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    Got my eye on your windowpane / And I’ve smoked a lot of cigarettes

    Posted by Sean at 02:28, January 18th, 2005

    This is interesting:

    Middle-aged and elderly men who smoke heavily are more likely to commit suicide, a major survey by the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare has found.

    How, one is moved to wonder, did they go about finding the three non-heavy-smoking middle-aged and elderly men in Japan to serve as the control group?

    Yeah, I know, ba-dum-bum. It’s 2 a.m.–what do you expect? Phyllis Diller? What floored me was this part:

    A total of 108 of the 173 people who committed suicide were smokers. The rate of suicide among people who smoked less than 20 cigarettes per day was about the same as for nonsmokers, but the suicide rate of people who smoked between 30 and 39 cigarettes per day was 1.4 times higher than those in the group who smoked under 20 cigarettes a day.

    The rate of suicide for those who smoked 40 or more cigarettes a day was 1.7 times higher. Researchers said no differences were seen based on the number of years people had been smoking.

    40 cigarettes a day? How do people do that? I’m not moralizing; I’m just trying to wrap my head around it. I mean, I dated a few guys who couldn’t so much as say, “Good morning, dear,” before taking their first drag, so it’s not as if I haven’t seen chain-smoking. But 40? I know, it’s only a little over two per waking hour, which is not uncommon. It just sounds so huge when given as a total.

    That it didn’t matter how long people had been smoking is another interesting part. According to the article, MHLW thinks the nicotine itself may be the important factor, but it seems just as possible that people start puffing away more because they’re feeling stress or depression.

    The middle of the road / Is trying to find me

    Posted by Sean at 10:53, January 17th, 2005

    Okay, good thing I’m not dressed for work yet, because this crack by Simon made me snarf. He’s referring to PRC crackdowns on Chinese citizens who go to casinos over the border:

    There’s actually no need for casinos in China. If they want to gamble, they’ve got roads.

    That, in turn, put me in mind of an article that ran in Salon last spring by one Linda Baker, whose civil engineering legacy will be to have proffered the following paragraphs without a trace of irony:

    As it turns out, I’m far from the first person to think along these lines. In fact, the chaos associated with traffic in developing countries is becoming all the rage among a new wave of traffic engineers in mainland Europe and, more recently, in the United Kingdom. It’s called “second generation” traffic calming, a combination of traffic engineering and urban design that also draws heavily on the fields of behavioral psychology and — of all subjects — evolutionary biology. Rejecting the idea of separating people from vehicular traffic, it’s a concept that privileges multiplicity over homogeneity, disorder over order, and intrigue over certainty*. In practice, it’s about dismantling barriers: between the road and the sidewalk, between cars, pedestrians and cyclists and, most controversially, between moving vehicles and children at play. [Now, what kind of fuddy-duddies could stir up a controversy about that?–SRK]

    For the past 50 years, the American approach to traffic safety has been dominated by the “triple E” paradigm: engineering, enforcement and education. And yet, the idea of the street as a flexible community space is a provocative one in the United States, precisely because other “traditional” modes of transportation — light rail, streetcars and bicycles — are making a comeback in cities across the country. The shared-street concept is also intriguing for the way it challenges one of the fundamental tenets of American urban planning: that to create safe communities, you have to control them.

    Ms. Baker, you will doubtless be surprised to hear, lives in Portland, Oregon, which puts her statements about the “comebacks” made by light rail and other non-automobile forms of transportation in a strange light.

    What this has to do with Simon’s quip, before I forget to tell you (which is always a danger with my scatty, free-associative mind), is that Ms. Baker spent a week observing the city of Suzhou in China, where the populace is unfettered by “dominant-paradigm” rules expressed through signs, color-coded curbs, and traffic cops. And she didn’t see a single accident, even though she was totally paying attention, like, the whole week. Who knows? It’s possible that, in all of China, there are enough yearly traffic fatalities to depopulate Peoria, but none of them happens in Suzhou because its traffic non-system really works. But why is it that what Baker describes still sounds like a hopeful dress-up of the usual traffic free-for-all seen in population centers in developing countries?

