Archive for ‘weblog’

2017/06/18

Sunday, June 18th

Father’s Day! See this and this. Cards from kids!

I thought I would try writing in this here weblog again, because I like writing.

It’s hard to write stuff, because one doesn’t want to write endlessly about how Donald Trump being President was always a signal that you were reading a probably-cheesy dystopian-alternate-timeline story, and as it turns out, it still is.

But that is such a big thing, that writing about anything else seems like ignoring the Elephant In The Room, if you know what I mean.

As weblogged about previously, I’ve taken part in various marches; the Women’s March, the Not My President’s Day March, the March for Science. Maybe some others I forget. I have a rose (🌹) in my Twitter ummm name-thing (not the @-thing, the other thing) because I have joined the Democratic Socialists of America, and I have been all too often debating with Trump fans on Twitter.

This is a challenging thing to do, as one inevitably wants to prevail in debate, and try to convince the interlocutor(s) and even onlookers of at least the plausibility of one’s position, and one also wants to in some sense defend against the inevitable ad hominem attacks. (Or ad Eminem, as WordPress suggests.)

And yet those people are me also, fellow parts of the universal mind and all, fellow fragments of the Big Block, albeit apparently fragments from rather far away, and difficult to enjoy or understand.

Which brings me to what is, for me, the hardest thing about compassion (Compassion). I may have written about this before, but that’s okay.

I have, or think I have, no problem feeling compassion for people who are being mean to me; as long as there’s no dangerous physical assault involved, I can joke with them and try to tease out what they are upset about, and not mind that they have silly ideas because hey we all have silly ideas let’s help each other find better ones.

But what do I do when someone is being mean to someone else? How do I have compassion for the attacker? What form should that compassion take? If I am kind and joke with the attacker, am I normalizing their negative impacts on the victims? It doesn’t feel like a good idea to pal around with Nazis! (Internet or otherwise.) But I still want to express compassion, in some form.

Is punching him in the face in fact the best way to show compassion for not only the people that Richard Spencer helps oppress, but also Spencer himself? Or does one punch him in the face out of compassion for his victims, and then help him bandage up his nose out of compassion for him? Neither one feels quite right. Or maybe both do?

Speaking of Compassion and Oneness, I’ve been playing the game (“game”) Everything, from The Steam, and it’s wonderful. It’s a thing that lets you be all sorts of different things, from a hydrogen atom to a cow to a galaxy (and things off both ends), and that plays numerous Alan Watts discourses while you do it. What could be better!

Also I have been playing The Sims 4 some (see also the Sims 2 Stories, which are mostly back online now, woot!). I sort of skipped The Sims 3 for whatever reason, and now I am playing 4 in sort of vaguely but not really Legacy Challenge style. I started with a single Young Adult sim, Tolerance Boatwhistle, in a huge lot without much money, as required, and I’ve been playing just that one lot, without extending anyone’s life, as required, but I haven’t been keeping score or using the approved trait-picking methods for offspring or anything.

So far Tolerance Boatwhistle married standard sim Liberty Lee and they begat Prudence Boatwhistle (who never had a job, but survived on her paintings, and), who (with the help of standard character Alexander Goth, who has a female voice at least in my game, and who never moved in, but did die on the lot so we have his tombstone and ghost) begat Gladstone Boatwhistle, who married townie or something Hadley (heavens I’ve forgotten her last name), and together begat Consideration Boatwhistle (who became the ultimate Bodybuilder Bro, and) who married Giovanna something (I am terrible with names, aren’t I?), and who together begat Carlton Boatwhistle and his little sister Charity Boatwhistle.

Gladstone and his Hadley just recently died of old age within minutes of each other (the Grim Reaper, who is vaguely a friend of the family by now, didn’t even have time to leave in between), so they will soon be coming in at night to eat food and chat and possess various household objects, and there are just two adults and two elementary school kids on the lot (and six gravestones and therefore potential ghosts), and things are relatively simple.

Too simple, in some sense; the family has enough liquid cash and random income sources that it seems like no one has to actually ever get a job unless it’s required for an aspiration, and everyone’s moods are always pretty high except for a few days after the prior generation dies of old age.

But it’s a very soothing sort of world to spend time in and watch and give little non-urgent instructions to.

I‘ve also been playing WoW a bit, but it’s really boring now and I tend to doze off over it. I’ve tried to start playing No Man’s Sky again, but I dunno meh. Similarly for Spore. And Elite Dangerous’s bizarre controls still keep me from bothering to go back in there.

What else?  Lots of books! And work! And Manhattan and things! But this is getting longish, so I will try to remember how to “post” it.

Thanks for following along! This was fun, I’ll try to do it again soon (“soon”).

 

 

 

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2017/01/02

January Second

So yesterday we made 144 dumplings (or 145, or possibly 143, or even 146); this seems like a small number!  The Records are surprisingly spotty in recent years, but apparently we made 203 in 2013 (I don’t recall noticing the coincidence before)and 159 in 2012.  Older records are currently inaccessible because of the whole “I’m not entirely sure who it was that used to be hosting my personal websites, but they’ve stopped” situation.

I ought to do something about that sometime.

Anyway, although they were gross (haha!), the dumplings were as always delicious. Possibly even more delicious than sometimes, due to every last spoonful of an entire jar of Hoisin Sauce going into the mix, which it’s possible we don’t always do.

I finished The Throwback Special, which the little daughter gave me for Solstice, and Said Things about it on The GoodReads:

The Throwback Special
(4/5 stars)

A relatively mundane (if odd) event, told in often sparkling, lovely, mordant, satirical, effulgent, ironic, occasionally entirely over-the-top prose. The characters constantly overthink everything, and the author overthinks on top of that, so every event is garlanded with emotion, dilemma, philosophy, elation, dread. It is funny, silly, deep, insightful.

You will annoy those around you by reading sentences aloud.

and I did in fact annoy (and/or amuse) those around me by reading sentences aloud, and also sent the little daughter random texts like

Tommy’s face looked weird because he was doing exercises to strengthen his pelvic floor.

which is in fact a quote from the book.

Oh, and Happy New Year! Here is my Second Life New Year Card, whose sentiments apply to all y’all RL (as we say) persons as well.  Kindness and compassion, kindness and compassion.

(The people in the picture are, as is traditional, both me.  I have never lured M into Second Life; I suspect she thinks it is weird.)

Back to work tomorrow!  Which, despite involving getting up entirely too early and spending hours away from home and all, I am in various ways looking forward too; still loving Google, and the commute, and the City.

Now to choose another book to read.  And to continue mostly not playing WoW!

 

 

 

 

2017/01/01

January First

I keep meaning to start this weblog entry about how I’m going to play WoW less and write in my weblog more, but it’s tempting to play WoW instead.

Why is that?

That is probably my main New Year’s Resolution. I don’t normally make New Year’s resolutions, ’cause y’know.  But that’d be a good one to try, anyway

I have a couple of max-level characters in WoW Legion now; my Demon Hunter (whose only concern is whether she can get enough enemies to attack her at once that her victory over them isn’t boringly trivial), and ol’ Spennix the Rogue (whose main concern is whether she has enough run-away abilities off cooldown to avoid dying yet again).

(And the Demon Hunter’s next major task is to gather 80 (eighty) of something that sometimes (once in awhile) drops from the very last boss in a dungeon.  So yeah.)

My Official 2017 Comic Frame and Aspirational Resolution is of course:

caphitshitler
for the obvious reasons.

I’ve even joined the DSA, along with a zillion other Twitter liberals; we’ll see if I manage to do more / other than sending them money and posting anti-Nazi memes.

2017 is sure to be interesting in one or more ways. After 2016, I have no confidence whatever in my ability to make predictions about the future (that’s the hardest kind!) that are any more specific than that.

I should probably Resolve to do Twitter less as well. Twitter is a pretty good thing, really; I’ve encountered lots of interesting people, learned lots of stuff.  It’s my main source of news now. But I spend an absurd amount of time reading it and Liking and Retweeting things; a less absurd amount might be good.

I should sit more, too. And maybe work on my irrational (irrational?) dislike for the word “meditation”. :)

I’ve been doing Quora a bit. At first I was impressed by the quality of the questions and answers; over time I’ve gotten a little less impressed, and wonder how good a use of time it really is; but I did write this, of possible interest:

Why do you practice Zen?

So when you ask a Zen question, you’re likely to get a Zen story. :)

This student is sitting meditating, and one of those annoying Masters comes by and says, “Why are you meditating?”. And the student says “So that I may become an enlightened Buddha.” (Or for that matter “To save sentient beings”, or really any sort of aspirational statement at all.)

The Master nods, and picks up a floor tile, and starts polishing it with a corner of his robe.

The student (perhaps sensing he is in a story) says, “Why are you polishing that floor tile, Master?”.

The master says, “To make it into a mirror.”

The student says, “But Master, no amount of polishing will — oh, I get it, very funny, very funny,” and goes back to meditating.

Or, alternately, how much do we really know about why we do anything?

I meditate because it seems like a cool thing to do. Because it is the practice of the Buddha Ancestors. Because lots of really interesting people meditate. Because when I was small, I would have these moments when I sort of lost track of which was the world and which was me (“I just don’t see how I am me,” I summarized it), and meditation is the best way I’ve found to sort of get back to that feeling again.

Also to save sentient beings.

And to make a mirror out of this floor tile. :)

Again largely thanks to Twitter, I’ve become very aware of my privilege, and of what that means. I can rest and just not think about discrimination and injustice and oppression for awhile, pretty much any time I want, because their effects are not right there in my face unless I go out looking for them. I’m grateful for this, but also want to figure out how to be effective at making the world a freer and juster place even though it’s not forced upon me.

I have fallen even more in love with New York City in the past year. I want to spend more time walking randomly, more time in Brooklyn (and even maybe boroughs that aren’t Manhattan or Brooklyn!), more time out of, and in, Chelsea (or is it Meatpacking?). I want to go to BAM, I want to go to Birdland, and to little music clubs that aren’t Birdland. I want to talk to more people.

Have I mentioned that I wrote a NaNoWriMo novel in 2016? I finished it with like twelve minutes to spare, Pacific time, in November, which was a first. I think it’s online somewhere, let’s see…

The Mercy of Fate

In a fancy Google Doc this year, rather than a flat text file (ooohhh!).  I remember very little about large chunks of it, which were written very very late at night. Or at least what felt like very very late at night to these ancient bones.

