Wed, 31 Dec 2003

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it's over now

Just wanted to post on the last day of 2003. Suffice it to say that it is a bad idea to try to cut your Zoloft dose by 50 mg when scarcely half a year has passed since you started taking it.

Maybe it was because I was driving down to San Diego. For some reason, this took me all the way back to my San Diego to Sacramento road trip in the summer of 2001. (I know the entry says nothing about the road trip, but just take my word for it. Perhaps will be more illuminating, although, again, it says nothing about the road trip.) Like I hadn't learned a single goddamned thing in all this hellish time.

I also recognized what my most dream signified. Let's just say that I, perhaps like Frodo Baggins, might understand that there really are wounds that will never heal. So be it.

Oh. By the way. I took Step 2 of the USMLE today. Admittedly with much less melodrama than Step 1. (Unfortunately, the completion of which also lacked much fanfare.)

I'm just glad that I'm not drowning in sorrow.

I was contemplating just going to sleep at 9pm and waking up to the New Year. This is partly because I've got no plans, partly because my mom, my brother, and my sister are flying to the Philippines tonight, leaving me and my dad by ourselves. I know I should probably make some phone calls and figure something out, but my little bout with depression has left me inexorably anti-social. This is not the night I want to be reminded how excruciatingly alone I am.

Ah well.

I keep hoping that the next year will be better than the last, but I've come to realize that the universe cares very little about what I hope. Still, I will hope. What else is there?

21:12:39 31 Dec 2003 > /soul > permalink > 3 comments

Tue, 30 Dec 2003

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time, reality, and death

I had a really bizarre dream last night. I will try to relate it "chronologically," meaning, in the order that I remember events, but anyone who has ever had a vivid dream can tell you this is utterly futile.

The first part involved meeting a carload of people I knew who had died in a car accident. For some reason, me and my live friends could see them and talk to them, a la "The Sixth Sense." Afterwards, my live friends planned on going to the crash site, which happened to be somewhere on the eastern portion of Michigan, just north of Detroit. We were, however, in Chicago, and because no one would be riding with me in my car, I didn't feel like it. Instead, I tried driving home to my apartment, but for some reason I couldn't read the street signs, and the landscape was markedly changed, to the point where I didn't recognize it. For one thing, there were hills, and anyone who has been to Illinois knows that there aren't any hills for hundreds of miles.

The next freaky thing, though, was that I realized that I had seen one of my friend in social settings prior, but after the car accident had taken place. Meaning that she had been dead the last time I had seen her, except that everyone thought that she was alive. I later learned in my dream that the only one who knew the truth was the driver in the car accident, who had, miraculously, survived.

Because I have been reading Philip K Dick lately, I recognized that my sense of reality was being shaken, with ramifications throughout spacetime. A "realityquake" if you will. (This is a concept that requires thought and articulation, but I will defer for now.)

There was much weeping and wailing. I still feel drained right now from all the crying I did in my dream.

Later on, I found that my now dead friend would show up in random places and would start talking to me, and other people could see her too, as long as they knew her well. That is, the clarity with which they could see her depended on how well they knew her. So people who didn't know her at all would just see me talking to thin air, while people who were as good if not better friends than I to her would see me conversing.

Finally, though, I stumble upon a newspaper clipping discussing the fatal car crash, and while the newspaper was printed in 1999, for some reason, it was referencing events in March 2005 (yep, not this incipient year, but the next one hence) as if 2005 was in the past. At that point, I had a "Back to the Future" moment where I began to suspect that I was caught in some time paradox, and I would need to travel through time to prevent catastrophe from occurring.

The dream began to unravel at that point, where I had a vague feeling that 1. I could've been the driver of the doomed car, if time and chance had worked that way 2. I was dead, and the people who I thought were dead were the ones who were alive.

I also began to experience dread when one of the "dead" would manifest themselves. Because sometimes it wasn't someone I knew, it would merely be vague shadowlike manifestations of people (and perhaps even things—think Cthulhu mythos) that I had scarcely known. (Shadowy like those creatures in the game "Silent Hill", if you've ever played it, that could disappear into the floor and then reappear, grabbing at your leg.)

It took me a while lying in bed, still drowsy, to sort through all this. Remarkably, it took me a while to accept the reality that, in fact, my friends were not dead, and it was all a dream.

Huh. I have some really complicated nightmares.

09:43:25 30 Dec 2003 > /dreams > permalink > 0 comments

Thu, 25 Dec 2003

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let there be light

i woke up ok today. it's a dark, dreary, gloomy winter day, as wintery as it can get in southern california, and it's raining, but i am at peace.

whatever needs to be, will be.

that is the simplified essence of my faith these days.

sitting at midnight mass, as the priest droned on nonsensically in the stark, underdecorated church and the soloists missed their notes and flubbed their lyrics, i pondered how ridiculous it is that people dream of a white christmas. (which, incidentally, is a song that is ruined for me because too many people keep reminding me about the possible racial interpretation of this.)

nevermind the fact that jesus was probably not born in december (corroborating with the fact that he was supposedly born during the first roman imperial census), and that december 25th was chosen by the early christians because it coincided with the saturnalia, allowing them to celebrate without undue scrutiny from the romans. but consider that bethlehem is located near the mediterranean. if anything, the winter weather in southern california is probably the closest to palestine more than anywhere else in the u.s.

i reminisce about all the peri-Christmas seasons I've spent crossing the Mojave Desert (and this year was no exception, crossing from eastern edge to western border) and i think about fantastic spiritual kinships with the magi (star of wonder, star of night.... westward leading, still proceeding) and maybe the Mojave is at least a little reminiscent of the wastelands that John the Baptist wandered, and later, where Jesus Christ was tempted by the Adversary, the desert of the Essenes, the desert where James A Pike met his demise in search of his faith, the desert where war continues to brew (o come, o come, emmanuel, and ransom captive palestine....)

the desert is such a strong human archetype. if you've never experienced the desert, i do not think you can be a sincere adherent of any of the religions of the book (zoroastrianism, judaism, christianity, islam). the desert is the crucible of these faiths. the desert defines many of the tropes found in the sacred scriptures, and i do not think it is possible to authentically interpret the scriptures without understanding the desert.

i do not claim that i know the desert, only that i have been around it for a greater part of my life, that i have many bittersweet memories attached to those wondrous wastes. (i need to expand on this idea i've been trying to develop as i was driving westward.... but not here. in any case, like lao tzu mentions, many things we find useful are defined as much by their emptiness, their lack, as they are by their materiality. "We join spokes together in a wheel, but it is the center hole that makes the wagon move. We shape clay into a pot, but it is the emptiness inside that holds whatever we want. We hammer wood for a house, but it is the inner space that makes it livable. We work with being, but non-being is what we use." in the same way, civilization is probably defined by its deserts. anyway.)

but that is what christmas makes me think of. the holy land, the desert. the clear, brilliant sky with a trillion stars that kept the shepherds company as they tended their flock in the crisp desert cold.

more later.

11:36:56 25 Dec 2003 > /soul > permalink > 1 comments

Wed, 24 Dec 2003

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go jesus, it's ya birfday

(title courtesy of aaron mcgruder.)

i don't know why i do this. one, i'm horrible at gift-giving, two, since i'm a student, i have no money, three, i waited until the last minute and ended up spending way too much money and i only got things for my siblings.

being stuck in christmas eve traffic gives you way too much time to think. as faith hill's rendition of "where are you christmas?" from "the grinch who stole christmas" played, i pondered the trajectory of my life. as time goes on, it becomes harder and harder to imagine it having gone any other way.

i don't know if it's only because i'm sick, and still weary from my sojourn, but the image i have in my head is a ship, an old style galleon, perhaps, with its sails tattered, becalmed in the middle of nowhere, without land in sight. (somewhat reminiscent of this post i wrote 2 years ago.

but, yeah, remarkably, blogging has become more and more therapeutic. writing about that brief depressive episode, it sort of all oozed out of me, and i feel ok.

heh. i don't know. i guess it's just been a long year or two or three.

18:17:06 24 Dec 2003 > /soul > permalink > 0 comments

Tue, 23 Dec 2003

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i'm not dying, i just can't think of anything else better to do

it's like i've been in a coma ever since i arrived in l.a. on saturday. it is now tuesday and i couldn't really tell you what i've been doing the past few days. excepting sleeping. i've been averaging about 16-18 hours of sleep these past few days. my dad is convinced that i have infectious mononucleosis. i do have swollen lymph nodes and unremitting malaise and fatigue. but no pharyngitis.

the four day sojourn really took a lot out of me. it's kind of funny. while i was probably no less sick while i was driving, the clarity of purpose really kept me going. it's nice to have a simple goal for a change. go west, young man. if only all of life were that simple. now that i have about a million and a half things to do, most of them mutually exclusive, all i want to do is curl up into the fetal position and bury myself under the covers.

it was also probably a mistake to watch "the return of the king" on saturday. having come off the tail-end of a 2,000 mile journey, i started feeling like i was with frodo and sam on the last wearisome leagues of their quest. never mind the fact that arizona looks a lot like what i would imagine mordor to look like. (it doesn't help that mostly orcs republicans live in arizona.) i probably need to watch "RotK" again, but my initial impression was that peter jackson had to rush through what i think is the best part of LotR. you definitely don't get the flavor of how agonizing the siege of minas tirith was. although, i must say, the visuals of sauron's armies advancing upon the city of the tower of the guard were pretty impressive. the battle of the pelennor fields was, despite the obvious shortcuts, pretty awesome.

still, though. i think they made denethor too idiotic. in the book, denethor was a worthy adversary of gandalf. they knew how to play psy-ops. they didn't even mention the fact that denethor had fallen into despair because sauron had been feeding him bad intelligence through the palantir. in the movie, denethor was just some doddering old idiot, not the horrifically tragic figure that he was in the book.

He turned his dark eyes on Gandalf, and now Pippin saw a likeness between the two, and he felt the strain between them, almost as if he saw a line of smouldering fire, drawn from eye to eye, that might suddenly burst into flame.
Denethor looked indeed much more like a great wizard than Gandalf did, more kingly, beautiful, and powerful, and older. Yet by a sense other than sight Pippin perceived that Gandalf had the greater power and the deeper wisdom, and a majesty that was veiled. And he was older, far older.... And then his musings broke off, and he saw that Denethor and Gandalf still looked each other in the eye, as if reading the other's mind...."

and theoden's death (whoops, sorry for the spoiler, but hell, this is a book that is sixty years old, for god's sake) wasn't the tearjerker i was hoping it would be. that whole sequence, when theoden gets mortally wounded by the nazgul, and eowyn and merry finish the witch king of angmar off, at much cost to themselves, always gets me teary eyed in the book. when eomer finds his liege and his uncle dying underneath his steed, and when eomer finds his sister apparently lifeless beside him, and when he gets all fell and fey, with nothing left to live for, it sends a shiver down my spine.

He stood a moment as a man who is pierced in the midst of a cry by an arrow through the heart, and then his face went deathly white, and a cold fury rose in him, so that all speech failed him for a while. A fey mood took him.
"Eowyn, Eowyn!" he cried at last: "Eowyn, how come you here? What madness or devilry is this? Death, death, death! Death take us all!"
Then without taking counsel or waiting for the approach of the men of the City, he spurred headlong back to the front of the great host, and blew a horn, and cried aloud for the onset. Over the field rang his clear voice calling: "Death! Ride, ride to ruin and the world's ending!"

And then when he sees the black sails of the Corsairs (not knowing that it is in fact Aragorn) and thinks that all is lost:

Out of doubt, out of dark to the day's rising I came singing in the sun, sword unsheathing. To hope's end I rode and to heart's breaking: Now for wrath, now for ruin and a red nightfall!

It makes me all teary-eyed too when they unfurl the banner of the White Tree and the Seven Stars, and Eomer realizes that Aragorn has won through the Paths of the Dead, and that they are saved, at least for the moment.

And, in all the wrack and ruin and confusion, after helping save Faramir's life, Pippin searches the battlefield for Merry. Pippin tries to cheer him up with hobbitish humor, but Merry just eyes him wearily: "Are you going to bury me?" and when Pippin chokes up, I have to stifle a sob too.

Yeah, there is a lot of variance with the book, but I can completely understand the limitations that Peter Jackson was working under. I am actually astounded by how faithful he tried to be to the book. Perhaps I am just being exceedingly forgiving since I never thought I would see the day that the book would be made into a decent movie. I also thought that intercutting Books V and VI was much better. It made the battle at the Black Gate much more suspenseful, and it made me despise Frodo and Sam a lot less. (My sister puts it this way: in the book, because Frodo and Sam's part in Book VI is so much slower than the action in Book V, you just want to say, die already! Who cares about the Ring?) I also thought the sequence depicting Smeagol's devolution into Gollum was really masterful. I wish Jackson had kept the sequence where Gollum contemplates giving up his evil ways, and just pledging loyalty to Frodo, when Sam shows up and misinterprets and ruins the moment, effectively sealing their fate. (I've had dreams about this sequence. Except that it involved a hovercraft and interstellar travel. But that is another story. Which I do hope to tell some day. Maybe even in novel form. Anyway.)

But enough of RotK.

there's a lot more to say about the past few days i've spent lying in bed, and of the days to come. there's just too much, too much.

08:32:24 23 Dec 2003 > /soul > permalink > 0 comments

Thu, 18 Dec 2003

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getting my kicks on route 66

I am currently in Amarillo, TX. I actually chose this hotel I'm at precisely because they have in-room Internet access. How geeky is that.

The first two days of my sojourn to the West Coast have been pretty good. The first leg, from Chicago to Springfield, MO via St. Louis had some nail-biting moments, as I was taken surprise by rain, and I feared that the road would suddenly freeze over, sending me careening off the Interstate. But this southern route is definitely more interesting than I-80. I guess it's all the Route 66 memorabilia.

This second leg, from Springfield, MO to Amarillo via Tulsa, OK and Oklahoma City, OK, was somewhat easier, since I started much earlier, the distance was somewhat shorter, and the weather was nice. (Wow. This entry is sounding truly inane. What can I say. I'm tired.) I did, however, take some interesting pictures. And I was plagued by my submandibular gland again, probably just a stone stuck in my Warthin's duct, although, of course, being the hypochondriac that I am, I started wondering if my salivary gland might be infected, or if I had Sjogren syndrome, or lymphoma. I'm not sure if I started feeling sick because of sialadenitis, or whether I had, yet again, caught a virus, or if I had had too much caffeine, too much sugar, and too much nicotine.

Now I don't have anything against fat people, since I do identify, what with a body mass index definitely above normal, but, damn, are people in the Heartland fat! Oh, to be a cardiologist in Texas. I'd have to have a drive-thru cath lab.

OK, I'll stop being mean.

Tomorrow, I'm aiming for Flagstaff, AZ, which is looking like the more grueling portion of my journey, being the longest leg. Plus, I'm crossing the continental divide, although hopefully it won't be as arduous as crossing the Rockies up by Vail, CO.

Anyway. Just wanted to say I'm alive and well. Hopefully my next hotel has Internet access too.

22:28:07 18 Dec 2003 > > permalink > 2 comments

Tue, 16 Dec 2003

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the road ahead

It is strange, now. My happiness (as artificial as it may be) is starting to wear off. I guess it's the part of me that wants to stay rooted. Inertia.

I don't know why I can't keep my eyes forward. I am dwelling on how there will be no one to see me off, and that there will be no one, no special someone at least, who will be waiting for me.

I can picture it now, as I ring on the doorbell, my sister opening the front door. "Oh, it's you. What took you so long?" Probably as she is on her way out.

No. Now I am glad.

I'm going home.

Whatever that means.

I think, I hope, that my spirits will be better when I am upon the open road. I don't know why I am compelled to do this, to traverse two-thirds of this great nation, to parallel as closely as I can the route of those intrepid pioneers of the Dust Bowl era (ah well, I never read The Grapes of Wrath.) I mean, I do not really intend to stray off the Interstates (but still, that song floats around in my head...)

Hmmm. I wonder if I should have shot for Joplin, MO? Instead, I am going to strike out for Springfield, MO (in vain hopes of running into the Simpsons.) From then on, I intend to stay true to the lyrics of the song: A night in Amarillo, TX, followed by a night in Flagstaff, AZ, before swinging through Barstow, down to San Berdoo. (I anticipate a clusterfuck, although hopefully, traffic will be mostly Vegas-bound) Now that CA-210 is completed, I will really be paralleling Route 66 all the way to just short of downtown L.A.

If I had someone with me, I might actually do the original Route 66, but as it is, all I really want to do is get home. Even if it is with the usual trepidation.

Ah, me. It's not so much that I don't get sad as often. It's just a lot easier to bounce back.

I've spent a lot of time avoiding the demons lurking in my brain. They will be, for better or for worse, my only travel companions.

And, appropriately so, I will mention the following poem:

The Road goes ever on and on Down from the door where it began. Now far ahead the Road has gone, And I must follow, if I can, Pursuing it with eager feet, Until it joins some larger way Where many paths and errands meet. And whither then? I cannot say. —J.R.R. Tolkien

19:17:13 16 Dec 2003 > /soul > permalink > 2 comments

Mon, 15 Dec 2003

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the illusion of "I"

So I am reading Barbara Jane's New Blog and stumble upon this interesting Quizilla, Which 20th Century Theorist are you?. Now I know absolutely nothing about postmodern epistemological theory—the farthest I really got was existentialism, with a dash of postcolonialism and neo-Marxism thrown in simply because I'm a person-of-color who hung out with other people-of-color who actually understand this stuff. I only know Freud from negative example: no serious psychiatrist or behavioralist takes him seriously anymore, and modern psychiatry and cognitive development is pretty much built upon neuroscience and cognitive behavior.

And now I know why this is so. Thanks to the seeds planted by Jacques Lacan, there is now a mechanistic theory of how various non-conscious neural networks conspire to form a vast, nebulous "I" (that is, Freud's vaunted ego.) As work in molecular neuroscience progresses, we are more and more able to localize where in space these non-conscious neural networks exist, but the "I" circuit cannot be pinpointed, and a contingent of neuroscientists and psychiatrists are starting to believe that there is no "I" per se, that instead it is an emergent property of the interaction of these neural networks. (To reiterate a popular catch phrase, there are demons lurking in your skull. I'll try to eventually elucidate what that means, but not now.)

Which brings us somewhat tangentially to both artificial intelligence and the nature of psychosis and what this means about reality. But I will not go into all that right now.

Anyway, the Quizilla said I was this guy:

Lacan
You are Jacques Lacan! Arguably the most important
psychoanalyst since Freud, you never wrote
anything down, and the only works of yours are
transcriptions of your lectures. You are
notoriously difficult to understand, but at
least you didn't talk about the penis as much
as other psychoanalysts. You died in 1981.

What 20th Century Theorist are you?
brought to you by Quizilla

It mostly, for better or for worse, really does apply.

Calvin: I'm a misunderstood genius!
Hobbes: What's misunderstood about you?
Calvin: No one thinks I'm a genius!

Anyway.

18:29:45 15 Dec 2003 > /blog-bites > permalink > 1 comments

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iBook saga continues

I miss blogging. Of course, lately I have very little to blog about, what with my life completely subsumed with my internal medicine subinternship, and interviews with med/peds residency programs, but, frankly, I'm beginning to feel pretty mentally constipated.

So I have been struggling with my iBook for a month and a half now. After two logic board changes, it still struggles fitfully with Jaguar, and invariably locks up completely with Panther. (I am typing this running Jaguar, over ssh. Although it still locks up even on 10.2, at least I can actually get a message out.)

So it was Saturday, and I was still recovering from my bout of flu, when I decided to go to the Apple Store on Michigan Ave. Of course, it started snowing, and being that it is the peak of Christmas shopping season, I had to park about half a mile away after circling for about 45 minutes. The guy at the Genius Bar was really helpful, running Norton Disk Doctor to make sure my hard drive wasn't screwed up. I'd already gone through the drill of testing my SO-DIMMs and pulling out my Airport card, and doing a clean reinstall of Panther, resetting the PRAM, and all the usual magical incantations that Macheads like to invoke. No dice. He then starts up my system with a Firewire drive, and it runs 10.2.7 without problems for the most part. Then he starts up my system from a Powerbook with Panther on it, and all seems well, as I startup massive, resource-intensive programs like Photoshop, Quark, InDesign, Final Cut Pro, and God knows what else, and, like clockwork, it eventually locks.

He offers to do a third logic board replacement, and I assent, given that I have thrown away countless hours trying to solve this futile puzzle. As long as it's fixed. He consults some coworkers, checks out some info, and comes to the realization that it would probably be more fruitful to simply give me a new iBook. Now, of course, since my model is no longer in production, they might have to give me a new one. And since it was Saturday, there were no higher-ups to approve or disapprove the request. So I wait.

Now, not being able to run Panther isn't the end of the world, I suppose, although these random system lock ups aren't exactly a walk in the park either. All I want is a working iBook, really, and if I have to send this one back to the depot, then so be it.

Still, overall, the experience is still superior to my historic battles with various incarnations of the evil spawn of Redmond, and still better than screwing around with Linux on my ancient i386-based computer. (For the latter, I may very well have either a flaky motherboard, some bad RAM, some other defective component, or some unholy combination thereof. It also doesn't help that it is oh-so-easy to install beta and alpha and just plain broken releases of any piece of software, from mp3 players to crucial things like GNOME and the kernel. I can do that on MacOSX, too, but at least I can't take out the kernel with a foolhardy foray into beta-land. So it works, and can maintain an uptime of several days, but half the time, things won't launch. Mostly because I went crazy with apt-rpm. Ah, the foolish things you can do as root. Oh, and now that Redhat uses the Bluecurve theme, it's actually quite aesthetically pleasing, although I can no longer put the window buttons on the correct side of the window frame.)

(This entry was inspired by Michelle's meditation upon, among other things, the genderization of computer operating systems. Don't ask me how, it just was.)

P.S. I am intending to drive from the frozen wastelands of the Midwest to proverbial sunny Southern California, roughly paralleling old Route 66. I have some trepidation as I know at least two people who have met their demise on the Interstate Highway system, but it is much too, much too late to get a plane ticket for a reasonable fare, plus I don't have anywhere to put my car to keep it from getting buried by snow, and I'd much rather have my own car when I'm back in L.A. So that's my cockamamie plan. I'm hoping that my avoidance of the high passes of Colorado through the Rockies will work in my favor, but, well, like the rest of my life in general, whatever happens is out of my hands. Fight fate, indeed. I hate sounding so ominous, but what can you do?

18:05:28 15 Dec 2003 > /computers/macosx > permalink > 7 comments

Thu, 11 Dec 2003

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small tragedies

My sister calls me, her voice quavering, asking me if I want them to wait for me before they euthanize our 13 year old dog Lucky. I am nonplussed, taken aback, but I guess I've been desensitized to death, I've known that this would come at some point eventually, and I tell her, do whatever you gotta do. Lucky has lived a full life, especially for a dog her size, and it would grieve me to know that she was in pain for her last days.

Then my sister backtracks, says that, while Lucky is injured, it isn't fatal. She's gonna need some surgery, and I nor my siblings have no job and very little money, and while our mom might consent for surgery, it is almost certain that our dad won't.

So, like any other family contemplating whether or not to sign a DNR form (and I don't mean to make light of anyone whose family member is the end stage of a chronic disease, but Lucky is definitely a member of our family), we have nothing to do but wait. Because nature will take its course anyway, whether or not we make a decision, and sometimes you have to treat the family as much as treat the patient, and everything has a psychiatric component to it.

But I ramble.

So it has been about five weeks of practically living in my own filth (and I hate to brag, but, R, you ain't got nothing on me when it comes to disaster areas.) Piles and piles of mail sit unopened on my ironing board, even larger piles of clean laundry lie unfolded, partially mingled with dirty laundry, and it is only now at the end of a long, hard day of trying to put things in some semblance of order that I am able to walk a clear path to my bed.

I picked up my iBook yesterday (when I was certain that I had pneumonia and that I would die in the middle of the Magnificent Mile, but I'm over it) and I'm sad because it still doesn't work, and my faith in Apple is wobbling, but I will press on. And perhaps need to buy a new computer. With the money I don't have. Even as I can't afford to buy anyone a Christmas present. How sad am I?

Times like this make me despise the commercial nature of the end-of-the-year holidays.

Times like this I am reminded that I am still in the throes of a crisis of faith.

"Someday soon we all will be together, if the Fates allow. Until then we'll have to muddle through somehow."

I think that is the most poignant line I've heard coming from a Christmas song. I ponder the possibility of spending the next four Christmases out here in the frozen Midwest all alone, unable to come home, with no one to come home to, and my will just freezes, and I wonder what the hell I'm doing with my life, what does it matter?

And still, I suppose I am doomed to make hard decisions for the rest of my life, knowing that I've closed some doors permanently.

They say you can never go home again. I never realized how that meant so much more than being unbearably distant from a geographic location.

I'm still looking for that light at the end of the tunnel, forging ahead on the rumor that there's something more than this.

20:11:11 11 Dec 2003 > /soul > permalink > 0 comments

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dizzy

I love how medical school has made me a hopeless hypochondriac.

(If you don't like dark, depressing stories—even if they're entirely hypothetical—I urge you to skip this entry. That means you, B)

So I've been having these dizzy spells for the past couple of days. Now, while I'm pretty decent at eliciting a history from a patient, I'm absolutely atrocious at giving one. So this is not the beginning. A couple of days ago, I was exposed to a cat. I am deathly allergic to cats—typical type I reaction: allergic conjunctivitis/rhinitis and bronchospasm. So the next morning, I wake up feeling like ass, feverish and having chills. (Weirdest thing, my temporal muscles were involved....) Half convinced that I had pneumonia, I weighed the pros and cons of starting antibiotics. The public health official in me rebelled at the thought, so I thought I'd just tough it out. About midway through the day, I was pondering whether or not I should stop on by the emergency department.

So I'd get dizzy every so often, which is not that surprising when you're sick and dehydrated. So I drank a lot of water. At least a couple of liters. And, magically, I felt better by the end of the night. I felt tired and beat-up, but my chest no longer felt like it was on fire, or that it was trying to implode, and I was no longer hacking up icky-green stuff. (Thank goodness for the flu vaccine. Yeah, I still got sick, but, as I am wont to say these days, it could've been worse.)

And I was fine all day today, up until I finished my interview.

I suppose it could all be psychosomatic. (And for all of those who know me, I'm sure you're satisfied with this diagnosis.) I am, after all, in a rather stressful part of my life, where the direction I go is completely out of my hands, entirely at the mercy of Chance.

Or, it could be the obscene amounts of caffeine I've been ingesting (which is great for the bronchospasm, but not so good for trying to get to sleep at a reasonable hour.)

Or, because I love worst case scenarios, I could have a brain tumor.

I figure I'll just keep drinking gallons of water, try not to drink too much caffeine, and see if it improves or worsens in the next week, after which I am definitely going to see a doctor. I've always wanted an MRI. Heh.

(Of course, I can hear the governor of California now. It's not a tumor!)

13:41:09 11 Dec 2003 > > permalink > 0 comments

Wed, 10 Dec 2003

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interlude

Four interviews within five days? Sure, no problem.

I clearly have no concept of reality. I've only done one site thus far and I am already deathly ill.

It boggles the mind, really. I swear I got a little dizzy thinking about how the next month and a half will determine the trajectory of my life. Or it could be that I'm just dehydrated and got a little woozy.

Why is it that when you're sick, you're always dehydrated?

What I wouldn't do to have some normal saline dripping in my veins right now.

Oh, and antibiotics, or no antibiotics? That is the question.

I'm so very tired.

More later. My mind is definitely not working correctly right now.

14:48:16 10 Dec 2003 > > permalink > 1 comments

Sat, 06 Dec 2003

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graceful cascading failure

Renowned writer Arthur C. Clarke comments on information overload. From slashdot.org, natch.

My favorite quote:

But it is vital to remember that information—in the sense of raw data—is not knowledge; that knowledge is not wisdom; and that wisdom is not foresight.

It makes me think of something Ursula K. Le Guin wrote in The Left Hand of Darkness:

When action grows unprofitable, gather information; when information grows unprofitable, sleep.

It brings to mind the rationale of cascading style sheets. Ideally, every web browser should support CSS, but if not, then there should be a reasonable fallback. And you can specify different levels of fallbacks. And if you end up at the bottom of the cascade of failures, you still get the information, although perhaps it isn't presented in the prettiest way.

And for some reason, it makes me think of the three rules of internship: eat when you can, sleep when you can, shit when you can.

Oh man. Apophenia. My excuse is that I'm post-call.

22:53:53 6 Dec 2003 > /blog-bites > permalink > 3 comments

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ruminations continued

I've just been pondering how too many people disdain activists. Yes, I accept the fact that people have jobs and have families to take care of and sometimes they can't afford to be idealistic. Survival ends up coming first. There is nothing wrong with that. You can't help anybody if you're dead.

But the disdain I often encounter is based on an observational fallacy. Because of my youth, I am often challenged to name my accomplishments. I am often assumed to be foolish and lacking wisdom. Not to say that I am all-wise and all-knowing, but I rarely get any credit for any wit I do have. The assumption is that I don't know what I'm talking about, without any regard to actually getting to know what I'm like.

This is the nature of the typical challenge: "It's not enough to just talk about something. You've got to do something about it."

This is, prima facie, a valid challenge. But here is where the fallacy comes in. Especially in American society, people tend to be very results driven, end-point oriented. Slow and gradual processes are disdained. No one ever gets credit for working in the background and making sure things run smoothly. Hilariously, these people are sometimes the first ones who get laid off, because when they get reviewed, they have no significant "accomplisments" to show for. And then, of course, once they're gone, the CEO starts wondering why productivity has dropped, ends up blaming it all on the tanking economy, never once realizing that they probably just pissed away their greatest assets.

Activism, despite all our talk of flash flood revolutions, and the torrential downpour of change, is a slow and gradual process that rarely shows any outward sign of accomplishment. But, truly, it is like a rainstorm. Occasionally it does occur, but for the most part, a single rainstorm is not going to dramatically alter the landscape. Maybe a few new rills here, maybe the mountains lose a few micrometers of sediment. Nothing to write home about. Who cares? But, given time, and enough rainstorms, even Mt. Everest will get eroded away. As Gandhi once said, "Whatever you do will be insignificant, but it is important that you do it."

Back to my point. So, when an activist is challenged to "actually do something about it," what can he or she say? If their goal had been already accomplished, would there be any need for activism? Of course not. So since it's not accomplished yet, what evidence could an activist possibly point to that would show that their words are not idle? Nothing. Of course a work in process will have no outward sign of accomplishment. There will be no finished product if the product is, in fact, not finished. So of course it will look like the activist does nothing, and just spouts out inflammatory, combustible rhetoric.