    It’s a shame that Baker and the brothers-in-arms she quotes tend toward the post-structuralist-Mad Libs mode of expression (“subvert the dominant paradigm,” “give expression to the suppressed voice,” and “communal,” “communal,” “communal” until I’m going out of my mind), because they’re making some points that aren’t as risible as they make them sound. When you’re accustomed to following the signs and lights, you really do go on autopilot, and that is, in fact, a source of danger. When I’m back at my parents’ place, I always have to remind myself on my first day of driving not to get too comfy, because within a ten-mile stretch, you can go from twisty back roads with Deer Crossing signs to a clogged intersection in downtown Allentown to the notorious Route 22, where you’re jockeying for position with truckers like a video game come to life. I also take a lot of shortcuts when going through the town in which I grew up, the Borough of Emmaus, which has a population of 12,000 and is almost entirely residential.

    Baker is talking about urban areas, but it’s neighborhoods with a lot of houses that she seems most concerned with. Speed limits of 25 or 30 mph seem slow to impatient drivers, but they’re actually just above the speeds at which a pedestrian who gets hit is unlikely to be seriously injured. Couple that with the fact that most people go a good 5 or 10 mph over the speed limit, anyway, and add in the way marking streets as cars-only territory puts drivers off their guard against a child who bikes or runs out into their lane, and…well, you can see dangers that might be addressed by mixing types of traffic.

    Might. I suspect that the sort of intersection Baker is hot on works just fine in relatively small-scale neighborhoods within larger cities where everyone already knows the rules from before (as in the Netherlands) or everyone is used to improvising the rules because the idea of clear, impersonal rule of law is a fantasy throughout the larger society (as in the PRC). It’s possible to imagine that it could work in Portland, where I gather residents are in general more receptive to these sorts of experiments. I just hope they get into the habit of warning us visiting Bos-Wash types at the airport car rental counter, though.

    * Don’t you love this particular polarity? “Certainty”–also known as “having some idea what the motley crew of speeders, pokers, weavers, clinically-diagnosed turnsignalophobes, tailgaters, daydreamers, and let’s-play-chicken brakers with whom you’re sharing the roadway are going to do and where”–is bad because it separates people from vehicular traffic. Trying to negotiate an intersection of random peds and cyclists and cars and peddlers sitting in lotus position is not “anxiety-provoking” or “nerve-racking.” It’s “intriguing.” Turns commuting into a regular Marlene Dietrich movie.

    There goes the neighborhood

    Posted by Sean at 15:49, January 16th, 2005

    Now that Nathan is decamping for Hawaii, it’s apparently time for gay Spokane to make its move:

    Spokane already has a gay newspaper, Stonewall News Northwest, and some businesses that cater to gay residents. It has had an openly gay member of the City Council.

    But creating a district is still important, Reguindin said.

    “It would help youth struggling with their sexuality to realize they don’t have to go away to a big city to be gay. You can be gay right here in Spokane,” Reguindin said.

    Farand Gunnels, local representative for the Pride Foundation, a Seattle-based group that gives grants to support the gay community, wondered if there were enough gay residents in Spokane to support such a district.

    The INBA is also preparing to launch a “visibility campaign,” in which businesses will be asked to display signs in their windows proclaiming their support for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.

    “We’ll know where we will be welcome and patronize those businesses,” Aspen said. “We’ve had a very positive reaction from the business community.”

    Gay customers will be able to leave special cards at businesses they patronize, to let the owners know they were there, Aspen said.

    “It will give Spokane an idea of the economic impact gay people have,” Aspen said.