All various good people died in 2016, and an awful pathological narcissist was somehow elected President of the United States. But probably you know about those things, and I don’t feel like I have much original to add on those subjects at this point.

Today we are going to make New Years Dumplings, as is extremely traditional!  The little daughter is here, but needs to sleep before she is functional enough to help.  M and the little boy and I are sitting around doing more or less normal Sunday Morning things, except for no bagels because The Bagel Store is not answering their phone and therefore we have concluded they are probably not open because it is New Years Day.

Tuesday (day after tomorrow, apparently!) I go back to work, after a nice long year-end vacation. I’m looking forward to that in various ways; still loving work and even the commute, and of course being in Manhattan with all of its energy and infinite variety.  Maybe tomorrow I will connect my little Chromebook to work, and get a head start on the email backlog.

Maybe today I will go into Second Life and take my usual pictures for a New Years card and a new profile picture.

Maybe I will also play WoW.  Just a little?  :)

2016/02/04

Story straight

My personal websites, davidchess dot com and all, which are hosted somewhere in like England by friends-of-friends who stopped billing me in maybe 2010, seem to be down currently; but I have located a local copy, and have been looking nostalgically through it at random. Here is a piece of microfiction from March 2008 that I had entirely forgotten…

“So you know what you’re going to say?”

Chervais looked down at the squat form, sitting behind the piled shapes that served for a desk, sucking at a damp cigar.

“I was thinking I could just tell the truth.”

There was an explosion from somewhere outside, and the gondola rocked sickeningly for a moment. Chervais imagined the view outside, the gondola suspended like a parasite from the vast flock of harnessed geese, the bulbous airplanes that flew by now and then in slow irrational dogfights, the oddly glowing ground over which they passed, trees in the shape of nightmare reaching toward the starless sky.

The other grabbed at the desk automatically, and looked up.

“First, no one would believe you,” he stubbed the cigar on some component of the desk, which grudgingly caught fire, “and second, it’s not allowed.”

“I don’t think you have any way to enforce that.”

The big bloodshot eye rolled in its socket. “That’s a dangerous thing to assume.”

Chervais sighed and looked down at his hand, colorless and insubstantial. “All right,” he said, “first I became aware of myself floating upward, then I turned and saw my body lying on the bed.”

The other just nodded, the eye staring.

“Then there was this intense light, and I found myself moving toward it –”

“The calmness,” the other cut in.

“Right, right, there was this great feeling of calm, and I was moving up this tunnel toward the light, and there was this ethereal music and a great feeling of,” he made a sound, involuntarily, with his mouth, “of love, and a gentle voice, telling me I had to return.”

The squat cyclops grunted. “Ya still got some work to do on attitude, but I like that ‘ethereal’. Keep it up.”

Somewhere outside there was another explosion, as a cargo helicopter full of cheese plummeted from the sky.

2015/12/24

Also, I’m a progressive

We covered religion the other year, and I’ve been thinking about (and even writing a little about) politics, so now I will try to define myself politically here. To some extent I’m making this up as I go along, so I reserve the right to say next week “I just realized that what I said in paragraph 12 was completely wrong”, but until I say that you can assume it’s accurate. :)

I’m a progressive (I might write “Progressive” if that wasn’t a heavily-advertised insurance company or whatever). Which, for me, means that I believe most basically:

  1. The current distribution of wealth and power in society is currently significantly, and undesirably, unfair,
  2. That unfairness favors (and disfavors) pretty much the same people it always has; in most of the West, that’s people who are more (or less) similar to a tall healthy straight white protestant man from a rich family, with conventionally handsome features and a deep (but not too deep) voice, and so on,
  3. That there is a significant role for the government in reducing the level of that unfairness.

Point (1) differentiates me from people who think that the current distribution actually is fair, or that whether or not it’s fair doesn’t matter (or even that unfair is good). Certain capitalists perhaps most obviously.

Point (2) differentiates me from people who think that the distribution is unfair, but that it’s unfair in favor of women, minorities, etc. Certain Tea Party types, “Men’s Rights Advocates”, and so on.

And Point (3) differentiates me from people who think that, even if there is an unfair distribution, it’s the government’s fault, and if only we had less government, or no government, or government stayed out of the redistribution business, things would get better. Some libertarians (and Libertarians), minarchists, anarchists, voluntaryists, and so on.

I was once a member of that latter group to some extent, as I’ve at least hinted at before, but have yet to see a convincing argument that we can actually get to a better place without significant government involvement, lovely as it might be if we could, and as problematic as government involvement pretty much invariably is.

And here are some ideas, in no particular order but just as they occur to me, that the three basic things imply for me, not in the sense of logical implication, but in the sense of “also this too”.

privilegePrivilege is a thing. If you haven’t run into the term before, here’s a good introduction (not that I necessarily agree with everything it says, but it’s a good statement of the concept). In each sense in which a characteristic of mine is one that society tends to favor, I’m privileged. I have white privilege, male privilege, upper-middle-class privilege. I don’t have right-handed privilege, or mental-health privilege (although I do have “generally functional mental health” privilege; it’s a subtle thing I might talk about someday too).

For me a big thing about privilege is that if a person has it in a characteristic, then the way that society favors that characteristic (and disfavors the opposite) is likely to be relatively invisible to them. When a white person says “well, I don’t see much racism in society these days”, that’s white privilege, and a response of “check your privilege” is entirely appropriate (at least in content; in tone it may or may not be the best way to get them to think about it better).

People who dislike the concept of privilege tend to dislike it because they see it, or claim that they see it, as a claim that white people have no problems, or that every man has more power in society than any woman, or various other false claims.

(I remember once unfollowing someone somewhere who generally posted wise things, but then one day went on a long rant about how they would instantly block anyone who used the term “privilege”, because we all have our own problems. Which was such a misunderstanding, and had so much anger behind it, that I didn’t really want to be there anymore, or to put the energy into trying to help, since presumably he would have instantly blocked me if I had).

Feminism is good. I’m either a feminist or a feminist ally, depending on whether you think males can be feminists. (I’m perfectly happy with either label, and demanding that women include me in the category without having actually lived as a women would be male privilege talking; see above.)

Being a feminist follows almost immediately from (1) and (2) above; if there’s an undesirably unfair distribution of power that favors men, it would be good to make it fairer, by directing more to women. Because of (3) I’m not, say, an anarcha-feminist, at least not in the practical sense: while it might be greatly helpful to women if we had a society entirely based on voluntary associations, no one has shown me how a society like that would actually be sustainable if actual humans were allowed in.

So I’m a feminist who believes in, say, non-discrimination laws.

Radicalism. I call myself a progressive, rather than a radical. This is for basically Beatles reasons (interpreting the lyrics non-ironically); revolutions are dangerous and nasty and often end up with some new-but-still-awful regime in place, and we’re getting better all the time, little by little, slow but sure, and so on.

I also realize that this may be for instance my upper-middle-class privilege talking, and that had I lived a harder life, I might well have different feelings about radicals and the desirability of revolution, and where I myself should be putting my energy.

The size of government. As I noted somewhere at some time, but can’t be bothered to find, questions of the size of government, which are so important to small-government folks like most libertarians, are relatively uninteresting to me. Within relatively wide margins, the question isn’t “does this proposal involve increasing or decreasing the size of the government?”; it’s “does this proposal make the distribution of power in society more, or less, fair?” and/or “does this tend to empower the powerless, or the already-powerful?”.

The American Political Parties. Eew. I am not a registered member of either one. As everyone in the UK and Europe knows, the US has no major left-wing party; we just have a center-right party, the Democrats, and a hard-right (and this year total loony) party, the Republicans. The hard right is pretty much the opposite of progressive; they believe that the current distribution of power and wealth is good, that if anything it’s women and minorities and the poor and so on who get unfair advantages, that it’s really the interests of the powerful that matter, and that government should stay out of the economy as much as possible.

The center-right is a bit more reasonable, and think that while the interests of business always come first, it is in fact often in the true interests of business that individual people have some rights, are not completely impoverished, are generally happy, and so on.

So I do tend to vote for Democratic candidates; but I’m not a member of their party. The last party I actually belonged to was the Libertarians; see above.

(I think Bernie Sanders is in fact a progressive, and that’s a good thing. That the Democratic Party would let him campaign for their nomination for President is good, too; I don’t think they’ll let him win it, though.)

Occupy. Heck, yeah! I think the Occupy movement was, and is, a good thing. I resist the suggestion that they failed; as far as I can see they did a great service in turning the narrative away from the Tea Party’s “The government should spend less money!” which implicitly urged just giving the government to the most powerful, and toward the issue of Income Inequality, which is a much more progressive thing to talk about (and which Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren and finally even Hillary Clinton are continuing to talk about, and which is resonating with lots of people in a cheering way).

And that’s it for now, I think. It’s good to get this written down, as it was with the religion stuff.

Happy Socially Just Solstice to all!  :)

 

 

2014/08/25

Fifteen years!

Wow, you’d think something would have changed after a week away; flying cars, or aliens walking around Manhattan, or at least a new subway line or something, but NO, everything is pretty much just the same!

Weird.

Extremely attentive and/or precognitive readers will suspect rightly that we were away for a week because we were in Maine; the first time that happened was in 1999, and this is 2014, so it’s been fifteen years!

And since that first Maine trip was when I started writing a weblog, and this is in some sense the same weblog as that, this is the fifteenth anniversary of the weblog!

Woot!

Here is a picture of Maine:

Renewal

Isn’t that gorgeous? Along with M’s sister’s family, and their father and stepmother, we rented a house on top of Dodge Mountain, overlooking Rockland and the bay and points East, with a lovely deck, and chairs to sit in, and tables to put your book and your wineglass on, and beds to sleep in, and all.

It was great.

I did a lot of reading, as usual. That book there is “Karma and Rebirth” by Christmas (sic) Humphries. I wrote it up for GoodReads (hope that link works for not-me people).

(I will resist the obvious temptation to produce lots of weblog content by pasting in all various book reviews I have written instead of just linking to them!)

I read that because I happened across it in some used book store (perhaps Hello Hello Books?), shortly after watching Hemant Mehta’s rather offputting “Can Atheists be Buddhists“, and it seemed like a nice synchronicity.

