kirk.is | archive | 2005 sep

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go crazy on a night like tonight

(36 comments)
September 1, 2005
Whenever we get to this time of year, I always find that one Indigo Girls lyric coming to mind...
i could go crazy on a night like tonight
when summer's beginning to give up her fight
The other thing I have to do these days is re-adapt to living at night, to cancel out the feeling that darkness means I should be safe back at home, possibly thinking about bed. It takes surprisingly long for me to reacclimate to driving in the dark.

I'm still proning to thinking that this latitude is way too far north for me. But friends and assorted loved ones, along with understanding the area, keep me here.

Sports Quote of the Moment
"There were some good things. There were some other things that weren't so good."
--Patriots coach Bill Belichick after the preseason loss against the Saints. The funny thing is that's ALL he says, in effect, for the entire thing. Man, reporting on the Pats must be a tough job sometimes. He sounds a tad last dour after the romp over Green Bay, but only barely. Of course, it's just the preseason.

Given the personal disasters many of the Saints players are having to deal with, I really hope the preseason victory over the "Superbowl Champs" isn't the highlight of their playing year.


Geekness of the Moment
At work we started talking about the geographical difficulties of New Orleans. Jokingly, my coworker mentioned that we should just get everyone in the USA to send a cup of dirt down so they can build it up. Well, intense feats of geekish estimation are now made easier with Google's built in calculator...I typed in "300,000,000 cups in cubic feet", got back around 2.5 million cubic feet. I've heard the water is 20 feet deep in places, so lets say we want it 10 feet deep...that's .25 million square feet, which is a square 500 feet on each side. Not enough dirt I'm afraid, even if we lower our standards for depth or somewhat increase the amount of dirt sent in per person.

y not 2k?

(4 comments)
September 2, 2005
Ongoing Bad News of the Moment
For the record, this is kind of what I expected for all over the USA during Y2K, at least in 1998. (By mid-1999, it was clear that a number of systems had been rolling over with no problem.) The "advantage" for Y2K was that it didn't have the physical infrastructure blowout that they have right now down south; conversely, a Y2K scenario meant there would be no "outside" to ship aid in.

It almost makes me want to get my survivalist mojo working.

I would say, I wonder if there's anyway we're going to avoid an oil-shockish recession from all this. (slate has similar thoughts.)

Of course, any questioning of Bush's push for a taxcut early on, and the negative effcts thereof, are handwaved away by 9/11 and now maybe this. I just read a good, if scary, analysis of this in Atlantic, written from a hypothetical future campaign advisor looking back to 2008-2012 or so. Bush strived to eliminate a guesstimated surplus that never showed up, with no concept of setting aside resources for a rainy day. And if the Iraq war wasn't neccesary, it's an unnecesary brutal ongoing drain on our economic and military strength. (Slate has argues that this is a huge test and failing grade for "Homeland Security".)

[UPDATE in 2015: the "this" was Hurricane Katrina]

quick 20

(6 comments)
September 3, 2005
Kirktrivia of the Moment
  1. i had to go pee before writing this
  2. i'm dating a nice gal from Russia right now
  3. I checked the starting time with the little LCD display on my desk phone, even though I guess the clock on my laptop would've worked just as well
  4. I spoke with a calypso accent at first, learning to speak on the island of St. Thomas in the virgin islands.
  5. therefore my first words to my (probably racist, and not happy about his grandkid talking like an islander) were "Heyyyyyy Poppa Samm" -- you have to imagine the accent for that I'm afraid
  6. I don't like it when my wrists get warm from my laptop
  7. i think prose is better than poetry
  8. i'm not very romantic despite running the romance poetry community website "blender of love"
  9. I have the domain "mortals.be" so that http://lord.what.fools.these.mortals.be should be a valid domain
  10. i like to drink a lot of water but haven't landed on a vessel I'm truly happy with. Right now I'm using a big plastic tumbler, which carrries a risk of tumbling. before this i tried gallon jugs and reusing clear plastic soda bottles, but the jugs are tough to clean out and the bottles are kind of skanky and don't hold much water
  11. i think i'm about as heavy as i've ever been
  12. i can seal my nostrils just by inhaling hard, and also flare them at will. the former always gets more laughs, even though as a kid I thought the latter was more impressive and unique
  13. I don't think I have the writing cajones to be a famous writer.
  14. I'm a touch neurotic. I'm prone to very intermitent anxiety attacks.
  15. The attacks seemed to get there start around Y2k anxieties in 1998 or so, but they find various subjects to latch on to from time to time.
  16. I'm paralyzingly afraid of proof coming out that I'm not the smartest guy in the room. I'd rather not try and fail then try and fail and prove my lack of inborn greatness.
  17. Diet Coke with Lime is my favorite soft drink, the one I'll probably grab when presented with a full array at a store
  18. I've been to Canada, Mexico, Portugal, England, and Germany. Curiously I've never been west of the Mississippi in the USA, except maybe for a half-forgotten airport stop on route to Mexico.
  19. I sometimes feel like I'm in a low level digital photography contest with my ex-wife. I've been doing it a lot longer but she recently went the fancier camera route. I don't think she knows about this.
  20. I changed fact #2 to make it less incriminating. (the subject changed completely, it wasn't about my romantic life at all previously)
--Response to a "Write 20 Random Facts (true or not)" in morecake's livejournal. Supposedly then you're allowed or supposed to ask many people to do likewise as minutes it took....12 in my case. Mmmmm....EB, FoSO, LAN3, Lex, 'ELM, 'ELAS, Mr. Ibis, Beau, Sarah, Nick B, ErinMaru, Aparajita...feel free to try it, it's kind of amusing. (Dylan too but I don't even know if he's around and about.)