That, of course, is the nature of the revolution. When the Powers that Be allow freedom, the revolution is invisible, coursing through the water table underground, moistening the soil, welling up quietly in hidden valleys, concealed springs. When the Powers that Be demand obedience, create oppression, decide to dam up the rivers and fill in the seas, the revolution rises up like a raging river, like the wild tide on a full moon, like a typhoon, a tsunami. JFK noted this. "Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable."

I admit, the burden of proof is on the teller of the tale. But how can you prove something that is, for the most part invisible? You can't. You either have faith, or you don't. And most people in this time of the Age of Humanity have very little faith. Myself included.

07:03:24 6 Dec 2003 > /soul > permalink > 0 comments

Fri, 05 Dec 2003

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the way

I have been embroiled in a flame war regarding, of all things, Taoism in, of all places, the Alibata Yahoo! Group. Which is remarkably synchronous with my ruminations regarding Ursula K. Le Guin, whose works are pretty much infused with Taoism, and who wrote a poetic interpretation of the Tao Te Ching as well. The at-times rancorous exchange has gotten my mind back on the Tao, and how I really should get to finishing reading all those different translations that I've started, and how, ever since my crisis of faith, precipitated by September 11 and the Catholic Church's abysmal handling of the child molestation charges, the only thing I've really had any faith in is the Way.

Perhaps it's because, ultimately, I have a pessimistic nature, but I really like the naturalistic interpretation of the Way. It is Western physics expressed in poetry instead of equations. Both the Tao and the laws of thermodynamics reveal a relentless indifference to human aspiration and existence. They do not require human participation in order to be true. (Because, even if Heisenberg and Schroedinger are right, and the universe only exists if there is an observer, I think it's possible that the universe observes itself, though as a mind, it is Godel-incomplete, like all minds and mathematical systems.)

I like these philosophies because it frees us from the oppression of some greater deity controlling our destiny and demanding our worship. And I think, in its pure form, Christianity is also free of this oppression. The God I believe in (most of the time) is a God who believes most of all in Free Will. God created us so that we might love him, but a commanded love is not love at all. So he/she lets us hurt him with our rejection, because the reward of our acceptance, free from fear of punishment, or desire of secondary gain, or any sort of compulsion, is perhaps the greatest force existent in the universe. If God is Love, than everyone who loves him/her back, truly loves God, causes a multiplication of God, and of Love.

But I digress.

I have come to accept that the world's organized religions are mostly instruments for the consolidation and preservation of power, and power is always greedy, always paranoid, always oppressive. Oppression is to power, at least this kind of power, as gravity is to mass. Ah yes. Power. There is the typical power wielded by men of state, by CEOs, by abusive husbands, by the mighty. Most people, particularly those embedded in a Calvinistically embued culture, such as the U.S., readily recognize this as power. The power to make you do things you'd rather not do. The power that grudgingly feeds you, houses you, and clothes you, only because you aid it in continuing to consolidate its power. This kind of power is a voracious black hole that swallows anything within its reach, imploding further and further upon itself, until it swallows the entire world. This is the power that is wielded by Jonathan Edwards' wrathful God, the vengeful God of the Old Testament, the Punisher, the Destroyer.

But the other kind of power, the power that is creation and creativity, the power that is God, is the Tao, is generative and life-giving, that is the power that is given to the oppressed. It is all around us, unharnessed, because we continue to strive for the other kind of power. It is the spontaneous power of laughter, of hope in the face of overwhelming odds, of doing more than just surviving, but of living with integrity and passion, despite the forces arrayed against you. It is the power of the fluctuations of the vacuum, which literally creates something from nothing. From the Void there was everything, and remarkably, even Western Science has figured that out, at least those in the vanguard who have gazed upon the vastness of creation and were awestruck. And instead of feeling lonely and insignificant, they rejoiced. Even in the austere gleaming gems of the skies, the stars hanging out so far away that the distance is incomprehensible, there are enormous mysteries, beautiful structures to be explored and discerned, and comprehended, however imperfectly, by our minds.

I think, and it is only my humble and uninformed opinion, that a true follower of the Way is special because he keeps this power in his heart, despite knowing that the Way brings him to the edge of doom, that the Way will eventually overwhelm him or her, from nothing to nothing, back into the quantum foam from whence we arose. That the Way is unencumbered with worrying which power will prevail, because in reality, the two powers are in lockstep, parry-to-parry. Neither side will ever win, because the balance will always right itself.

But our part to play is not to save the world, which does not need saving. It is not to cure all the ills of the world, to once and for all solve the problems of the suffering. This is, if you think about it, mere laziness, the desire to not get involved, to refuse to be drawn in to the stinking muck and mire of the powerless. Just set it and forget it. Find the cure, and give it to them, and they can go home happy and stop bothering me. This is not the salvation that the Tao has to offer.

It becomes clear to me that the cliche "It's the journey, not the destination" in fact harbors much Taoist sentiment. The big things are impossible for one person to overcome. But the little things are many, and surmountable, and instead of giving into ego and trying to figure out how to save the most people in one fell swoop, start by fixing your own little corner of the world.

We are born to die. This is a consequence of the Tao, a consequence of the Laws of Thermodynamics. It is folly to rant against this truth, though we try, with our medicines and computers. We try to cheat death, to somehow live forever. But the values don't add up. Immortality is akin to the perpetual motion machine. If you screw with the variables enough and fudge some co-factors here and there, it seems like it will actually work. But something has to give. There is a price for everything, either morally or energetically.

So I ramble.

I was pondering the other night, how I felt tired and beat down. How my soul ached, not for one giant sadness that smashed me down, but the hundreds of tiny cuts and lacerations on my soul. I truly believe that it isn't the big things that get you in the end. It's all the small things added up. And for a moment, I mourned that there was no one I could share my experience with, no one who I dared burden with my sadness.

I know there are some who would listen. I thought about telling them, spilling the dark secrets in my heart, but I could not dare. What was my small, tiny suffering to them? They are good friends, and they would not turn me away, but, it comes back to that idea: I wish there was someone who had a stake in what I had to say. But this is not the sort of thing that gets granted out of thin air. Everything has to be in place. And I recognize that I haven't found my place yet. I'm getting closer, but I'm definitely not there.

And so I kept it to myself, and slept in silence, my unremembered dreams easing my care.

I think it might be enough. For now, at least. And I suppose that's all the really matters.

14:45:28 5 Dec 2003 > > permalink > 0 comments

Sun, 30 Nov 2003

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creation

I forgot to mention another parallel between "The Creation of Ea" (the Earthsea Creation Story) and "Malakas at Maganda" (a Filipino Creation story). While the Immanent Grove figures prominently in the Earthsea Cycle, the grove of bamboo serves as the birthplace of humanity in "Malakas at Maganda."

Anyway, I decided to search Google for Manaul, one of the names given to the bird who flies between sea and sky, in search of place to alight.

18:52:23 30 Nov 2003 > /blog-bites > permalink > 6 comments

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plumbing the depths of code

I've mentioned the fact that the twin pillars of the new economy, information technology and biotechnology, both deal mostly with information, specifically code, whether the binary digits of silicon, gallium, and arsenic, or the trinary codons of DNA.

In that (however tangential) vein, I find it fascinating that molecular biology is being used to pursue the theory of Austronesians reaching South America.

18:12:53 30 Nov 2003 > > permalink > 5 comments

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earthsea continued

I searched Google for the idea I threw around earlier, of how Austronesians sailed to Easter Island and maybe even to the west coast of South America and found it in the Valley News, among other places.

The search continues.

18:05:12 30 Nov 2003 > > permalink > 0 comments

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lazy sunday

Sunday calls can be bad, because since the day is often uneventful, you have to keep admitting through the night. Of course, this is when five people decide to walk into the ER complaining of chest pain, who end up having abnormal EKGs, and now you're admitting five people at 5 in the morning.

Of course, one can always pray.

Hope for the best, but prepare for the worst.

In any case, I am sitting here in the computer lab, browsing through The Ekumen, a Yahoo group dedicated to the writings of Ursula K Le Guin, of whom I have been gushing about as of late. In the message archive, I come across Le Guin's commencement address to the Bryn Mawr class of 1986 which perfectly jives with the sentiments which I have been ranting about in the Alibata Yahoo group. It is interesting that this comes to mind this Thanksgiving weekend, where I can't help but be reminded that this land was stolen from the natives who lived here, by a people who believed in a malignant, vengeful God. I remarked the other day to my roommate how Calvin has left a pretty indelible mark on U.S. history, stretching until present day, and ultimately, if you interpret it a certain way, American imperialism is an extension of the tenets of Calvinism.

But enough of that.

As a side note, I can't seem to get Mindterm to work off of my own webhost. Apparently, I need to figure out how to self-sign the Java applet. Which I apparently can't do here. So I have found this page off of the University of Cambridge Department of Engineering which features Mindterm as a Java applet.

14:58:45 30 Nov 2003 > /books > permalink > 8 comments

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catalog

Yes, your eyes are not deceived. It is in fact 3am Central Standard Time, and I am come from a rescue, though I knew it not until it was accomplished. The smell of drear smoke hangs onto me. (I think to myself, where is the rhyme, the reason.... But that is neither here nor there.) It has been a while since I went out onto the streets, had a few drinks, smoked a few cigarettes, an awkward moment, the meaning of my presence not registering until it is told to me baldly to my face, and, if I were someone else, if I were not who I was (and, I wonder idly, why is the subjunctive mood going out of favor in the English language?) I might suppose that I have but to wait, I have but to set my own terms, and they will come to me willingly.

I am rambling, with too much drink in me, despite the fact that I have a job to do tomorrow, I have duties to discharge (and I suppose that is a pun, albeit a weak one, and too circumscribed in its audience of who would understand it.)

And I am speaking in riddles, caught up in the fantasy world that I have immersed myself in for the past however many days, unwilling to face the world as it is. I have always been unwilling to face the world as it is, always wishing it were something else, something better.

But such is my Fate.

My blood is afire, for what, I do not know, the chance has long ago passed, why is it only when I am not-wanting am I given what I had long desired?

On the other hand, it most likely means nothing. And yet there are hard truths that I cannot reconcile with my certainty that nothing ever goes right.

I cannot change who I am.

Really, it does not matter, except that my mind is addled, disturbed by the interruption of sleep, of jumping upon the chance, the risk of the unknown. I was not troubled, and so of course the course of the evening turned until I was troubled.

It has been staring at me blankly to my face for a while now, something that I dare not grasp, have been warned against, and yet, it is there, even a blind man like myself, I can see it is there if I wish it.

I desire, and yet, something unnamed holds me back. I do not understand.

Enough crypticness. Hopefully the world of dreams will sort it out for me. Or not. Such is life.

01:18:15 30 Nov 2003 > /soul > permalink > 1 comments

Sat, 29 Nov 2003

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the smiths "last night i dreamt that somebody loved me"

Last night I really did dream. It was kind of depressing in a familiar sort of way, and I was not surprised when I woke alone. But what struck me wasn't the sex (although there was that in the dream), but holding her in my arms, trusting each other.

But enough of self-pity.

Still, I wonder.

Apparently, I am perseverating, thinking again and again of Le Guin's Earthsea, and now I think upon the matter of male and female. Gender roles (which Le Guin magnificently examined in The Left Hand of Darkness.) Are the stereotypes she makes in the Earthsea Cycle true to life, or are they merely a gimmick to explain some fantasy mechanics? (Yes still, it rings truer than the artificiality of Robert Jordan's The Wheel of Time dichotomy between saidar and saidin, the female and male halves of the One Power. The ying and yang feature significantly in this fantasy series as well.)

Even in this day and age, is it true that some things are still looked upon as "a man's job," while other things are "women's work"?

Although I must say, medicine is culturally behind at least a generation. The fact that the previous generation of doctors was white and male is still apparent, although, I must say, the majority of my teachers have been women. And yet, is there something about healing that is inherently female, somehow?

Anyway. I thought about my loneliness, and the solitarity of an Earthsea mage. In Le Guin's fantasy, there is a superstition that men, in order to have magical powers, must be celibate. (Although I suppose it is not far from the superstition believed by many of the religious. I shudder to wonder about the incidence of pederasty in the magehood.... Hey, I'm not a pervert. It's just that I finished reading Tehanu and just watched "Gothika.") And so wizards lived alone, not just without a woman, but often without true friends, except for perhaps other mages, and maybe not even those.

And, not to elevate what I'm doing beyond what it is—it is a tradition upheld throughout history, nothing more, nothing less—but it struck me how similar being a physician is to being a wizard. As Schmendrick the Magician from The Last Unicorn noted, "That is most of it, being a wizard—seeing and listening. The rest is technique." What we do is descended from the priesthood, anyway. We are the gatekeepers to the spiritual world, easing babies into life, guiding the elderly out of life. We are the keepers of specialized knowledge, the prognosticators, the diviners of hidden processes.

After an intellectual debate I had with a fellow classmate, I thought: what is it that separates the practicing attending physician from the 4th year medical student? Surely, it is not sheer knowledge, for anyone can pick up a textbook or journal and read, and if you have a good mimind, probably understand. I truly believe that, for lack of anything more precise, it is mostly wisdom that makes the difference. A virtue that can only be acquired by experience, by trusting in your existing fund of knowledge, by building upon this steady base. The structure must already be built, the mast upright. We have but to raise the sails and gather the wind. What we must learn mostly in the intervening years it to have faith, to stay true to our oath, to have confidence in our craft, and always, always be willing to learn something new.

This is not the first time I've mentally masturbated thinking about this parallel. I remember when I first read the Harry Potter series, that it was strange, how not-unlike medicine and magic are. (After all, as Arthur C Clarke has remarked, "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.") The discipline required. The personalities that it attracts. The bizarre inferiority complexes that get manifest as arrogance and disdain for fellow human beings. As there is black magic and white magic, there is surgery and there is internal medicine. Sometimes what we do is empty of power except for the ritual. The orders written are like incantations, the drugs prescribed like magical ingredients, potions, and elixirs.

Someone else had written that the physician is this age's incarnation of the priest, the wizard. After all, in past generations, the line between magic and medicine was indeed murky. There are witch doctors, medicine men, healers. This is the tradition we are derived from. (And also, this same someone pointed out that entertainers, specifically, actors, were also derived from this tradition.) I think precisely because of the technological prowess of our era, not a few of us are longing for some real magic.

But back to my point: in Le Guin's books, the only men who know how to wash dishes, do laundry, sew their own clothes, are the wizards, because of their predilection to celibacy, and the lack of anyone else to do it for them. And I think back to when A laughed as I ironed my shirts, teasing E that he should learn how to iron from me, and after re-reading these Earthsea books, I wonder if there really is a connection to having knowledge and being alone, as if the two things were mutually exclusive. (No, I am not talking about knowing how to do "women's work"—I am using Le Guin's words just for simplicity sake, and I hope you won't read any paternalism in it. There is just the fact that I am trying to rationalize my solitude by noting how much time studying the Art takes.)

To cut to the chase (I don't even know how I am making this conceptual leap), is there really something about being a real man, and is it true that to have knowledge and understanding, you cannot be a man?

20:38:49 29 Nov 2003 > /playlist > permalink > 0 comments

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le guin, dick, and the matrix

I just remembered what else I meant to write.

It comes full circle, I suppose. As I mentioned before, both Le Guin and Dick have ties to Berkeley. And, although William Gibson indeed coined the term "The Matrix" long before the Internet as we know it existed and the Wachowski Brothers started thinking about their great project, I think it is Dick's story Valis that first gave form to the nightmares inhabiting the world of the Wachowskis' "Matrix."

What does this have to do with Earthsea?

Immortality, and the price that must be paid.

Now, granted, this is me reading between the lines again, but, as someone else wrote somewhere on the net, it makes more sense that the Matrix was created voluntarily. The machines did not enslave us. We enslaved ourselves. Imagine, for example, that we created these human farms, because we wanted to live forever, and many prognosticators note that the only way we can live forever is to leave our weak, decaying bodies and encase our spirits in metal, or perhaps live free on the electronic ether as pulses of light and electricity. So we programmed the Architect and told him our specifications for our electronic paradise, and he set about to make it so, to the extreme perfection that is a machine's wont, and perfection, as the Architect has noted, failed miserably. So the next incarnation of the Matrix was akin to our normal, grueling lives, and, perversely, this made people happier, and the Architect thought his job was done, except that what people want is not to live forever, but to be free. Because what is the use of living forever as an unchanging, unthinking program, really? It's one thing if you are like the maintenance programs that handle the pigeons, or, in fact if you are an animal with rudimentary sentience, or, as in Earthsea, you are a dragon who cast off the material world a long time ago. All you have to think about is the now, if even that. You perform your function. You obey your impulses. You live without asking questions, and then you die, eventually. You have refused to taste the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, and so you do not fret about the afterlife, and the undoubtable impending judgement. But, once knowing good and evil, you must choose, again and again, from moment to moment. As explicated by Camus, it is the existentialist dilemma. To know that your next move, for good or for ill, will reverberate across space-time, even if you don't believe in an afterlife per se, well, I think this is a horrible thing, and yet, this is what we wanted. What we chose. And since, if the story of the Fall of Humanity from Paradise is true, we once chose to know good and evil, it is against our nature to unlearn it. These become the rebels who flee to Zion, the ones who trust to choice, the ones who refuse to become automatic. (The comparison with the dragons rings false, now that I think about it. Theirs is, as a fallen priest once told me in another context, a third way. The animals, the maintenance programs, they are like brute force algorithms that have no use for thinking. But the dragons are truly free in a way that we can only hope for, though cannot really imagine.)

Now I am reinterpreting "The Matrix."

What follows from this is the realization that it is not enough to simply rebel against the System. When our fearless heroes are in the Matrix, they have superhuman powers, they are able to exploit the System and use the System against itself. But this is not freedom, only reaction. Another automatic response, to resist that which seeks to destroy you. The only true way out is to get out of the System, even if this requires sacrificing all the power you have accumulated in the Matrix.

Life is not simply a dichotomy between being free and being bound, although once you start binding things to yourself, you are bound to continue doing so until the weight is so great you can no longer lift your head up and death becomes a welcome release.

But I know in my heart of hearts that freedom is to be enjoyed now, that the oppressors must somehow be converted (one person at a time), and that Jesus was dead-serious when he said that we must prepare for the Kingdom of God. It won't be a kingdom that is handed to us scot-free. We really are supposed to build it from the ground up.

But here is the last of my mystical mumbo-jumbo. The twin pillars of the new economy—information technology and biotechnology (which if you think about it, are really the same thing, since they both deal with code, albeit in starkly different media)—are leading us to longevity, and perhaps maybe eventually immortality, and on the other side, the four horseman of the apocalypse: famine, pestilence, war, and death, the forces of reaction, of trying to maintain the status quo of kill-or-be-killed, eat-or-be-eaten, might makes right, the rule of irrational beasts, and each side is a vision of grave imbalance. This one thing perhaps statisticians and Taoists believe in common: the truth lies somewhere in the middle, undefinable, ever changing, but nonetheless there. We cannot pretend we are automatic programs, trying to live life without thinking. Decisions must be made, and no algorithm in all the world will save us.

OK, I'm done.

11:52:07 29 Nov 2003 > /books > permalink > 2 comments

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fiction and so called reality

Since I sped right through Tehanu, I decided to keep going on to The Other Wind, and again, I am astounded by the faint echoes of things that I once knew, or had been told, once upon a time, in that imaginary place that was my childhood. My mind tries to reach for symmetry, for congruity, understanding that within every story, however fantastic, there is a bit of reality, that a story is a lie we use to tell the truth.

I believe that what separates humans from other animals is that we can imagine what-is-not. Even crazier, we can cause what-is-not to become.

Hopefully none of the following will make any sense if you've never read any of the Earthsea Cycle, as perhaps my meandering ruminations may spoil some of the magic of this series. In any case, you have been warned, and if you want to read the cycle without any preconceptions, it would be wise to skip the rest of this entry.

Earthsea has always made me think of the Philippines. Not that the Philippines is the only island nation in the world, but obviously, it is the one I am most familiar with. Moreover, the Hardic people of Earthsea are brown skinned, usually without much facial and body hair.

The modern nation-state of the Republic of the Philippines, however, is an artificial entity created by colonialism. It was not until I took a class in Southeast Asian Studies that I realized that my people's history, like the history of all ancient peoples, is not bounded by delineations of territory. I came to realize that, though my people are not really empire-builders (although some have created empires), the region of the Earth touched by the culture of my people is indeed imperial in scope, as far east as Madagascar, as far west as the Easter Islands, perhaps even the mainland of South America itself. That the island now called Taiwan may have been our ancestral homeland, and that what is now the Philippines become our bridge to the world (as it still is, I suppose), never becoming completely trammelled by an imperial power, as the islands to the south did in time.

In the beginning was freedom, because freedom and survival were one and the same, and if you did not survive, then you did not live.

Bondage was a thing created by religion, indeed, created even by our own religion, the Ways of the Sea and the Sky, the traditions of the animists, perhaps the reason why Catholicism (and Islam) was so easily adaptable to the environment.

The thing I learned about the animistic beliefs is the importance of boundaries. Of categories. Of names, i.e., labels. (This made sense to me, as many Filipinos I've met seem to be the most prejudiced people I know.) That which respects its proper boundaries is inert and safe. That which crosses boundaries is dangerous, and, well, powerful. So they told me that in the old days, it was the babaylan who was the spiritual center, the bridge, as it were, from the realm of physical objects and the realm of spiritual energy. The babaylan, who was ambiguously male and female. (And the word somehow became corrupted to bakla, the term for homosexual, which, perhaps mistakenly on my part, doesn't seem to have the same connotations that "faggot" has in English.)

Rivers were sacred things, not be lightly crossed. And if you strayed from the boundaries of the village, you were fair game for the spirits of the forest. The creation of the kris blade was an infusion of power: the elements of fire, metal, and water came together to forge that which was meant to sunder.

I have yet to articulate it all sensibly, but suffice it to say, learning this, it made sense why, despite being an island nation, descendants of a race of avid seafarers, many Filipinos did not know how to swim. Why, even with the coming of Catholicism, the animist ways still survived, couched in terms of the Roman catechism, perhaps, but nonetheless, plainly visible if you knew where to look.

So a woman who kept her long hair wild and free, unbound, as it were, was also dangerous. And to step over a person was as dangerous as crossing a river, or crossing the boundary between the village and the forest. Things that cut were practically sacred—tools used precisely for the breaking of boundaries.

There is more that I am forgetting.

But what does this have to do with Earthsea?

Well, as another excursus, there is the creation myth. In Earthsea, the Creator is named Segoy, who happens to be a dragon, and before Segoy spoke the words of Making, there was only sea and sky. My favorite version of the Creation myth of my people involves the sea and sky as well, and the trickster bird Manaul (who reminds me of Loki of the Norse, Inktomi of the Native Americans) who provoked the sky into throwing down rocks from the sky (meteors?!?) upon the sea to create land so that he could have a place to rest. (Is it mere coincidence and my apophenic mind to realize that, while dragons have traditionally been reptilian, reptiles have been discovered to be related to birds, just in our own era, and perhaps there were dragons in the long forgotten past before the human race had memory, although I still don't understand the breathing of fire.)

And, though perhaps not in as straightforward a way, in both cultures (the imaginary and the real), a name is used to bind. In Earthsea, giving a true name causes one to have power over whatever is named. In Southeast Asia, to give something a name is to define its boundaries, and thus bind its otherwise dangerous power. (Somehow, I can't articulate why, this makes me think of Einstein's famous equation E=mc^2. Each atom of creation is bound by Bohr's quantum energy levels, and the counterintuitive nuclear forces, without which the Big Bang would've just cooled off and faded away probably without creating matter at all. But I simplify things I don't really understand.)

And death: in the East of Earthsea, in the Kargad Lands, they believe that when we die, our spirits are yielded unto the universe, and are then reborn anew, without memory of the last life. Likewise, my animistic forebears believed that death was final, that the energy of our spirit was yielded back into the storehouse of energy in the universe, that our lives were ever bounded by life and death.

And here is the apparently political point that Le Guin makes. The obsession of the afterlife has caused an imbalance in Earthsea's Tao-like Equilibrium. In the West of Earthsea (although not the Uttermost West), the Hardic people believe that when you die, you cross the wall of stones (again, with the crossing), and enter upon the "Dry Land," where the stars do not change and no other living thing moves, and it is always night time, and the spirits of the dead do not see each other, such that loved ones will walk past one another and not recognize each other. (As someone else noted—I'll try to track it down someday—this is very much in tune with the original Jewish understanding of Sheol, which was, in many ways, the precursor to the Christian vision of Hell. We find out (this is a spoiler) that this Wall was created by humans to try to cheat death, and that this Wall caused what should've been Paradise to turn into the Dry Land, and only when they die do they realize their folly, that what they have created is not eternal life, but merely, eternal consciousness of being dead. And thus, they cannot be reborn, and are bound to this twilight existence, with no surcease of suffering.

I don't know why, but my ancestors' version of the afterlife seems to ring true to me. In the sense that there is no afterlife. When you die, that's all there is, there ain't no mo', and while there probably is a God, there is no heaven, not in the way we understand it. There are no pearly gates, there is no happily ever after. After the end and before the beginning is the void, and all we have is that space in between. A dead mind—no, that makes no sense, because what is dead cannot change, and what cannot change cannot be a mind. When you cease to have a mind, you cease to be, and we cannot imagine the void because to be able to imagine, you must have a mind, but to understand the void you would have to not have a mind. The Godelian paradox. You may define everything except what is not. You cannot truly define what is false. Again, I simplify matters which I have little understanding.

And I can't help but reflect how, despite the fact that the New Testament is in fact a handbook for revolution, that Jesus was a revolutionary, a subversive—that is another story, the Christian faith seems to have been completely perverted into a tool of oppression. Instead of reminding its people that the meek shall inherit the earth, that the first will be last and the last will be first, and that Jesus came to divide not to unite, to set son against father, daughter against mother, for much of its history, instead it preached that we should make ready for the afterlife, and that any suffering in this world was to be borne with patience. That the status quo was the will of God, that the abuse and oppression caused by the wealthy and the powerful was how it was supposed to be. I think it is only in the past generation that some parts of the Christian faith realized that their mission was in this world, not the next, and that if God was truly loving, then oppression would not exist, that oppression was a human-made thing, a transgression against the laws of God. Although many Christians still live in the Dark Ages, and use the fear of God's punishment as weapons against their enemies.

And so, perhaps, Roman Catholicism is the Wall which my people have accepted, a false promise of an afterlife that excuses the misery caused by the wealthy and the powerful.

But I have strayed.

In any case, the similarity is only faint, I realize. The languages Le Guin uses has nothing in common with Austronesian tongues, really, except that they are essentially quite alien from English, and from the Romance languages that Westerners are most familiar with.

But still, Le Guin was the daughter of the Kroebers, those infamous anthropologists who exploited the last of the Yani, and who have a building named after them at UC Berkeley. Her books show this influence (that of the white man's sience of anthropology, and also perhaps its cultural antidote that was born at Cal, ethnic studies) Perhaps it is just the commonality of a mythical island homeland (for, being an American, my imaginings of the Philippines are doomed to always be mythical) and the philosophies that were born in that cradle of democracy, the University of California.

I have wandered far afield. I will stop here to regain my bearings.

11:14:33 29 Nov 2003 > /books > permalink > 4 comments

Wed, 26 Nov 2003

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bezerkeley

Perhaps I was doomed from the start. I remember driving to high school and passing by Berkeley Ave. every single weekday as I headed south on Glendale Blvd. And even earlier than that, I had been using GEOS for the Commodore 64. (This here is geek history—the Commodore 64 is probably the computer that most Gen X hackers grew up on, perhaps alongside the Apple IIc. GEOS was a GUI for the Commodore 64. Can you believe it? A GUI on a machine that only had 64KB of RAM.) The creator of this awesome piece of software was originally called, you guessed it, Berkeley Software Design. In retrospect, hilariously, I recall that the decorative fonts were all named after either buildings on the UC Campus, or streets. So they had fonts like Telegraph and Dwinelle, Durant and Evans, Barrows, Bancroft, Wheeler, LeConte. And the system font? BSD. (After the software company, not the venerable Berkeley Software Distribution version of UNIX.)

Anyway, the reason I started thinking about this (besides perhaps being subliminally influenced by R's meditation on the nature of time and its passing) is because I found myself in the book store again. (Yes, as if I had involuntarily drifted there....) Now, I've mentioned Ursula K Le Guin's Earthsea Saga. (I'm sure I'm making that title up, but I'm too lazy to find the correct one for the series.) So of course, I decide I need to reread Tehanu and also The Tales of Earthsea and since I was in the Science Fiction and Fantasy section anyway, I might as well grab some of Philip K Dick's short stories (and ended up getting the anthology containing "Paycheck," upon which a movie directed by John Woo and starring Ben Affleck and Uma Thurman is based.)

And guess what these two authors have in common? Berkeley. Ursula K Le Guin is the daughter of the infamous anthropologist couple Alfred Kroeber (best known for his exploitation of the last Yani whom he named "Ishi." One of the UC Campus buildings is named after him, right across from Cafe Strada.) Phillip K Dick moved from Chicago to Berkeley, and many of his stories are set in the Bay Area (and the one that sent shivers down my spine was Man in the High Castle, an alternate history considering what would've happened if the Axis had won WWII.)

I think about the last time I wandered those streets, about a month and a half ago, and I realize my college days are drifting farther and farther back in my memory.

Just as I am trying to latch my eyes onto the present, and stop trying to peer ahead into the future, I realize that I can't rely on the past for comfort.

No day but today. Heh. Easier said than done.

21:30:17 26 Nov 2003 > /books > permalink > 942 comments

Tue, 25 Nov 2003

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the other wind/the war of souls

I just finished the War of Souls, the latest trilogy in the Dragonlance universe by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman. (Thanks, E, it was a good read.)

What struck me was the similarities between the trilogy and Ursula K Le Guin's The Other Wind, the latest in Earthsea Saga. Now, the first book in the DL trilogy came out a year and a half before the Earthsea book. But the last book in the DL trilogy came out a year later, and Le Guin actually had already explored the issue somewhat in The Farthest Shore.

What am I talking about? * SPOILER WARNING *

  1. The importance of dragons, particularly in human form.
  2. The relationship of the dead with magic.

The first one is just some interesting trivia. I don't know enough about dragon legends to know whether or not this holds true across literary universes. But, in both series, dragons can shift in and out of human form. Other things I need to check out: I know for certain that in Earthsea, the language of Dragons is the same as the language of magic (and because of the way magic is based on true names, Dragons can't help but tell the truth.) Is this true in the DL universe? Anyway, both series are centered around dragons.

