Switching over from previous blog host. I didn't like that you weren't prompted to identify yourself when leaving a comment, so I was never sure who I was talking with. This one seems to work a bit better. If you're joining us late (as they say), I've pasted in previous postings here:
1/11/06 01:32 pm - Anniversary of my Death
You probably don't come here looking for poetry, but check this out. Great concept, and beautifully written. Read it out loud to appreciate the beat:
for the anniversary of my death
every year without knowing it i have passed the day
when the last fires will wave to me
and the silence will set out
like the beam of a lightless star
then i will no longer
find myself in life as in a strange garment
surprised at the earth
and the love of one woman
and the shamelessness of men
as today writing after three days of rain
hearing the wren sing and the falling cease
and bowing not knowing to what
w. s. merwin, 1967
1/11/06 01:26 pm - Albert Hoffman turns 100
The man who invented LSD (by mistake) turns 100 years old today. I was invited to the party (thanks to my friend Stanley, who is an old friend of Hoffmann's) but couldn't make it, due to various complications. It's a shame though, as I can't imagine a birthday party I'd want to attend more than this one.
I've been thinking about Hoffmann and the hypocrisy that leads the US government to more severely punish possession of LSD than 2nd degree murder (look it up: 10 years mandatory minimum for possession of LSD with intent to sell vs. an average of 7.5 years sentenced for 2nd degree murder). Here's a guy who invented the stuff, has used it responsibly for decades, and will now be dancing at his own 100th birthday party. But the bullshitters in Washington keep telling us how dangerous it is. Right.
Meanwhile, we've got a raging, stumbling drunk at the helm of the ship of state. How many times now has the most protected man in the world shown up with his face all fucked up? Clearing brush? Choked on a pretzel?
Do the lies ever reach a point where they collapse in on themselves? I thought we'd passed that point long ago, but still no collapse. Gay escort/false journalists in the White House, obvious alcoholism, illegal wiretaps, cocaine use, desertion from the National Guard, the lies and shameless use of 911, the tax cuts and unpaid war.... When does reality intrude?
1/5/06 08:17 am - Diminishing Marginal Utility
Coming across this phrase today, it occurred to me that this concept has been humming away in the background noise of my life since forever. The idea is that a little of something is worth more than a lot of it, on a unit basis. So the difference between a $5 bottle of wine and a $10 bottle of wine (a $5 differential) is far greater than that between a bottle that costs $100 and one costing $105. In fact, I'd argue that this difference is even greater proportionally -- that is, it's a greater increase in quality than what you'd get going from a $100 bottle to a $200 bottle.
Aside from eschewing overpriced wine, what's the importance of this? Well, if you follow the logic, you find a whole approach to life in this concept. Where and how one spends money is far more important than how much one spends. Having good taste in music is more important than having an expensive stereo system. Each additional unit of investment is likely to return less than the previous unit, so it's important to be sensitive to the point at which one's time/energy/effort/money is being squandered.
Maybe "diminishing marginal utility" is just a high-brow justification for laziness. Hard to be sure, from where I'm sitting.
12/13/05 10:43 pm - Miniature Animals
Well, it turns out that one man's spare-time musings is another man's breeding program. Mark points me to these breeders of miniature horses (still not small enough for a little box, but still) and bizarre short-legged cats:
12/13/05 09:28 am - Bonsai Animals
We've got two new kittens, so I've been thinking about how they are really miniaturized leopards or tigers. Ferociousness reduced to easily manageable dimensions is cute. A roar becomes a meow. What would be decapitation becomes a scratch on the wrist.
So what if we could miniaturize other animals? Imagine tiny horses galloping around the house, or a little polar bear curled up on the bed. Elephants are supposed to be smart. How about a few of them in the yard? I'm sure it's just a matter of time...
12/11/05 02:16 pm - Adult/adolescent sex
Another round of morality-lynchings under way in the Homeland. I keep reading stories about female teachers getting busted for having sexual relations with their teen-aged male students. Instead of my muddy face, on this entry there's a photo of one of the latest of these criminally generous women. Is there a heterosexual man alive who can tell me he wouldn't have welcomed "abuse" from this woman when he was 16 years old?
Tellingly, the young men involved have invariably refused to testify against the women, and claim that the relations were consensual. Even the judges find themselves conflicted, with one of them daring to say that the young dude was a victim "only in the legal sense...he was certainly not victimized by you in any other sense of the word." No shit!
Anyone who's ever been a teen-aged male can tell you that having an older woman willing to show you the ropes would be a God-send, and certainly not a case of victimization. Of course, if there is evidence of coercion, then we're talking about something else. But there's a name for the crime of coercing sex: rape. But there isn't any evidence of manipulation in these cases, so my question is, why is it anybody's business but theirs?
Man, it's becoming more and more obvious to me that the Puritans were "prosecuted" in England -- and thereby urged to fuck off to the New World -- because they were just a big pain in the ass! And they still are.
Aside from the offense caused to the sensitive, puritanical souls running the show in the Homeland, there is no evidence that these sorts of relationships are damaging at all. This, from the New York Times:
"The most controversial study was published in 1998 in Psychological Bulletin. The article, a statistical re-analysis of 59 studies of college students who said they were sexually abused in childhood, concluded that the effects of such abuse "were neither pervasive nor typically intense, and that men reacted much less negatively than women."
The researchers questioned the practice, common in many studies, of lumping all sexual abuse together. They contended that treating all types equally presented problems that, they wrote, "are perhaps most apparent when contrasting cases such as the repeated rape of a 5-year-old girl by her father and the willing sexual involvement of a mature 15-year-old adolescent boy with an unrelated adult."
