the previous review, here’s the important parts: I really connected with this game as a dad, and that resulted in 1) paternal feelings toward Ellie that made the part where you play as her, and thus get killed over and over and over again, really emotionally difficult, and 2) totally understanding why the game ended by forcing you to gun down the scientists who were trying to find a cure for the Cordyceps fungus– because it would have killed Ellie, and there’s just no universe where Joel would have ever allowed that to happen.

I got all kinds of whispers and rumors about this game before it came out that made me feel like playing it– especially right now, with all the other shit going on in the world and in my life– was not going to be an emotionally sound decision. Kotaku called the damn game a “misery simulator.” I don’t need that. But … damn, it was the sequel to what is still one of the best games I’ve ever played! Made by the same people! How do I just ignore this?

I decided to watch a Let’s Play on YouTube instead, which would provide me with the game’s story– in this case, most of what I cared about– and allow me the ability to either 1) buy the game if I decided that’s what I wanted or 2) nope out at any time. And so for the last couple of weeks, I’ve been watching a couple of half-hour episodes a day as they’ve been being released, and up until last night I was more or less still secure in my decision but also thinking eeeh, I probably could have bought this, but never really coming close to the point where I needed to. Plus, it’s violent as hell, to the point where I don’t want my son exposed to it yet, so I’d only have been able to play after he went to bed. This decision worked for me, is what I’m saying.

Well, the guy I’m watching isn’t as into the story as I am, and after having to watch him complain through one of the quieter parts in the denouement at the end of the game, I decided fuck it and went ahead and Googled the spoilers for the rest of the game. And this is where I’m exercising my nope the fuck out option and not even watching the rest, because despite having watched probably 90-95% of it the game has somehow saved a good 2/3 of its assholery for the final minutes.

Huh. I haven’t actually spoiled anything yet.

Here’s the thing: The Last of Us 2’s central thesis is that every decision you can possibly make is going to lead to loss and heartache. That there are no good people, that there is no forgiveness in the world, that where forgiveness does exist it is a fatal mistake, and there is no way, ever, to do the right thing. That the right thing is in fact an illusory concept from the beginning. It’s going to come back and bite you in the ass eventually no matter what you do. Literally every decision any character in this story makes leads to pain. Every single one. There are two moderately sympathetic characters, neither of which are playable, and both of them are put through utter hell. The two protagonists, Ellie and Abby, are both repeatedly shown to be awful people, and I think Ellie absolutely gets the shorter stick in that regard, so if you, like me, came into this game predisposed to like her as a character because you viewed her as a daughter … well, be prepared for the game to hurt you for that as well.

Every decision every character makes in this game leads to the death of their friends and family members. Every single one. And in case you’ve picked up elsewhere– because I haven’t talked about it yet– that revenge is a major theme of the game, be aware that the game shits on its characters both for seeking revenge and for not seeking revenge. Both are terrible mistakes. You cannot escape them.

I, uh, don’t need this in my escapist fiction right now. There’s a place for depressing entertainment out there, but I’m not exaggerating when I tell you that your average Holocaust movie is told with a lot more hope for humanity than The Last of Us 2. There is nothing but nihilism here, nothing at all, and I don’t need it.

The gameplay looks to be about exactly the same as the first one, by the by. That’s a recommendation; if a semi-stealth shooter with absolutely gorgeous graphics is what you’re looking for and you’re capable of ignoring the story you probably will have a good time with this. I can’t; or at least I can’t with this particular series. I’m not even watching the last couple of episodes now that I know how it ends. I’m fucked up enough from reading about them; I don’t need it in my head. I’ve got enough real emotional stress right now without letting fictional misery in.

Tuesday morning thinkytimes

No particular theme for today, as there are a number of things on my mind and none of them quite rise to the level of an entire post. So expect a bit of randomness. Good morning!


I had a LASIK initial conference almost exactly two years ago, and holy shit does the post I’m linking to entertain the crap out of me, and I’ve finally gotten to the point where I think it’s something I can actually afford to do. The only question is whether it’s a good use for my money right now; part of me thinks right now is a really good time because I was thinking about switching to contact lenses anyway to keep my glasses from fogging up every time I wear a mask– if I’m heading into a situation this fall where I have to be wearing one all day, and it’s already summertime so I have time to recover, it seems like a good decision. Then again, it’s a good chunk of my existing money, and who knows what kind of bullshit could happen that could lead to me needing it for something else.

