Old Stuff Mouse Farts

Monday, July 16, 2001

After the ceremony, Bush led the group in the Pledge of Allegiance, mistakenly urging them to hold up their right hands rather than place them on their hearts, as is customary. Yeah, I know, but I haven't said the Pledge of Allegiance for years, either.
elgoose, 7/16/2001 07:22:28 PM link

Wednesday, July 04, 2001

V - the alien invasion miniseries is released on DVD. I love this miniseries and have watched it many times, although it's hard to tell why. I find it much more dated than does the reviewer of the DVD and it relies too much on stereotypes as exposition. Nevertheless, there is something about this show that stands the test of time for me. Part of it is that I can't get over how bizarre Marc Singer's face is -- is that bad plastic surgery, or what? Part of it is the Michael Ironside character, which is pretty much the same character he has played ever since (except the brief stint on ER, many moons ago, when I thought he might actually get to have a character who was primarily intellect rather than menace).
I do love the casting of Faye Grant in this and think that it is her earnestness and strength that gives the story its credibility. On the whole, it's well-cast and plenty of fun. Oddly enough, it was the Fourth of July probably twelve or thirteen years ago, that I spent watching either a re-run or a tape of this miniseries with my friend Andrea in her tiny apartment in New York. Having memories like that attached to the show make it as much fun as the show sitself to me.
elgoose, 7/4/2001 04:26:23 PM link

Sunday, June 17, 2001

Why I'll never be a successful blogger: When I have some time to be online or to take a nap, I'll choose a nap anytime.

Sunday, June 17, 2001

Making parenthood a biological fact for women but legally optional for men promotes men's control over women and children, allowing men to take or leave fatherhood at their whim. It lets men decide whether their country has obligations to their progeny. And it defines women as mothers — alone, unless men choose to acknowledge the existence of children they jointly created.
elgoose, 6/17/2001 07:52:27 PM link

Saturday, June 09, 2001

I watched The Lady Eve on TCM last night. It's probably my favorite comedy of all time and it was a surprise to find out that it was on and that I had time to watch.

I'm starting to wonder if I haven't been going through some sort of depression that is finally beginning to lift, if only because I really am starting to experience pleasure again. A couple of months ago, I'm sure that I wouldn't have turned the TV on, even if I had known that the movie was showing. Maybe soon I'll start listening to my CDs and being interested in music again, too.

This past week at work was stressful in a way, but good, too. I got my knickers in a twist at one point when I was working with this woman who is a real perfectionist and who would obviously not have been pleased with anything I did. She was not going to give me a break, even though I'm brand new and really am just learning. At first I was really upset with myself for not measuring up, but then I realized that was ridiculous. The whole situation has helped me to let go of some of my own insanely high expectations of myself and just go into beginner mode. I also spent the rest of the week working with very relaxed people who weren't intent on molding me and shaping me into clones of themselves to meet their own standards. They felt no need to edit my e-mail, for example.

At this point, I feel a certain amount of compassion for that woman, because I am sure that she doesn't know a moment's peace. If nothing I did satisfied her, I think that even more so nothing that she herself does satisfies her. Or maybe I'm just reading my own reality into the situation. Nevertheless, I ended the week knowing that I did the best I could and that it wasn't perfect. And that I don't have to worry about it when I'm not there.

I'm moving from weeknight classes to weekend classes to accommodate my work schedule. They start in a couple of weeks and I'm going to go through at least one more quarter, but I might bail out after that. I've gotten a foothold in the computer industry now and I'm not certain that an MCSE is either wanted or needed. Since I still have no idea what I want to be when I grow up, maybe it would be nice to just go to work, learn to do well there (and thank God daily that it's not a fundraising job) and then come home to do what I am really interested in.

Part of my struggle over the last year has been thinking that I need to love what I'm doing to make a living in order to somehow be fulfilled in life. But perhaps I just need to like it, just need to not be absolutely miserable, and find my joy and fulfillment in other areas. It's kind of cool to have everything be such a blank slate now; I've got some degree of economic security and I've started moving out of the fear and depression.

Maybe I'll even go to the movies this afternoon and see something that I haven't allowed myself the enjoyment of seeing before now. That would be a big change.

Saturday, June 09, 2001

The Backslap Backlash As one veteran of past administrations and the corporate world puts it: "C.E.O.'s are used to flying their own planes, seeing only their own subordinates and being accountable to no one. They are profoundly certain of their own value system. They have contempt for the public and the press. They have none of the accountability required of a president of the United States."

The post-Jeffords, post-Jenna analysis drags on as the Bush administration goes from one dumbhead crisis of its own making to another. It seems pretty obvious to me that W has no clue about accountability and that he has surrounded himself with similar people. They also seem to have some trouble understanding the ability that many people have of being able to detect hypocrisy, unless they are so brainwashed by being members of the Party itself that they can't make any critical judgments on their own.

Maybe it's just a problem with memory. Although Jenna might be acting out with her underrage drinking escapades, as suggested in the Times OpEd piece, it might just be that she's as dumb as her Dad and generally insulated from understanding cause and effect. He sure seems to be. Maybe it's a Bush family trait; they just can't remember what happened last week, what promises they made, what spin was spun. It's politics with ADD.
elgoose, 6/9/2001 12:51:37 PM link

Sunday, June 03, 2001

I keep mentioning "those who might be checking" because I know that people from my former place of employment have been reading this regularly, far more regularly than I actually post. I would imagine they are doing this to see if I a) badmouth them or b) reveal where I'm working now. I got fired from that job because of some posts I made here (which are long gone, so don't bother looking for them) but I know that those morons would continue to make trouble for me if they could. This is where I officially put all that crap behind me and ask Gail, Ed and whoever else might browse through to leave me alone.

I suppose that sounds extremely paranoid to anyone who doesn't know the whole story. The important thing in terms of my life is that being fired gave me the freedom to think through what I was doing as a career and decide that I couldn't do it anymore. I was a professional fundraiser and among other things, I got fed up with the repetitiveness of the work and the general creepiness of a lot of the people I worked with over the last ten years. Not the donors -- people who actually give to charities are pretty amazing and inspiring. But fundraising as a profession is filled with some of the laziest liars I have ever met, who are only too willing to take credit for other people's work and to go berserk if they hear the truth when it doesn't coincide with what they want to hear.

In all of that, I suppose fundraising is no different from most careers.

Since I fell into it accidentally, it was very liberating to take some power and decide I wanted out after the push from my last job and then to actively decide, too, what I wanted to do instead. I had been miserable and depressed at that job for over a year but couldn't make the leap. I had been idly seeking something else in fundraising, but each time it looked like I was about to get something, it would fall through at the last moment. Today, I believe that the universe was conspiring to push me out of the field altogether and it's a relief to be gone.

I have moved out of training in my new job and into the job itself, which has been no little source of stress. It has been a long time since I've had to learn so much and put it into practice so quickly. The first day out was a semi-disaster, but I bounced back after that.

What it comes down to is that I have been freed from some hell of my own fear and timidity and been brought to a place where I can experiment and take some risks in my life. I didn't die during the unemployment crisis, and in fact, it wasn't a crisis except that it forced me to re-examine my whole life. I had been so stuck and seeing nothing before me but 30 years of the same old misery that even the fear and anxiety that I have been through since last July 7 were a refreshing change. I guess when all is said and done, when I stop changing, I start dying and I start letting myself die. I am alive today. And I know that I acted with honor through the whole thing and did not retaliate the way I could have. Sitting here now, I realize that I still feel angry about it, I guess because it feels like "they" have gotten away with dumping on me, but I do know that my former boss is under scrutiny to perform right now. He'll end up hanging himself sooner or later, as will his boss, and neither of them will need any help from me. Although I'll probably end up getting blamed anyway. Heeheehee!

Sunday, June 03, 2001

Republican Right Rips Jeffords (washingtonpost.com)

I know I'm a little late with this and it's old news, so to speak, but This is a really good article about the immediate response of both the Republicans and Democrats to Jeffords's decision to leave The Party. There are good links to the immediate rants in The American Spectator, among others. According to The Washington Post: "A top White House aide said Bush's high command did not realize until Tuesday -- hours before the Oval Office meeting -- that Jeffords could defect." I take it to mean that the dumbheads in the White House thought that being elected as a Republican is equivalent to taking a blood oath that can't be taken back.

elgoose, 6/3/2001 02:00:12 PM link

"When those insecure and maliciously potent Windows XP machines are mated to high-bandwidth Internet connections, we are going to experience an escalation of Internet terrorism the likes of which has never been seen before."

The Register reports that XP will destabilize the Internet. And since Microsoft is forcing upgrades to XP 2000, it seems like all hell could break loose, just in the name of goosing Microsoft's bottom line, since the existing Office lines already have 90% market penetration.

Personally, I continue to be amazed at the companies, tech and otherwise, that I find out are still running Windows 95 and are perfectly happy with it.
elgoose, 6/3/2001 03:05:30 PM link

Wednesday, May 30, 2001

Poetry Soaked in the Personal and Political Now here's something I haven't experienced in a while, and certainly not since moving from New York to Ohio -- a story in the New York Times about someone I used to be slightly acquainted with. There was one Sunday, many years ago, when just about every page in the Arts section had a story or photo about someone I knew.

Tell me again why I moved to Dayton? It's harder to know if I feel like more of a failure because I'm here or because I didn't really ever quite do what I wanted when I lived there (or figured out what I wanted to do). I guess I've never figured out what I really want anyway, so I have no way of expressing it one way or another. But it is always odd to see old familiar faces in the Times.
elgoose, 5/30/2001 07:26:44 AM link

Saturday, May 19, 2001

For those who might be checking, I'm not dead. I've started a new job, and it reminds me of nothing so much as being the new kid in elementary school. I've been in training for a few weeks and my head is so stuffed with new material I've learned, I think it may burst. I had to take a brief leave of absence from school, because I had bronchitis too (the first week of a new job, last week of a class and a temp of 101+ --- I was hallucinating the whole time). I hope to start blogging more regularly, but then, I've said that before. The problem is, I can't think of anything ineresting to say when I'm actually at the keyboard. Perhaps I'm just deluding myself to think that I actually think of anything interesting to say when I'm away from the keyboard. As the 1940s Wonder Woman would say, "Hola!"

Tuesday, March 13, 2001

Last night I took and passed the Network+ cert exam. I am still fried. I had not expected it to be so hard, so I'm glad that I really worked at keeping caught up with the reading in class and all that. Typically, I am a very lazy student, because things come too easily for me. They always have and if I've ever had classes where I had to work much, and I wasn't that interested, I'd just half-ass it. Later on, I could always claim that I would have done better if I had worked harder.

So this is a whole new type of experience for me as a student, and I've been a student, on and off, for most of my life (yeow!). I worked hard and when I was taking that test last night, there were a couple of times when I'd look at the question and think to myself, "I have absolutely no fucking idea! I am going to fail this test!" This is not a feeling I am familiar with, I can tell you, but I was also oddly fatalistic and thought, "Well, if I fail, I fail, keep going and do your best." Normally, I am not the most positive of thinkers, so this was tantamount to having an out-of-body experience, as far as I'm concerned.

And then I finished the test and as I waited for the computer to calculate my score, I just held my head and expected the worst. I really hope that I didn't make an embarrassing noise when the screen flashed a "Congratulations, you passed!" message at me. I was astonished. I was still shaking an half-hour later.

Truly a new experience for me. I wonder how I'm going to cope with the Windows 2000 MCSE exams?

At any rate, blessedly, tonight's class was cancelled at the last minute, which is good because my brain feels like oatmeal and I haven't been able to retain anything for the test that was scheduled for tonight for class. I'll get back on that pony tomorrow. Tonight, I'm going to veg out -- read some comic books or something. If I hadn't already started dinner in the (lovely, wonderful) crock pot long ago, I'd grab something quick to eat and just go to bed.

As it is , I had a chance to get some laundry done today and to take care of othe mundane housekeeping. Pretty soon I will get to the point where I actually will run the vacuum cleaner. As it stands now, I don't think that the place has been vacuumed since December. Disgusting, I know, but so what? The only thing that's getting bad is that the dogs keep getting fuzzy bits in their mouths if they eat anything off the floor, and then they walk around gagging and trying to spit. Since dogs cannot spit, so I have to help them get the fuzz out of their mouths. I think that it says something noteworthy about me that I would rather do that than vacuum.

Wednesday, March 07, 2001

This is weird as hell. I'm using Opera as my browser now and the interface with Blogger is way screwy. It took me forever to try to figure out how to add the "blog this!" feature, and I have yet to see if it will work or not. Oh well, onward and upward with the arts.

I've finished my Network+ class and am taking the cert test on Monday. For some reason, the testing schedule at my school is not really in synch with the class schedule, which has led to not a little bitching and moaning. But there are worse things.

On the whole, I am having a ton of fun. No job yet, but I'm working on that. I've been sick again, with some of the chronic fatigue symptoms and lots of asthma. It would probably make a big difference if I'd just vacuum my damn apartment.

My mom gave me a crock pot for Christmas (did I already mention that? Memory loss--prions--they go hand in hand, just like stumbling and falling down). I love my crockpot. It's like when I got my microwave oven and years later can't remember how I lived without it. Burned a lot of lentils and rice on the stovetop, that's how.

Apparently the "blogthis!" function doesn't work under Opera, and for some reason the header font size is whacked, too. All this goes back to adding an indexer program (which shall remain unnamed, but is you want to know, e-mail me) to my hard drive and having it frap up my registry and cripple IE (yes, I've reloaded it, uninstalled the indexer, all that stuuf, but IE still won't work well on this computer anymore -- and anyway, I have come to like Opera a lot. Too bad it will make my blogging even more inconsistent than it has been in the past. Not that anyone will notice.)

All this because I wanted to point at this page and say that I think that Dubya looks like a used car salesman with that phony smile on his face.

Hardly earth-shaking.

Awfuller and awfuller -- stuff posts but won't publish.... is this the end for Impulse Control? Stay tuned!

Reloaded Netscape 4.something to see if I can make this work. It's not like I had anything else to do today --- NOT!!!!!

It's not quite there, but closer than it was. Looks like any blogging has to happen through Netscape rather than Opera. Is this the end of Opera as my everyday browser? Doubt it.

Is it just me or is the "publish" function kind of whacked too? I'm not complaining, because I know that Ev has tons more to worry about than Blogger, but is it me or is it a problem that everyone is having?

Holy simoleons! I figured it out! There's nothing like that feeling of making it work! Too many exclamation points!!!!

Nevertheless, this is proof if any was needed that I was born to be a computer weasel. Hallelujah!