16 is one of my biggest character flaws, previously references (top quote there.) 19 is of course patently silly, and also previously noted


feh

(21 comments)
September 4, 2005
Having Internet connectvity problems so I'm prewriting this the day before, just as a hedge against not being able to get back online.

Poltical Potshot of the Moment
"I don't think anybody anticipated the breach of the levees."
--President Bush being wrong. Look just because "paying attention to the world outside your agenda" isn't your strong suit, Mr. President, doesn't mean you speak for everyone.

Followup: and please stop feeding us that this is a "Perfect Storm" type coincidence of events. It's not. Katrina veered off the city proper, and lots of people could say: it won't just be overflow, there very well might be a break. "Ultracatastrophe", feh.

What I REALLY wonder about; what is the motivation of the people taking potshots at rescue helicopters? Idiots looking for a thrill? Lawbreakers who somehow prefer anarchy to the attempts to keep order? Paranoids who think the copters are out to get them? Sadists who dig human suffering? Stark raving loonies? People mad that they weren't earlier on some list to get aid? Seriously, there has to be SOME kind of reason, as reprehensible as it might be. (FOLLOWUP: not sure if it answers "why helicopters" but the mayor thinks desperate drug addicts are a big part of the problem right now.)


Snappy Comeback of the Moment
"Are we there yet? Are we there yet? Are we there yet?"
"Sure we are, you can go ahead and get out..."
--Came up with a pretty useful answer to a facetious question, but Ksenia wasn't amused so very much by it.

laboring away

(4 comments)
September 5, 2005
Again, prewriting this as a hedge against by 'Net service being down...it's up at the moment, and the Comcast guy is on his way, but I predict it's going to be more difficult to fix this when it's not broken at the moment...

Quote of the Moment
"The winters so cold, summer's over too soon.
Let's pack our bags and settle down where palm trees grow.
And I've got some friends, some that I hardly know.
We've had some times I wouldn't trade for the world,
We chase these days down with talks of the places that we will go."
--Rise Against. Nice thought for Labor Day.

Update of the Moment
Ksenia and I had dinner with some of my family last night. My mom was there...she actually had to step out to take some cell calls about the Massachusetts Salvation Army's longer term response during the time. She had one answer to the "why shoot at the helicopters" question which made some kind of twisted sense...it might be people who are frustrated that they or there loved ones aren't higher up on the queue for being rescued or receiving help, and are trying to change the equation or express rage. LAN3, similar logic might be behind threatening the levee.

Yikes. Assuming that's more or less true, you know that movie cliché about how a hero is willing to ssacrifice anything, including risking many other people, in order to help his immediate family and loved ones? This is what it looks like from the other side.

tiger tiger burning...well, pretty bright, actually

(5 comments)
September 6, 2005
Advice of the Moment
"But keeping feelings bottled up is like holding an angry tiger by the tail: Unless you hold on tight, he'll kill you--metaphorically. Realistically, if you have a tiger by the tail, he'll kill you whether you hold on or not. In fact, if you hold his tail he'll probably find you quicker. All he has to do is follow his body down to the end of his tail, and there you are. But not for long. Sure, technically you might be able to continue holding on to the tail while he is gnawing on your skull, but this is merely a muscle reflex. Let's face it, once the head leaves the body, you aren't doing much of anything. I guess my point is, don't touch tigers' tails. They don't like it. They are very flexible and have powerful paws with razor sharp, retratable claws. I don't even want to talk about the teeth."
--"Russel Hokes" in "Wigfield: The Can-Do Town That Just May Not". My 'net connection has been down as much as up this weekend...yesterday I got a lot of reading done, two books, two small graphic novels. That was a nice change of pace.

Link of the Moment
How I Failed The Turing Test. I've argued for a while that chatbots have passed a watered-down form of the test; if people aren't paying attention, and sometimes even if they are, they think these chatscripts are humans. (And vice versa, now...)

occam's shaving gel

(13 comments)
September 7, 2005
"Question with boldness even the existence of a God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason, then that of blindfolded fear."
--Thomas Jefferson, via Lex's blog

It's an interesting thought, and a good response to Fundie Christians who assume the founding fathers thought the way Fundie Christians do now. But it falls prey to a certain fallacy, the "I used to think that the brain was the most fascinating part of the body. Then I realized, 'look who's telling me that.'" problem that Emo Phillips set forth.

Isaiah 55:9 has God saying
For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.
I used to think this was a great big copout. But at the risk of taking a sci-fi and/or transhumanist approach to this...if God is a system outside of our system, if our universe is the equivalent of a petri dish, carefully isolated and exceedingly more limited than the one God works in (an idea which, interestingly, diminishes God along with us, for God might just be a small part of some even larger system), then who's to say that logic and rational thinking amounts to a hill of beans? Maybe the rules that run the universe, despite seeming to line up fairly well to logical analysis, really do have threads (supersuperstrings, I guess...) that are so outlandish, that extend to something so far outside of our system that we'll never have a hope of understanding it.

(Of course, this "meta-rationality" is just a brand of rationality itself, recursively suggesting its own demise. Still, it's interesting that Thomas Jefferson doesn't acknowledge the risk.)

God doesn't have to play fair. Maybe he simply demands "blind faith"...either because it follows some consistent rules that we'll never be able to fathom, or just on a whim. As for the multitide of religions...maybe we just need to pick one, and stick with it. Then would agnostic skepticism be less acceptable than one of these faiths? Maybe, maybe not. Who knows? (Of course there's always that one rhetorical trick, maybe the afterlife is whatever you expect it to be. In that case, I better start thinking in terms of paradise for everyone, including a lazy bum like me!)

