Donglegate: Adria Richards, Dongles and Burqas

The firing of Adria Richards this week has something to teach us about power, and how it can backfire.

Ms Richards took offence to some off-colour humour she overheard at a PyCon programming conference at Santa Clara California on Sunday. She photographed the perps, and posted the pics to twitter, along with her opinion of their conduct. The post cost one of the fellows his job, but not only his job, but Richards’ as well. Why?

I suspect that if a tech. company fires an employee for cutting up at a conference, it’s not so much because the executives don’t want employees with bad senses of humour. It has, I suspect, more to do with widgets — or, in this case, let’s say — dongles. A company is in the business of selling dongles, and they will enact policies that will increase dongle sales. Such policies make shareholders happy with their dongle shares and increase dongle dividends.

Now, if you get your picture posted to twitter for violating a conference code of conduct, you embarrass your employer, Dongle Corp. It’s not that Dongle Corp. can’t handle a few red faces, but when it affects their bottom line, without any return, you are now a liability,  rather than an asset. Bye bye.

So, that’s why the twittee might get fired, but why the twit? Why punish Richards for reporting the bad guys?

Because she didn’t just report them. She turned what should have ended with “Shush, guys!” into an international media event. There’s a principle in conflict resolution: resolve disputes at the lowest possible level. Or: don’t use a cannon when a fly swatter will do. You see that principle at work in Matthew 18. Paul also admonishes the Corinthians (1 Cor. 6:1-6) to resolve their disputes internally.

The company that I work for has a similar policy of conflict resolution, and so, I suspect, does Richards’ former employer. By going public so quickly with a dispute that could have been resolved at a much lower level, she gained them much undesired attention. She then became a liability. It isn’t that they think that a PyCon conference is an appropriate venue for dongle jokes. As CEO Jim Franklin wrote in the corporate blog, they had to act in “the overall best interests of SendGrid, its employees, and our customers.” In other words, the bottom line.

According to a really scary comic book I read when I was a kid, if you call upon a demon to perform your bidding, the demon might just stick around and cause you more trouble. Richards invoke the PyCon demons against her annoying neighbours, and got whacked real hard.

What does this have to do with burqas? Plenty. Whenever I hear the suggestions that burqas (those black full-body tents that some Islamic women wear) should become illegal, I always feel a little uneasy. Does it really empower women to counter an Islamic custom that says they must wear a burqa with a law that says they must not wear one? As distasteful as I find burqas — even more distasteful than dongle humour — do I really want my government to be able to legislate what my wife or I wear.

Every time we invoke power against our neighbour – whether they be the annoying dongle comedians sitting behind us, or speeder in the lane next to us — we give a foothold to that power. And sometimes the power that we wield can turn against us. Something to think about.

Adria Richards ran out into traffic to defend her right-of-way, and she got hit by a truck. Now has plenty of time to think about it.

Richard Dawkins an embarrassment to atheists

Dawkins is not an atheist, he is a rabid anti-theist, which is something altogether different.

In fact, Dawkins is an embarrassment to atheism.

Articles like this are easy to find:

This article, by Mark Wallace — found on — begins:

“I’m an atheist, but I increasingly find that Richard is becoming a costly liability to atheists. His enthusiasm for deliberately offending others rather than simply communicating the logic of his position is fast becoming an embarrassment.”

It ends:

“Is there a worse posterboy for any movement in Britain than Richard Dawkins?”

Here’s another: Dawkins et al bring us into disrepute

In the above article, Michael Ruse writes: “I have written that The God Delusion made me ashamed to be an atheist and I meant it.”

Does Ruse’s anti-Dawkinsian stance make him any less of an atheist? No. Ruse is quite willing to respect those whose opinons differ from his own, without resorting to childish name-calling. To be brief, disagreeing with Ruse doesn’t automatically make you a dummy.

In fact, he says, “There are a lot of very bright and well informed Christian theologians.”

What? “[B]right and well informed Christian theologians”?

Perhaps Ruse is an embarrassment to Dawkinsians. But then, as I said, atheism and anti-theism are two differents monkeys.

Do objects wink in and out of existence?

We like to think that the universe is consistent, but do we really have any evidence for this assumption? On the contrary, we seem to have evidence for the contrary.

