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Wednesday, November 23rd, 2005

Time:2:42 am.

Rhombus Akira
You are the Rhombus Akira! Don't you love these
rhombus sweaters he usually wears? Comfortable
yet stylish, Akira shows his warmth and his
quiet, introverted self, but he's also a Go pro
and takes his duties very seriously.

What Akira Touya style are you? ~ Hikaru no Go ~
brought to you by Quizilla
Comments: Read 3 orAdd Your Own.

Tuesday, January 13th, 2004

Subject:Welcome to America
Time:12:17 pm.
Welcome to America, where we have nothing better to spend our money on:

Cell phone ring tone sales hit $3.5B
Comments: Add Your Own.

Saturday, January 10th, 2004

Time:4:08 am.
I came up with the most compelling idea for a Disney-style film the other day. (Ok, perhaps not the most compelling idea, but certainly a fair shot at one)

Over the years I've heard a number of biologists (ecologists, environmentalists, what have you) comment on (as in expound endlessly upon) something called the "Bambi Syndrome." Simply put, the "Bambi Syndrome" is brought about by cutesy, utopian images of nature, where only unexpected, amorphous entities (usually accompanied by menacing percussion or something equally non-musical) can embody "evil"; it is a view that, in all its splendor and glory, "nature" is "good," while "man" is "bad." The parallel between this viewpoint and several (all?) nature-based Disney films is apparent (although it should be said that Disney is far from being the only perpetrator of "Bambiism").

So then, you ask, if nature isn't "good", then what is it? Evil and good are purely human constructions. Truth be told, nothing that exists is innately "good" or "evil". These concepts exist only in the eye of the beholder: to the prey, the successful predator is evil; to the predator, the successful prey is evil.

It could then be considered a great disservice to continue teaching these false ideals to our children, no? This has been my opinion, and I have tried to take an approach with my own son of presenting these facts of nature in as unbiased a way as possible--whence springs the compelling idea.

Take a typical Disney movie; its clear definition of "good" and "evil" and its even clearer illustration of which roles fall into which category. This movie would begin the same. Also typically, it would be based in nature, perhaps at a very low stratus of the animal kingdom. Predator and prey would be represented by species A (the "good" prey) and B (the "evil" predator). A typical scene ensues, a contest between good and evil, predator and prey. The predator's evil nature is clearly illustrated here, but atypically, the predator wins.

Just as people in the audience are questioning their faith in Hollywood, we move up one stratum. The evil predator, returning home with the spoils of war, becomes a gentle, caring mother. She was not simply an "evil" aggressor, bent on death and destruction, but a doting, protective mother, expending her own effort, at risk of her life, to care for her childen. In this way, stratum after stratum, "evil" becomes "good", and the elaborate network that makes up our natural system becomes more recognizable for the purity, neutrality, simplicity of its form.

Finally, as you would expect in such a movie, we would arrive at the most prolific of the Great Apes: man. Illustrating that all kingdoms on earth are becoming man's prey, with as much tree-hugging, granola-chomping tripe as possible to make sure we, the lords of creation, masters of destiny, killers of all, Shiva to nature's Brahma , are shown--incontrovertably--as the only pure "evil" on earth, the movie careens ever faster toward some measure of certainty: "Ahh, now I understand the film's message."

But man is just another spoke in the wheel. We can easily flip the coin, showing mothers feeding, defending children, innocents preyed upon by murderers, hunters taking prey not for food, but for the feeding of other hungers. We do what we do not out of pure evil, but because it is our capacity to do so to further our own species, further our goals, perpetuate. But we also have a capacity no other species possesses: the ability to create our own destinies. The only true evil we encounter in a world where we nearly reign supreme is ourselves. We daily pit our most animal desires--acqusition of resources and destruction of usurpers--against our knowledge that such desires run rampant will complicate our path through history, perhaps even terminating it. Can such a machine be affected by the changing opinions of a few small components? That is the question we leave for the viewers.

