Mein Name ist

My name is Mike Patterson. That’s almost what it says on my birth certificate; it actually says Michael. It also says Michael on my university ID card. There’s some other very similar variants on pieces of government ID, some include my middle initial or full name. Few people use Michael and fewer still even have reason to know my middle name. I’ve no real reason to use any other name, save for convenience – both my own, and for other people. Mike, as you might know, is a pretty common name, particularly amongst North American males, and doubly so amongst those of my generation.

Depending on context, I have a lot of other names to which I might respond. Depending on the context, I might also not respond, as they tend to be, well, contextual.

At work I’m usually just Mike, but I might be mpatters. That used to be my email address and it will still work, but I now tend to publish mike.patterson. I also use that for email addresses elsewhere, sometimes; my alumni forwarding account, for instance. Since my name is published in our directory as Michael though, some people do call me that, and I don’t bother correcting them. I might not immediately respond though.

On Twitter, I’m snowcrashmike, but nobody uses that anywhere else. Some very old IRC hands might know me as kraig, and I used that on MUDs. I also go by kraig on LiveJournal and Dreamwidth, and some people who met me first through those communities tend to use it as my name, even in voice conversations. In some web communities and games (Forumwarz, for example) I’m generally kraig or kraigu, but sometimes kraigus.

In the very long ago, I used to use BlackSpy as a BBS handle, but that was too overloaded when I switched to IRC. Nowadays on IRC networks I tend to use kraigu. My Steam name varies, I usually set it to earless wondercat, but I often play with it: earless wunderkatze, earless dyingcat (I do a lot of dying in online games), fearless wondercat, feared blundercat, beerless wondercat… well, you get the idea. But usually people call me just earless or wondercat in in-game voice chat, it makes things easier.

Sometimes, in certain circles, I might be just [. I don’t even remember what my FIDONet handle was.

I’m old enough that things like IRC were fairly new when I was coming of age, and young enough that identity is really a fairly slippery thing. I’m old enough to still value some privacy and think that for some people it matters quite a lot, young enough to realise that not using your real name doesn’t mean you can’t be found. I’m experienced enough to know that a middle ground is very difficult to find, wordly enough to know that different cultures approach “true names” in vastly different ways, and finally, practical enough to not really care what name it is that people actually prefer – I try to find out what it is, and use that.

I think realnameonly policies are unnecessarily invasive, don’t do what proponents claim they do, and insensitive. In short, I think they’re misguided at best, generally no better than security theatre, and at worst, just flat-out stupid. Nobody else has the right to tell me who I am, nor do they have the right to tell anybody else who they should be.

But you’re not like me

A few weeks or a month ago, I got into a conversation about politicians that looked something like this:

Me: I’m not voting for them because they’re not like me and they say they are. They don’t share some opinions I have.
Other: Of course they’re not like you, and nobody will share all your opinions.

He was correct, of course, but that wasn’t my point. My complaint was two-fold; I’ll address the second half first.
I don’t expect any other human being to share my opinion on everything. That would be boring, even if it did make my election-day decision easier. Besides, I don’t even know what my opinion *is* on many subjects. While it would be nice if there was at least some congruency, not everything is important, and I still respect people with whom I strongly disagree. For instance, while I’m anti-organised religion, I still think Augustine was a pretty cool guy. I’m very much not a pacifist, but I’m friends with (at least) two practising Quakers.
That being said, there are some opinions I have that are non-negotiable. I don’t think of our military as peacekeepers, for instance, and would have difficulty voting for anybody who would neuter our armed forces in such a way. I think our poor and middle-class already pay their fair share of taxes, so if the government needs more revenue, take it from the 150k+ annual set. I don’t mind at all if gasoline hits European price points, and I really don’t mind if the government takes better than half that in taxes. The first opinion puts me in strong opposition to many in my demographic, and the latter two would actually put a fair crimp in the lives of many more of those, but c’est la vie.
I don’t actually care if a politician is like me. In fact, it’s difficult to find anybody at all even close to me, never mind precisely like me. How many former soldiers do you know who have a BA, are earning another, and work as a system administrator in a school of computer science while paying for their disabled common-law wife to go to university? Thought so.
What I care about though, is politicians who claim to be like… well, anybody else at all. How many times have you heard “I’m like Joe Sixpack, I like beer and hockey and I know what it’s like to be lower to middle class”?
Stephen Harper does still actually sit in the stands at hockey games, but he does so with a retinue, unobtrusive as it is, and he can’t pick a favourite because whatever he picks, it’s wrong. Sarah Palin may indeed once have been the moose-hunting hockey mom she professes to be, but she isn’t any more. She’s a state governor turned VP candidate. Even Liz May, who tipped a few pints back at the Grad House on campus here, is not much like you or I. She’s the leader of a national political party and when she speaks, leaders of other parties listen. Andrew Telegdi was once an undergraduate student at the University of Waterloo, but he hasn’t been for as long as I’ve been alive.