    True, but it could also convince people that it’s not possible for us to pay for a bottle of Windex without announcing that we’re homos, which will not exactly militate against the stereotype that we’ve got sex on the brain 24-7. (It could produce a few comical exchanges, though. “Oh, here’s my queer card. Do I just give it to you?” “No fooling! A gallon of whole milk, a dozen eggs, and Hydrox cookies? I thought all you boys were anorexic.”) Also, if there’s already a gay newspaper and there’s been a gay city council member, does there need to be a whole neighborhood for gay youths to figure out that they might be able to find mates in their hometown?

    I don’t have any trouble with a bunch of investors starting gay-themed businesses on a street where properties are available, obviously. Announcing that you’re pre-planning the creation of a full gay district strikes me as asking for trouble, though. Opponents will have an open invitation to blame gay life for any and every new social ill that hits the place. Some will do that even if a group of gay investors decides to gravitate toward a cluster of shopfronts and beat-up old houses, of course, but the increased revenue and residential gentrification are more likely to register as benefits because they won’t seem like part of some institutionally-funded plot to give the gays a home base.

    Added on 25 January: Michael (the sort of squeamish Charlie who apparently can’t eat squid unless it’s edited to look non-threatening, like X-large Spaghettios) also has a reaction to this, which he cross-posted at Dean’s World and got an interesting discussion going.

    Kobe earthquake anniversary

    Posted by Sean at 14:30, January 16th, 2005

    Today, it’s exactly ten years since the Great Hanshin Earthquake, which killed over 6500 people in and around Kobe. Given the recent catastrophic earthquake and tsunami in developing Southeast Asia, it’s sobering to recognize that, even in a country known for its whizbang technology and millennia of dealing with these things, recovery goes in fits and starts. Reason ran a piece a few years after the quake about bureaucratic problems that hampered both immediate rescue and long-term rebuilding, which has an unsettling resonance given the already-emerging charges of incompetence against UN personnel handling disaster aid now.

    There are a few other parallels. Kobe is not considered a hot earthquake zone in Japan. Neither is Niigata, which just got hit with a series of big ones in October. That means that building codes and disaster rehearsals were not up to the same standards as they are here in Tokyo, and not without justification. It just isn’t rational to expend all kinds of time, energy, and money getting ready for something that’s almost certain not to happen.

    That’s not to say that governments should rest on their laurels–the Mainichi published the results of a survey last week that indicated that many local governments don’t feel prepared to deal with disasters. This year saw an unusual series of typhoons with their attendant floods and mudslides, followed by the Niigata earthquake, so the possibilities are very much fresh in the minds of municipal authorities. Many lessons from the Kobe earthquake have also been assimilated and put into practice–the city of Sendai fitted its gas lines with a different shutoff system, and when a 6.9 M quake happened in 2003, it had reason to be grateful. But no matter what the police and fire departments do, people scattered through buildings and streets still have to know how to live through the first strike long enough to be helped. (BTW, if you’re reading this from Japan, do you have everything attended to?)

    Added on 18 January: Thanks to Far Outliers for linking this post. He went to high school in Kobe (which used to have one of the largest communities of foreigners in Japan, I think), and he offers a few interesting slice-of-life details from what he remembers pre-earthquake.

    Okay, last time I linked to something of Joel’s, I changed his religion and made him the author of a book he hadn’t written. And ended up in a long discussion about green beans. Therefore, I am making doubly sure he says he went to high school in Kobe, because I know he mentioned something about Kyoto in there…um, looks okay.

    Oh, you’ve got green eyes / Oh, you’ve got blue eyes / Oh, you’ve got grey eyes

    Posted by Sean at 13:01, January 15th, 2005

    Amritas, gallantly looking for ways to show solidarity with others of his genetic heritage by sharing their aggrievedness, found a piece on plastic surgery. He can’t seem to get too worked up over it, though:

    Although I think “racial anorexia” is an exaggeration, I never understood the appeal of eye surgery or hair lightening for Asians. I don’t necessarily think eye surgery makes Asians look more Caucasian because there are Asians born with ‘double lids’. But I prefer the ‘monolid’ look (which some Caucasians naturally have!). And I don’t think light hair goes well with Asian complexions. It looks fake.