The challenge in such a film would almost certainly be not overplaying the hand. No evil must ever appear to be of any different motivation than its antithesis; and man must, in the end, appear as the most schizophrenic creaturee on Earth. Our "evil" predatory instincts must be tempered by the "good" effects of our fear of intimate and ultimate mortality for us to continue indefinitely. In this, man has another trait not found among the animals: Our system balances on our own decisions alone. With the capacity we will soon possess to control nature completely, without fear of predators, we can only undo ourselves. The balance comes from within.

Where will the viewer lie?

I'd hope every kid was as confused as possible by then; and eventually a bit more suspicious of being told what is "good" or "evil".
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Thursday, January 8th, 2004

Subject:Yep Yep
Time:3:30 pm.
I haven't finished as many books as I had hoped since last posting. I finished Brave New World, which I liked very much. I will be looking into some of Huxley's later work, specifically books in which he explores our concept of reality and narrates his own experimentation with hallucinogens.

After that, I read Philip K Dick's Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, the inspiration for the film Blade Runner. It was a fun, readable book, but I expected more considering the quality of the film. A friend did point out to me that the original printing was as a "pulp" work, without much (or any) editing process. It shows; the book has numerous continuity errors, and seems haphazardly assembled. I have heard that Dick's work often seems disorganized while reading it, only to become crystal clear at the end, but I was not left with that impression here. A good book, worth reading, but perhaps more inspirational than entertaining.

I tried reading Virtually Normal but the damn thing was so terribly dull that I quit halfway through. Sullivan calls out a number of contradictions in both liberal and conservative views of "gay rights", but his writing seems to have no direction, and facts are visited repeatedly. For an editor of the New Republic, it seems a decidedly unreadable work. I don't expect to revisit it.

Now I am halfway through In Cold Blood, by Truman Capote, a "true crime" store of the Clutter murders in mid-fifties Holcomb, Kansas. I am very impressed with it; Capote's "nonfiction novel" style is informative, enlightening, and very readable. Unlike many newspaper authors, who often have little opportunity to express the deeper connections between facts they report, Capote has turned the story of four brutal murders into an examination of human nature, loss of innocence, and good-boys-gone-bad. Rarely in day-to-day reporting does one ever see the person behind the headlines; the child that grew into his criminality, his brutality, his indifference to his fellow man. Such things do not simply happen; Capote shows how our modern times can sweep a person up, harden them against life, and turn them against society. It truly could happen to anyone.

I got a stack of books for my birthday and Xmas, including Slaughterhouse Five, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Animal Farm, The Jungle, and others. I haven't decided what I'll queue up next.

So has anyone else read any good books lately?
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Tuesday, December 2nd, 2003

Time:7:02 am.
I love it when scientists name things in a particular way simply because they don't understand something. Your appendix apparently is "not necessarily essential" to your completeness. It occurred to me today that even the name "appendix" for that particular organ implies that it is not necessary.

Appendix \Ap*pen"dix\, n.; pl. E. Appendixes, L. Appendices.
[L. appendix, -dicis, fr. appendere. See Append.]
1. Something appended or added; an appendage, adjunct, or

Normandy became an appendix to England. --Sir M.

2. Any literary matter added to a book, but not necessarily
essential to its completeness, and thus distinguished from
supplement, which is intended to supply deficiencies and
correct inaccuracies.
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Time:5:58 am.
I watched TV recently, and there was a commercial on for a skateboarding (or maybe snowboarding) video game. Suddenly I realized they were using the Sifl & Olly song "Whatevah" as background music.

"This is MY United States of Whatevah!"


Very weird.

On the bookish front: Since I last updated, I finished The Neverending Story, Sun Tzu's Art of War with a long foreword and inline commentary by other midieval Chinese scholars, Orwell's 1984 (that's right, I had never read it before), and last night I finished Fleming's Live and Let Die. Today, time permitting, I'll start Virtually Normal, an examination of how our society handles the touchy issue of homosexuality. I think this brings my total to somewhere around 14 books since late August--probably more [fiction] books than I'd read in the 26 years before that.

I am in DC this week continuing my work for the government (shhh!), so anyone on the east coast is welcome to come down my way for dinner some evening. I'll even treat (within reason), or meet ya part of the way.
Comments: Read 4 orAdd Your Own.