This would seem to be a disregard for Occam's Razor, that we must avoid "needlessly multiplying entities". But who's to say what "needless" is? You could do a lot of great science just in using Newton's beautiful and elegant laws, before realizing the need to use more and more complex rules once things really start speeding up and getting large.

I guess you could always try a utilitarian approach...if there are questions about the hereafter that won't be answered in this world, then we might as well live by the advice in Vonnegut's Book of Bokonon:
Live by the foma that make you brave and kind and healthy and happy
According to that page, Foma are "lies" or "harmless untruths". There's something to be said for that. There's still the meta-problem here, to what extent can the tolerant be tolerant of intolerance, since it's such an assymetrical situation? (The old Onion.com ACLU Defends Neo-Nazi Group's Right to Burn Down Its Headquarters dilemna.) So many other people--especially in the United States and the Middle East--feel that their belief system needs to be all-encompassing or else it (and society) all falls apart...I guess its ground I've covered before...search this site for "fundamentalist" to see more about that, lest I repeat myself more than I already am. Oh what the heck:
"Since there is no higher authority than God, and, since there can be no higher priority than obeying him, the entire notion of separating politics and religion is inherently troublesome to the fundamentalist mind."
--Andrew Sullivan.
Boy howdy!

you begin to look at yourself in the mirror and wonder

(15 comments)
September 8, 2005
Passage of the Moment
It took me twenty-nine minutes to get to the Van Nuys Hotel.

Once long ago it must have had a certain elegance. But no more.

The memories of old cigars hung to its ceiling and of its leather lounge chairs.

Room 332 was at the the back of the corridor, near the door to the fire escape. The hall that led to it had a smell of old furniture oil and the drab anonymity of a thousand shabby lives.

The hotel dick, a real dope by the name of Flack, told me that the party in Room 332 had checked in at 2:47 P.M. under the name of Dr. G. W. Hambleton, El Centro, California.

Of course I had to pry it out of him. There are days like that. Everybody you meet is a dope. You begin to look at yourself in the mirror and wonder.

--"The Little Sister", Michael Lark's graphic novel adaption of Raymond Chandler's novel. Great stuff, the comic really captures the noir sensibility. I love the world-weary self deprecation of that final bit.

Milestone of the Moment
100 billion bics. Yow. One of those under-appreciated technologies, I'd say.

pandora rocks

(9 comments)
September 9, 2005
Yay! Patriots are off to a good start.

Link of the Moment
LAN3 msg'd me last night with the following:

http://www.pandora.com/
A few months ago I heard on NPR's WESat about the Music[al] Genome Project, which was an effort to catalog songs by up to 400 musical attributes, and then use this massive database to find music-- other songs or other artists that are similar. At the time of that interview, they couldn't or wouldn't say in which form people would get to use the database. But now it's here! Quite cool. You can put in songs or artists you like, and it'll find other stuff you'll probably really like and probably things you haven't heard. The only thing it won't do is play direct requests-- if you put in a song name, it'll eventually get to playing it, but isn't allowed, per license, to do it directly.

I have to admit...this thing is GREAT...superslick presentation, it seems to have its licenses in order...it combines some of the best elements of the old Napster and just hanging around college dorms, talking with people who knew more about pop music than you.

I love the effort to pindown musical genres...my favorite song "Groove is in the Heart" brings me to songs with "pop rock qualities, minor key tonality, a busy horn section, a clear focus on recording studio production and groove based composition, disco influences, rap influences, electronica influences and danceable grooves".

I might well end up subscribing to this. Thanks LAN3!


Song of the Moment
I'm always on the lookout for pop-culture references to The Salvation Army. They show up more often than you might guess if you're looking for them. So far my favorite is how Nietzsche gripes about them in stuff like "Beyond Good and Evil".

Anyway, the other day I stumbled upon the lyrics to Salvation Army Girl by Jake Thackray. The lyrics are a bit suggestive...mostly they remind me of some of the adolescent romances I had in the church, back in the day. I was mildly impressed by all the little references in the song.

(Another thing I googled recently is The Skeleton Army, a sometimes violent anti-Salvationist group...The Salvation Army has a page about them including the front page of one of a newspaper sheet they put out.)

Quick Link of the Moment
Looks like it would've been cool to go to this one electronic intreactivity festival in Austria; check out the photogallery.

fun facts about bulkwater dam

(3 comments)
September 10, 2005

FUN FACT:
There is enough concrete in the Bulkwater Dam (4.8 million cubic yards) to build a vertical highway as wide as the dam that would reach all the way to the top!


FUN FACT:
More men died in the building of the Bulkwater Dam than at the Battle of Shiloh.


FUN FACT:
The Bulkwater Dam is so thick and so heavy, if it were to fall onto itself it would crush both its original self as well as its falling counterpart.


FUN FACT:
Upon completion of the dam, hard hats emblazoned with the words Bulkwater Dam were handed out as rewards to any construction workers who hadn't died of head injuries.


FUN FACT:
Bulkwater Dam's structural volume surpasses the largest pyramid in Egypt, and its burial chambers are filled with treasures beyond the pharaoh's wildest dreams.


FUN FACT:
If all the copper wiring used in the Bulkwater Dam were laid end to end it would reach less than an inch. There is no copper wire in the Bulkwater Dam.


FUN FACT:
If the Bulkwater Dam was mechanically animated and fitted with a giant robot brain, it would successfully conquer the planet, forcing enslaved humans to work in its vast network of zinc mines. It could not be stopped!


--from "Wigfield: The Can-Do Town That Just May Not" Information About Bulkwater Dam

pop culture

(15 comments)
September 11, 2005
Movie of the Moment
A brief video of a bunny trying to find love with a balloon. Personally, I think having a lover disappear like that would be a most distressing experience.

