Vegitariagain

I’m a vegetarian again.

As I see it, there are a variety of overlapping reasons people are vegetarians, it’s not just because animals are cute. Here are some.

Environmental Sustainability

It’s inefficient and hard on the environment to use animals for food in our industrial scale. Plants are easier to grow and store and prepare and ship.

People sustainability

There’s enough food production on the planet to feed everyone already, not just that everyone is fed, but that everyone is fed to healthy and strong. However, a lot of that food goes to livestock, so rich people can regularly eat meat and poor people can regularly eat nothing. Yes, worldwide distribution isn’t this simple, but nothing is this simple, so it’s a start.

Treating animals humanely

It’s arguably barbaric that we take creatures that have complex brains and raise them in order to slaughter and eat them. We’re basically the hyper-intelligent villains in some alien invasion movie, asserting its dinner is more important than a human’s life. This is not a convincing argument for me but it’s an added bonus.

Other people

This is a motive in both directions, if the people you regularly eat with are vegetarians then it’s easy, if they eat meat, it’s hard. In my case I have no people I eat with regularly, however this was a significant part of my vegetarianism last time.

Taste

Astonishingly, Dae Hee, some people don’t like the taste of meat. I personally consider chicken and pork the same as tofu: a white protein that, even when the best quality stuff is cooked in the best possible way, is still to be eaten only as sauce/spice/flavouring vehicle, and when cooked poorly it just ruins everything. I can also clearly remember the taste of the first lamb I had after being a vegetarian for over a year. It tasted like blood and farms. I kept eating meat because it’s easier and the shock of that faded, but it’s still really weird.

Health

My interpretation of why unscientific fad diets work for some people is that if you go from not paying attention to what you eat to paying attention to what you eat, you’ll probably eat better. The same for switching to a vegetarian diet, with the added advantage that you have to be purposeful about protein and iron and such.

Decisions

Restaurant menus become so much simpler. I’ll have the one vegetarian option that doesn’t have tofu, please.

Religious/Cultural

In the first version of this post I totally missed one of the more common reasons people are vegetarian. This doesn’t feature in my list of reasons at all except perhaps as an instigator for consistency-of-ethics.


My own reasons are mostly the consistency of ethics in environment sustainability and global poverty, with side benefits of taste and health. This is something that I’ve been increasingly leaning toward and now I’m in control of my own meals again I can be freely vegetarian.

I’m not going to be strict or even necessarily consistent. I have leather shoes and bags and wristbands. I’m probably not going to worry about vegetarian cheese or gelatin, or shrimp-based curry paste, I’ve been vegetarianing for not even three weeks and I’ve eaten meat five times (partly because travelling, and partly because refusing meat cooked for me when I’d been a vegetarian for 48 hours seemed pretty rude).

Dude, that’s kinda [____]ist

“Accusations of racism and sexism are just as bad as racism and sexism.”1

I keep coming across this. I just…. ugh. Let’s drop in other offences.

Accusations of murder are just as bad as murder. Accusations of kicking puppies are just as bad as kicking puppies. Accusations of harassment are just as bad as harassment. Oops. That’s said too.


We live in a sexist, racist, classist, ageist, ableist, homophobic2, cissexist, etc society. We’re excellent at prejudice, at tribalism, at discomfort with people different than us on any axis. To think we’re unaffected by that is arrogant and/or naïve.

Everyone is all of these things to varying degrees (yes. Even you). So we are free to a) not be so skittish and defensive when called out for problematic behaviour, and b) not be so haughtily self-righteous and pitchfork-wielding burn-them-to-the-ground when someone else is.3


Sure, when I’m accused of something like that it doesn’t feel good. It is jarring and uncomfortable to learn I’ve unintentionally denigrated someone. I (with most) like to think I’m one of the Good Guys, It hurts to realise I may have been the villain. Crucially though, that hurt is my fault, it is not the fault of the person who brought this to attention.

And yes, sometimes it was legitimately a misunderstanding, a mishearing, a lack of context, whatever. But. More often these are the excuses we tell ourselves to keep being the hero rather than take the time to examine the implications of our (unconscious) behaviour.