Thursday, November 13th, 2003

Subject:No, I will not go to your damned web site
Time:11:49 am.
You know what bugs me today? The fact that almost all of those "look under the cap" or "look inside the label" instant-win contests are no longer instant. Now, they usually give you some damned code that you have to go enter into the product web site, along with your name, address, bank account information, and the name of your firstborn.

No, I will not visit your web site and hand over my personal data to see if I've won a free 20oz of sugar water. No, I will not "try again for more prizes" by selling my soul to you. No, I will not collect "soda bux" or any other monopoly money you pretend to "award" me with to get me to buy more of your crap and crap your business partners agreed to let you give away.

I'm not a moron, and I'm not interested in your latest marketing ploy. I just want, once in a while, to get a free soda without being encumbered by heinous marketing schemes after paying ridiculously high prices for years. Do that, and perhaps I'll be a repeat customer more often.
Comments: Read 1 orAdd Your Own.

Friday, November 7th, 2003

Time:12:46 am.
I just noticed the lead bully in The Neverending Story movie is wearing a Zippy the Pinhead t-shirt.
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Wednesday, November 5th, 2003

Time:12:08 pm.
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Tuesday, November 4th, 2003

Time:11:52 am.
I finished A Clockwork Orange this morning. Great book, very nearly made me tear up. But naturally I couldn't allow that to happen walking through the skyway now could I? I won't spoil the surprise by telling you how it ends, but as you might expect, the movie is only half of the story. I think I understand my own life a bit better after reading Clockwork; perhaps you will too.

Today I finally begin Die Unendliche Geschichte, in English as The Neverending Story. My only regret is that I don't have a larger, nicely-bound, dual color version of it. For those that don't know, the story is told in two fonts or colors; one for Bastien's world and one for Fantastica (Fantasia in the movie). My cheap copy uses italics for Bastien and normal for Fantastica. I think the pages and pages in italics will be cumbersome to read, but not terribly so.

Ahh well, someday I will have my lovely leather-bound Chronicles of Narnia, The Lord of the Rings, The Neverending Story, and perhaps others that have escaped my memory.
Comments: Read 5 orAdd Your Own.

Monday, October 27th, 2003

Time:3:02 pm.
Busy month. Too busy.

I finished Catcher in the Rye. Good book, though I'll probably re-read it before year's end to take it all in again. I've had a few other Salinger items suggested, so I'll queue them up.

It's been too long since I finished it, so I can't recall what I read next. I'll have to look over my books to refresh my memory.

I just finished reading Fast Food Nation, after about two weeks. It is an alarming and eye-opening look at American industry and economy and how they are so accurately characterized by the fast food industry. Everyone should read this book.

I've put off Clockwork Orange for quite a while, so I figured one more short book before it wouldn't be a big deal. I started Ian Fleming's "Moonraker" this weekend, and I'm about halfway through it. Ian Fleming originally released all the James Bond stories as serials in Playboy. Sometime after they were published, each was released in book form by various publishers. My collection is not quite complete, missing at least two I remember: "You Only Live Twice" and "On Her Majesty's Secret Service". I had intended to read them in order, but after finishing the first story, "Casino Royale" I had to skip to "Moonraker", because "YOLT" is book #2. The books only loosely reference each other, however, and I've seen all the movies, so reading one or two out of sequence won't be a terrible loss.

So Clockwork Orange is next. Then perhaps The Neverending Story, which I've been promising to read for years.
Comments: Add Your Own.

Wednesday, October 1st, 2003

Time:6:09 am.
I finished Cat's Cradle over the weekend. It was very entertaining. I particularly liked the ending.

I'm about 3/5 through The Catcher In The Rye right now, and I like it very much. I can't wait to see what happens.

I'm going to read A Clockwork Orange next. If only I didn't have to work all the time, I could tackle all the great projects I've wanted to tackle and read a book a day.

Someone should pay me to sit at home and do great things.
Comments: Read 1 orAdd Your Own.