Sleepy Talk of the Morning
A bit of early morning conversation between Me and Ksenia...it's just PG-13, and not in a personal way, but Mom filter engaged, highlight text with mouse or hit Ctrl-A to read.
<filter type="mom" tip="highlight text with mouse or hit ctrl-a to read">
"We need to get up."
"Ehhrmmmmm....not yet."
"No we have to get up."
"What time is it?"
"Like 8."
"Guh, you're right."
"Of course. I'm always right."
"No, I'm always right!"
"That's a good point. You are the sun of rightness, and I am merely the moon, just reflecting a bit of your rightness at night."
"Mmmm-hmmm."
"You're right New York City, and I'm merely right New Jersey. You're the Eiffel Tower of rightness, and I'm the Arc de Triomphe."
"..."
"You're a great big garbage dump of right, and I'm only a little toxic stream running off of it."
"I liked the sun and the moon thing better."
"You're the penis of rightness, and I'm just the pubic hair around it. No, better...you're the vagina of rightness, I'm just the bellybutton of rightness."
"..."
"But the clitoris of truth is: we have to get up, like now."
"OK I'm going!"
</filter>

life at camp edwards

(12 comments)
September 12, 2005
Yesterday I did some work with my (AKA Major Betty Israel, aka "YELM"), my Aunt Susan, and my Uncle Bill at Otis Air National Guard Base. I kind of acted as an apprentice to my uncle in constructing some chest-high freestanding walls for a safe childrens play corner (the idea is that it will be a monitored "dropoff point" for children as adults go to the services booths set up for the various agencies, both governmental (Social Services, IRS, etc) and volunteer (Salvation Army).) With all those organizations and the military, there are some tremendous communication and chain-of-command challenges, but things seem to be sorting themselves out.

Forgive the following cliches, but...the chance to be near NOLA displacees in person did "bring things home" for me, and acted as a reminder of how many lives have been completely disrupted, and to such a degree. I saw the TV and web reports, but...well, that's just the TV and web I guess, even for an online child like me.

There was a nice moment near the end of our time there, my Uncle and I kneeling in the parking lot over the drilling of the last wall panels-- it was the start of a beautiful sunset over some literal "amber waves of grain" (or something similar...I'm not much of a farmer...), and in the distance I could hear a church service for and by the folks from New Orleans...some really joyful gospel music and some enthusiastic preaching. Couldn't make out the words, but I think there's something amazing in being able to count blessings and live hope and faith even through a time of disaster and displacement.

Also by apprenticing for my Uncle I learned a few things about construction and using tools...and not just "I still don't have much of an instict for this", even though that's true.

Oh, and a collective sigh of relief for another uneventful September 11th. I'm sure it's a time when Jihadists are itching to remind us of their capabilities to cause destruction and harm.

Targeted Link of the Moment
Just for Lex: The Ten Stupidest Utopias. Hope this takes your mind off your sexed-up cat, yo.

help me take my life less seriously

(3 comments)
September 13, 2005
Lyric of the Moment
The best thing you've ever done for me
Is to help me take my life less seriously, it's only life after all
--Indigo Girls, Closer To Fine. These lines that keep going through my head. I'm not sure if they apply to how I actually feel, or if it's just a catchy thought...but if it keeps up it might become a sort of mantra for me, at least the time being.

Questions of the Moment
1. How would you describe yourself as a child between the ages of 5 and 12?
If you're like most people you are still the little boy or girl you once were.

2. What did you learn about women (or, if you're talking to a woman, about men) when you were growing up?
By asking a prospective spouse about men and women in general you will find out what he or she thinks about them.

3. What are three or four of your childhood memories?
These memories will reveal your partner's past hurts, fears, and anxieties--and give you a glimpse into his or her general view of life.

4. How would you describe either of your parents?
Either is the important word here. The parent your date chooses to describe first is usually the one who had the greatest impact.

5. What were your siblings like?
Your potential love did not grow up in a vacuum; she or he developed a personality as part of a delicate interplay with brothers or sisters. To truly understand someone, you must understand how the person sees herself or himself in relation to these siblings.

6. What's the difference between your ideal self and your real self?
The key here is to find out if there is a huge gap between the ideal self and the real self. In a healthy adult, you won't find too many surprises.

7. How would you fill in the blank?: I only matter in life when I _________.
You need to know what makes your partner feel like he or she matters, because if you're going to love someone for the rest of your life, you need to figure out how this person wants to be loved.
--"7 Essential Questions for Getting Closer" by Kevin Leman, from "The Birth Order Connection" excerpted by Utne. (Thanks Lex...)

"5" almost makes me wonder, being an only child and all. As for the analysis "7", I think the thing is I want to be appreciated for the stuff I create, the jokes I tell.


Article of the Moment
The Washington Post had an unflinching look at the (non-)future of New Orleans. The tourist and other stuff wasn't that badly off, and will be rebuilt, it's the "real community" stuff that likely won't come back. It also pointed out that New Orleans as a functional port isn't synonymous with a functional city (In fact, it seems like the lack of jobs might be tied in to how autmation the shipping industry has added.)

if you make something, it wasn't in the universe before--and that feels so good to human beings

(11 comments)
September 14, 2005
Quote of the Moment
"Well, it's a perfectly agreeable, innocent thing to do, and it's a way of being human. What I hate about public school systems that cut out the arts because they're not a way to make a living...it is such a human thing to do, and it is the experience of becoming. If you make something, it wasn't in the universe before. And that feels so good to human beings, and to cheat kids out of that is criminal. Everybody should be painting now, or drawing, or whatever, just as they should be singing or taking walks or falling in love or whatever... it's so human, and not to teach kids how to do this is to cheat them terribly."
--Kurt Vonnegut talking about the art included in some of his books, from this "Weekend Edition" interview.