The Mehta piece is offputting for a few reasons:

  • His conclusion is basically “no”, and I’m sort of both of those things, so yeah.
  • The reason his conclusion is basically “no” is that, he says, although Buddhists don’t believe in a deity, they do believe some stuff (specifically Karma and Rebirth) that Isn’t Scientific, and therefore atheists won’t believe it.
  • This implies that for Mehta “atheist” doesn’t just mean “doesn’t believe in God” for some value of “God”, it means “only believes stuff that is Scientific”, and that seems like just sloppy thinking or sloppy word-usage or something,
  • His conclusion that Karma and Rebirth are Not Scientific seems very offhand and not particularly well thought out; as for that matter is his assumption that all Buddhists believe in either or both of them in any form.

Some day I will have to write a post on Buddhism and Scientificness and Karma and Rebirth and all, and why atheists can in fact be Buddhists, and vice-versa, at least when they are me. Not today, though. :)

Another book, that I’m sure I bought in Hello Hello Books (which is a great bookstore, by the way), and then I read and enjoyed very much, is Doris Grumbach’s “The Pleasure of Their Company”, which I also wrote up for GoodReads. It was good.

I do love lying about in Maine, feeling the wind and reading books and thinking about things.

Also I went out on a boat! And held a lobster!

Here is a picture from on the boat, with the notable deck hand Dana holding the lobster in question:

Dana with the lobster

and here is the lobster, with parts of my hand holding it:

Lobster

and a little girl looking dubious in the background.

We did many other things in Maine! I took three of the four kids to the beach one day, but the sun was behind clouds and the sand was too wet and rocky and the waves too small and they got cold, so we didn’t stay very long.

Here are some rocks!

Rocks

They do look coldish.

We went into Rockland a couple of times (although sadly we were not in town for this

Internet Cats

which I bet would have been noteworthy), and into Camden a couple of times (here is a classy black-and-white shot of some water in Camden:

Water in Camden

just because we are posting lots of pictures; more and/or different ones can as usual be found on the Insta-Gram).

Reading back through some of the various Maine and post-Maine postings in the weblog over the years, I see lots of variety in terms of thoughtfulness, randomness, introspection, and so on. I did feel introspective, in a good way, and renewed, in a good way, by it all this year, but in writing about it I’m mostly just writing random things, I think. :)

Maybe largely because I didn’t feel like writing about it at all while I was there (too busy doing it?), and now am writing about it retrospectively, having been home for a couple of days and back to work one day, so somewhat back in the quotidian mindset. Or something?

Here is another picture :) this one of ol’ Red’s Eats (where we didn’t eat this year) as randomly enhanced in its usual drive-by way by Google Plus:

Red's Eats

Kinda neat, I thought.

What else? I read some other books, acquired some other books, sat zazen a bit, had some thoughts, drank some wine, ate some lobster and some blueberry pie, enjoyed some sun and wind.

And I’m not unhappy to be home. :)

About all one could ask for, really!

2013/08/02

Of Reprehensible Persons

rep·re·hen·si·ble (\ˌre-pri-ˈhen(t)-sə-bəl\)
adj.
Deserving rebuke or censure; blameworthy.

Just to give rebuke where rebuke is due. And/or to vent a little. :)

Anthony Weiner is a walking punchline, and should Just Go Away. If an oppresivist Republican was doing this I’d love it :) but Weiner is just hurting the Progressive side every time he (or his organization) opens its mouth. If he were a uniquely effective force on the side of good (see below) I would be more conflicted, but apparently he isn’t. (I am a bit of an Alex Pareene fan, I admit.)

On the other hand, Eliot Spitzer has been one of the few people in power willing and able to get all up in Wall Street’s face and at least threaten to bring some justice to the thoroughly entrenched criminals there. Which makes it sort of a pity that he’s an entitled oppresivist hypocrite who is willing, even eager, to prosecute people for things that he happily does in secret himself.

So what to do about Spitzer? It’s likely that he goes after Big Finance mostly because that’s his schtick, that’s the side he’s chosen as a path to fame and power, and not so much because he really believes deep down in justice, but still. I think I would be happiest if he apologized to the universe, declared his support for the legalization and effective regulation of sex work, gave his personal fortune to the Sex Workers Project or somebody, and went back to challenging Wall Street.

Given that that’s unlikely, unfortunately, I think it’d be best if Spitzer would Just Go Away also; we’ll have to find someone to fight Big Dollars who isn’t such a jerk.

Speaking of Wall Street, employees and management of Glass, Lewis & Co., as well as the owners of a nearby food truck, are obnoxious jerks. It is nice to see this going viral. Go and enjoy and contribute to the big Twitter flame-out before they notice and delete it.

(I’m amused by the lonely Twitter voice from an alternate universe shouting about how tips are only for exceptional service, and no one should ever be upset not to get one. That may be true on Planet Nebulon, but in New York City a tip of 15% or so means normal ordinary service, an amount above that is a compliment, and leaving no tip at all means that either (a) you forgot, (b) the service was so bad you had strong grounds for a civil or criminal case against the server and their entire family, or (c) as in this case, you are a total douchenozzle. It might be reasonable to wish this was not true, but… it is!)

Okay. Less controversially perhaps, the people (“people”) at “Project A.W.O.L.” are disgusting scammers. Given the numbers of people in the pictures on their horrible Facebook page, I’m surprised there isn’t more on the net debunking them; but maybe the pictures are all fake, and it’s mostly just a couple of douchenozzles spamming weblog comment pages.

I discovered this because one of the things they do (as well as putting up obviously fraudulent web pages), is Like and Follow random WordPress weblogs (I expect there’s software that does this for you?), and they’ve done that on this very weblog here. It’s a relatively typical Ponzi / Pyramid scheme (not exactly the same thing, I know; I think this has aspects of both), in which they convince some number of gullible people to pay them some amount of money per month for “secrets” and “tips” to “get rich online” and “make money with your blog”, whereas in fact the only Secret Technique they have is to convince some number of gullible people to pay you some amount of money per month for…

Yeah.

And there are all these different nearly-identical weblogs and scam pages and Exclusive Limited-Time Offers and things, and since all each one does is take money from people for enabling them to spread exactly the same scam further, you get a big rotting squelchy mess of stinking fraud and self-deception.

For instance, upon running across this awful thing on the weblog of an otherwise apparently well-meaning author who just wants to flog her self-published book on GoodReads, you have to wonder. Is she part of the scam? Or just a victim, fooled into reposting their stuff? (The two do sort of blur together of course; one of the things that makes the squelchy mess so foul.)

(I was able to find a smallish amount of actual information about the mess; see for instance Project AWOL is a scam, which leads to some other good material about the mess. And in fact even the scammer community seems to think that Project AWOL is a bit much. “Empower Network” seems to be a scam-enablement company that goes to some effort to skirt the letter of the law, and apparently they suspect that Project AWOL’s fraudulent promises of wealth might get them in trouble. It’s noteworthy the amount of frothing from perp-victims occurs in the comments on the various anti-scam posts, insisting that everyone is making tons of money and it’s not a scam at all; uh-huh.)

So that’s that. Ick!

Another scam I wandered into somewhere; the horrible and/or amusing “Power 4 Patriots” site and video, which is noteworthy mostly as an example of skillful Tea Party button pushing, where scary statements and images (Obama’s electricity monopoly!), sometimes entirely incompatible with each other, are used to try to sell plans for making your own homemade solar panels and wind turbines, which will magically protect you and your family against all possible disasters. It’s easy to just laugh at this, it’s so obviously pathetic, but we are not the target audience; this stuff is designed to appeal to people of limited reasoning and analytical skills, and often limited money, in order to scam them out of some of that money in exchange for stuff that will most likely help them not at all.

And that’s evil.

What else? There’s basically the entire Republican party and most of the Democratic party, of course, but that’s old news, and kind of generic. Let’s pick specifically on the reprehensible Rep. Reid Ribble (R-WI), who used a hearing to scold some nuns for not doing enough for the poor, and expecting the government to do anything at all. Words fail.

(And I admit I am rather a fan of Wonkette also, monetized and snarky as she/they/it is…)

So as not to end on just all these notes of negativity, we will point out in closing that while the Daily Mail is of course reprehensible in most aspects, Amanda (Fucking) Palmer totally rocks. :)

2013/04/29

NaPoWriMo 27 (the latest yet!)

The Shah’s High Wizard
is a small dark-haired girl,
curled sleeping on his shoulder,
lithe in harem silks,
breathing softly.
But when her soft eyelids open,
behind them is Hell.

 

(I wrote a fragment of a short story about these two sometime recently, maybe as part of that “750 words” thing that I appear to have completely given up in favor of NaPoWriMo; so here they are in a poem!)

2013/04/18

DO NOT EXIT, ONLY ENTER

We interrupt this poetry for an Amusing Sign; captured in Lexington, Massachusetts.

DO NOT EXIT ONLY ENTER

That is all!

2013/03/18

You’ve also got to get them in the right order…

750 wordsSo there’s this 750 words site, which is a very simple (simple enough to be confusing, really) site designed to help wannabe writers (raises hand) get into the supposedly healthy “writing three pages a day” habit that has, on dit, been recommended by Various Famous Writers. Friend Emily mentioned it on Facebook and I signed up on ummmm Saturday, I did 750+ words that day, forgot all about it yesterday despite the helpful reminder email, and then did 750+ again today.

It’s different from, say, NaNoWriMo, in that 750 words a day isn’t nearly 50,000 in a month (more like 22,500), and it’s open-ended. And on the other hand you can’t be lazy one day and then make up for it the next.

Here is what I wrote today; what I wrote on Sunday feels a bit too personal and/or embarassingly bad :) to post in public at the moment. It is, probably predictably, about the process itself.

I’m not sure that what Real Writers have suggested in the past really meant just writing three pages of absolutely whatever sprung to mind, including grocery lists, the word “cheese” repeated over and over (like, cheese, cheese, cheese, cheese, cheese, cheese, cheese, cheese, cheese, cheese, cheese, cheese, cheese, cheese, cheese, cheese, cheese, cheese, cheese), or even pure internal monologue like this.

Is that really something that helps develop writing skills? Or develope them, for that matter? (stet)

I can see this sort of totally uncensored, totally unjudged activity being either helpful or unhelpful, really, and I which is more likely is probably an empirical question. Contingent. Possibly different for different people, even, although it’s all too easy to suggest that for any given thing that might otherwise have a Right Answer.