    “Racial anorexia” is the Naomi Wolf-ish word the writers of the original piece at Model Minority used to describe…um, I don’t know exactly what they’re describing, but it sounds like some sort of inferiority complex that makes Asian-Americans compulsively erase their Asiatic features. That’s what the rest of us get for recklessly walking around looking white all the time.

    I think Amritas is right about the looks stuff. The reason that the Japanese categorize eyes as 一重 (hitoe: “single-layer”) and 二重 (futae: “double-layer”) is that both kinds of eyelids are common here. And some people, like my boyfriend, have single-layer eyelids but don’t have particularly small or sleepy-looking eyes.

    He’s also right about the hair. When Asians bleach their hair and wear it in a way you might call “decorative”–meaning, punkish and playful and frankly artificial, the way people do when they dye their hair green or purple–it sometimes looks cool. The natural-looking blond shades that can be achieved with today’s dyes don’t usually flatter Asian skin tones, though.

    Speaking of skin, it’s weird that no one involved in Amritas’s post mentioned it. Meaning, you can make the case that wide, alert eyes and angular features are prized because they look white, but it’s only fair to acknowledge also how porcelain smoothness and evenness of tone is associated with Asian complexions. Come to think of it, there’s a whole general constellation of this stuff: white guys who generally go for Asian women get sick and tired of having people assume that they like ’em docile, petite, mysterious in manner, and barely-above-jailbait in appearance. I’ve seen educated urban white girls get really, really worked up over this supposed phenomenon. (I say “supposed” because anyone who thinks Mother doesn’t rule the household in Asia just as firmly as she does everywhere else is mistaken.) To the extent that stereotyped standards of attractiveness prod people into changing essential part of themselves, it cannot be said that Asians are always seen as the ones who need to change.

    Amritas’s mention of white celebrities with features that are usually considered Asian reminded me of something else: several times over the years, I’ve been at parties where the conversation spontaneously turned to the topic, “What Asian nationality are you mistaken for?” Once, at a dinner party of a dozen people, this was the topic for a good twenty-minute stretch, with guesses submitted about everyone in turn. As in, “Well, Ryu-chan, you have kind of a flat nose, so I think you look Thai.” “But his mouth isn’t drawn up at the center as much as a Thai person’s! He looks more Vietnamese to me. With those earlobes, he could be Indian, though!”

    The first time it happened, I was dumbfounded. There’s no American equivalent that I’ve seen. I mean, sure, sometimes people will say they get their cornsilk hair and welkin eyes from their German ancestors, or what have you, but it doesn’t become this big group guessing game. (Smug aside: My Atsushi was given what I assume to be the highest possible compliment: “Atsu-chan, you’d never be mistaken for anything except a Japanese.” A handsome Japanese. Weary aside: And, naturally, this became yet another opportunity for me to be told, “Are you sure you’re American? You look so European! If I didn’t know you, I’d guess you were French.” No, there’s nothing wrong with being French; but I’m not, and I don’t like the frequent implication that “looking American” means being pushily fat and having a slightly blank expression.)

    [Ten-minute pause while I ogle Robert Conrad, the murderer on this week’s Columbo, who is working out in nothing but gym shorts while Peter Falk is questioning him. Woof!]

    Amritas is probably right that the only real universal is bilateral symmetry. I think there’s a point to be made that, now that cosmetic procedures are more widely available, a lot of people are taking the opportunity to bring their features in line with the perfectly-homogeneous Karen Mulder sort of face, rather than being happy that they have a few distinguishing features. And it’s certainly true that that sort of neat-as-a-pin angularity is mostly found in people with Northern European genes. (Mulder herself, for example, is Dutch.) But there are also plenty of white people who don’t look like that and get surgery to do so, so whether idealizing it is some special kind of “racial anorexia” strikes me as an arguable point.