Hints of the Moment
How to Win Carny Games. Interesting tidbit:
If these games are so hard to win, how come you see so many prizes being carried around? Some carnys have been known to simply give away prizes to pretty ladies in order to fool the masses seeing them walk into thinking "wow, if SHE can win that, I could!"
I always assumed their boyfriends had mad skills, or lots of money to spend. Another interesting thing was reading about a basketball player named Rick Barry who was a great freethrow shooter...but he made all his shots "granny-style".

he was a real potty animal

(3 comments)
September 15, 2005
Political Snarks of the Moment
--Bush requesting Condoleeza Rice if they can get a bathroom break, close-up, zoom-in. Also, this joke via ErinMaru: "What is Bush's position on Roe vs. Wade?" "Either...he doesn't care how people get out of New Orleans." HA!


Quote of the Moment
That means all of us when you remember an adage a guru once told me: "Every piece of computer software, no matter how small, involves at least a team of two -- me, and me six months from now when I have to fix it." Conway puts it differently "Always code as if the guy who ends up maintaining your code will be a violent psychopath who knows where you live."
--Tony Williams, from a slashdot review of "Perl Best Practices". Fellow coding geeks might want to check out the book's author's Ten Essential Development Practices.

hold your tongue!

(4 comments)
September 16, 2005
Weird Science of the Moment
I saw this first mentioned on Bill the Splut's site, but here's a page with more images of a parasite that eats, then uses itself as a fish's tongue. Crazy! I guess for the intelligent design folk, the Intelligent Designer must've been on a bit of a bender with that one.

Quote of the Moment
"Things will get better despite our efforts to improve them."
--Will Rogers. Loved this man ever since I saw that broadway show "Will Rogers Follies".

Link of the Moment
I wasn't going to post this, but then I had a hard time digging up the link so I thought I'd put it here for my future reference: OneBitMusic is a cool project to embed little primitive music drivers, including battery and audiojack, into a CD jewelcase. The end result sounds like a combination of "glitch" techno and videogame music.

what's zappening?

(1 comment)
September 17, 2005
Link of the Moment
Power-dressing man leaves trail of destruction...a guy in a woolen shirt and a synthetic nylon jacket generated a 40,000 volt charge and darn near spontaneously combusted. Yow!

Quote of the Moment
"The best audience is intelligent, well-educated and a little drunk."
--Maurice Baring

zeigarnik effectiveness

(2 comments)
September 18, 2005
Lately there's been some online talk about the Zeigarnik effect, dealing with the special attention the unconscious mind devotes to unfinshed tasks. First noted with the observation the waiters and waitresses can remember huge orders which are then promplty forgotten once delivered to the table, it is suggested that the effect can be exploited to various ends, from lerning to marketing.

I'm realizing that this tension of unfinished tasks is a pretty large force in my life. I just want things done to release that tension. (In fact, I think it's similar to the logic behind "Getting Things Done" time and stress management; you try to remove the stress of things undone by making a list that your subconscious can learn to trust.) In general, I want my mind free to move on to the next task.

One funny sample of what I'm taking about comes from the explanation after a surprise marriage proposal in Nick Hornby's "High Fidelity":
"I'm just curious about how one goes from making tapes for one person to marriage proposals to another in two days. Fair enough?"
"Fair enough."
"So?"
"I'm just sick of thinking about it all the time."
"All what?"
"This stuff. Love and marriage. I want to think about something else."
"I've changed my mind. That's the most romantic thing I've ever heard. I do. I will."
"Shut up. I'm only trying to explain."
"Sorry. Carry on."
That's exactly how I think, way too often. It may even explain why I eat too fast! I don't find food interesting, so I think I have a small drive to just get it done with, to make it easier to focus on the people I'm with, or maybe just moving on in general. Maybe it even influences how I play chess! I'm always eager to make equal exchanges of pieces. One obvious explanation is I prefer a simpler board because I'm such a bad chess player. On the other hand, if you view each piece as having an unfinished agenda...well maybe that's stretching things, but I think trying to reduce the number of open items in my life is a big factor.

(Heh, I even remember this one guy ("Editor Dink" of ThinkAttack, when we worked at Event Zero) saying whenever he was copying and pasting, he was always in a hurry to finish with the pasting, he hated the in between state of carrying it in the clipboard. At the time I laughed a bit but now I see it's just his personal response to this kind of tension...

parents - please!

(10 comments)
September 19, 2005
Avast! It is Talk Like A Pirate Day! Aargh, but it ain't Blog Like A Pirate Day, so I can't be arsed to rewrite the link down below!

Propaganda of the Moment
--from this GREAT Worth1000 contest, remix propaganda art. You only need to read down about half the page, then they get lame. The "Keep 'Em Phallic" one is also brilliant.


Link of the Moment
Hmm, I was wondering what was the least dangerous part of the country to live in, disaster-wise...slate.com did an analysis and New England does pretty well in general...though in the end they announce:
Slate's "America's Best Place to Avoid Death Due to Natural Disaster": the area in and around Storrs, Conn., home to the University of Connecticut.
Now you know!

Damnation of the Moment
DAMN IT, my comment spam filters are leaking...I think they're useless "feelers" to learn about how to post a comment, automated bits of meaningless praise like "Your blog is realy very interesting." and "Thank you for the info!". MOTHER F'ERS! I wish I owned 100 automobiles, so I could take the fingers of the people who wrote these scripts and slam them in the doors of those hundred cars, again and again and again and again and again.

you're the dog now, man!