There’s that scene in the L-Word where whatsername Jenny is talking to the creative writing teacher who has basically trashed her stuff, and what the teacher says is that she is just writing things that actually happened to her, perhaps thinly disguised, and Jenny agrees and/or admits this. And the teacher says that she won’t be a writer until she stops doing that, because just writing what actually happens is something else, she uses a word like “chronicaler” or “diarist” that’s clearly intended to be derogatory, and also says something sort of twee-paradoxical about things that actually happened not being true, or not being reality or something.

Awhile back, quite very awhile back, I used to (for some probably-small period of time) pick a word at random from somewhere (given how long ago, probably from the hardcopy dictionary or something), and then write some amount about that word, whatever first sprang to mind. (I wrote it with an actual pencil, on actual atomic paper, in an actual physical D-ring binder notebook, as I recall; how archaic, eh?)

Once Anne, childhood Anne, read a bunch of my writing (brave of me in retrospect, and probably even at the time, to have given them to her to read), and she liked it overall, but thought that the “write some stuff about a random word” ones were sort of forced, or artificial, or missing something, or at any rate, I remember, not as good.

And that’s the worry here I suppose, or something like it. That just writing without worrying about what one is writing will lead to the habit of doing that, of equating writing with writing-whatever, wearing away at whatever habits or standards of quality that one might otherwise have, and which one might do better carefully cultivating then actively wearing-away at. (Hm, how would one avoid ending that sentence with a preposition? “and one might do better carefully cultivating them rather than actively wearing away at them” I guess, but is that really an improvement?)

Not to mention actively developing bad habits. I don’t know if it applied to the pen-and-paper version, probably it did really in some form, but the temptation in this medium, with the word-count actively (but slowly) going up in the bottom-right corner down there as I type, is to always choose the wordier way of saying any given thing, to say the same thing over and over in various different ways even, to use N words when K would have done, for N greater than K.

One can just type and type and type, that is to say, making totally (or reasonably) coherent sentences (even though that’s not strictly-speaking required), while still not saying much of anything, or saying the same thing over and over.

And is that a good habit to develop? That is probably not a good habit to develop.

We walk out into the fields to harvest the pages. They grow on tops of the page-stalks, and also on the second-highest cluster of leaves, or cluster of what would be leaves if they were not pages. Below that level, the leaves actually are leaves, green with veins in the typical way, if somewhat more squarish than the typical leaf on any other kind of plant.

(See, the “on any other kind of plant” didn’t really need to be in there; there are things besides plants that have leaves, but the reader would have gotten it without that hint even.)

When the pages are ripe, they snap off of the stalks easily, with a slight tug just off of straight. Not too much off, so as not to tear the paper. And not too much straight, because then it may resist and not come off, and you may have to try again, and that would be inefficient.

And no one wants to be inefficient…

It’s funny that I have (or at least pretended to have, for the purposes of word-count) these reservations about developing bad habits by doing the “three pages a day” thing, whereas I’ve never had that worry about NaNoWriMo, where the lack of internal censor just feels freeing. Maybe because NaNoWriMo is so much an all-out infrequent event, whereas the other is intended to be an everyday every-day habit. Or something…

(Astoundingly, even the combination of being linked to by Salon and writing this exquisite political satire has not yet led to international fame; but we soldier on…)

2013/01/31

Instagrammaton

Here are just two Amusing Pictures that I have lately posted to Instagram (web copy of my Instagram stream here), which are not pictures of food. One leads to a posting on the Secret Second Life Weblog, which I decided would be the right place for lots of pictures from my latest Virtual World adventures…

Those wacky pastors!

Those wacky pastors!

Okay, that one’s just silly :) but all the Cool Kids are Instagramming iThing screenshots these days, and one has to keep up.

(That’s Questionable Content in the background in the browser there; I’m still slowly reading through the entire opus, possibly more slowly than the author’s writing new ones. It’s still good!)

The other one:

The Tower of Somewhat More Than Moderate Height

The Tower of Somewhat More Than Moderate Height

That’s the Tower of Somewhat More Than Moderate Height (as you may have deduced from the caption), from my brand-newish Minecraft (Pocket Edition) world!

Read all about it over here: Dreaming of pixelated rock.

2013/01/04

Dumplings, Dastards, and Drivel

(Before I decided that the dumplings really belonged in here, I was considering titles like “Douchebags and Bullshit”, which is somewhat coarse, or “Rotters and Rubbish”, which wasn’t bad.)

So this year we made 203 New Year’s Dumplings. The little daughter having come home special for the ceremonies, and the little boy being home from school between terms, we were four healthy adults, and the leftovers of that 203 didn’t even last through the end of January Second.

(See prior New Year’s post for prior history of dumplings.)

Here is my New Year card over on the Secret Second Life weblog. The sentiments apply to all Real Life friends too also. :)

On dastards (cads, bounders, douchenozzles, arseholes), see quite a few of the comments to this Asher Wolf posting on why she left the CryptoParty movement that she founded or co-founded, and how the hacker community contains too much, and too much tolerance of, sexism and misogyny and general nastiness.

Many of the comments are supportive, but many are also just facepalmingly awful. (I posted what I thought was a satire of that kind of comment, and despite my having tried to make it obviously absurd, it was enough like the run of actual negative comments that I had to put in a followup saying that it was intended as satire, because people were responding to it as though it, well, wasn’t.) And the evil-density in the twitter comments was even higher (if harder to link to).

I understand why people come in and carefully and condescendingly explain how she is all wrong, and bad things happen to everyone, and it’s not misogyny, and rape hardly every happens, and things like that; they are just blind to their various degrees of privilege, and are shoring up the bulwarks of the protective walls they have up around their egos.

Pretty standard human stuff.

I less understand why people come in and say that someone “needs to shave her pits”, or says that some particular person attacking her is “way hotter” than someone else is. I mean, wut? How is that even remotely relevant to anything?

Either (1) this is actually the way that they think, (2) they are just rather nastily trolling, or (3) talking about the way they “think” is a bit of an overstatement, and they are basically being Eliza machines in this instance.

Also pretty standard human stuff, I suppose, as are the strings of obscenities and the attacks on her website; I just don’t understand it as much, and it makes me (even) sadder.

And on drivel (or rubbish, or bullshit), I am reading Belief or Nonbelief, and while I’m not done with it (despite how short it is), I cannot keep myself from fulminating, or at least weblogging, about it. It’s a series of public letters between Umberto Eco and Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini, who is a Cardinal (a Hat Cardinal, not a Wings Cardinal, obviously).

Eco is sort of The Semiotics Guy, so he is all into signs and how and what they signify (if at all), and so on, so it’s not too surprising that he can wander up big ethereal staircases of language until he gets so far above the concrete that his words not only fail to signify anything material, but fail to signify even any identifiable concepts. And of course Martini is an intelligent person in the hierarchy of the Catholic Church, and spending most of his thought-time in environments as far from real life as possible is probably one of the few ways it’s possible to be one of those for very long and stay sane.

Hilarity ensues.

The first bit is about hope and life and ideas of the end of the world and stuff; it was written somewhere in the late 90’s. Eco, referring to the last book of the New Testament, writes

Revelation can be read as a promise, but also an announcement of an end, and thus gets rewritten at every step, even by those who never read it, as we await 2000.

Say what? People who have never read the book are constantly rewriting it? Squinting at the whole paragraph really hard, what he means is something like “people are always thinking about how the world might end, and Revelation talks about trumpets and hailstorms and stuff, but nowadays we think more in terms of acid rain, nuclear waste, global warming, and stuff”.

It does sound cooler and less obvious if you talk about the constant rewriting of a book by people who have never read it, but that way of talking has the disadvantage of being incoherent and/or wrong.

Here’s another great passage:

In this way, each one of us flirts with the specter of the apocalypse, exorcising it; the more one unconsciously fears it the more one exorcises, projecting it onto the screen in the form of bloody spectacle, hoping in this way to render it unreal. But the power of specter lies precisely in its unreality.

Yowza! We unconsciously fear the end of the world, so we flirt with it by projecting it (“hey baby, ever been… projected?”) onto the screen (does that mean “we imagine”? or “we make movies about” or…?) in the form of bloody spectacle (we imagine global warming as bloody spectacle? could well be true of the movie version, I spose) in order to (unconsciously, still?) render it unreal (because things on the screen are unreal I guess), but in vain because (as our unconscious is apparently not clever enough to recognize) making it unreal just makes it more powerful.

And the sentence just before it is about “irresponsible consumerism”, which is somehow linked to all that other stuff.

There’s probably some unpacking of this that is actually making a coherent truth-claim that might perhaps be falsifiable, but in essence I think it’s more like poetry; a bunch of words piled on each other not to make some coherent truth-claim, but for some more diaphanous aesthetic reason.

The very next paragraph deserves copying down here also (perhaps only because I’m getting more into the spirit of the thing):

I’d be willing to bet that the notion of the end of time is more common today in the secular world than in the Christian. The Christian world makes it the object of meditation, but acts as if it may be projected into a dimension not measured by calendars. The secular world pretends to ignore the end of time, but is fundamentally obsessed by it. This is not a paradox, but a repetition of what transpired in the first thousand years of history.

Leaving aside the absurdity of referring (as I think he is doing here, but really who can tell) to the years 1-1000 CE as “the first thousand years of history”, it’s hard to say what most of these words might plausibly mean.

Just how common is “the notion of the end of time” in “the secular world”? He has presumably said “the end of time” rather than “the end of the world” for some reason, but I don’t know what it could be. “The end of time” is a notion that barely makes any sense at all in “the secular world” (since time is not something that can end, absent something really weird and non-secular happening), much less being extremely common. The dimension that is “measured by calendars” is time; I’m not sure what it means to say that the Christian world acts as if the end of time occurs in (or “may be projected into”) something besides time. Is he saying that most Christians think of the Apocalypse is a metaphor for something moral or aesthetic, rather than something that will actually take place at some point? That is most likely true, but as far as I know the Official Story of the “Christian world” is that it’s going to happen (for some value of “it”) at some actual time, perhaps any day now.

Maybe he’s just saying “your typical actual Christian person doesn’t actually believe that the world is going to end, or at least doesn’t act that way, whereas your typical secular person worries alot about global warming”. But he sure says it funny if so.

