marie osmond saves the day
bill was lying in bed with his eyes closed around 10:30 PM last night. I think he may have been trying to go to sleep. I just didn't see why that needed to be a conversation stopper. I went to read the last two paragraphs of my long-suffering blog entry about last weekend aloud to bill before uploading it to the web.
which is when I discovered that the entire entry had gone pfft!
before I start dissecting the muscles and veins of this late night catastrophe, let me give you the back story about how my writing, blog and otherwise, went this week.
the assault in the graveyard with the unexpired condom (see below) was a local max in the writing landscape, an exalted peak from which I could survey the devastation all around. as for the blog entry, I started it in my notebook on monday, typed parts of it up on tuesday, decided that most of it had to go (especially the subplot about my childhood trauma of having a mother with good taste) and started again on wednesday, and finished it up on thursday, ready for proof-reading, duplicating and ftping.
except that instead of duplicating and ftping it, I pfft!ed it instead.
the scenario: I selected the entry in order to copy it to the other blog file. (blog-O-rama now comes in two flavors! purple and b & w.) somewhere between tutoring karren and quitting all my programs so bill & I could watch another episode of buffy the vampire slayer, I hit the 'any' key, deleting the entry before I had copied it to the other blog file.
which meant that bill had to get out of bed to help me try to recover an earlier version of the file. the first step in the search for the missing entry: searching for the norton systemworks disk (this one took some time). the second step: choosing words in the missing entry for the 'unerase' utility to use in its search. I chose 'marie osmond' on the grounds that those words were unlikely to appear anywhere on my hard drive other than in the missing entry. the third step: watching the ball spin and the progress bar inch across the screen as 'unerase' searched (this one took some time too).
the first text file recovered seemed to be composed entirely of URLs and gobbledy-gook; the second file recovered consisted entirely of nonsense sentences like "I just had my entire INTESTINAL TRACT coated with TEFLON! I selected E5... but I didn't hear 'Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs'! I was in EXCRUCIATING PAIN until I started reading JACK AND JILL Magazine!! I was making donuts and now I'm on a bus! " I had no idea whatsoever how or why they were on my hard drive. (check out the recovered file and see if you can figure out what it is.)
the third text file: score! after finding a word processor that would open in system 9 I had my weekend back. and it was only midnight.
my motto: "the road to revolution is paved with hard disk failures. always make a back up copy."
addendum to motto: "try not to delete the file in the process of making the back up copy."
I had an actual weekend last weekend.
'weekend' just hasn't been an important concept in my life lately --- the days are undifferentiated, slowly morphing photocopies of each other, yesterday's dust speck turns into today's black smudge, then into tomorrow's rorschach blot. the only distinguishing feature of 'weekend' is the increased noise level in the street outside my window.
this weekend started out like the typical non-weekend: bill & I spent friday night at home with fred & wilma, and then finished the evening off with a buffy double feature. (we're in season 3 now.) but first thing saturday morning I hopped in the car and drove out into mall-land. there was a big sale at the fabric store. (& I needed tracing paper and a tracing wheel. really I did.)
I haven't spent much time in fabric stores lately, because my sewing machine and all of my notions (the non-fabric stuff I need for sewing) are somewhere in the land of the lost, 'on vacation' in the near-mythical basement on cape cod. just as well, because there does seem to be a positive correlation between time spent in fabric stores and money spent in fabric stores. but they were having a sale, patterns for a dollar.
I bought 4 different patterns, all variations on the theme of elf/renaissance/goth princess. I don't have any plans to make an elf/renaissance/goth princess dress soon. I don't have time before halloween and our LotR:RotK tickets are in limbo (we got shut out of the FotR:TT:RotK marathon.) but if I ever want to make a really awesome elf/renaissance/goth princess dress I have four patterns I can use. in the meantime, I can look at the patterns and think about making a really awesome elf/renaissance/goth princess dress. that's not only worth 4$, it takes a lot less time and money than actually making a dress.
amazingly enough, I was not the only person in madison who decided to spend part of the weekend in mall-land. my weekend shopping adventure at the fabric store was followed by my weekend driving adventure, which consisted of sitting in traffic with lots of other people enjoying similar weekend shopping/driving adventures. which meant I had to run to get to my next weekend activity, a writing workshop that was part of the wisconsin book festival.
I was walking to _________ on _________ when I was _________ by
I was walking to the graveyard on my birthday when I was overwhelmed by
(that's a summary, the exercise is to turn it into a scene.)
I told jason about the workshop and the writing exercise as we were on our way to have coffee (in celebration of the new scholarship he just received -- yeah jason!). he thought my choice of scenario was a clear indication of sexual frustration, I think it's a clear indication that I've been watching too many episodes of buffy lately. jason found 40$ on the sidewalk on the way to the coffeeshop, so the coffee was on on him. (40 bucks? heck, I made him pay for my scone too.)
