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Hi there, thanks for checking out our restaurant. You’ve probably heard a few things about us in the media lately, but before you rush to judgment, let me correct some of the misconceptions and misrepresentations you’ve almost certainly been told about the food we serve here.

This restaurant was founded by people with a noble vision. They wanted to raise concerns regarding the quality of many of the raw ingredients that end up in a lot of meals presented to the public. There are some chefs out there who are buying their stock from sources who’ll do them favours in order to keep their business. These sources are often dubious, and aren’t seeking to provide customers with the most tasty and nutritious meals possible. This is potentially a serious problem in the restaurant business; if the public are getting a higher level of salt or trans-fats in their diet than they’re led to believe, because of some shady and unethical deals going on between kitchen staff and providers of ingredients, then this is a scandal which deserves to be exposed.

We’re driven by serious ethical concerns, and trying to change genuinely problematic behaviour in the industry.

So would everyone please stop describing this restaurant as “that place where they shit in your food”.

That is not what we’re all about. We’re trying to inform the public on things like the shockingly high fat content often found in even prime cuts of meat. But everyone keeps ignoring our true priorities, choosing instead to focus on complaints about being served plates of food that are literally full of human shit. There is so much whining from people who claim that this happened to them, and from do-gooders who are outraged on their behalf, and it just needs to stop.

Now, look, obviously I’m not saying I support anyone shitting in anyone else’s food. Of course I don’t think that’s okay. But this is all a distraction from the important issues that the majority of us, who aren’t taking a shit in anyone’s food, are trying to address.

I’m just a waiter here. All I do is bring diners’ meals to them, and at the same time provide some handy informational leaflets explaining our concerns, and how these concerns affect you, and how you can make a difference, and (most importantly) whose fault this all is. If the order I’m bringing happens to have been mixed with, or entirely replaced by, a steaming pile of human shit, that’s not my fault. My encouragement about healthy eating and ethical trading practices are peripherally connected to those plates of shit at best.

Really, the uproar over some shit apparently turning up in a few people’s food is totally hysterical and out of proportion. Some customers have reported being unable to eat properly for days due to nausea, even in contexts that have nothing to do with our restaurant. This is frankly pathetic. Bodily waste products are an everyday part of life. If you’re going to be the sort of person who eats and digests food on a regular basis, you can’t be so thin-skinned or unprepared to face the harsh realities of fecal waste, whether or not it’s directly in front of you on a plate.

Yes, I’ve seen the pictures that have been shared online, showing dishes laden with the combined excrement of several of our chefs, which had been placed on the table in front of certain individuals who claim to have been simply trying to enjoy a pleasant evening out with their families. I understand that there has also emerged some camera footage from our kitchen, where you can clearly see several of our cooks defecating directly onto the meals recently prepared for our customers while discussing loudly the virtue of the philosophical point they’re making about modern dietary habits. But I don’t just blindly accept the narrative being pushed on us here, and I question the agenda of those doing the pushing.

They’d have you believe that this is proof that shitting in people’s food is all that happens in this restaurant. In fact, there are strong reasons to believe that some of these people have been shitting on plates of food in their own kitchens at home, and maliciously misattributing the footage to make us look bad.

But of course, nobody who’s chosen to side with the customers can accept that any of them would behave like that. So they just lap up the story they’re being fed by the media, and conclude that everyone who works in this healthy-eating-centred restaurant is just constantly shitting on everything, all of the time. Which is palpably ludicrous and impossible, just on a biological level.

More than that, it’s also deeply offensive and derogatory, to an establishment founded on healthy principles, and with numerous decent people like myself working towards an important goal. People who refuse to let their worthwhile aims get derailed every time someone whines and wails about finding another mound of human shit in their dinner.

This restaurant is not going away. We are determined, and we will persist. No matter how many public health bodies decry our practices and brand us a hazard to society. No matter how many so-called experts weigh in and declare that all the efforts of our dedicated staff to educate the public about what they’re eating are tainted by the stink of all the shit people are claiming to find in their food. We will not be oppressed. Our doors will remain open, and we will continue to serve customers as we have always done, with a focus on improving honesty and accountability in the manufacture and distribution of basic foodstuffs.