When someone says “Dude, that joke/​comment/​act/​word/​behaviour is not ok.” I have two choices: I can apologize and learn, or I can follow the instinct to double down. To justify. To defend. To make sure everyone knows I’m the good guy here. It was all just a hilarious misunderstanding, see. My prejudice is perfectly reasonable according to this graph from the internet. And your criticism is invalid because of this [_____]ist thing you did that one time, perhaps even as part of this very criticism.

But all that defence is not even necessary. They’re (probably) not saying “Dude, you’re a horrible person”. They’re saying “Dude, that’s not ok, it’s [_____]ist and because you’re apparently unaware of it I’m pointing this out, I’m hoping that by letting you know this is a problem you’ll change your behaviour to not be un/intentionally hurtful because I actually don’t think you’re a horrible person”.

Though, even when they are saying “You’re a horrible person”, even if they subsequently write me off entirely, I can learn, apologize, and do better next time.


P.S. I will continue to mess up, to say or do things that I know are hurtful when I’m tired or angry or stressed (or it’s a Tuesday), or to suddenly learn things I’ve been saying or doing for years are hurtful to a group of people I’ve never even thought about. But that is not really the test of character. What we do next is.


  1. Not quoting anyone specifically because 1) It’s too common, and 2) specifically calling someone out who’s said this feels kinda counter-productive. 

  2. I tried and failed to come up with an -ist synonym for homophobia. sexualityist? heteronormativist? Nope. Sadness. 

  3. A case can be made for the problem of insincere accusations for the purpose of defamation. Sometimes calling stuff out is irrelevant/​defamation/​libel/​slander, but frequently this is overused to dismiss sincere accusations. 

Sorry (not sorry)

I’ve read a critical mass of ‘apologies’ on the internet in the last few days. Provoking headdesks, facepalms, and now this list.

An apology is:

  1. Unqualified

    No “But you must admit’s”, no “I was just’s”, no “To be fair’s”.

  2. Owned

    There is a subtle but essential distinction between “I’m sorry I hurt you” and “I’m sorry you were hurt”.

  3. Explicit

    There should be some indication that that the issue and its gravity is understood, and space for responses like: “actually that wasn’t the (only) issue, X was (also) the issue.”

  4. Just the start

    “But I apologised” is not a magic phrase. Apologies, regardless of their sincerity, don’t automatically grant forgiveness or absolution or an audience.

Apologies are not for avoiding embarrassment or guilty feelings, or for making yourself look good, they’re not resolution, and their acceptance isn’t automatic or required.

I have fallen short of many of these. If you too have apologised incompletely, don’t fret! It doesn’t mean you didn’t genuinely feel apologetic. However, it does mean you expressed it poorly if you truly meant well, and (like me) can do better next time.

Do you believe…?

Belief is complex and slippery idea, but also an useful everyday word. I enjoy categorising things. Thus.

This scale is about how strongly you hold a belief, not how true, popular, reasonable, explicable or false, unpopular, unreasonable, inexplicable such a belief is.

  1. Knowledge.

    Unquestioned beliefs. You’re still aware that you can think your way out of this belief, but so many things would change that abandoning this idea is not useful. (for example: ‘other people exist’).

  2. Belief.

    Strong beliefs. You can, at a stretch, put yourself in the mind of someone who doesn’t believe this thing to see where they’re coming from, but they’re definitely wrong, mistaken, deluded, deceived.

  3. Opinion.

    Weak beliefs. Your belief of this affects your life and the way you think, yet you can easily put yourself in the mind of someone who disagrees, and either you think it possible you could be wrong or see it as merely preference.

  4. Assent.

    Forced beliefs. If asked, you’d say you believe, but it doesn’t affect your life. It either follows logically from what you do believe or is something you believe due to social pressure, but you possibly wouldn’t believe this in isolation.

  5. Apathy.

    Disinterested ignorance. You might have an answer if pressed, but it’s a coin toss which way you’d answer. There’s nothing you do believe that requires you to believe about this thing any particular way, so you don’t. You also feel no pressure to learn or have an definite position.

  6. Dissent.

    Weak disbelief. Your disbelief of this affects your life and the way you think, yet you easily can put yourself in the mind of someone who believes, and either you think it possible you could be wrong or see it as merely preference.

  7. Disbelief.

    Strong disbelief. You can, at a stretch, put yourself in the mind of someone who does believe this thing to see where they’re coming from, but they’re definitely wrong, mistaken, deluded, deceived.

