Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Yet Another Problem with Filtering

Since the minute I let it out of my hands on the day I got it, my phone hasn't had a browser. Then I went to San Francisco for a school choir trip and my dad reinstalled it in case I got stranded in the middle of the city and needed to look up directions. It wasn't complete freedom, however.
In addition to blocking all websites it considers inappropriate, it restricts me from using certain search terms. For example, a friend and I got into a discussion about the gay population of San Francisco, so I tried to look up statistics. "Gay population statistics San Francisco" gives me a restricted screen, but "San Francisco population statistics" comes up just fine.
A few days after I got back, a friend sent me a link to a website that had the word "women" in the name. The browser wouldn't let me open it, but I thought it was just one more blocked site. The filter blocked all blogs and most personal websites.
Then I tried googling the word woman and got this.
The words girl and female were also blocked.

Here's what happens if I google the word man.
I can only assume the filter thinks the only women on the Internet are porn stars.
I can look up the name of a specific woman (including porn stars) but I can't search for a woman if I don't know her name. So if I want to look up the lady who invented fire escapes, I need to know that her name is Anna Connelly, and if I knew that I wouldn't be googling her. If I want to look up a news story about a local woman, I have to google key words about the story and hope one of the results won't be blocked for having a woman in it.
What I get for similar searches about men
It disturbs me that someone would make a filter that restricts women. So I went to my dad and asked him to remove the filter. He told me I was entitled and spoiled for wanting unrestricted Internet, I can't ask him to make changes to it because I live under his roof, and I should be grateful that I have a browser at all.
I love my dad, he's a great parent, but this post can't be about that. This happened on a Sunday and my getaway options were limited, so I went to church in a different neighborhood than my family. When I came home three hours later I was finally able to talk them my parents into a modified filter.
I can now look for women and read my own blog. Still, it's the principle of the thing. Once they have their own house, their own money, their own rules, adults forget what it's like to be crushed by someone else's will. It's not I can't look up women. It's that I'm considered entitled for wanting to do so and I have no bargaining chips. The only method to get what I want is a bowed head, a hushed tongue, and utter submission. Then I have to pray they're sympathetic.
They tell me I can come to them and they'll add any website I want to access onto the filter's "approved sites" list. This is handy for some websites I want to view every day, but sometimes I need something in the moment and I'll only google it once.
Displaying IMG_1506.PNG

There are no perfect filters. Every filter out there blocks more and less than it should. Any phone user with the tech savvy of an eleven year old can find a way to get porn around them-because porn is the only thing worth blocking, I don't honestly think anyone can be damaged by reading a history site about Queen Victoria.
Putting a filter on a phone is like putting a bandaid on a paper cut. It makes you feel better knowing it's there, but its presence doesn't do much.

Friday, April 24, 2015


When a kid jaywalks while I'm driving, I veer out of their way, toss a smile, and hope they get where they're going. When an adult jaywalks? I kind of want to kill them. Oh, come on. You've felt the same. It's very straightforward. Kids, mercy. Adults, malice. The only time my conscience comes into conflict is when I see kids and adults jaywalking at the same time.
You know, as in parents.
Last year, my friend Ashlin needed to show up early at the middle school for a service project. My high school's right down the street and I already needed to go down that road at that time, so I dropped her off. Between our two lovely schools is an elementary. The thing about elementary schools is they start later than both middle and high schools. On my way back, I saw a mother and a little boy with a backpack standing patiently in the middle of the road. She was holding his hand. With three schools and a busy intersection on one road, we've got a ridiculous amount of crosswalks and a streetbridge. But no, here is his mom, leading him by the hand across multiple lanes of traffic.
Today I was cruising down the street on my way to work, nothing but green lights ahead, and here are two women standing in the yellow lane. One of them had a toddler in her arms. They were nowhere near a crosswalk or street corner and must've decided to cross it directly rather than look for a better place.
Even though I had a green light, I stopped, waiting to see if they would cross, but they didn't until I finally started moving. What bothered me wasn't that they were in my way, but that they thought it was okay to carry a toddler through several lanes of traffic.
I live on a very slow street. We're the last stretch of civilization before my suburban neighborhood gives way to cattails and thorn trees. There's no through traffic. Still, my mom always taught me to look both ways and never cross in the middle of a busy road. Most parents do that, I think. I know a seventeen month old baby who will play right up to the edge of her lawn, say "street", and stop at the curb. It's universally accepted that young children shouldn't cross streets-unaccompanied.
Was that toddler safer with two women guarding him than he would've been alone? Yes, but he's learning a horrible lesson. There's this idea that nothing is wrong for children if they're supervised. That an edgy movie won't affect them if a parent's sitting on the next cushion over. But every competent parent I know teaches by example, not by throwing out hypocritical rules.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Stare Straight Ahead