If you don’t like it, eat shit.

(Not literally. I would never condone or approve such behaviour.)

Wait, immediately? Shit, dinner’s in like six minutes. Pick up the pace, everyone! We need answers, NOW!

1. Are Male feminists just trying to get laid? — Probably.
No! We are a complex and varied demographic with diverse motivations and goals! Shit, is that too long? Is a yes/no answer going to suffice for each of these, given the urgency and time constraints? There’s already an answer by the question, has someone else covered this one? Or should I just write mine in beneath it? Dammit, stop overthinking, we’re against the clock here.

2. Do male feminists actually read anything about #Feminism or do they just let themselves be whipped into submission? #WomenAgainstFeminism
I can’t speak for everyone but I read a few feminist blogs and also a lot of the speculative fiction I read is written from an implicitly feminist stance, also I’m not really into whipping or submission myself but I reject the dichotomy of the question, the kinky stuff is totally cool if that’s what you’re into, I don’t know if it’s more common in male feminists than anyone else though, oh god I’m rambling QUICKFIRE MOVING ON

3. “do male feminists want to be taken seriously by (…) other men as players of some intellectual game?” http://t.co/UnPWO2GJrx @ecumystic
probably some of them if they’re appearing on Only Connect or something, the rest of us are just trying not to be assholes and stuff

4. Male feminists. Why? Get a pair man.
okay look you said you needed answers IMMEDIATELY so I’m trying to be brief and hurry through this so when you throw out questions this broad and vague it really doesn’t help either of us

5. Dear male feminists, I have a legitimate question: Why do you support feminism? Further, why enable the feminists that proclaim to hate men?
so that’s two questions masquerading as one but I’m pretty sure I don’t do the second thing anyway so I guess that doesn’t count, also the answer to the first one is basically what most of the feminist literature ever written has been devoted to answering so I can’t help feeling that to demand an immediate answer from me in this context displays something of a lack of sincere intellectual curiosity on your part

6. While we’re at it, do male feminists get to pay half rent? (No mischief intended, I am just curious).
no that was never an option available to me in any of my lease agreements back when I was living in rented flats in London, they might do it differently elsewhere, I’ve heard of rent control but never really understood what it is so maybe it’s to do with that?

7. How much pussy do male feminists get (none)
well there’s quite a few of us so collectively it’s definitely more than you

8. Why do male feminists seem to have more privilege than female feminists? #DownTheRabbitHole
um because with all the obvious allowances and provisos regarding intersectionality and suchlike male is generally the privileged position, that’s kinda the whole point of all of this

9. Do feminists pay for their date’s meal? Do male feminists make the girl pay? #idontgetit #justwondering
it’s really more about deconstructing gender-based roles and expectations and encouraging compassionate human interaction based on individuality and personal respect rather than just reversing prejudice so that it’s equally shitty in the opposite direction

10. @PennyRed @sarahljaffe @thesamhita Do male feminists get free drinks too?
I don’t really go out to bars or nightclubs much so this may be a promotional thing that happens somewhere but I wouldn’t know, sorry, pretty sure it doesn’t work in supermarkets though
also wtf this tweet’s from 2012, this can’t possibly still need an immediate response right this minute like I was led to believe, it’s almost like someone decided one day on a theme around which to base a clickbait Buzzfeed article and just grabbed whatever near-matches a quick Google search turned up without caring much about context or relevance

11. Jesus Christ, why are male feminists so un-feminist?
you’re either contradicting your own question or equivocating on the word “feminist” so you might want to rephrase for clarity, especially if you want Jesus to answer you, that guy’s pretty busy and has no time for unnecessary ambiguity in conversation

12. What are the male versions of feminists called? I can see them roaming the TL
pretty sure we’re just feminists, you make us sound like we can only be spotted while out on safari or something which speaking personally makes me sound way cooler than I deserve

13. how can any of you sleep with the knowledge there are “male feminists” tho
um I just have a comfy bed and a fairly well regulated body clock so I manage to get to sleep pretty easily I guess, that feels like a non-sequitur, like how is it possible for you to eat a sandwich while Portuguese is the official language of Brazil, see, I’ve no idea why I picked that, it has no relation to anything, so yeah

Okay, emergency over. I think I’ve got you covered, frantic male-feminist-based-question-askers. I think we can all be slightly ashamed and embarrassed about what we’ve accomplished here today. And that’s the important thing.

