Friday, February 28, 2014

Lean Out, Lean In, Lean Out, Then Shake It All About

Sheryl Sandberg has been making noise ever since the release of her book Lean In which encourages women to be more aggressive in their social attainment. I have nothing against Sandberg and think that her heart was in the right place, but her Lean In movement is total horseshit and it has long since worn out its welcome.

First, let's ignore the white, hetero-normative, cis-gendered focus of her book. This is a problem that could fill a book and others have come close to doing so. I actually think that this criticism effectively negates Sandberg's arguments entirely, but it's not the biggest problem that I have with her work.

I also want to point out that while the core argument she is making is nonsense, she makes tons of great points about equality and sexism that are worthy points. If these were novel points or analyses, it would be a bigger deal, but they aren't. These are data points that have been known for a long time.

The biggest problem that I have is that Sandberg further reinforces socio and econo-normative behaviors and values. For Sandberg, success in life is found in a nuclear family, money, and property. Again, this is utterly without merit. Research has shown that economic stability is critical to happiness, but economic stability is relative, and that once stability has been reached, property and money do not correlate with happiness.

If the world were different, she would just be another author saying less-than-correct things, but the world is not different; the world is the world. And the world is one which is filled with damaging and counterproductive value programming that encourages people to try to find happiness in money and status. As such, her message is actually dangerous.

There is no inherent value to climbing the proverbial ladder (or jungle gym as Sandberg rephrases it). As far as I know, she never once addresses the underlying assumptions of value that undergird her thought. For her, they are taken for granted.

Well I don't take them for granted. Money is not inherently valuable. Success is not inherently valuable. Our national discussion rarely focuses on these subjects because it is the last thing anyone wants. Our economy is based on people not believing these things. Businesses are based on people not believing these things. Governmental power is based on people not believing these things.

People who addresses these underlying issues and try to discuss them and not simply the icing on the capitalist cake are labeled as fringe or fanatics — people with their heads in the clouds. By belittling these people, we can avoid discussing things that are, on a societal scale, very scary.

Sandberg would have been much more groundbreaking if she had used her privilege and position, the bully pulpit, to discuss our underlying values. Because it is these values that are the wellspring from which our prejudice flows. The patriarchy and all its concomitant misogyny and sexism are products of these very basic values.

(There is actually a term for this, mores: folkways of central importance accepted without question and embodying the fundamental moral views of a group. These are deep-rooted assumptions. They are like the id and ego of a society — the reptilian hindbrain of a nation.)

Sandberg didn't do that. She produced a digestible little nugget of fluff. And funny enough, this perfectly embodies her underlying values. Her fluff sold hundreds of thousands of copies and earned her spots on talk shows. If she had written a truly trenchant and piercing analysis of society, no one would have bought it.

She did precisely what she said we should all do: she leaned in... straight into the top of the best sellers list.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Documentary Night: A Short History of In-Home Heating

I get the feeling that this is somehow funded by a petroleum company trying to convince us that they "care." Regardless, Neil Oliver is awesome and even this five-minute short is worth a watch.

Texas Needs More People Like This

Texas has an image problem. Not as bad as, say, Mississippi or Alabama, but bad. A lot of it probably has to do with their sheer size and visibility. Texas is massive, politically influential, wealthy, and oil-rich.

Thus, when they do something stupid, everyone knows about it. For someone not living in Texas, it's very hard to remember that that stupidity is a product of only a subsection of the population.

Obviously, we have Austin, which is famous for being "weird," as they like to call themselves. But I, and most of the people that I know, consider Austin as almost another state. That's not good. It is part of Texas.

Similarly, Texas has large numbers of intelligent, tolerant people. They may currently be out-shouted by the maniacs, but they are no less a part of the state. Texas needs more visible people like this to help drive that point home. It might help their tourist industry.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Youtube's 1080p Option Is Unavailable To Me In Firefox

I have spent some time trying to track down a reason for this and, failing to succeed, I am posting the question here.

YouTube is a source of near-constant problems for people because cell companies and internet service providers hate it. They hate it because it's so popular and sucks up a lot of bandwidth. Because, remember, telecom companies are generally evil, and their ideal scenario is where you give them $100 every month and then never use their product.

But I digress. I have three computers in my house, two on WiFi and one CAT-5'd into the wireless router provided by Verizon. The two computers on WiFi always provide the option of 1080p in videos that have it, but the computer that is hardwired never does when using Firefox. Chrome sometimes won't show it, but Internet Explorer will always give me the option.

I thought it was my cookie blocker, my ad blocker, my script blocker, or my security suite, but the issue persists in Firefox with all of those programs turned off. I am at a loss.


I discovered the problem. I have a few accounts connected to Google, and a few computers, and this led to some confusion.

On one account, I had opted into the HTML5 video beta that is available at the bottom of the YouTube page. On others, I was either not signed in, or had not opted into the HTML5 video beta.

YouTube's HTML5 video option does not currently support 1080p videos. They are only available through the Flash video player.

If 1080p videos are mysteriously not available to you, click "try something new" at the bottom of the page and opt out of HTML5.