Thursday, February 01, 2001

Long time, no see. Passed the DOS/Windows cert test, so now I'm completely A+ certified. It even comes with a genuine certificate and a wallet card. I'm actually in class right now -- Network+. Learning lots about TCP/IP. Computer weaselette. I've been reading way too much fiction and not studying enough, though. Also have another bizarre upper respiratory infection and am taking four (count 'em four) antibiotics. They don't seem to be doing a damn thing except ensuring that I die from flesh-eating bacteria someday (if the prions don't get me first -- I am pretty much certain that I've acquired Creuzfeld-Jacob disease from eating beef).

Anyway, I just wanted to check in from school. We have a test in a couple of minutes and my brain is fried. Not from what we are studying, per se, but just because it's February and I'm DAMN TIRED of winter!!! I've actually been writing in a journal daily, so maybe I should just start posting some of that stuff. At least I wouldn't have to come up with fresh material when stranded at a keyboard.

Actually, it's entirely fair to say that I don't have a very interesting life right now. I'm in a class full of men who think that fart jokes and Jerky Boys sound clips are the wittiest things they've ever heard. The computer behind me is mooing and oinking. Save meeeeee!

Wednesday, January 24, 2001

ACLU Press Release: 01-16-01 -- New ACLU Report Finds Ashcroft Record Rife With Hostility to Civil Rights, Civil Liberties

Press release from the ACLU with link to a report it sent to members of the Senate regarding John Ashcroft's very public assaults on the Constitution. The report itself is available as an Adobe Acrobat .pdf file and is well worth reading -- it outlines a variety of positions that Ashcroft has taken over the years that I find both offensive and frightening. As Attorney General, I believe that he would oversee the unimaginable rollback of civil rights that was already started under the Clinton Administration (the report points to a couple of these instances, including the Communications Decency act, thankfully overturned by the Supreme Court as unconstitutional, and the Effective Death Penalty and Antiterrorism Act of 1996).

"In December 1999, Ashcroft told the magazine Charisma that 'It's said that we shouldn't legislate morality. Well, I think that all we should legislate is morality.'" John Ashcroft's morality has nothing to do with mine and he has no right to impose his notions of right and wrong on me or anyone else in the bullying ways that the report outlines.
elgoose, 1/24/2001 01:18:46 PM link

Friday, December 29, 2000

I just finished reading this bizarre-yet-oddly-compelling novel which was recommended to me by a friend; it is part of a series that is one of her childhood favorites. The book is Dawn's Early Light by Elswyth Thane; copyright date is 1943 and it shows. This is a very strange book -- the first third or so really hinked me out. It is the story of Julian Day, who comes to live in Williamsburg, Virginia, right before the outbreak of the Revolutionary War. It has all the wierdness of a really dated novel about colonial America -- happy darkies and all (no, she doesn't call them that, but that's what they are and that's how they're portrayed).

The first night he is in town, he and his pal save a young girl, Tibby, and her twin brother from their drunken step-father and he takes on a kind of responsibility for them out of a sense of obligation and because that's just the kind of guy he is: noble and kind. So of course, it's obvious from the outset that this girl, who is brilliant but poor, virtuous but uneducated, will end up being his romantic interest. That's one of the stomach-churning parts, because when the story begins, she's nine and he's twenty-one. Creepy.

There are two major narrative arcs in the book. The first is how Julian comes to stop thinking of himself as an English subject and comes to think of himself as an American, which is rather interesting and better-than-average development of the character against the background of the politics and the fighting of the war. The most compelling part of the book is actually the middle part, once he goes off to join the battle against the British army in the Carolinas. That part is straight-out war story stuff, and rather well told. The other major arc is the story of Julian and Tibby, and how he basically shapes her education and molds her as she grows up and how she loves him from the beginning with undying devotion. This is done so innocently (as only a book written in the 1940s for teenagers can be written) that the whole skin-crawly Pygmalion aspect seems perfectly normal, which is exactly why it made my skin crawl. The whole story gets very dramatic and overwrought as the war story and the romance collide, and everyone ends up paired up with the perfect partner, just as Cornwallis surrenders. I'd call this one a guilty pleasure just because it's so innocently repulsive and fascinating at the same time -- well-written and plotted, in a quaint way, but yeow!!! Nine years old!

A personal reaction about reading historical fiction -- I think the only books I've ever read that talk about how smelly it was "back then" are Diana Gabaldon's Outlander series. Dawn's Early Light talks about the smells at least, because Julian can't get over how pleasantly fragrant Williamsburg is in the summer. Shyeah!

Friday, December 29, 2000


Too ... much ... information ... brain ... melting ... melting ... melting ...
elgoose, 12/29/2000 11:06:13 PM link

Thursday, December 28, 2000

I am pretty much over my "I hate Dayton" rant, which was really an "I hate Christmastime" rant in disguise. The holidays were brutal this year; when I woke up on December 26, I felt as though a great weight had lifted from my shoulders.

The oddest media moment of the holidays, to me, was David Letterman's show celebrating the US peacekeepers in Tusla, Bosnia-Herzegovina -- Christmas in the Balkans with soldiers and such. I just thought the whole concept was weirder than weird and as I have considered it for the past few days (well, more than a week now), I can only come to the conclusion that David Letterman has been replaced with a pod.

That's right, he's a pod person. The David Letterman that I watched in 1984 would no more have thought of doing his patriotic duty by putting on some huge gig for US peacekeepers than he would have ripped his nose hairs out live on TV. In fact, I think he's have been much more likely to rip his nose hairs out.

Does anyone else remember when he used to be really really mean to people and that was why it was fun to watch him?

Erf. David Letterman is a pod person and I got a crock pot for Christmas. How the world changes -- especially since I was the one who asked for the crock pot in the first place.

Friday, December 15, 2000

What it's like to live in a state that has pretty much no gun control at all -- we become a source of guns for the rest of the nation.

Other interesting and/or sensationalistic stories in the series in the local paper.

And while we are on the subject, here are two good articles about the gun industry itself: Gunmakers Under Fire and No Surrender from Mr. Saturday Night Special

On the whole, the need for gun control is pretty obvious to me, but I'm not going to hold my breath now that Mini-Me is going to be the next President.
elgoose, 12/15/2000 01:10:39 AM link

Tuesday, December 12, 2000

Very very very very homesick for New York -- obviously, I have been watching far too many re-runs of Law and Order. Or I've just been hanging around with dumbheads in Dayton, Ohio for too long. What I wouldn't give for an interesting conversation about almost any topic under the sun. Since that isn't likely to happen any time soon, I think I'm going to get a solderer at Radio Shack and teach myself to solder instead.

Tuesday, December 12, 2000

"Until now, carrying a raw salmon in your pocket has been...well...troublesome, if not embarrassing"

Auntie Delbert sent the dogs some lovely freeze-dried salmon from Seattle for a Festivus present. Man, they love that stuff, even though (maybe because) it smells worse than anything you can imagine. So they are learning a new word -- "fishytreats" -- something special for the holidays. Yum, yum, yum!

And she sent a lovely and fashionable Sailor Moon lunchbox for moi -- just the thing for carrying all my Sailor Moon stuff, except it won't all fit. But the trading cards and musical locket can go in there, and maybe the 3.5 inch dolls that my friend Ben sent me from when he visited China.

What this all means is that I have great friends who send me and my dogs presents from all over the world! And like all good friends, they humor and even encourage my obsessions. Please, though, no more Mister Potatoheads!!!!!! The Mister Potatohead massager (with Massaging Foot Action!) that I got for Christmas last year is absolutely the last Potatohead fetish I need!
elgoose, 12/12/2000 10:36:16 PM link

Sunday, December 10, 2000

I've been working this part-time job doing market research by phone. I won't go into any of the ultra-secret, proprietary material, lest I be hunted down and killed. God knows, I've already lost one job because of what I've posted on this web site.

There are two reasons I even mention this in the first place. One of the funniest things is when I get someone on the phone and start to do an interview with them, and they refuse, saying something like, "No thanks, we don't like to get involved with things like that." What kind of "things like that" do you suppose they are referring to? Marketing? Can't avoid it. Phone surveys? There's no law that says we can't call your home, despite what some people seem to think -- especially the ones who get all indignant because their numbers are unlisted. "How did you get this number!?!" Consulted the magic eight-ball, dimwit. I suppose people don't want to get involved with "things like that" in case I am secretly recruiting for a cult, or because I am somehow casing their house.

I've also become a connoisseur of answering machine messages. Most are short and to the point, giving the phone number instead of people's names, as though this were Great Britain. Most annoying messages are those taped by young children who can barely enunciate. Any parent who thinks this is cute is beyond mistaken and into the criminal. Yesterday I got one of those messages that I thought had gone out-of-style by 1986 or so, where the person says "Hello? ... Hello, who is this?.... I can't hear you, speak up!... Hello!? Well, it doesn't matter anyway, because this is an answering machine." Hardy-har-har.

Here's the scoop. If you say you don't want to do the survey, it's my job to try at least once to convince you. Personally, my feelings aren't hurt if you just hang up, because that means I can keep dialling to try to meet my production goals. Yes, we have evil things like that. The worst thing is the people who feel compelled to lecture me about how evil I am for calling them and asking them questions. They don't know who I am and how I'll use the information, blah blah blah. Generally, I listen to the rants because they can be fairly entertaining. The person on the phone obviously thinks I am a total cretin and have no idea that I am doing something "bad". I had a woman ask for my home phone number the other night (how clever), and go into a rant that ended with her screaming "Quit your job!"

If only it were that simple.

Just don't answer the questions if you don't want to. You are under no obligation to answer your phone if it rings, and if you do without screening your calls, who's the sucker? Are you that important that you have to pick up every call that comes in? Are you maybe expecting a call from NASA or Paramount Pictures? At any rate, most people I talk to for any length of time are perfectly civil and I regret that I have to be fairly robot-like in my interaction with them. The calls really are interesting brief and coincidental encounters that don't mean much of anything in the long run.

Sunday, December 10, 2000

The Soul of the Ultimate Machine

When computers become sentient... cf. the novel Galatea 2.2 by Richard Powers, who seems, on the basis of that book, to have also been at Urbana-Champaign when Dr. Smarr was. Which of them is the real visionary when considering the nature of sentience?
elgoose, 12/10/2000 08:31:21 PM link

Wednesday, December 06, 2000

LRB | John Sutherland: A Dangerously Liquid World

Organisationally, AA resembles nothing so much as a terrorist network. There is no central organisation as such, just a honeycomb of cells on the ground, none of which communicates directly with any of the others, with HQ or with the outside world. This is fundamental: 'AA has no opinion on outside issues; hence the AA name ought never be drawn into public controversy.' It has no views on politics or on anything (even alcoholism); it's pure praxis. On the ideological level, it remains faithful to its founder Dr Bob's dying injunction to the faithful: 'keep it simple' - empty, that is, of complicating doctrine or confusing theory.
Bwahha hahaha ha! This has to be both the funniest and truest thing about AA that I have read in recent months. And I have to say, based on some meetings I have attended, its organizational structure is not the only similarity it has to terrorism. Man, some of those so-called recovering drunks are mean, nasty and close-minded. There's a thing in AA saying "If you want what we have, and are willing to go to any lengths to get it..." I can say without a doubt that some of these folks don't have anything I want. Nasty!
elgoose, 12/6/2000 11:10:30 AM link

Tuesday, December 05, 2000

Infectious Diseases Rising Again in Russia

The great human die-off, continuing story.

In the future, will the 20th century be seen as the pinnacle of public health successes? Probably. We're treading water now, with nowhere to go but down.
elgoose, 12/5/2000 10:30:28 AM link

Monday, December 04, 2000

Passed the A+ Core exam. The DOS/Windows class starts tomorrow. I guess I qualify for sure as a mini-junior-computer-weaselette now. Many miles to go before I achieve the status of true computer weasel, though.

One thing that is different for me this year is that I haven't been descending into near-suicidal depression as the days have grown shorter. This makes me think that the misery of the past two winters was much more due to my old job than I let myself realize. Of course, since I wasn't doing anything to get myself out of the shitty job, I have nobody to blame but myself. But then, I really believe that things work out the way they are supposed to -- if I had left that shitty job, I wouldn't have been miserable enough (yet) to say what the hell and change careers altogether, which has been like a breath of fresh air blowing through my soul. I can't express how refreshing and invigorating it is to just start over. I don't feel all depressed and angry and old anymore (well, old sometimes when I realize that I'm at an advanced enough age to be the parent of some of the other students in my class).

So let me just start the Advent season by affirming how much I have been blessed recently and how grateful I am for it. I'm not saying that everything is perfect now, but it sure is much, much better than it was six months ago. And no more Monday morning staff meetings!!!

Monday, December 04, 2000

Check out the interactive Advent calendar!!
elgoose, 12/4/2000 08:20:32 PM link

No Need to Hide Styx Albums Now

Definitely hip to be square. Wait, that's Huey Lewis and the News, another pleasure even more guilty than Styx. At least I was in junior high when I loved Styx; there's no excuse for Huey.
elgoose, 12/4/2000 09:43:02 PM link

Saturday, December 02, 2000

"I think the happiness of a reader is beyond that of a writer, for the reader feel no trouble, no anxiety: he is merely out for happiness. And happiness, when you are a reader, is frequent."
Jorge Luis Borges

Certainly, I am happiest when I am reading, for the most part.

Finished my class for A+ this week and I'm taking the certification test on Monday. I really didn't know jack about PC hardware when I walked into the class, and I've learned an enormous amount. I really can't get over it. I am passing the practice Transcenders and online freebies okay and I haven't forced myself into the boring memorization of IRQs and DMA channels yet. I hate memorizing stuff -- it seems like such a waste of time and space, since you can always look something up if you need to. Maybe it's just that I get bored by rote memorization. I didn't even memorize my multiplication tables till I was in seventh grade, and I only did that then because the math teacher, Mrs. Collier, forced everyone to take quizzes until we all passed. I was among the last, which was pretty humiliating. To this day, I still have to count on my fingers to get 7 x 8 right.

Friday, December 01, 2000

Crispy Supreme Arguments

Late-breaking report from David Corn, Washington DC columnist for The Nation about today's US Supreme Court hearing regarding the Florida election recount debacle. I have been ignoring much of the agita, mainly because I don't have time to keep up with the minutia, but I am starting to get worried. It's clear to me that neither Gore nor Bush has a mandate to lead (let alone "rule"). Where will it all end?

