Surreally Seducted: Damn You Salvador Dalí!

One monkey promoting the ceaseless propagation of useless crap on the internets since a long time ago.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

En nominae pasti, et ziti, et spiritu saucy. Ramen.

Via, I give you the flying spaghetti monster.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Shut up just shut up shut up

I once told Tweedlegirl that I probably wouldn't be able to cheer my future progeny on in athletic events, piano recitals, and the like. This is a problem I've had since my "youth."

So why does this come up now? Well, the Ellen Degeneres "My life. My Card" American Express commercial was just on. You wouldn't want me in the front row when she, or for that matter, anyone else came on stage. I wouldn't cheer. Rather, I'd be extremely self-conscious and maybe clap. That's just the way I am.

When new members signed into our eating club, the "tradition" is to go about a whoopin and a hollerin. I usually waited towards the back, or was toward the front being silent. Unless the case was that I was drunk. Not that that was ever the case.

When I was on the swim team as a young chap, the team would usually cheer during relays. Except for this young chap. Maybe it's because I don't get excited enough. I have no idea.

I guess what I'm saying is that if you ever have a TV show, you don't want me in your audience.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

The Single Life

No no. Things with Tweedlegirl are fine. What this post is about is living alone in Massachusetts. I don't have (m)any friends up here. I watch a lot of TV. But when I go out, I'm bound to see a lot of funny things. Last week, I saw some breakdancers breaking on bricks. Pretty impressive. Tuesday night I ate dinner at a restaurant alone. I think I even heard someone tell me to enjoy eating alone. I actually had a nice steak and enjoyed my time there, even if I felt a little self-conscious. I always feel slightly bad because if I'm not at the bar, there's at least one extra seat open that could be tipping the waitress. I figure getting to deal with me is nice enough.

I also get to see the funny people. Like the lady who felt she was wronged in her car. She stopped her car, got out, pounded on the hood of the "offender", reached in the driver's side window and threw the driver's glasses across the road. The three guys got out of the car, and she started screaming "This is no joke!" at them. One of them tried to talk her down, but she wouldn't have any of it. She told them to back off, and then punched the guy talking her down. She finally got back in her car (with people now staring and laughing at her) and ran a fucking red light. Where were the Cambridge cops then?

These things that are pleasing you can hurt you somehow

Kevin Drum says that high oil prices aren't so bad. Now, I think this is pretty shortsighted. While it is true that European countries have dealt well with higher gas prices (the price of gas when I was in London in 2000 was something like 4 pounds per liter), I'd like to know the usage of the mass transit in those areas. Instead of an economy that can easily handle higher gas prices, what we might see is a redistribution of land (not wealth). Think of it this way: someone commuting 30 miles each way to work (assume 1 gallon per trip) be spending $1,440 if gas prices are $3 a gallon, just to get to work (assuming 240 days of work a year). For each dollar increase in gas prices, that's an incremental cost to the american worker of $480. This excludes the incremental costs to consumer goods, most of which travel by truck (interestingly, diesel fuel, which is cheaper to produce than gasoline has gone up in price and is more expensive than regular unleaded). So while gas prices at the pump might not put the ultimate squeeze on the consumer, gas prices might cause a jump in the CPI that could (of course, I am not what you would call an economist of any sort, I'm just saying...).

Friday, August 19, 2005

Raising a nation; razing a home

Update: So I can't remember how this entry started, and I'm too exhausted by it to go back and read it again. For better background on the whole situation, go to the Wikipedia. It knows the background of the region much better than I. When I finish reading the entries on this topic, I may come back and edit this post.

Update #2: I haven't read or edited any of this post so far. There are parts that I would like to extend a bit more. This is a huge topic, and one that is better wrapped in a multi-volume book than a single blog post. I am sure that there are things in this I don't really agree with either. But they are there because I don't feel like editing this right now.

I haven't said much about this because I don't know that it interests any of my mainly non-existent readers, but I want to talk a little bit about Israel today. I'm going to be taking my friend Mike Dinitz to task for parts of his post, and also weave religion back into the cold war. It should be a fun time for me at least.

First off, let me say that I believe what Israel did was right, if not necessary. For the sake of the country, for the sake of the Jewish people, I think it's right. History will prove whether I am wrong (and I may well be), but if I am wrong, if Ariel Sharon was wrong, Israel would be in the same boat whether they gave Gaza to the Palestinians or kept it for themselves. In 15 years, if terrorist bombings are still the norm in Israel, if people still worry every time they get on a bus in Tel Aviv, then I will be wrong. But if that does happen, if things take a turn for the better, then we can think of the removal of Jewish settlers from Gaza as an act of eminent domain that actually succeeded in making a country safer. In the end, settlements in the Gaza Strip were untenable: for Israel they created too much friction with the Arabs, and with the Arabs they were a massive injustice.