Here’s another character-string, that I don’t think I’ll even try to tease a meaning out of (although the first few words seem like a real screamer, in the “obviously false unless it means something different than it seems to” sense):

Christianity invented History, and it is in fact a modern incarnation of the Antichrist that denounces History as a disease. It’s possible that secular historicism has understood history as infinitely perfectible — so that tomorrow we improve upon today, always and without reservation, and so that in the course of the same history God reconstitutes himself and in a manner of speaking educates and enriches himself. But the entire secular world is not of the ideological view that through history we understand how to look at the regression and folly of history itself. There is, nonetheless, an originally Christian vision of history wherever the signpost of Hope on this road is followed.

On rereading, I’m suspecting more and more that Eco, that wag, is using some prose generator here. (Secular historicism has understood that God reconstitutes himself? Orly?)

Cardinal Martini’s response to this first burst of words isn’t quite up to this standard, but he does use a huge number of words to basically say “oh, well, Christians don’t really have to worry about the end of the world because God is going to take care of them, after all, so naturally the secular types are the ones who obsess about it”.

He does, though, note that

History has always been seen most clearly as a journey toward something beyond itself and not immanent… this vision does not extenuate but solidifies the meaning of contingent events into an ethical locus in which the metahistorical future of the human adventure is determined.

which is getting there.

(And which, once one spends a few minutes picking it apart, turns out to box up considerable volumes of likely-false assumptions inside words and passive-voice constructs like “always” and “most clearly”, “been seen” and “is determined”, which are just the post-graduate version of sprinkling one’s Internet postings with “clearly”, “obviously”, and “certainly”.)

(And for that matter uses a quaintly archaic sense of “extenuate”. Hm, is this a translation, or is the English the original?)

In the next exchange (and the only other one I’ve finished reading), Eco turns the discussion toward the meaning and beginning of life, and the question of abortion, not so much as to get closer to real concrete questions as to show that even on a subject like this he can mostly avoid them.

Here is Eco:

When the banner of Life is waved, it can’t but move the spirit — especially of nonbelievers, however “pietistic” their atheism, because for those who do not believe in anything supernatural the idea of Life, the feeling of Life, provides the only value, the only source of a possible ethical system.

which is bullshit in both common senses: it’s false, and it’s not clear that it’s actually concerned at all with true and false, but just wants to sound good.

(The quotes around “pietistic” in reference to atheism are rather bizarre, as it suggests that “pietistic atheism” is a term that someone else has used, and that Eco himself is using referentially, although he has shame-quote-level reservations about it. But in fact the term “pietistic atheism” is actually pretty rare, so… I dunno.)

And of course just “waving the banner of Life” doesn’t necessarily move the spirit; some people’s spirits are (quite healthily) resistant to being moved by the waving of any banners, and there are all sorts of sources of possible ethical systems besides “the idea of Life, the feeling of Life”.

And so on and so on.

Eco then makes the very good point that a key question is exactly when a human life begins, that we don’t have a really good answer to it, and that it seems like a question that we may never have a really good answer to, even though it’s so important. (I like him saying this, because in my own analysis of the whole abortion issue, these facts are at the core of why it’s so hard.)

The Cardinal responds by subtly taking issue with Eco’s emphasis on “Life”, saying of course that it’s really all about God, and “the life of a person called upon to participate in the life of God himself.”

“Participate” is a great word there, like when the news says that a person is “linked to” some terrorist group. The postmodern “informed by” is another one. They all let you sort of draw a narrative line between two things without actually making any truth-claim that might turn out to be wrong. I have no idea what it actually means to “participate in the life of God himself” for Cardinal Martini, and I’m not convinced that he really does, either. At the high cloudy levels that he’s talking, “participate” is all that’s needed.

Moving on to just when there starts to be “a concrete life that I can label human”, Martini uses some more “obviously” words:

But we all know that we have … a clearer sense of genetic determination starting from a point that, at least in theory, can be identified. From conception, in fact, a new being is born.

There ya go! “We all know” that “in fact” a new being is born at conception.

Here “new” means as distinct from the two elements that united to form it.

This may be a nice definition of “new”, but the more important term is “being”. When someone ingests a couple pieces of food and they start to dissolve in the stomach, there may be some point at which they squish together and there is a “new” food-glob which is distinct from either the hotdog or the bun, but there’s no “new being” here to worry about, unless and until the relevant molecules make their way into a developing fetus which is (say) eventually born.

So he’s doing an end-run to try to slip “identity begins at the moment of conception” (something that the Church has believed for only a small fraction of its history, as Eco mentions and Martini ignores) into the discussion as though it was something we now know as a fact.

Okay, that’s par for the course. :)

Here is some more novel and amorphous stuff, on the topic of why the product of conception matters, and why we should protect it:

Beyond these scientific and philosophical matters lies the fact that whatsoever is open to so great a destiny — being called by name by God himself — is worthy of enormous respect from the beginning.

Why is that? Is there anything that God himself can’t call by name? Does God have names for people in a way that he doesn’t have names for animals, or fruit, or dust-motes? This is a piece of Catholic doctrine, or something, that I wasn’t aware of. Why would being called by name by God, as opposed to any other aspect of a putative relationship to God, be the thing in particular that makes a person “worthy of enormous respect from the beginning”?

If it turned out that God also had names for individual rocks, would we be morally obliged to make sure that any rock that begins to split off the side of a mountain does in fact split off, and to have “enormous respect” for it from that point on? Why or why not?

And yes, the question seems absurd. But it’s directly implied by the Cardinal’s words, so I will refer him to you on that issue.

We are talking about real responsibility toward that which is produced by a great and personal love, responsibility toward “someone”. Being called upon and loved, this someone already has a face, and is the object of affection and attention.

I think we are still talking about a just-fertilized egg here. The great and personal love must be God’s (since, sadly, not every instance of conception involves great or personal human love), as must be the affection and attention (since, this early in the game, no human is aware that anything exists to lavish affection and attention on).

But the someone already has a face? What could that mean? A fertilized egg most definitely does not have a face; it is too small. Is this a metaphor for something? If so, it’s not clear for what. Does he mean that he thinks the look of the face of the eventual person (if any) resulting from the fertilization is already determined, by the genetics of the sperm and egg? That’s probably not true, certainly not before the gametes are all done fusing (when exactly is “the moment of conception” at this level of detail, anyway?). And why “face” rather than “form” or for that matter foot-size? Are those less important, or is it all just some metaphor and “face” sounds better?

The next sentence is:

Every violation of this need of affection and attention can only result in conflict, profound suffering, and painful rending.

How did we get from the fertilized egg’s being the object of affection and attention (from God), to a need for affection and attention? In fact the fertilized egg, at this point, doesn’t have any need for affection and attention, unless there’s some religious claim here that it needs it from God. But presumably nothing could violate God’s affection and attention. (I’m not sure what if anything it means to “violate” a “need”.)

The claim being made here seems to be that from the moment of conception there is a new being that as a need for affection and attention, and any failure to provide for that need will result in conflict, profound suffering, and painful rending.

But that’s false. Something like half of fertilized eggs fail to implant or are otherwise spontaneously aborted very early (and so presumably their needs aren’t being provided for?), and no one who isn’t God ever knows they existed. No conflict, no profound suffering, no painful rending.

The obvious counter here is that the good Cardinal didn’t mean that. And that’s likely true, but then we’re just left wondering exactly what he did mean.

The end of this letter doesn’t help much, except to suggest that it’s all about faces again.

There is a splendid metaphor that reveals in lay terms something common to both Catholics and laymen, that of the “face”. Levinas spoke of it movingly as an irrefutable instance. I would rather cite the words, almost a testament, of Italo Mancini in one of his last books, Tornino i volti [Back to the Faces]: “Living in, loving, and sanctifying our world wasn’t granted us by some impersonal theory of being, or by the facts of history, or by natural phenomena, but by the existence of those uncanny centers of otherness — the faces, faces to look at, to honor, to cherish.”

Which, I think, is nice, even profound, as poetry, but as any sort of discussion of a subject falls rather flatly short of, well, of meaning anything.

Living in our world was granted us by the existence of faces? You don’t say!

2012/07/30

Magic, Mystery, Delerium: Magisterium!

So I’ve been mulling over this whole “Rome vs. Nuns” thing and related issues for awhile, mulling it over in the sense that I wanted to write about it (not so much in the sense of making up my mind about it, because I think I pretty much know what I think, although an insight or two may show up as I type it all up here, but just in the sense that I’ve been thinking about how to write it down in th’ weblog).

And my thoughts never organized themselves very well :) but the topic is aging a bit (Stephen Colbert having covered it on TV for instance, as I noted last month), so I will just sit here while the tiny girls on the TV do scary things on the balance beam (is that really healthy?), and put down the Major Topics as they float to the surface, and then maybe if it isn’t too awful I will publish it.

This all came to my attention the other month when the Catholic Church published its official Doctrinal Assessment of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, and this made various headlines.

I read the actual Church document (it’s not very long), and when I first read it I have to admit that it struck me as absolutely exuding evil. Evil of the velvet-gloved type, but evil nonetheless. You may not dissent, it says, you may not think for yourself, or decide what is important. You may not help the poor if you do not also work against same-sex marriage and abortion. You must not allow dissenting voices to speak, unless you clearly denounce them as dissenting.

A choice and representative passage:

The documentation reveals that, while there has been a great deal of work on the part of LCWR promoting issues of social justice in harmony with the Church’s social doctrine, it is silent on the right to life from conception to natural death, a question that is part of the lively public debate about abortion and euthanasia in the United States. Further, issues of crucial importance to the life of Church and society, such as the Church’s Biblical view of family life and human sexuality, are not part of the LCWR agenda in a way that promotes Church teaching. Moreover, occasional public statements by the LCWR that disagree with or challenge positions taken by the Bishops, who are the Church’s authentic teachers of faith and morals, are not compatible with its purpose.

The Leadership Conference of Women Religious, that is, has not been fulfilling “its purpose”, which is to submissively and unquestioningly promulgate the opinions of the Bishops, who are “the Church’s authentic teachers of faith and morals”.

I found that utterly chilling the first time I read it; talk about ideological absolutism! Later I saw it more as simply reflecting the hierarchical structure and history of the Roman Catholic Church; but on a little more contemplation I found that pretty chilling in itself.