This showed up in my in-box today from the yucks-list (I'm not subscribed, but every once in a while, someone passes something along that's worth reading:

A history professor from Uppsala Universitey in Sweden, called to tell me about an article she had read in which a Zimbabwe politician was quoted as saying that children should study this event closely for it shows that election fraud is not only a third world phenomenon:

1. Imagine that we read of an election occurring anywhere in the third world in which the self-declared winner was the son of the former prime minister and that former prime minister was himself the former head of that nation's secret police (CIA).

2. Imagine that the self-declared winner lost the popular vote but won based on some old colonial holdover (electoral college) from the nation's pre-democracy past.

3. Imagine that the self-declared winner's 'victory' turned on disputed votes cast in a province governed by his brother!

4. Imagine that the poorly drafted ballots of one district, a district heavily favoring the self-declared winner's opponent, led thousands of voters to vote for the wrong candidate.

5. Imagine that members of that nation's most despised caste, fearing for their lives/livelihoods, turned out in record numbers to vote in near-universal opposition to the self-declared winner's candidacy.

6. Imagine that hundreds of members of that most-despised caste were intercepted on their way to the polls by state police operating under the authority of the self-declared winner's brother.

7. Imagine that six million people voted in the disputed province and that the self-declared winner's 'lead' was only 327 votes. Fewer, certainly, than the vote counting machines' margin of error.

8. Imagine that the self-declared winner and his political party opposed a more careful by-hand inspection and re-counting of the ballots in the disputed province or in its most hotly disputed district.

9. Imagine that the self-declared winner, himself a governor of a major province, had the worst human rights record of any province in his nation and actually led the nation in executions.

10. Imagine that a major campaign promise of the self-declared winner was to appoint like-minded human rights violators to lifetime positions on the high court of that nation.

None of us would deem such an election to be representative of anything other than the self-declared winner's will-to-power. All of us, I imagine, would wearily turn the page thinking that it was another sad tale of pitiful pre- or anti-democracy peoples in some strange elsewhere.

elgoose, 12/1/2000 06:13:37 PM link

Tuesday, November 28, 2000

Exorcists and Exorcisms Proliferate Across U.S.

According to The New York Times, "In January 1999, the Vatican issued a revised Catholic rite of exorcism for the first time since 1614, essentially reaffirming that Satan exists. The new rules call for church- approved exorcists to consult modern medicine and to rule out the possibility of a mental or physical disorder."

Very interesting. I know a young woman who underwent exorcism after years of what appeared to be untreatable mental disorders of one sort or another. The exorcism helped her when nothing else did.
elgoose, 11/28/2000 12:05:30 PM link

Saturday, November 11, 2000

Steal Something Day

Montreal anarcho-situationist response to the Adbuster's annual Buy Nothing Day.
The geniuses at Adbusters have managed to create the perfect feel-good, liberal, middle-class activist non-happening. A day when the more money you make, the more influence you have (like every other day). A day which, by definition, is insulting to the millions of people worldwide who are too poor or marginalized to be considered "consumers."

It's supposed to be a 24-hour moratorium on spending, but ends up being a moralistic false-debate about whether or not you should really buy that loaf of bread today or ... wait for it ... tomorrow!
An interesting critique of Buy Nothing Day, which is pretty smug. I'm not sure that going to the opposite extreme and stealing something is the right response, particularly as advocated in this way:
And remember, we're talking about stealing, not theft. Stealing is just. Theft is exploitative. Stealing is when you take a yuppie's BMW for a joyride, and crash into a parked Mercedes just for the hell of it. Theft is when you take candy from a baby's mouth. Stealing is the re-distribution of wealth from rich to poor. Theft is making profits at the expense of the disadvantaged and the natural environment. Stealing is an unwritten a tax on the rich [sic]. Theft is taxing the poor to subsidize the rich. Stealing is nothing more than a tax on the rich. There is solidarity in stealing, but property is nothing but theft.
This isn't the most sophisticated critique of private property that I've ever seen, but it does have a point, particularly as a response to Buy Nothing Day, which operates on the given assumption that, of course, you would otherwise buy something, because you have no choice about buying. I'm not sure that the idea of stealing a car just to wreck it is an effective protest, given the sticks that people can get up their asses about what they perceive to be vandalism. I am also not particularly convinced by the distinctions that the manifesto makes between stealing and theft, especially if they are trying to claim that stealing is just and theft is exploitative. Just for whom? Expoitative for whom?

Stealing is the re-distribution of wealth from rich to poor. Theft is making profits at the expense of the disadvantaged and the natural environment.
If the essential difference (or definitional one, at least) is that stealing is when the poor take from the rich and theft is when the rich take from the poor, then neither is a particularly good critique of the concept of private property. All it does is privilege ownership by the poor instead of the rich. And it's not ownership for the purpose of use, necessarily, so much as it is ownership for the purpose of waste (at least if you wreck that BMW it is). How is that different from ownership by the rich, or even the very nature of capitalism, which is built on the notion of waste?

The idea of Steal Something Day is interesting, but only to the extent that what is stolen is both needed and used. I don't even know that I'd make a claim for that being just, if it's wrapped up in a cloak of self-rightous hooliganism.

The question to be addressed, that might lead to some greater empathy, if not solidarity, between those who have nothing and those who have something is to ask and analyze "Where is the loss of private property really absorbed? Who really pays?"
elgoose, 11/11/2000 03:53:24 PM link

Friday, November 10, 2000

Well, this is a new thing. I had keyed in an entire entry about what was going on and why I haven't been keeping up with this journal for the past few months, and I thought it posted okay, but it has disappeared into the void.

Let me take that as a sign from the universe that what I posted didn't need to be said. To recap what seem to be the necessary high points, I have decided to go back to school and have started a program in network engineering. I had an opportunity to leave the career that was making me incredibly miserable and start in something else that is more about what I am interested in and what I want to do. The universe has smiled on me in many ways recently.

I am currently three weeks into my class for A+ core certification, which, for those who don't know it, is computer hardware maintenance and installation. There is a ton of material to learn and I have to bust my ass to keep caught up, but I'm really enjoying it and learning at an incredible rate. Now I just need to get the material out of my short-term memory into my long-term memory and I will feel as though I have definitely accomplished something.

I haven't had time to keep up with any of my usual daily routine for a few months while things have been up in the air, but I need to start being online again, back in speeded-up time mode. So we'll see how things go here and over in the blog.

Now to see if this posts or vanishes (of course if I copy it to my clipboard first, there won't be any problem). Here's hoping the universe smiles again!

Friday, November 10, 2000

Well, I finally updated my webloggers link -- only a mere two months late. That's nothing in the life of the universe. Of course, in internet time, it means that I'm hopelessly outdated and pretty much of a dork.
elgoose, 11/10/2000 07:28:29 PM link

The Nation has been making a big deal about the cover of its Alfred W. issue (as if I'd really want to print out a copy and put it anywhere -- it's a truly disturbing image). And it was much funnier when Tom Tomorrow did it last February. But then, the Nation isn't really noted for it's biting humor, so I suppose I'm not being fair.
elgoose, 11/10/2000 07:37:45 PM link

Let me be the first to apologize for my general bone-headedness and inability to keep blogging for a few months there -- real life, such as it is, intervened. Anyway, I apologize in advance for any broken and/or outdated links. That's life.
elgoose, 11/10/2000 07:43:28 PM link

Mr. Potato Head iconography

Under the guise of promoting tourism in Rhode Island, Mr. Potato Head and his clones (probably grown from excised eyes, the way we learned in fourth-grade science class) have taken over. The Tourist Tater has been called a racist stereotype and is currently "under repair," but I think the Hospitality Spud, the Wannabee Surfer (who knew Mr. Potatohead had toes?) and the Golem Mr. Potatohead a.k.a. Mr. Potato Head Shore Thing are all far more disturbing.

Then there are the religious potatoes, both Bishop and Monk, looking like they escaped from a Benny Hill sketch. And the Monk has that toe thing going again, too.

And what's with Betty the Learned Elephant -- that's what comes from gene-splicing, you know. Is it an elephant or a potato? No! It's both!!

Actually, they're all pretty damn scary. As is the idea of A Potato Head Pilgrimage.
elgoose, 11/10/2000 09:02:35 PM link

Thursday, October 19, 2000

Holy smoke! I can't believe I actually was able to log in to Blogger! It's been impossible for the past few days. I was beginning to think that my user ID was cursed or erased or cancelled for lack of use. Yes, gentle reader, I have been very bad for not posting for two months. What can I say? Time flies like an arrow and fruit flies like a banana.

Most excellent quote from the October 16 & 23 , 2000 issue of The New Yorker, the big double issue on politics (check it out - Joe Klein has a great article about Clinton's eight years).

One of the arcticles contains excerpts of Joe Kennedy, Sr.'s correspondence, which his granddaughter has been recovering and piecing together, I would imagine for publication. The best letter:

to Theodore Sorenson, a legislative aide and speechwriter for John F. Kennedy
Palm Beach
February 24, 1960

Dear Ted:
I continually hear about Nixon's experience and I certainly think for the most part that experience is a term usually used to descibe a lifetime of mistakes.


Thursday, August 24, 2000

Beloit College Releases the Class of 2004 Mindset List

The release of the Mindset List is an annual event that usually makes me feel old. It's a list of real-world facts and attitudes that are relevant to this year's class of freshmen entering college. It can be both highly depressing and highly entertaining.

My favorite facts from this year's list:

2. Grace Kelly, Elvis Presley, Karen Carpenter, and the E.R.A. have always been dead.

9. They have probably never lost anything in shag carpeting.

20. Watergate is as relevant to their lives as the Teapot Dome scandal.

33. Coors Beer has always been sold east of the Mississippi, eliminating the need for Burt Reynolds to outrun the authorities in the Smokey and the Bandit films.

45. They never thought of Jane Fonda as “Hanoi Jane,” nor associated her with any revolution other than the “Fitness Revolution” videotape they may have found in the attic.

Sic transit gloria mundi
elgoose, 8/24/2000 1:34:11 PM link

Wednesday, August 16, 2000

The other day I had to go over to the hospital to pick up copies of the sinus CAT scan I had done about six weeks ago because the ear, nose and throat doctor wants to see them and review them with me. I just waltzed right into the x-ray department and they handed over the films without me showing any ID or signing anything at all. Maybe the release I signed at the doctor's office covered everything, I don't know. They said they hadn't heard from the doctor, but they gave me the films anyway.

The CAT scans are so cool looking, much cooler than the x-rays of my skull that I have (yes, it's an odd hobby, but if I've paid for the damn things, I want to keep them). Of course, I have no idea yet what I'm looking at, as far as the sinus pathology goes, but I recognize my teeth (and my overbite). The series is taken from the front of my head to the back in 3 millimeter slices. I had to take my hair down and curled it around my chin to keep it out of the way, so it looks like this cloud of odd smoke trailing around my chin. The series of scans looks like my face emerging from the dark and then cuts through my face. One of the scans cuts through my eyeball in such a way that it reminds me of a death mask, for some reason, a death mask made with the person's eyes open, even though I don't think that was typically how they were done.

One of the scans seems to be reflecting off the final metal filling that I have in my head, but the reflection is a burst of dark lines rather than bright ones, like a black starburst in my mouth. The further the scans get back in my head, the less recognizably human the image is and the more it looks like some sort of trilobyte. My brain hangs on top, expanding in each scan like a mushroom cloud. The intricacy of the holes inside my head is amazing. I wonder what part of them isn't working right.

Primate skull at various slices -- cool as hell.

This may be what leads me to finally go out and pop for a scanner.

Sunday, August 13, 2000

Wow -- close to a month since I've posted anything here. It's not because I have nothing to say, but I haven't been able to get organized. Lots of stuff going on, and online time has decreased dramatically.

I'm not even obsessing about Metafilter anymore, which is probably good for my mental health.

Last night I went out to the state park to watch the Perseids meteor shower. There was a big crowd there and most folks seemed interested in just about anything except the night sky. I went off by myself so I could lie down and watch the skies -- the moon was so bright (it's full tonight) that it made it hard to get my night vision stabilized. It got cold a lot quicker than I thought it would so I was out of there by 10:30, which is way too early to have seen much. But I did see some meteorites. None were as good as the one I saw Wednesday night when I was just hanging around outside talking with a friend.

It was good to get away from everything and go watch the night sky, though -- I want to do it again soon, and sometime without a million people in the near vicinity. No major meteorite showers until fall, but it would still be worth it to go look again during a new moon. And next time, take the sweat shirts and blankets and maybe the dogs for warmth.

Just finished reading The Intuitionist, by Colson Whitehead. I would highly recommend it for anyone whose sensibility runs towards films like Dark City or Brazil, mainly because I think there's a filmic consciousness behind the story that evokes those sort of self-consciously retro-looking movies. It's a very odd and engaging book, and I include a link to the Amazon reviews because the book is practically impossible to synopsize in any meaningful way, so I'll just point you to some stuff other people wrote about it. The protagonist, Lila Mae Watson, is one of the best female characters I've come across recently, and the book is a joy to read. Threads about technology, race, surveillance, gender and desire are woven together to create something like a mystery and something like a myth. The imagination that created this universe and its elevator inspectors is incredible and gives new meaning to the phrase that "everything that rises must converge."

Tuesday, July 25, 2000

Comic-Book Heroes? They Oughta Be in Pictures

An interesting elegy to superheroes both in comics and in movies. Written by Elvis Mitchell (is this his real name?), it betrays a lack of knowledge of the contemporary state of comics fandom, but is still well worth reading. I would guess that Mr. Mitchell is close to my own age, given his love for Marvel Comics. I grew up reading mostly Marvel, with a few DC titles thrown in for good measure. Today, I continue to collect comics, but find the superhero trope pretty much of a throwaway. I am not sure that there is much new to be said about superheroes in the comics medium. I continue to read them, but they serve me more as intellectual comfort food than anything else.

Several years ago I got turned on to the comix@ list, which now seems sadly moribund. I was introduced to the variety of independent, non-superhero comix available and began to read and collect those. It is against this background that I now see the super-comics, a bloated niche that eats its own young. One point that Mr. Mitchell did not bring up was Stan Lee's editorial policy of repeating story lines every three years or so, because he figured that the lifespan of a comics reader/consumer was about that long, so the recycling would not be noticed.

Boy, was he wrong about that.

The success of the X-men as a group of characters is a case in point. I was never a fan of the earliest version, although I came to love the artwork done on the series by Neal Adams in the early 70s (?). I was right there with the rebirth of the Uncanny X-Men in the late seventies and followed them until the return of the real Jean Grey (she wasn't really dead, they just thought she was). At that point, I felt that Jim Shooter and Marvel's editorial policy had sold out one time too many, so I gave up the title. I still don't think that I missed much, but that could be a saurean sort of reaction: "You punks don't know what you missed! That comic used to be great!!"