The second thing is the heart of the similarity. In both universes, magic exists only because of the dead, and is rapidly draining out because of the dead. While in tWoS (not to be confused by tWoT mind you), this is somewhat more of a gimmick, in tOW, Le Guin, among other things, uses it to expound on concepts of freedom and slavery.

And, another surface similarity that I realized: both the trilogy and the book redefine their respective unniverses.

07:59:42 25 Nov 2003 > /books > permalink > 6 comments

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blog from anywhere

As I have noted previously, I have no inclination to try and install wikieditish since it relies on trapping URLs that don't exist. I learned early on in my travails with Blosxom that if you don't generate a 404 error, this will cause some spiders to get trapped in recursion.

Instead, I have managed to install Mindterm, allowing me to SSH to my webhost through a browser, which works so long as the computer I use allows me to run Java applets.

Wow. I'm out of practice. I took nearly an hour to write those two paragraphs.

06:56:15 25 Nov 2003 > /computers/www > permalink > 0 comments

Sun, 23 Nov 2003

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demotivators

This phrase looks like it might be from one of those Demotivator posters:

In life, there are no rules. In death, you learn that life lied to you. —from the alt.fan.dragonlance FAQ

10:07:01 23 Nov 2003 > > permalink > 0 comments

Tue, 18 Nov 2003

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so much cheese it'll make you poop

To B: yes I'm still updating this blog, as sorry as it is. Before I make any excuses:

How can we ever have time if we don't take time? -- The Merovingian from "The Matrix Reloaded"

Yes.

Anyway, I just remembered this thing I read off of some Hallmark card or some such repository of cliched drek.

Now is a gift. That's why we call it the present.

Despite everything, as long as I remember this, I think I'll be O.K. At the least, I won't be circling the drain.

It's 1:30am. I am so fucked tomorrow.

C'est la vie.

23:25:59 18 Nov 2003 > /soul > permalink > 1 comments

Sun, 09 Nov 2003

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full circle

So I am back in Chicago. It's not as cold as I feared (although it's still pretty fucking cold.) I'm glad I haven't been here the whole time. For me, summer only ended about a week ago.

I am back on my ancient (in Moore's Law terms, that is) Linux desktop workstation. Remarkably, this is a less jarring transition from MacOS X than working on WinXP. (I mean, sure, I hate Microsooft, but, seriously, certain crucial features are missing. Like a usable command line. Folders that make sense. A way to start applications without digging through the god-awful start menu. (Although, I must say, it's probably GNOME running on Linux that first introduced me to the convenience of panels and docks.)

What I am is mostly tired. I don't know if everything is going to work out, but I'm seriously ready to just take a Rip van Wikle-duration nap, and sleep through the entire Bush administration (even if, God forbid, he once again illegitimately seizes the presidency gets re-elected.) Just because I've admitted that I can't ahndle life in a genearl sense doesn't mean that life has eased up and has stopped pummelling me in the stomach repeatedly.

Wow. Mucho typos. This remote copy of emacs is intolerably slow, so I won't fix them quite yet.

Oh. I watched "The Matrix Revolutions." It was OK. Not bad, but not great either. One more trilogy to go ("The Lord of the Rings") and that's all she wrote for my movie-going anticipation. (Although, I am curious as to what George Lucas will entitle his final monstrosity—final, at least, if there is a God.)

Fuck it. I'm tired.

15:35:00 9 Nov 2003 > > permalink > 0 comments

Sat, 08 Nov 2003

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the fall just kills me - part 2

I am trying not to blog about other people's drama in order to compensate for my own lack of anything to blog about, but, yeah, someone else's drama momentarily intruded upon my own. This resulted in the smoking of two cigarettes and much projectile vomiting (not on my part, for once.)

Enough of that.

Anyway, yeah. Things floating around my head.

It doesn't matter.

Really.

I missed my dose of medication today, and I could feel it wearing off. Below the therapeutic level. I pondered.

The fall is so much more bearable when you have a fellow SAD sufferer around. (Not that that's all you are to me, dear friends!) I tell ya, misery loves company.

I realize the reason why last year didn't fuck me up as badly as fall normally does. My circadian clock was completely thrown out of whack because I had to do shift work for an entire month. So the darkness didn't really smack me down until mid-December.

I realize that, while, yeah, there are some pretty critical things missing in my life right now (I'm talking about basic things. Like, normal life skills that well-adjusted people have and take for granted), much of this misery is purely biological in origin.

My theory is that (I'm almost sure I've written this down before—deja vu!) because my ancestors are from a place where the daylight hours do not vary much according to season, I am genetically ill-equipped for handling fluctuations in sunlight.

I absolutely hate the days after the time change from Daylight Savings Time to Standard Time. (Goddamn tyranny of the time clock!)

Oh yeah. I sent my iBook away again. I hope they fix it. Or give me a new one. That would be sweet.

I'm blogging from a Windows machine. I hate it.

Ah, me. So anticlimactic.

What I am fearing (what I am always fearing) is the crash.

I can manage these low-level doldrums. No big deal. A little stagnation never hurt anyone.

I'm afraid of the Big One. One of these days I won't snap out of it. Catatonia city, maybe.

No use fearing the reaper.

I must say, though, I don't know what it was that triggered the unspoken, bottled-up thought in my head last night. The realization that every moment is a grudging gift from on high. The recognition that expectations are, for the most part, illusion. That if I just give up, then I can accept whatever comes my way without any bitterness.

I don't know, though. Despite all these twenty-thousand layers of defense mechanisms wrapped around themselves (Masamune's sword, I tell ya), I can't completely extinguish hope.

Maybe, though, I'm right, that the human body can adapt to any kind of pain if you give it enough time. (In the end, everything stops hurting anyway, right?)

I want to say something, even though I know that the time, the place, is all wrong, and I cannot trust anything that stirs in my heart.

Silence.

Trying is the first step to failure—Homer Simpson

So I will endure however many years.

I never knew how true it all was.

I am doomed to exile.

Oh. Because of my temporary computer-less existence, I missed my blog's birthday. Three years old, baby.

What madness.

I am incredibly incoherent at this point, so I'm gonna quit while I'm ahead.

01:17:47 8 Nov 2003 > /soul > permalink > 0 comments

Fri, 07 Nov 2003

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the fall just kills me

My mind is so devoid of anything interesting right now, it depresses me. Lying down for a bit, I felt like I was spinning.

No solid ground to stand on.

So, today, I committed myself to a quasi-flame war on the Alibata group listserv on Yahoo. (I could dig through the archives and point out the post that started it all, but, eh, who cares?) That's about the extent of my entertainment today.

So, yeah, I haven't been able to post in quite a while now. Not that you're missing much, anyway. But it has been a frustrating week in some ways. It all begins with the fucked up iBook. Oh yeah, I haven't mentioned that.

Anyway, my iBook started crapping out on me while I was still in the Bay Area, necessitating a trip to the Apple Store in Emeryville. (My God, what have they done to that place?) It apparently looked like a logic book problem, so I turned it over to them, and they promised to ship it to me in L.A. after 5-7 days (it only took 6, all told.) So I was happy. It was working. I decided to install Panther on it.

Now, I don't really think that installing Panther on it could've caused the problems. I don't think. Of course, stranger things have been known to happen in the quantum realm of doped gallium-arsenic (I am such a nerd, yeah, it's the stuff that computer chips are made of. At least they were the last time I checked. God knows that Moore's Law makes everything I know more and more obsolete.)

Anyway, it started with freezing up after bootup whenever I would take the iBook off of external power. While sucky, and rendering my iBook somewhat non-portable, I took it in stride. Eventually, though, I headed on out to the Apple Store in the Glendale Galleria to have them give it a once over. Yup. Freeze up after booting on battery power. Maybe it's the PMU. Isn't the PMU on the logic board? Yeah. Hmmm. Well, let me back up my data, then I'll come back if it still isn't working.

So I go to Fry's to buy a hard drive to backup my data with. (What's a trip home without a trip to Fry's? Man, I don't know why I keep going back to that place. I guess I am a masochist after all.) The first one I pick up is that Ximeta networkable hard-drive. I was disappointed. I thought it was a fully fledged server, but it's not. You've got to install some bizarre drivers onto a Windows machine. Unfortunately, these funky drivers managed to take out my brother's USB 802.11b attachment. So no network. No go. And I wasn't about to try backing up 30 GB across a USB 1.0 connection.

Back to Fry's.

This time I pick up an Iogear 80 GB external hard drive. It was actually pretty sweet. It's almost quieter than my Smartdisk Firelite 60 GB. The only thing is that it needs external power, and it's relatively honking huge, making it not-so portable. Psync'ing 30 GB across Firewire still takes an incredibly long time, but not so long that my beard starts growing or anything. I'm happy. Everything looks good. I wipe my hard drive and try a clean isntall of Panther. Booting up OK. No lockups. Hookup the hard drive. Weird clicking sounds. Uh.... No Firewire volume showing up on the Desktop. This isn't good.

Most of my data got wiped out. I was able to salvage some of it through some jujitsu-like hacking techniques that I won't go into to 'cuz my head hurts. But some key e-mails are forever gone. Good thing I backed up my hard drive before I headed out to the Bay Area. So I've only really lost about 6 weeks of stuff. I've suffered worse.

Of course, I stayed up until 5am trying to recover my crap, but hey, I guess I gotta get used to obscene hours again.

If I didn't hang out with R these past two weeks, I could honestly say that I did nothing while in L.A.

(to be continued....)

23:50:35 7 Nov 2003 > /soul > permalink > 3 comments

Sun, 02 Nov 2003

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bread and circuses

Oh man. I'd like to see you top that, Rupert Murdoch. Can there finally be network that sinks to depths lower than Fox? Sky TV tricks six men into fondling and cuddling with Miriam, who is a pre-op transsexual.

09:28:31 2 Nov 2003 > /blog-bites > permalink > 4 comments

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karmic debt consolidation

While amusing, and even a little practical, I was a little disappointed by this parodic educational fact-page about massive debt. I was expecting the Buddhist equivalent of Catholic indulgences, the kind of place that people like Hitler and George W Bush could go to in order to broker a less debasing next-cycle of life, and still be assured of paying their karmic debt to the universe.

09:22:24 2 Nov 2003 > /blog-bites > permalink > 0 comments

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jesus h christ in a chicken basket

The unedited audio from Neil Armstrong's landing on the moon.

09:11:29 2 Nov 2003 > /blog-bites > permalink > 3 comments

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situation normal: who cares if it's all fucked up?

I think I can't drink alcohol any more. It really does act as a depressant on me. Not always immediately, but definitely in the aftermath.

Stark raving sadness and lassitude overtook me this evening. I really hate Standard Time. I remember last year, the fact that the sun set so damn early really messed me up. By December, I was approaching catatonia.

I really think that the fact that my ancestors were adapted to tropical regions where the duration of daylight did not vary much by time of year makes me unable to properly handle the seasons. Mind you, it really is the dearth of sunlight that messes me up, more than the temperature. I think I might be able to handle, for example, Antarctica during "summer," although, I suppose, I wouldn't be getting much sunlight being holed up in the base.

Eventually, I gave up and lay down on the sofa, in the darkness, and mulled over where I went wrong in life, pondering all the various dilemmas that I can't solve and all my assorted fears that I can't face. I spoke with M briefly, and since I didn't want to tell her about how I was feeling (no, not what you think! I just didn't want to burden her with my depressive episode) I think she got bored and excused herself.

I decided to really give up and go upstairs to my room. I took out my contacts, then brushed my teeth, then prepared myself for spending a sleepless night staring at the ceiling. Luckily, my sister started playing Norah Jones' CD in her room, Norah's sweet, rich voice (OK, I don't mean for it to sound like chocolate) wafting through the walls.

It never fails to surprise me how music can utterly change my mood. Before I sunk into deep despair, I had been downloading the random pictures I had taken during the month while I was in the Bay Area from my camera, and I was listening to the Gabriel and Dresden remix of "Clocks" by Coldplay. (Like I've said, I'm obsessed with that song.) Now, I've attached memories from mid-June (when my sister graduated) to this particular remix of this song, and I guess thinking about the summer cheered me up a little bit. It definitely made my recent memories somewhat bittersweet. (Again, if I could only bottle up those times when I was happy.)

It really feels like autumn now. Summer lasted abnormally long, and then ended abruptly. I think my mind is reeling, refusing to accept that, even here in Southern California, it's a little chilly.

"Shoot the Moon" by Norah Jones really got to me as I moped in my room, trying to get some sleep. I definitely have memories attached to that song, all the way back to April, and long, fretful afternoons spent on the balcony, chain-smoking and listening to some music.

shoot the moon

by norah jones

The summer days are gone too soon You shoot the moon And miss completely And now you're left to face the gloom The empty room that once smelled sweetly Of all the flowers you plucked if only You knew the reason Why you had to each be lonely Was it just the season?
Now the fall is here again You can't begin to give in It's all over
When the snows come rolling through You're rolling too with some new lover Will you think of times you've told me That you knew the reason Why we had to each be lonely It was just the season

I am in the same room that, 11 years ago, I think I first truly tasted inspiration, in the chill air of autumn twilight. The night crept in from the windows, but I, for once, did not fear, did not worry about the waning sunlight. I could write, and sing, and shout for joy. There. I remember being happy.

Nothing cures my blues like succumbing to my nerdiness, and coding. Nothing fancy, just tweaking a few Perl scripts, and trying to build Mozilla from source on my iBook. But, I guess, at my keyboard is the only time I feel in control, one of the only times I don't have to care about the outside world. I am just a hardcore introvert, I suppose.

Oh, I want to end this on a happy note. But it never lasts. I don't think happiness is meant to last. But the corollary that I keep forgetting is that, just because happiness doesn't last, doesn't mean that you can never be happy again. Everytime you fall on your ass, you can always pick yourself up. Whether it is spring or fall, I suppose, this too shall pass.

If only I could listen to my own advice.

00:14:29 2 Nov 2003 > /soul > permalink > 0 comments

Sat, 01 Nov 2003

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i suck

As B can attest, I am no good with glass coffee tables.

I have just shattered my parents' 22-year old glass coffee table. This is the story of my life. (The story B will tell you is the time I sat on his glass coffee table and shattered it with my ass. I still owe him a coffee table.)

And as B can also attest, I am no good with women. But that is the subject of another rant which I will not publicize here.

I'm cursed, I tell you. Doomed to repeat my mistakes over and over again. A tarot card reader has told me that a negative energy cloud surrounds me, and only extreme measures will remove it.

Another 7 years, right? Fuck.

13:09:14 1 Nov 2003 > /soul > permalink > 7 comments

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coldplay "clocks (royksopp trembling heart remix)"

I tell you, I am obsessed with this song. A couple of weekends ago, while roaming around South Bay (in the Bay Area, as opposed to in SoCal—OK, these links are pointless and I clearly have too much spare time) I decided to visit the Great Mall in Milpitas and ended up, of course, at the Gap. They were playing this particular mix of "Clocks" by Coldplay, and I have been trying to hunt it down ever since.

11:40:52 1 Nov 2003 > /playlist > permalink > 1 comments

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exposé

Can I tell you, when Panther (MacOSX 10.3) was released, I moseyed on over to the Apple Store at the Glendale Galleria and played around with Exposé For those who haven't heard, Exposé is Apple's innovative desktop management solution. With a touch of a button, all your windows get scaled down and artfully tiled so that you can see all your apps. It may not sound like much, but, seriously, go to your nearby Apple Store or other Apple retail vendor, and play with the new OSX. (Alternatively, just check out the Quicktime demo of Exposéon apple.com.) The first time I hit F9, I think I almost orgasmed (yeah, yeah, I know, too much information.) It's soo cool.

Then there's this awesome hidden setting mentioned on macosxhints that changes the "show desktop" action so that all your opened apps to scale into a small box. Unfortunately, it's seriously buggy, and thereby not very usable, but hopefully Apple will eventually fix it.

11:22:28 1 Nov 2003 > /computers/macosx > permalink > 0 comments

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semantic relativism

Taxonomy is a boundary object.

This blog post talks about how we shouldn't jump down other people's throats when they get the definition of some jargon (for example, "taxonomy" or "object") wrong. With this, I agree.

But the gist I start getting is that it's OK for a single semantic element to be "overloaded" with multiple meanings. Which I think is confusing.

Still, context is key. If a programmer says something, chances are, it will be different from when a suit says something.

Maybe I'm misreading it anyway, but I think it is important to keep these distinctions there. The way I see it, semantic elements need to either converge or diverge. We cannot propagate a multiply overloaded semantic element and expect everyone to just accept it without critical analysis.

Convergence: Ideally, while you might use the same semantic element and mean wildly differing things, if you are serious about communication, you will, at some point, have to statically define your terms. While the meanings of semantic elements will definitely drift with time, you cannot use this drift as an excuse not to nail down whatever you are talking about. While I agree that overloaded semantics are good conversation starters, you can't just leave at that. At some point, things need to be made concrete. Often times, this requires creating new terminology, because the original semantic element will have become so overloaded that it will become meaningless.

Divergence: Chances are, however, you will fail to converge on a single meaning. At this point, it is important to differentiate clearly and, again, define your terms unambiguously. As above, there needs to be a distinction between what a programmer means and what a suit means. While there is no need to create completely different terminology, and it is acceptable to keep a term overloaded, it is important that you can easily contextualize what it means.

But don't get me wrong. I understand fully well that the meanings of semantic elements drift with time. Words are not static. But words are not meaninglessly fluid either. Words are objects that exist in space and time, and in truth, words represent tree structures. Meanings are always related somehow, however non-obvious, and there must be a common branch point. This is where you must come from to start defining your terms. Context will allow you to hone in on the correct meaning.

This is precisely how language operates, in a truly democratic fashion. You cannot create useful words by fiat. The transaction of semantic creation requires one to utter the word, and the other to grok it, and if the other does not grok it, then you have failed and you must try again. I agree, language is really constant negotiation between interested parties.

In sum, all I'm trying to say is that while words cannot be arbitrarily tossed around and expect to be meaningful, words are also not necessarily tied to some Platonic ideal. Admittedly, on a physical level, the sound waves translated by different individuals' cochlear nerves will activate wildly varying neuronal pathways, and understanding requires a committment to be willing to fine-tune, until both sides are adequately satisfied that they mean roughly the same thing.

10:44:17 1 Nov 2003 > /language > permalink > 0 comments

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i love the '80's

Awesome quiz. Try and fill in the blanks to the lyrics of some '80's songs. I admit it, I wasn't paying attention enough growing up. I do remember the first MTV video I ever watched (it was "Borderline" by Madonna.) I do remember the Duran Duran craze when I was in 2nd grade. I paid a little more attention during the '80's resurgence as of late, though. Thank God for KROQ's flashback lunch, I suppose.

10:13:57 1 Nov 2003 > > permalink > 2 comments

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angel's flight

Before I forget, I just want to jot down what I dreamt last night. The first part involved walking around Downtown L.A. with my sister. We came across the site of the Angel's Flight, the former funicular that was decommissioned after it derailed and fatally ran over someone. We decided to hike up the steps, except that instead of landing us in the California Plaza, it took us to this summit with a spectacular (but completely unreal) view. Of course I tried to bust out my digital camera to take a magnificent picture of the sunset, and the snow capped mountains to the north. Interestingly, when we continued onward, we came across this atrium with a revolving totem pole made up of religious figures, including, I think, Fr. Junipero Serra, and, likely, Jesus Christ. I tried to take a picture of it, but it was impossible because it kept rotating. Also, the top of Angel's Flight happened to house a light-rail station (in my dream, at least. No such thing exists in real life.) Nine lines converged at this stop, three red, three yellow, two green, and a blue line. Ah. If only L.A. really did have a practical train system.

The second part involved wandering around a hospital, which I assume I was either a resident or a patient at. I remember making repeated trips to radiology found in the basement, as well as wandering around in the stairwells, but that's about it.

02:50:16 1 Nov 2003 > /dreams > permalink > 2 comments

Fri, 31 Oct 2003

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jason nevins "i'm in heaven (presenting UKNY feat. holly james)"

The last place I visited in the Bay Area on Sunday before taking off for the infernal lands of SoCal was the Jamba Juice at Union Landing. (Tangent: I visted this Jamba Juice ridiculously often, on the way back to Fremont from Children's Oakland. One day I forgot to take off my ID tag, and the girl at the register totally had the "You're doing pediatrics?!" reaction&maybe I'll narrate what that is some other time&and I got all embarrassed.) In any case, I waited an inordinately long duration to get my carbohydrate-packed smoothie, and they started playing this song [link from Amazon][lyrics from Google][iTMS]. What grabbed my attention was the slightly sped-up sample of "Human Nature" by Michael Jackson.

16:55:44 31 Oct 2003 > /playlist > permalink > 4 comments

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let go of the past for God's sake!

Can we say fear, doubt, and uncertainty?

An apologist for nested tables speaks his/her mind.

Fact: My cel phone cannot browse sites that use nested tables, and even if they can, it becomes excruciatingly painful because I have to scroll through pages and pages of navigational controls. If you use CSS instead, the navigational controls can be at the bottom of the HTML, but positioned at the top with CSS. No more endless scrolling.

I like how he/she keeps talking about ROI, ROI. Well, let me tell you, you are definitely losing potential sales and/or public relation brownie points when someone with a cel phone or handheld cannot easily use your site. You tell me how you'd rather leverage your investment.

Semantic markup is the future. Deal with it.

14:00:53 31 Oct 2003 > /computers/www > permalink > 0 comments

Thu, 30 Oct 2003

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interstate 238

I remember the first time I saw the interstate highway shield with "238" in it and recoiled in horror. I am, much to my dismay, a roadgeek. I have been obsessed with freeways and freeway numbering schemes since I was a little child. (If I had only known that transportation engineering was a career option, my life would've have been so different. See, this is what happens when you grow up in a freeway-dependent city like Los Angeles.)

If you don't care about freeways and freeway numbering scheme, I suggest you skip this blog post. Seriously.

For the rest of you, I'm going to assume that you are also road geeks, and are therefore well-versed in the Interstate Highway numbering system, and are therefore aware why I-238 keeps some roadgeeks awake at night. The horror, the horror.

Much has already been written about why I-238 came into existence. (C'mon now, even the most non-roadgeeky of you Bay Area folk must be curious as to why every freaking freeway is numbered x80, where x is anywhere between 2 to 9.) And, I agree, renumbering I-238 is probably not high on the list of things to do for Caltrans. But, because I spent a month driving past the I-880/I-238 interchange (and even drove on I-238 on my way to Southern California), I spent a lot of time stuck in traffic, contemplating trivial things.

So, without further ado: additional suggestions for renumbering I-238

The simplest thing would be to just renumber it I-480. While I-480 was the intended numbering for the ill-fated Embarcadero Freeway in San Francisco, it was never approved as an interstate (therefore remained signed as CA-480), and was eventually demolished after the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake. Most San Franciscans loathed the looming structure and many rejoiced when it was torn down. I must say, the Embarcadero is much nicer now that you can see the East Bay. But, being an Angeleno, it is still difficult for me to fathom why San Franciscans hate freeways so much. To each his/her own, I suppose. But in any case, I-480 is actually free to use now, and since I-238 has like one exit, this would be the easiest way to re-sign everything. (I realize you'd have to change all the anticipatory signs on I-880 and I-580, but you could very well just remove the I-238 shield anyway, since practically all the signs are cosigned with either I-880 or I-580.)

There is, I think, a much worse signage problem further north in the East Bay, where I-80 and I-580 are co-signed. Now, I-580 between US-101 and I-80 was originally CA-17. I must assume that I-880 North (former CA-17) must have had a ramp to I-80 East (although it's not always logical to be logical), but, since the aforementioned Loma Prieta quake destroyed the Cypress Freeway alignment of the I-880 (and killed around 50 people as well), the rebuilt alignment only has a ramp to I-80 West. So it would be weird to number the San Rafael-Richmond bridge to I-880 at this point, and I think it would be prohibitive and redundant to build a ramp from I-880 North to I-80 East. So the signage problem is thus: There is a segment of freeway cosigned I-80 and I-580 between the Bay Bridge and the San Rafael-Richmond bridge (annotated as the "Eastshore Freeway" on many maps, although no one ever calls it that.) Now, I have no problems with cosigned Interstates, but, (1) the freeway runs north-south (2) the northbound part is signed as I-80 East/I-580 West and the southbound part is signed as I-80 West/I-580 East. While, as I've said, it's not always logical to be logical, but I for some reason I find it horribly offensive to be heading both east and west when in fact I'm heading north.

While I don't think that I-80 should be struck from this part of the freeway (since it's the only way the route can be contiguous from the San Francisco Civic Center to all the way to the George Washington Bridge in New York City), I do think that there should be an effort to properly delineate the actual geographic direction of the freeway, or at least to eliminate the horrendously confusing east/west-west/east signage.

(Speaking of directional confusion, while I-238 is in fact east-west, it is signed as north-south—the way that the surface alignment of CA-238 is signed.)

So I came up with these ideas that would both eliminate I-238 AND take care of the I-80/I-580 mess.

Create a new east-west Interstate: People have suggested renumbering the segment of I-580 between I-5 and I-238 to something like I-70 (since it is south of I-80) This is nice because I think the Central Valley does deserve its own east-west interstate, and it leaves the possibility of building an interstate through Nevada, connecting to the western terminus of I-70 at I-15 in Utah. The only problem is that there is a CA-70 in the Sierras, and California has a strict numbering policy where interstate numbers and state numbers cannot overlap. While CA-70 could be renumbered, this is definitely a lot of work. Unfortunately, CA-78, CA-76, CA-74, and CA-72 are taken (though, admittedly, it could be anything less than 80 and greater than 40, the next east-west interstate to the south. Still, I checked at the California Highways site, and CA-68, CA-66, CA-62, CA-60, CA-58, CA-56, CA-54, CA-52, US-50, CA-46, CA-44, CA-42 are all taken. CA-64 and CA-48 are assigned routes that have never been built (and with CA-64, will probably never be built), and CA-42 has recently been decommissioned. So I suppose I-64 could be a possibility, although the closer the number is to 40, the more difficult it will be to find interstate numberings for the more southern portions of the Central Valley when it will be warranted by population growth.)

I like the idea of I-78. CA-78 is a freeway anyway, at least between I-5 and I-15, so if it meets interstate standards, maybe it can be an x15. Maybe I-715, with the non-freeway portion being resigned to CA-715. Admittedly, this is probably a lot of re-signing, but if CA-78 can become an interstate, it might be worth it.

So I-78 could be applied to existing alignment, from CA-99 to I-5 via CA-120, co-signed with I-5, then via I-205, and I-580. Now, if I-78 is made to run all the way to San Rafael, this will do nothing for the east/west-west/east signing, so I would apply I-78 to I-238, terminating at I-880. The former segment of I-580 between I-205 and I-5 should probably be renumbered to an x78 (I-578?) and not as an x05 (although I suppose I-705 is available, it definitely should not be numbered I-205 since that would be kind of confusing.) The former segment of I-580 between I-238 and US-101 could be numbered as another x78, running north-south, thereby eliminating the mess on the Eastshore Freeway and properly denoting the actual geographic direction that the Eastshore Freeway runs. (Alternatively, as above, instead of I-78, it could be I-64, but the idea would be the same.)

Now, if you don't want to create a new interstate, there could still be some creative renumbering. I-580 can be truncated at current I-238. I-238 could be renumbered I-580 (thereby making I-580 run between I-880 and I-5.) If we exclude the possiblity of I-980 ever being extended to Walnut Creek/Concord, then we could apply I-980 to current I-580 between I-980 and I-238 (and we wouldn't have to change the directional markers, as I-980 is also an east-west route, despite running more north-south.) The remaining segment of I-580 (the Eastshore freeway and the San Rafael-Richmond bridge) is problematic, however, but this is another place to possibly apply I-480, running north-south, thereby eliminating the east/west-west/east confusion.

Now, how's that for an exercise in complete uselessness?

21:33:44 30 Oct 2003 > /roadgeek > permalink > 0 comments

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the games we don't play

As I was telling M the other night, my problem is that I foolishly refuse to accept that it is a game, in the strictest, Richard Dawkins, sense of the word. Not just the reproductive sense of it, but the fact that everything is a game, if you take the definition to the extreme.

The thing is, I haven't learned to create sufficient separation. Intellectually, I understand that playing the game doesn't mean that you don't care, but emotionally, it still feels like deception to me.

We won't even dig into the fact that, at least at this point in time, I've got no game.

Still, I have become mindful of the rules (as laid out in "Swingers", no less. Yes, I know, I'm doomed.) So I am observing them, despite telling myself that there are no rules, even though I know there are rules, it's just that we don't all have the same ones.

Dear God, I'm doomed.

19:52:06 30 Oct 2003 > /soul > permalink > 0 comments

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r kelly "step in the name of love"

Does R. Kelly realize how calling himself "the pied-piper of R&B" has some possibly pedophilic associations? (Read "The Pied Piper of Hamelin")

11:07:23 30 Oct 2003 > /playlist > permalink > 4 comments

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to wish impossible things

I couldn't sleep last night, tossing and turning every which way. Maybe it's because of not taking my medication until mid-day. Maybe it's the smoke in the air. Maybe it's the fact that there are a lot of things I need to get done that I haven't yet done.

But most likely, it's the fact that I have an endpoint in mind, but I have no idea how to get there.

For me, happiness has always meant something in the future.

I have been meaning to read my tarot cards for some time now, but I have been hesitant. I wonder if Heisenberg's uncertainty principle applies to the occult? I'm afraid that the very act of reading my cards will change my destiny.

Of course, I don't believe in destiny. That is, perhaps, the root cause of my sleepness nights. I just get locked into the classic existential dilemma, with the knowledge that whatever I do now will propagate itself into the future, often in spectacularly unexpected ways. Emergent behavior. Yay.

Why can't I set my heart on a possible thing?

In the end, I just need to get my shit together, to not worry about what hasn't happened yet, and to be happy now instead of procrastinating like I always do.

08:54:07 30 Oct 2003 > > permalink > 0 comments

Wed, 29 Oct 2003

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recursion

Again, I am perhaps entering a situation that seems remarkably familiar. (Sisyphus' stone rolling down again.)

I will not feel sorry for myself, or mourn my fate, although perhaps I will always be tempted to do so. I am just remarking on what appears to be my destiny.

When there isn't a big target to aim for, no magnificent plan laid out, all that matters is the details.

Day in, day out.

It will be OK, one way or the other.

17:18:58 29 Oct 2003 > /soul > permalink > 1 comments

Mon, 27 Oct 2003

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firestorms of the fall

I made it back to L.A. yesterday, after a mostly uneventful trip through the Central Valley, despite my surprising lack of bladder control (I will speak no more of this.) Along the way, I noticed fire trucks from various sections of Northern California—Palo Alto, Fairfield, Vacaville, Monterey, to name a few—heading down the I-5, and getting off at California 58, most likely on their way to provide backup for those fighting the incredible blaze in the San Bernardino Mountains, which eventually cut off the I-15 running through the Cajon Pass.