(5 comments)
September 20, 2005
Plug of the Moment
Almost forgot to mention...this month's issue of the Blender of Love has a "review" of some CDs by Sara Shansky...she's good, check out the review at least for long enough to get to the link about "Thorny Roses"...super catchy. Also, I got her to transcribe her spoken word "hidden track", Mileage.

Audio/Visual of the Moment
Making the rounds...a "YTMND" of Batman...hysterically funny, or completely retarded...or BOTH?? (Warning: turn down your speakers if at work.)

YTMND stands for "You're The Man Now Dog!" -- the sound and text used in the first of its kind. Now, as wikipedia explains, it's a whole collaborative site. Star Trek fans may (or may not like Picard Song, one of the more famous ones.

Quote of the Moment
"The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents."
--H. P. Lovecraft

don't cross lenare

(8 comments)
September 21, 2005
Quote of the Moment
"I'm the taxadermist here in town. The people 'round here have a little joke about me. They say 'Don't cross Lenare, or he'll slice you open, scoop out your innards, fill you with sawdust, and then mount you,' I guess it's more of a warning than a joke. I don't like to be crossed. I guess that's why I ended up doing what I do. It's not that I feel a sense of power when I poke out an animal's eye and replace it with a glass marble, it's that I feel domination. Animals think they are so superior to us. They pretend to act all innocent, all furry and frolicsome, but when we're not looking, they mock us. As I cut away the skin from a deer's skull, I always think, 'Who's laughing now?' Usually it's me."
--"Lenare" being interviewed in the book "Wigfield: The Can-Do Town That Just May Not"

Ramble of the Moment
On a semi-related note, I'll mention that over the past week or so I've begun to live a personal idea of severely cutting down my consumption of soda pop and mammals. I'm not planning about being completely strict about either, but so far I've been pretty good about both. (The Mammal consumption being limited to a bite of Ksenia's meatball sub, and bacon used as a accouterment to a BBQ Chicken Sandwich.)

There's a name (and website) for "Abstaining from Mammal Meat" - Mafism (a neologism from "Mammals First"). It does make a certain amount of sense, on this planet mammals are the closest on the family tree, and seem to have mental and emotional capabilities that other species lack. There might be some exceptions in the higher birds, like parrots, but as the site points out we don't eat them anyway.

From a practical standpoint, it makes good public health sense as well...some very nasty diseases can jump species, and mammal to mammal is one of the most likely jumps...including conditions like "Mad Cow".

I dunno, maybe this is just a personal fad for me that won't last very long. It seems more sustainable than a lot of eating restrictions, though...and the site is refereshing pragmatic and non-fascist about it all. It's aways a little disturbing that any gelatin-based product, including jellies, don't qualify as vegetarian. Not to mention McD's fries, that whole beef-tallow thing.

Bad News of the Moment
Could Gas Hit $5 A Gallon? Ummm...yow. That's more than enough to let the schadenfreude towards Hummer drivers and the like wear mighty mighty thin.

by any other name

(1 comment)
September 22, 2005
Joke of the Moment
Two older couples are out for a walk. The men are walking behind the women.
Man 1: "We ate at a great restaurant last night."
Man 2: "Oh really? Which one."
Man 1: "The name escapes me right now ... what's the name of that flower, you know, with the thorns?"
Man 2: "A rose?"
Man 1: "Yes, that's it. Rose, where did we eat last night?"

Vocabulary of the Moment
Today's "Word of the Day" was adventitious (So when anyone says "adventitious"...scream real loud!) It means "Added extrinsically; not essentially inherent". I just want to say that I think that this is a terrible word, since it feels like it just wants to be a more fey way of saying "adventurous".

I have mixed feelings about "Word of the Day". On the one hand, it's good to grow your vocabulary to increase your comprehension. On the other hand, it might be wise to avoid many of these words while writing, since your audience is that much less likely to know what you're on about.

fire fire fire

(2 comments)
September 23, 2005
Quote of the Moment
"People who fight fire with fire usually end up with ashes."
--Abigail Van Buren

LinkDrink of the Moment
Thunderbird: The American Classic. A history of it and under "Wino" wines. Sadly, no mention of my personal ghetto favorite, Mad Dog 20/20. Still, "handing [Thunderbird] out to Native Americans who were just being released from jail" is rather evil.

The blog had some other interesting articles, including one about Valhalla. It mentioned it was a kind of training camp for Ragnarok, the "Fate of the Gods". EB (I think) once mentioned that Ragnarok was kind of a secret of the elite, not something the hoi polloi would know about, which I think is an intruiging idea (the motif of a religion with a deep dark downer of a secret that only the elite know about) but I can't find any confirmation that was the case for Norse mythology.

I also remember about reading about the conficts between Christianity and other religions in Europe, including one where a believer in Thor said that He wanted to challenge Jesus Christ to a one on one duel. I think I started some bad fan-fiction type stuff about the scenario in high school, but didn't take it past a few paragraphs.

the imagination circuit is taught to respond to the most minimal of cues

(5 comments)
September 24, 2005
Passage of the Moment
We are not born with imagination. It has to be developed by teachers, by parents. There was a time when imagination was very important because it was the major source of entertainment.

In 1892 if you were a seven-year-old, you'd read a story -- just a very simple one -- about a girl whose dog had died. Doesn't that make you want to cry?

Don't you know how that little girl feels? And you'd read another story about a rich man slipping on a banana peel. Doesn't that make you want to laugh? And this imagination circuit is being built in your head. If you go to an art gallery, here's just a square with daubs of paint on it that haven't moved in hundreds of years. No sound comes out of it.

The imagination circuit is taught to respond to the most minimal of cues. A book is an arrangement of twenty-six phonetic symbols, ten numerals, and about eight punctuation marks, and people can cast their eyes over these and envision the eruption of Mount Vesuvius or the Battle of Waterloo.