Translating between comics and movies should not be as hard as it seems, given the few successes of films based on comics. The long-running Star Wars franchise was kept alive in comic books as much as novels based on the characters in the movie. After Lucas made the mistake of going back to tell the story that we already know the end result of, comics may be one of the major ways to keep the stories of Luke, Leia and Han, the characters we truly care about, alive.

The key, in both comics and films, is the character. While Marvel may have "pioneered" characterization in comics (I'm not sure that I am convinced by this comics history truism one bit), it holds no corner on that market anymore. A character that readers care about, like Wolverine, can become a character that moviegoers care about as well. It seems pretty obvious to me that the real trap is the ease with which both comics producers and movie producers fall into the assumption that what they do can't be taken seriously, since it is "only" entertainment. Story telling is story telling, though the constraints of the medium might change. Staying to to the vision of the story is what is important.

To me, the most interesting change in the X-Men mythos/soap opera is the focus on anti-mutant sentiment. While that was long in the background of the comics stories, the New Uncanny X-Men was for a long time a story about the forging of a team and a family. It was draped around the development of Jean Grey's Phoenix/Dark Phoenix transformation, but the important story developed around the characters and their interactions.

These types of subtleties are a luxury that can be developed over time in comics, as in television, if the writer cares to and is gifted enough. In film, there isn't time for this subtlety. One obvious difference is that telling a story in a serial medium means that charcter development can be slow and careful. A one-shot story, like a movie or play, really needs to be about the most important incident of the character's life, in order to have impact and to reveal anything interesting about the character at all.

Turning a film or a novel into a serial franchise can be tricky, especially if the creators have successfully told the story of the turning point of a character's life. One reason I would love to see Darren Aronofsky try to bring life back to the Batman films is that "pi" was an extraordinary film about the revolutionary change in one person's life. Can that sensibility be brought to a franchise and redefine the significance of individual stories within the longer soap opera? I don't know and I don't know if anyone has tried.
elgoose, 7/25/2000 11:05:13 AM link

Wednesday, July 19, 2000

Tonight I was sitting in my car in a parking lot as the sun was starting to set. The weather is beautiful here right now, unlike many parts of the US. I was listening to whatever the sounds were, nothing in particular, and all of a sudden I realized that nobody in the world knew where I was at that moment in time. I felt totally anonymous and free. That feeling passes through me sometimes when I am totally divorced from my daily routine and answerable to nobody but myself. I am on the world and of it, but somehow invisible.

Wednesday, July 12, 2000

I was standing in line at the drug store tonight, behind a man and his daughter, who looked like she was probably around eight or nine years old. She was kind of knock-kneed, but looked like a perfectly, totally, absolutely normal summer vacation child.

Spying the display of Slim Fast energy bars by the cash register, she asked him, "Daddy, how old do I have to be before I can have Slim Fast?"

He seemed nonplussed and told her that Slim Fast was for fat people.

"I am fat, Daddy!"

"No you're not."

"I'm supposed to weigh sixty-nine pounds and I weigh (whisper)seventy-buzzbuzz!!"

I felt like crying. That poor kid.

Tuesday, July 11, 2000

I currently have 725 messages in my inbox and that doesn't count the incoming mail that is filtered to other folders. I intend to read it all eventually and I hate deleting stuff based just on the Subject alone, but I have to or I'd drown in the information deluge.

Here is a semi-random selection of something that is just sitting there waiting to be read:

Date: Wed, 5 Apr 2000 09:33:11 -0700
Reply-To: chiapas-l@burn.ucsd.edu
Sender: chiapas-l@burn.ucsd.edu
From: "Commandante Null MAF Rtd."
To: Multiple recipients of list
Subject: Poppy Eradication a Perilous Job in Mexico

Feature-Poppy Eradication a Perilous Job in Mexico

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Flying in pairs for safety, two helicopters swooped down low over well-hidden poppy fields guarded by figures in black carrying automatic rifles.

This time the pilots had nothing to fear; the armed men were from Operation Dragonfly, an anti-drug collaboration between Mexico's army and Attorney General's Office (PGR).

But usually the day-to-day fight against drugs in Mexico carries heavy risks.

"We get attacked a lot," said Lt. Col. Arnoldo Rios Salas, head of the PGR's drug eradication program, on a trip to two poppy plantations in the rugged southern state of Guerrero. "Narco-traffickers guarding fields of illicit crops shoot at us and hang wires between the trees to try to make our helicopters crash," he added.

Last year two pilots had a lucky escape when attachers hit their helicopter and bullets came whizzing through the door, missing one of them by an inch, Salas said. But normally the gunmen are long gone by the time the helicopters land

Mexico does not give figures for illicit crop cultivation, but the U.S. government estimates opium production in Mexico yields around four to six metric tons of heroin a year, nearly all of which is shipped to its northern neighbor. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency says Colombia supplies some 65 percent and Mexico 17 percent of the heroin consumed in the United States.


>From the air, tiny scarlet dots of poppies can just be made out amid brown mountainous scrubland, although the fields are normally tucked between creeks or canyons. March is the peak season for opium poppies, from which heroin is made.

"The narcos choose remote places that are difficult to access for growing their crops," Salas said. Most often, they pick communal rather than private lands to avoid the risk of the owner being traced and the property seized.

Down on the ground, anti-drug agents begin whacking at the waist-high poppies with sticks, taking evident satisfaction in the felling of whole swathes of the plant within minutes. The two 1.2-acre fields, planted by locals from the isolated hill village of Carrizalillo, were ripe for harvest.

Some green poppy heads, now minus their petals, bore thin razor cuts still sticky from where the brown opium resin had been drawn. "You can get up to seven cuts in one bulb, but it's very fine work, which is why they use women and children to do it," Salas said. "The finer the cut, the more resin you get out."

Dotted in among the delicate red flowers were bushy clumps of marijuana, heavy with seeds, which the PGR said was for the personal use of the growers.

The poppy cycle from seed to harvest is on average 130 days. Salas estimated the locals had already harvested about one tenth of the field, fearing its imminent destruction.

After the plants are hewn down, helicopters spray them with insecticide to make sure the crop is dead. But a new crop could be sown within a week, said Jaime Cortes, head of PGR eradication in Guerrero state, looking every bit the tough cop in gold-rimmed shades, a baseball cap and jeans, and with a U.S. Colt AR-15 rifle at the ready.


Cortes has been combating drugs in Mexico for 22 years, but he does not like to probe too hard into the identity of the drug traffickers he is fighting, he said.

"I prefer not to know who is doing this. They know where I live. Sometimes you can appear in your house dead," he said.

For impoverished communities such as Carrizalillo, growing drug crops is a chance to raise their meager income by a few pesos. And they know the penalty for squealing to the police is stiff, so there is virtually no cooperation with the PGR.

"The farmers live here permanently and everyone knows each other. They're not going to say anything about the traffickers as they are afraid," Cortes said.

Guerrero is Mexico's main poppy-growing state, although the drug crop is also cultivated in the northern states of Sinaloa and Chihuahua.

Popular myth has it that the United States ironically launched Mexico on the path of drug production, encouraging poppy planting during the Second World War and again during the Vietnam War in order to boost morphine supplies.

Now billionaires, Mexico's drug traffickers are notoriously effective at recruiting anti-drug officials. "Sometimes our people arrive and find a note pinned to a tree or under a rock saying 'Leave this field alone and we'll deposit x amount of dollars in your bank account,"' Salas said.

"But we change the beat of our agents frequently to avoid the possibility of them being corrupted," he added.

The PGR had a bumper year in drug eradication in 1999, reducing marijuana production to a record low and the opium poppy crop to a near-record low.

"Mexico's eradication program is one of the largest, most experienced and sophisticated in the world," a recent U.S. State Department report onMexico says.

Every time a drug plantation is wiped out, samples of the plants are taken back to the PGR lab for analysis to monitor the quality and strengths of the drugs being produced. But the drug traffickers keep pace with every advance.

"Normally each poppy plant has an average of eight bulbs but this year our scientists found a plant with 44 bulbs," Salas said. "That means the traffickers are improving the quality of their plants dramatically."

Copyright 1999 Reuters.
Sorry for the recycled content, although it's actually a pretty interesting short article (and I can now delete it from my inbox, since I've read it). I used to be much more well-versed in international politics and particularly Mexican politics than I am right now, simply because I haven't kept up with the stuff pouring in to my inbox. I suppose that happens to everyone. Every so often I start a purge of the contents, but even that ends up taking more time than usually have to work on it. What happens is that I'll start working on it and get sucked in to reading stuff along the way.

I recently unsubbed from a couple of listservs and ruthlessly emptied my mailboxes of unread messages. I wasn't reading them anyway, so I don't miss them. But these were the more frivolous lists. The serious stuff keeps piling up, mainly because I want to read it.

You should see the stacks of reading material around my house. It would be scary if I hadn't gotten everything neat and put away. The problem with that is that I am running out of room, so pretty soon I will have to do a purge of unread magazines (like a year's worth of Business Week... what the hell was I thinking when I subscribed to that? Oh yeah, some of the articles are interesting).

Sunday, July 9, 2000

I have been pretty inactive here the past few days (which is months in internet time). Some big changes in my life happened all of a sudden and I've been sorting them out.

This is from The Seville Communion by Arturo Perez-Reverte. On the surface, it is a mystery/thriller involving a priest who acts as kind of a secret agent for the Vatican being sent to Seville to investigate a situation in which someone has hacked into the Pope's computer to leave mysterious messages about a church that kills. The priest, Lorenzo Quart, is one of the most interesting characters I've come across recently -- his perception of himself in service to the Vatican, his absence of faith and over-reliance on discipline, and his reactions to the motley crew of characters he meets in Seville all come together to draw a portrait of a man who is frequently misjudged and who spends more time observing life than living. It is easy to blame this alienation on his job, but really, it is obvious that he is in the job he has because of his personal characteristics -- his loneliness, his reticence, his loyalty, his sense of being a good soldier. In the end, the question is, "Is it enough to be a good soldier?" I haven't finished the book yet, but I know that personally, being a good soldier (however that is defined in any life) is a way to stifle the soul and end in self-destruction.

This is from the book; it really struck me as I read:

"Despite his views and rigid adherence to the rules, Quart was a clear-headed man. His lucidity was like a silent curse. It prevented him from totally accepting the natural order of things but gave him nothing in return to make such clarity of mind bearable. For a priest, as in any other walk of life that required a belief in the myth that man held a privileged position in the universe, such lucidity was awkward and dangerous, for it said that human life was totally insignificant. In Quart's case, only willpower, expressed as self-discipline, offered protection from the naked truth that gave rise to weakness or apathy or despair. Maybe that was why he remained sitting beneath that blackened vault that smelled of wax and cold ancient stone. He looked around at the scaffolding, at the figure of Christ with dirty hair surrounded by ex-votos, the altarpiece in the gloom, the flagstones worn by the footsteps of people long dead. He could still see Father Ferro's unshaven, frowning face at the altar pronouncing the mysterious words, and twenty faces looking back at him, momentarily relieved of their human condition by the hope that there was an all-powerful father and a better life where the just were rewarded and the heathens punished. This modest church was far removed from the vulgarity of Technicolor religions where anything went -- open-air arenas, giant television screens, Goebbels' methods, rock concerts, the dialectic of the World Cup, and electronic sprinklers for holy water. Like the forgotten pawns who didn't know whether there was still a king to fight for, some pieces chose their square -- a place where they could die. Father Ferro had chose his, and Lorenzo Quart, experienced scalp hunter for the Roman Curia, didn't find it difficult to understand. Perhaps for that reason, he now had doubts, sitting in the small, dilapidated, lonely church that the old priest had made into his tower: a refuge where he could defend the last of his flock from the prowling wolves outside."

Friday, July 7, 2000

a hahahahahahaha! Someone thinks I have "not bad content"

Thanks to the folks at array for the link -- it's my first one ever. And I do find it appealing to be called "not bad." Ayuh.
elgoose, 7/7/2000 2:27:49 PM link

Ask Jeeves: Peek Through the Keyhole

Perfect for voyeurs like me -- what are people asking Jeeves right now? Some of it is just too over the top -- is there a little Ask Jeeves staffperson somewhere whose only job is to ask questions about discolored stool?
elgoose, 7/7/2000 5:55:01 PM link

Thursday, July 6, 2000

Salon.com health | Can talking kill you?

Interesting and scary article (although somewhat disjointed) about the phenomenon observed by psychologist James L. Lynch -- when people talk, their blood pressure goes up. In those who are pathologically isolated, it can increase the chances of heart disease.

He notes several instances of the disconnects between external affect, even among the outgoing, and the internal havoc going on during the act of conversation.
Lynch: I probably have recorded the blood pressure of more Holocaust victims than anyone else has in the world while they are talking because that's what I do. I work at the heart center affiliated with Sinai Hospital in Baltimore. I'm seeing them as heart attack victims in their 70s. Before they talk about the Holocaust, they have a blood pressure of 120/60. All of a sudden, their blood pressures can rise to 240/150.

Interviewer: That would hardly qualify as a big surprise.

Lynch: It should not be a surprise except that they look calm and they don't feel it. You look into their eyes and see no hint of a reaction. It's happening to their bodies, but they are not living in their bodies anymore -- at least when they are talking about their experiences. They are so traumatized that they can't feel it anymore. And talking about it isn't necessarily helpful. Freud's whole notion of catharsis -- "tell me how you were raped or abused" -- is wrong. Should I say, "Well, tell me more about Buchenwald. Now that you're having a stroke, should I stop that conversation?"
So if talking about it doesn't help, and not talking about it doesn't help, what are we supposed to do? Lynch's characterization of Freud's talking cure is grossly oversimplified and somewhat moronic. The point of psychoanalysis (to be just as oversimplified, but hopefully not as moronic) is to bring the trauma that is suppressed from the conscious out of the unconscious. It's about the process of remembering, and in a particular cultural context where speech became the conduit for relieving other symptoms that were physical in nature. Psychological illness manifested as physical illness was alleviated by Freud's treatments -- even if Dora's blood pressure was high during her treatments, that was probably a small price to pay for release from her other symptoms.

I was talking to my smart friend Del sometime in the last couple of days about Freud, and her view is that the "talking cure", as such, is outmoded because (oh, how did she put this?) we don't need particular encouragement to barf up the contents of our unconscious anymore. Our culture (or at least US culture) is swimming in the collective debris of everyone's unconscious (like blogs, for example), so the process of psychoanalysis is irrelevant. I don't agree with the entire argument, and it may not even be what she said, just what I heard and remembered her to say BUT she and I are both introverts, she even more than I. Living around other people at all gives us high blood pressure. I wonder if her chemical sensitivities and my chronic fatigue syndrome are just different versions of what afflicted Dora?