The next delay occurred in Santa Clarita, as California 126 and California 118 (Simi Valley-San Fernando Valley Freeway) were closed off due to the fires in Ventura County.

Smoke filled the air. The Southern California forests are burning.

18:07:55 27 Oct 2003 > > permalink > 0 comments

Sun, 26 Oct 2003

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vigil

Again, what is it that I want?

I thought I had explicated it all the other night, but for some reason, it no longer rings true.

What did I expect? I'm not anywhere real anyway.

These past few nights, as I spent time with A and E, it struck me how far away I was from a life like this. I mean, I liked it, to at least observe it, but if I pushed the thought too far, I would be left with the bitter thought that I can't ever get here.

Now, I admit, it is rather premature for me to say such things. Who knows what might happen to me? Fate goes where it will, right?

But, really, I don't know how to get what I want. The sequela of this is that I've adapted by teaching myself how to convince myself that I never wanted it in the first place, which works extremely well except in times of extreme fatigue and loneliness, when I have no choice but to look into the empty depths of my soul.

Consequently, I no longer know what I want, and I no longer know how to trust my first instincts.

It's all bullshit.

Perhaps.

Or it might be real.

So I am stuck in this hellish existential crisis. Do I walk on, finalize my answer, and take the long, lonely road, never mind what is actually out there? Or do I plunge headlong into this fantasy, and grasp at faerie dreams?

Maybe I need to increase my medication yet again. This shit is expensive.

I don't know anymore. I just feel like I'm dead in the water. I don't feel compelled to take care of any of the shit I need to take care of, but I don't have anything else better to do. If I brood for too long, I start thinking that there is something crucial missing from my life, but then another part of my brain starts kicking in, deriding the initial thought as something that society has subliminally gotten me to accept.

The problem is that my psyche is inlaid with all these contradictions, there are all these rules and counterrules. When it works, it keeps me in homeostasis, but when it doesn't, it leaves me in this psychotic hell of being unable to make a decision, because I don't know which idea to trust.

I can't even operate on the pleasure principle, because I think I've trained myself to be unsure whether I feel pleasure or not.

Times like this, I feel emotionally dead. Which is really depressing.

The downward spiral.

I tried the "I don't give a fuck" thing and that didn't really lead me anywhere, and right now, it doesn't seem like the best way to respond to this stagnation.

But (and here's me turning over a new leaf—surprise!) the thing is, with every ending, there is a beginning.

And even when you feel like shit, there's always something that needs to get done.

Feh.

00:49:13 26 Oct 2003 > /soul > permalink > 5 comments

Sat, 25 Oct 2003

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knight of pentacles

the beginnings are always hard it is the endings that I am used to I have never truly watched the sun rise an angry red fireball beneath the churning sea but I have sighed forlornly at the sunset beneath the crashing waves extinguished by the cap of purple velvet night

but the hardest memories are right before the fall of night with time to ponder the inevitable there are the hours, when the sun still gleams from behind the stern mountain face the shadows aligned in a certain way to know the day is ending

I dare not watch the sunset stare instead at the eastern sky above the ridge of barren mountains gaze where my destiny leads me

I used to grieve but now grief is my companion and change my only friend the shifting water mark of the tide and the changing faces of the moon don't sing to me about happily ever after

though I love the sunlight I travel with the stars the knight of pentacles accoutered in black armor visor down homeward bound though not even sure home even really exists

20:55:22 25 Oct 2003 > /poetry > permalink > 5 comments

Thu, 23 Oct 2003

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everything must change

Nothing ever stays the same.

Ah. My last few days in the Bay Area. I was able to connect with old friends, people I haven't seen in three years. In truth, people who had a great impact on my college experience.

I've said this before, but the things that I remember from college are definitely not the classes I took. Most of what I learned is either obsolete or irrelevant to what I do now, and I have scant memories of lectures and texts.

What I remember are the innumerable hours I spent working on the magazine or on PCN. The chain-smoker nights on the balcony. Dragging a friend across the carpet to drag him to watch the special edition of "Empire Strikes Back" The random trip to Seattle. The afternoons spent flying kites at the marina. (And then there is the pain. For once, I am trying not to think of it, although I can only remember too well the crushing loneliness. But, as they say, let sleeping dogs lie.) Ah, there are too many to ennumerate.

Those were good times. For the most part, I do not regret.

(Everything is always conditional with me.)

But I'm straying from what I wanted to say.

As the days wane, I realize that I am growing older, by which I mean, I am getting accustomed to loss. These past four weeks have been the best I've had in a long while now, and while, yes, I am once again leaving empty-handed, it does not mean I did not gain from the experience.

I am going to miss this place. I am not so sure I want to go back down to L.A. And I definitely dread heading out to the frozen wastes of the Midwest. But everything must pass.

If I could store time in a bottle.

I do not know why I have taken the label of "exile" upon myself. It feels that no place feels like home, but every place feels familiar.

Sometimes these memories are enough to carry me through the darkness.

Sometimes the darkness closes in and all I can see the infinite night.

I will write this down, because I know I will forget, and even though I know that when I read this again when the going gets tough and the shit hits the fan, I'm not going to believe a single god-damn word in it, but I'm still going to write it down anyway.

Note to self: Remember once that you were happy.

I find it strange that it is much easier to give advice than it is for me to take the very same piece of advice.

Yes, I admit it. I am drawn to situations that promise high drama. I have this penchant for trying to turn friendships into something else, knowing full well that I am likely to discover tragedy, like as not. These things do not work, at least for me, and still, I persist.

In any case, it's the same old story that people write cheesy pop love songs about: the girl keeps talking about some other boy, about how he doesn't treat her right, about how she wishes he was more like you, all the while never even considering....

(I know she knows. They always know.)

But I've learned a thing or two in this quarter-century (give-or-take) sojourn of mine, at last, and that is this:

You can't sit around waiting for things to get better.

And most of the time there is nothing you can do to make things better.

Sometimes (like now), life gives you a reprieve. The other times, there's really nothing to do but to endure.

And still, the smallest decision just might have a disproportionate effect on the trajectory of your life.

It's funny how a single word, an errant turn of the head, a glance, can change whole worlds, overthrow empires, change destiny.

I know where I'm going, and yet I still, still hope that I'm wrong.

One day Sisyphus will just have to realize that, yes, life is all about rolling the stone up the hill, and then watching it come down again. (And while this may be horrifically depressing, there are other ways to look at it.)

Drink deep, for someday, someday....

Yeah. The only thing certain about luck is that it will change.

Good times for a change. See the luck I had would make a good man turn bad....

But, as I promised, I will write this down:

You can only get what you give. There is no hope of receiving anything if I don't give of myself freely. Because there is more of where that came from. To freely give of myself, now that is love.

And love is all the same. While people are wont to confuse love with lust, true love with romance, I really do think they are all cut from the same cloth: the love of family, the love of friends, the love of that one special someone in your life who you anticipate spending the rest of your life with.

Regardless of whether I understand it in practice, I know the theory.

Love can only be given freely. I know there is this phrase, "unconditional love" but anything with conditions isn't love.

And then: it is impossible to love someone else if you do not love yourself.

You know what's sad? I've always known these things. I hold these truths to be self-evident (to steal a phrase.)

And I, for once, know who I am. Well. As far as anyone can no themself. I do not rightly know the limits of what I can give, but I do know that I am willing to give. While I do not know what the future holds, and I cannot imagine the specifics, I know that I am capable of a lot.

I have a lot to offer.

So, if there are no takers, then fuck 'em. There is no need for me to subject myself to anyone else's external metrics.

My worth is intrinsic, undeniable by the words of mortal humans.

So. It's easy for me to give this advice. This girl, this woman, I wish she could see. I know I can say these things and not do a damn thing about it, but it hurts to see what happens when you don't believe.

That is perhaps my biggest flaw: for myself, I couldn't give a rat's ass. I was made, it seems, to suffer. But when it is someone else, I can't stand it.

But it doesn't matter.

Whether or not things will work out the way I want them to is not entirely in my hands.

In the end, as an old friend reminded me, all you can really do is roll with the punches.

21:43:03 23 Oct 2003 > /soul > permalink > 0 comments

Sun, 19 Oct 2003

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various artifacts of nerdiness

Again, I need a miniblog.

Various nerdy things I stumbled upon today:

Find out all about numbers like Planck's length and the Omega constant.

A mock-trial in which an AI sues to prevent the corporation that created it from pulling the plug.

How England defeated Spain

22:26:00 19 Oct 2003 > > permalink > 0 comments

Sat, 18 Oct 2003

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plus not minus

Like the author of Incidental Findings, I am often seized by doom and gloom, by full-blown major depressive disorder, by neurovegetative signs. Polyphagia, insomnia, hypersomnia, emotional incontinence, fatigue, anxiety. You name it, I get it.

So I am getting help. But that is neither here nor there.

While I often pine for companionship, I have slowly come to grips with the finite probability that I will be alone for the rest of my life (read: single). While this causes some untold amount of trepidation, like I said, if a human being has to endure anything long enough, he or she will get used to it. Or die from it. But, in the end, everything is endurable.

One of the more problematic moments is when one of my relatives asks me about my (non-existent) love life. While I hem and haw and try to make excuses for why I haven't met anyone (And this is not entirely not true. I have met women. They just aren't interested in me. At least not in that way. But that is another story entirely), it kind of focuses my grief.

It makes me ponder the fact that, despite all the platitudes in the world that I can heap upon my singular existence, the fact of the matter is that it x-es me out of the great Circle of Life. To put it scientifically, my genes are being selected against by Darwin's inexorable forces.

I am not fit, evolutionarily speaking. (I am not fit, just plain medically speaking as well, but we'll defer that discussion as well.)

For those of you who have had the luck to never experience such existentially angstful moments, let me tell you, it is very depressing.

I am proud to say that I bounced back from it rather quickly. It may have taken about an hour of brooding and sulking, but in due time I had recovered to my typical emotional haze.

Yep. This days, usually, I don't feel a thing.

I'd like to coin a term: limbic neuropathy. My cortex has lost touch with my limbic system, and I can no longer emote properly.

Although I must say, haze is much preferrable to suicidal depression.

I'll take what I can get.

But back to my point: what I realize is that it is impossible to better yourself by adhering to negative standards. You have to have a positive plan. In other words, it's counterproductive to set rules based on "DON'T." It is, instead, important to establish rules based on "DO."

Case in point: the most success with smoking cessation I've seen is not when people force themselves NOT to smoke. This is a self-defeating proposition. The successful ones instead make plans for what they want to do. Mostly, this means increased physical fitness: working out more, eating healthier, etc., etc. Invariably, this causes people to want to stop smoking. After all, if you're trying to get into shape, smoking really makes it hard to work out. It becomes sheer expediency at this point, because you are aiming for something. To get what you want, you have to know what you want. It's almost worthless to only know what you don't want.

So, at least at this stage in my life, I know that I don't need to be not-single. I'm not saying that I wouldn't jump at the opportunity if it came my way, but, really, what are the chances of that happening? So I know what I don't want, at least right now.

But, as I've said, the problem is I kind of don't know what I do want. Yes, there is family. Yes, there are friendships. But to obtain that sense of home. Of belonging somewhere. Well, I don't know how to get from Point A to Point B, especially since Point B is so ill-defined.

Even thinking back to my first memories as a child, I really can't remember anytime that I felt safe and protected. The real world was always intruding. I do remember feeling alone a lot. There is no idyllic place in the back of my mind where I can retreat when the world is threatening to swallow me whole.

Honestly, it took me a while to figure out times I've been happy besides the time God Himself pimp-slapped me and I felt like I had almost died out in the ocean. (It was exhilariting though. Again, however, this is surely another sign of depression.) But then it comes to me in gasps and spurts. The random moments that accumulate that make me think of home. The times that my brother and my sister have come to visit me in Chicago. (Whenever I pass the gas station where Clark St. and La Salle meet, I think of that tail end of March 2001.) Just random moments, really.

Or that trip to Seattle with B, A, and J. And the time they came to visit me for my birthday and we went down to San Diego to watch a play adaptation of Jessica Hagedorn's Dogeaters.

And then my trip to NYC when J graduated.

Then that long and lazy summer when B came to visit me in Chicago and all we did was drink beer and smoke cigarettes. (And I still remember that dance with the pretty girl at the hick bar, even though it didn't mean anything at all.)

It's bittersweet, though, isn't it? I feel like I don't really appreciate these moments until all they are are memories.

Once again, it reaffirms my resolution to think of the here and now.

No day but today.

10:29:59 18 Oct 2003 > /soul > permalink > 2 comments

Wed, 15 Oct 2003

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i said it before and i'll say it again

...an elephant is faithful, 100 percent.

But that is beside the point.

Every day it seems like I am less and less able to get done whatever I need to get done. Whether this is due to the waning levels of sunlight or to some other psychological derangement remains to be seen.

But I have observed something.

While, being a creature with a Y chromosome, I am at times moved by certain endocrine influences that are barely held in check by some rather sophisticated neural machinery (read: driven by lust), whatever you might think, this is not the prime motivator of my wants and needs.

I've mentioned this before, but it really hits home these days: family is really important to me.

I was reminded of this when my brother and my sister came to visit me the other day. But I am also reminded of it daily, as I observe the family dynamics with some of the patients I see, and when I come home at the end of the day to A and E's family.

I think this is the greatest factor that is keeping my head above water these days. Back in Chicago, I was coming home to an empty house, or worse, a hostile environment. For the longest time, I couldn't remember what it was like to belong to a functional household. How important it is that, after a long day at work where you are beaten down, you can come home and recharge, and talk to someone who actually gives a crap about how you're doing. (Again, I need someone who has a stake in what I have to say.)

Partly, it's because I am beginning to regard one of my roommates as human toxic waste. Partly, it's because there are, sadly, many socially incompetent people entering the field of medicine through my school, and I've made very, very few friends in my five years in the Midwest. Partly, it's because I have been betrayed in the past, and it's hard for me to open up to other people.

I know. Excuses, excuses.

But, truly, I have not been in the most ideal environment.

So now, I sit and ponder, trying to figure out what exactly I want out of life, and I weigh the price of attaining what I want, measured in pain and suffering, against the happiness I might experience, and so far, the price seems too high.

Unfortunately, the world we live in really does operate on the principle of "pay to play," and the longer I wait to ante up, the harder it will be to stay in the game.

There are no clocks ticking. But I just don't want to wake up one day and realize that there's really nothing left to do but wait for the eternal darkness to take me.

22:45:19 15 Oct 2003 > /soul > permalink > 3 comments

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insomnia episode ii: the attack of the blahs

OK, the fact that I am still awake almost guarantees that I will be unable to wake up at the proper hour tomorrow, but I can't get to sleep.

There really isn't anything that I'm worrying about just now. I mean, sure, there are a few things hanging over my head, but nothing that's causing aching despair.

This, of course, makes me a little jumpy.

I am not used to peace and quiet. I am not accustomed to contentment.

So I'm very afraid of what the future holds.

I think it's very difficult to be always expecting the worst and yet not be paranoid.

Help! I need somebody! Help! Not just anybody! Help! You know I need someone! Help!

OK, I'm done now.

00:04:28 15 Oct 2003 > /soul > permalink > 0 comments

Tue, 14 Oct 2003

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i need a miniblog

One of the things I had on my old blog that I haven't figured out how to reimplement in Blosxom is a mini-blog in a sidebar. It let me document various sites I visited without having to write a full-on entry on them. But I don't want to screw around with Perl right now, so I'm just going to do it here, for now.

There is this story about a black man who shot a white man who broke into his house for the purpose of "killing him some niggers." Unsurprisingly, there are many skeptics. One can only wonder at their motives. As a person-of-color, my first instinct is to believe that they just want to promulgate the lie that racism no longer exists in America. Although you only have to look at such abominations like the World Church of the Creator to know that white people routinely shoot people-of-color for ridiculous reasons such as "keeping America white."

And then there's a little blurb regarding Raymond Damadian, a believer of creation science, who incidentally came up with the idea of applying nuclear magnetic resonance to imaging human anatomy (in other words, he came up with the idea that became the MRI.) Of course, his actual research and paper was completely worthless, but it did provide the seed for the actual inventors of the MRI. But then, given that logic, science fiction authors such as Arthur C. Clarke, Isaac Asimov, and William Gibson ought to be awarded Nobel Prizes as well, for being the first to come up with some outlandish ideas that are now our reality.

Gillen makes explicit the interesting apophenic connection between the latest incarnation of Mac OS X called Panther, and Malcolm X. (Black Panthers, X, hee-hee. Good thing that Apple has better sense than to try to exploit this connection.)

Livejournal is like a virus. I don't know how I found this: girlyunderwear.

22:13:39 14 Oct 2003 > /via-trails > permalink > 5 comments

Sun, 12 Oct 2003

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de clunibus magnis amandis oratio

Someone translated "Baby Got Back" by Sir Mix-a-Lot [lyrics][iTMS] (link from blogdex)

10:20:39 12 Oct 2003 > > permalink > 2 comments

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to boldly go where no man has gone before

More personality tests. From the "Which Fantasy/Scifi Character Are You?" quiz.

Which Fantasy/SciFi Character Are You?

James T. Kirk

An impassioned commander with more respect for individuals than for authority, you have a no-holds-barred approach to life and its obstacles.

I don't believe in the no-win scenario.

James is a character in the Star Trek universe. STARTREK.COM has his Starfleet record.

Now where do I go find me some green-skinned alien women with interesting ridges on their forehead?

08:56:29 12 Oct 2003 > /soul > permalink > 0 comments

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the fragility of life

As I lie here in a hotel room bed, watching my brother, my sister, and my sister's boyfriend sleep as the sun slowly creeps over the horizon, I am content.

It's sad to ponder. The reason why my sister and her boyfriend are here is because one of my sister's friends died in a car accident on the I-80 in Nevada (especially eerie because one of my classmates died on this very stretch of road just this past summer.) The wake was yesterday and the funeral is on Monday.

It just further illustrates the dilemma of caring. On one hand, you'd wish they'd be careful and not do things that would put them in danger. On the other hand, you want them to be happy, and sometimes, to be happy, they have to act on risks.

Nothing in this life is certain, except that we die. (Like much of what I write here, it's depressing, but true.)

But the sun is sparkling over the Bay. It's beautiful. I wish I could bottle up these moments, when I'm feeling well and at peace, and just build up a stockpile of these emotions. I would uncork them again during the long, hard winter of my exile in the Midwest to help me endure the darkness.

08:24:05 12 Oct 2003 > /soul > permalink > 0 comments

Sat, 11 Oct 2003

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obsessive compulsive disorder

The thing that sucks is that I really can't stop thinking about it.

In the end, I am afraid. In spite of my big talk about being able to handle whatever comes my way, being willing to ride out the steep plunges and arduous climbs of life, I am afraid, and I worry about what will happen to me.

The thing that scares me are those moments that grind me down, that smash me into submission, where I feel paralyzed and unable to function. The worst part of this is that I know I could survive them if there was someone I could lean on. If I can rely on someone to help me bear the load for the harder parts.

Instead, I feel like, between me and the deep, dark oblivion of failure and defeat, is nothing. Anything can push me over the edge.

In contrast to real life, where it's not the fall that kills you, it's the sudden stop at the end, I know that my friends won't let me hit the ground, emotionally speaking. I have a lot of really good friends who provide the last line of defense before I sink into that morass of depression and hopelessness. But what I am afraid of is the fall. My friends are like the firemen who hold the trampoline at the bottom of a burning building. They can only help me if I jump, and I'm scared shitless about jumping. Why can't I just stay where I am, and try to make it from here?

I am afraid of the part where I have to watch the stone roll all the way to the bottom, and that I have no recourse but to roll it back up again, inch by backbreaking inch.

Every time I fall, I have to reinvent the wheel and start from scratch.

Now I know that being in a relationship might be more problems than solutions, but I cannot, for the life of me, help but feel that I'm missing something huge. That whatever potential that lies within me will remain fallow, that I will never become all that I can be.

Times like this, it's hard to see the point.

And yet, I know, I know, that I must go on, and fight the good fight. And I know, if I'll only be true to this glorious quest, that my heart will lie peaceful and calm when I'm laid to my rest.

17:56:13 11 Oct 2003 > /soul > permalink > 0 comments

Fri, 10 Oct 2003

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i need to stop but i can't

Excellent quote from Incidental Findings:

At this point in my life, my romantic aspirations total to this: I'm looking for a girl who will let me feel her up occasionally.

But, you know what, given my borderline personality, I'm tired of being desperate. If I can't have what I want, then I don't want anything at all.

In the wise words of my oldest friend: Fuck it.

The aggravating thing is that I can't seem to stop thinking about it. Despite all the things I have going for me in my life, despite the fact that I love what I'm doing, and that I've liked all the people I've worked with who aren't from my school ever since 4th year started, and that I just recently found out that I kicked ass in 3rd year, and that I have finally come to accept that, all modesty aside, I'm a pretty sharp guy, the likes of whom you probably won't meet very often. (Hehe, that's probably the cockiest thing I've ever said. I'm still lacking a little bit of common sense, but I cover for it a lot with bravado.)

I mean, sure, I can blame our society that pathologizes being alone, that creates these standards of beauty that not everyone can attain (especially if you're not white), that has somehow fixated on the somewhat artifical construct of the nuclear family (because, in most of human history, and still extant in developing countries, it is the extended family that is the most important social unit. The way I see it, the nuclear family is only useful for the sake of biology.) But I know what the problem is. I let it get to me.

It's like this one fly in the ointment. This single gaping hole, a septal defect in my soul, if you will.

I mean, sure, it's not like I'm not experiencing a little bit of pressure from my parents. I finally got that freaky phone call from my mom where she's demanding that I get married soon, because she's sick of worrying about me, and wants someone else to have to worry about me instead. Which is incredibly insane since I haven't dated anyone in an obscene amount of time. It was also kind of depressing talking to my parents. Maybe things have changed now that two out of their three adult children have decided to move back home, but when it was just the two of them, they both independently, in completely different contexts, stated that, at the age they're at, there really isn't that much left to wait for except to die. This immediately got me to thinking that, shit, they need grandchildren.

(The idea of my sister bringing life into this world absolute horrifies me. But I'm sure that will pass, when the time comes.)

And it doesn't help that I've done 6 weeks of pediatrics, and I'm living with a family who has a 3 year old.

There is a part of me that I can't submerge, that wants, against all odds, to be a father.

This is not very compatible with the Art of Not Wanting, and my resolution to enjoy life on my own.

Still, I recall what A said to me once upon a time: It's not like you have to be married to have kids.

No, well, it's more than that.

Despite the fact that I know she probably doesn't exist, in the deep, dark basement of my soul, I still secretly hope that I will meet the girl of my dreams. I have no idea what she looks like. I have a feeling, though, that she has long dark hair, that she likes singing, that she is creative, and funny, and smart. And that while we will have terrible, raging arguments from time to time (see my bizarre take on love), no matter what happens, we will always have a feeling of certainty that this is the way things are meant to go, despite all the warty and hairy parts of life, that, no matter what sort of mean things we might say to each other, the fact is that we understand each other, and we know that we understand each other.

I have a feeling that she will make me a better person, not by changing me, but by recognizing what I can already do, even though I don't know it now.

But this is all pointless.

I've got to be practical here. I've got to focus on the here-and-now, and take care of what needs to get done before I start dreaming.

I have to play the cards that were dealt to me as best I can. Such is life.

But I won't back down. That's the problem with borderline personalities. It's all or nothing. Give me liberty or give me death. To dream the impossible dream.

I'm playing against Fate here. To steal a phrase from a song by Sting, the sacred geometry of chance. And if that magic number never comes up, so be it.

17:26:38 10 Oct 2003 > /soul > permalink > 0 comments

Thu, 09 Oct 2003

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in the beginning was the word

I don't know why I can't do this, why it's such a painful task to just pound this shit out, write down what I mean to say, and get it done with.

I just can't write my personal statement. It's absolutely killing me.

Well. At least I can still write (as long as you keep your threshold for what constitutes as writing relatively low, that is.)

Seriously, though. I miss it a lot. I don't know what made me give up, why I can no longer feel the euphoric rush of inspiration, of writing down the crystallized images emanating from my mind.

Instead, the words come out long and labored, rough-hewn and unfinished.

The form is obscured by the content. The content is distorted by the form. A veritable downward spiral of incomprehensibility.

The idee fixee. The overvalent idea. (Odd, that, that something I wrote nearly a year ago parallels these thoughts bouncing through my mind. Something about autumn, no doubt.)

I am trapped in my own circular, solipsistic universe.

But, like I said. Incomprehensible. I hardly understand what I'm saying.

In any case, it was good to go back to Berkeley on Tuesday. I haven't been there since June 2002, when A and E got married. I haven't really been there since December 2001, when I bought a, uh, "tobacco accessory." (It wasn't for me, I swear! It was supposed to be a Christmas present!)

Like I told BR, it was strange that my body remembered the place, but my eyes didn't recognize a goddamned thing. (In the words of a nerdy biology major and future M.D., my procedural memory was intact, but my visual memory couldn't make heads or tails of anything.)

I went to the maganda event in Dwinelle, where Barbara Reyes and Aimee Nezhukumatathil read poetry.

Ah. The word. It seems like a lifetime away. And yet I can't let go of it.

(Since I am mentioning poets' blogs, I ought to mention Gura's Blog as well. I apparently missed her, as I came too late.)

I need to get in touch with my soul again, I suppose. I can't help ponder William Gibson's caveat regarding blogging and its possible incompatibility with serious writing.

Oh well. You can't hurry love inspiration. You just have to wait.

21:50:36 9 Oct 2003 > /soul > permalink > 0 comments

Wed, 08 Oct 2003

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loneliness has always been a friend of mine

On Monday, I drove across the Bay Bridge to visit B and we shot the shit about relationships (or more accurately in my case, the lack thereof.) On one hand, this past summer was one of the most action-filled in my life. I've met more women in this one year than I ever have before.

But of course, nothing ever went anywhere. Fate and my subconscious have conspired to sabotage any chance I might've had.

Thems is the breaks.

So I've been really, really concentrating on this whole Art of Not Wanting. (Thankfully, the medication is doing it's part. While most people complain about their decreased libido, it's actually working in my favor.) I know, I know, it sounds like hollow bullshit, the kind of thing that losers tell themselves when they have to go to sleep cold and alone with nothing but a bottle of handlotion or a jar of vaseline by their side, but, well, it's all I've got.

I can't stand how our culture pathologizes being alone.

I definitely count more couples than not as I sit here in the B&N.

Maybe I am a freak.

Anyway, what got me thinking was that my brother just turned 23, and he was really depressed. (What can I say, nobody loves you when you're 23.) Mostly, it's the whole direction-in-life thing that's getting him down. According to my sister, he, in fact, has a girlfriend, something that he has neglected to inform me about (although he's had a long history of hiding this kind of shit from anyone related to him. The only reason my sister probably knows is because she is the nosiest person in the world.)

The point being, it reminded me of when I turned 23, and how it was the loneliest day of my life.

I had just moved out to Illinois, and I was completely uprooted and adrift. My roommate was away on a trip (I think it was his sister's wedding) and no one else around knew that it was my birthday. Of course, my good friends all gave me a call, but I'm pretty sure it only highlighted how horrifically alone I was.

And, yet, it didn't kill me.

Loneliness is in fact survivable.

I mean, yeah, it kind of does interesting things to my mind. I'm currently living with two families: two couples (both of the wives are currently pregnant) and a 3 year old.

It kind of hurts to imagine that this isn't anything that will happen in my future.

It was even crazier when I decided to go to church with my friends on Sunday (I haven't gone since Ascension Thursday Sunday) and the Gospel was essentially about marriage. I don't know whether God was mocking me, or trying to comfort me in some warped, twisted way.

But, I suppose, like always, it's all about small steps. At least I haven't been brooding about it. I mean, yeah, it's popped into my mind now and again, but it doesn't make me weep the way I did when I found out my two friends were getting married to each other. (And that is a long, long story that I really don't want to get into at this point.

Really, though. This is not so bad. I can do this.

I also imagined what it would be like to be an uncle. That will be good enough, maybe. It takes a village, and all that.

I've always said that I shouldn't be allowed to reproduce anyway.

Hah.

Anyway, the Art of Not Wanting.

You've got to hold on to something even when there is nothing to hold on to. Such is life.

22:37:16 8 Oct 2003 > /soul > permalink > 0 comments

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enneagram

I love personality tests.

 Conscious self
Overall self
Take Free Enneagram Personality Test

19:14:54 8 Oct 2003 > /soul > permalink > 1 comments

Mon, 06 Oct 2003

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the friend zone

Fit the First

I have been trying to convince myself that there's nothing wrong with being alone, that I am capable of living a rich, fulfilling life on my own, without having to rely on anyone else.

Now, of course, there is something that rings hollow to that. My thoughts on the matter otherwise gel together. But there is a conspicuous, vacuous space embedded within, an air bubble in the tubing.

Human beings are, for better or for worse, social beings. We need to be around other people. At the same time, we inevitably need to express our individuality. And I am convinced we cannot survive at either extreme. The whole of human life is the balance between self and other, a continual, vital dialectic.

So, for now, there is something missing.

I am approaching the Godelian no-man's land of my theory for contentment.

But I've got no recourse but to pretend it's not there. Selective amnesia. The last refuge of the madman and the scoundrel. I hope there is such a thing as karma, because at times like these, I feel like life owes me some payback.

Heh. Wishful thinking.

Fit the Second

But I have tarried here too long, in this land of No Chance. As what she says digs deeper into my heart, all these assertions that I'm a great guy, that I'm a lot of the things she wishes she could find, that I would be a great catch, as what she says inches closer to the vital regions of my soul like a bullet, or a fat embolus, making me wish impossible things, making me aspire to delusions, what she says is further proof that I am screwed, that I am trapped in this box, and that anything I try to change the situation will only dig me a bigger hole to wallow in.

Catch-22. If you're crazy, then I can't let you do this to yourself. I can't let you blow yourself up again. But then, if you were really crazy, you wouldn't think twice about self-destruction. You'd just jump in and say "Geronimo!" The fact that you don't want to destroy yourself proves you're not crazy, so I have to make you destroy yourself. Oh yes. Much more bizarre and insane than "Damned if you do, damned if you don't." This is Godel in literary form.

I could take the easy way out and say that my life sucks.

But it would be an oversimplification of what is, despite all my friends' attempts to downplay it, a hopelessly complex situation.

My brain is on fire.

How do you keep hoping when there is clearly no hope? How do you stop hoping when a million opportunities lie in your path, just ready for the taking?

Why can I never set my heart on a possible thing?

