Originally posted November 2003

Thanks for article inspiration to Jonathan, who pointed me to an LJ which made me initially start thinking about this. Thanks for suggestions on this article go to George, Ian, and Dave, who made it a better read. You all rock! ;-)

I've heard the plaintive question 'why do women want bad boys instead of nice guys?' so many times I finally had to answer. Short answer — they don't. They're doing what they're taught to do.

I've been considering this ever since I first heard the question in college. My answer then was a startled, "But they don't!" Since then — through personal experience, observation of those around me, and watching media portrayals of relationships — I'd have to say my answer is still correct, but I understand the empirical evidence behind it better now.

Let's look at this analytically, assuming a hypothetical young female who is interested in guys. What are her peers, society, and the media teaching her regarding relationships?

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Originally written in the early 1990's for an absolutely amazing class on the bible as history and literature. My later notes, to clarify the paper, are in blockquotes.

The story of Genesis in the bible has been used throughout history as an excuse for, and explanation of, why women should be subjugated by men. This does not mean that Genesis actually says such a thing. It mostly means that men throughout the last 2000 or so years have used the story to justify their (often aberrant) behavior. Their rationale seems to run along the following lines: god created man before woman, therefore man is more important than woman. As god demands obedience, and abuses those who disobey, so man has the right to do the same to woman. After all, she is a "second thought," she is merely the "helpmate" (the usual translation of the word from the original written language) of man.

This rationale conveniently forgets everything created before man is not considered more consequential than him. If things were created in increasing order of wonderfulness (which is today generally believed), then woman (not man) is the shining pinnacle of the deity creating in Its own image.

A closer reading of Genesis will reveal that it says nothing of the kind. Indeed, there are arguments to be made which say (if anything) that woman is as important, if not more so, than man. For intellectual entertainment, I will delineate one below.

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I've changed somewhat in the handful of years since I wrote the Firestarter titled "What is Friendship?" I like to think my opinions have grown and matured somewhat as well. This is, therefore, a sort of musing friendship redux.

In retrospect, my writing seems a bit rough to me, and the article itself is pretty short, both in length and in actual content. I suspect I was a bit too directly addressing a particular issue in my life at that time; I find I usually learn more when I try to branch out while researching a subject. Also, the sole incident I mention in the Firestarter is so vague as to be meaningless to the reader. I may take this opportunity to clarify it further, but for now I'm simply musing on what I've concluded since then regarding friendship.

Perhaps the most important thing I've learned over the past five or so years is that friendship is not assuming control over someone, and it's not a list of demands. Expecting others to live up to your unstated expectations is a rather unfriendly act, and I know I would not appreciate someone expecting me to jump through constant and unpredictable mental hoops for them. The people you (generalized "you") call friends are emphatically not expressions of your self-worth, after all. Further, for me at least, someone worth having as a friend will not allow the discourtesy of incessantly testing them so.

What is Trust?

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What is friendship?

20 May 2008 In: FIRESTARTER, Ethics questions

Originally posted October 2003

I ask this question because I've always had fairly strong ideas about "real" friendship, as opposed to simple acquaintanceship. To me an acquaintance was always someone you'd be happy to smile and greet pleasantly, or chat with, or do a simple favor for, but with whom you'd not made any really strong or deep connection. I have acquaintances I've known for decades, for example.

A friend, on the other hand, was someone for whom you were willing to extend yourself, and whom you knew would do the same for you. For example, I would think a friend would have the courage and integrity to take me aside and quietly let me know if I was making a fool of myself in public, and vice versa. We'd also be happy to brag about how well the other was doing, if something wonderful happened in our lives.

A friend emphatically is not someone who backs you up without question when you're telling a lie, though. I've seen this occur in two separate instances, and both times it was rather a shock to watch people I'd formerly respected do this. A friend, to me, would quietly and privately ask if their friend was aware what they'd said was inaccurate. The two people I saw did not do this. When I asked them later, privately, about why they'd backed up statements they knew were lies, both individuals shame-facedly told me they were quite aware the people they'd supported were lying through their teeth! However, they'd known the person since high school, and were afraid to antagonize them, for fear they'd be abandoned.

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Just got back from the opening weekend of the newest exhibit at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, CA. The museum's in the old SGI building, for locals, and it's a lovely little place. The exhibit is a working Babbage Difference Engine! The following is based on my memory of what transpired, so if there are errors in this posting, blame me, not the display. Also, all photos are thumbnails you can click on for a larger version, which will open in a new window.