Finally, what I would like to know is, if humans are social animals as is frequently claimed, why do we have this internal self-destruct mechanism that goes off when we are supposedly behaving in an evolutionarily adaptive and successful manner? Given the story that Lynch tells about the guy in the coma who calmed when he was touched and comforted by a nurse, it seems like the missing link is the power of being touched. People don't need to talk to each other, they need to touch each other. And historically, until about the last century or so (at least in the US, I don't want to overgeneralize), that's what people did. And what they no longer do, because we are no longer compelled to cram together for body warmth and to sleep nine in a room/hut/cave/primitive dwelling. Okay, that's a huge overgeneralization, too, but you get my drift, right?

link via Byun-o-matic
elgoose, 7/6/2000 10:13:52 PM link

Tuesday, July 4, 2000

A Vivid Thesaurus

Anyone who loves words and ideas and the odd ways that they can connect to each other should be able to spend hours here. I know I can, and some of the quirky connections have been breathtaking. One trail led me from "having the quality of being" to "be" to "beryllium." The words quiver and dance and the 3D effect graphically demonstrates the nearness that the words have with each other. Click on a word that is trembling in the background and it leaps front and center along with a new constellation of relationships.

This is the most fun I've had in a long time.
elgoose, 7/4/2000 11:28:31 AM link

Penguin Home Page

For the true bibliomaniac: Penguin's Online Archive of Literary Essays
A quick search on Science retrieved Albert Hofmann has a bad trip, describing the self-experimentation of one of the developers of LSD.

Another search to retrieve all essays from the periods available brought me to John Dos Passos' Defence of Sacco and Vanzetti as well as Lional Trilling's essay Jane Austen's Irony. There are 96 of these essays, all told, covering subjects from the Icelandic Sagas to Norman Mailer.

There is also a wonderful History of Penguin Classics, that shows the way that true book-lovers publish classic texts (many in new, fresh translations). The company was founded with a new translation of the Odyssey that was started by British translator and publisher E.V.Rieu during WWII:
"I began on the Odyssey three years before the Second World War started, and completed the first draft as France fell. Home Guard service intervened, and I could not finish the job till 1944. Even so, its revision was undertaken to the sound of v1 and v2 explosions and the crash of shattering glass - an accompaniment which would have chimed in better with the more warlike Iliad, and which, I hope, is not reflected in my style. Actually, I went back to Homer, the supreme realist, who puts his magic finger every time on the essential qualities of things, by way of escape from the unrealities that surrounded us then - and still surround us in a world of fantastically distorted values."
Finally, there is a Discussion section that looks rather decent on the surface -- bulletin board with topics and threads on classics. A quick browse gives me the impression that there are some extremely literate people here. So I'll finish this post, and go read the discussions at the Penguin Classics site. I can't imagine that they won't be worth reading, given the quality of this site overall.
elgoose, 7/4/2000 1:20:58 PM link

Monday, July 3, 2000

Just finished fixing some broken links on my weblog. I find the ephemerality of webpages to be both annoying and scary. All of the broken links were blogged in the last month.

Took the car to get fixed today. The entire exhaust system needed to be replaced, which didn't really surprise me. That, along with an oil change (right past the 3000 mile mark), cost me $185. Since I have nothing to compare it to, except either not having a car or getting stopped by the state police and getting a ticket and having to get the fix, I've decided that it was an okay price and maybe a bargain, especially if it lasts for a couple of years. I drive a 1986 Toyota Tercel with about 123,000 miles on it and I keep putting new bits in as the old ones wear out. There hasn't been a lot of work that has had to be done on it and I'm aiming to get it to 300,000 miles before I think about replacing it. It's about time for a new timing belt, now that I think of it. I'll do it this fall when I get it tuned up again.

I can't believe I'm talking about my car. But I am still amazed at the novelty of having one and actually being able to take care of it (more or less). I had a 1965 VW Beetle when I was in high school. When I went away to college, my parents promptly sold it (and people wonder why I'm traumatized). My college didn't allow cars, and what with one thing and another, I didn't have a car again until three years ago, when I moved back to Ohio. That's about 18 years in between. So I still get surprised at the convenience of having a car and how easy it makes it to do things that were extraordinarily complicated in New York, like take my dogs to the vet or get to work and home again (bye-bye No. 7 train!).

In so many ways, the Midwest is geared to a level of convenience that New Yorkers would find both unnecessary and effete. I mean, who needs a drive-through dry cleaner or a drive-through drug store? On the other hand, convenience in NYC is geared to people who have to carry everything wherever they are going, pretty much. Now I can do my grocery shopping once a week or so, rather than stop on the way home every night. I prefer it that way, if only because I don't have to walk a mile from the subway stop to my apartment while carrying all that crap anymore. And I don't have to load up my laundry in my little wheelie-cart to schlep to the laundromat every weekend, to fight with the crowd there while trying to clean my delicates. Having a washer and dryer right across the hall from my apartment is one of the best things about moving back here. If that doesn't sound pathetic, then you've never done your laundry in a Queens laundromat on a Sunday afternoon, or in a laundromat on the Lower East Side on a Tuesday night. The hell with being effete -- I want convenience.

Monday, July 3, 2000

A.A. Big Meeting in Minneapolis

Over 70,000 people at the big meeting Friday night. Every five years, A.A. has a huge international conference -- this year it's in Minneapolis, which is where I happen to have gotten sober. I'm sure there are old friends in this crowd somewhere.

At the last International, five years ago in San Diego, I got together with a bunch of AA friends from Compuserve. I met some other neat people for the first time. There was a lounge with donated computers that had internet access, so real-time reporting from the conference was done for the first time. It seem to me like AA has made it online successfully at last, although I had doubts at times it would happen. It's a slow-moving deliberative organization, and it isn't very organized, but the internet is finally seen as a valuable tool in recovery. I know folks who have gotten sober online (and online only). Any understanding of virtual communities needs to take into account the extension of this RL community (communities?) into cyberspace. It's been kind of interesting to watch over the years.
elgoose, 7/3/2000 9:17:06 PM link

Sunday, July 2, 2000

I slept most of the day. I can't tell if I feel crappy because if that or in spite of it.

Noticed that the muffler on my car is hanging by a thread, so I'll have to go somewhere to get it fixed tomorrow. I've got a coupon and I'll have to call to see if the place takes American Express. If they don't, I'll have to sell the dogs, I suppose.

I am really broke right now and of course, when I try to be frugal, something comes up like whatever it will take to fix the car. Another good giant expense is the $300-$400 veterinary bill. I've had a few of those in the last three or four months, and it's really put some pressure on me. On top of that, the student loans (close to $400 a month) are due again, after a brief layoff while I was enrolled in that degree program. When I bailed out of that, I was hoping for a grace period of a couple of months, but no, they are the student loan people and they are here to clean me out. I've started a savings plan, but I can't seem to get out of debt. Monthly payments on the credit cards are usually made at the minimum. I can't get a handle on it, at least not well enough to get rid of the credit card debt. That is the longest-lasting negative impact on my life from living in New York, when I didn't make enough money to survive without credit cards. Now that I do make enough money to survive, I don't make enough to survive and pay off the debt. I know that there are other ways that I could tighten the belt, but I have been resisting them. Dealing with money just sucks -- it's about the worst part of being responsible for myself as an adult.

God, I feel overwhelmed. I am sick. The car is falling apart. I am broke. Boy, do I feel sorry for myself. Shit.

Well, tomorrow, I'll do what I can to deal with the car. If I have to call my mother to ask for money, which I probably will before the next time I get paid, I'll just go ahead and do it.

I had a doctor's appointment on Friday, no real news since I haven't gotten the blood test yet, but she is treating me as though I have chronic fatigue syndrome. She gave me a prescription for an anti-inflammatory and one for a mild diuretic, because I have been retaining water like a sponge. My lower legs and ankles look like Fred Flintstone's, excpet my legs are bright red, like they got sun-burned. The swelling has gone down over the last couple of days, but I haven't gotten my act together enough to get the prescriptions. So that will be another thing to take care of tomorrow.

I hope the library is open, too, so I can pick up some new reading. Of course I have tons of books here, but I always think, I'll find something better there. Today, between bouts of napping, I read The Gods Themselves by Isaac Asimov. It won both the Hugo and the Nebula when it was published in 1972. It's divided into three parts: Earth culture, alien culture, lunar colony culture. The alien culture part was by far the best, and much more imaginative than I would have given Asimov credit for being. The Earth/lunar colony sections were not bad, but not nearly as compelling, as they dealt primarily with the personality problems of scientists and the way that unbridled arrogance can create big problems. Maybe that was kind of unusual to write about in science fiction in 1972, instead of glorifying the scientists. Asimov writes egotistical rat-basteards well enough, but they are pretty one-dimensional.

I think I must have read this book over twenty years ago (not long after it was published, actually) and don't remember much about it except being confused by the "alien" part. This time through, I could see him trying to do some more "cinematic" things, using techniques like montage and flashback in the first section. It was mildly interesting, but that's about all. I'm glad I read it again, though. I read every one of those science fiction classics through junior high and high school and have pretty much forgotten all of them. It's good to re-read them now. I see that even a precocious reader like I was when I was adolescent doesn't have the breadth of experience to bring to some of the classics I have re-visited recently, for example, Ursula LeGuin's The Dispossessed. Books for grown-ups -- there's a concept. Although I would have hated being excluded when I was younger, the plain fact is that there was a lot I just didn't understand. My first s.f. was Robert Heinlein's Farmer in the Sky when I was in fifth grade -- reading s.f. as a child broadened my horizons, certainly more than reading lots of the so-called young-adult material that was available then, but the adult stuff was over my head, plain and simple.

One of the things I most hated hearing when I was little: "You'll understand when you're older." Sad but true.

Saturday, July 1, 2000

Today has been pretty decent, although too much sleep-o-rama. I couldn't get my act together to do anything but sleep and take the dogs out. I read a very enjoyable book by Jonathan Lethem, called Girl, in Landscape. I thought that it was a much better book than his latest one Motherless Brooklyn, which has been getting a lot of press. I think that M.B. sort of struck a trendy nerve because it's a detective story with a protagonist who has Tourette's Syndrome. Underlying it all, I think that Lethem is trying to say something not only about the impossibility of discovering the truth but also about the impossibility of really communicating about whatever truth we discover. The problem with M.B. is that it gets so caught up in the freakishness of the Tourette's that the narrative itself is totally unsatisfying. Writing from the point of view of the character with Tourette's was the technical tour de force in this novel, and Lethem was brilliant at it, but the story told by the character left something to be desired.

Girl, in Landscape is a science fiction novel that borrows some tropes from movie Westerns (specifically, I think, John Ford's classic The Searchers) to tell a story about a deeply damaged family settling on the frontier of a new planet. There are elements of a first contact story that I felt were wonderfully intertwined with the personal story of the protagonist. Pella Marsh is on the brink of adulthood and the alienness of this experience, her feelings about her changing body and her passage from childhood are very subtly matched by the understanding that she gains about her new home and the secrets it hides. The book is so well-written that I think that it would be easy to not even notice this layer, but maybe I'm wrong. I love the way that Lethem has written this adolescent female -- I recently re-read Heinlein's Podkayne of Mars and it was enough to make me gag. If I remember correctly, Alexei Panshin's Rite of Passage also has a credible adolescent female protagonist, but I haven't read that book for years. I think it might even be out of print.

The other book by Lethem that I would recommend is his cross-genre science fiction/detective debut novel Gun, with Occasional Music. That was one of the books that got me started reading science fiction again after having not read much at all for over a decade. I need to read it again soon, I think, as well as another of his that I have two copies of (I forgot I had it and bought a second -- typical bibliophiliac) Amnesia Moon. I have a sense that themes of forbidden knowledge run through most of his work, which helps set M.B. in a better context, but it sure doesn't make it any better a detective story.

Wednesday, June 28, 2000


Thanks to Metafilter, I've been introduced to Boondocks. For some strange reason, my local paper doesn't carry it, and I think they are getting Zits to replace Shoe (R.I.P. Jeff MacNelly - you're already missed). I want Boondocks! Bag Mary Worth!

And while we're on the topic, does anyone else find the 1970s version of Peanuts to be surreal? Imagine the hundreds of thousands of jaws dropping in total incomprehension at Snoopy's recent reference to Rodney Allen Rippy.

What's worse, getting the joke or not getting it?
elgoose, 6/28/2000 8:15:38 PM link

Boondocks meets Peanuts

elgoose, 6/28/2000 8:53:56 PM link

Another one

I'm in love.
elgoose, 6/28/2000 8:56:32 PM link

Wednesday, June 28, 2000

Last night I walked into my apartment and thought, "What is that stench?" This is not normally a reaction I have when coming home. Over the weekend, I put a new shower curtain up and the place has smelled of petroleum byproducts ever since, but this smell was more special, more horrible, more indescribable.

One of my dogs, Lucky, had made a little dam in her crate, using her blanket. She then created a little lagoon of absolutely fetid diarrhea behind the wall of the dam. My other dog, Ruby, looked absolutely miserable and ashamed, as though she herself had pooped inside. It's not easy being a well house-broken dog when you or your pal gets the trots and can't get outside.

I'll spare you most of the gory details and self-pity. Suffice it to say that about an hour and a half passed (heh heh, I said "passed"), which included lots of distraught hollering (me) as I tried to control the dogs once they got outside, cleaning out and eventually discarding Lucky's crate, and using the communal car-wash hose simultaneously to bathe Lucky and to soak myself. Ruby finally managed to eat, but Lucky didn't get fed again until today, and that was only rice. Everyone seems okay, but all three of us have spent the day recovering from the trauma. And I can't manage to completely get rid of the smell, which seems to have bonded with that of the new shower curtain, to create a hovering miasma that will probably last for years.

At least once I walk inside, past the first shock of it, it becomes easy to ignore.

In all last night's excitement, I didn't open my mail until this morning. I couldn't believe that I was the lucky recipient of an offer for a new MasterCard -- not just any MasterCard, mind you. No, this one has a special pitch. "Enjoy the convenience and financial freedom of your new Gold MasterCard that celebrates Christian Faith."

Imagine that.

And it comes in five designs: Serenity (basic clouds and sunset photo), Guiding Light (stream of light through deep green forest), Guardian Angel (stained-glass angel), Sand Cross (?!?--a cross on a pile of raked sand), and my personal favorite, Christian Fish (!!!--a standard blazing sun and clouds shot, with the Christian Fish stamped in the upper-left hand corner of the card).