Also chillingly, the Vatican apparently appointed a group of (male, of course) Bishops to, well, in their own words:

…the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has decided to execute the mandate to assist in the necessary reform of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious through the appointment of a Archbishop Delegate, who will – with the assistance of a group of advisors (bishops, priests, and women Religious) – proceed to work with the leadership of the LCWR to achieve the goals necessary to address the problems outlined in this statement.

Doesn’t that just make your skin crawl? To “assist in the necessary reform” and “to address the problems outlined”. So wise and God-appointed men (with a few token women, somewhat surprisingly, perhaps to get the coffee) will take these erring nuns in hand, and shove them back into the intellectual bottle where they belong, curing them of this disturbing habit of thought and dissent.

It is of course the consensus of hordes of angry posters to Internet forums that that is by definition the purpose of the LCWR, since that’s what its charter said when the hierarchy set it up, and that that’s what all good Catholics are bound to believe, and if someone doesn’t believe that, or wants to operate in a less oppressive atmosphere, they should just join some more liberal religion.

And to some extent I agreed with that, in that I at least felt that more liberal Catholics must be somewhat conflicted, between their feelings and the official mindset of their Church and all.

But then I heard Christine Quinn on NPR, and was amazed. Here’s a snippet from her interview with David Green:

Quinn: Well, it’s just who I am. I mean, I’m Catholic and I’m gay. There’s not much to deal with. It’s who I am. It’s how I wake up every morning.

Greene: But your church, obviously, doesn’t, you know, officially accept that.

Quinn: Right. That’s kind of their problem, not mine. I mean, I just don’t dwell on it. I’m not really sure what the upside of me dwelling on it would be. I mean, I was raised Catholic, I take a lot of comfort and inspiration and motivation and support from my faith. I get what they kind of see in some political issues. They get that we’re not in agreement on that. But that doesn’t make me not who I am. It’s still who I am.

And I thought that was just astoundingly wonderful. I don’t know if she would agree with this next bit or not, but what I heard her saying was that she knows very well what it means to be Catholic, and what Catholicism is, and if some wizened old men in Rome have some other opinion, well, that’s okay, but it’s not a big deal to her.

Being Speaker of the New York City Council and all probably helps :) but I thought this showed an admirable sense of proportion about just how important someone’s statements are by virtue of being stated with great confidence, on vellum, and in Latin. Eh, she says, that’s their problem, not mine.

(The document on vellum in question, by the way, was written by the Congregatio Pro Doctrina Fidei, in English roughly the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which until 1904 was known as the Supreme Sacred Congregation of the Roman and Universal Inquisition. Yeah, those guys. Although if you refer to the CDF as “the Inquisition” on a Talk Page on Wikipedia, one or more persons may take issue with the term, as I found out somewhat to my amusement here; although it being Wikipedia the incident may no longer be on record.)

Relatedly, the Vatican (again in the form of the CDF) issued a statement (a bit later I think) criticizing a book by an American nun: “Just Love” by Sister Margaret Farley, saying (among other things) that it “contained erroneous propositions, the dissemination of which risks grave harm to the faithful”.

Whoa, yeah! Can’t have erroneous ideas out there, people’s heads might explode!

The erroneous statements include the notion that masturbation might be normal and natural and healthy (whereas, says the CDF, “Both the Magisterium of the Church… and the moral sense of the faithful have been in no doubt and have firmly maintained that masturbation is an intrinsically and gravely disordered action”), and that in her opinion homosexual persons and acts were really just fine (whereas per the CDF, “tradition has always declared that homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered… [t]hey are contrary to the natural law”).

The book apparently makes no claim to be official Catholic doctrine, and according to the Hufffington Post piece “Farley doesn’t identify herself as a member of the Sisters of Mercy on either her official Yale biography or on the book’s cover”, but the Vatican still felt it necessary to point out that it dissents from their horrid oppressive closed-minded beliefs.

Sheesh.

Okay, so I waxed a little vehement there. But I mean, “gravely disordered”? “contrary to the natural law”? Seriously?

I think it’s that in some way I expect the Catholic Church to be more intelligent than that. I mean, they have Jesuits, who are supposed to be smart. They run a big international organization, they have Universities that are reasonably well respected, and so on.

So can they really believe all these things? I know various people in the U.S. believe them, but in general I put that down I admit to ignorance or thoughtlessness. Who, in the XXIst century, could actually think about the matter, and conclude this kind of absurd stuff?

And actually that’s another mulling I wanted to write down. There’s this Doctrine of Papal Infallibility, which basically says that the Pope is incapable of error when he makes some pronouncement about faith and morals, and (basically) he says that he’s saying it in the magic infallible way. But there’s also this other doctrine of infallibility, about the infallibility of the Ordinary and Universal Magisterium, which seems to say that if all of the Bishops at any point in history have agreed that some particular point of faith and (and/or?) morals ought to be believed by everyone as infallible, then by gum it is.

And I hope it is clear to all my readers that this is just dumb. I mean, even if we stipulate that there is an omniscient Deity out there, it’s pretty clear that our human minds are fallible, so that any thought process that we use to get to a conclusion has a nonzero chance of being wrong, including any thought process that we might use to get to the conclusion “this here statement is 100% accurate infallible divine wisdom”. Whatever reasoning the Bishops and the Pope have used to conclude that some statement is “infallible”, that reasoning is just fallible human reasoning, so They Could Be Wrong.

And surely they realize that; it’s a simple argument.

So we have the question of just what the Pope and the Bishops actually think about these statements of theirs that they either think are infallible, or at least think are the authentic teaching of the Church that everyone must follow without dissent. Possibilities that occur to me include:

  • They hear voices or otherwise get what seem to them to be more or less direct communication from the Deity, and that gives them faith that these beliefs are correct. This seems wildly unlikely, and even if they did hear voices etc what exactly would lead them to believe it was the Good Guy rather than the Bad Guy speaking? And even if they had what they thought was good evidence that it was the Good Guy speaking, how could they think that their belief of that fact, that the voices they hear are the voices of God, is itself 100% infallible?
  • While they don’t hear voices, they have a deep confidence that the conclusions to which they and their peer Bishops come through due deliberation and thought and Scripture study are in fact the beliefs that the Deity wants believers to hold, and therefore they feel justified in requiring everyone to believe them. This would mean they are amazing egomaniacs, basically (or, perhaps more honestly, douchebags).
  • They don’t hear voices, and they even realize that the conclusions they reach are just those of a small number of fallible humans in a fallible process, but they think it is best for the faithful not to realize this, and to think that something more reliable than that is going on, so they quash dissent not because they are certain that it is wrong, but for the ultimate good of those who might otherwise be confused by it, and so on. This would make them paternalistic condescending douchebags.
  • They don’t hear voices, and they realize that their conclusions are entirely fallible, but they enforce the notions of infallibility and “authentic teaching” just because they enjoy the power that it brings, and gives them sway over lots and lots of human minds, and this floats their boats. This would make them pretty much evil incarnate, and sadly I suspect that it’s the most likely explanation, although the prior two combined might beat it out probability-wise.

And that’s really about the end of the mulling. I conclude that the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church is a Bad Thing, but that’s not exactly a new thought. I get from the words of Christine Quinn (whose political views or other things might by the way for all I know be partially or wholly repugnant to me) a way of thinking about what a religion, or any similar system, might really be about, in a way that isn’t simply by looking at what the Officially Documented Leaders of the system think it’s about. And I get this deep puzzlement about what Catholic Bishops, for instance, who are apparently often intelligent people apparently committed to believing something patently false, must actually think down in their hearts of hearts.

Such a mystery, the world is!

And I want to close, or almost close, with one nice pithy snippet from a piece by Gary Willis in the New York Review of Books. In the current context it speaks pretty much for itself, making a point related to, but not the same as, my mullings above:

Now the Vatican says that nuns are too interested in “the social Gospel” (which is the Gospel), when they should be more interested in Gospel teachings about abortion and contraception (which do not exist).

Nicely said, I thought. :)

2012/06/19

More on the mysterious infographics

The plot continues to thicken! To recap, we originally got some spam from one Tony Shin (apparently “ohtinytony” on The Twitter), offering an infographic about World of Warcraft, and then not too long later on a different email address we got a similar one from “Jen R” offering a graphic about marijuana legalization, and awhile later yet another similar one from one Catherine Long, offering a graphic about Elon Musk (who is some entrepreneur-type, not a cologne).

We did a little poking around about these odd things, but didn’t find anything too informative. Just recently and by accident, we stumbled upon this press release about some exciting new infographic apparently created by QuinStreet, Inc (“one of the largest Internet marketing and media companies”). The infographic itself is very much in the style of the previous Tony-Shin-school infographics, and is hosted on “schools.com” (“your future starts here”), which is another of these extremely bland and generic and professionally-designed sites that prior infographics have had URLs to at the bottom.

So let’s look at QuinStreet dot com. (Woot, hello, stock-photo persons! Aren’t we nice and diverse?)

They are “the leader in vertical marketing and media online”, which is exciting. Oddly for such a prominent institution, the obvious web search turns up mostly pages on their own web site, pages they have created themselves on social media sites, a very brief Wikipedia article, a couple of news stories (or perhaps their own press releases?) about them buying some other generic-sounding organizations, and some related searches having to do with layoffs.

It’s not obvious from any of this the relationship between Quinstreet and the Mysterious Infographics of Tony Shin. So let’s try searching on Quinstreet infographic.

At the moment the first hit is Yahoo Finance reprinting another press release about Schools dot com hosting a Quinstreet infographic (this one). Surely Quinstreet does something other than making infographics to put up on its own sites? Let’s see…

Here’s some local Fox affiliate reprinting a press release about Robot Study Buddies, hosted on online schools dot com, which has got to be another generic Quinstreet site.

So I dunno, let’s try quinstreet tony shin

Whoa, jackpot!

Well, a small one at least. Tony has apparently posted ten or so of his infographics to famous bloggers dot net, whatever that is. Each one has the trademark generic hostname at the bottom; the oldest one points to Criminal Justice Degree dot net, which contains the usual extremely generic information, no obvious reference to Quinstreet, and a statement that it is copyright by Forensic Psychology dot net, which is (wait for it!) another very similar generic site, which has the same copyright notice (i.e. copyright by itself), and seems rather a dead end.

