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 > 4 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 > 0 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 > 8 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 > 0 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