The other side of the ad insert asks the age-old question "Does this Gold MasterCard celebrating Christian Faith offer a better value?" The answer -- a resounding "YOU BET!"

Gentle Reader, I will leave it to you to determine what connection, if any, this has with dogshit.

Tuesday, June 27, 2000

To my eternal shame (but apparently not inhibiting my exhibitionism, so to speak), I will admit to listening to an adult contemporary radio station, WMMX, (known in a friendly way as The Mix) while I'm commuting. I even sometimes turn it on at work.

First, the website: it's butt-ugly and barely functional; there's no doubt about it. It does highlight the most important thing to those who browse it, though -- how to win money (or other stuff) from the station's current promotional excess. It also provides pictures of the airstaff (sic), which is interesting for voyeurs like me, who have always been curious what body goes with the voice. Hint: it's invariably disappointing on some level.

The playlist is an interesting mix (no pun intended) -- right now they're playing that Macy Gray song, "I Try" which was used as the soundtrack for the end of Michael J. Fox's run on Spin City (the only reason I know this is because the radio guys kept mentioning it). I like the song, although I think it's one of the weaker ones (not to mention obviously the most commercial) on the CD. Certainly, this station would never play the final cut, which is the funkiest suicide note I've ever sung along with.

So I have to suffer through a lot of mediocre-to-crappy music, but most of it isn't crappy enough to drive me insane while driving, although, now that I think about it, some of the songs might be behind some of the fits of road rage I've experienced recently...

Maybe I can put the blame on the latest so-called song from the execrable Celine Dion, "That's the Way It Is". Her enunciation of the memorable lyrics:
"Don't surrender
'Cause you can win
In this thing called love"
always make me think that she's being strangled by a tentacle: "In this thing called luhr-hur-hurrrrr."

As she tells us, "that's the wee it is."

This could be my version of a "twinkies defense" should I actually become homicidal while driving.

Somehow, I have gotten on the phone list for a marketing company that "helps radio stations figure out what songs to play." That's kind of fun. About every two weeks I'll get a call and get to listen to a tape of about 35 song clips, and tell the interviewer my reaction to the song:
a) it's unfamiliar
b) I never liked it
c) I'm tired of it
d) no opinion
e) I like it
f) it's a favorite
There's nothing like thoughtful commentary to make me appreciate music.

Actually, I got into a big discussion with the interviewer once about the complete and total heinousness (heinosity?) of the song Sister Christian by the classic loser-rock band of the 80s Night Ranger. Not only did the song not get pulled from the playlist, the band recently played here, sponsored by the damn station. They are currently touring with Starship, featuring Mickey Thomas (sic) (who seems not to be involved in the current lawsuit involving Jefferson Airplane and Paul Kantner). When the whole fun-filled concert evening is hosted by Nina Blackwood, you know you've got a rockin' 80s evening. Yeah.

The best comments I heard were on the radio the next day when a couple of the male airstaff were talking about how "well-preserved" Nina is. *snort*

But there are things that I like about the station. If there wasn't, I wouldn't listen to it. Sometimes they are just plain weird. At the end of 1999, they had this bizarre all-70s format at night, because it somehow celebrated the end of the millenium. Just about every night on the drive home, I'd get to hear "Love Corporation" by the Hues Corporation, "Ring My Bell" by Anita Ward,"TSOP" by MFSB, "Shining Star" by Earth Wind and Fire, and one of my all-time faves "Play that Funky Music (White Boy)" by Wild Cherry. It was a short, strange playlist, but it was so fun to hear the music and not be in junior high school, too. The disco sounded surprisingly fresh and interesting after all this time.

There is some odd and fun stuff on the playlist at any given time. One perpetual favorite is American Pie, and of course it's the Don McLean Version and not the one by that pretender, Madonna. I remember the morning they played the Madonna single for the first time and were deluged with angry phone calls. As one listener succinctly put it, "I'm a Don McLean purist."

I was in fifth grade when that song came out -- Steve Haas owned the single and I'd listen to it at his house. You had to turn the 45 over in the middle of the song because it was too long to fit on one side. As I remember it, the radio station I listened to at the time played only side one. Presumably they didn't want to turn it over in the middle. Actually, they were probably restricted from playing songs that were so long. That was way back in the days when AOR stations were only emerging from the primordial ooze.

At any rate, WMMX plays a ton of stuff from the 70s and 80s that I would never hear otherwise. And their website has a banner ad for a union, so I guess I'll put up with Celine a little while longer.
elgoose, 6/27/2000 6:18:21 PM link

Friday, June 23, 2000

The Gecko Feet picture again

Just because I want to.
elgoose, 6/23/2000 12:28:11 PM link

Metafilter -- John Rocker on the No. 7 Train

I posted something on Metafilter that I decided I didn't want to lose, but was too lazy to put together here. Plus, the post is playing into the latest version of the What makes a crappy post on MeFi extravaganza, so how could I resist my fifteen minutes, particularly in such an unlikely configuration?

Honestly, that place is starting to remind me of some of the forums I hung out in on Compuserve, circa 1985. Too many people, too much time on their hands, too few ideas thought through, too little realization that there are people with feelings on the other side of the words. Actually, it's a lot like many AA meetings, too, or wherever people congregate in ways that allow them to show off their worst sides with no real repercussions to their personal safety.

In this MeFi case, I got to wiggle like a happy puppy for a little while, but not long. It's not that I take things personally, but I take things personally.

This sort of agita is why I don't have a Compuserve account any more, or an AOL account, why I don't go to usenet, why I'm subscribed to maillists that I don't read, why I don't IRC or ICQ or basically do much but observe the passing parade. It's not just self-protection, it's disgust with lazy readers.

But now that I'm doing the weblog thing, keeping an online journal and starting to think about some other projects, I'm not keeping as low a profile. I'm not sure what I expect to get out of it, but I have not written regularly for a long time. So maybe this is just how I fake myself out so I get back into the practice.

On some level, I want to be invisible and anonymous, pass through life without leaving traces. That's one reason that I don't write much and don't force myself to find an audience -- they might (gasp!) actually find out about me. I might be accepted. I might be rejected. I might be ignored. Any of those possibilities is unacceptable at some time or other. So by personal necessity, I remain a voyeur.

So when I die, all traces of me are gone, because I haven't left any along the way. Considering that 99.99999999% of humanity has vanished without leaving a trace, I can't say that it's necessarily a bad thing. Actually, it seems kind of normal. Even attention-seekers all fade into obscurity eventually, except the few, the proud, those who are claimed by the academic canon or a few nutty fans. And even those tastes change with time, and recording medium.

Oblivion -- ain't it cool!
elgoose, 6/23/2000 6:13:50 PM link

Thursday, June 22, 2000

I passed a dead deer on the interstate today -- or, to be more accurate, I passed a dead deer's skin, as it looked as though everything that had once been in the deer had somehow been sucked out, leaving only the packaging behind.

Kind of like Pixy Stix.

Wednesday, June 21, 2000

The World Bank is fucking with my mind!

I saw a story in the newspaper on Sunday about how the World Bank had released this new report that indicates that "Greed for Diamonds and Other 'Lootable' Commodities Fuels Civil Wars." The gist of the story is that countries with economies that are not diversified (for example, the ones that are dependent on one major export commodity like diamonds or coffee) are more likely to have civil wars than countries with diversified economies, because the commodities can be easily looted and controlled.

Reading this little throw-away was enough to make me suspicious, because most non-diversified economies today, especially in civil-war-prone Third World countries, are non-diversified specifically because of World Bank lending policies which leave those countries' governments in deep and painful debt.

The newspaper article helpfully listed the World Bank's URL, and when I went there, it was pretty easy to find the press release about the report, which is the page linked to above (and again here for the attention-span-impaired): Press Release. I clicked on the link to get me to the report, and there my sorrows began. I had to sign away my life to get a password, which then wouldn't work and wouldn't work. WTF? I think to myself. By now, I'm not just curious, I'm damned if I'm not going to read the fucking report. But I couldn't get it.

The next day, I was at it again (I refuse to bow to the World Bank or its nonnavigable site) and found a different reference to the report. From that I was actually able to get a .pdf copy of the report.

During this struggle for access to information, which apparently doesn't really want to be free after all, I got e-mail from the World Bank that told me I couldn't have access to the secure site, since it is for journalists only. Having a website does not qualify me to be a journalist, but they did come look at my front page to see what was there (worldbank.org -- it's in my visitor log). At any rate, for journalists only. The report had been embargoed, but jesus, I got the initial story out of the newspaper (old media is good for something, after all). Why keep it secure and unretrievable after that? What a waste of server space... after the embargo, take the stories out of hiding.

The fishiest thing about the whole report (having a hard time getting my hands on it isn't really fishy, it's just stupid bureaucracy) is this notion that greed causes civil wars, not politics and not really economics, though the implication is that greed is an economic-based motive. That's just a sideways step from saying that SIN is the basis of civil war (avarice is one of the seven deadly ones, after all), and that's just unconscionable.

Particularly when the World Bank has dismantled perfectly good subsistence economies, just to make sure that oil gets out to the west (or coffee or sugar cane, not to mention the non-World-Bank-subsidized non-diversified drug economies). Greed, my ass. Poverty causes civil wars, and lootable commodities finance them.
elgoose, 6/21/2000 4:28:48 PM link

Wednesday, June 21, 2000

It's the summer solstice today -- how quickly time seems to be slipping away. It seems like only a few weeks ago, maybe just a few days, it was winter. I didn't pay much attention to spring this year, and we've been getting lots and lots of rain, so I haven't been outdoors much. Not that I spend much time outdoors. It's just that I like knowing that it's still light outside, even after 9:00 pm. Not for much longer though, and then the increasingly-speedy slide into winter.

Now I've depressed myself. Not that that is all that difficult.

Friday, June 16, 2000

Just the thing to drive me slowly insane: finding a typo on my blog. If I didn't fix it immediately, my head would probably explode. So now I will probably be late for work. Not that I care. But I should know better than to start fooling around with this in the morning because 45 minutes disappears. Inevitably.
elgoose, 6/16/2000 7:45:19 AM link

CNN.com - Man rescued after getting stuck -- up to his hips -- in portable toilet - June 15, 2000

snort giggle giggle guffaw!
via kiwired.
elgoose, 6/16/2000 12:52:36 PM link

AMC: Hitchcock Film Preservation Festival

Did you know that Alfred Hitchcock ate potatoes with every meal? That's one thing I learned from this site, but who cares?

The important thing is that it's Hitchcock Marathon time on AMC! Yay! Tonight, it's The Birds and Marnie. I haven't seen either of these for years, so it looks like I'll be up tonight. Rope is on after that, and an excellent film it is, but it starts after midnight and if I stay up that late watching, my sleep schedule will be screwed up for a week. I hate getting old in such boring ways.

I'm assuming that my television set will be working, which might not be the greatest assumption to make. The lowest bands, channels 3-7, have been out for two months, and other channels burp and fizz alarmingly when I watch any tv at all, which isn't often.

The dumb thing is that I have continued to tape Dark Shadows every day, even though I can't watch it, since I can't get channel 3, so the VCR might as well be a paperweight with lights that turn on once a day. At this point, I have eight weeks of hour-long eps to watch, which is a lot of vegetating, even when I fast forward through the commercials.

The other dumb thing about this is that the Sci-Fi channel was supposed to change the time they were showing Dark Shadows this week and since I haven't had the money to get a new tv, I was like, oh well, so much for continuity. I can get a blow-by-blow recounting of details of every missed episode from the mail list I'm on anyway (along with a ton of other bandwidth wastage).

But, the Sci-Fi Channel, being the Sci-Fi Channel, didn't change the broadcast time, but also didn't let anyone know.

They are among the crappiest of cable channels. And they have no real sense of humor. I hate them. Even though they have picked up Babylon 5 to start showing daily this fall. As they say, even a stopped clock is right twice a day.
elgoose, 6/16/2000 1:29:25 PM link

An Entirely Other Day

I love the fact that Greg writes about road rage all the time. I suffer from it myself, as those who read Impulse Control know.

I think we need a new webring for roadrageblogs.
elgoose, 6/16/2000 3:00:32 PM link

Ha! There already is a Road Rage Webring. Given some of the blogs I've read, I think that we could easily double its size or more.

I don't know how well we'd fit in with Terry's Biker Hangout and Harley Picture Page, though. I've never seen a blog with a Viagra banner ad.

But it may be an early clue to a new direction.
elgoose, 6/16/2000 3:23:02 PM link

Wednesday, June 14, 2000

Clinton Touts Education Legacy at Commencement

Some coverage in the Washington Post about Clinton's commencement speech at Carleton. Written by John Harris, a Carleton alum who was at school the same time I was. That's why the bit about the "bust of Schiller" tradition got in, I'm sure. The fact that the Prez played along with it, along with the fact that he shook hands with every member of the graduating class, are what make the occasion one to remember, as far as I'm concerned.
elgoose, 6/14/2000 11:05:50 AM link

Upstaging a President

The best article covering the Carleton commencement -- it focuses on two of the graduating student speakers who were just phenomenal. They did upstage the Prez and he knew it.
elgoose, 6/14/2000 11:17:28 AM link

webloggers webring @ jish.nu

I joined. I don't feel like a pod person yet. But it may happen soon if I keep reading MetaFilter all day long.

Actually, I think the web ring thing is a good idea. Of course I'm just suspicious of any group that would let me join. I'll get over it.
elgoose, 6/14/2000 9:32:13 PM link

Wednesday, June 14, 2000

For once in my life, I managed to run out and close the car windows before the downpour started.

Tuesday, June 13, 2000

The Carina Nebula in Infrared

Today's Astronomy picture of the day is breathtaking -- it's the sort of beauty that special effects can't approach, in my opinion. Yesterday's picture A Bubbling Galaxy Center is also worth seeing and reading about.

There's just so much to know and so little time. I wish I had a way to download information directly into my brain, quickly, and not just at the speed of reading.
elgoose, 6/13/2000 8:53:05 PM link

Tuesday, June 13, 2000

I am such a whiner. If you don't like whining, better stop reading now -- you've been warned.

Haven't made it to work this week -- succumbed to the sleeping sickness again. And then to top it all off, I had a migraine last night. I had one about two months ago, but before that, I hadn't had one forever. For whatever reason, birth control pills have almost completely eradicated the damned things from my life. Which is good, because they are evil, evil, evil. Did I mention that I hate them?