So where has Dinitz gone wrong? First, he says that Americans should support Israel. We do. Support does not mean turning a blind eye, however. You cannot layer injustice upon injustice on a people and expect them to sit idly by and take it. Was the creation of a Jewish state an injustice to the Palestinians? That's an interesting question. The customs of the two groups (the Palestinians and European Jews) were so different that misunderstandings were bound to occur. Integration of two societies is never easy, nor is the integration of a displaced people into another society. And while Israel and other nations were able to make peace over the years, Gaza and the West Bank have remained a thorn in the side of the Palestinians and many outside Arabs. There was supposed to be (per the UN) a Palestinian state alongside Israel, this changed as a result of the 1948 war.

Furthermore, I would like to point out that Israel has not had an easy time keeping a leash on its citizens. There have been multiple "vigilante" style attacks by Israelis. But furthermore, Israelis, except for the past decade or so, haven't had anything to really fight about. They had an army on their side that was more than willing to strike back for terrorist attacks, and had no reason to feel slighted by their government. Vigilante attack, though, were more common in the settlements than elsewhere, I believe. Remember, nearly everyone on Israel's side in the region is under the same flag. The same cannot be said for the Arab/Palestinian side. Hamas, the PLO, and various other groups claim authority. So of course it will be more difficult for them.

Much as I don't believe that Palestinians should be restricted from Israel, I don't know that 10 to 15 years down the line Jews shouldn't be allowed to return to Gaza and make a life for themselves there. I understand, being Jewish by heritage, the desire to keep and protect Judaism and the Jewish people.

In the end, what I'd love to see too, just like Dinitz, is a new, non-secular nation put in place of Israel, including the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Remove the forces of colonialism and wars that put the region in such a state, and make all people equal. Provide protections for all religions. Would this ever work? No. Jews the world over would be against it, Arabs the world over would be against it, and the nation would eventually crumble under the weight of the surrounding Arab nations. This is not a case of "Can't we all just get along?" Religious extremism threatens to wrend the planet in two, just as political extremism threatened to wreak havoc in the Cold War. It is not the political system that matters. The rights of the citizens of any nation are all that matter. When a political system or religious system (and they may well be the same thing: a way to control the masses) interferes with the rights of individuals and threatens the security of the world, we have to give pause.

We must remember that the most radical, the most vocal are usually the ones who are put into positions of power, because they are the ones who seem to care most about obtaining that power. The rest of us paddle along in the pond, not knowing that the dam has broken.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

LAMPs and Microsoft

One of the things you learn in the very infant stages of a computer science degree is that modularity is good. Modularity, you see, let's you use one piece of software over and over and over again in different projects. Instead of having to recreate the wheel, you just use the wheel again. So I was rather surprised to see yesterday that Microsoft was coming out saying that modularity was bad. Actually, I wasn't surprised. [I wouldn't be surprised if Microsoft said that security by obfuscation was good too (well, too late for that)]. You see, Microsoft has been facing a battle against Linux in the web server space for a while now. Linux has the LAMP (Linux-Apache-MySQL-PHP/Perl/Python -- all free) system working for it while Microsoft had... not a lot that could compete with free. So Microsoft decided to come out with something really cheap. Good for them. Then they say, "Our software was built by design to do this one thing, so it must be better!" Which would be true, if it weren't. That's like saying those Allen wrenches you get from IKEA with your furniture are better than a whole toolbox because those Allen wrenches were made for that furniture!

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Shades of empty canvas

They sat on the bench talking to each other as cars whizzed by. In low tones they called me Daedalus. They told me I was king. They sipped more coffee out of their cups as each passerby dropped coins into the cups. I had created a maze to keep myself in, and soon I would send my sun out to fly in the sun and die. Only he would come back from the dead and kill me.

I had been sitting on the bench drawing and writing over the outlines. As they sat down, I moved to the end of the bench. They made me uncomfortable. The sins of our fathers and mothers. My cross to bear.

Brilliant fire of green and purple and blue and red lit the sky as the sun set across the river. I gave them a dollar, stood up, and watched as it floated to the ground.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Ring ring, it's the president.

I posted this in response to Ogged's query:

Satellite -- DISH or DirecTV. You've got two choices. They compete against cable, but if you are going satellite you've got those two choices. But TV is pretty much TV. There's a basic package, and then you throw everything else on top.

Internet -- Dialup, DSL, or Cable. Other than those 3, you've got business solutions. Again, it's basic services, with other services usually not provided by the company or desired by the average consumer (e.g. static IP, extremely wide bandwidth).