  8. Incredulity.

    What you see as absolutely ridiculous to believe. Things that are impossible for you to imagine actually believing. Thought experiments can take there, but surely no-one actually, sincerely believes this.


Examples!

It is super difficult to think of examples that have even a whiff of universality. Even finding things that don’t interact with identity in rage-inducing ways is tricky.

These (hopefully politically inert) maths examples might help you get the idea.

  1. 1 + 1 = 2
    Knowledge: Arithmetic requires this or the entire mathematical enterprise falls apart. (assuming a base greater than 2, pedant)

  2. 0.999… = 1
    Belief: I can see why this is not as immediately obvious as 1 + 1 = 2, but it’s just as true.

  3. Imaginary numbers are as arbitrary as negative numbers.
    Opinion: Counting numbers work with the analogy of how many apples you have. Everything else doesn’t. I can see why imaginary numbers seem more made up: you learn them much later and the name certainly doesn’t help, but they’re not in different categories of arbitrariness.

  4. 0! = 1
    Assent: I watched the video. Sure, whatever.

  5. 1 is/n’t a prime number
    Apathy: 1 is an exception either way.

  6. 1+2+3… = -1/12
    Dissent: I’m pretty sure this has broken a rule somewhere and done something with infinity or equals that it shouldn’t have.

  7. numbers exist
    Disbelief: I see mathematics and numbers as internally consistent fictions/human inventions useful for modelling the physical world. I know the majority of people disagree, but any other position seems ridiculous to me.

  8. 1 + 1 = 3
    Incredulity: Arithmetic requires this to be false or the entire mathematical enterprise falls apart.

Cheap grace?

I don’t understand the concept of cheap grace.

As near as I can tell it is invalidity of grace shown to someone who doesn’t respond “appropriately”. Or something like that.

But by definition, grace is unearned and undeserved. How can it be cheap?

Cheap grace seems often an excuse for unforgiveness or judgement or an expression of incredulity about Christianity. It is there in our struggle with truly believing ourselves forgiven. In that case the problem is not cheap grace, rather, the problem is grace grace and how maddeningly unfair God’s grace is.

Perhaps a better formulation is cheapened grace. Our response to grace given doesn’t determine its value in abstract, instead it reveals how much worth we see in it. And our attempts to earn God’s grace by our limited good behaviour cheapens it just as much as squandering it.

Grace is always an unaffordable, undeserved gift.


Finally, lest you think I’m saying something I’m not:

“Shall we sin because we are not under the law but under grace? By no means!” Romans 6:15 (NIV)

The Will/s of the Trinity

This was sparked by thinking about the concept of Trinity while revising Tertullian and the Nicene creed and so on for my church history exam. During the revision process I realised I don’t like church history (though it may be that I actually don’t like exams. That’s more likely.) I like writing blog posts though, so lets do that instead.

I’m going to ignore all this proceeds from stuff. Don’t care. I’m also going to ignore who’s subordinate to whom1 because… because.

We’ll start at human persons. That’s easy. A body. I am a person, you’re a person. We’re different persons in different physical person-spaces. Done.

But wait a minute, what about conjoined twins? To some extent they share a body. So we need something else.

How about distinct wills? That works. Except for Christianity. The will of the members of the Trinity is the same, so how are they still to be seen as distinct persons?

Back to our conjoined twins. They walk somewhere. They are, together, walking. Each of them is walking, they are both walking, the walking they are each doing is the same walking, but they are still distinct persons, with distinct wills, doing the same walking distinctly. Walking.

There’s not an appreciable difference between the unity of action and the unity of wills in this example. They have to both intend walking for the walking that they are both doing to happen, and for them to each both be walking they have to both want to be walking. They can’t walk independently, but that doesn’t make them the same person.

An aside on unembodiedness

Let’s consider people without bodies, whether they be unembodied because of some kind of nirvana-like daniel-from-stargate ascencion, or because they are an AI named Jane that exists in a galaxy-wide computer network, or they’re a Peretti-esque angel, or a Pratchett-ish god, or whatever.

I’d like to group persons by their ability to act on the physical.