I went to two more workshops in the afternoon, and then bill & I watched another buffy episode before I went to the poetry slam, also part of the book festival. I was glad I made the effort to go out (as opposed to say, watching another buffy episode, or staying home with my laptop, which is what bill did) because you're supposed to go out on weekends, saturday night and all, and because kealynn & fred were there --- kealynn read two funny poems & made it to the second round of the slam.
sunday morning we had brunch at rivendell, a very weekend thing, and then we went on a house trip to pick halloween pumpkins. bill, andrea, nathan, jason & I drove out to beaver dam together, which meant plenty of car time to make fun of our housemates who were in the other car (matt, orelia & brian).
waldvogel's farm was indeed the land of pumpkin fun, featuring a petting zoo (with very cute bunnies, dwarf goats, and chickens that looked and acted just like chickens), an underground slide, a lost pumpkin mine, a haunted granary, miniature golf (best played with speed rules, the first one done wins, because 'turns' are for weenies), a corn maze (which had no exit, we had to come back out the way we went in, a situation that we found so distressing that nathan & andrea went back into the maze for a second attempt at finding the nonexistent exit while jason & I circumambulated the perimeter of the corn field to confirm its nonexistence), and a tractor-pulled hayride out to the pumpkin patch.
it was cold, gray and blustery, especially while we waited for the hayride. we all leaped, vaulted, clambered, or in my case, were hauled like a sack of uncooperative potatoes up onto a row of large round hay bales for a group photo op. (I believe nathan has the whole hauled-like-an-uncooperative-sack-of-potatoes event recorded on videotape.) afterwards I decided I wanted to get up onto the hay bales under my own power. a few attempts showed I was in no danger of achieving this with a standing 'jump' so I decided to get some momentum with a running start. my complete failure to transfer any of the horizontal momentum I gained by running into vertical momentum doomed my next seven or eight attempts, but it amused my housemates to no end. my new clodhopper hiking boots didn't help, but let's face it, I run like a girl and jump like an elephant. nathan summed it up it the end: evidently white women can't jump either.
after slides and mazes and hayrides and pumpkins and caramel apples and brats we were pretty much exhausted and definitely cold. in the car on the way home we told bad jokes and finished casting rivendell: the movie. here's the current cast list from the kitchen blackboard (oops, it got erased, I'll have to make some of it up):
andrea . . . kate hudson
the weekend starts on thursday in these parts, but for me last weekend's weekend didn't end until monday. I've been wanting to check out club majestic and resident dj nick nice (he's the son of one of my professors at wisconsin) since it was converted from a theater to a nightclub. jason had tickets for the annual service industry costume party, but had to work monday.
I failed to convince any of my industrious and responsible housemates that the weekend extended to monday night, but as it turns out, the costume I borrowed from orelia solved the problem of not having anyone to go with because by the time she was done lacing up the red satin corset I had so much cleavage that my breasts became personages in their own right. I figured I should give them names, and their own introductions: "hi, I'm ann and these are my breasts, vanessa and victoria. that's vanessa on the left."
I didn't stay for the costume contest (it started at midnight) but if there was a category for 'tightest' I would have been a shoe-in. but I drank the free drinks, watched bits of hedwig and the angry inch, introduced myself to dj nick nice, danced to the hometown sweethearts, and snagged some excellent candy before heading home ~ 11 PM in time with my inverse-curfew. (as I was leaving for the party jason informed me that I wasn't allowed to come back before 10.)
yes, there are pictures.
no, I will not be posting them on my website. ever.
weds 11:55 am
I hope that I don't feel the same way tomorrow that I do today.
smart people are stupid, part I
would you rather be 20% smarter or 20% happier?
my friend steve wragg asked me that one day. (this was around the time that he offered to trade me an accordion for my phd. unfortunately, the deal fell through and I'm still stuck with the phd.)
it was a trick question, and I knew it. the right answer is 20% happier. right?
but-but-but, my just-a-little-too-big-for-its-britches brain interjects, if you were 20% smarter shouldn't you be able to figure out how to be 20% happier as well?
actually, no. because, as david reilly points out, smart people are stupid. (steve also thinks that smart people are stupid, but he's too smart to point it out, at least when other people are looking.)
over the years I've asked a lot of smart people that same question. (it's fun to watch their brows furrow during the noticable delay before they answer, while their brains are going through the whole but-but-but spiel about how being 20% smarter will actually make them 20% happier too.) inevitably, the conversation progresses into a discussion of other options.
the most popular alternative is 20% more time, but I've gotten some surprise suggestions too, like when richard immediately declined being smarter or happier in favor of being 20% better looking, or perhaps 20% taller. richard is 6 ft tall and, to borrow a phrase from thornton wilder, cute enough for all normal purposes, but he figured that at a freakish 7' 2" he could have had a career in the NBA. he did not expand on the benefits of looking 20% more like mel gibson, at least in my presence. richard was also the inspiration for the "make everyone else 20% smarter" option. (it was not altruism in action --- it was 20% less time spent fixing other people's problems for them.)