Simultaneously, what I say will be true, and it will be false. (More Godel for ya.) None of this really matters. On one hand, it's a rationalization to account for all my failings. But on the other, it is objectively true. Some day, I will forget any of this ever happened, and someday, no one will know or care.

I will not let this get to me. But it's there. It has always been there.

Hello, darkness, my old friend. I've come to talk to you again....

22:33:18 6 Oct 2003 > /soul > permalink > 4 comments

Tue, 30 Sep 2003

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time travelin'

(I am thinking of the song by Common [lyrics][iTMS]. Not that it has anything to do with anything.)

I read Sunday's entry on Incidental Findings (no permalinks, so scroll down to 9/29 or look in the archives) and once again, I find it crazy that some aspects of my life parallel this author's experience.

I think I have come to grips with the fact that I am going to be alone for the rest of my life (which, as I've mentioned before, might in fact be brief if any of my dreams come true.) While I have been given to wallowing in my own patheticness in the past, this recent resolution is more because I have realized my limitations. Given the fact that I can't seem to trust anybody, there is no way anything is going to happen. Simple as that. Cause and effect. No need to wail about destiny or karma or sheer bad luck. God didn't dick me. I dicked myself.

By the way, I finally made it back to the Bay Area. I haven't really come to grips with all the changes that have occurred in my life in the last five years. It's almost like a dream. I'm such a different person, in good ways and in bad ways. It's really weird to try to trace the thread of my life, and realize that there's no way to separate the bad from the good.

But I have a long commute (which, as I've mentioned before, gives me way too much time to think) and all these memories from my undergrad days come flooding back. What is interesting is that I only sense the sadness and the pain intellectually. It no longer drives a figurative stake through my heart, sending me reeling into self-pity. I feel disoriented by it, like it's some other person's memories that I've inherited. I can dissect them from a distance, think about them in a relatively objective manner. I suppose I just realize that I wouldn't be who I am today (for better or for worse) if I hadn't suffered the way I did.

So, at least, I have my career. I have my friends. I have my family. On one level, these are just the rationalizations of a lonely man trying to justify his existence. On another level, I am counting my blessings (because, in the end, I am afraid of losing even what little I have, a phenomenon once described by Oscar Zeta Acosta.) Is it a fair exchange? Career vs. family. To never know what it is to come home to my beloved wife and children. I'm coming to grips with it. You've got to play the cards you've been dealt, I suppose.

Feh. You dig deep enough, eventually you're going to draw blood. It still hurts. But too many things need to happen for things to turn out the way I want. I really just need to focus on what I've got, and go from there. Because nothing in this life is ever certain, and it's better to be pleasantly surprised than bitterly disappointed. Hope for the best, but prepare for the worst. Yeah, I wish life were better. I suppose, at least life isn't worse. At least that's what I tell myself to help me sleep at night.

20:09:02 30 Sep 2003 > /soul > permalink > 3 comments

Sat, 27 Sep 2003

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i swear i'm not crazy

I don't know about this (see the second to the last paragraph.) I think that, over time, irrational behavior is increasingly irrational, and rational behavior becomes irrational. (Entropy always wins.) In the end, it's all meaningless chaos. Or as Douglas Adams put it (in my quite oblique interpretation of his quote):

It is known that there are an infinite number of worlds, simply because there is an infinite amount of space for them. However, not every one of them is inhabited. Therefore, there must be a finite number of inhabited worlds. Any finite number divided by infinity is as near to nothing as makes no odds, so the average population of all the planets in the Universe can be said to be zero. From this it follows that the population of the whole Universe is also zero, and that any people you may meet from time to time are merely the products of a deranged imagination. (my emphasis added) —from The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

But I digress.

You wanna know something completely hilarious? I have been advised by many a female that I would probably attract more chicks if I were more of an asshole.

Wonderful.

I am a bitter, bitter man.

I really like that quote: Unanswered phone rings are the sound of rejection.

Rejection. You would think that at this point in time, I would be completely used to it. But instead, it belies my whole belief that human beings can get used to anything. Although, as they say (I have no idea what it means, really), that the exception proves the rule.

I, sir, am rambling. Whatever. Who the hell cares?

Also: closure is overrated. Sometimes it's better to just pick yourself up from the impact crater [1][2], dust yourself off, and make a clean start. I may be pessimistic, but I can't help but feel that for every loose end you tie off, at least five to seven more will come unraveled. Fucked up situations are like a hydra. Lop one head off, and more come to grow in their place. Sometimes the only thing you can realistically do is to cut your losses and move on.

To quote Chris Rock (again, another tangential reference): "They say life is short. No it's not. Life is long. Especially if you choose the wrong person."

I'm sure we'd all like to have clean consciences, but a lot of people withhold forgiveness for ridiculous reasons. And, believe me, it's much easier to deal with your own insanity and your own guilty conscience than to have to deal with someone else's insanity, and trying to plead for forgiveness from them.

And sometimes, just because they say they've forgiven you, doesn't mean that they have. These are the anvils that people will hold over you, just for some measure of control. The veritable sword of Damocles, hanging by a thread. And then when the going gets rough, all sorts of neuroses and psychoses take to the field.

Not that I advocate giving up on reconciliation. But, just like everything, it becomes a cost-benefit analysis.

Somethings are just not meant to be.

We hurt the ones we love the most.

But I can't seem to convince myself that there's more to life than love.

To quote Charles Bukowski (I keep having these loose associations in my head):

if you don't have much soul left and you know it, you still got soul.—from "A Dollar and 20 Cents"

As I've said before (though rather unconvincingly), there are worse things in life than being alone.

That's what I tell myself so I can sleep at night, at least.

08:40:37 27 Sep 2003 > /soul > permalink > 0 comments

Thu, 25 Sep 2003

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insomnia

I just can't get to sleep. As I was walking home from Y and R's place, I felt kind of drowsy and I was pretty sure I'd be able to get to bed OK, but of course, the phone rings, first M, then N. (And why is my life filled with all these people, and yet I feel so horribly, so irredeemably alone?)

The conversations I had were relatively benign. There was no heartache, no metaphoric knife digging deep into my chest. (It's just that I often reflect on my inability to connect.... OK I promise to stop harping about this eventually....) I'm yawning, but I just can't make my brain stop from going around and around in circles.

Today was a really bad day, in terms of how little work I got done, and in terms of the emotional nadir I experienced for no good reason. I just had this overpowering sense of everything going wrong, of me being paralyzed and unable to do anything to alleviate my misery. I can't avoid it, nor can I accept it. (It is the vast nothingness of oblivion, the endless emptiness of non-existence, clawing for my soul.) I can't just suck it up, and try to rise above it.

But, for no good reason, it leveled off at the end of the day. (Normally, I get really depressed when the sun begins to set.) While I couldn't say that I was happy, I wasn't despondent. Things were OK, as long as I didn't think too far ahead of the present.

Maybe all these thoughts are neurotoxic. Maybe I am just caught by an overvalent idea. So that my only relief is to spew them out somehow, whether to a psychiatrist or to the mindless ether that is the Internet.

I don't know. Maybe I can sleep after all.

23:07:34 25 Sep 2003 > /soul > permalink > 0 comments

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maybe god doesn't like you

I've come to hate my own creation. Now I know how God feels. —Homer Simpson

21:26:32 25 Sep 2003 > /quotes > permalink > 3 comments

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i don't buy it

While the author of this blog post about how it is difficult to write clean XHTML in a corporate environment makes very valid points (e.g., you can't control the output of the CMS, and most WYSIWYG editors emit borked code), I still can't stomach the fact that you have to compromise your professional integrity in order to satisfy the corporate master.

True, I have yet to earn a serious wage, and, while I fantasize about staying free from the corporate task master, chances are, I will be 0wn3d. (In fact, I probably am already 0wn3d, considering how much debt I have.) So if it's your job on the line, you just might have to cut corners. I can understand that.

But the thing is, there are advantages to properly coding, in terms of semantic correctness, and you throw these advantages away by using kludges and hacks like tables. Ultimately, I really think that content should be king, that content must be accessible, meaning being able to be read by XML parsers, being viewable on non-standard browsers such as cel phones and handheld computers, being transformable to PDF, and providing all the interop niceties that well-formed markup gives you, and if you can't get that layout perfectly right, a redesign may very well be a good idea. After all, all the content should still be right there, accessible, and self-describing. And if your corporate task master throws a fit that it doesn't fit the specs to the exact pixel, you should point out the fact that these intact interop niceties will save a lot of time and effort (and money) in the long run, while that piece of eye candy really isn't going to do much other than tax the patience of the next guy who has to maintain this slop (and possibly crash the browsers of their prospective clients.)

Sure, you shouldn't have to bear stigmata for using transitional code. There's no need to wear a scarlet letter. But I think that some of this criticism is necessary and bears hearing out.

As Internet Explorer grows obsolescent, as Mozilla and other Gecko-based browsers take the lead, as novel rendering engines like KHTML (which drives Konqueror and Safari) become more ubiquitous, as we move away from the personal computer as the only pardigm for displaying content from the Web, there is going to be a lot of breakage going on. And, while, perhaps, in the short term, it may be beneficial to web developers, as they'll have jobs fixing these sites, in terms of the big picture, it's just a big waste. If you tried your best, and got caught by the 11th hour, that's one thing, but to just blithely ignore these recommendations because this how you've always done it, it renders fine on all the major browsers, is extraordinarily short-sighted.

21:19:00 25 Sep 2003 > /computers/www > permalink > 0 comments

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ass monkey disease

My winters are spent simply ENDURING. Distracting. Hurrying to the next warm spot. Driving through sludge and muck and sleet with my head down. In NYC I spent my winters standing on the above-ground Queensboro number 7 platform. Grinning maniacally into that horizontal sleet that seems to fall only when there's a slow down in train service and you know you'll be there for 45 minutes.
I want blistering fucking heat. Blazing sunshine that burns my bones. Long drives with the window wide open and bugs exploding against my windshield. Exposed midrifts. Feet up, light breeze, birds chirping. Call it seasonal affective disorder or call it "ass monkey 2000", I don't care.

A fellow sufferer of seasonal affective disorder. I've been bitching and moaning about SAD since I've had a blog [1][2][3][4] Yeah, the part that causes serious damage to my mental health begins in March (because surviving February is not an easy task for me) and often extends all the way to May. December and January are endurable only because of the holidays. Of course, the build-up is taxing as well. The waning sunlight absolute kills me. By the winter solstice, I am pining for sunlight the way a drowning man gasps for air.

I'm hoping that by taking pre-emptive action, and high-tailing it to California this winter, it won't be as bad. So I'm crossing my fingers.

15:37:36 25 Sep 2003 > /soul > permalink > 0 comments

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genius and insanity

Hah! I knew there was something to my style of planned chaos! This interview with theoretical physicist David Deutsch perfectly illustrates the kind of lifestyle I like to lead, much to the chagrin of my mother, my sister, and my ex-girlfriend (not to mention my roommates, past and present.)

On the other hand, there is always that fine line between genius and insanity, and it would be quite presumptious of me to claim genius, considering I have yet to produce anything of substance. But we will not dwell on such things.

I am reminded of this quote (which I originally mentioned in an entirely different context):

often, the state of the kitchen is the state of the mind, confused and unsure men, pliable men are the thinkers. their kitchens are like their minds, cluttered with garbage, dirty ware, impurity, but they are aware of their mind-state and find some humor in it. at times, with a violent burst of fire they defy the eternal duties and come up with a lot of shining that we sometimes call creation; just as at times they will get half drunk and clean up their kitchens. but soon again all falls into disorder and they are in the darkness again, in need of BABO, pills, prayer, sex, luck and salvation. the man with ever-orderly kitchen is the freak, however. beware of him. his kitchen-state is his mind-state: all in order, settled, he has let life condition him quickly to a basened and hardened complex of defensive and soothing thought-order. if you listen to him for ten minnutes you will know that anything he says in a lifetime will be essentially meaningless and always dull. he is a cement man. there are more cement men than other kinds of men. so if you are looking for a living man, first check his kitchen and save yourself time." —from "Too Sensitive" by Charles Bukowski

09:45:13 25 Sep 2003 > /soul > permalink > 0 comments

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the matrix has you

An article advocating using CSS over <table>s, written as a "Matrix" parody.

(Incidentally, does the IMDb have an API a la Google or Amazon? Because, if not, I just thought of another reason to write my blog entries in well-formed XML. I could write a Perl script that would rip out all the <a> tags with hrefs pointing to the IMDb and create my own local hash of IMDb IDs to movie titles, as I link to the IMDb a lot, so that I wouldn't keep on having to visit the actual site.)

(Even more incidentally, another reason is so I could use a Perl script to figure out what sites I link to a lot. And even more incidentally and trivially, I could figure out which of my <a> tags don't have title attributes. The possibilities are endless. And maybe ridiculous, but everyone needs a hobby.)

06:43:09 25 Sep 2003 > /computers/www > permalink > 0 comments

Wed, 24 Sep 2003

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i think there's something wrong with me

(I am thinking of Dr. Gonzo from "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas," a raving caricature of Oscar Zeta Acosta, the renowned Chicano lawyer.)

...you have demonstrated your ability to achieve excellent grades and evaluations in a most demanding curriculum. Equally important, you are recognized as being someone who sets high standards, who is compassionate toward others and someone who is of high moral character. Given these qualities, we sincerely believe that you will be a leader in your chosen profession and in the community you serve.

You would think that hearing something like that, I'd at least be somewhat happy. I mean, sure, it has tweaked my perspective a bit towards the positive side of things, but I'm not ecstatic. All I can dwell upon is the fact that it's not a sure thing, it may very well be ephemeral, and it may not mean anything.

I can't seem to hold on to even a tiny spark of joy. Everything drifts away in this mournful, howling wind that is, perhaps, my soul screaming.

I can't seem to get over this tired feeling, this feeling of being beat down, beat up, kicked in the chest, and then being left to lie down on a rock. There's absolutely no reason for it, but I'm flailing hopelessly like a dying small animal impaled on a spike.

I can't seem to swim out of the deep. There's an undercurrent that keeps pulling me down.

Honestly, though, I can't seem to break out of this. I feel like I'm trapped in layers upon layers of cellophane. I can see to the outside, and I can move around all I want, but I can't get out, and I'm eventually going to run out of air.

Whatever.

So this week I have resigned myself to the sad fact that I am going to be alone for a long, long time, because there doesn't seem to be anyway out of this morass I'm in. Every time I step forward, the wind and the waves just blast me back to where I started, and the only thing that keeps me going is the fact that sooner or later there won't be anything to run back to.

The only thing I can see is oblivion in every direction. This sheer blank nothingness.

I just can't get outside of myself. I've got myself locked up in a trap real good, and the only way out seems to be to give up and die.

I just want to lie still right now.

Man. Autumn just really gets me down. All I can really do is hope that something outside of me changes. All I can really hope for is someone to reach out a hand. I clearly cannot do this by myself.

20:53:07 24 Sep 2003 > /soul > permalink > 0 comments

Tue, 23 Sep 2003

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galileo and the last day of summer

As I was wandering through Walgreens, I caught "Galileo" by the Indigo Girls [lyrics][iTMS] (off of "Rites of Passage") and immediately, I thought of the demise of the unmanned space craft Galileo, which met its fate in the atmosphere of Jupiter on Sunday. NASA made sure to sacrifice Galileo for fear of contaminating Europa's surface with terrestrial microbes, bringing to mind the warning from Arthur C. Clarke's 2010: "All these worlds are yours—except Europa. Attempt no landings there."

How long till my soul gets it right? Can any human being ever reach that kind of light? —"Galileo" by the Indigo Girls

Of course, this also brought to mind the Cure song "Jupiter Crash"[lyrics][iTMS] (off of "Wild Mood Swings") This song is really about the comet Shoemaker-Levy slamming into Jupiter in 1995 but it's still appropriate.

Yeah that was it That was the Jupiter crash Drawn too close and gone in a flash Just a few bruises in the region of the splash...
She left to the sound of the sea She just drifted away from me So much for gravity... —"Jupiter Crash" by the Cure

And thinking of the Cure made me realize that summer is finally over. The autumn equinox is upon us. "The last day of summer always seems so cold." (From, appropriately enough, "The Last Day of Summer" by the Cure [lyrics][iTMS]) There is something about this time of year that just makes me sad and makes me aware of how lonely I am. (Then there is that poem "Spring and Fall: To a Young Child" by Gerard Manley Hopkins that I read in high school.) I mean, I have a lot of sad memories from this time of year (including great, grave things from long before I started keeping a blog) so maybe it's understandable. Ah, hell.

You now, though, last year wasn't so bad. What is it that changed?

18:40:42 23 Sep 2003 > /playlist > permalink > 1 comments

Mon, 22 Sep 2003

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adventures in print serving

As I noted previously, I had purchased a Hawking Technology 2 USB + 1 Parallel Port Internet Print Server, for use with my Canon i850 Photo Printer. Lo and behold, the i850 does not play all that well with network printing, at least not with the MacOSX drivers provider. A quick search on Google yielded that there were in fact Linux printer drivers (on Canon's Japanese site) that allow network printing (via CUPS.) Thus, I am using the driver for the Canon BJC-7004 (using the bjc800 PPD.) It also took me a while to figure out how to set the PS12U's IP address. You have to assign one with arp (arp -s IP address print server's MAC address XX:XX:XX:XX:XX:XX) as the instructions suggest. Once you've set the IP address, you can either use tftp as outlined in the instructions, or you can simply telnet to the print server, which has a menu-driven console interface. Enabling DHCP led to some confusion, as my router quickly assigned an IP address. (I forgot exactly how I found it again.)

The next trick was to get CUPS on MacOSX to print to the Canon i850 via the PS12U. This required GIMP-Print and the instructions outlined in LinuxPrinting's CUPS Quick Start. Just for the record, GIMP-Print 4.2.6-pre1 for MacOSX wants its filters in /usr/libexec/cups/filter/, so change the symlink for foomatic-rip accordingly. Finally, I couldn't figure out how to use Print Center to set it up, so I resorted to using CUPS' web interface (point your browser to http://localhost:631/admin), added the PPD and restarted the CUPS daemon. Works like a charm, though, as has been mentioned by other people, it's a little off. But it's close enough, and if I want to print something really nice, then I can always cart off my iBook and park it in front of the printer so the USB cable will reach. (I know, I'm a lazy bastard. I got the print server just so I wouldn't have to do that.)

15:11:32 22 Sep 2003 > /computers > permalink > 0 comments

Sun, 21 Sep 2003

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"underworld" and neverwhere

I watched "Underworld" last night. (Between this and "Once Upon a Time in Mexico" I've completely lost track of how much gunfire I've witnessed.) It was not the best movie I've watched. (Although, I must say, Kate Beckinsale. Mmmmm.) But it was definitely highly entertaining. (Again, the massive amount of violence and bloodshed was very cool, particularly one final, very wonderfully grotesque death scene.) It's sort of "The Matrix" meets "Blade" (with, according to J, a little "West Side Story" thrown in.) A lot of the shots were quite picturesque and atmospheric, beginning with the opening gun-battle in a crowded subway station.

But back to Kate Beckinsale. (I promise I won't drool too much.) She was honestly mesmerizing as vampire-warrior Selene. What struck me the most was that her character makes me completely think of the character Door in Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman. (I have not watched the miniseries, as I've heard that, while admirable in its faithfulness to the source, it might still be disappointing because of the inherent difficulty of transferring the contents of a book to film.) In fact, "Underworld" as a whole made me think of Neverwhere (and, perhaps, the final chapters of Long, Dark Tea-Time of the Soul by Douglas Adams, involving the St. Pancras Underground Station in London, but that is neither here nor there.) While "Underworld" was heavy on gore and ammunition rounds, Neverwhere (though true of Gaiman's other works) emphasizes wonder and fantasy. Obviously, it's difficult to compare the 24 frame-per-second pace of a movie reel with page-turning, so that probably accounts for the slower feel to the book, because the circumstances are just as shadowy and violent in Neverwhere as it is in "Underworld." While not as gruesome and action-packed, Neverwhere is definitely just as dark and surreal—with worlds and entire civilizations hidden from humans, despite the fact that it's all right there in our midst (a theme that "Men in Black" made blindingly obvious)

So I've got to read Neverwhere and perhaps even brave the mini-series (if I can find it somewhere.)

07:20:20 21 Sep 2003 > /movies > permalink > 1 comments

Sat, 20 Sep 2003

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amazon_buybox

amazon_buybox is a plugin that generates code for items at Amazon.com, creating a link to the description, pulling the image file, and creating a "buy" button.

The following element <blosxom:amazon-buybox asin="ASIN (Amazon Standard Identification Number)">description</blosxom:amazon-buybox> will be turned into:

<div class="amazon-desc">description</div> <div class="amazon-image"> <a href="http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B000003RGY/ref=nosim/associate ID"< <img src="http://images.amazon.com/images/P/B000003RGY.01.TZZZZZZZ.jpg" alt="picture of description" /> </a> </div> <form method="POST" action="http://www.amazon.com/o/dt/assoc/handle-buy-box=B000003RGY"> <input type="hidden" name="asin.B000003RGY" value="1" \> <input type="hidden" name="tag-value" value="associate ID" \> <input type="hidden" name="tag_value" value="associate ID" \> <input type="submit" name="submit.add-to-cart" value="Buy from Amazon.com" \> </form>

You can customize the elements that contain the description, the image, and the whole thing.

See this entry for an example.

14:04:26 20 Sep 2003 > /computers/www/blosxom > permalink > 0 comments

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buying stuff

(I know this will come off as sexist, but...) Despite having a Y chromosome, whenever I feel stressed out and unhappy with my life, I tend to buy stuff. (See, capitalism does work. Who cares if everyone is living a life of unremitting misery? At least we're helping the economy!)

So yesterday I dropped down money that I don't really have to purchase a Marware SportSuit Convertible for my iPod, a Keyspan Presentation Remote, a U.S. Robotics SoundLink Wireless Audio Delivery System, and a Hawking Technology 2 USB + 1 Parallel Port Internet Print Server.

While I have been screwing around with Romeo, which turns a Bluetooth-enabled phone (such as the Sony Ericsson T610) into a remote control for your Macintosh running OS X, the range of Bluetooth isn't as far as I hoped for. And besides, what with the UNIX mantra of "the right tool for the task" (as opposed to "all-in-one" creeping featurism), I figure it might be worth having a dedicated remote. (Ah, I love my rationalizations. Besides, I will have to do presentations when I'm a resident physician.)

Man, I can't wait until I start earning a paycheck.


Marware SportSuit Convertible for iPod(<3G)

Keyspan Presentation Remote

U.S. Robotics Soundlink Wireless Audio Delivery System

Hawking Technology 2 USB + 1 Parallel Port Internet Print Server

Sony Ericsson T616

12:12:01 20 Sep 2003 > /computers > permalink > 0 comments

Fri, 19 Sep 2003

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blogging: a retrospective

Somehow I stumbled onto this essay by Rebecca Blood (author of The Weblog Handbook: Practical Advice on Creating and Maintaining Your Blog and We've Got Blog: How Weblogs Are Changing Our Culture) about the history of blogs. And this led me to the eatonweb portal which led to some really random blogs:

(Sorry, just a random list of places I clicked-through. No commentary as of yet.)

Then, somehow I ended up at the website of the esteemed science fiction writer Harlan Ellison, where I learned about the game "I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream," which is based on a collection of short-stories by Mr. Ellison (and which sounds very "Matrix"-like.) Which made me immediately think of the meme "Hello Kitty Has No Mouth" (and she must scream....)

The web is a random, random place.

23:14:31 19 Sep 2003 > /via-trails > permalink > 0 comments

Thu, 18 Sep 2003

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the simpsons go to africa

bart and lisa: are we insane yet? are we insane yet? are we insane yet? homer: i told you, yes!!

15:32:07 18 Sep 2003 > /quotes > permalink > 0 comments

Wed, 17 Sep 2003

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the xhtml 2 debate

I don't know how I stumbled upon the debate raging over XHTML 2 on my web travels, but I found it really intriguing. Very soap-operatic.

Now, I am not a professional web-developer. (Clearly not, if this page is any gauge.) But I have been playing around with markup and with code that reads markup for a while now (I've been messing around with Perl and XSLT for nearly three years) and I have come to appreciate the importance of separating content from style. Because code doesn't care about style at all, it just wants to find content, and it's a lot easier to parse unique tags than it is to use XPath to try and get you the right non-unique element with a particular style tag. Plus, it's completely non-intuitive to do this. Why are we trying to parse an element whose only unique characteristic is "font-family: sans"? If you had marked it up as <quote>, for example, it would at least give the programmer an idea of what they're trying to parse.

Also, I am a big believer in the idea that the user should get to decide how things look, not the developer. This is why I think the style attribute should die. If I don't want that headline in Verdana 18 pt, then I should be able to override it, and that's difficult if you've got style attributes lying around all over the place. More importantly, if I've got bad vision, I'd like to be able to change that 6 pt font that you insist I try to read your page in.

Getting rid of the style attribute is especially important now that it is getting commonplace to browse the web with such things as cel phones and handheld computers, things which typically don't have access to 3,000 fonts and don't always have access to all the billions of color that a desktop or notebook computer does (and don't have a lot of bandwidth or memory to retrieve/store tons and tons of style declaration.) Then there are the more esoteric but equally important (from an accessibility standpoint) cases such as reading markup out loud to the blind. In this case, the style attribute is just useless cruft that obscures what should be done to make a particular segment of text standout.

The thing that I don't get about the debate is how people who want to keep all this cruft in XHTML 2 (most notably the line-break <br /> and the aforementioned style attribute) is that they are screaming bloody murder at people who want to get rid of it. Hell, if you don't want to use XHTML2, keep using XHTML 1.1 then. Or HTML 4. Or HTML 3.2. No one is stopping you, and these things will probably always be supported.

Anyway, I think Hixie makes sense. I've been dying to find some sensible way to markup poetry that didn't involve <span class="line"> or, God-forbid, <br>. I mean, maybe this is esoteric, but I think it would be completely legitimate to use an XML parser or XPath expression to search for, oh, let's say, lines where Anchises is mentioned in The Aeneid. This is feasible if every line is enclosed in <l> elements. This is down-right painful and ugly if you use <br />. In fact, you couldn't do this reasonably if all you had at your disposal was XSLT. And, while <span class="line"> is also parseable, that's a serious pain to have to type when compared to <l>. The same ideas apply with regards to code listings.

Anyway. I am such a geek.

11:17:14 17 Sep 2003 > /computers/www > permalink > 0 comments

Tue, 16 Sep 2003

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r kelly has a way with words

Osama bin Laden is the only one who knows exactly what I'm going through.—R. Kelly

Found in A journal of a Hip-Hop DJ, linked from littleyellowdifferent.

My. Homicidal religious zealots. Pedophiles. (And sometimes it all intersects...) Not to be judgemental and cast the first stone or anything, but, I must say, I think they have the same social acceptability quotient.

19:59:22 16 Sep 2003 > /quotes > permalink > 0 comments

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chrono_nav

A new plugin that gives you links to entries that immediately precede or suceed the current post, chronologically speaking (although a tweak to the sort routine will change that.) I shamelessly stole the code from the tree plugin by Ryan Schram, the behavior of which is more sophisticated, because it descends and ascends into and out of your category hierarchy. I hacked out a few bits here, grafted on a few bits there.

Read the documentation for more information or download chrono_nav and just dig in.

chrono_nav is not very aesthetically pleasing unless you use it in conjunction with interpolate_fancy (or interpolate_pseudoxml if you like verbosity like I do.) Without being able to do conditionals, chrono_nav will pollute your index files with bogus "prev" and "next" links. With interpolate_fancy, you can show links conditionally, depending on whether you are at the first post, the last post, in an index.

For example:

<?$chrono_nav::prev unlike="^bogus_ante$"><a href="$chrono_nav::prev">&lt;&lt;reverse</a> |</?> <a href="http://blog.fatoprofugus.net">home</a> <?$chrono_nav::next unlike="^bogus_post$">| <a href="$chrono_nav::next">forward>></a></?>

This will generate home | forward>> on the first post, <<reverse | home on the last post, and <<reverse | home | forward>> on every post in between. (Notice the kludgery with the bogus tags. I can't seem to make $chrono_nav::prev and $chrono_nav::next return undef.)

10:57:54 16 Sep 2003 > /computers/www/blosxom > permalink > 3 comments

Mon, 15 Sep 2003

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outkast "hey ya"

I was listening to the radio after dropping S off and I came across "Hey Ya" by Outkast, which has a wonderful catch phrase: "Shake it like a Polaroid picture!" I admit. It took me a while to figure out what the hell they were talking about. (Just think of the opening sequence of the movie "Memento")

23:09:38 15 Sep 2003 > /playlist > permalink > 0 comments

Sun, 14 Sep 2003

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27: third time pays for all

It really sucks that after 25, birthdays aren't nearly as good. The big 3-0 just looms a little too close, and you're not old, but you're a little too old for the club (to steal a line from Chris Rock.) When the age difference between you and a Playboy centerfold approaches a decade, you know things have got to change.

I am a bitter, bitter man.

But at least i have energy. ('cause once you get tired, you will get sucked down into the vortex of hopelessness. It's like a treadmill. Or trying to outrun a crumbling bridge, Indiana Jones-style. You've just got to keep moving even if all your muscles are turning your blood into battery acid.

I will not bitch too much about the fact that (despite the sincere apologies and excuses) three different women declined the invitation to hang out on my birthday.

I give up. There is no use swimming against the current. I might as well enjoy the ride.

I must say that dinner was pretty good. You can't really go wrong with sangria. But we hit the liquor a little too early, and by 1:00am we were mostly non-functional. It was a good thing that we went home when we did, because the remainder of the evening included a good number of blank spots. Like, I don't remember how i got into bed. The last thing I remember clearly is throwing down a throwpillow onto my hard wood floors and lying down because the floor was so cool and I felt like I was burning up. Oh, and drinking out of a Pyrex measuring cup. I think I was honestly trying to read Perl documentation in my drunken stupor. When I woke up this morning, I found at least thirty webpages open in my browser.

To help me get to sleep, I do remember putting "Piggy (Nothing Can Stop Me Now)" by Nine Inch Nails on repeat. "Nothing can stop me now, 'cause I don't care anymore."

The red hot anger and bitterness has dissolved into morbid apathy and brooding self-loathing. None of this matters, really, and all I'm doing is torturing myself.

As my oldest friend once advised me: Fuck it.

There are things I need to take care of, and while, it's true, my future does rest upon me getting these things done, if I don't, I don't.

I feel all stretched and thin, and there ain't any more slack left to pull on. Times like this, if you don't want to snap in half, something has got to give. You've got to let go, and fall, and pray to God that you'll hit the ground running.