I am very superstitious about migraines, because I have never been able to put my finger on specific things that always trigger them. Some people eat peanut butter and get a migraine, but not me. I can usually tell when there is one in the offing, although they don't always mature. My vision becomes hyper-sensitive in a way, as though objects are vibrating slightly around the edges. Sometimes that turns into a migraine over the course of a few days, sometimes it doesn't.

I'm always afraid to think to myself, "Oh, I might be getting a migraine soon," in case I jinx myself and the thought itself somehow magically triggers the headache. You might as well know that I feel like I'm tempting fate now by even writing about the headaches to this extent. Because of this, my head will explode some day in the next two weeks, just like in Scanners. Shit.

Anyway, I am convinced that what triggered this headache last night was a story about migraine's in Sunday's paper (it wasn't all about gecko feet, no, sir).

The following quote from the article was so compelling that I had to write it down and as a result, got a migraine: According to a recent World Health Organization survey, "an active migraine headache is one of the four most disabling conditions to be known, along with severe psychosis, dementia and quadriplegia, being paralyzed from the neck down."

So chew on them apples.

Since I've gotten sick again, I tried to get in to see my new doctor, but she's out of town, so I called up my pulmonologist, because he's always good for some antibiotics and other stuff. Been running a fever and the sinus infection has obviously returned, too, but I couldn't get it together to get out of the house to pick up the prescriptions until today. Actually, I couldn't even get dressed, as such, until today. My neighbors are probably real sick of seeing me walk the dogs while wearing the same green shirt and purple shorts, day after day after day. Well, they're in the wash now, so that may be a sign I'm perking up. When I'm sick, I get grubby, too. Of course, they might have gotten too brackish, even for me.

In the midst of all this fun, I got a letter from Mensa saying I'm smart enough to join -- of course, they don't say it that way, but that's what it means. The thing that was interesting was the disparity of the scores on the two tests. On the Mensa test, I scored in the 99th percentile, but on the Wonderlic test, I scored in the 93rd pecentile. All of which goes to prove that I should be wary of being labelled. Or something about the general unreliabilityof IQ tests. Or something like that. Whatever. Maybe I can meet a couple of people to hang out with and not be bored out of my skull. One can only hope.

Monday, June 12, 2000

Metafilter | Community Weblog

Blogging... the Short Attention Span Theatre of the Internet.
elgoose, 6/12/2000 10:28:38 PM link

Sunday, June 11, 2000

Adhesive force of a single gecko foot-hair

There was a story about this in my local paper today that was much more exciting than this. Unfortunately, the local paper doesn't have free online archives (is that so 1995, or what?)
elgoose, 6/11/2000 7:48:11 PM link

How Geckos Stick to Walls

This has some great pictures of geckos and the setae on their feet. There isn't much explanation of the sticking properties.
elgoose, 6/11/2000 7:51:12 PM link

Autumn Lab Home

This is the home site of the main gecko researcher, who started studying fuel economy in geckos and then moved on to learning how they stick to things when they climb. There is a good outline of this and some neat photos of gecko feet if you click on the How do geckos climb walls link. (I thought it was spelled gekko.)

At any rate, there are cool photos of gecko feet. For some reason, the elegance of the whole structure blows me away. The structure of the tiny hairs, called setae, essentially allow the gecko foot to bind to whatever surface it is on at an atomic levels, using Van der Waals forces.

Talk about a subject/object confusion!
elgoose, 6/11/2000 7:59:40 PM link

Saturday, June 10, 2000

I've been online all day and my ass is killing me from sitting in this chair for so long.

Saturday, June 10, 2000

Carleton College: Commencement 2000

I am just verklempt. I feel so proud of my alma mater, Carleton College. I just listened to the Yahoo Broadcast of almost two hours of the commencement ceremony. The big special draw this year was that President Clinton was a commencement speaker. I found, though, that his speech was almost an anti-climax, following all of the neat things that preceded it.

The members of the graduating class who spoke were smart and articulate in ways that I was not when I graduated. When it comes down to it, I don't know if I could be admitted there today, if I were the same high school senior that I was back then. Carleton students are almost terrifyingly excellent. I wasted much time and many opportunities there, but I was changed by my experience nevertheless.

One of the honorary doctorates granted today was to Bruno Nettl, an ethnomusicologist, who played excerpts of different songs during his speech. He was very good and talked about two of his personal heroes who sang so that they would preserve and convey their cultures to the future. One was Ishi, the last member of a tribe of western Natives; he survived long enough to be recorded on an Edison wax cylinder. The others were the martyrs of Tereizin, who sang opera in a Nazi death camp. I am not describing it nearly as well as he spoke it -- it was inspiring in the way that commencement addresses are supposed to be inspiring, and had he added benefit of being brief.

After hearing as many commencement speeches as I have in my life, and I've gone to great extremes to avoid as many as possible, there is no way to escape repetition. How many commencement speakers make reference to the Holocaust as some sort of ethical lodestone by which graduates must set their internal compasses? I think this is an important thing, that we continue to learn from history and this particular part of history and know that none of us is ever free of the obligation to recognize and fight evil. However, I would hate to see these references to become such a cliche that they are robbed of any real meaning, both for the speaker and the listener.

Of course, most of our lives will be much more banal than those who directly confront obvious evil, but it does not relieve anyone of responsibility to his or her neighbors. I believe that we are meant to care for each other, and that we are built in such a way that it makes it very easy to forget to do so. So commencement ceremonies and other rites of passage can be very good ways for reminding communities how to be civil.

I listened to the names of all the students as they were called to receive their diplomas. I was struck by how diverse a group of names it was, much different than the place I work, much different than most places, I think. But then I am sentimental. Carleton College is both an emotional and intellectual point of origin for me. It is easy to forget just what I took with me from the institution that I don't think I would have gotten anywhere else. Listening to the commencement today was a good reminder.
elgoose, 6/10/2000 4:10:00 PM link

Friday, June 9, 2000

I should just go home and go back to bed. Not that that's a new feeling. I get it every day. It just started earlier today than usual.

I was walking the dogs this morning before work and I twisted my ankle and fell down. I scraped my left knee, elbow, ankle and hand on the asphalt and somehow burst a blood vessel in the other hand (probably from breaking my fall with it -- lucky I didn't break more). I haven't skinned my knee this badly since elementary school. Of course, I dropped the dogs' leashes, which instantly flips them out and makes them start to try to run away. I'm lying on the ground and all I could think was, "Just kill me now."

There was no answer, though, so I had to lumber to my feet and catch the dogs, one of whom almost ran in front of an oncoming car. Oddly enough, the car slowed down to let me get the damned thing and get her out of the way. Obviously, the driver isn't originally from around here.

Once I got back inside and got the dog-feeding chores taken care of, I had to wash off all my wounds. Of course, I don't have any useful antiseptics around the house, so that meant the old soap'n'water wash. Ouchie!

I didn't have any ice for my rapidly swelling hand, either, so I had to wrap a bag of frozen corn around it with a wet dish towel. Worked like a charm, at least to the extent that the swelling is gone and the bruising has started. Didn't know you could bruise the palm of your hand. Learn something knew every day.

Since that hand wasn't working too well, the drive to work was extra-exciting every time I had to shift gears. It made me more grateful than I usually am to have opposable thumbs.

Thursday, June 8, 2000

"Neutrinos, it seemed, barely existed: no charge, no mass, just a scrap of energy with some kind of spooky quantum-mechanical spin, fleeing at the speed of light. Spinning ghosts, indeed. Most of them had come out of the Big Bang -- or the time just after, when the whole universe was a soup of hot subatomic particles. But neutrinos didn't decay into anything else. And so there were neutrinos everywhere. All her life she would be immersed in a sea of neutrinos, a billion of them for every particle of ordinary matter, relics of that first millisecond."
"At that thought she felt an odd tingle, as if she could feel the ancient, invisible fluid that poured through her." (Manifold: Time by Stephen Baxter, p. 79)

I love reading almost more than anything I can think of. I had to post that quote because it's one of the most evocative passages I have read recently. The book itself is quite good, lots of physics, but not annoying, because there are characters, too, and not just cardboard cutouts that walk around and mouth the author's words. In many ways, Manifold: Time is the perfect time travel book for people who hate time travel stories (like I do).

I am currently reading American Pastoral by Philip Roth. Roth has been getting a lot of press recently since he has just published a new book (The Human Stain) and I've been reading some speculation that he may finally win a Nobel Prize for literature.

One of the things that I really enjoy about American Pastoral is how subtle it is, even given some of the typical Roth-rants it contains. This is an exploration, and a completely fictional one (even internally to the novel), of the disruption of one family's experience of life in America during the Vietnam War. The description that Roth uses that I like so much is the transition from the vision of the American pastoral to the American berserk. That sums up so much, so succinctly that it's almost shame how long the novel goes on and how many detours it takes. But that's pretty much what I would expect of Roth.

The family in the novel runs a glove factory in Newark, New Jersey, and it serves as a central metaphor for socialization that is almost invisible. There is great detail about how gloves are made, about how skins are pulled and cut and stitched and finished. On top of this, there is a great deal of description of the way this knowledge is handed down in the family and the way the family uses the knowledge as a productive unit.

The realism of the description hides the deep metaphor of the glove as a person. If the factory had been a mask factory, for instance, I think it would be more obvious. But the glove represents the ways that the members of this family are pulled and trimmed into shape and the way the main character, Swede Levov, hides his true feelings and his true nature, in many ways through his identity as a worker, as an owner of a glove factory. The fiction of the story is the exploration of the interior life of Swede Levov as he confronts the American berserk. An astonishing work. It won the Pulitzer Prize.

The brilliance of this metaphor struck me enough that I wanted to record it even before I finished the book.

I love to read.

Thursday, June 8, 2000

No, I'm Not Talking to You

New York Times report on ear buds and microphones replacing hand held digital phones -- no doubt about it, we are cyborgs already.

Titanium and teflon knee replacements, anyone?
elgoose, 6/8/2000 12:44:55 PM link

Monday, June 5, 2000

On the drive home tonight, I was shocked to realize that I am the same age that my father was when I was born. It really had not occurred to me before.

I honestly believe that this has something to do with the general malaise I have been feeling since last fall. Ten years ago, I was the same age as my mother was when she had me, and it was a hellacious year. But I'm surprised this one is cropping up, even though I am very much like my father and identified with him for many years before the final break between us came. And there was a real, final break.

I don't have children and I have never been interested in having a child, in parenting or in caretaking of almost any sort. I have two dogs, but I don't bother to keep houseplants alive. Since I am so much like my father, I wonder if he felt like this when I was born? Was he so set in his ways that he couldn't really adapt to the small parasite that appeared in his home? I tend to think so, particularly because I have two younger brothers. He never seemed to deal with small children well, as I remember it, especially once they got past the cute stage (define that however you will -- for him it seemed to be once we gained the ability to talk back).

So now I'm as old as my dad when he became "dad" and I wonder if his life felt full of possibility and rich with the future at the time? Was he thinking, as I am now, I'm at about the half-way point, give or take, and what do I have to look forward to? What have I accomplished? Does it mean anything?

I guess in the primal urge towards reproduction, there may be some notion that everything will make sense someday, or that somehow through your child, everything that you (he/I) didn't accomplish will yet be accomplished. The dismal truth is that I don't feel right now like I've accomplished much with my life, although I have had some interesting times. One of the ways in which I am very much like my father is that he was full of potential as a young person and he basically pissed it all away, at least from my point of view. To some extent, that is how I feel about my own life right now.

On the way home, I was trying to remember if I have ever felt quite like this before, and I realized that I couldn't really say, one way or another. I guess my expectations of myself when I was younger were very high but also very nebulous. I've never had much direction, and mainly want people to leave me alone so I can entertain myself. I happen to have fallen into a relatively lucrative career at a relatively young age, so I can more or less live my life and pay my bills, although money is always a worry.

However, over the past few months I have been facing the fact that this isn't enough any more, if it ever was. I can take care of myself in the world. Now what? So what?

I would hate to have a kid if I was in the middle of a long stretch of feeling like this. It would be distracting and so easy to pin all of my hope and all of my meaning on that child and never let go. Personally, I think this happened to some degree in my family, but I escaped. But you never really do escape, do you? It all comes along with you, and with me, somewhere.

So here I am, as old as my dad, which is about as officially adult as one can get. What am I supposed to do now? How do I stop feeling so empty?

Sunday, June 4, 2000

Had an appointment with a new doctor late last week. She's willing to work with me on the mycoplasma, do some research -- behave like a professional, in other words. It's such a relief to be treated like an intelligent human being. In a way, it's a shame that I am so surprised at the amount of time she spent talking with me.

One minor oddity of the weekend was seeing a woman who was on the faculty in my master's program a million years ago. She hasn't changed one bit in close to fifteen years. She even still smells the same -- vaguely musty and mothballed. As I remember, she was always somewhat difficult to talk to, because I could never be sure if she knew when to start talking after I had said something. She always seemed to wait a couple of beats too long, maybe just to be sure that I was done, maybe to collect her thoughts, maybe to gather her orders from the Galactic Overlords via the plate in her head.

Who knows?

Friday, June 2, 2000

I got to watch the Tailgating Wiccan in action the other day -- pretty damn scary! I'm just thankful that I was behind her instead of the other way around. I got a good look at the lovely mandalas and dream catchers she had decorated her car with, but I didn't have to worry if she was going to rear-end me when the speed limit changed.

I should have known she was going to turn left in front of me without signalling, since "ALL R 1" -- at least according to her Wiccan vanity plate.

Tuesday, May 30, 2000

New Scientist: Not guilty

I have been thinking a bit about this non-negative (aka positive) blogging discussion and I ran across this article about the brain structure of criminals. It got me to thinking about the spastic uncontrollable nature of violence and aggression and the way that plays out on the internet. Of course, we've all seen it or been trapped in it in a flame war or a snotty put-down. How does the biologically-based tendency towards aggression impact our identities on the internet?

Whether you agree with all the points made in this article, I think it's pretty clear that some people are physiologically more inclined to aggressive behavior than others. I wonder if there are parts of the internet that are more populated with people with the low arousal rates talked about in this article who are seeking stimulation by starting fights or just being argumentative. In some ways, the internet identity as an extension of the self is simultaneously the safest and the most vulnerable aspect of the self presented to others online. It's physically the safest (until you find yourself stalked or harrassed) and to the extent that one dissociates or dissembles through an online identity, what happens to "it" does not happen to me. If you think my online identity is a jerk, it doesn't matter to me, because that is not me to some greater or lesser extent.

But what happens when that online identity is me? When what I post is close to my heart in some way, and it gets trashed or dismissed, I feel humiliated and angry because I have put my self (my little cyborg self) out there and actually become visible in some way. Naked, even.