If you have any experiences with LASIK, good or bad, let me know– most of the folks I’ve talked to have told me to go for it, but still.


I had to have a talk with the boy the other day where I pointed out that it’s okay to feel like certain things in our house have gotten easier and/or better since Mizu died. I do not miss, for example, having a litter box in my Goddamned bedroom because she didn’t want to leave the room, and the fact that we no longer have to worry about the other cats bothering her means we can leave doors open in our house and don’t have to worry about ever chasing kittens out from under our bed.

Sushi, for her part, has been rather hilarious lately, as she’s been spending most of her time in our room but still doesn’t seem quite convinced that she’s allowed in there, so whenever either of us come into the bedroom she acts like she’s about to be kicked out of the room. She’ll sleep on the bed with us from time to time but sticks herself in the far corner where we’re not super likely to notice her.


I have to admit, I had a bunch of ideas for how the person in the White House’s little Klan rally was going to go last weekend, but “no one shows up” was not among them. I spent all of 2016 assuming this man was going to lose badly and we all know how that went, so I’m not letting my guard down here, but if he can’t fill a mid-sized arena in Oklahoma, pandemic or not, something’s going on.

In other news, there are two primaries I’m keeping a close eye on today– Qasim Rashid’s Democratic House primary in VA-01 and the Democratic Senate primary in Kentucky. Kentucky looks like it’s going to be a trash fire, and I’ve not seen any polling on either race, but I’d like to start sending money to someone to get Mitch McConnell the fuck out of office and I’m not going to do it until the primary is over. I’ve donated a fair amount of money to Qasim already because I thought he had gotten out of the primary– I just found out a couple of weeks ago that I was wrong about that– so hopefully he wins today as well.

Also, no force on Earth can make me pay for John Bolton’s book, nor will I read it were I to somehow acquire it for free. I don’t need any further evidence on whether this man is a criminal or not.


Bike/health update: I have, somehow, lost seven pounds already; every time I start any sort of lifestyle change there’s always a quick burst of weight loss right at the beginning, and it’s happened again. Weight Watchers continues to confuse the hell out of me. I have not touched the bike in several days, because the last time I was on it I noticed that the gear the chain was on and the actual gear shown on the gearshift didn’t match … like, at all, and since I’d already switched gears at least once by accident without realizing it I’m going to just take the thing into a shop and have them swap it out, possibly taking the derailleur with it as well. I’ve already fallen off once and I’m not about to do it again, damn it. I suspect this is probably something I could do myself but finding out I was wrong would hurt and we’ve already got one adult in the house with a broken bone.

Pseudo-vegetarianism is going predictably well, although we did have enchiladas for dinner on Saturday and I finished off some turkey we had in the fridge to keep it from going bad. Most of this week’s dinners are going to be plant-based, so we’re continuing it for a bit longer than usual.


Vidya gaemz update: my plan to watch a YouTuber play through The Last of Us 2 appears to have been a good call, as so far nothing about the first few hours of the game have made me think I needed to play it. One thing I hadn’t anticipated is that lingering Dad feelings toward Ellie are still making it difficult to watch her die, and yeah, I don’t really need that shit for an entire game. Watching people react to the game has been really interesting; I’ve never seen a game where so many people looked at the level of violence and went “Nope, not right now” before.

In the meantime, I’ve been having a good time with Desperados 3, despite my lingering suspicion that Desperados is spelled wrong. The interesting thing is that it’s also a really murdery game– hell, so was Nioh 2, and so are most video games, frankly– but it’s all about the way it’s murdery, and it doesn’t go out of its way to make you feel bad about what the game is making you do.

The dialogue around this whole issue has also put the “Are video games art?” question to bed, permanently. The answer is yes.


I feel like I had one more thing, so let’s say this space is reserved for that. As is typical with these sorts of posts, I may update once or twice more as the day drags on.


11:18 AM, Tuesday, June 23: 2,313,445 confirmed infections and 120,451 Americans dead, and Texas is starting to run out of ICU beds.