Cell phones -- Multiple vendors selling basically the same product. But heres the difference. There's no "basic" service in cell phones. You pay per minute and it doesn't stay in just one place (like internet (for the most part) and tv). So there are lots of options for consumers and desired by consumers: some only use their phones within a mile of their house, some are business users, some are world travelers, some are teenagers, etc. So it gets difficult for the phone companies to provide everything at a basic cost. If they had a basic service (local calling for $20/month, long distance for $10/month, roaming for $10/month) then it would probably be a lot easier for everyone. But surely not as profitable. Then they could get sued.

Which brings me to a question that came to me after I commented: Why do phone companies charge per minute, especially now? Is it the bandwidth that each call consumes? I'm sure it wouldn't be too difficult to find the average amount ($X) paid per cell phone and set $(X+5) as the unlimited access price. Then charge everyone to add-on services: text messaging, video, photo, etc.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

How do I convince you it's me I don't like?

I'm listening to Yankee Hotel Foxtrot right now and my hands are freezing.

For some reason, I feel uncomfortable. I know why, but I cannot remember why. Let me explain: I drive four hours each way two to three times a month during the school year to see the one that I love. Last year, I listened to this CD a lot on the drive. Just on repeat. I know all the words, all the pauses, all the double-kick drum parts. So this CD reminds me of the drive. I cannot remember why it makes me feel uncomfortable. Perhaps it is driving on the Henry Hudson Pkwy. Maybe it's I-684. I feel so alien on those roads. I drive them enough to have them fairly well memorized, but NYC and NY state are so foreign to me, even though I spent a good amount of time in them growing up. Or maybe it's I-90 and I-84. But the memory that pops up and dissolves doesn't have any snow in it, and that's the only time those roads really give me a scare. Maybe it's Connecticut, but I don't think so. It's a fairly smooth ride there, except at night in the construction zones. But that's not really any different than anywhere. So I'm fairly certain it's New York. And the CD. And for some reason, that combination tightens my stomach, makes my throat dry, and freezes my hands.

Am I too far gone to get back on?

In the office park where I work, I sometimes pass people lawn bowling (or bocci-ing or whatever). As ts1 said: "Cool." Indeed. I give them every bit of credit for going outside and playing a nice competitive game.

However, I do question the need to be so competitive as to measure the distance from the marker with a measuring tape. Last time I checked, feet work well enough.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

She will keep me warm

"Do you miss it?"
"Sometimes. I miss being pretty."
"But you are."
"But I don't feel as pretty anymore."
"I don't understand."
She combed the hair out of her eyes. Her great hair from her beautiful blue eyes. "You used to be an excellent swimmer, right?"
I shifted uncomfortably. I knew what this was. Once again, the situation was getting turned around on me. I wouldn't be able to get back to level playing ground on this one. I hate losing conversations. Even to her. "Yeah. I was pretty good." This was an understatement. I was damn good. Swam in college. Couldn't go anywhere from there, but I was good. Good enough.
"So you ever feel like you can't swim well anymore?" There it was.
"Yeah, but it's not because I'm not competing anymore. It's because I don't train anymore." Arguing from the disadvantage again. All I wanted to do was hold up a picture of her before and one of her now, and show her how she wasn't any less beautiful. But lacking that evidence, arguing from a position where everything was subjective... this was why I was a failure as a lawyer. This was why I had the scars. Take on a difficult proposition from a position of weakness, you're bound to get run over. "Swimming was something I could measure. I could take a clock and see how fast I was. I know how far I've fallen."
"But you compare yourself to other people to, right?"
"I used to. But I always compare myself to what I used to be."
"So do I."
"To what? A picture? A memory?"
"To how I felt. I feel beautiful when I'm with you. I felt beautiful back then. But when you're not around, which is all too common, I don't feel pretty." Shit. Now she was getting personal. She doesn't like losing to me, either.
"I don't feel fast when I'm not in the pool, which is far too often too." Humor doesn't work too often for me. All I wanted was to diffuse the situation. But agreeing to disagree? Out of the question.
"Look. You asked me a question. I answered it. You told me I was being crazy and I'm not. That's how I feel. Maybe you don't think that's how it should be, but that's how it is."

'Cause despertate times called for desparate measures

Or, apparently, half-witted administrators called for idiotic measures.