Another hit from the quinstreet infographic search is this page on html goodies dot com, which is a Quinstreet property. The page presents a very Tony-Shin style infographic about Silverlight and HTML5 and Flash or something. Some of the comments criticize the graphic for being shallow, or wrong, or being just the text that would otherwise have appeared as text, with some eyecandy around it. (That last from non-visual types like me!)

Various links from the html goodies page take us to just tech jobs dot com, and various other sites in the developer dot com empire, which is, naturally, owned by Quinstreet.

And then one final hit on quinstreet infographic takes us to this article on electronic staff dot com (which looks like another Quinstreet generic site) about yet another infographic, this one hosted on and featuring online degrees dot com (similarly), which says it is copyright “The Learning Voice”, which I was perhaps surprisingly unable to find yet another Quinstreet property for.

(That page is notable for being, unlike the other ones that I ran across in this, full of amusing gibberish; I give you for instance:

… iPhone 4S owners typically use Siri for many easier tasks, such as creation phone calls, acid a Web and promulgation content messages …
“We combined this infographic since we wanted to know — is Siri vital adult to all a hype?”
… QuinStreet is committed to providing consumers and businesses with a information they need to research, find and name a products, services and brands that accommodate their needs …

Translated to and from French or something maybe?)

But anyway it’s probably safe to conclude that Quinstreet at some point acquired the rights to a whole bunch of domain names, many of them sort of second-tier combinations of common words (Just Tech Jobs, Forensic Psychology, MBA Online, Criminal Justice Degree, and so on), and at least a few pretty killer (developer dot com, woot!). And they have put content on them that all point to themselves in a very SEOish sort of way.

But that still doesn’t tell us exactly who Tony Shin is (or Jen Rhee, or Catherine Long, or…), or why he is offering his infographics to random obscure philosophy webloggers. The mystery continues!

Oh, and lookee here, another one has just arrived:

From: Maggie Lewis

Hi David,

I am curious if you are the administrator for this site: http://www.davidchess.com/words/log.20010216.html

I came across your page while I was doing some research. I recently finished a resource on astronomy that I think may be useful to you and your readers.

Could you please let me know if you are the correct person to contact for potentially having a resource like this included on your page?

I appreciate your time in advance and hope you have a great day!

Best,
Maggie

Sent from pandasent.com, via smtp.com, forged to look like it’s coming from gmail.com; the same old MO. I think I will ask her about her resource; maybe it will look oddly familiar! :)

Update: woot lol! Searching about for information on the amusingly-named pandasent dot com got me to Mystery of the Infographics, where a clued person named Mark Turner is looking into our very same mystery in slightly different ways. Worth a read to any interested investigator! :)

Update the second: The above used to have a live link to Forensic Psychology dot net, until I removed it due to this interesting development.

2012/05/14

Tumbling, Pinning

In my general effort to Keep Up With Interesting Social Technologies, I’ve been looking at tumblr a bit, and since pinterest was also on my to-examine list, I was pleased when following a link from a tumblr posting led me to a pinterest posting.

And my first thought was “hey, this is just tumblr again”.

On slightly closer examination, that’s not quite right. Both of them are places that make it easy to gather and share images and text and stuff, with somewhat similar user interfaces, but there are two big differences:

A) tumblr is dominated by angsty 15-year-olds, whereas pinterest is dominated by their Aunts, and

B) while pinterest does not allow nudity, tumblr basically requires it.

Which isn’t to overgeneralize and say that every tumblr account is an angsty 15-year-old posting airbrushed bondage models alternating with poems about being true to themselves, while every pinterest account is a grown-up suburban Aunt posting cupcake recipes and Sylvia Plath; but it is at least much truer than the reverse would be, which says something.

There’s alot to say about the subtle differences in user interface emphasis and affordances that make pinterest and tumblr slightly different from each other, and even more different from say wordpress’s or blogspot’s or typepad’s weblogifying software.

But instead I thought I would delve into the nudity. :)

Kind of an interesting situation in the pinterest realm. The pin etiquette says:

We do not allow nudity, hateful content, or content that encourages people to hurt themselves. If you find content that violates our Terms of Service or Acceptable Use Policy you can submit the content for review by pushing the ”Report Content“ link.

which certainly suggested to me that either the terms of service or acceptable use policy would say that they don’t allow nudity.

But neither one says that! Or anything else that I can read as saying that, unless it’s implicit in the extremely broad:

contains any information or content we deem to be hateful, violent, harmful, abusive, racially or ethnically offensive, defamatory, infringing, invasive of personal privacy or publicity rights, harassing, humiliating to other people (publicly or otherwise), libelous, threatening, profane, or otherwise objectionable;

(Maybe they “deem” nudity to be “profane” or “otherwise objectionable”? Who knows!) or possibly in:

seeks to harm or exploit children by exposing them to inappropriate content

in case posting a nude to pinterest would be ipso facto seeking to harm the various child readers by exposing them to inappropriate nipples.

(pinterest is very clear that if you’re under 13 you aren’t allowed to use the service (ref COPA), but it’s not clear how relevant that is.)

So nudeness is forbidden explicitly (haha see what I did there?) in the Etiquette guide, but hinted at only vaguely in the more official documents that it refers to (to which it refers).

(There’s also the whole subject of fully clothed sex, which is a link you may not want to click on.)

On tumblr, on the other hand, there is a whole mechanism around posting nudeness and sex and general debauchery:

Tumblr is home to millions of readers and bloggers from a variety of locations, cultures, and backgrounds with different points of view concerning adult-oriented content. If you regularly post sexual or adult-oriented content, respect the choices of people in our community who would rather not see such content by flagging your blog (which you can do from the Settings page of each blog) as Not Suitable for Work (“NSFW”). This action does not prevent you and your readers from using any of Tumblr’s social features, but rather allows Tumblr users who don’t want to see NSFW content to avoid seeing it.

The unstated assumption there being that you and your readers love teh sexytimes, but some hypothetical Tumblr users (perhaps those who have wandered over from pinterest by accident) might be more delicate.

And just below that, the Tumblr Community Standards very amusingly use The Eff Word (“fucking”) when discussing why they don’t let you store feelthy videos on their servers:

You can embed anything as long as it follows the other guidelines on this page. But please don’t use Tumblr’s Upload Video feature to host any sexually explicit videos. We’re not in the business of profiting from adult-oriented videos and hosting this stuff is fucking expensive. You can use services like xHamster to host those instead.

which is also very helpful and friendly of them.

So there are two very interestingly-different communities, built on two very similar pieces of technology. (tumblr has “tags”, of which you can attach multiple to each posting, and people can search by them; whereas pinterest has “topics” to which I think each posting must be posted to maybe just one of, and you can search on them, and easily view any poster’s postings organized by them. Again subtly and perhaps significantly different. tumblr has “reblogging” of other people’s postings, which is probably the most common thing done on the site; pinterest has “re-pinning” which is also common but perhaps not quite as fundamental.)

And to go out on a high note, here is a not-NSFW picture from tumblr:

and one from pinterest:

Can’t explain that!

2011/11/17

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Okay, so, random update! I’m on vacation this week, which has been very nice and restful. Some small (well, variable-sized) voice is telling me that I ought to be actually doing special vacation-things during it, but mostly I haven’t been.

I did go and get a massage at the Club, which was pricey but lovely (all that oxytocin!); tomorrow the plan (slightly tentative, but a plan) is to go down into The Big City, maybe see Steve (who yeah hasn’t updated for awhile), maybe go to Poet’s House, which is for no particular reason my current NYC Heart’s Desire (having finally accomplished my original one the other year, and my second one more recently (did I really not write about that anywhere? seems implausible)), maybe just sort of bop around insouciantly (WordPress thinks that is not a word, more fool it).

I didn’t go today because (A) it is Cold and Grey out, and (B) the city is all busy being occupied, and while I do support the protestors in spirit, I don’t seem to be prepared to either occupy along with them, or route around them, in person (and why not, another variable-volume voice inquires, why not?).

I have made basically zero more progress on the novel, which is somewhat surprising. I figured a week’s vacation (which means nine days all told) would be the obvious time to write an’ write an’ write, but it hasn’t worked out that way. I am not into forcing myself to do stuff while on vacation. :) I’ve tried a few times, but the Story So Far is apparently not something that I see alot of inspiring possibilities in.

(It is funny how Word Mavens and spellcheckers insist that “alot” is not a valid word, and everyone should write “a lot”. I am not quite descriptivist to think that anything where you have to keep telling people that they’re doing it wrong is probably therefore correct (I am a hard-liner on apostrophe-use, for instance), but eventually one does have to cede the field, especially on things that I like to use.)

I seem to be entirely bored with World of Warcraft (and apparently I’m not the only one); it’s amusing to see that in a break with some previous practice WoW is apparently getting playable Pandas in the next expansion. We’ll see if that lures me back; I dunno.

I’m sort of plateaued on Glitch at the moment also; I’ve done a bit of everything, I’ve run around everywhere; there are a bunch of more badges and trophies that I could get but… For now I’ve released my piggies, and I’m just poking my head in now and then.

For unknown reasons I’ve started playing Illyriad, which is one of those sort of multi-player online versions of Civilization, where you build tanneries and upgrade barracks and chop wood and send scouts and armies around and stuff. This is I think me here, but we’ll see how long I remain actually interested.

Second Life, in contrast, continues to be fresh an’ interesting (the virtues of user-generated content). I’ve been generally hanging out and exploring stuff as usual, and for the first time gotten into some PvE combat, which I’ve never really done in SL before. And in order to figure out how that works I’ve started fiddling with my own combat scripts; maybe I will post the sources to the Wiki once I have it all working (it will be simpler than the full blown open-source RPG system that’s out there now, so maybe easier to learn stuff from). Unless I get distracted. Which I usually do. :)

(Today’s distraction, while I was fiddling with combat scripts, was a friend I hadn’t talked to in ages IMing me at random and eventually mentioning that she’d gotten into SL Golf lately, and of course we ended up going off golfing a bit together, which was fun.)

What else what else? I’ve been watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer episodes (in order from the beginning) on Netflix streaming on the iPad (did I mention that?). I last watched Season Three: Episode Five (“Homecoming”). It’s a kinda guilty pleasure :) but really it’s pretty good, most of the time. I get annoyed when things happen too obviously for plot reasons, but that’s only once in awhile.