But it's no longer necessary for teachers and parents to build these circuits. Now there are professionally produced shows with great actors, very convincing sets, sound, music. Now there's the information highway. We don't need the circuits any more than we need to know how to ride horses. Those of us who had imagination circuits built can look in someone's face and see stories there; to everyone else, a face will just be a face.

--Vonnegut, from 'A Man without a Country'. That line about the "imagination circuit" makes me wonder about the connection between the imagination and dreamtime...from what I've been told, dreams are part of our brain constructing a narrative out of the random bits flashing through the other parts, memories and concerns and random "line noise" in our sensory circuitry.

september photo spectacular

(7 comments)
September 25, 2005
Finally got around to download the photos from my camera. Kisrael has been looking a bit text-y these days so I thought I'd share. Lucky you!

I've been trying to get rid of some of the excess from my wardrobe...especially socks. I had far too many white athletic socks and dark blue "business casual" socks...many of which didn't quite have a mate. Very tough to find a pair that I could rely on being a good set, especially bleary eyed in the poor morning light. So I weeded the stragglers out and generally cut down.

I instituted a strict "socks without partners must go!" policy, and one of the unfortunate victims was this lone M.C. Escher sock of interlocking lizards...I loved 'em so much, I think they might be what I wore to prom...


Apologies for this next photo, because it's wrong on a few levels. Foremost of which are the shorts themselves...Rust-and-grey denim shorts in a candystripe pattern. They're really something, huh? I bought them years ago at a TJ Maxx I think. One reason I kept 'em was a memory of my friend Rick saying he want pants like Towa Towa Tei on the Deee-lite World Clique Album cover, and the pattern was similar, if not the palette.


Ok, enough of THAT. The view of Salem's harbor from my workplace hosts a number of fine looking recreation ships, including the "Friendship of Salem" and the "Fame of Salem" and one day this other ship was docked. My coworker asked me to take a photo for his kids...


Finally, last night I went to a Scion corporate Rave-y thing. There was some great music, some street dancers doing their thing, free energy drinks (also, my favorite, metromint peppermint water), video games, networked, using video projects onto big screens, a few booth babes (to go with the energy drinks), and of course, Scion cars.

My favorite was this one, it's not a well-centered photo but I love the pattern on it...


Also, inside, I was amused by a limo made from an xB...


The crowd was pretty young and urban, which I guess is exactly what Scion is aiming for. I was kind of amazed at the number of camera phones and digital cameras, and even a few video cameras that I saw people packing.

I took from it that the xA is kind of the poor sister of the three Scion models. In a parking lot with about 50 or so Scions, including a lot of the tricked-out ones, mine was one of like 2 or 3 xA's. I guess the xB gets the obvious amount of hipster love, being the box and all, and tC is tapping into the mod- and low-end racer market that the Honda Civic used to dominate. Ah well...it's still my favorite of the three models. I'll pretend that its euro-tiny look is just too cool for the masses to appreciate. And I couldn't resist the siren call of free schwag, a hat, a visor, a penlight (that projects a Scion logo) etc. I know I'm trying to get rid of clutter in general but...but...it's free!

c'mon feel the noise

(3 comments)
September 26, 2005
Quote of the Moment
"Nowadays men lead lives of noisy desperation."
--James Thurber

HOWTO of the Moment
Speaking of noisy desperation...I don't know if this will be useful to anyone else, but I was at a site that was generating some CSV (comma seperated value) data...IE kept opening the content up in an embedded excel spreadsheet, but we wanted it as a downloadable file. Unfortunately we had to edit some Windows settings, here's the procedure: How to make sure windows offers to download CSV not open up Excel in same window...
  1. In Explorer, Select Tools|Folder Options from menu
  2. Go to "File Types" Tab
  3. Select "XLS" from long list
  4. Click "Advanced"
  5. Check "Confirm open after download" and "Always show extension",
  6. unclick "Browse in same window"
Now you know! Maybe this will be useful to someone, possibly my future self if it comes up again.

what this country really needs is a good word for frozen walrus carcass

(3 comments)
September 27, 2005
Vocabulary of the Moment
Last year I kisrael'd some "difficult to translate words" (there's a lot of those in Howard Rheingold's book "They Have A Word For It".) The BBC has an article about a new book by Adam Jacot de Boinod called "The Meaning Of Tingo" with some different words from other languages... my favorites:
uitwaaien
walking in windy weather for fun (Dutch)
plimpplampplettere
skimming stones on water (Netherlands again...great word!)
igunaujannguaq
"frozen walrus carcass", a game that fortunately involves pretending to be a frozen walrus carcass, not utilizing an actual one (Inuit)
tingo
"to borrow objects from a friend's house, one by one, until there's nothing left" (Pascuense language of Easter Island)
Cool stuff!

HOWTO of the Moment
Had to Google this up for a coworker...if you (poor thing) are writing a DOS Batch file and you want to prompt for and use a line of input from the user, the SET command now (as of NT4/Windows XP/Windows 2000) supports a /P parameter, something like:
SET /P varname = enter varname value:
Which does "what you'd expect", except you should be aware it will stomp over system variables.

Like I said, I guess this is a rather new (if obvious) addition the the DOS/Windows Batch pantheon...this page mentions truly ugly hacks like using the FORMAT or LABEL command and temporary files to get the same effect.

let there be light. fabulous!