In the first case, serious harm may result, the article said, but the second case "may represent only a violation of social norms with no implication for personal harm."
They suggested substituting the term "adult adolescent sex" for child abuse in some cases where the sex was consensual.
"Abuse implies harm in a scientific usage, and the term should not be in use if there is consent and no evidence of harm," said Bruce Rind, an author of the study and a psychology professor at Temple University."
What kind of country destroys lives and throws people in jail for "only a violation of social norms with no implication for harm?" Think of marijuana laws and the hundreds of thousands, if not millions of otherwise innocent people now suffering and becoming angry and bitter in prisons across the USA.
Land of the free? Far from it.
12/11/05 12:47 pm - Bullshit and the Art of Crap-Detection
Just read an great essay on the various forms of bullshit and how to protect yourself from them. I would say it should be required reading for any and all. Important stuff, bullshit:
12/7/05 11:42 am - Persons
Why do people say persons? The plural of person is people. But it's becoming ever more common to see "persons" used -- especially in pretentious medical or psychological titles: Treating persons with disabilities.
Formality is bad enough, but incorrect formality? Give me a break, persons!
12/7/05 07:59 am - Custom Fit Radio
My buddy, Mark, who is an incredible source of all things interesting, turned me on to a very cool web site. You tell them what music you like and they put together a play list of music similar to what you chose, then stream it to you. So if you say you like Eva Cassidy, for example, they'll put together a radio that plays female vocalists with acoustic instrumentation. Pretty cool. Here's the link:
12/6/05 08:21 pm - Ironic Times
As good as The Onion sometimes. Here's the link:
Administration Didn't Know Pentagon Paid Iraqi Papers to Print Propaganda
According to fake news item planted in U.S. media outlets by government.
Baghdad Times: Iraqis Love America
Story by reporter Abu-Jeffari al-Gannon describes how deeply Iraqis admire U.S. and its president.
If you don't get this one, maybe you don't know who Jeff Gannon was. If not, you're unaware of one of the most surreal political situations imaginable. Google him.
12/6/05 01:24 pm - Deadwood
If you have HBO (or the capacity to download avi files) and haven't been watching Deadwood, you're really missing something. I'm not a big fan of TV, to put it mildly, but this is art I'm talking about now. The characters are compelling, complex, subtle, surprising. It's basically The Sopranos set in the wild west. Check it out and tell me Al Swearingon isn't the most lovable mother-fucker around.
12/6/05 12:26 pm - kidney stone vs. pregnancy
As you may know, I'm currently the proud father-to-be of a bouncing baby kidney stone. I haven't delivered yet, but I've enjoyed the passage from kidney to bladder, which had me crumpled in a corner of the E.R. one night a couple of weeks ago. At that point, we didn't know what was causing the pain, so we were relieved to hear that it was a non-life-threatening situation.
About 95% of the people who hear of my condition respond by telling me that this is the only pain men can feel that is comparable to having a baby. This is precisely what I want to hear, of course. So I'm just waiting for the onset of excruciating pain at any moment. No chance of a C-section, no joys of motherhood to follow. No cards on Mother's Day. Talk about unfair!
I hope it's cute, anyway. If it is, maybe I'll have it mounted on a ring. Seems there should be some reminder of the heroic delivery.
12/2/05 02:05 pm - Grizzly Man
Casi and I watched this documentary a couple of nights ago. Highly recommended. It's about a guy named Timothy Treadwell, who basically came to believe that he'd figured out the psychology of grizzly bears to the point where he could live among them -- unarmed and unharmed. He managed it for 13 summers in Alaska before he and his girlfriend found themselves on the menu. He took a video camera with him the last 5 summers, and much of the documentary (by great German director, Werner Hertzog) is composed of this footage. It's an amazing, unique film. It's like reading the man's diary, but even more immediate. He speaks to the camera with an intimacy and openness I'm sure he never would have risked had he known that he wouldn't be around to edit out those bits.
The impression I was left with is of an obviously unbalanced psyche seeking redemption in the one thing he feels he can do better than anyone else. In his case, he seems to be a bit of a nut-case, but what if he'd focussed this energy on being the best concert pianist, software developer or athlete instead of trying to cultivate his understanding of bears? It would be the same obsession, the same imbalance, the same distorted life -- but he'd be seen as an example of greatness, the "quest for excellence" and all that bullshit. If your insanity leads to wealth and recognition, you're an example for kids to emulate. If it doesn't, you're a fucking lunatic. Go figure.
12/2/05 01:39 pm - Torture
Here's something that's been on my mind of late: What's with all the outrage about Cheney and the CIA seeking exemption from the no-torture provisions? Do these supposedly well-informed commentators not know that torture and assassination has long been covertly practiced by the United States? Have these people never heard of The School of the Americas in Georgia, where American experts train Latin American military personnel in torture and assassination techniques? Have they no sense of what the US has done in Chile, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, etc.? I'm talking about recent history here, not going back to Vietnam, Iran, and so on.
It seems to me that the only thing "shocking" about the current situation is that, for some reason, Cheney wants to be somewhat "legal" about the torture.
12/2/05 01:23 pm - First Entry
For a guy who has bought and sold about a dozen computers in the past few years, you might say I'm way behind the curve in starting a blog.
Opinions, yeah, I've got a few. I'll post some of my recent thoughts up here -- those suitable, or even marginally suitable for public consumption, that is. Send me your comments. If I don't think anyone's listening, I'll just go back to muttering to myself, as I was before (and sending people like you too many unsolicited emails).