As I was saying, healthcare staff went on strike today, and in case I hadn’t been clear, I strongly support their actions and their goals.

I left off somewhere around here a few days ago: In a poll of RCM members, 94% of respondents supported, if not a strike, then taking some form of industrial action regarding their forthcoming real-terms pay-cut. I was a little perturbed by the remaining 6%. In a room full of 16 midwives, statistically one of them thinks they should all keep working without being paid, because to do otherwise would be to cause an unnecessary fuss over the steady decline in remuneration for the work they do get paid for.

This highlights the odd role which “work to rule” plays in the lives of many public sector workers. That continuing to do the job agreed with your employer, and going no further beyond what you’re being compensated for, can constitute a form of protest, is itself slightly bewildering, and notably one-sided. If my bosses regularly paid me to take extra-long lunch-breaks, and only withdrew this privilege when they wanted something from me, then… well, then I don’t know what. But it’d be weird. Though maybe I’d be a bit less down on this whole capitalism thing.

(Maybe I’ve figured out why the Guardian didn’t want to commission me to write about this. Actual journalists need to be able to finish a sentence. Also they’ve kinda got it covered.)

When a serious objection to working conditions needs to be raised, however, it may eventually come time to down-forceps entirely, which might get a little more attention. Even then, they’ll do their best to make sure that nobody will suffer serious harm from want of their services, but whatever measure they take, the backlash is inevitable from certain quarters, castigating and condemning them for the arrogance with which they put the public at risk for their own gain.

Some of our general national wariness over public sector strikes is reasonable and worth considering, notwithstanding the extent to which it’s drummed up and over-hyped by certain self-interested tabloids – and bearing in mind that a stronger majority of everyday folk support the 1% pay rise in contention than have provided a mandate for any government in the last I’d have to do some actual research to find out how many years. Healthcare workers have a unique power over us when we’re at our most vulnerable and in need of help; if they chose to wield this power irresponsibly or selfishly, we could all find ourselves held to ransom by a surgeon who charges extra to sew us back up again, or hostage to a paramedic whose defibrillator doesn’t seem to be working right now but might just power back up and be able to get granddad’s heart beating again with the right amount of “persuasion”.

But although this is theoretically conceivable, back in the real world a far more likely danger of social blackmail is faced by healthcare workers themselves, who are expected by many to continue working constantly and tirelessly, regardless of the conditions of their remuneration, with threats of being held responsible for whatever happens to those who need their services in their absence, if they ever dare let up their efforts for a moment. (I saw someone on Twitter earlier ask what would happen to “the lives that would have been in the hands” of a particular nurse who was on the picket lines today if she’d been working. That’s not the half of it – I hear some of them forego work to sleep and have social lives too, you know. The nerve of it! People could be dying!)

Of course, implicit in any complaints about the terrible peril that we all face if NHS staff stop doing their jobs, even for a few hours with several weeks’ notice, is the acknowledgment that the jobs they’re doing are pretty fucking important – and often urgent and extremely time-sensitive. In certain paranoid fantasies, this means we could all fall foul of the above-imagined surgeon hostage-taker at any moment; in practice, the end result of this aspect of the job is all that unpaid overtime I was so bewildered by earlier.

If you’ve reached the end of your thirteen-hour shift and your colleague who’s supposed to be taking over hasn’t turned up to relieve you, working to rule would imply that you sod off regardless once it’s time for you to clock out, potentially leaving whoever you were caring for without anyone actively attending to them (or dumping responsibility for their care on someone else who’s around but who already has an overflowing case-load of their own). So what often happens is that you just have to keep working, beyond the time you’re getting paid for, and well beyond the point at which my knees would’ve buckled and brought on my third emotional breakdown of the night.