Only hope can keep me together. Love can mend your life, but love can break your heart. (Thank you, Gordon Sumner.)

Whatever. There are worse things in life than being alone. I guess.

22:31:51 14 Sep 2003 > /soul > permalink > 0 comments

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gorillaz "m1 a1"

I'm not the only one, apparently, but the beginning of this song totally makes me think of the opening sequences of "28 Days Later." I mean, the lyrics do talk about zombies.

15:16:28 14 Sep 2003 > /playlist > permalink > 0 comments

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retrograde consolidation revisited

Yeah, maybe I need a better name. I really didn't give it much thought. Hell, maybe there's already a name for it. I'm trying to think of a term for the phenomenon of returning to an older technology because it's actually better than whatever we got. And it's not mere regression into the past. The old technology gets adapted to whatever new challenges we face. Often times, the old technology is merely a shell, a vehicle, for what really is new technlogy. It looks like an Apollo Command Module, but it's designed with 21st century technology. Sometimes the "old" technology only continues to exist in an abstract (though still palpable) sense, although the real nitty-gritty is all new stuff. (I am thinking of UNIX, which, on one hand doesn't really exist, but on the other hand, is proliferating everywhere.)

Probably because I'm using Blosxom, the power of plain-text is on my mind, as I mentioned previously. And so I spotted this quote:

The problem is, once we store data in a non-transparent, inaccessible format, then we need code to read it, and that code disappears. Code is disappearing all the time. You probably can't go to a store and ask for a copy of Word 1, or whatever the first version of Word was called. So we are losing vast quantities of information, because we can no longer read the files.
One of the reasons we advocate using plain text is so information doesn't get lost when the program goes away. Even though a program has gone away, you can still extract information from a plain text document. You may not be able to make the information look like the original program would, but you can get the information out. The process is made even easier if the format of the plain text file is self-describing, such that you have metadata inside the file that you can use to extract out the actual semantic meaning of the data in the file. XML is not a particularly good way to do this, but it's currently the plain text transmission medium du jour.
Another reason for using plain text is it allows you to write individual chunks of code that cooperate with each other. One of the classic examples of this is the Unix toolset: a set of small sharp tools that you can join together. You join them by feeding the plain text output of one into the plain text input of the next. There's no concept of trying to make sure the word count program outputs things in a format that's compatible with the next tool in the chain. It's just plain text to plain text, and that's a very powerful way to do it.
—Dave Thomas Plain Text and XML

The mention of UNIX has me thinking about the evolution of operating systems, too. UNIX as a concept has been present for 30+ years. Maybe because I went to UC Berkeley, in the mid-to-late '90's, most of the computers still ran some variant of UNIX. (Although, ironically, they didn't run BSD.) I remember the sense of incredulity I had when Windows 3.0 came out in 1990, and everyone was excited, as if a windowing system had never existed before, when I had known for a fact that they were already deployed and quite powerful (I ran GEOS on a Commodore 64, and I remember playing around with Workbench on my friend's dad's Amiga. I never saw a Macintosh until I was in college, and that was when I was already an x86 chauvinist. Although, I did run Linux briefly even before Windows 95 came out.) Obviously, Microsoft had much at stake with trying to spread the FUD that UNIX was dead, despite the fact that it or some of its genetic and symbolic offspring ran almost all of the Internet. But in the past few years, the OS world seems to have come full-circle, with Apple deciding to build MacOS X on top of BSD. The only remaining (quite significant) hold-out is the Microsoft World, and even there, UNIX toolsets have established a foothold.

One OS to rule them all.

15:07:31 14 Sep 2003 > /computers/www > permalink > 0 comments

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scattered thoughts

Random things I found on the web:

How to read a scalar line by line in perl.

Corroborating my own feelings about blogging and my recent inability to write anything of serious substance, William Gibson is going on hiatus and trying to get serious writing done.

How to make a string all lower case with XSLT.

The Web is a procrastination apparatus: It can absorb as much time as is required to ensure that you won't get any real work done. Sites overflow with either low-value stream-of-consciousness postings or bland corporatese. —Jakob Nielsen

The quote is from a page of quotes about XML. It's kind of interesting. It's somewhat philosophical, and definitely touches upon epistemology. Knowing how we know what we know should define how we structure information, just because it would be the path of least resistance, I think.

Parsing iTunes Music Library.xml.

14:41:27 14 Sep 2003 > > permalink > 66 comments

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itunes_playlist

What I did on my birthday weekend (besides the requisite alcoholic binging) was write a script to list the last 5 songs I've listened to on iTunes. (I guess I'm just an irresolute geek.)

In the process, I managed to learn how to use XML::LibXML. So my XPath skills aren't going to go to waste.

My first attempt involved trying to parse the iTunes Music Library XML file. Unfortunately, this is a rather large file (5.2M with over 4,000 songs) and Apple's plist format is a pretty bad implementation of XML (you have use some rather arcane XPath to get the value of the key you're interested in, because the key name and the value are siblings instead of parent-child, which would make more sense), and maybe I wasn't using the most efficient way to do it (with two XSL transform), but it was taking forever to pull a playlist out.

So I went with Applescript. (Applescript for extracting playlists by Kimbra Staken) Even this is a little slow, but nowhere near as horribly so as my Perl script. I ended up embedding the Applescript in Perl anyway (using Mac::Applescript) because I wanted to use XML::LibXML.

The Applescript just parses a smart playlist I set up to give back the last five songs I've played.

Now, what I wanted as output was an HTML fragment that I could include into my template with Blosxom's file plugin. I wanted a link to lyrics (via Google), a link to search the iTunes Music Store, and a link to Amazon.com.

For the Google link, all I did was escape the artist name and the song name, concatenate them together with the word "lyrics" and then stick it all into a URI that will feed it to Google's "I'm Feeling Lucky" mode.

For the iTMS link, I formatted the escaped parameters to adhere to the iTMS search URI syntax

The trickiest part was getting the Amazon links. You have to figure out the ASIN identifier for whatever you're looking for in order to have a usable URI. Luckily, Amazon.com has exposed their API for public consumption. You have to register as a developer, and then you can send queries to Amazon's database. Amazon.com will send back an XML file, which you can then parse for the ASIN.

So basically I execute this perl script before I generate static pages with Blosxom and rsync with my webhost.

[Source code for itunes_playlist]

13:51:29 14 Sep 2003 > /computers/www/blosxom > permalink > 0 comments

Sat, 13 Sep 2003

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27 - Part II

God only knows why I woke up early this morning (around 9-9:30am) It's funny how birthdays after the age of 25 just don't have the same zing and zest to them. It's more like, oh God, I'm 27. What the hell am I doing with my life?

What is even funnier is that despite being on a pretty fixed path careening towards a rather secure career, I still have no idea where I'm going. Not even just in a philosophical sense. Quite literally in the physical sense.

Seriously. I marvel at the paradoxic nature of it all. I know what sort of work I'll be doing a year from now (plus or minus a few details) but I have no idea where. I'm confident that I'll have a decent job once I'm done with my training, but who knows what exactly I'll be doing.

I mean, sure, this is pretty normal. No one ever knows the specific details of their future. (If we could predict the future, then there's no point to any of this. We'd know everything already.) But the thing that astounds me is that people keep thinking that I have it all laid out and planned, when in fact, while I have a destination in mind, my course having been set a long time ago, the amount of things I know about my future are vastly outnumbered by the things I have no idea. (The more you know, the more you realize you don't. The smartest people in the world also probably feel the most stupid, because they are smart enough to recognize the magnitude of what they don't know. As Calvin from Calvin and Hobbes and Cypher from "The Matrix" have pointed out, ignorance is bliss.)

Incredibly, I've been theoretically an adult for nine years now. Now, spending almost all of that time in school, you can understand how I don't really feel that way. But, as I approach the event horizon of the big 3-0, it is becoming increasingly clear that I am no longer a kid. Despite all my desire to stay a kid.

All my life, I've felt like I've had responsibility thrust upon me. It has never been anything that I've sought out. At the same time, I've never been able to, in good conscience, reject this responsibility.

I hear the voice of James Earl Jones as Darth Vader: "It is your destiny." (A nuclear medicine physician I worked under made fun of me this way, laughing at the fact that there was probably no way I could avoid the path I've taken.)

Who was it that said that the trick to happiness is not getting what you want, but wanting what you get?

Sometimes I can't help but feel trapped. The loop is closed, the path is set, the window is open, there's nothing left but to de-orbit, hit the thrusters, and fall through the sky.

This is what it must feel like when a Schroedinger wave function collapses.

Nothing like the taste of fear and dread mixed with my morning coffee.

09:44:53 13 Sep 2003 > /soul > permalink > 0 comments

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27 - Part I

Another year come and gone, and I want to feel sorry for myself, and yet I feel like a bastard, considering how well things are going.

You can't have everything. There is no such thing as perfect in this world.

I mean, I could be happier.

I am tired. In that last, final sprint to the finish line after a marathon run, it becomes a test of will. I can feel my spirit falter, quivering like a flickering candle flame. There are no guarantees from here until the finish, only that I so very much want to reach the finish line, to attain the culmination of more than two decades of education.

Nothing in this world is ever certain. Those who believe otherwise are a menace to society and should be locked up.

At this age, it starts feeling less and less like it matters, although the big 3-0 still looms up ahead. If I feel like this now, what will happen then?

I don't really want to find out.

But, like all good birthdays, I am writing all of this shit while I am drunk.

Yipeekayay.

Nothing can stop me now, I just don't care anymore. (With apologies to Trent Reznor.)

01:35:47 13 Sep 2003 > /soul > permalink > 0 comments

Fri, 12 Sep 2003

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blessings in disguise

The law is such a double-edged thing. On one hand, the unremitting greed of some people is making our current system of justice unworkable. On the other hand, the law is the only thing that keeps our society from degrading into utter despotism.

Sometimes, the law can have surprising results. Hundreds, if not thousands of years of principles and precedents can interact in interesting ways (emergent behavior again) when coming into contact with scientific and technological advances.

For example, the failure of Microsoft's appeal of the patent ruling in favor of Eolas. (Eolas won a ruling that states that the seamless running of plugins in Internet Explorer infringes on their patent.) This might just cement the importance of portable, light, web standards, specifically, CSS and the DOM. (What used to require .GIFs and scripting—sometimes even server-side—back in 1993 requires only well-formed markup now. I seriously doubt we will get sucked into a WWW timewarp as some authors fear.)

Then there is the RIAA's rampage against 12 year old schoolgirls. While in the short run, they might survive this way, I feel like this is the death knell to the old way of distributing music. While Kazaa is outright infringement of copyright, DMCA or no, and while the iTunes Music Store is everything I've always wanted, it is still somewhat modeled on the old system (i.e., essentially holding the creator's works ransom, and taking 80 cents out of every dollar) and the whole system might just completely implode, leading to something completely new and unexpected.

(But back to the idea of the ability to buy just singles, a la iTMS. This will hopefully lead to the trend that all albums will have more and more good songs. The free market, the principles of supply and demand, in action. The cream will float to the top, the shit will sink to the bottom. This is what laissez-faire is supposed to accomplish, but what we call free-market is not really free-market.)

16:46:31 12 Sep 2003 > /computers/www > permalink > 1 comments

Tue, 09 Sep 2003

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the tower of babble

A script that translates a phrase through several different languages before retranslating it back into English: "Lost in Translation"

If you're fortunate enough to be running MacOS X, a standalone (well, not really, since you still need access to Babelfish) application is available: Babelizer for OSX. OK, it's not exactly the same thing. This just translates a phrase back and forth between English and a language of your choice until the phrase stops mutating.

17:39:09 9 Sep 2003 > /computers/AI > permalink > 0 comments

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more about retrograde consolidation

More thoughts that just occurred to me. A follow up to retrograde consolidation:

Ironically, what makes regressing to older software technologies feasible is because hardware technology is advancing so rapidly. This is what makes it cheap (again, in terms of CPU cycles and memory capacity) to process markup that is otherwise plain text. So because computers are getting faster and faster, and have more and more memory and storage capacity, you don't need precompiled binaries as much. The efficiency gained versus the pain-in-the-ass factor of writing supremely optimized code will become less and less worth it as long as Moore's Law holds, except for some mission-critical applications that require realtime operation (like gaming, for example.) And because you don't need precompiled binaries so much, completely cross-platform, interpreted languages such as Perl and Java can flourish. (Interpreted languages! And you thought BASIC was obsolete!) You can write config files in XML, in a plain text editor. (Much of MacOS X's configuration files are in plist files, that is, XML property lists.) And cross-platform APIs like XUL will become more and more practical as well.

Another reason is expanding bandwidth. If broadband continues to become more and more accessible, and wi-fi continues to become more ubiquitous, it becomes more feasible to transmit things in simpler but more inefficient (in terms of byte-count) formats. For example, perhaps there will come a day when it will be worth downloading WAVs instead of mp3s. (Though, except for the audiophile aspect of it, it may be unnecessary since processor speed will also continue to increase, making the additional load of decoding an mp3 minimal.)

But, I think, more importantly than simplicity (however you want to define it) is openness. A lot of these tools and formats that would've been prohibitive (again, in terms of CPU cycles and memory) in days gone by are somewhat transparent. (Sure, we don't come out of the womb being able to parse XML, but it's a lot easier to understand than straight up machine language.) More importantly, the specs are accessible. With a little effort, you too can write XML documents and write Perl scripts and develop Java applications. You don't need to drop hard cash on some secretive software company to be able to do some rather remarkable things with your computer.

17:34:07 9 Sep 2003 > /computers/www > permalink > 0 comments

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retrograde consolidation

A followup to the disjointed thoughts I set out in my elliptical comments on mass amateurisation, which was written after pondering Tom Coates' entry "(Weblogs and) The Mass Amatuerisation of (Nearly) Everything" on plasticbag.org:

I started noticing how a lot of technology (specifically, software), instead of getting more and more complicated and esoteric and requiring an IQ greater than 120 to understand, is actually regressing to older, simpler, tried and true technologies.

I find it interesting that, for the most part, blogs are pretty much just plain text. Sure, it's technically HTML (or XHTML), but thanks to CSS, it is less necessary to screw around with graphics files in order to implement neat little tricks like rollovers (and as Mozilla and its many offspring begin to catch on, mostly due to the fact that IE is becoming more and more obsolete, and there will be no upgrades to it without having to buy a new version of Windows that will probably cost as much as the computer that you will be running it on, deploying SVG to implement more complex graphical behavior will become more feasible....) Sure, there are pics blogs, and legendary cam sites, but these are more the exception than the rule. Mostly, this is probably because Blogger is the blog tool with the lowest barrier to entry—you don't need your own webhost, and you don't need to know how to code, but if you therefore host on Blogspot exclusively, then you pretty much can't use graphics files.

While software technologies such as Flash have their definite place, they aren't going to take over the Net anytime soon (as I used to see some developers claim.) Who knew? ASCII (in its new incarnation as UTF-8) still reigns.

The advantages of plain text (or at least of being able to degrade gracefully into plain text) are that your content is extraordinarily portable. Content can be browsed by a cel phone, or it can be stuffed onto your iPod. Hell, maybe even your watch can be used to browse content. More over, dealing with plain text is (usually) cheap, in terms of CPU cycles, and especially in terms of memory requirements. You can fit a hell of a lot more text files onto your PDA than PDF files or Word Documents.

Then take the advent of cel phones that support polyphonic ringtones. The most common format for polyphonic ringtones is the MIDI sequence. How ironic, that in 2003, I am all of the sudden once again searching the Net for MIDI files. Back in the day, before mp3s ever existed, when 56K modems were a fantasy, hell, when sound cards didn't come standard with computers, this is how I got my music fix. Purely instrumental files that sounded really crappy unless you had a kick-ass sound card (which I didn't.) But now MIDIs are back in style. Hilarious.

(And finally, the article that made my apophenia-seeking brain put it all together.) And now, get this, NASA is thinking about resurrecting the Apollo space capsule (link from Slashdot). (OK, not really, but sort of.)

17:09:42 9 Sep 2003 > /computers/www > permalink > 0 comments

Sun, 07 Sep 2003

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star raiders

I don't know what put this game into my head, but "Star Raiders" was one of the first games we got for our Atari 400 (the other being Pac-Man), perhaps explaining my early fascination with space and science fiction.

10:54:43 7 Sep 2003 > /computers/games > permalink > 4 comments

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mp3s and spam

Links from a kuro5hin.org article with Links to Tens of Thousands of Legal Music Downloads.

iRATE radio (What is it with the "i" in front of everything these days?) This is a collaborative filter (think Slashdot-style moderation, except applied to mp3s instead of articles) that spiders legally free mp3s, tailoring things to your taste using statistical analysis.

spamgourmet, offering self-destructing e-mail addresses, to prevent the accumulation of spam.

10:04:47 7 Sep 2003 > /computers/www > permalink > 0 comments

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lists and positioning

A couple of CSS bits: Listamatic, with examples of how to use CSS to radically change the display of lists, and "Making the Absolute, Relative" on stopdesign, on how to use CSS for positioning objects.

09:16:53 7 Sep 2003 > /computers/www > permalink > 0 comments

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the man in the high castle

Another link I found on popdex.com: Neu-York, featuring an imaginary map of New York had the Axis won WWII (A topic that Philip K Dick covered quite interestingly in his book The Man in the High Castle, although he focused on the West Coast.) All the streets have been accordingly renamed in German. Now someone has to make a map of San Francisco under Japanese rule.

And some day I have to post my map of Unreal City (apologies to T.S. Eliot), which was inspired by some bizarre recurring dreams I've had where L.A., Chicago, and New York were one gigantic city (and which also inspired this poem).

Ah, alternate realities. I also wonder what would've happened if Mexico had maintained its territorial integrity during the Mexican-American War. Would it have been strong enough to wrest control of the Philippines from the Spanish? (Which wouldn't be off the wall since the galleon trade necessarily passed through Mexico when it was still part of Nuevo Spain) What would've happened during the World Wars if the Confederacy had survived the Civil War? What about if California had maintained its independence? (Again, not completely off the wall, considering that in present times, California's own economy is larger than many nations, even many developed nations, their current $38 billion debt nonwithstanding.) What if California ended up partitioned into two, or even three states? (There was a drive by northernmost Californians—north of Sacramento to the Oregon border—to establish the state of Jefferson.)

What if. What if. Heh.

08:40:40 7 Sep 2003 > /unrealcity > permalink > 0 comments

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elliptical comments on mass amateurisation

(This entry is a very rough draft which I will post anyway, and perhaps will never revise, but, you were warned.)

I stumbled upon this entry from plasticbag.org on popdex. "(Weblogs and) The Mass Amateurisation of (Nearly) Everything"

My comments are more ruminations than criticisms. But it always strikes me how rarefied the blogosphere is in terms of socioeconomics. A lot of people make it sound like the cost of hardware is not a huge barrier to access. While the approximately $200 it costs to buy the most minimal computer and the $39.95/mo to hook it up to the Internet may indeed by trivial for the average citizen of a developed nation, one might wonder just how exactly this translates in the developing world.

Perhaps my ideas are outdated though. Because of my cultural heritage, the Philippines is always my baseline for a developing nation. Perhaps because it exists in the ecosystem of Asia, and despite not booming extraordinarily during the infamous bubble that burst in 1997, the nation nonetheless was impacted somewhat by the technological developments in neighboring countries and therefore can't really be used as a model the developing nations of Africa and South America. The last time I was out in the Philippines, in 1999, what struck me was the disparity in infrastructure. For example, some places may not have had running water or paved roads, but they had an Internet cafe, a cel phone tower, and satellite TV. They might not have had copper-wire land lines, but many people were incredibly proficient with SMS. (And, now, four years later, SMS is just beginning to breakthrough in the U.S.)

If you google the TLD .ph, you will find quite a few sites, and many of them are in fact blogs. So long as a nation is rich enough to afford some way to have a big fat pipe out to the Internet, this process of democratization and amateurization can hold true. (Of course, without this, the idea is moot. You don't really see anyway blogging out of Afghanistan, for example, and clearly, now that it is occupied by the U.S. and theoretically is now a free nation, this is not simply because of the repressive policies in force there. But that is a subject of another rant.)

To me, the impressive thing about blogging is that you don't even need to have your own computer or your own remote hosting account. What is most distinctive between maintaining a home page and maintaining a blog has a lot to do with the hardware and services available, though. In the aftermath of the revolution that NCSA Mosaic spawned, while there have been things such as Tripod for quite a while now, that is, free home page hosting, they did not offer the necessary flexibility. In times past, it would not be trivial to host a blog-like site at one of these sites. (In contrast, these days, Tripod is offering a blog builder.) Most people who were serious about their home pages needed to have at least FTP access to make it reasonable. To have to upload things through forms was excruciatingly painful. (Particularly since this was the era where the 56k modem was top-of-the-line.) Compare this to setting up a blog. All you have to do is sign up with Blogger, and you are good to go. 56k is the absolute minimum with which people access the Internet these days. If you are fortunate enough to own your own computer and a nice pipe, you're all set. Let's say that you don't have access to broadband, but have a notebook. Well, just pop in a $50-or-less 802.11b card and head to your local Starbucks. Don't have a computer at all? You could reasonably blog at your local library, or at an Internet cafe. (And many do in the developing nations.)

Not to say that Tom Coates is ignoring the reality of the hardware required, as that is not the point of his post, but I think it is a good parallel train of thought to ponder.

We are at the point where, for a lot of people, the operating system costs as much or more than the actual hardware. If Microsoft had continued to have a stranglehold on the OS market, none of these innovations might have spread to developing nations. But, thanks to Open Source, the software infrastructure is now economically trivial to those nations that can afford the hardware. You can have cheap servers running Linux or BSD, essentially halving the cost of entry these days. Furthermore, you have free, reliable software to run on top of the OS. Would the web really have taken off if Apache never existed?

True, the barrier to hardware access is eroding rapidly, at a pace prophesied by Moore that remains unabated. What is impressive is not the multi-gigahertz figurative behemoths that one can buy for their home (what would've the guy who said that computers would weigh no more than 1.5 tons have to say about that?), but the tiny plastic pieces of crap used for children's toys that have more computing power than my first personal computer had, which, frighteningly, you may very well be able to shove a stripped down version of Linux onto. So the hardware is extremely cheap, the software is essentially free. The only thing that is lacking is the pipe.

The takeoff of wi-fi has the possibility of changing this as well. Public hotspots, ubiquitous wireless routers, cel phone service that is as cheap if not cheaper than copper-wire landline service. The Internet will literally exist invisible in the air between us.

But none of this is a reality yet even in the developed nations. Obviously, the blogosphere is a self-selected sample population. Without delving into the real world, we have no idea how this affects people who are completely off the Internet. (Even now, the mass media has us believing that everyone owns a computer, when in fact this is not the case, anymore than the idea that everyone owns a television is true.)

What is illustrative is that breakthrough innovations always happen from the bottom-up, from the grassroots level, if you will. This is probably the reason why Apple has never become a massive player, because, as innovative as they are, all their innovations have been at the high-end. (Although, if the slide in hardware costs continue unabated, the iPod will change that conventional wisdom. iPods are rapidly becoming ubiquitous. The repeated comparison to the Sony Walkman is apt.) In contrast, this completely describes how the Open Source movement exploded, in that the innovation was not the technology itself, but in the methods of distribution and creation. Similarly, the technology that is changing our society are not those aforementioned multi-gigahertz PCs, but cel phones, which are in fact based on a technology first envisioned in the WWII era, and utilize very inexpensive hardware components. (Why do you think cel phone companies can give these things away for free?) I can imagine that everyone will have a cel phone long before everyone has a PC.

Similarly, what is somewhat ironic is that blogging has brought us back to our text roots. Many blogs, particularly the ones that are maintained sans-PC and sans-paid hosting, are simply text wrapped in HTML and CSS (which itself is nothing more than text) While there is place for Flash and Quicktime and other rich media, as Coates mentioned, the pipes aren't yet big enough, and, well, you can convey quite a bit with just text. (Which argues against the development of a completely post-literal world, but that is another topic.)

Again it is not the technology that is revolutionary, it is the way it is used to create.

It is really democracy in action. Because text is so portable, ubiquitous, and cheap in terms of resources needed to support it, everyone has access to it. You don't need a computer at all. You could use your cel phone, and their increasingly more and more public venues to reach the Internet.

Still, the revolution is in progress, and its completion is still beyond the horizon. Still, it is an interesting step for freedom.

08:18:56 7 Sep 2003 > /computers/www > permalink > 4 comments

Sat, 06 Sep 2003

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stackable iPods

Let me write this down before I forget about it, but you know what would be really cool? Stackable iPods. An option to daisy chain multiple iPods via Firewire and have the firmware regard them as a single unit. So that you could walk around with iPods strapped to your belt like so many packages of C4, with enough music to let you walk from NYC to L.A. without having to hear a single track twice. What's the URL to Apple's suggestion box, now?

On a related note, instead of Firewire, maybe they could just build in 802.11g or something like that. So you don't have to wear the aforementioned belt of iPods when you just wanted to stroll around or something, but then when you got into your car, with an iPod network sitting in your trunk, you could have all 3 million of your songs at your disposal.

Of course, I have no idea what sort of latency this would impose. I mean, sometimes my 2nd generation completely full 20GB iPod stalls when trying to scan for the next mp3 to play, so who knows what sort of delays you might have to deal with if you had 10 iPods networked together. But then again, people are willing to deal with the delays involved with a CD changer, so how bad could it be?

With the 802.11g option, though, I imagine we'd be dealing with a hell of a lot of RF interference. Maybe you'd have to use Bluetooth?

Well, I am not an engineer. Go to it, boys and girls.

08:42:21 6 Sep 2003 > /computers/macosx/ipod > permalink > 0 comments

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for fuck's sake by robert lasner

I just finished reading For Fuck's Sake by Robert Lasner. It has generally been lauded. I thought it was OK. Maybe I'm unnecessarily critical, since one of my fantasies has been to write a book of my own, and whenever I read the work of one of my alleged peers who has been critically acclaimed, I always unjustifiably think to myself that I could do better, or at least just as good. (Ask me just exactly how much I've written. Go on.)

Anyway, it was somewhat refreshing, though a little disturbing, to find a guy writing about the absurd neuroses that fill his mind while pursuing a woman romantically. This is the kind of shit that I've always been told impugns my manhood. That real men don't think about this shit, that I've got to get a hold of my balls and take charge. Right.

Still, this machismatic message (holy crap, maybe my mind is really scrambled, but I had a tough time deciding whether I should write machismo or masochism. Although, in any culture imbued with Catholicism, they somehow amount to the same thing...) has etched itself into my brain, assimilated into my superego, recorded onto my "parent" tapes. Resulting in the catastrophe that is my love life, no doubt.

For Fuck's Sake is disturbingly, depressingly too much like my life, except that I don't have any of the sex. (In the same way that The House of God is like my career, except that I don't have any of the sex.)

So yeah, ladies, guys actually do think about this kind of crap. Unfortunately, if I'm any barometer on the issue, these same guys are usually very undatable.

07:12:03 6 Sep 2003 > /books > permalink > 0 comments

Fri, 05 Sep 2003

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processing

Ftrain discusses Processing, which is a layer above Java. Why does this make me think of Logo?

Does anyone remember Logowriter? This is what they taught us with in 7th grade, although I had discovered Terrapin Logo earlier. I used it on an Apple IIC at school, but was able to obtain a copy for my Commodore 64 at home. I remember trying to implement some of the things Logowriter could do in Terrapin Logo, without succeeding.

Strangely, I grew jaded with the turtle, and started trying to exploit Logo's Lisp-like text handling capabilities, and bizarrely, trying to write an adventure game, using the turtle graphics for some primitive CG, but alas, it was beyond my ken. And I never did get into Lisp. (The C bigots got to me first, and I learned to despise interpreted languages. Ironically, I'm most comfortable with Perl these days.)

I should've been a computer nerd. But then I'd probably be out of job right about now, too.

23:04:15 5 Sep 2003 > /computers > permalink > 0 comments

Thu, 04 Sep 2003

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september

Yeah. This part of the year still makes me sad. You try and pretend that it's still summer, but it's not. Especially not here in Chicago. Over Labor Day weekend the temperature must have dropped 10 degrees.

The thing is, nearly three months of my 4th year of school has been eaten up already. In the time between the conception of an embryo and the delivery of a fetus, I will somehow (1) figure out what I want to do with my life (2) get all the requisite bits and pieces I need to complete my application so that I can match to a residency program (this is where I am completely stuck, and I know that it is going to be a long and painful journey) (3) interview (and I hate interviewing) (4) figure out where I want to go.

I am guaranteed to not have any piece of mind until March. And maybe not even then.

Bah. September always depresses the hell out of me.

17:12:28 4 Sep 2003 > > permalink > 0 comments

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google is god reprised

For some reason, this article entitled "Blogs: Hanging dirty laundry on-line" makes me think of a recently circulating meme "Google is God." Link from littleyellowdifferent. Maybe it's the whole confessional aspect of it. Google as priest.

There is something cathartic about blogging, but there is something disturbing about people suddenly accosting you with things you have blogged. (I'm sure you know what I mean, R. Heh. They aren't kidding about how blogs sometimes degenerate into private messages to people....)

Then there is the anonymity factor. In some professions, this is actually crucial. For example, in medicine, you can't really blog about your patients, not without making yourself anonymous. (Because, believe me, if a patient looked at your blog and found out you were spewing their personal details throughout the net, it wouldn't matter if you didn't use their actual names.) Or, as another example, this soldier who is stranded in Iraq—it might be very detrimental for him to have his identity exposed.

The other thing is that, well, the better you know your audience, the less cavalier you are about spewing certain thoughts. I mean, if I knew that a girl I liked was reading this, you could be sure I would elide all mention of my thoughts about her.

So. The private journal is definitely not obsolete.

That's all I have to say for now.

17:03:07 4 Sep 2003 > /via-trails > permalink > 3 comments

Wed, 03 Sep 2003

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sick in the head

Let me just blog this crap before I go to sleep, get it out of my mind. Make me stop feeling sorry for myself.

But first, let me preface this by saying that I have a lot of really good friends who are always looking out for me, and I know that in some platonic shape and form, I am loved. Let it be known that I am seriously grateful for your friendship. You guys know who you are.

But, yeah, I got to do a procedure today, my first spinal tap, and I got in my first shot, which was pretty cool, and, yeah, I mean, we all have to do them eventually, it's a skill, meaning you can learn it, and sometimes you get it and sometimes you don't, it's a lot of luck, but I still felt pretty slick.

The thing that is sad and pathetic is that a little part of me is sad that there really isn't anyone I can convey my little triumph to. I mean, sure, there is this blog. Hah. Sure, there are my friends. But, honestly, while the ones who are in health care might be momentarily impressed (and the ones who aren't will have no idea what I'm talking about), it's not the same. There is a difference between listening because you're a good friend and caring because you're a good friend, and actually, truly caring about whatever bullshit I'm talking about.