(6 comments)
September 28, 2005
Fiction of the Moment
Day No. 1:
And the Lord God said, "Let there be light," and lo, there was light. But then the Lord God said, "Wait, what if I make it sort of rosy, sunset-at-the-beach, filterd half-light, so that everything else I design will look younger?"
"I'm loving that," said Bhuddha, "It's new."
"You should design a restaurant," added Allah.
--from "Intelligent Design" by Paul Rudnick, from a New Yorker "Shouts & Murmurs"...I like Day 2, where God says "let's do land" and then later explains the creation of lava by saying "I want it to say, 'Yes, this is land, but its not afraid to ooze.'" (Harry points out the whole thing can be seen here but I don't know how long that link will be good for.)

unhappy day

(3 comments)
September 29, 2005
Loss of the Moment
Yesterday I had the sad privilege of going to the funeral of a co-worker...a great guy by the name of Ed Breytman who passed away at the incredibly unjust age of 47. I got the chance to work with Ed, and help him out a bit with my knowledge of the computer language Perl...I think one of my strongest memories of him will be the way he called me by the nickname "Guru" when he was looking for a bit of help. (Though it wasn't just me, I think I heard him use it for other folks.) Actually, I think his attitude about the knowledge of others was admirable, especially because he was a go-getter himself. It's not going to be easy to pick up the stress and performance testing he was doing for the company from where he left off.

It was the first Jewish funeral I've been to, I believe. It was largely conducted in Russian, with some traditional Hebrew here and a bit of explanatory English there. One tradition I admired relative to current Protestant American habits is having mourners put the dirt on the coffin, either in symbolic garden-spadefuls, or even more utilitarian shovelfuls. I think there's a sense of closure with that, and a macabre beauty in restoring some of the literal meaning of the phrase "burying a loved one". (If I remember rightly the Protestant funerals I've been too often have the mourners bear witness to lowering the casket into the ground, but then leave an open grave, having the groundskeepers do everything after.)

So, that was really sad, and Ed will missed mightily.

Quote of the Moment
"Education is the ability to listen to almost anything without losing your temper or your self-confidence."
--Robert Frost

noodle noodle noodle

(14 comments)
September 30, 2005
I found out that my company's parent company offers some free mental health counseling sessions. You call an 800 number for an assessment and then you have the option of setting up sessions with a local counselor or even scheduling further phone appointments. Since by the end of the assessment I had already rambled at the guy and it seemed easier to not have to travel to some office and back, I went with the phone option.

It's been interesting. Something Kevin (the counselor guy) has picked up on is how I subject almost everything I feel to an intense bit of rational inspection. He put it in terms of "shaping and hammering at an emotion until it becomes a thought"...an oddly poetic idea, the possibility of one being transmorgified into the other.

To be fair, I've been able to wield logic like a weapon since I was 9 or so, I have memories of mounting an argument about the immaculate conception vs Mary and Joseph just fooling around, deliberatly forcing the woman into a high stakes all-or-nothing position when it comes to traditional Christian faith. I remember her saying I had won her over by the end of it.

Kevin had another neat insight...I was talking about one not-useful behavior I'd been getting a handle on lately: endlessly returning to the same 2 or 3 websites--frequently-updated websites, but not as frequently as I'd been bouncing back to them--as a way of avoiding tasks that I didn't have confidence in solving. I had been labeling this behavior "noodling" after the musical "noodling" I've heard at Johnny D's jazz brunch, where some guy on xylophone and another on guitar just kind of sloppily and casually jazz around, noodle noodle noodle, no hooks, barely a rhythm.

Drawing the parallel between my negative behavior and that jazz stuff had been helping me to mend my ways, but Kevin was more interested in my disdain for free, light jazz improvisation. Based on other things I've discussed with him, he sees insisting on structure and order in many aspects of life. (Now, this might amuse some people who know me, because the first thing that comes to mind when seeing my desk at work, or (often) my living room is NOT "structure and order", but still...I think that might be an issue of "things whose structures matter, really matter, and things whose don't, really don't"--and that time and energy can "better" be devoted to other pursuits.)

This could also tie into the way I get really angry at some things that aren't the way they "should be"...traffic jams, computer hardware or complex system failures, or even some broken computer code that is resistant to analysis and repair. I've learned how to real this rage in, sometimes even surfing it and laughing at myself, like when I work to channel my aggression into a big continuous stream of non-repeating swear words. Overall, though, it's not one of my favorite things about myself.

Going further out on a limb, I wonder if the desire for logical order is tied into my intermitent problems with pointlessly exaggerated anxiety. My thinking might be that if this contains some new unexpected problems, who knows what kind of further unexpected problems might be waiting in the wings to blindside us? And who knows if we'll be able to cope. Could this have its roots in a childhood full of moving around every year or two, a certain instability? Or the death of my dad when I was 14? I don't know...though like I said, there's evidence that the "rationality" predates the loss of my father.

Of course the ability to analyze and think about emotions isn't all negative...it lets one isolate causes and effect and make specific positive changes. The question is figuring out when it becomes negative, creating a feedback loop where emotion becomes thought which then bends back and squelches or warps the emotion. Actually, there's even the question if a deliberate (and rational) effort can do much to change that loop, or if it's too ingrained than that.

Hmmm! Sorry this got so long! I'll try to get back to your regular scheduled kisraeling tomorrow.

Quote and Article of the Moment
But the critics are missing the beauty of this new theory. Because the really great thing about intelligent design is that it takes all the awkward uncertainty out of science. It says, "You know those damn theoretical gaps and conundrums that send microbiology graduate students into dank basement laboratories at 3 a.m.? They don't need to be resolved at all. Go back to bed, sleepy little grad students. God fills those gaps."
--Dahlia Lithwick, Mind the Gap, a pretty scathing attack on ID, Intelligent Design. Also in Slate, William Saletan wrote a more relaxed piece on how "there's no there"...ID is just a negative response to Darwnism, it only pretends to explain anything.

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