I've mentioned my religion a few times on this blog. Today I'll have to dive deeper to give a little context. I'm a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, popularly known as Mormons. Twice a year, church leaders address the fifteen million worldwide members from a conference center in Salt Lake City via Internet, radio, TV, and satellite transmission. The conference center itself seats over twenty thousand and is the largest non-stadium assembly building in the United States.
Listeners in the conference center cast a sustaining vote
Mormons don't have paid clergy. Members are called to serve in church offices. Every calling in the church, from the twelve year old boy who's a secretary over all the other twelve year old boys in his class, to the prophet and church president, is "sustained" by church members. How this works is the church leader present will state the person's name, what office they're been called to, and ask the entire congregation raise their right hand in support.
After that, the leader asks the congregation if any of them are opposed. Any who is supposed to manifest "by the same sign." AKA raising their right hand. So if you you know that twelve year old boy has been smoking behind the church and is unfit to serve as secretary, you'd raise your right hand and quietly talk to the leader after the service. Though this is called a sustaining vote, we're not really voting the person into an office. By raising our hands we're showing them we will support them in their calling. Raising a hand in opposition is like crying "I object" at a wedding and happens about as often.
This Saturday was the spring conference session. Nine members of a group called Any Opposed showed up after receiving donated tickets, took their seats, and watched second counselor Dieter F. Uchtdorf read off the names of various church leaders. When asked for opposing votes, most of the group stood up and shouted "Opposed!"
Breaking protocol.
In front of twenty thousand people.
While fifteen million watched abroad.
Uchtdorf knew they were coming-they have a website and ask for donations, so it wasn't exactly a secret-so he carried on. The group shouted "Opposed!" twice more (though their numbers dwindled each time) despite specific reminders to manifest their opinion "by the same sign". At this point, they expected to be escorted out, but the session proceeded as normal. So they sat there, feeling and looking stupid, until it ended two hours later. Here's a video of the first two oppositions:

Mormon social media and the outside world lit up. But when interviewed, Any Opposed leaders declined to comment. So, basically, they wanted their voices to be heard, but once they were they didn't have anything to say. This reminds me of a Not Always Right post about a man who drove up to a bookstore, told the cashier "No one likes books anymore", and walked out.
The video is from the official church recording that was broadcast across the globe. The other fifteen million members applauded Uchtdorf for carrying on so calmly. But I have a different hero.

This is a cell phone camera video taken by a participant. Uchtdorf and the other leaders are far off blurs. In the foreground, we see a blonde girl who looks to be on the lower end of the teen spectrum. At the first cry, she glances halfway over her shoulder, but doesn't look directly into the camera. She doesn't know she's being filmed. She knows the opposed are there, but in the next round, she calmly raises her hand. When they cry out once more, she doesn't bother. She stares straight ahead.
Twitter exploded minutes after. News media clamored for interviews. But here she is, in the heat of the moment, in the eye of the storm, and she doesn't even turn around.
If you've been following my blog for a while, you know I can be a bit of a watchdog and an oppression seeker. I rarely read articles from sources I actually agree with. I live for those moments when I get riled up and pound out fiery retorts. I have a stutter that gets worse in heated conversations, so in my personal life, I practice out arguments for confrontations that might happen. When they finally crop up, I'm well prepared.
In an age where everyone is clamoring to be heard, this girl is an example to me. She knows what's going on behind her. If she had turned around, if she had shouted a retort, her voice would have been heard by all the group's followers, whether she wanted it to or not. Instead, she stood as a witness by staring straight ahead.
I wish I knew her name. Carry on, Blondie. Carry on.