Like I've said time and time again, I need someone who has a stake in title="another old blog entry">what I have to say.

But, still. If only life could be like this. Little triumphs and successes here and there. They're like fuel for the soul. I need this small baby steps like I need oxygen.

Times like this, I wonder what it would be like if only I didn't know what I was missing.

But as they say, I guess you can't put the shit back into the horse.

22:09:44 3 Sep 2003 > /soul > permalink > 4 comments

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a7 "piece of heaven (central seven remix)"

I'm not even really sure that I have the whole song. I wonder what kind of music we'll be listening to once we have private spacecraft. You know, when we're all flying around in a Ford Focus with fusion engines, or a Honda Civic that gets 5 AU per gram of antimatter. (OK, this kind of fantasy requires that there is actually somewhere to go, and somehow to get there without having to traverse all the empty light years of space between star systems. But this is not my point.)

Are you allowed to play music when you're in a fighter plane? (Because by extension, would you be allowed to have play when you're in a fighter starship?) I remember when we were in high school, me and B would play "Wing Commander" (Hmmm, what's the proper way to cite a computer game? With quotes or italics?) It was pretty cool. He would do most of the flying, but I would take care of the weaponry. (Like making sure that we had enough missiles, and cycling through so that he had the right weapon on.) Hmmm. I forget how we divvied up the controls so that we both had to be involved. Anyway, our soundtrack as we flew missions was The Cure's "Boys Don't Cry," some Soft Cell (I especially remember listening to "Sex Dwarf" while blowing away some Kilrathi starfighters), and maybe even some Front 242.

But. My point. If you could have a soundtrack while you were in a starfighter (or, more likely, if you were watching a movie involving a starship battle sequence) this remix of "Piece of Heaven" would be the way to go. (You know, I could actually see a practical use for music inside of combat craft. They pointed it out in this anime, "Neon Genesis Evangelion," where they would synchronize the actions of a battlegroup by training them while listening to the same music. Anyway.)

The mix starts out with what sound like klaxons, probably announcing an enemy attack. "Battlestations!" Then the sirens drop out, leaving a low frequency alternating rhythm that I swear comes straight out of Robotech, like when they're dodging missiles or getting a lock on their target. This plays, I imagine, as the starfighters launch from the capital ship. Then, as the ships hit deep space, the mix launches into a frenetic twisting turning, mimicking the s-curves, twists, and dives that the ships make as they try to evade the enemy missiles. Finally, the sounds fall back to the low-frequency rhythm as the fighter craft close in on the last target, with the song ending as the last enemy ship is blown to smithereens.

Man, I'm whacked. I imagined all this without even taking mind-altering substances.

19:58:52 3 Sep 2003 > /playlist > permalink > 2 comments

Tue, 02 Sep 2003

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brain excrement

Some random thoughts emanating from my brain.

Posting your e-mail address on the Web is worse than writing your phone number in a public bathroom stall.

You know you're a nerd when you see the last name Gibson and immediately think of William Gibson of Neuromancer fame instead of Mel Gibson or of the guitar.

I've got nothing else right now.

14:59:39 2 Sep 2003 > > permalink > 1 comments

Mon, 01 Sep 2003

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targetted advertising

Now, I don't know if this is really targeted advertising, but the ads on amazon.com do tend to shadow whatever it is I have purchased or I have searched for, for example Basic Flight Physiology, given my recent obsession with space medicine.

But then, the second ad on my home page is for the Anna Kournikova Molded Multiway Sports Bra. First off, I was shocked (in a ha-ha funny way) that the tagline for this ad is "Because the only thing that should bounce is the ball." Besides mixing borderline transgendered metaphors (boobs? balls?!), it made me ponder just exactly the kind of in-roads Fox TV has made in our culture. It is now perfectly OK to say things like "ass" and "piss" in cartoons, much less prime time. You can refer to the penis as a "wiener." You can make jokes about clitorises (hmmm, is this Latin? Should it be clitores?)

But back to the point. I was secondly insulted. What is Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon.com trying to tell me? That I need a bra? That I'm a fucking fat ass with (to steal a phrase from Chuck Palahniuk) "bitch tits"? That I'm a raging alcoholic with severe cirrhosis to the point that I have gynecomastia? Bastards!! (OK, OK, maybe I should cut down on the cimetidine. And the Stoli martinis. Damn. Now I'm really self-conscious.)

At least amazon.com doesn't sell dildoes. (Not "your dildo." "A dildo." Anyway. That's from "Fight Club" [entry on imdb.com][Project Mayhem])

14:07:58 1 Sep 2003 > /computers/AI > permalink > 0 comments

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movie watch

Ah. "Gigli." Joining the ranks (no pun intended) of those fantastic cinematic disasters, like "Ishtar" and "Howard the Duck," comes this wondrous flick starring J Lo and Ben Affleck. I remember gazing up at a billboard riding westbound on the Santa Monica Freeway, wondering aloud what the hell this could possibly be. I don't mean to be sexist in any way, but, seriously, "Gigli" makes me think of something soft and effeminate. I was not thinking of a gangster movie.

Anyway, on with the "Gigli" bashing: Thoughts while watching "Gigli" on allaboutgeorge.com. (Link from littleyellowdifferent.com.)

Changing gears entirely, I caught bits and pieces of "Excess Baggage" last night. Now I had heard that it was a pretty bad movie, and despite warnings from my sister that Benicio del Toro's character seems unnecessarily, ah, cognitively delayed (the current politically correct term for mental retardation), I couldn't resist. Benicio del Toro is one of my heroes. Now, maybe the chemistry between Benicio and Alicia Silverstone is perhaps a little unbelievable. Maybe that's just my bias. But seriously, a movie with not just Benicio del Toro, but Christopher Walken! They needed more onscreen time together, damnit!

I am, of course, now searching futiley for that Car's song "All Mixed Up," which was both in the film and in the closing credits. I don't know. I guess I'm in a sappy sentimental mood.

13:45:11 1 Sep 2003 > /movies > permalink > 0 comments

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end stage soul disease

I decided to recategorize some of the entries of this blog, now accessible through http://blog.fatoprofugus.net/soul. This is basically a continuation of my old blog, congestive soul failure (I tried to emulate the stylesheet), covering my love life, or more accurately, my lack thereof, as well as my struggle with depression. Of course, you can continue to read about all that here as well, except it will be occasionally punctuated by nerdy computer stuff.

10:45:12 1 Sep 2003 > /meta > permalink > 0 comments

Sun, 31 Aug 2003

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nelson.monkey.org

Nelson Minar helped me out with problems on my site. My webhost was getting hammered by bots that were getting lost in blosxom.cgi because, one, I had done the "remove CGI kludge" and, two, Blosxom doesn't generate an error code when a bogus URL is requested. Tens of thousands of requests were being generated and my webhost had to shut me down.

So Nelson Minar created a plugin to return 410 Gone if a URL matches a user-defined regex. Regardless, traffic seems to have dropped ever since my webhost disabled my scripts. Hopefully it'll stay that way.

nelson.monkey.org

22:52:56 31 Aug 2003 > /via-trails > permalink > 0 comments

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futurama quote

Yay! We live to suck another day! – Bender

16:32:43 31 Aug 2003 > /quotes > permalink > 0 comments

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counting crows "rain king"

I don't know why, but I really like the title of the album this song comes from: August and Everything After, fitting especially since today is the last day of August. (The waning of summer always puts me in a nostalgic, melancholy mood.)

I belong... in the service of the queen
I belong... anywhere but in between.

With the image of the black-winged bird, I am reminded of one of the creation myths from the Philippines, where a bird tricks the sea and the sky into a war, so that the sky eventually ends up dropping rocks from the sky into the ocean, creating land.

I've been here before and I deserve a little more....

To August and everything after. Where has all the time gone?

12:53:15 31 Aug 2003 > /playlist > permalink > 0 comments

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cgi working

Hmmm. The permissions seem to have been changed back on my index.cgis, but the sysadmins never got back to me.

Weird. Well, go ahead and test the comments. See if it all really works.

11:00:42 31 Aug 2003 > /meta > permalink > 0 comments

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pathetique

OK, this is somewhat sad and pathetic, but I figure I need to get it out of my system. As I mentioned, I got mugged at gunpoint yesterday morning. Now being the fatalist that I am, with a latent death wish to boot, it didn't really phase me all that much at the time. I didn't piss or shit myself when the dude pointed his gun at me. In fact, I was a little pissed, and might have done something really stupid if Y wasn't with me, since I didn't want him getting shot on account of my own stupidity.

Of course, since I have done a psychiatry rotation, I am concerned about developing PTSD. Apparently, it is more likely to occur in people who repress their emotional reactions to traumatic events. Instead of processing things, they just hold back, until it bites them in the ass sometime in the future, and then they can't help but feel that Charlie is waiting with a grenade just outside their garage door out in the suburbs, despite checking every half hour to make sure things are all clear.

Now, I recognize that getting mugged is not like fighting in Vietnam, but still, PTSD has been recognized to occur in victims of violent crime and in car crash victims, just to name a few non-combatant sufferers.

So I made it a point to talk about it all day, telling anyone who would listen what had happened. So that helped a lot. I find it funny that everyone commented on how well I was taking it. My take on it is that, well, there was very little I could do. Me and Y were being loud and stupid, walking around at 5am, down a dark street, without being aware at all about our environment. We were, in technical terms, sitting ducks.

But I still got shaky eventually. It didn't really hit me until sixteen hours after it had happened. I was literally trembling, and I could feel the adrenaline in my veins. I think the trigger was nightfall. I didn't want to go out. I totally developed the whole hypervigilance thing. Every little sound, every little movement in my peripheral vision would freak me out.

Talking to BS, though, he had really good advice. Having been mugged at knifepoint himself when he was a kid, he had practical tips. Mainly, don't let it stop you from doing what you would normally do. So I forced myself to walk down the street that I got mugged on and go to the Walgreens. It wasn't bad. I was a little hypervigilant, but I felt at ease that there were so many people walking around.

As an excursus: while BD suggested that maybe this was a sign to get out of Chicago, I countered that, well, you know, in the neighborhood we grew up in in L.A., it would probably be a very poor idea to go wandering around at 5am. While you could get away with it in the parts of Chicago that I usually wander (and, for up until this point, my friends and I had), in L.A. (particularly the parts of it which I tend to wander), well, it's definitely an invitation for trouble. Who knows, scientifically, what the actual crime rates are, and maybe it's just naievete, but I actually do feel safer here, even considering yesterday's incident.

But what struck me was how horribly alone I feel right now. I mean, I've obviously been feeling that way for quite a while now, what with me looking for love in all the wrong places, but nothing brings out the stark truth of the matter like a traumatic event.

It doesn't help that pretty much all of my friends are out of town right now.

Yeah, this actually get me right in the left-side of the chest.

Especially when I was all shaky, you know, I started wondering what it would be like to have someone special who cared about you. You know, like when I was feeling all shaky and not a little scared, someone who would hold me close and make me feel safe, at least for that short while. Someone who would comfort me.

Instead, I have no one.

I mean, I have some really good friends, and they did talk me through a lot yesterday, but, well, for one thing, they are almost all literally thousands of miles away, or they were at work, or they were thousands of miles away and at work.

I have never felt so utterly, hopelessly alone.

The thing with despair is that it implies a little hope. You wouldn't despair if you thought that things were completely impossible. It's really that tiny glimmer of possibility that kills you. You are reduced to asking the universe "what if?"

But this feeling I have right now, on the other hand, is beyond despair. It is desolation. The understanding that whatever it is you want is never again going to happen to you, and that while it sucks, there's absolutely nothing to be done.

Wow. This is making me really sad.

I am told that it is possible to be perfectly happy on your own. Despite what popular culture says. I suppose there are much more sublime things to aspire to than romantic love. Yeah. That actually does get me by. Even if I completely X out this concept from my life, there are still actually a lot of things that I want to experience.

Here's to hope. And as they say, loneliness is really not the same thing as being alone. And learning to love yourself is the greatest love of all. Yeah.

10:42:02 31 Aug 2003 > /soul > permalink > 3 comments

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crazedmonkey.com

This is not technically a via-trail (considering that my site has been down for a couple of days now, but more of a google-trail, I suppose. I came upon this site in my search for how to keep bots from hammering my site. What his particular entry mentions is how to control when Blosxom serves a static page, and when it serves a dynamic page, by messing with mod_rewrite rules. Another interesting ramification of this entry is that you can control what are valid categories. (For example, I could probably use this to turn away all those bots.)

crazedmonkey.com

09:39:51 31 Aug 2003 > /via-trails > permalink > 2 comments

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temporarily back in business

OK, I have Blosxom generating static pages now. Writebacks won't work because the sysadmins haven't yet re-enabled the CGI. Hopefully they get back to me soon, but I've only moved up by four positions in their queue in the last twelve hours.

I thought I was all slick, having written a .htaccess file successfully keeping out the offending bots that have been hammering my webhost, but it turns out that I had introduced a syntax error, causing everybody to be blocked. (For future reference, don't put any unescaped whitespace in your regexes.)

This site is crippled, but at least you can read my rantings and ravings.

09:28:20 31 Aug 2003 > > permalink > 4 comments

Sat, 30 Aug 2003

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more bits and pieces

I have, for some reason, been getting pounded by the Radio Community Server, which has been generating tens of thousands of http requests for non-existent pages and RSS feeds on my site. Because I am employing mod_rewrite kludgery to hide blosxom.cgi from the URL, it is in fact causing Blosxom to spawn every time a bogus request comes through. (I'm trying to figure out a way to fix this, by having Blosxom die with a 404 error anytime someone tries to request a bogus path. Because right now, it instead just serves up an empty page. Which can lead to horrific recursion.) This has caused my webhost to disable Blosxom.

But in my search for some possible solutions, I stumbled upon these random links. You will notice that a lot of them have nothing to do with the situation at hand.

08:46:43 30 Aug 2003 > /computers/www > permalink > 9 comments

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gun shy

So early this morning, in a semi-drunken haze as we wandered out of the 7/11, me and Y get held up at gunpoint. (Y still maintains that the gun wasn't real, and while I do have a latent death wish, I didn't really want to find out. Although I had a feeling that even if they did shoot us, they wouldn't have been shooting to kill. Which means that we would've had to go to the trauma center, and would've had to be subjected to "the finger in the hole." But this is wander far afield.)

They got my phone, my beloved camera, and $25. Unfortunately, they got Y's wallet, and his watch.

And while it sucks, and a small, stupid part of me is incensed, wishing that I should've just said fuck-it-all and tried to take the dude down, bullet in the head or no, it is just stuff. (I suppose I can say this because I didn't get my wallet stolen, and I don't have to deal with calling every single dummy bank corporation in Delaware and tell them that my cards were stolen. Fuck. What a pain in the ass. I feel bad for Y.)

Whatever.

I find it ironic, though, that me and A had just been debating the merits of an urban environment, and how I really dig it, and, no, this incident hasn't really changed how I feel. This shit is bound to happen. At least I didn't get shot, I suppose.

It also does illustrate the false sense of security you get from living in a recently gentrified area. (Another example is R's story of living in Echo Park/Silver Lake and having a dude on crack bash through her front door. Yes, there are artist galleries, eclectic clothing stores, quirky coffee shops. Yes, despite their extreme violation of the Constitution and Bill of Rights, the Rampart Division cops did clean up the neighborhood by killing a lot of drug dealers and, ahem, suspected drug dealers. But, well, as I've been maintaining all along, security is an illusion at best. People, in the end, are animals.) But thems is the breaks. It's not like you can't get killed in an armed robbery of your house in the suburbs.

Oh well. Whatever.

It is interesting though. Maybe the waning effects of alcohol were making me portentious at the time, but, you know, when it's not your time, it's not your time. (Hence, the greater part of my fear was getting shot and surviving. For some foolish reason, I wasn't really worried about the Big Sleep.)

Oh, and by the way, when you're not a perp (or, ah, an alleged erp), the officers of the Chicago Police Department are pretty nice guys.

08:04:12 30 Aug 2003 > /soul > permalink > 0 comments

Thu, 28 Aug 2003

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memes and the arrow of time

Lights go out and I can't be saved,
Tides that I tried to swim against....

I managed to crash my webhost temporarily, forcing the sysadmin to disable my blog, but as you can see, it's all fixed now. Let me just say, sometimes, recursion is not the answer. But enough about that.

So I suppose bizarre non-sequential thoughts will often manifest in a brain half-broiled by the sun, half-steamed by the humidity (It is 95°F out there.) I walked to the post office to pick up my package, when what has got to be my favorite song for 2003–"Clocks" by Coldplay [lyrics]–popped up on my iPod playlist.

Confusion never stops, closing walls and ticking clocks, gonna
Come back and take you home, I could not stop, that you now know, singing
Come out upon my seas, curse missed opportunities, am I
A part of the cure, or am I part of the disease, singing

Of course, the carrier hadn't brought my package back to the post office yet, so I left empty-handed. I decide to stop in at the nearby pizza parlor, where, in an act of doubly-meaningful synchronicity, "Time After Time" by Cyndi Lauper was playing.

Time. Where is it all going.

My brain shifts gears, and I contemplate memes, and evolution, and music. (This occurs, I think, as I am listening to my iPod while I pass a store selling vinyl.) Like how poems and songs are, of course, memes. And the less reliable and the more coarse-grained the transmission media is, the better the chance they have to mutate, and perhaps evolve to become even more successful in replicating. Perhaps the most coarse-grained/least reliable medium is oral/aural transmission. But this gives the performers a lot of creative leeway. Adding an extra riff here, tweaking the lyrics there. And then there is writing, musical-notation. It still allows creative interpretation. But as you move closer to our own era, the way these things are transmitted become more and more rigid, less and less mutable. Digital text. CDs. MP3s. While these things can, in theory, mutate (bit rot and all), it is unlikely that it will mutate into something better by chance.

Of course, memetic mutation does occur in our era, more commonly known as the remix. Notice the spate of techno remakes of old '80's songs. And then, there is hip-hop, the memetic equivalent of sexual reproduction. Mixing and matching random strands of music, creating something entirely new, though still somewhat reminiscent of its memetics parents.

15:59:07 28 Aug 2003 > /soul > permalink > 0 comments

Wed, 27 Aug 2003

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time

All about the UNIX epoch. Hey, N, you were right. The end of the world will be on a Tuesday. Unless programmers can recompile all the code running the entire Internet by then, it is not unconceivable that the infrastructure of the Information Age&ndashbuilt mostly on UNIX–will collapse on Tuesday, January 19, 2038. Of course, they said all sorts of horrible things would happen on January 1, 2000, too, so maybe it's all bullshit. 2038.ORG has more information. I dig the Matrix-like/Apple IIC like green text-on-black background.

Why do I care? Well, the blosxom entries_cache plug-in encodes timestamps in UNIX epoch seconds. (At first, I thought it was a modified Julian Date.)

23:10:33 27 Aug 2003 > /computers > permalink > 0 comments

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running amok

I've been meaning to riff of off this blog entry about suicide. Maybe the timing is bad, considering that some guy just shot up six of his coworkers before offing himself [Chicago Tribune article][ABC News], but, as Michael Moore documents in "Bowling for Columbine", this sort of thing shouldn't be surprising.

But the cultural differences between the Japanese and Filipinos is starkly ilustrated in the way they tend to commit suicide. (Given this, it's a wonder that WWII went the way it went.) As Erik points out, seppuku tends to be socially non-disruptive (which is, however, a stark contrast to kamikaze fighter pilots, but I suppose that's a different story.) Whereas, the type of suicide that many Southeast Asians are familiar with tend to take out as many people as possible. They call it "running amok." We invented going postal. Running amok is the reason why the .357 was invented. (.22 caliber bullets just wouldn't stop those Moro warriors.)

As mentioned in this interesting article about homicidal maniacs "Reading Killer Hands", the neurologist Steven Pinker writes about running amok in his book How the Mind Works. While I don't have the book in front of me right now (I've read it a couple of times), he discusses how there may very well be a doomsday machine module in the brain, akin to the one found in "Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb", which leads to acts of suicide given the right trigger.

Is it selfish? You bet. But, given that many Filipinos I know are very fatalistic, I would urge you to never piss one off.

Not that I am a ticking time bomb or anything. Seriously!

20:11:33 27 Aug 2003 > /soul > permalink > 4 comments

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even more simpson quotes

"I would cry like a baby that was just hit by a hammer!" – Rainier Wolfcastle
Sarah Sloane: "And you're not gay!"
Ned Flanders: "I won't even eat vegetables more than two inches long."

19:00:39 27 Aug 2003 > /quotes > permalink > 7 comments

Tue, 26 Aug 2003

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trainedmonkey.com

OK fine. I am a whore. So sue me. (Although, technically, I'm not a whore since I haven't been paid any money. Does anyone else remember that little chestnut? The difference between a whore and a ho? The latter does the same things, only they don't get paid. No? OK. Maybe I made that up. These voices in my head really should just shut-up. Kidding. Kidding.)

trainedmonkey: jim winstead jr. lurks here

23:12:22 26 Aug 2003 > /via-trails > permalink > 0 comments

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duderesearch.com

Hmmm. Is it the fact that I have moved to a known blogging tool, and am no longer serving up my home-brewed mix? Or is it the fact that I decided to karma-whore myself and advertise myself on Blogarama, on Blogwise, and on weblogs.com? OK. That was a rhetorical question. You don't really need to answer that. (I'd go into the etymology of the word "karma-whore" but I'm too tired right now. Just go post on Slashdot for a while. Eventually we geeks all learn.)

Dude Research

23:09:12 26 Aug 2003 > /via-trails > permalink > 0 comments

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www.bogusmove.com

Heh. My blog actually has visitors from real people now instead of just bots and spiders. Cool. (At least I think they're real people. Ggod only knows how many AI are actually loose on the Net, a la Agent Smith of the Matrix.)

Empty

23:05:43 26 Aug 2003 > /via-trails > permalink > 0 comments

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med school fear of blood desensitize

People search for the most interesting things and end up finding my blog somewhere down there deep in the recesses of Google's soul. (I have a disturbing feeling that we are accidentally building an AI here, but enough tin-foil-hat conspiracy theories.)

Some one was looking for "med school fear of blood desensitize" and wound up at this old entry.

The poor bastard. Don't worry, I still get vasovagal when I see my own blood. I remember the first C-section I scrubbed in on, I got a little woozy. It's been a while since I've seen liters of blood just gush out like that. I don't think I ever saw a trauma that bloody. I don't think I've seen a ruptured liver that bloody.

I hate blood. And yet, I insist on doing a hematology rotation. How ironic.

22:49:48 26 Aug 2003 > /google > permalink > 5 comments

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http_get

I built a seriously kludgy plug-in http_get, which, in conjunction with my interpolate_pseudoxml plugin or Rael Dornfest's interpolate_fancy plugin, allows you to pull in the contents of an arbitrary remote URI, provided that you have the libperl-www module installed on your webhost.

What I am using it for is so I can call blosxom.cgi recursively, using a flavour (and the foreshortened plugin) to build the "last 5" text box on the left side. I know there is a better, more efficient way to do this, but I really didn't want to screw with another plugin and slog through whatever syntax their author's came up with. (No offense, guys. I'm just a control freak like that.)

Consequently, it takes forever to load my blog on my iBook. I'm hoping that my webhost won't suffer as much. Of course, this means every request to my blog results in 2 request to the webserver. Eek.

20:48:47 26 Aug 2003 > /computers/www/blosxom > permalink > 5 comments

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wifi everywhere

I've been saying it all along, but a revolution is at hand. "Wi-fi hits the spot / Businesses find wireless Internet connection entices customers to stay and pay a little longer".

16:32:40 26 Aug 2003 > /computers/www > permalink > 3 comments

Mon, 25 Aug 2003

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radiohead "the bends"

"The Bends" [entry at amazon.com] is fast becoming my favorite Radiohead album. This is the second time that a place I have been hanging out at that has played it over their sound system. (In case you are wondering, I am using another wireless Internet hotspot. Ah, the wonders of technology. Right now, I'm listening to the tail end of "Fake Plastic Trees" [lyrics] one of Radiohead's more mainstream tracks off this album, the other being "High and Dry." [lyrics]

I owe ER for introducing me to Radiohead in junior year in high school with, ironically, "Pablo Honey" [entry at amazon.com] (Many Radiohead fans consider this album, their first, as being anomalous.) The song in particular was "Thinking About You" [lyrics] which ER liked because, one, it described the mood (though not the specific details) of his relationship with SL at the time (ah memories), and, two, it has a guitar rhythm that evokes the sound of a car zooming down the I-5 at 80 mph. I have since appropriated both evokations of this song (applying it to my own trials and tribulations regarding women who don't feel about me the same way that I feel about them, and to my love affair with the road trip.)

Now, hands down, the best Radiohead album is "OK Computer" [entry at amazon.com] (This album got me through a lot of my last year in college.) But I would argue that "The Bends" is Radiohead's best underrated album. People always seem to forget about this one, for some reason, or at least, they never manage to give it the props that it deserves. Certainly, it is the most accesible of the last five albums, as they have not yet moved into their heavily experimental phase. (Although, if you ever have enough time and wherewithal to listen to all of their six albums in a row, you can easily see the evolution. Even "Pablo Honey" has a few tracks that wouldn't be completely out of place juxtaposed against "Kid A" [entry on amazon.com]–for example, "You" [lyrics]) But mostly, what gets me the most is the number of heart-string pullers on this CD. Now, admittedly, both "High and Dry" and "Fake Plastic Trees" are definitely radio-friendly tracks, and capture the particular angst that was very common in the era this album came out, when grunge was king and the reign of Generation X in terms of being a target demographic was at its peak. But the tracks that absolutely totally kill me are "Bulletproof... I Wish I Was" [lyrics] (which is playing right now as I type) and "Street Spirit (Fade Out)" [lyrics]. These two tracks, particularly if I am particularly depressed or spectacularly drunk, can make me sob uncontrollably.

Now, as an aside, "Hail to the Thief" [entry on amazon.com] is a pretty good album, too. It haven't listened to it as many times as I have the other five, so I feel like any opinion I have right now is purely preliminary, but right now, it strikes me as an excellent hybrid of their new experimental, electronic style embodied by "Kid A" and "Amnesiac" [entry on amazon.com] with the more accessible, purer teenage-angst-filled rock-and-roll style embodied by "The Bends" (I can't figure out how "OK Computer" adds to this genealogy, mostly because I've been used to thinking about it as being a class apart, although, as I mentioned, listening to the six albums chronologically shows that the evolution is very much gradual.) The thing that I find really awesome is that it is a bald-faced indictment of George W Bush and the sorry world that he has created. Wisely, the neocons have not taken to bashing this album, probably because they are too stupid to understand it, but also maybe because they can't deny the truth embodied in this work.

A little more on Radiohead's political dabblings: I think Radiohead predicted the fall of the American Republic way back when "Kid A" was released. The most obvious of their songs is "Idioteque" [lyrics], hearkening back to the Cold War era and the fears of nuclear annihilation (and to some absurd neocon fantasy world), but also eerily mimicking the propagandistic incitement of fear by the present-day Department of Homeland Security. ("We're not scaremongering/This is really happening," indeed.) It also touches upon the vulture-like manner which W, Cheney, and their gang of associated thugs have jumped upon the carcass of Iraq (not to mention California), captured simply in the line "Take the money and run." Oh, they are doing so, indeed. Then there is "National Anthem", reeking of the destructive irony of nationalism and capturing in its rhythm the perverse swagger and smirk that so characterizes the fearless leader of the "Free" World. Then there are the payloads mentioned in "Optimistic", and "the big fish eating the little ones", "the vultures circling my bed." I first listened to this album around the time of the 2000 election debacle. Here was Cassandra's voice embodied by Thom Yorke. And of course, as usual, no one listened. The freakiest thing was that special edition of "Kid A" which had this phrase emblazoned on the cover:

WE WILL NOT HESITATE TO CARRY OUT WHAT HAS BEEN THREATENED
THIS IS NOT OVER UNTIL ABSOLUTE UNCONDITIONAL SURRENDER
AND COMPLETE MEETING OF ALL DEMANDS
THERE WILL BE NO FURTHER WARNING WHATSOEVER
AIRSTRIKES ARE IMMINENT

I picked this special edition up that July I was in NYC less than 2 months from September 11, and in retrospect, I found it again disturbingly prophetic.

But yeah, in summary, Thom Yorke et al are the bomb. I heart Radiohead.

(Oh, and check out at ease, your one-stop information shop for all things Radiohead. This is where all those links to lyrics point to.)

19:03:20 25 Aug 2003 > /playlist > permalink > 4 comments

Sun, 24 Aug 2003

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windows is insecure

So, OK, we Mac and Linux users didn't completely escape the sobig.f worm unscathed, as some of us are on Windows users' Outlook address books. (sobig.f spoofs outgoing e-mails with addresses from Outlook, so, for example, it makes it look like I personally mass e-mailed sobig.f to hundreds of thousands of people.) So, not only am I getting the worm mailed to me, I am also getting a ton of bounces from people I have never even heard of. Luckily, Mail.app has learned to treat them as junk mail, and I only have to look at one or two a day now.

OK, this may be a little dishonorable, but a lot of times I've escaped from having to fix someone's Windows computer by saying something along the lines that oh, well, I have a Mac, I haven't run Windows in years.

Anyway, the Washington Post published an article that squarely puts the blame on the how Windows was designed. "Microsoft Windows: Insecure by Design." (Link from Slashdot. Not to say that MS purposefully designed Windows to be insecure, just that its legacy makes it inherently insecure.

A lot of people try to pin the blame on the idea that these kinds of catastrophes happen only because Windows is the most dominant OS in the world. Which is only partially true. Sure, Windows owns the lion share of the desktop market. But, on the other hand, most of the Internet is run on UNIX or on a UNIX-like system (i.e., Linux or Mac OS X.) All mission-critical systems, like nuclear power plants, nuclear subs, MRIs, PET scanners, pretty much have to run on a *NIX. (Nothing like an enormous magnet going out of control and causing a fire extinguisher to get torn off the wall and fly through the air like an enormous bullet when NT BSODs. Or a how about a nice Chernobyl-like disaster? *shiver*) And while there have been exploits that have targeted *NIXes and caused some damage (anyone remember that worm back in the late '80's/early '90's), they are few and far between, considering that about 75% of all servers run some sort of *NIX, and are pretty much accessible to the entire planet.