Case in point: Where is my coffee substitute? It’s not in the cupboard, and I know we have some — a brand new can of it. I could conjecture that my tenant downstairs stole it in a fit of covetousness, but given that the first time he tried any, he took one sip and said, “Why do you do this to yourself?” I think the more likely solution is that it simply winked out of existence.

Now, I might conjecture that it’s floating someplace in a hypothetical dimension, in a sea of unmatched socks. But why invoke a new universe? I suspect that it has relocated to another location in the present universe.

That said, if anyone opens their kitchen cupboard and finds a jar of coffee substitute that you are certain you are not responsible for, don’t blame your spouse. Please advise me, and we can make arrangements to have it shipped back to me in a more Newtonian manner.

UFO over Jerusalem?

This article will be short and sweet. Youtube has recently become populated by numerous videos depicting a ball of light descending on the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem on January 28, 2011. Actually, there were only four videos, and various remixes and combinations of them.

Now there is a fifth: mine.

But, really, all seriousness aside. I love Jerusalem. But how about some excitement in my own neck of the woods. Okay, why not? Here it is:

That’s the HSBC building in Prince George. What does it have in common with the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem? This is gonna keep me up tonight.

Remember. The internet doesn’t need more rumours. Check the About page (as well as the other posts) before you say too much about UFOs in Prince George. And then take a closer look at one of those Jerusalem UFO videos on youtube — the one not included synchronized videos.

YouTube removes flotilla choir video

By now, many have heard of the so-called human aid flotilla that challenged the Israeli naval blockade of Gaza.

Now, parody is a powerful tool. It’s been said that the Pope laughed at Erasmus’ In Praise of Folly. Yet it’s been also said that this work was the powderkeg that Luther ignited, setting off the Reformation.

So are we really surprised when a silly spoof of We Are The World has caused such a stir in the past few weeks? YouTube has pulled the video, citing copyright infringement as the reason. Huh? Is that really the reason, or is it the political statement made by the Flotilla Choir’s rendition of We Con The World?

I won’t rehash the whole story. You can read about it here. The purpose of this short article is to provide an opportunity for you dear reader to hear the Flotilla Choir on


Click here for the Flotilla Choir on singing We Con The World.

Maui Onion Festival: a secret event for the elite?

The elusive Maui Onion has a reputation for being sweeter than your garden variety onion.

The elusive Maui Onion has a reputation for being sweeter than your garden variety onion.

I’ve been chasing the elusive Maui Onion for decades, and have recently been closer than ever.

But first, some history.

Decades ago, I went for a job interview at either the Lonsdale Quay in North Vancouver or the New Westminster Quay in — you guessed it — New Westminster. I don’t remember which. The job was at a vegetable stand. I probably wore a suit to the interview. And brought my brother, Neil.

Not the best strategy, bringing your brother to a job interview. But now I have a witness.

I could hardly understand what the guy running the stand was saying. For all I know he’d offered me a job. I’ll never know. But what I do know is that every other sentence was something about Maui Onions. He’d get very excited when he mentioned Maui Onions. I gathered that Maui Onions were very important to him.

I didn’t get the job. (I don’t think I did, anyway.) But I never forgot the Maui Onions. Neil and I would bring them up with each other from time to time over the decades. It became, well, a thing. (Where’s my thesaurus?)

Finally, just recently, Neil decided to head to Maui. I always thought of Maui as a boring place that honeymooning couples went to because there was nothing else to do except, well, honeymoon. But Neil is single. I knew he would be singularily up to the task of the mission: “Don’t forget the Maui Onions!” I admonished him. Continue reading

CBC.CA Trumps Fascinating Tales

Porky Pig -- Offended by the swine flu? "N-n-n-n-n-nonsense!"

Porky Pig -- Offended by the swine flu? "N-n-n-n-n-nonsense!"

CBC.CA has outdone Fascinating Tales with Tuesday’s feature: Is swine flu’s name hogwash? I wish I had written this. If this article had appeared on Fascinating Tales, it would have been so obviously a fabrication. Truth, again, is stranger than fiction.

As is often the case, the reader comments are half the fun. Give the article a read. See the video. (I haven’t seen it yet.)

The name of the flu is a big deal to some people. This isn’t the only blog to have picked up on this. Born-again atheist, Brother Richard, has a much better cartoon on his blog.

If eating swine’s flesh is a bad thing (Is. 66:17), then why not a nasty name like “swine flu”? Although, personally, I would prefer “Porky Pig Pandemic.”

And don’t forget to provide your input in the column to the right.