I rolled the original 20% smarter/happier and all the alternative responses I've come across into a slashdot poll, which appeared on 26 sept 2003. 31909 voted in the poll and there were 637 comments. (you can still cast a vote, but the discussion is archived, no new comments can be added.)
'whuffie' is a fictional currency for reputation used in cory doctorow's online sf novel down and out in the magic kingdom. 'karma' in this case is a rating system for slashdot users. I didn't include the 20% more time option, because I thought it would completely dominate the results. interestingly, it only got mentioned a few times in the comments. numerous people pointed out that 20% of nothing is nothing. on the other hand, while no one actually used the term 'diminishing marginal returns,' people often remarked "I'm already rich/smart/happy enough so I chose rich/smart/happy instead." one person asked the obvious: aren't all the other options just ways to make yourself happier?
I came across one excellent argument as to why being 20% smarter could make someone 20% happier:
... even so I'd rather be 20% smarter than 200% wealthier, say. One of the things that really satisfies me as a person, perhaps the thing that satisfies me most, is really understanding something. This, I think, is the very essence of geekdom. Some people love to win, some people love to have, some people love to love, I love to grok. So 20% more intelligence would let me understand more, with some corresponding increase in happiness through fulfillment. Just, being at peace, satisfied with my progress through life. (full comment)
and part of my response:
The reason I tend to think that being smarter doesn't generally make people happier is that it doesn't seem that people do a very good job of using their intelligence to answer the question: what will make me happy? The careful observation and analysis and the search for patterns of cause and effect typical of a scientific/engineering approach are not applied to the basic questions of human happiness.
several comments explained how being 20% smarter would not only make you 20% happier, but also 20% richer, whuffier, better looking, larger (hard drive & otherwise), & karmic. likewise, several comments explained why 20% richer or 20% better looking is functionally equivalent to "all of the above." my favorite comment was a comprehensive option I hadn't considered before:
I think the best upgrade would be 20% more humble.
& one person went for richard's "freakishly tall so I could be in the NBA" option.
birds, newts, & thalassophilia
I've had some pictures of birds that we took on our trip to the grand canyon this spring lurking unlinked in my newts, lizards & flies directory for some time now. with the help of bird nerd and all around cool kid david minoli I have finally identified all of the species. here's the link to and the bird-blog itself.
finishing the bird-blog reminded me of all the other pictures waiting to make the leap into cyberspace, like the fine collection of newt pornography that richard & I obtained this summer. newt pornography is an as yet unfilled niche in the web ecosystem --- richard & I tried searching for newt porn using a version of google image search, still under development, that works over cellphones. (yes, we'd had a few beers.) as I recall, we got two hits, neither of which involved actual newts or actual pornography. alas, the web is a fleeting collective hallucination --- a search on' newt porn' no longer returns any images.
but a web search on 'newt thalassophilia' returns exactly one hit --- a googlewhack on my first try! except that googlewhack won't take it because 'thalassophilia' isn't in the dictionary. huh? I checked a different dictionary site and it didn't have an entry either(!) here's mine:
thalassophilia: (noun) love of the sea;
rivendell check-in II
the blog of the khazanns
I've put up a few things that I wrote and that
appeared in print when I was in grad school. the fact
that they have already been published in some form kept
my compulsive editing in check --- I'm almost afraid to start
digging through old files that don't come with a
non-negotiable seal of "finished" on them. I'll just make a few
changes, that will really improve the flow...
truth on a bus
while we were in poland bill used the tandy to write the first version of a BASIC program called "autopoem" that uses claude shannon's theory of information to generate "english-like" words and phrases from a source text. he would run the program over night and in the morning have an output file of 300 lines that sounded a lot like "twas brillig and the slithy toves did gyre and gymbal in the wabe." (he used 'tandy' all night and I used it all day.) "truth on a bus" was one of the more evocative phrases that autopoem produced and I used it a basis for one my daily freewriting exercises. I just started writing and the story flowed out --- it only took a few minor edits to produce the final version. it also appeared in the daily cardinal. recently I came across a quote from winston churchill that encapsulates the idea behind "truth on a bus" in a single sentence:
Men occasionally stumble over the truth,
when I started formatting these stories I realized that the groovy purple text on a dark blue background didn't work for longer essays, so I went for black and white instead. being the queen of the font futz as well as no stranger to the delicate art of procrastination, I decided to see how blog-O-rama would fare with a more conventional color scheme. the black and white theme worked nicely, I think. in the process I also figured out how to change the style of links, so I finally replaced the outdated underline convention with an alternative color. the pink/blue link scheme looks good with the existing page, but the only problem is that it's, well, pink. you know, like for girls.
bill jumped right on that one --- he now refers to the original blog-O-rama format as the "girl blog," and the new b & w version (which he prefers) as the "boy blog." I'll give him grrrrrrl blog alright. he's got an idea there though --- two versions of blog-O-rama, one for women, one for men, with slight but significant differences, like milorad pavic's dictionary of the khazars, an unusual reading experience and one of my favorite books.
it's friday, mid-day, and I'm sitting outside at espresso royale with orelia and andrea. we're sprawled across two tables and four chairs, soaking up solar radiation, scrawling in notebooks, books at hand.