The same thing that makes it hard for them to take industrial action without risking harm to innocent bystanders, also makes it clear why industrial action is such an important option when they go so unappreciated. And yes, I mean they should be appreciated with money. If you expect someone to save your life, and deal with drunk idiots turning up in A&E night after night, and not complain when they’re regularly demonised for objecting to their pay being cut again, and to love what they do so much that they’re not even doing it for the money anyway, then I think not making it even harder for them to get by while they earn a salary in the stratospheric levels of slightly above the country’s median income is the least you can fucking do.

Be glad that nurses and midwives aren’t full-on going Galt. We’d miss them more than if every CEO in the country fucked off to join their money in the Caymans.

Rejection

Well, it finally happened. I am officially now that wanker who, when you tell him “Hey, I liked your blog post, you should pitch that to Comment is Free,” actually goes and does it.

They didn’t take me up on it, but maybe I’ll keep trying once I’m more regularly producing words. For now, one brief thing that’s been on my mind.

I have no truck with “-isms”, and I won’t be a part of any movement that defines itself in that way. From fascism to feminism, they’re dogmatic, tribalistic, and offer a narrow and prescriptive view of the world. They encourage strict black-and-white thinking, and don’t allow room for nuance and complexity. Isms define everything in relation to the strict bounds of their set-in-stone doctrines, and demand rigid adherence to a predefined code, in a way that stifles genuine freethought and curiosity.

And that’s why I utterly reject on principle any set of ideas which share this particular suffix.

Midwives are going on strike. Sorry babies, back inside you go. I know you’re ready to emerge from the womb and take your first breaths of air marking the start of your lifelong journey in the outside world, but that’s officially a picket line you’re trying to cross. Did you just rupture that amniotic membrane? Scab! Scab!

Yeah, so, that’s kinda obvious and has all been done. But there’s some serious bullshit going on here which has driven tens of thousands of medical professionals to vote massively in favour of industrial action in a recent ballot. It’s clearly something they don’t do lightly, since in the case of the Royal College of Midwives it’s literally never happened before, and the last NHS strike due to issues with their pay was over thirty years ago.

Frankly, I’m a little alarmed by the levels of patience and professionalism that midwives, nurses, paramedics, and others appear to have consistently shown about this. I’ll let the Chief Executive of the RCM explain why something’s finally being done now:

Each year, the independent NHS Pay Review Body (the PRB) takes evidence from the government, employers, trade unions and others about how much staff in the NHS should be paid, and based on all that it makes a recommendation. It takes a range of factors into account, including what’s affordable. This system takes the setting of pay out of the hands of politicians, and places it in the hands of independent experts. Every year since the PRB was founded in the early 80s, its recommendation has been accepted. Some years the government and employers grumbled that the pay rise was too high. Some years the unions grumbled that it was too low. But every year it was accepted by all sides. This year, that fair, independent, long-established way of doing things was ripped up when the government took the unilateral decision, now being implemented by employers in the NHS in England, not to honour the PRB’s recommendation of a 1% across-the-board rise in NHS staff pay.

Midwives’ pay was frozen for a couple of years recently, before rising 1% last year. Due to an obscure economic phenomenon called “inflation”, though, what this actually means is that everybody in this job took a real-terms pay cut, and then another, and then another. This year, they were expecting to take another, and this would have been considered acceptable, because it was the formal recommendation of an independent body.

Which still sounds like magnanimity taken to a frankly foolhardy extent in my book, but apparently the government weren’t happy even with this, and are planning to cut healthcare workers’ wages even more than they were already going to. Because austerity. Times are tough. We’re all in it together.

This is the same government, by the way, which doesn’t seem to be worried about finding the funds for a new high-speed rail line, a 9% pay-hike for its own members (taking their basic salary to £74,000, before expenses), and FUCKING TRIDENT.

But no, efforts to make sure women don’t die while they give birth to children is totally where we should squeeze financially. Some of those midwives start on nearly £25,000 a year, you know.

Way more of the public want to see NHS workers get the 1% pay increase they’re asking for – which, remember, is a real-terms pay cut – than wanted to elect this government that’s trying to slash their pay even further. Way more.