    Posted by Sean at 12:29, January 15th, 2005

    A few weeks back, an article about a multiple-organ transplant to be performed on a Japanese infant caught my eye. I hadn’t heard much more about it, but today, tucked in between the more lurid stories in the Mainichi, is this update:

    Five months after being born, the baby boy was diagnosed as suffering from twisted intestines, and his internal organs began to deteriorate.

    His parents arranged for Yosuke to undergo a transplant of his stomach, pancreas, spleen, liver, and the large and small intestines at the University of Miami Jackson Memorial Center on Christmas Eve.

    That’s pretty much everything down there, isn’t it, except his gall bladder and kidneys? The little guy’s recovering well, so they expect to release him soon (the article seems to imply but doesn’t actually say that it will be earlier than usual). And naturally, they have to watch for signs of rejection. It’s good to hear things are going along smoothly so far, though.

    Now don’t you ask yourself / who they are?

    Posted by Sean at 12:04, January 13th, 2005

    You would think that leftists, after 30 years of their hard feminist party-line, could think of something to call a woman they don’t like besides “whore.” Apparently not.

    I don’t know what I think of Michelle Malkin’s book on Japanese internment; I haven’t read it. Whether she’s defending the practice wholesale or simply documenting facts that refute the stock interpretation that it was motivated solely by racism, I therefore can’t judge. What she has to say on education and immigration policy, I do generally agree with, though I don’t read her as regularly as a lot of people do.

    Whatever–the idea that she’s a Bush shill is ridiculous, especially on…well, education and immigration. The most passing familiarity with her on-line oeuvre confirms that. I think she pushes the tough-chick persona to breaking point sometimes–and as you might imagine, I love tough chicks–but the idea that she’s essentially an untalented writer who doesn’t know how to think is just ridiculous.

    I’m mostly bringing this up because a few people seemed to think that the few stray hate mails I alluded to a few days ago genuinely upset me. They didn’t, except as more evidence of the decline in civiliity. They’re also why, whenever I think idly that maybe it’d be nice to have more readers, I remember what people like Malkin (and Dean and Connie and Kim and Susanna) deal with. No thanks.

    Growing up in public

    Posted by Sean at 10:01, January 12th, 2005

    Gay Orbit notes that GayPatriot appears to have cast the apple of discord in our midst with the varying opinions of its proprietors about whether it’s the new Daily Dish. Others are already doing all the wrangling necessary, so I will confine myself to two points I don’t think are being given sufficient attention:

    First, yes, Andrew Sullivan has turned into a wet noodle. It’s painful to see, and his opining now frequently ranges from the silly to the outrageous. Let’s remember something, though, shall we? A decade ago, he was using his print and television presence to show a rare face of gentlemanly, reasonable gayness. The gay marriage argument has moved beyond his early books, but back then, the opposition really did tend to confine itself to things like, “Gays have sex, not love.” At the level to which the debate had progressed, Sullivan was one of the few major figures who made rational arguments that gays were responsible enough to be fully included in society.

    This past year or so has been a test of his principles, and he’s flunked so far. There’s always hope that he’ll get it together, but he completely deserves the drubbing many of his current positions are taking. That doesn’t change the fact that he made a lasting contribution to gay advocacy; it’s unseemly to be slagging him off as if he were a terminally-empty Richard Goldstein type who’d recently found a way, somehow, to become even more tiresome. Show some respect.

    Second, Gay Patriot wants attention, and I think it’s wonderful that he and his thoughtful collaborator are getting it. I don’t like the idea that for eternity there will be a single Andrew Sullivan Chair in Non-Commie Homosexuality that has to be filled, with every other gay who opens his mouth considered leftist until proven innocent; but there’s nothing wrong with having one commentator or blog that’s the most prominent exponent of right-leaning gay thought.

    And yet…I think GP mentioned once that he works in marketing, and, well, I believe him. I mean that in both good and bad ways. GP and GPW are good at soundbites, and soundbites are useful in blogging. They get quoted, and they’re attached to a site called GayPatriot, and that does good, necessary work in demonstrating that not gays are not all lockstep leftists who look down on America.