So, yes, technically what the kids did was illegal. But the school should be firing the administrators of the plan as well. Why? Because they fucked up. If they are tenured, let's demote them. Now, I am not a lawyer (but I did stay at a holiday inn express last night (R)), but I wonder if any of the children signed any contract detailing the use. Or if the parents did. Should we reward them for being creative? No. What they did was wrong. But charging them with a crime? What, does the school want to be rewarded for being creative? If the school board really wants to be creative, then why not charge every student, as they were using these systems for work and must have edited the data on them.

What I'm really getting at is a failure of this school system to carry out punishments on their own. What happened to detention? What about suspension? That's just really lazy of the school system.

leaving our overland parachute behind...

So maybe my once and future plan to watch 100 hours of movies in a row isn't such a good idea.

I do have to say, I've done 72 hours of studying before. I didn't collapse and die, but I did hallucinate.

Ed: 72 hours straight of studying. For those who know me, however, they wouldn't be hard-pressed to assume that I had only studied for 72 hours in my whole life.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

That what makes us happy, of which we seem never full

I confess that when I hear about the success of other people I get jealous and motivated. And also somewhat mad at myself.

I hate it, but I can't help it.

Sunday, August 07, 2005


So the dreams continue. The other night, as I was falling asleep, I woke with a start. I was supposed to be wearing my carbon dioxide detector! But I couldn't find it. My roommate would be pissed. I looked around the room, but couldn't find it. Eventually I got back in bed, assuming that I would just have to deal with it. Of course, it was all completely bullshit. But I'm really weirded out by all of this.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

The radical priest came to give me relief...

We might have to create marijuana powered air conditioners for SUVs. That's the only thing that might stop road rage.

You may say... "Whaaa?" But I have two, nay, three related stories. The first is personal, the second less so, and the third even less than the second but more harrowing than the others combined.

Story the first: I'm finishing my two mile run home yesterday (running on the sidewalk). I have, perhaps, another quarter of a mile to go. A black SUV pulls out of sidestreet to make a turn onto the major street I am running alongside. I attempt to make eye contact with the driver or passenger, as is wise to do. I cannot tell if they've seen me, so I cut to run behind them as they see me and finally stop. The passenger (male) growls: "Smart move." As I pass around the rear of the SUV, the driver (female) maliciously yells: "I would (should? could?) have run you over." I looked back at her, but stayed silent and continued running. After all, I'm not one to get into verbal arguments with strangers. As I reached the last couple of blocks, I passed a family on the sidewalk. A small girl yelled "Keep it up! It's good for your heart!" So my faith in humanity was redeemed.

Story the second: The Fat Cyclist's tale of an SUV.

Story the third: Sad.

Today I'm going for a four mile run because my legs feel a bit fresher. But I will make every attempt possible to avoid crazy people in SUVs.

Monday, August 01, 2005

As usual, you'll get your way

I'm finishing up Jared Diamond's collapse right now. Two chapters to go. Yes, it's been hard slogging, but it's been good to read a thick, somewhat intellectual book.

The first thought that came to mind, both from this book, the movie The Saint, and the death of the Sudanese VP, is how politics is not about the people but the consolidation of power. Are we better off in a democracy where most of the politicians are crooked? Or communism where they are crooked? Do we kid ourselves in believing that the good of society and all of the freedoms granted will be protected by politicians, and if they aren't, bad things will happen to them? Are we deluding ourselves that a democracy is better in each case than every form of government? Do the American people have enough say under this government?

How does this tie in with Garang? It doesn't really, except for the fact that the populace is at the same time both too ill-informed and too removed to make the decisions, yet the decisions of government are often not in line with a) what is good for society, and b) what society would do. Do not mistake this as me saying that politicians are more culpable for societies ills. They may be, but I'm not going there right now. What I am saying is that we sometimes have this ill-concieved notion that politicians aren't self-serving, aren't like us and that they're working for the greater good, whatever that is.

My second thought came to me as part of a dream last night. I was skiing with tweedlebrother, and we stumbled on what we thought was a cave of an ice age man. IT turns out, after digging, that it was Hemingway's fallout shelter. But that's unimportant, save that it led me to this: "Under what circumstances could we now, knowing the damage they do to the Earth, justify using nuclear weapons. Mutually assured destruction? Great, but what for? For an ideology? Is your life worth less than your ideology? What of those of your neighbors, and their neighbors? Were we willing to sacrifice them in the Cold War to prevent another country from going Communist? If so, how fucking ridiculous is that? And yes, I understand that oppression sucks, but at some point we have to take our thumbs out of our collective asses and say that there are better ways (time and human sacrifice [not the Aztec kind]) than destroying the world so that communism doesn't spread. Talk about throwing the baby out with the bathwater. But how does this relate to today? To put it simply, I think that there should be a moratorium on nuclear weapons. Easier said than done, but someone has to say it to do it.