All of this is relevant in relation to the Tantrum Below, the one about postwar French politics. It is a subject close to my heart in too many ways to go into right now, and to have my claim dismissed as "crass" and then, most likely, completely forgotten, felt like a slap. I have enough distance on it now to not be emotionally involved in the same way, but what it makes me realize is how fragile communication online really is. It doesn't even take an individual with a deficient prefrontal lobe to wreak emotional havok, whether purposefully or otherwise.

The dilemma then is whether one, whether I, make myself speak up anyway. I am out of the habit of it, but that is habit and nothing more.
elgoose, 5/30/2000 9:12:11 PM

Lead exposure linked to delinquency

I grabbed this as a reminder of how fragile physically our selves and our nervous systems are. The electrochemical bags of jelly that we call our brains are vulnerable to so much harm that making a decision to do no harm to another seems almost like tilting at windmills. There are so many ways that my sense of my own identity has felt compromised in the past, just based on my serotonin level or something else which I have no control. What does it mean to be victimized by my own brain? Isn't that recursive? Oram I something besides my brain?

Once, long ago, when I was in more direct therapy for post-traumatic stress, one of the questions that we were told to ask ourselves was "Do I say 'I have a body' or do I say 'I am a body'?" Honestly, there are times when I do not experience my body as part of my self. Poor little cyborg. Actually, most of the time I don't experience my body as part of myself. I have adifferent body in my dreamworlds. But sleep is another subject altogether.
elgoose, 5/30/2000 9:13:30 PM

Mind Uploading Home Page

I have no idea where to begin with this one, except right where I am. Uploading one's mind to hardware seems to be a natural, or at least logical extension, of depersonalization through alternate identities and of uncensored expression of aggression towards others online, because that other is also depersonalized. Obviously, if "I" am not really here, how can "you" be. With or without scare quotes. Uploading one's mind is not only a way to be immortal, it's the path to true invunerability. Sad and unsettling, to say the least. I will probably return to this site again, to weed through it carefully, as time goes on. Right now it is enough to note that it exists.
elgoose, 5/30/2000 9:24:15 PM

This is some indication of what I have in mind when I talk about The Internet Cyborg. How do we extend our identities online and why are those identities aggressive? Why does it take a conscious decison to be non-aggressive (both online and off)?
elgoose, 5/30/2000 9:27:35 PM

Boundaries "The difference between the individual and society is yet another binarism which has been called into question with the theoretical and physical emergence of the cyborg (most notably, in pop culture, by the Borg). Our cultural myth is loaded with the idea of the "rugged individual," braving the world, a world which is always defined as something completely distinct from the individual. Are we really that disconnected from our society, or is it writing our bodies and our imaginations as much as we believe we are writing it?"

elgoose, 5/30/2000 9:53:15 PM

Sunday, May 28, 2000

I have been feeling like crap for over a week now. I am getting paranoid, and I've convinced myself that I'm sick like this because of the mycoplasma infection. Either I have chronic fatigue syndrome as a result of the mycoplasma, or I'm experiencing the "feel worse before you feel better part" that happens when the mycoplasma begin to die off and release toxins into your body. Or both. Or I'm just a huge hypochondriac.

The truth is that I find it hard to believe how much I have been sleeping. I dragged myself in to work a couple of days last week but couldn't get anything done. All I have done is sleep, sleep, sleep. Yesterday, I ran a few errands (out of the house for 1.5 hours, tops) and came home and slept for five hours.

I think I need to talk to a doctor besides my pulmonologist about this. He's pretty smart for having diagnosed the infection, given that the impact that mycoplasma has on asthma is not well-known. But he's not paying attention to the rest of my symptoms, or the fact that I've been sick like this, on and off, for over six years. I wonder if a city the size of Dayton has an immunologist who has even heard of mycoplasma? But then, where did my pulmonologist get hip to it?

I hate being so obsessed with my health and with feeling sick. I'd rather just ignore my physical reality altogether and be a brain on a stick.

Busy times coming up at work... I hope I'll be well enough to do what I'm supposed to do. On the other hand, if I'm not, someone else will just have to fill in. Or the stuff will have to get cancelled. My first priority is to find a doctor who can help me -- of course, I can't call anyone now or tomorrow, since it's a holiday weekend.

My world gets very tiny when I'm sick. I hate going outside just to walk the dogs. I bathe in self-pity. How fun for you!

Wednesday, May 24, 2000

Metafilter | Link detail elgoose's assumption that the quote indicated an attempt to erase the memory of Nazism is a crass jumping to conclusion. I didn't read that comment in the same way at all. --dan hartung

I could have done without the adjective "crass." Particularly because I think that my point was valid (but then I would, wouldn't I?). Partly, too, because he goes on to say that he read it differently -- we can have different opinions about what's going on and not be wrong, can't we? Different perspectives on a situation lead to a larger truth, and to me, the important question is bigger than whether Yahoo can auction Nazi memorabilia in France. The important question is whether the French courts can manufacture French history.

The thing is that Hartung has ticked me off enough that I don't know what to do. I don't want to keep dragging out on Metafilter, because all I want to do is say, "Just what do you really know about post WWII history, Dan? Neener, neener, neener!" Not helpful, and not really a Metafilter kind of thing. I suspect I went way too much off the beaten path in saying what I did in the first place. At least, I offered some documentary evidence as to why I said what I did.

I guess what it all comes back to, to me, is that the flow or exchange of information takes many forms. One form is Nazi memorabilia, which the French government is trying to keep out of their country in the name of the purity of "collective memory." I think this is bullshit, because this attempt at control is not about what it seems to be about. If you care, take a look at the link.

The other side of "collective memory" is "collective forgetting" which the French have been good at in the aftermath of WWII (and not only the French, should anyone think I'm picking on them -- we in the US are huge forgetters, too). The point is that anyone who tries to control the collective memory is trying to control the flow of information. Duh. The people who control the flow of information have more power (political and economic, if there is any real distinction between the two) than those who can't control information, particularly as the "collective memory" is defined. Again, duh. The folks that win the wars rewrite history to suit themselves, including everyone who fought in WWII. There are a number of French people who have tried to forget their collaboration on more than one occasion. I believe that making Nazi memorabilia illegal, no matter how it might be imported, is an attempt to create a "collective forgetting" that nobody in the world can afford.

Being ignorant about history is the best "collective forgetting" of all. And what it comes down to is that I think that Hartung made an ignorant remark, and it was based on his perception that my reading of the situation was different than his. We can be different and not be wrong. Or is that crass?

Read the Impulse Control entry about my problem with anger. I need to stop this now.
elgoose, 5/24/2000 9:47:17 PM

Vichy: An Ever-Present Past The authors argue that such frenzied attention "is disproportionate with respect both to the context of French history and to that of the present international scene," and that France's self-imposed duty to remember has led to "a total denial of the legitimacy of the right to forget."
elgoose, 5/24/2000 10:28:21 PM

NewsHour Online: In Memoriam: Francois Mitterand War disrupted Mitterrand's youthful ambitions. He joined the infantry, and as France fell to the Germans, he was wounded. He became a prisoner of war and at his third attempt managed to escape. Back in France, Mitterrand worked at first for Marshal Petain's pro-Nazi Vichy government. Later, he downplayed his ties with that regime and stressed his work for the Resistance.
elgoose, 5/24/2000 10:32:21 PM

The Presidents of the Fifth Republic Check out the official history of Francois Mitterand, president of the Fifth Republic from 198 to 1995. Notice what was left out -- not a word about Vichy.
elgoose, 5/24/2000 10:39:41 PM

Tuesday, May 23, 2000

I have a reputation for having a problem with anger. I suppose it is at least partly true, but to be honest, I cultivate the reputation as much as I can because it's surprising what people will do to keep me from getting angry.

Consider this...

If I were a genuinely angry person, I would really install missile launchers on my car, instead of just fantasizing about it.

Monday, May 22, 2000

Mycoplasma is not my friend! Jeez Louise! Look at the list of symptoms and tell me it doesn't make you want to crawl under a rock! Some of my favorite include: Hair loss, white "itchy-scaly" between toes, wart-like growths on skin, deteriorated penmanship (!), difficulty finding words, numbness of lips, drooling, numb hands and trembling, shaking or twitching. Say it loud, say it proud -- I am mycoplasma positive. Actually, I am, but I'll be damned if I tell you about any of my symptoms. Suffice it to say, there is nothing "itchy-scaly" about and hasn't been since I evolved from my reptile form.
elgoose, 5/22/2000 3:18:43 PM

I'm sorry, but I find this really hilarious, especially since I'm not his neighbor. Proof positive that I will never be cool, so why start worrying now? I might even have to get a t-shirt.
elgoose, 5/22/2000 3:41:49 PM

Christ, what a nasty few days it's been. All I could do this weekend was sleep -- interesting dreams, but I don't know if they count as mycoplasma nightmares or not.

Another sign of incipient geekhood (beyond the pale of recovery) -- I took the Mensa test Saturday morning. I don't know what came over me, except pure, unadulterated loneliness. I've lived in this town for three years now, and I don't know a single person except for the people I work with. And since I don't live where I work, I go to the movies by myself a lot. When I go to the movies, which is rarely.

On the one hand, I don't really mind doing things and going places alone -- it seems like I always have. On the other hand, it would be a good thing to have someone (a few people actually) to talk with. I don't have many interesting conversations at work, because I work with real hardcore workaholics who take it much too seriously. When they surface for air, they can be very interesting, but otherwise they are distracted and/or cranky.

So why not Mensa? Of course, I have to put aside the fact that every person in the world that I have ever met who has identified themselves as Mensan has been a complete asshole. I guess I'm looking for the secret Mensans. It has to be better than listening to the people on the morning radio show while I'm driving to work, and thinking that they sound like nice people and I wish we were friends.

Thursday, May 18, 2000

I am going to be so tired later today, it will be distinctly un-funny. Plus, my mother and brother are coming over for dinner. I'll probably fall asleep with my face in the soup. Splash!

Thursday, May 18, 2000

I promise. Soon there will be content related to the web.
elgoose, 5/18/2000 1:40:44 AM

Wednesday, May 17, 2000

I'm very tired tonight. Had a doctor's appointment today about the mycoplasma infection. They tried to draw blood and it took three different nurses four tries, which is very unusual. It made me feel very sorry for myself, to say the least. I'll have bruises all over my arms tomorrow. Must remember to wear short sleeves so people will feel sorry for me. More about mycoplasma and its takeover of my life some other time, when I have the energy.

This morning, a group of us met at the county courthouse to go to the probate court and look at the wills from 1999. Without getting into the incredibly boring reasons about why we do this, I have to say that it's an interesting way to spend a morning once a year. Seems like fewer people died intestate last year (good!), but there weren't as many charitable bequests (bad!). The highlight was the will of the woman who request that her beloved dog, Doogie, be put to sleep and buried in her casket with her.

Important tip: don't leave burial instructions in your will. You'll probably be underground before anyone gets around to reading it. Always tell your family members what your want to have done with you mortal remains.

The story of Doogie led us into a discussion of the fact that after you die, your body is considered the property of your next of kin. They are under no obligation to do with it what you have requested, including organ donation or cremation or any of that. I was talking with someone at the office about this later and she told me about a couple of people she knew who had received bills from the hospital for harvesting organs for donation from these folks' loved ones. I'd never heard of that and it bears more research. It seems a pretty nasty thing to do - someone's giving up their liver or whatnot and then their spouse or parent gets hit with a hospital bill on top of it. I thought it was organ donation.

Tuesday, May 16, 2000

Well, this is the first try of this version. I might be beginning to have a clue. But it might be dangerous to think that.
elgoose, 5/16/2000 9:45:25 PM

All right, now I'll try a second post, just to see what it looks like. Eventually there will be content. I'm just so proud of myself for figuring out how this thing works, I'm ready to bust.
elgoose, 5/16/2000 11:03:23 PM

Tuesday, May 16, 2000

I am doing this on my laptop in bed. It remains unclear whether I can actually type in this position. Obviously, I am neither Tom Hanks nor Meg Ryan.

On the way to work this morning, there was a place where everyone slowed down for no obvious reason and a bottleneck of about eight cars formed. This is exactly the sort of thing that makes me nuts (to put it politely), and I started screaming at the people in front of me to hurry the fuck up! As we pulled forward, I finally saw what the cause of the slowdown was. Someone had hit a woodchuck and it was lying in the right lane on its back, flailing and writhing wildly. It looked like a bug on its back, flailing to turn over. Bug bodies aren't meant to do that, but presumably woodchuck bodies are.

At any rate, the whole line of cars slowed down and gave the woodchuck a huge amount of room to die. My immediate thought was, "Can I help it?" But of course there was nothing I could do. There wasn't even enough room to pull off the road, and I have no idea what to do with a dying woodchuck. I burst into tears and cried really hard for most of the rest of the way into work. All I could think about was the pain and terror and confusion that critter was feeling as it flipped and flapped around. By the time I got pst it and looked in my rearview mirror, it was still, I hope it was dead by then and not just resting up for another bout of seizures.

So then I was at work, which pretty much sucks.

I had lunch with my friends Karen and Sally. They are both smart, so it's a pleasure to spend time with them. I didn't mention the woodchuck, although I did end up talking about mad cow disease, somehow. Sally is getting ready to retire and she has this idea about trying to make copies of art for blind people, using different fabrics to represent the colors. She wants to get the palette organized and standardized (she's a CPA by training), and I think the whole idea is fascinating. Trying to translate a visual representation into a completely tactile one is amazing. I think that it's inherently doomed to failure, because it wouldn't be possible to do a one to one translation for most elements of the color wheel, but you could come up with some very interesting approximations that would be an art form in and of themselves.

She's thinking of using the lightest fabric, like cheesecloth, for white, to the heaviest, like velvet, for black. We started talking about different fabrics and fibers and whether and how you could use leather and paper. I recently met someone whose husband spins; he makes a lot of yarn from dog hair. The whole project sounds like exactly the sort of thing that could obsess me for twenty years or so during retirement. Finding the right fabric that distinguishes red from pink from maroon from crimson…. synesthetic experience at its finest, and done completely intentionally! Completely bonkers, but very interesting just to see what turns out.

I've had about enough of the laptop computer in bed thing. I've got to get up early for an appointment in probate court.

Monday, May 15, 2000

The indignity of it. The dog whose picture is on my dog-a-day calendar today was posed with a fake duck beak fastened over its nose. I don't normally like poodles, but I sure hope this one bit whoever did that. That's worse than silly Santa Claus hats or Easter bunny ears, and those are pathetic enough. People who dress their dogs up in costumes frighten me. I can't imagine how their dogs feel about it.