The Difference Engine we saw is only the second ever built, and it was built to prove (or disprove) the validity of Babbage's design. Consequently it was constructed very precisely according to Babbage's instructions, or according to other projects Babbage had done. So (for example) where the current engineers discovered they needed a system of springs at the bottom of the machine to support the weight of the gears, so that the individual turning the hand crank wasn't required to do so, they used a spring system which Babbage had used on other machines he'd built. The only other change they made was to include a printer, and that also was crafted according to a printer designed by Babbage to use on one of his later machines.

A lower rear view of Difference Engine #2, showing the cast-iron springs (from 4 to 5 o'clock; the printer is partially visible on the right)
Apparently Babbage first created a set of plans for the Babbage Difference Engine #1, and built a prototype that was only a seventh of the size of the intended completed machine. It would do (effectively) addition and subtraction up to, I think, a seventh level polynomial. He called it the "Beautiful Fragment," and that's what Ada Byron Lovelace saw and was entranced by when she was only 17 years old. It was only she, in fact, who understood the Engine could do more than simply play with numbers mathematically — she saw the Engine's potential for manipulation of symbols, such as in algebra, music, and language, as well. Alas, her ideas weren't really listened to or understood, and the government never really comprehended the true potential of what they had on their hands.

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1 Aug 2006 In: LIBRARY, Movie review

directed by John McTiernan
1 August 2006 movie review
by Collie Collier

Credits: For Dave, who brought it over — you know me too well! ;)

This is apparently a movie with a very mixed reputation. I came to it unsure as to whether it would be any good, since I'd heard both that it was really excellent, and that it didn't make sense in the end. After having seen the movie, I can understand (but not agree with) the latter accusation. The movie is a murder mystery set as an action flick, deliberately designed to thwart common expectations. If you're not paying attention you can easily miss critical plot points, and things won't make sense to you.
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The "Silk" Series

20 Jul 2006 In: Book review, Feminism, LIBRARY, Writing

by Mary Jo Putney
20 July 2006 book review by Collie Collier

Credits: For my kind-hearted and thoughtful recommender, who I hope will both find this review interesting; and understand that while I didn't care for the books, I was quite touched at her efforts to help me.

Also for Lou, who helped me remember my desires aren't the same as everyone else's.

I recently had a book recommended to me due to its subject matter: a woman overcoming horrifically thoughtless and emotionally scarring abuse from her father (she was the 5-year-old discoverer of his messy suicide). In fact, all the author's works were recommended to me, as she apparently is a romance writer who takes the time to create relatively accurate historical stories. The book in question was Veils of Silk, the third of the Silk series.

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July 2006 Firestarter column
by Collie Collier

I recently spent a long weekend in the not-really-uncharted wilds of the Northeastern US, for a family gathering. This was a very mixed event for me, interestingly enough, as the family was thrilled and I had a great time. On the other hand, I managed to spend much of the weekend and the next two weeks struggling with being quite sick. Also, I am seriously not happy about making a trip on my credit cards — having to pay that interest annoys and worries me deeply. However, once again my anthropological fascinations got the best of me, and I've written down some of the interesting things I noticed while there.

Keeping in mind I saw only parts of Connecticut and Boston, Massachusetts, and that generalizations are fraught with peril, I shall nevertheless throw myself on this grenade for the fun of it. Avast, ye lubbers! Generalizations and mixed metaphors off the port bow — man the torpedoes and full speed ahead!
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Memoirs of A Geisha

1 Jul 2006 In: Feminism, LIBRARY, Minorities

by Arthur Golden
1 July 2006 book review by Collie Collier

Credits: For Casey, who always encourages me to think.
Also, I so want the beautiful soundtrack! ;)


The fictional story of Sayuri, the most celebrated geisha of her time, and how she came to that position. The story's emphasis is more on the "exotic" Japanese cultural habits and subcultural geisha rituals, rather than on the personality of the girl herself.
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A Million Little Pieces

15 Jun 2006 In: Ethics questions, LIBRARY

by James Frey
15 June 2006 book review by Collie Collier

Credits: For my book club, without whom I would not have read this peculiarly fascinating book.

Note: there are quotes from the book in this review, which contain foul language. Please consider yourself warned.

This is the gripping story of Frey's painful but ultimately triumphant battle with alcohol and drug addiction. The title derives from Frey's reflections on a comment made by the drug treatment center's doctor, who had never previously seen such pervasive and consistent damage to the body of a 23 year old. He bluntly informed Frey if he ever started using drugs and alcohol again, in a matter of days Frey could expect to die, as his body could no longer stand up to the prolonged pattern of abuse it had been subjected to. As Frey put it, he would shatter into a million little pieces.
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Bestiaries depict mythical, moralizing animals, but are also potential allegorical sparks that can bloom into brilliant mental bonfires. My bestiary is this mythologizing animal's fascinated exploration of beauty & meaning in the wonder of existence -- in the hopes of inspiring yet more joyous flares of intellectual passion.



Collie’s Bestiary