    At the same time, I worry. I worry because the guys at GayPatriot don’t seem to recognize that you can’t stop at marketing. At times, they do make solid, worked-out arguments; but for the most part, when one of their political posts sounds good, it sounds good because you’re filling in the gaps between catchy pronouncements with actual facts or logical constructions you’ve read elsewhere. When GP, especially, needs to make a case that has no evidence to corroborate his–there’s the hilarious story of the bottle thrown at his car and the more serious allegation that LCR’s Chris Barron may have had divided loyalties up to very late in the election year–he doesn’t show much inclination to ascertain and then question his own assumptions in order to strengthen his story. (I suppose it’s possible that each of these posts was followed up with more hard evidence, but I read GayPatriot regularly and am pretty sure I’d have remembered; they both made me practically fall off my chair at the time.)

    The guys at GayPatriot also don’t seem to understand that, while they deserve kudos for publicizing their unpopular political opinions, their mindset about people is stereotypical urban-gay, and not in the good way. Here’s GP demonstrating that he’s more all-American than Andrew Sullivan:

    Andrew’s main problem is that he, along with his fellow Clinton Democrats, do not understand Red State (and the majority of) America. He admits he doesn’t like or “get” country music, for example. Funny, my iPod continously brings up Kenny Chesney on random rotation.

    I know people who grew up in rural Kentucky that can’t stand country music; there are also New York music critics who can go off for days about how wonderful George Jones and Loretta Lynn are. But neither of those is really the point–the point is that GP is fixated on the artifacts rather than the attitude. Do you use your music to make a statement about yourself, or do you figure that people’s integrity is pretty much unrelated to whether they have Cher or Reba in the CD player? And, if we’re going to use the term, which mental framework is more “Red State”? (I admit I laughed at the hockey joke, though.)

    There are a lot of nice people in the blogosphere who are looking for reasons not to think uncharitably about gays and who are very receptive to GayPatriot’s message, which is great. Some of them have day jobs as journalists and could get the site real exposure, which is also great. For now. But the more attention they get, the more likely it becomes that they will run into skeptical people who hold you accountable for everything you say and expect finely-woven arguments. If they don’t start figuring out how to provide them, they’ll make themselves and the rest of us look bad.

    Ricky, and Danny, and Terry, and Jim / Dean lasted six months–don’t forget him

    Posted by Sean at 11:58, January 11th, 2005

    Alice has a post about Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston that manages to make a simple, unadorned point. (I mean, I say “manages” because what’s unusual is that a post about those two has a point, not that a post by Alice has a point.)

    Perhaps Jennifer Anniston is a career-crazed egotist. Perhaps she suffered in silence for years and is still acting more honorably than many people would expect, despite the media calling her a career-crazed egotist as a result. The Beckhams dealt with rumours about David Beckham’s liasons with other women by restating their mutual trust in public, and having a third child. Who knows how things will work out for them. Private life in the public eye seems doomed these days, but life out of the public eye fares little better.

    No, the point isn’t new, but it does need to be made repeatedly. It used to be that people like Zsa Zsa Gabor, Mickey Rooney, or Elizabeth Taylor got married seven or eight times. They had grand, lusty, capricious personalities that fed their art (or, in Gabor’s case, her celebrity), they got the attention of millions, and the tradeoff was that the hunger that made it all possible also made their personal lives a wreck. Because everyone knew they weren’t like ordinary people, they were presented differently. One of my favorite bars–well, half the gay bars in the world, but only one I’m thinking of–is lined with pictures of stars from the Studio Era onward: Bette Davis, Ginger Rogers, Cary Grant. The literal halos aren’t there as you move forward, but the poses are still frankly sculptural and larger-than-life.