Now, seriously, though, a lot of these problems would go away if MS just shipped Windows with sane defaults. Such as closing the ports that are easy to exploit. But I think their problem is that they need these ports to be open, not from a technical standpoint, but from a marketing/financial standpoint. (Can we say RPC equals huge backdoor by which MS 0wns your computer?) For example, without RPC (which was targeted by MS Blaster) I think that MS would have a harder time policing your system and making sure you didn't pirate XP. (I could be wrong. I have never used XP. I really don't want to touch it unless I absolutely have to, which, hopefully, is never.) I've said it before, but Mac OS X and most sane Linux distros have got it right. There is absolutely no good reason to run as root (or its equivalent.) There is absolutely no good reason why you should be able to completely reformat your hard drive by accident, because of a typo.

Anyway.

Wow. This blog is quickly turning into a supergeek adventure. It's time to switch focus, perhaps.

20:38:13 24 Aug 2003 > /computers/www > permalink > 7 comments

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bits and pieces

Why this would be of any interest to you, I don't know, but I'm having a lot of fun playing around with blosxom. As you can see, I've added a category panel there on the right side, using the category plugin by John Todd Larason. I had to mess around with a bit, though, because of the idiosyncrasies of the HTML flavour that I'm using right now, but it's all good.

I also realized that the archive plugin (seen on the left) emits borked HTML. I only recognized this because this page was not rendering legibly at all on Safari. (This was the first time I had tried rendering my page with Safari, as I usually use Camino.) I then used HTML Tidy to try and debug the resultant code. (Using this chain of commands: rm index.html; wget http://blog.fatoprofugus.net; tidy index.html 2> blog.error; emacs index.html & less blog.error so that I could correlate the errors to their location in the resultant HTML code, thereby editing the proper component. I can't help but wishing that flavours were written in a single XML file that could be validated, but I guess it still wouldn't have caught this error.)

How is the archive plugin's output borked? Apparently, it emits list elements like so (I am eliding the hyperlink tags to avoid too much clutter):

<ul class="archives">
<li>2003</li>
<ul>
<li>Aug</li>
</ul>
</ul>

Apparently, this is badly formed. (I figured this after reading XHTML: Lists.) Nested lists need to start within an <li> element. Like so:

<ul class="archives">
<li>2003
<ul>
<li>Aug</li>
</ul></li>
</ul>

I changed the archive plugin a bit to do this [modified archive plugin], but I also changed a couple of things in order to deal with the aforementioned idiosyncrasies of this html flavour I am using, so you might want to revert those changes.

So, thus far, my page renders legibly in the major MacOS X-only browsers: Camino, Safari, and IE 5.2. (Why am I including IE since it is obviously available for Windows? Well, the MacOS X version renders CSS better than it's Windows' counterpart. I have been told that it has features that aren't even available in IE 6 for Windows. Go figure. Just another reason to buy Longhorn, I suppose, and continue to line Bill's pockets. But that is another rant.)

I figure the page should be good in Mozilla and in Firebird, since they use the same rendering engine as Camino. I'd be interested to see what it looks like in Galeon, which was my favorite browser when I ran Linux (remarkably, there is a Fink port to OS X. Galeon has one awesome feature that I haven't seen on any other browser: crash recovery. When you start it up after a crash, it will try to reload all the pages that you had open—with prompting, of course, since you could otherwise theoretically get caught in a loop.) It also uses the Gecko rendering engine. Now if I can figure out how to get it to run properly on OS X. I have no idea when I'll get a chance to test it on Windows, but I suppose I should.

13:37:47 24 Aug 2003 > /computers/www > permalink > 0 comments

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unordered lists and css

By default the archive plugin looks really nasty in the current flavour I'm using. The indents with regards to the nested lists were too huge. So I decided to play with CSS a bit and see if I could change things.

A few sites that proved helpful:

That said, I ended up hacking on the plugin, too, anyway. Heh.

09:52:14 24 Aug 2003 > /computers/www > permalink > 0 comments

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interpolate_pseudoxml revisited

I take back what I said about my interpolate plugin. Or rather, let me qualify what I said.

It is a lot slower than either interpolate_fancy, interpolate_conditional, or the default interpolate routine. On my iBook 700 MHz running Apache 1.3.27 on MacOS X, there is a noticeable delay before my pages render.

That said, when I rsync'ed with my webhost and viewed my pages from there, there was no appreciable delay. In fact, my webhost serves the pages up faster than my local Apache setup does. (I am torn: do I test locally and just suck up the delay caused by my plugin, or do I just rsync every time I make a change and request pages from my webhost? Either way, it's kind of ugly. Oh well.)

So, yeah, my plugin is inefficient, but not unusably so. Of course, I'm still not going to send it in quite yet. Maybe later.

09:10:58 24 Aug 2003 > /computers/www/blosxom > permalink > 3 comments

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interpolate_pseudoxml

I don't know why, but I felt like mucking around with interpolate plugins for blosxom, and basically hacked at Rael Dornfest's interpolate_fancy. Most of it is cosmetic, granted. I didn't like how variables had to be written as <$variable />, especially when in the attributes of tags (e.g. things like <a href="<$path />"> gave me serious heebie-jeebies), but I thought that putting some sort of delimiter (in my case, I chose braces) would be useful so that variables could abut text (like this: {$verb}ing), which was not possible with the default routine.

I also changed the pseudo-markup to something that I felt more comfortable with. I don't know why. The <?></?> tag pairs didn't cut it for me. I wanted something that was, well, more jarringly visible. So now you have three needlessly verbose tags: <blosxom:if-exists>, <blosxom:if-not-exists>, and <blosxom:test>. Like I said, purely cosmetic, since they do the same things that the original tags did. I had originally wanted to mimick XSLT syntax since I had grown accustomed to and perhaps fond of it, but I had serious problems coming up with the regexes, so I gave up.

The one thing that might have some utility to it is the fact that I hacked in the /s modifier onto the substitutions, allowing you to have conditionals that span more than one line. Very useful with creating writeback flavours that are derived from the html flavour without having to strip newlines and making the markup unreadable (see below to see how I use one flavour to create both the html and writeback flavours.) Unfortunately, using /s makes the interpolate routine incredibly slow. Sadly, I have no idea how to make things more efficient, but I have no intention of cramming all my conditional markup onto a single line. Perhaps I will have to resort to generating component flavours from a combined format flavour file. (I haven't used Geoffrey Alexander's Flavourizer yet. Something tells me that I'm going to end up writing my own script to do it the hard way.)

You can check out my interpolate_pseudoxml plugin, but I'm not going to submit it or anything because it is unbearably slow, and I made up my own markup for no real good reason.

But as for writeback flavours, since I got sick of editing two files each time I wanted to make a change, what I did was create my head, date, story, and foot components for the html flavour, and then I symlinked them as their corresponding writeback components. For example, ln -s head.html head.writeback. Then in each component file, where necessary (probably most importantly in the story component and maybe the foot component), I used conditionals to add in the necessary markup depending on whether the html flavour or the writeback flavour was being requested.

Examples:

interpolate_conditional syntax: {$flavour=writeback [additional markup for writebacks]}
interpolate_fancy syntax: <?$flavour eq="writeback"> [additional markup for writebacks]</?>
interpolate_pseudoxml syntax: <blosxom:test var="$flavour" eq="writeback"> [additional markup for writebacks]</blosxom:test>

If you want, you can look at the flavour components used to generate this page:
head.html
date.html
story.html
foot.html

08:26:33 24 Aug 2003 > /computers/www/blosxom > permalink > 0 comments

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pool and blackjack

Scattered remnants. Driving around in Lake County, Illinois. Playing pool where the 12-ball was brown instead of blue (like the '5' on the 15-ball was upside down.) This was the shot I called: 12-ball to the right side pocket. The cue ball spun wildly, knocking the 1-ball into the right side pocket instead, and then scratching into the left side pocket. My financial backer lost a grand.

Later, I was watching Charles Bronson(?!) play blackjack against this crooked dealer, except, apparently, everyone had crooked cards. Like the deck was all face cards and aces or something insane like that. Towards the end of the dream, the game threatened to degenerate into a fist fight.

There was a shower and bathroom that wasn't supposed to be there. Don't ask me how that works.

The Gestapo Department of Homeland Security was looking for me again. I find it disturbing that this isn't the first time I've had this dream.

07:29:48 24 Aug 2003 > /dreams > permalink > 6 comments

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to all the girls i've loved before

Strange sequence of dreams over the past weeks, dreaming of women (nothing dirty) that I've loved, pure and chaste from afar, as it were.

Hanging out, her belly already gravid, the simple, heart-rending beauty of knowing that we are friends, that I have some small place in her life.

And then there was the elementary school crush.

The wedding that I stopped, so I could let the woman who saved me what I really feel.

And then the woman who kept me company in the lonely darkness of a new city, whom I have missed.

Anyway.

Then there was a dream of music video with Justin Timberlake in it. I think he was seriously covering a Culture Club song. He had a huge puffy afro, crazy puffy, like his head was spherical, and it was streaked with pink!

And then wandering around the city, and things weren't where they were supposed to be, some strange hybrid between the Windy City and the City of Angels, and I met up with E, whom I haven't seen for a long time, waiting for her brother to join us. We were going to look for a bar in Wicker Park, except Sunset Blvd. ran through it, so that I lived somewhere between Downtown and West Hollywood, and the eclectic shops were huge in a way that things are huge in the suburbs of Chicago, in a way they can only be huge in city so spaced out like L.A. The other guys lived on Sunset (or Division, take your pick) somewhere where Cabrini Green would be, except that it was Echo Park, sort of. These geographically odd dreams are always interesting to me.

Times like this, I wonder if I may just very well be going mad. Oh well. It's out of my hands.

02:31:27 24 Aug 2003 > /dreams > permalink > 2 comments

Sat, 23 Aug 2003

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the gender genie

Supposedly, this script can tell whether the writer is male or female. Details of the algorithm can be found on nature.com.

The results, however, are not encouraging, given that it is right only 50% of the time. I tried plugging in some of my old blog entries into the script, and it was right about "kid a" by radiohead but wrong about But Now What?. I also plugged in one of R's blog entries (sorry! I couldn't resist! I hope you don't mind!) and the script got it right.

Interesting thought, though. If the script actually worked, you could use it to guess the gender of an anonymous blogger. Heh.

Ken (aka 1moredork online) experiments with the Gender Genie. (Link from littleyellowdifferent.com)

And I was highly amused by Ken's comment.

16:22:46 23 Aug 2003 > /computers/AI > permalink > 0 comments

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embedded markup considered harmful

In the tradition of the paper "Go To Statement Considered Harmful" by Edsger W Dijkstra (written back when BASIC was king, and you had to use line numbers), Norman Walsh declares that "Embedded Markup Considered Harmful."

While I am not completely up on all the W3C recommendations and the DOM and the RSS controversies, I do think that he has a point. Obviously, I haven't screwed around with XML enough to understand why you would want to break the spec and allow non-parseable fragments to float around. The only example given—that of preserving HTML 4 idiosyncrasies—may perhaps be a strawman. After all, no reasonable modern browser will choke on XHTML (just put a space after the element name and before the closing slash-angle, like so: <br /> instead of <br> and while it is a pain in the ass, you can easily use something like HTMLTidy to clean up your legacy cruft.

I mean, I suppose the difficulty comes in when people whose feeds you want to aggregate refuse to modernize. (But seriously, WTF? You have an RSS feed but you refuse to use XHTML?) I haven't played with RSS yet, so I suppose I really can't say anything, but still.

Why break the spec? (Why put random GOTOs in your BASIC program creating spaghettit code?) Someone give me a clue.

15:37:25 23 Aug 2003 > /computers/www > permalink > 0 comments

Fri, 22 Aug 2003

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more quotes from "the simpsons"

If this gets out, the next words you say will be muffled by your own butt! — Moe Szyslak

21:21:14 22 Aug 2003 > /quotes > permalink > 1 comments

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quotes from "the simpsons"

I see what's happening here. They did it to Jesus, and now they're doing it to me. ߞ Homer J Simpson
You can run, but you can't glide! ߞ Homer J Simpson
Ooh, I am truly screwed — Apu Nahasapeemapetilon

16:21:20 22 Aug 2003 > /quotes > permalink > 0 comments

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dream academy "life in a northern town"

After a couple of years of searching, I finally figured it out. (Thank you, Google. God only know why I didn't think of it before.)

So there was this song that they played on the now-defunct Energy 92.7&5 in Chicago (which, remarkably, has the same format as the San Francisco Bay Area station The Party 92.7. I can't seem to find an official website for it, though.) This was in, I think 2000 or maybe 2001, entitled "Sunchyme" by Dario G, which is a sample with the repeated lyrics of "Oh heyo, ma, ma, ma. Oh heyo, ma, ma, he-e-e-e-yo."

Earlier this summer, I heard the original song from which this sample was culled, only I didn't catch the lyrics, and was therefore unable to search Google for it.

But, at last. Dream Academy "Life in a Northern Town". [lyrics]

(Another link I found on my Google travels: Bay Area Radio on blogspot.com. Seems like they stopped posting in April, though.)

16:14:03 22 Aug 2003 > /playlist > permalink > 5 comments

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splattered

razor sharp edges
slashed open
scar like the coastline of california
tattered shreds of skin
in the region where the heart beats
slip a knife right here, right here
you won't feel a goddamn thing

mashed and oozing
everything crushed and crumpled
mixed and rearranged
the music of metal upon metal
the screeching and then the burning
explosive symphony of shattered glass
the bending of steel
eyes wide open
gashed and bloody windows to the soul

do you feel me tremble?
numb and cold
stomach churning
sewing it all up like some dirty rag
i picked off the street
sopped with blood
garish red, like the lipstick on a whore

the wound will never heal

in and out, like so much refuse
worlds end in this sterile, tiny room
i am atropos, snipping the fine polymer threads
tossing it all into the red bag with the biohazard markings
warning: contaminated

it is an illusion really
to think that the blood doesn't touch you
that the screams don't pierce your heart
death is never easy
whether it is the death rattle of the man in the car crash
or whether it is evaporation of your own immortal soul

15:30:15 22 Aug 2003 > /poetry > permalink > 0 comments

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"kid a" by radiohead

Life is definitely different when you are rotating through a pediatrics service.

So I was listening to "kid a" on the way home from work today, and I thought about how the opening measures sort of resemble the music a demented child's mobile would sound like, or perhaps an evil ice cream truck.

The first thing came to mind was to use the song as a soundtrack for a scene where a baby is delivered after a really hard and long labor. Maybe the mother has even died. And the baby isn't doing too well either. The neonatalogists are doing their routine things quickly, trying to hurry up so that they can get the baby to the NICU [neonatal intensive care unit] as soon as possible. (The sensation of hurrying is carried by the bass rhythm of the song.) The baby isn't moving all that well, and is starting to turn blue. The neonatalogists have to intervene at a frenetic pace. Perhaps they are bagging the baby [ventilating the baby with a bag], or maybe even intubating. IVs are started, medicines are injected, electrodes are placed for monitoring. (There is an interlude in the song that sounds like hospital monitors beeping.) The baby is stabilized, the heart is still beating and the baby is still warm, but is not breathing on his/her own. They rush the baby to the NICU. Eventually they decide to call a code and the crash cart is pulled out. And at the end of it all, the baby starts breathing, and cries.

How melodramatic and somewhat depressing, huh?

The other thing I thought about is that the song might describe how an obstetrician or neonatalogist might feel during a delivery in the case when he/she is low on sleep, and have perhaps accidentally (or perhaps purposefully) ingested a psychotropic substance, and is trying to do a delivery.

Makes you have great confidence in health care professionals, huh?

11:47:28 22 Aug 2003 > /playlist > permalink > 0 comments

Thu, 21 Aug 2003

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airport (802.11b/g)

I don't know how I got sidetracked into playing with my DSL connection, but I stumbled onto the Apple AirPort Weblog. I'm telling you, man, pervasive computing is becoming a reality. Hotspots are popping up everywhere. Ain't technology great? And this, despite the rupture of the tech bubble.

21:40:50 21 Aug 2003 > /computers/www > permalink > 1 comments

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something good is gonna happen

I found this pretty cool site called Fluxblog: A Return To Form that hosts a lot of eclectic mp3s: interesting cover versions, songs that utilize really bizarre samples, that sort of thing.

On it, I found "Cloudbusting" by Kate Bush [link to Fluxblog] which I only just now realized is sampled in the song "Something Good Is Gonna Happen" by Utah Saints [lyrics]

18:25:59 21 Aug 2003 > /playlist > permalink > 3 comments

Mon, 18 Aug 2003

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divine intervention

Just when I've given up all hope on God and love and miracles and the possibility of lasting happiness, things just magically work out.

Heh. You'd think I won the lottery or something.

It's really amazing the small trifling things that will make you happy when you've gotten used to never-ending misery and have lowered your expectations so low that an amoeba wouldn't be able to limbo beneath it.

I'm happy just when things don't explode in my face. I don't really expect things to ever get better. I'm just happy when things actually don't get worse.

But the attending physician in charge of my rotation finally called me. The requisite paperwork finally came in. I am no longer in mid-rotation purgatory.

I feel like throwing up.

Man, I have severe mental problems. I really should have my head checked.

13:56:17 18 Aug 2003 > /soul > permalink > 0 comments

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blog wars

The first salvos have been fired. Link from popdex.com.

08:28:47 18 Aug 2003 > /computers/www > permalink > 0 comments

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creatures of the night

I dreamt that I was part of an art collective, and in the art collective there were werewolves and vampires. I didn't find this out until I got invited to an after party.

Then I had one of those weird dream moments where I was two people at the same time. Like I had simultaneous 1st person and 3rd person perspective. Anyway, my main character, my protagonist, either got bit by some kind of lycanthrope in the dream, or had already been bit by some kind of lycanthrope, but hadn't gone a transformation yet since the moon hadn't yet been full. Anyway, somehow, I/he gets into a fight with a woman he later realizes is a vampire, and gets bit. He then gets into another fight with another vampire, but begins to change. Maybe some reaction between the werewolf and vampire bites. Anyway, it gives him power to throw lightning bolts.

Eventually, either the offending parties are destroyed, or the argument is cleared up somehow, and the main character demands that he and his friend be allowed to crash at the place (his friend happens to be me, at least, my observer character)

Another part of the dream involved arguing with my brother about the insecurity of our wireless LAN.

04:41:32 18 Aug 2003 > /dreams > permalink > 1 comments

Sun, 17 Aug 2003

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a definition of existentialism

I haven't really thought about this for a while now, but an IM conversation made me reflect on it again. In high school, after reading The Stranger and The Plague by Albert Camus, it was something that I started thinking about. The ideas definitely affected my way of thinking. I won't expound on it right now, but I found a pretty good very brief attempt at explaining existentialism.

20:56:44 17 Aug 2003 > /soul > permalink > 0 comments

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pervasive advertising

Do you remember that scene from "Minority Report" where ads would pop-up directly targeting Tom Cruise whenever he would pass by the hot spot?

The technology to do this is probably already here. It's just about deployment now. First, there is Counter-Googling (link from popdex.com), where, because of blogging, people are voluntarily pumping large amounts of data about their private life and preferences, and companies can easily harvest potential targets. Then there is the fact that I feel like the wireless revolution is finally in full swing, with the cel phone/PDA convergence rapidly occurring and actually becoming practical, while Bluetooth and 802.11b is being deployed in real-life, and sometimes large scale applications. The idea of pervasive computing is easily possible, with persistent connectivity to the net, whether through 802.11b and public access hotspots, or perhaps through GSM/GPRS. Text messaging is finally taking off in the U.S. (whereas in Asia, even 5 years ago, it was already ubiquitous, existing even in developing nations like the Philippines.) Imagine if the utilities stuck 802.11b access point/routers or cel phone towers at key locations, even underground in subway systems, on freeways, in public parks.

Of course, it would have to withstand the apparent economic disincentive for providing these kind of luxuries. I mean, if corporations have no desire to update the electrical infrastructure, we could be at the onset of a technological counter-revolution, but instead of the people rising up against the corporations, like the Luddites, it's the corporations that are holding the people down.

15:22:06 17 Aug 2003 > /computers/AI > permalink > 0 comments

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dhtml lemmings

A version of Lemmings running on a web browser. (Link from popdex.com. Check out the Lemmings Compendium for more information.) I loved this game. The object is to get a bunch of lemmings from a trapdoor to an exit. They all walk mindlessly in a straight line, and will plunge happily to their deaths off of cliffs, so you have to direct them by ordering them to tunnel and dig and stand still to block off their compatriots, and you only have a limited number of these orders. With the insanely cute sound effects, there is something murderously hilarious about it. (Nothing like a 100 lemmings screaming "Oh no!" when you decide to hit the apocalypse button to give up the level, causing each and everyone of them to explode and wreak havoc on the playing field. I remember giggling like a madman whenever they'd fall from too great of a height and splatter.)

I first played it on my oldest friend's dad's Amiga 2000 which was an awesome computer. It had two trackball/mouse/joystick ports, so you could actually play against each other, head-to-head, and indirectly massacre each other's lemming populations. (Like by creating a tunnel leading into the abyss, or sending suicide bombers.)

I also had a MS-DOS version, which wasn't as fun because you could only play the 1-player version, and I didn't have a sound card. Talk about a step back. (What could've been if Commodore had actually survived?)

15:07:53 17 Aug 2003 > /computers/games > permalink > 6 comments

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notes on remotedotcomments

I was using remotedotcomments for the commenting system on my old blog. Since I know nothing about PHP and since dotcomments itself is no longer supported by the author (the last update was 2 years ago), while Phil Ringnalda— who is responsible for the remotedotcomments kludge—is very responsive with regards to support, I installed it despite my host supporting PHP directly. It is basically a Javascript client side include kludge which some fancy DOM manipulation for the comment count that I don't understand. This makes it perfect if you want to keep your blog on blogspot.com, but have access to another site that allows PHP. (Why not just move your blog to the site that supports PHP in the first place? Well, inertia—or pure laziness—is a powerful force, I guess. Plus, cool URI aren't supposed to change.)

Now that I've started using Blosxom with the writeback plugin enabled, I don't really need dotcomments anymore, but since I've been playing with Blogger lately, I decided to keep it around.

Phil Ringnalda has pretty good instructions on how to install remotedotcomments although it is not exactly plug and play. The most common problem seems to be failing to set the permissions on the comment subdirectory properly (while more restrictive permissions may be possible, chmod 777 should allow it to work.) There is also a caveat now that Blogger has switched to a new system, particularly with regards to the unique blog item ID. The ID is actually being interpreted as a number by Javascript, and the new IDs are getting rounded, resulting in problems with saving comments and in counting comments. The work-around is really simple: add quotes to the function call.

In a Blogger template, this is the critical line to change (usually where your byline would be placed, in the <Blogger> section):

instead of: <a href="javascript:viewComments(<$BlogItemNumber$>)"><span id="comment<$BlogItemNumber$>">comment</span></a>

do this: <a href="javascript:viewComments('<$BlogItemNumber$>')"><span id="comment<$BlogItemNumber$>">comment</span></a>
(Note the single quotes in the function call)

(I found this solution in the comments to the remotedotcomments page, which has swollen to 366 comments at the time of this writing.)

13:35:32 17 Aug 2003 > /computers/www > permalink > 3 comments

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an exercise in the commoditization of culture

Is it all just a matter of perspective? For some reason, I find it funny that, to me, when the Japanese appropriate American culture, it's clever and whimsical and post-modern and says a lot about the consumer culture we live in. (For example, witness the phenomenon of Engrish and all the websites on the net devoted to Engrish) But when Americans appropriate Japanese culture, it's just stupid. (Witness the amalgamation of often nonsensical kanji and kana that people put on their products or even on their skin—link from littleyellowdifferent.) I suppose I'm just an Asian chauvanist. Although I think it has a lot to do with the fact that most Americans wouldn't know the difference between different Asian cultures if their lives depended on it. (Which it might, come to think about it. I can tell you that it's not a good thing that Kim Jong-Il has nuclear weapons. It makes me think of the game Civilization II and the threat: "our words are backed by nuclear weapons!")

09:34:20 17 Aug 2003 > > permalink > 0 comments

Sat, 16 Aug 2003

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how to add writebacks

I found pretty good instructions from this blosxom Yahoo! Groups message by Jason Hoffman.

Now if only I can figure out how to generate both the .html and .writeback flavors from the same template.

18:17:22 16 Aug 2003 > /computers/www/blosxom > permalink > 3 comments

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sbc ameritech dns servers

I'm going to blog this just so I have it on my local machine in case disaster once again strikes. (Can you tell I'm an optimist?)

In Chicago, the primary DNS is 206.141.192.60 and the secondary DNS is 206.141.196.13

Other DNS servers can be found in the dslreports ameritech FAQ.

13:08:06 16 Aug 2003 > /computers/www > permalink > 4 comments

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and then the morning comes

Frighteningly, I think I was the most level headed person last night. Wandering rampant through the streets of Chicago at 5 am, intermittently yelling at cars and people at the top of our lungs, trying to hitchhike home because none of the cabs would stop for us, I had a serious fear of one of my companions accidentally trying to hail a cop car.

I only became familiar with the concept of the drunken phone call this year, most notably ever since i've become increasingly reliant on my cel phone. While my erstwhile companions went buck-wild, I did have enough presence of mind to call two of my oldest friends. Neither of them picked-up, thankfully.

One of my buddies apparently called his ex repeatedly though (the relationship being an epic saga that I will not recount now, in which I got ridiculously entangled.) So his ex, who is thousands of miles away, calls me this morning, complaining (because of my ridiculous entanglement, she and I have become good friends) Anyway, the only thing I wanted to mention was that he apparently accidentally called her so that his phone was on while I was declaiming about how I have lost faith in God, because he allows pederasts to pose as priests, and that the Roman Catholic Church has been laid bare as a corrupt institution, which is pretty much just out to cover its ass. Even Pope John Paul II is suspect, in my book. And then they have the hypocrisy to talk about how "unnatural" it is to be in a homosexual relationship.

I then went off into a long tirade at an all-night-diner about how I wanted to become a Buddhist, because I think Buddhism is the only religion that no one has every tried to kill anyone else in the name of religion's sake (although, human nature being what it is, I could be wrong.)

My brain is on fire. I have lost my train of thought.

And now, we are supposed to go out again tonight. Hopefully this spinning sensation will stop before then. Hah.

12:02:30 16 Aug 2003 > /soul > permalink > 4 comments

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keychain: always allow

Every so often after restarting my iBook (which I rarely do, because I usually just let it sleep) Keychain will ask me if I will allow it to use password in my keychain for Mail.app and for Fire. This entry at the MacOS X Livejournal community answers my question.

10:55:01 16 Aug 2003 > /computers/macosx > permalink > 0 comments

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my adventures with apache

I spent a considerable amount of time yesterday trying to figure out tweaking the setup of Apache on my iBook. After countless hours of fscking with .htaccess and mod_rewrite (and combing the URL rewriting guide), I figured out how to get Apache to load up Blosxom without requiring "blosxom.cgi" to be in the URL. (For example, instead of this entry being at http://blog.fatoprofugus.net/blosxom.cgi/2003/Aug/16/virtual-hosting, you can see that the location box reads http://blog.fatoprofugus.net/2003/Aug/16/virtual-hosting.) I realize that there is a FAQ on how to hide the CGI bit on the Blosxom website, but it wasn't enough for me for some reason that I can't recall at present.

I think it involved me trying to get the rewrite rules to be different depending on whether the file was on my iBook or whether it was on my webhost. This proved futile, so instead, I tried to set up virtual hosts on my iBook.

Having to muck around httpd.conf again struck fear in my soul. Luckily, setting up local virtual hosts on MacOS X has been covered on macosxhints, leading me to this nifty little script that futzes with Netinfo to get virtual hosts to work for you. (Aargh. Registries. Whatever happened to plain text files? I am having Windows flashbacks. *shiver*)

But to the heart of the matter—how I was able to get rid of blosxom.cgi from the URL (or is URI? I am so confused. Remind me never to read stuff about web terminology ever again.):

  1. Rename blosxom.cgi to index.cgi. DO NOT play with $url if you intend to do development on your own computer and then just mirror the contents to your webhost. Otherwise, you can set $url to point to your webhost.

  2. You need a webhost that supports .htaccess files. (Meaning that your webserver is configured this way. For Apache, this means mucking around httpd.conf and changing the AllowOverides lines to the appropriate value. Being lazy, I just set them to All. There is surely a safer setting. On MacOSX at least, you also have to play with the user config file in /etc/httpd/users, named username.conf. Or you can just skip all this mess—I couldn't get it to work—and install webmin on your computer. Yes, it may be serious overkill, but it made my life a lot easier.) Create it in your DocumentRoot, and put the following lines in:

    RewriteEngine on
    RewriteBase /
    RewriteRule ^$ index.cgi
    RewriteRule !^index\.cgi - [C]
    RewriteCond %{REQUEST_FILENAME} !-s
    RewriteRule (.*)$ index.cgi/$1
    XBitHack on
    IndexOptions
    DirectoryIndex index.cgi
    Options ExecCGI FollowSymLinks Includes IncludesNOEXEC Indexes MultiViews SymLinksIfOwnerMatch
    ContentDigest off
    ServerSignature On

    Note that some of this stuff is from webmin and I don't understand all of it. You definitely need the Rewrite rules, and the DirectoryIndex index.cgi line, and at least Options ExecCGI. I don't know about the other stuff.

    You may have to mess around with RewriteBase. Check out the mod_rewrite page to figure out what it does. I don't know enough to explain it correctly, so you might as well check the authoratative source.

  3. Now upload all your files to your host if they're not already there, and you should be good to go.

10:52:45 16 Aug 2003 > /computers/www > permalink > 2469 comments

Fri, 15 Aug 2003

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marmosets

I knew I should've written this down when I had the chance, but I was sleepy, the sun wasn't even out yet, and my right flank hurt. (When I took a leak this morning, my urine came out all foamy. Hopefully I was just dehydrated.)

Anyway, I dreamt that I was walking down Green Bay Road in North Chicago, wondering if I could make it to Grand Ave in Waukegan, when a marauding bunch of marmosets crossed my path. It was an infestation. I don't even know what a marmoset is, really. In my dream, they were a cross between a rabbit and a dog. The only reason I know that word, even, is because of an episode of Ren and Stimpy where Ren is raving and delirious. (Not the Space Madness episode. I know this is hopelessly vague. Well, it was a dream, after all.)

The other parts of the dream were equally strange, and probably more interesting, but unfortunately, I can't remember them. Maybe it'll come to me later.

08:18:44 15 Aug 2003 > /dreams > permalink > 0 comments

Thu, 14 Aug 2003

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second post!

Wheee!

15:36:42 14 Aug 2003 > > permalink > 2 comments

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first post!

I'm playing with blosxom now. Hopefully it will be easier to maintain than my hodgepodge kludge of Perl scripts, XSLT, XML, Makefiles, and Javascript, but, as always, we'll see.

15:34:33 14 Aug 2003 > > permalink > 7 comments