Soon I will be caught up as of the end of 1998!

And finally, what’s up with people behind counters saying “Can I help who’s next?”? (Or possibly “Can I help who’s next?”) Is that an East Coast thing? A New York thing? A suburban thing? Do people say that around you? Maybe someone can ask Language Hat

2011/10/21

Friday, October 21, 2011

So I don’t understand this kind of spam:

Hello,

My name is Franco Cavalier am sending you this email regarding in Purchasing Product from your company,I will like to know if you can ship directly to France , I also want you to know my mode of payment for this order is via CC . Get back to me if you can ship to that destination and also if you accept the payment type I indicated

Kindly return this email with your price list of your products..

Franco.

201, rue de Grenelle

FR – 75357 PARIS

FRANCE

Slightly even more puzzling because it was sent to my work address (in ibm dot com), and it was sent from an email address of “dummy” at somewhere in France (with a reply-to at a gmail dot com address).

What value does anyone get by spamming out a request for lists of goods that can be paid for by credit card and shipped to France?

I suppose he might just be gathering email addresses in general, to spam or to sell? But surely if you want to test to see if a vast number of email addresses are valid, you’d want to maximize the chance that the person will write back, and in that case asking for lists of products that can be bought via credit card and shipped to France doesn’t do that.

They could just be validating a big list of email addresses by sending any old junk to them and seeing what bounces, but (1) email agents don’t send “no such user” replies anymore, as I recall, for exactly this reason, and (2) this is an awfully weird “any old junk”. I’d hate to think that some spammer address-collector had this nice a sense of the absurd.

Ah, mysteries, mysteries…

I just got The Physics Book from Amazon (I think I’d pre-ordered it or something), and it’s lovely. Bigger and fancier than I’d expected, a nice weighty hardcover with lots of short entries about interesting physics things, and great pictures.

You should get it, too! And not just because the author’s office is more or less across the hall from mine or anything. :)

I’ve just started reading it (the introduction and then a few completely random pages), but I think I will enjoy it greatly; it’s nice and bite-sized (a box of intellectual chocolates!), which fits my current (tiny) attention span nicely.

I’m also enjoying The Quantum Thief quite a bit, in the digital edition, despite having sort of forgotten about it for long enough that starting out again I didn’t quite remember just who everyone was, or what had happened to whom previously. But it’s the kind of book in which you’re enjoying trying to figure out what’s going on anyway, so that hasn’t been a big problem. And the tech and the world and the culture(s) and all are interesting while one is trying to work it all out.

It occurs to me that I could just sort of leave this entry, with the date at the top, open in WordPress all day, and hit Publish in the evening or whenever I felt like I wasn’t going to write anything elsemore to speak of.

Maybe I’ll do that. Although I might forget. And it’s also nice to Publish shortly after writing, and get that sense of Accomplishment.

So for NaNoWriMo this year, assuming I convince myself that I have time, I’m thinking about a nonlinear hyperlinked novel. Say, 100 interlinked pages at 500 words per page? Or 500 100-word pages, or anything on that curve. Something like The Forked Stick, only I would “finish” it in a month, and not leave it hanging forever like I did with that. :)

Water Street runs close by the river, into the Dun Quarter, which is quiet but far from silent in this moony night, breathing with the sharp stillness of the river and the easy aches of poverty and long practice.

To one side is the pier, and across the street is an old building where a sign shows a cup and a hen. Far down at the other end of the street, the Long Temple broods in a feverish silent sleep.

(I am still quite proud of the Tic Tac Toe game embedded in The Forked Stick. Wow, that was some time ago!)

Didn’t you mean to say you assassinate your enemies
Didn’t you mean to say you kill journalists and artists
Didn’t you mean to say you give orders for the murder
Didn’t you mean to say you sell drugs to make your fortune
Holly Near, “Edge”

I don’t actually recall how Edge got onto the iPad here, but I’m enjoying it very much. Energy, novelty.

Also enjoying The Dresden Dolls:

and you can tell
from the smoke at the stake
that the current state is critical
well it is the little things, for instance:
in the time it takes to break it she can make up ten excuses:
please excuse her for the day, its just the way the medication makes her…
girl anachronism

What else should one mention in one’s weblog? I’m sure there are other things that will occur to me later in the day. But at the moment the desire to see it published and In The Can seems sort of strongish. So I will probably push Publish sometime in the next minute or so, assuming the universe and its laws continue more or less unchanged (something that it’s not clear how justified we are in assuming, or whether it matters whether we are).

Yep, here we go!

See you on the other side! :)

2011/08/31

Offlining

It’s odd being offline. Not that I’m entirely, or even primarily, offline. But I am significantly offline, and that’s significant.

(Hm, I don’t know how to control emphasis in this WordPress iPad app; pretend “significantly” is in italics, or HTML emphasis tags, in that previous paragraph, ‘kay?)

Sometime on ummm Sunday? Yeah, M confirms that it was Sunday, at about fourish PM, just when we were getting smug about the Enormous Hurricane having passed us with minimal damage to anything but a few hundred leaves forcibly removed from trees, the power suddenly went out.

And it’s still out! Many minutes, even days, later! And so is the Internet connection!

Meanwhile, in the basement, the half-inch of water that I figured would be our tenuous bond with people who had actual problems from the storm, got a bit over five inches deep before it started down again, and there’s still a good three inches down there. Which means, among other things, no hot water. And lots of very wet basement-stuffs.

And we still don’t have actual problems. :)

I mean, no trees fell on the house or cars, no one was injured in any way, no one is sick, and Panera has power and Internet, and work has power and Internet, and for that matter our cellphones have power (as long as they get to work or Panera now and then) and Internet (annoying and probably sneakily expensive and tiny-screened as they are, being nice primitive low-function cellphones), and there’s no water in the house anywhere but the basement, and so on and so on.

The iPad has a nice long battery life. (Especially given Panera, work, etc.)

And I’m getting pretty good at Sudoku.

I’m also reading some old-fashioned paper books, by flashlight and atmospheric candle-light, as well as some of the books cached on the device here, by the intrinsic glow of the screen. And getting to sleep (much) earlier.

But I do miss Second Life, and WoW, and all of that there virtual online stuff. (I did sneak into SL for a couple of minutes on my work laptop, during a boring conference call, to check on my virtual plants; the virtual sprinkler has been working fine and they are virtually healthy, and producing little virtual cuttings for virtual hybridization, although I could swear that I ought to have had another second-virtual-generation virtual hybrid by now and I didn’t notice one, grumble grumble.)

I’ve keeping up with virtual events to an extent by reading Dale’s Twitter feed; but it’s not really about the events. It’s more about putting one’s feet up at the end of a tiring day, and falling through the screen into a place where there is no PowerPoint, and no office politics, and you can fly, and fight the bad guys (ha, I can’t even remember that big Bad Guy group’s name; the Cult of Something, I think), and create a zeppelin with your mind and all.

And in the case of Second Life getting to talk to all those fascinating friends and not-yet-friends, and in the case of WoW getting to be pretty much completely antisocial, except for groups of random strangers and now and then a group of vaguely-known guildies to gang up on the unsuspecting and infinitely reborn evil monsters. (Some people get very social on WoW (see for instance the very funny and memorable “The Guild” web video series that I would link to if I weren’t offline), but I’m not one of them; SL is my virtual social, and Zeppelin-creating, place. WoW is for introversion!)

And (what’s with all of these “and”s?) I can’t do any of that stuff right now. But really it’s not too bad. Fasts of all kinds are good for the soul, in moderation, and this way I’m forced to enjoy the good old-fashioned offline things.

Well…

Good old-fashioned offline things including this iPad, that is. :)

(P.S. Weird Al’s “Genius in France” is a (begin emphasis)very(end emphasis) odd track. Is there some back-story there, or is he just being… weird? Maybe I will look it up next time I am in Panera…)

(P.P.S. “Twilight’s Hammer”, that’s it!)

(P.P.P.S. And the health club also has power and Internet, and now the water is just over one inch, but the water heater still won’t stay lit…)

2011/08/15

And here I am…

… composing a really tiny weblog post, from the iPad, using the special wordpress iPad app (“app”), rather than the web page via Safari.

It works better! Which isn’t surprising, but… shouldn’t safari have worked right in the first place?

Back in the old days of (wow what was it even called?) the special quasi-HTML just for cellphones, I opined that it would be short-lived, because cellphones would just get smart enough to do normal HTML; and I was pretty much right.

It’s more complex for “apps” of course, they aren’t just about being lighter weight, but also about being friendlier, better-behaved. But still, why not just have the website work?

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2011/08/15

Small arrays of words

It is apparently possible to post here from an iPad! Although not, it seems, to add tags or new categories. Odd little bugs, them.

I got a new telephone in the mail today, because the previous one was literally (by which I mean literally) falling apart.

I got a BlueTooth headset with the new phone, because it was cheaper that way. Apparently. I am still deeply suspicious.

My fancy coffee machine is leaking. Did I mention that M got me a fancy coffee machine the other month/year? Let’s see…

I did! At Solstice 2009, it seems. And now it leaks. These things happen.

Oh, what else, what else? There is so much I have not told you, all of these silent non-posting days weeks months.

I have been in Second Life significantly, I have been in World of Warcraft. I have two level 85 characters (“toons”) in the latter, and my paladin tank is level 74 and rising. Although at the moment I’m bored by WoW again.

Not having cursor movement keys on the iPad is a drag!

I think Google’s silly and inconsistently applied and badly rationalized Real Names policy is ill-thought-out and quite likely evil.

I am distressed or amused by the current Republican front-runners, depending on how detached I feel at the time.

My libertarianness is slipping significantly, as I see the extent that people can gain wealth and power by completely legal means, including means that would be legal even in a libertarian regime, without deserving it in any particularly significant sense. Redistribution doesn’t seem like such an unworthy goal in that context.

(See for instance Warren Buffet on how little taxes he and his extremely rich friends pay.)

The adorable tiny cat, like the adorable tiny children, gets bigger and bigger. (Unlike them she will not be going to college, which is good for the tuition budget.) The little daughter is about to turn 21, which is utterly astounding. (Her New York driver’s license, without the “beware, underage person” banner on it, just came; she is pleased.)

How fast the time passes! An hour every hour, a day every day. At the very least!

Things, all told (not that all has been told), are good…