    Nowadays (I don’t think I have many gay readers, but for anyone who’s inclined to have a spaz attack at the way I’m treating stardom from the dawn of the talkie up to the early 1960s as one soupy, undifferentiated era–I know, I know; the line I’m drawing is crude, but I think it makes a genuine distinction easier to see), celebrity life and ordinary life have become closer together, and they’ve both suffered.

    Everyday people who just want to live responsible, happy lives think they can do so by imitating Elizabeth Taylor. No, of course, no one actually sits there consciously emulating her, but the idea that commitment isn’t really commitment if someone who wanders by strikes your fancy is clearly abroad in the land. Also, it’s no longer just actresses who are attended to by expensive psychotherapist quacks; self-help for every Borders shopper is a huge industry.

    That’s not a new complaint, and neither is the one in the opposite direction: namely, that the obsession with making celebrities seem “real” has made them boring. In a way, the change is a moving reminder of the way regular folks have come up in the world. Most people can’t afford live-in nannies or drivers, but even people of modest means play golf or go to health spas and what have you. We have unprecedented riches, to the point that movie-star life basically can’t be as different from just-folks life as it used to be.

    For the most part, though, it just means that stars look as schlumpy as the rest of us. Page through Vogue magazine to see what I mean–they’ll try to cover for it by calling referring to it as “relaxed chic” or “bohemian glamour with a modern edge,” but it’s really just slovenliness of costume and demeanor. I have nothing against Renee Zellweger or Gwyneth Paltrow, but whenever I see one of them referred to as today’s Grace Kelly, it makes me want to scream. There was something unassailable about Kelly; despite her composure, there’s nothing unassailable about Paltrow, and that goes double for the gosh-it’s-nice-that-people-like-my-movies Zellweger. I’m obviously not going to say that the loss of worship-worthy stars is at the same level of tragedy as the loss of the ability to value homely satisfactions. You can always reach into the past to watch Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, but you can’t reach into the past and un-screw up your life. I think the issues are related, though.

    Everything in its time

    Posted by Sean at 03:12, January 11th, 2005

    I thought I might go a full year without a single troll or piece of hate mail, but it wasn’t to be. The feedback I get through comments and e-mails generally ranges from (rare) vigorous but civil opposition to (more frequent) praise, sometimes bordering on fulsome, so I’m not complaining. It was not because I was a world-class diplomat that I attracted only thoughtful folks before, and it’s not because I’m a valiant, uncompromising truth-teller that I’ve attracted a few ne’er-do-wells now. I’ve been reading blogs long enough to know that these things happen basically on schedule; they’re part of the life cycle.

    With that in mind, I’d like to make my policies clear before the need to do so becomes exigent. I won’t tell you what civilized behavior is because you already know. If you’re seriously hesitating to send/publish something because you’re afraid you’ll cross some kind of line, you’re probably right and should find another way to get your point across. If you decide to live on the edge…well, we all have our lapses. Being very fallible myself, I don’t plan to pursue a one-strike-and-you’re-out line unless pushed, which seems unlikely with my traffic.

    But a lapse is forgivable because it’s an aberration. One’s overall record is supposed to show a desire to hear other points of view out, make arguments rather than screeds, and accept joshing with a good grace. Consistent troublemakers will be banned without remorse. This is partially inclination on my part–if I can make my dirty jokes and dishy comments in private where they belong, you can, too. There is also a practical reason: I am the public face of my company to a sector of our client base, and it’s my responsibility to err on the side of discretion.

    Some people are inclined toward dissing, and I’m not green enough to assume that I can dissuade them by appealing to their sense of honor. I will only point out that I was egotistical enough to start this site, give it a soi-disant danger-boy name, and expect that at least a few strangers would be interested in what I have to say. Considering that, the probability that I will be crushed by a single sentence that says I’m an idiot, a traitor, or a heartless jerk is very low. Just a thought.

    Added at 22:33: Okay, fine. This needed serious de-purple-ing. It’s fixed. Michael has commented on a particularly bad sentence, and it remains for those who want to see what this looked like before trimming.