Sunday, September 28th, 2003

Subject:Grass is always greener
Time:12:46 am.
Once in a while I find it depressing that I never had a chance to live in and develop my own "bachelor pad". I watched Queer Eye for the first time tonight, and it brought back that "bachelor envy". Once married with a kid, it feels more and more like nothing will ever be "mine" again. I suppose that's why so many husbands and fathers retreat into their "me" rooms or "me" times...working on projects in the garage, watching football alone in the TV room.

Or it could just be that it's 1AM and I'm tired from RenFest and in a bad mood.

I always have a terrible time with regrets, and along with regrets comes the "what if" syndrome. "What if" I made what I'm making now as a single guy with nobody to support? "What if" I had to work out of state or out of the country for a long period of time, and got a chance to play bachelor...play "playboy" for a while?

The truth is probably what I discovered in DC. I wouldn't know where to begin. I'm probably just so comfortable in this lifestyle that I have to dwell on such questions. The grass truly is always greener, and when I casually spend time with my bachelor friends, I see only what they outwardly try to project. Under the surface, as was with me, they're usually lonely, misguided, and just plain bored.

What could be worse than being bored every day? I haven't said I was bored in years. I haven't even thought it.
Comments: Add Your Own.

Wednesday, September 24th, 2003

Subject:Worst Thing
Time:8:10 am.
If you wanted to insult me, I think the worst thing you could call me would be a couch potato. No other title signifies a wasted life as accurately and succinctly.

Don't call me a couch potato.
Comments: Add Your Own.

Tuesday, September 23rd, 2003

Subject:Gordon Jump died today
Time:7:29 am.
Where does that leave us regarding stars of WKRP?

Comments: Add Your Own.

Monday, September 22nd, 2003

Time:11:13 pm.
I finished A Handmaid's Tale early last week, and started Schrodinger's Cat immediately afterward. Handmaid was an interesting look at what the world might be like if the ultra conservatives (I'm talking ultra ultra) somehow took over. Along with the expected censorship, police state, and, and social class system might also come the use of woman as breeders...where a woman who could successfully crank out a fully-functional baby would be passed from family to family as a treasured national resources. Dehumanizing? Perhaps. Practical? Frighteningly so. It also shows how easily we could slip into dehumanizing practices with the aim of preserving our social structures.

I just finished Schrodinger. Pretty wild ride through multiple universes, following a phallus named Ulysses through all the obviously impossible, but somehow not altogether improbably combinations of slightly modified past and future history. Quantum theory states that for every result, there is an equal and opposite result; a simple enough assertion. More bizarrely, it seems to say that both results are true, whether in our own universe in some nonapparent way or in multiple, even infinite parallel universes that exist next to our own or else right on top of it in "superspace." What if flipping between universes was as simple as learning to control and release the most inner reaches of your own mind? What would remain of reality?

Schrodinger wasn't terribly long (540-some pages) but I'll hit a few small ones before I tackle another large'un. First up is Cat's Cradle, the classic Vonnegut examination of our all-too-peculiar society. Hmm...I'm sensing a theme here.

What to tackle after Cat's Cradle? 1984? Prometheus Rising? A Clockwork Orange? Catcher in the Rye? So many books queued up. I should be a librarian.
Comments: Add Your Own.

Subject:Chipotle Nutrition
Time:11:46 am.
I thought I'd look into it again, and there was a good thread on Google Answers that had several well-informed estimates.


Bottom line, a typical meat burrito with sour cream and cheese is gonna hit you for 800-1200 calories, although nobody knows the exact amount. You'll get 25+ grams of fat along with it.

The big culprits, as you might guess, are the rice and the tortilla. The meats are mostly not too bad although the chicken is apparently a little fatty.

Several non-expert analyses are in that thread, including a few that use competing burrito houses' nutritional information.

It is also wise to consider that unlike a typical 800 calorie fast food meal (say, a Big Mac with a super fries comes pretty close), you're actually getting top-quality meats, carbs, and dairy rather than much lower-grade manufactured equivalents. And you're filled to bursting for several hours, too.
Comments: Add Your Own.