Tyler Durden
Tyler Durden says: “Sticking feathers up your butt does not make you a chicken!”

Politicians are nothing like me or you (unless you’re a politician too), and it’s insulting when they pretend to be. Even if Stephen Harper’s favourite NHL team really is the Oilers, that just means that he and I both happen to like the same team, nothing more. If Liz May favours the same Grad House beer I do, that just means she has good taste. If Peter Braid runs a business like I used to, that just means we were both once small businessmen.
That being said, I found James Bow’s writeups of the local candidates valuable in helping to understand where the local politicians come from. And to their credit, I don’t think any of them pretended to be like me beyond the most superficial qualities: well-educated well-off white folk living in Southwestern Ontario. I didn’t change my mind based on what I saw, and the candidate for whom I will vote Tuesday is not at all like me, but I’m cool with that. So should you be.

Morgentaler to the Order of Canada

Media outlets, both mainstream and idiots like me, are abuzz with the news that Henry Morgentaler may be named to the Order of Canada.
Love him or hate him, like the news or not, it seems pretty clear that the various commenters on the issue are dead wrong. The G&M story quotes the executive director of the Catholic Civil Rights League as saying, “[w]ith this choice, the one thing that everybody really agrees on about Morgentaler is that he is a very divisive figure.” A Liberal MP is noted as saying “if he is admitted to the order, it will polarize Canadians.” (That’s the Globe and Mail’s wording, it’s not a direct quotation.)
Canadians are already divided and polarized around the issue of abortion. Morgentaler’s appointment would merely bring that polarization back out into the light; that division is there whether or not we choose to acknowledge it. Poll 100, 1000, a million, or thirty million Canadians; I’m sure you’d see that most Canadians already have an opinion on abortion and would argue their point of view quite vociferously. Morgentaler’s appointment can’t cause what’s already done, so in that respect the anti-abortionists are either deluding themselves, or trying to delude those few still on the fence.
Edit an hour later: he’s admitted. Bring on the polarization.

Chinese society and the white man’s burden

The CBC ran a blurb about the Chinese Paralympic committee’s documentation on dealing with people with disabilities.
While the language used in said docs is indeed fairly shocking to (at least some) Western ears, the reaction of one of the (now-former) athletes was interesting. He said, “Their society has come a fair distance already, but I think it’s clear that there is still a fair distance to come.”
Without speaking to Chinese society at all, having a disabled wife has opened my eyes somewhat to our own mores. She has a disabled pass, and uses a cane to walk more often than not. Her handful of meds both morning and night is just that – a handful. She has crutches which get used semi-regularly, and probably should be in a wheelchair a week every month, but we can’t afford one and live in a third story walkup anyway. Her meds leave her sometimes unable to remember conversations 15 minutes later. She is, by any account, physically disabled. She also suffers from PTSD. Yet a couple of times a month, she meets new doctors who have the amazing ability to diagnose disability at a distance and without an examination. At least, that’s the only conclusion I can draw, since they are somehow able to tell at a glance that she is not worthy of parking in a disabled spot – and tell her so. On a couple of notable occasions, she’s literally been ganged up on; once, one of the gangers-up didn’t even know the original interlocutor.
I think it’s clear that regardless of Chinese progress, our own society has a long way to go itself.

You say censorship, I say due diligence: Bill C-10

While I’m not entirely comfortable with government deciding who gets funding based on ‘moral’ grounds, I’m unsure about how pulling funding equates to censorship. The government would not be saying “you can’t make that film”, it would be saying, “we’re not going to give you money to make that film.” David Cronenburg isn’t being escorted to jail here. A violation of Charter Rights? No, I really don’t think so. The government doesn’t fund my blawg, but that doesn’t mean it’s violating my right to free speech.
Assuming that the quote from the lawyer in the Hollywood Reporter story are accurate, it is disturbing that funding could be retroactively pulled. We don’t need another MPAA.
It’s quite annoying that none of the stories seem to feel it necessary to link to the actual text of the bill, just what everybody else says it says. So, I think this is it, although I see nothing in there about films or tax credits for film makers. If anybody knows where the exact and full text under question is, I’d appreciate a link.
Incidentally, I’m glad that Parliament has done some historical detective work about the history of the finance minister wearing new shoes on budget day. I can now sleep at night. I found that while I was looking for the actual text in question.