Posted on Leave a comment

Correction of the sort I didn’t want

For years now the stats people–Nate Silver at Fivethirtyeight, for example–have been talking about how using only landlines to poll people about their voting intentions will skew the polls with so many people using cell phones preferentially now, undercounting certain demographics (particularly young ones).

Well, apparently 2014 is the year they decided to fix it: in addition to the five calls from pollsters I’ve gotten on my landline this week, I’ve gotten two on my cell. Whee. So now in addition to badgering me about my gubernatorial preferences when I’m trying to eat dinner at home, they can do it when I’m in a restaurant or in line at the grocery store, the pharmacy, the post office.

This is not what I call progress.

I don’t answer questions from pollsters anyway (typical conversation: “Are you likely to vote in the November 4 election?” “Yes, and that’s all I’m going to tell you about my vote”), so this is very much in the “waste of time and annoys the pig” category.

(I think I’ve said this before, but just in case the reference is missing: my grandpa had two categories of time waster, teaching a pig to sing–the most commonly cited one–and teaching a pig to wrestle. The former is a waste of your time and annoys the pig. The latter is a waste of your time, and the pig enjoys it.)

I can’t help but think that the politicians won’t be motivated to have any kind of call blocking list available for pollsters as for telemarketers, as they want the data too much. But it sure would be nice.

Posted on 2 Comments

“We’ll only create a martyr!”

I really liked some of the things Fred Clark said in this Slacktivist post about politics, martyrdom, and disgrace. I particularly wanted to highlight this part for my fellow fantasy writers:

There’s this mistaken idea in a lot of heroic stories that the oppressive evil villains can’t afford to kill the rebellious hero because they can’t risk turning them into a martyr. But that’s not how oppressive evil villains — or oppressive evil systems — work. They can kill without making martyrs because everyone they kill they also actively disgrace.

We–fantasy writers–are addicted to this trope. “We can’t kill him! We’ll only create a martyr!” says the villain. “Oh noes! Not a martyr! That’s way worse than, like, a live political operative wreaking havoc all over the land, and incidentally having crazy magical powers to boot! And also we are powerless against a martyr!”

Often what we mean when we do this is, “We can’t kill him! Our author would really like to write five more books if this one is successful!” And, y’know, I feel you, characters. I like having my favorite characters still around–both as a writer and as a reader. But we need a better reason to do that–like not walking characters into those traps in the first place. A reason that isn’t stupid. A reason that doesn’t make the real-life people who are killed look worse because they’ve been treated as real people always are: as people who can be disgraced by those in power, whose flaws can be played up or even manufactured, rather than as the mythical all-powerful martyrs.