Thursday, September 18th, 2003

Subject:The hype and spin begin to wear thin
Time:8:12 am.
A couple articles today regarding the Bush administration's hyping of reasons to attack Iraq:

LONDON - Former UN chief weapons inspector Hans Blix has attacked the United States and Britain for hyping and spinning the reasons to go to war in Iraq.

He accused the United States and Britain of having a "culture of spin" by taking intelligence reports on Iraq out of context and looking for something that was not there.

Full article is here

WASHINGTON—U.S. President George W. Bush conceded for the first time yesterday that the United States had no evidence indicating Saddam Hussein had anything to do with the Sept. 11 terror attacks.

This after saying:

"We have learned that terrorist attacks are not caused by the use of strength," Bush said, "they are invited by the perception of weakness.

"And the surest way to avoid attacks on our own people is to engage the enemy where he lives and plans.

"We are fighting that enemy in Iraq and Afghanistan today, so that we do not meet him again on our streets, in our own cities."

I also like the Rumsfeld quote (talk about spin!):

At a Pentagon briefing Tuesday, Rumsfeld also toed the administration line.

When asked whether he felt Saddam was personally involved in the New York and Washington attacks, he said: "I've not seen any indication that would lead me to believe that I could say that."

Let's just repeat that to demonstrate its absurdity: "I've not seen any indication that would lead me to believe I could say that." Nice dodge, Rumsfeld.

Full article is here

What's remarkable is that both of these articles are in foreign papers, with minimal mention (Saddam/9-11 article) or no mention (Blix) in any US publications I checked. Bush's supporters control too many of the major media outlets, so the U.S. public rarely gets the whole story.

Remember kids, these guys aren't just liars...they're good liars, and they have learned how to manipulate an uninformed, panicky public without presenting any real evidence that they know what's going on. And lucky for them, most Americans bought the whole story.

Comments: Add Your Own.

Monday, September 15th, 2003

Time:3:25 pm.
My friend Kelly and I re-joined ACM last Thursday, mainly to get access to publications online. We've both got some wild ideas for intelligent distributed agent-based applications, and there's been a few good articles on that lately. Plus one can always use a few more geeks in one's life.

Such fun. Now if I can get back into classes someday, perhaps I can work from the ACM office and become an original campus slacker.
Comments: Add Your Own.

Tuesday, September 9th, 2003

Time:8:18 am.
Mood: quixotic.
I bought and read Fight Club last night. Took about 5 hours.

That brings the my book reading total to 4 since I started reading again this year. Imagine, I could read almost before I could walk, and I've only decided to start doing so in earnest this past month.

Last week, I read Gender Outlaw by Kate Bornstein.

The week before, I finished the 800-some-page Illuminatus! trilogy. I also bought Principia Discordia and The Church of the Subgenius as supplementary anarchist musings.

During the summer, I read WORD FREAKS, an autobiographical look at Stephen Fatsis's journey into the underworld and subculture of the professional SCRABBLE tournament set. I love SCRABBLE.

And then last night, Fight Club. After I finished, I ordered a few more books in: 1984 (Orwell), Brave New World (Huxley), Catcher in the Rye (Salinger), and Prometheus Rising (Wilson).

This morning, at Sara's recommendation (she also recommended Gender Outlaw...I can thank her Women's Studies classes for keeping some interesting titles coming), I started The Handmaid's Tale (Atwood). I hope to finish it by no later than tomorrow night.

Before my next set of books arrive, I will begin and hopefully finish the Schrodinger's Cat trilogy. It along with Illuminatus! will be the longest books I've ever read.

I am not yet ready for Ulysses (Joyce), but soon I hope to be. A real achievement would be Finnegan's Wake (Joyce), but that's gonna be a few years out.

The only other major books I've read in the past few years would be Watership Down (Adams), and The Lord of the Rings trilogy and The Hobbit (Tolkien).

I'm open to additional suggestions! Please, no Clancy or King or Grisham or their kin. If I wanted to read what everyone else was reading, I'd be watching TV.
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