  • Normal embodied things - Humans, goats. These affect the world in the area they inhabit.
  • Very powerful embodied things - Superman, the Doctor2, Galactus. They can affect the world, around them in ways no-one else can, but they too are constrained to the limited area they inhabit, so basically they follow the same rules, this is merely a difference of degree, not of kind.
  • Abstract things - ‘2'ness_ or ‘the concept of a trinity’. These can’t affect the physical world. Or the non-physical. They’re completely and entirely impotent except when wielded by the mind of any of the potent beings in this list.3
  • The incarnationally potent4 - the ships of Ancillary Justice, demonic possession. These unembodied beings can affect the physical world, but to do so in the manner they do they must become embodied, and thus also have the restrictions of a physical body (or bodies. You should definitely read Ancillary Justice).
  • The universally potent - able to affect the physical world in any location simultaneously (or at any time, if your model of time allows).


If you’ve followed me this far we can see that unity of distinct wills is still required when we go up a level from conjoined humans walking to universally potent beings doing anything. As they could affect any part of the universe, they could do everything and also counter everything done by any other similarly powerful person, everything they do do must be done in unity, their wills must be aligned5.

In Christian understanding, this is not just a pragmatic unity and it’s not a grudging political bargaining of goals in some kind of cosmic minority government. Instead, the perfect love exemplified in the Trinity is behind this unity of wills, and is the reason our shadowy made-in-the-image-of-God reflection of this unity is our loving relationships.

Now that I’ve written some words about the nature of the Trinity I’m probably 6 kinds of heretic, but this was fun6.


  1. though I hope I got the who/whom thing right. 

  2. Time-travel to be everywhere at a single moment is cheating, and would probably be one of them universe implodey paradoxes (not that that’s stopped him before). 

  3. I apparently lack the imagination to believe that there is a real existence of abstract objects. Some philosophers and occasionally whacky sci-fi authors like it, but for me: Does Not Compute. Abstract is abstract, and there is a very real and not imagined distinction between the real and the imagined. To move from abstract to real requires creation (whether that’s the Creation of Life, the Universe, and Everything, or any given painter painting a painting). 

  4. I am unreasonably proud of this phrase. 

  5. This doesn’t require the universe to be the body of the being/s. If you prefer, think of the physical as the path being walked on. 

  6. Though people have been burned for less. Yay Church history. 

Veneration and Worship

I’ve been at school for about a month now, and I’m finally changing my mind about something, all based on learning a alternate definition of one little word: “Veneration”. It’s so exciting.

I’ve always assumed that veneration was synonymous with worship (perhaps a little weaker, but still ultimately the same idea). This is borne out in many of the uses of the word (other synonyms include: deify, idolize), however there is another.

My new learning was that to properly venerate a symbol is to worship the signified by honouring the signifier1 and that that is good.

This resolves (or at least defines) my wrestling with honouring and enjoying beautiful architecture and music and ritual and (as the cause for this change of mind) the history of the use of icons in the Eastern Orthodox church.

The same pitfalls remain: we can so easily transmute good veneration into worship or deification of the symbol be it art/ists or song/writers or architect/ure or ritual. As it’s about the direction of the heart rather than any external difference of action, it’s invisible to anyone but yourself whether your own worship is to or through, so we can’t judge the legitimacy of others’ worship.

This is the same for an Eastern Orthodox church building filled to the brim with icons and gold, or a youth megachurch filled with moshing and lasers and bass solos, or even the person standing on the side of a mountain, alone at sunrise.

Jesus said, in the context of being asked by a Samaritan to judge between the worship methods of the Jews and the Samaritans:

But a time is coming—and now is here—when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such people to be his worshipers. John 4:23 (NET)

The tool or place or style of worship is not what defines it as true worship or not (though much of the history of the Church would indicate otherwise), it’s absolutely about the direction of the heart. and using whatever tool or symbol or method you can to worship God.


  1. If you’ll allow me to throw semiotics terms in there, I don’t get to use them often enough. 

Empathy

I read this description of the Progressive Christian Worldview from the perspective of a conservative with great interest and recognition. It’s actually pretty good and highlighted to me the central difference in our worlviews.

When confronted with something that is grey, the conservative response tends to be: “I’m not sure what the loving thing to do is so I’ll defend what I believe to be correct”. For progressives it is “I’m not sure what the correct thing to do is so I’ll defend what I believe to be loving.”