I don’t have time tonight to get into my whole other rant about the weirdness of “working to rule” as a form of industrial action, but I have to highlight the latter half of this statistic from the RCM ballot, quoted by Cathy Warwick in that article I linked to earlier:

82% voted in favour of strike action, with 94% voting in favour of taking action short of a strike (for example, refusing to work overtime unless paid for it).

94% voted in favour of “refusing to work overtime unless paid for it”.

Take a room full of 16 midwives facing a pay cut for the fourth consecutive year. Statistically, one of them wants to keep on working without being paid so as not to cause a fuss.

Not even sure how to start thinking about that one.

Give medical professionals some decent fucking money for saving all your lives all the time.

Thank you.

There’s an essay which I see referenced every so often, titled On Bullshit. The bit of it I most commonly remember seeing quoted, and wanted to reference here, is, usefully, the extract quoted on bullshit’s own Wikipedia page:

It is impossible for someone to lie unless he thinks he knows the truth. Producing bullshit requires no such conviction. A person who lies is thereby responding to the truth, and he is to that extent respectful of it. When an honest man speaks, he says only what he believes to be true; and for the liar, it is correspondingly indispensable that he considers his statements to be false. For the bullshitter, however, all these bets are off: he is neither on the side of the true nor on the side of the false. His eye is not on the facts at all, as the eyes of the honest man and of the liar are, except insofar as they may be pertinent to his interest in getting away with what he says. He does not care whether the things he says describe reality correctly. He just picks them out, or makes them up, to suit his purpose.

I think this makes for a good definition; it’s useful to have a term for this particular kind of disregard for accurately representing reality, as distinct from lying. I also think it leaves a gap for a related term.

It’s possible, I suggest, to fail to be either on the side of the true or that of the false, not through cunning self-interest, but through simple incompetence. To have an eye on the facts, but for that eye to be so blind, or perhaps feeding its input to a brain so stultified, that it might as well not be.

True bullshit, as described above, must be powered by at least a modicum of intelligence. One’s purpose must be clearly identified to oneself, and some declarations and assertions found which can be persuaded to support it, even if their connection to reality is never regarded. This naive alternative to bullshit I’m describing might be mistaken for bullshit, as the results are often very similar – but the self-serving motivation of the bullshitter is replaced by a hapless inability to formulate sentences, or perhaps even beliefs, that correspond to truth or falsehood with any reliable consistency.

It’s not quite the case that I’m simply describing a well-meaning idiot, truthfully describing the world as they feebly understand it, either. Again, the results may be close enough that the distinction isn’t always clear, but my suggestion requires a certain level of bluster, of continued pressing-on and self-assurance, combined with an utter disconnection from the world and any facts within it. Arguably, he does “believe” the truth of what he says, but so little thought is put toward it, such meagre analysis of any beliefs or opinions he superficially appears to hold, that even whether any meaningful comprehension of his surroundings is occurring remains unclear. He processes enough to continue functioning, but not enough that any relationship between his assertions and the world around him can be counted upon.

I reckon there’s something there worth describing. Now it just needs a name.

And based on my experiences today, I think a fine name for this phenomenon would be “Southeastern Rail”.

Yes, this was all just a thinly veiled rant about my ridiculous commute this morning. Sorry.

The thing about Transcendence is that it’s not in any way a film about artificial intelligence. It’s about being human, and being God, and the implications of our impossible quest for one given the unavoidable limitations of the other, or some such wank. It uses the trappings of AI as a framework for the storytelling but has about as much bearing on the actual path of interactive electronic simulation technology as Lawnmower Man. I might have enjoyed it more if I’d figured out that distinction earlier; there’s nothing wrong with telling that kind of story, or of telling stories that way. But I’d like to see a story about AI that’s actually about AI sometime. Outside of fanfic from some of the funner corners of the rationalist community.

What? Half-arsing something on your phone and then copying and pasting it from a Facebook update totalling counts as blogging. Well, self-plagiarism’s the best you’re getting for now, anyway. Moving house is still keeping me too discombobulated to get much writing done. My online handle’s a bigger lie than my old MySpace username, Extrovert McSmallpenis.

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