That’s same response is visible in any of the major church/political issues throughout history: gender-heirarchy, homosexuality, racism, slave-ownership, war/pacificsm, killing heretics and muslims, death penalty, etc.

That’s not to say that progressives don’t believe in there is one truth, however we’re less likely to be sure we own it, tempering our specific interpretation of scripture with humility, particularly when belief or the defense of that belief can be shown to be hurting people.

This is especially visible when we see staunch defenders of “biblical truth” throughout history have tended to be shown to be defending the unconscionable.

Wrong side of history

I don’t like the wrong-side-of-history retort. Everyone is already on team: social change or team: change is scary; the progression of history is already seen as either an enemy or a friend so describing change as impending is just unhelpful. And of course all social change is black-and-white always improvement.

Ultimately it’s just a self-righteous brag for team: social change.

Related links in Github Pages

Jekyll comes with a built in ‘Related Links’ feature, however - if you run your Jekyll blog on Github Pages then it’s just the latest N posts.

Related posts by common tags would take about 3 lines of ruby, but because Github Pages is so locked down1 I must do it in Liquid. This really isn’t what liquid is for, but it doesn’t have to be fast or pretty - it’s only run once per deploy.

Here is my Liquid-only related posts script. It reminds me of the dark horror-filled days of Smarty templates. *shudder*

{% assign limit = '4' %}
{% assign matched = '' %}
{% for matching_tag_count in (1..page.tags.size) reversed %}
  {% for tag in page.tags %}
    {% for tag_page in site.tags[tag] %}
      {% if limit == '0' %}
        {% break %}
      {% else %}
      {% unless tag_page.url == page.url %}
      {% capture url_compare %}$${{tag_page.url}}$${% endcapture %}
      {% unless matched contains url_compare %}
      {% assign appearances = '0' %}
      {% for tag_page_tag in tag_page.tags %}
        {% if page.tags contains tag_page_tag %}
          {% capture appearances %}{{ appearances | plus:1 }}{% endcapture %}
        {% endif %}
      {% endfor %}
      {% capture difference %}{{ appearances | minus:matching_tag_count }}{% endcapture %}
      {% if difference == '0' %}
        {% capture matched %}{{matched}}{{url_compare}}{% endcapture %}
        {% capture limit %}{{limit | minus:1}}{% endcapture %}

        {% assign archive_page = tag_page %}
        {% include archive_row.html %}
      {% endif %}
      {% endunless %}
      {% endunless %}
      {% endif %}
    {% endfor %}
  {% endfor %}
{% endfor %}

I was going to go through and explain every line but liquid leaves me cold. I don’t understand it enough to know its limitations properly - such as why arithmetic works better with strings than numbers - I just do what it wants and be sad about the verbosity and inefficiency.


Breaking the law?

My impending move overseas has me shrinking my physical possessions as much as possible.

One thing I certainly don’t need is all these scratchably shiny plastic discs. They’re safer and smaller and quicker as mere data on my various computery things.

Getting them there fantastically simple with The Little App Factory’s Ripit, however it is somewhat legally questionable.

All my CDs live on my computer and phone and iPad and backblaze and iTunes Match. Legally. I think.

All my DVDs now live on an external hard-drive. Apparently less legally - according to a googled forum post and Consumer. When I read through the copyright act it seems far less obvious than our dear friends at consumer would have us believe.

Even if my ripped DVDs are qualify technically as infringing copies (not clear to begin with), it still doesn’t appear to me they are criminally infringing copies (I’m not distributing them in any way, and the economic consequence of any such “infringement” is effectively zero1). If something isn’t criminally infringing is it infringing at all? I’m certainly not doing anything unreasonable, unfair, or unethical.

This is the first time I’ve read actual legislation so I’m probably entirely wrong and opening myself up to completely unreasonable fines and jail time.


I just realised wonderful unintentional ironies in the discs visible on the various piles. The Creative Commons licensed Ghosts I-IV by Nine Inch Nails, The Forbidden Kingdom - a tale of inspiration from dodgy copies of Kung Fu movies, and, of course, Pirates of the Carribean.


  1. The only consquence I can see is that Air New Zealand will miss out on the ~$200 I won’t need to pay for an additional bag.