I've been thinking about the different voices that I habitually adopt when I when write: notebook voice, email voice, blog voice, letter to pam voice, and I thought I would try to merge them, starting with yesterdays attempt at writing a blog entry in my notebook. here goes:. . .
it's thursday, late afternoon, and I'm sitting at my desk watching the sunlight turn golden on the brick apartment building across the street. 2 (flesh-eating) asian lady beetles are crawling on the storm window, one inside, the other outside. across the street 3 girls are sitting on the stoop, talking, their voices echo up to my third floor window, amplified and garbled, like they're talking gibberish, communicating with a pseudo-language of expressive nonsense syllables instead of words, like we do sometimes in my improv class. the occasional phrase survives through the garble: five minutes...holy shit...and then he...like.
2 of the girls are wearing white tank tops, jeans and sneakers, the other a white shirt with sleeves, jeans and sneakers. 2 guys come out of the building and stop to talk. they are both wearing polo shirts, baggy shorts with cargo pockets (one khaki, the other gray-blue), and black flip-flops. while they talk another guy parks his jeep on the street and walks up the sidewalk and into the building. he's wearing a white t-shirt with black writing on it, baggy shorts with cargo pockets (khaki), black flip-flops and a white wisconsin baseball cap on backwards.
summer has made a comeback in madison, not indian summer but summer summer. this morning a thin haze of humidity hung in the sky, by the afternoon the temperature hit 80. the crisp walk-in-the-woods autumn lapsed back into a somnolent day-at-the-beach summer.
even so, bill & I went for the traditional fall activity: apple picking. when I was a kid every year my family went to the white mountains of new hampshire on columbus day weekend: camping on the swift river, admiring the foliage along the kangamaugus highway, climbing mount chocura, and picking apples.
in the car we listened to a lecture in the series "the history of the english language," on the cultural implications of common indo-european word roots. somewhere on about the explanation of the roots of the word pecuniary, we missed the turn off for the orchard.
the fall colors this year record the summer long drought in wisconsin, the fields are prematurely brown, the flaming orange yellows are burnt, the trees have a subdued brown undertone. the white farmhouse and red barn overlooking the orchards and fields prompted me to say "let's live in a rural area," a remark which I make at least once on every trip out into the country, consistency raised to level of absurdity.
a quiet day of just being together, pulling a red wagon between the rows of trees laden with apples (the biggest ripest ones tantalizingly out of reach on the top branches), bill laughing at my attempts to steer the apple-laden wagon backwards down a hill, driving home on backroads and through small towns, stopping at culver's on the way back for a butter burger (bill) and a veggie burger (me). we listened to the second half of the lecture on indo-european roots and missed the turn-off back to madison.
what else? moving backward in time: on weds. I worked on the new black & white pages for my website and went for a bike ride in the late afternoon, the first one since I got back from california (!). at night, after my algebra tutoring session with karren, bill & I indulged in our latest addictive behavior, watching old episodes of buffy the vampire slayer on dvd. (it's not tv if you're watching on a laptop, right?) after years of active resistance, of slightly sneering retreats to my room while my housemates gathered in the dark tv room for new episodes of buffy, I have been sucked into the hellmouth. and because the first 4 seasons are available on dvd (we're in season 2) we're in for a long binge accompanied by loud denials of bingeing. we can quit anytime.
. . .
saturday, back at my desk, this time with the window closed and headphones channeling the mantra of tara directly into my inner ear and hopefully into my consciousness as well. it's homecoming weekend and the music penetrating even closed windows irritates me out of all proportion to the volume level.
this morning I typed the letter so far into my blog file. I can't say that the joint blog/letter experiment has been a success --- the sloppy cross-outs and questionable penmanship reveal that the letter isn't flowing as cleanly and clearly as normal and I couldn't (or I didn't) resis the temptation to edit when I typed.
still moving backward, on tues. I sat outside at a coffeeshop in the morning, making a low level effort on the website theme, I was trying to get the black & white eyeball looking right, and I wrote an email or two and read a few pages in the light of the three jewels, a series of talks on vajrayana buddhism and dzogchen meditation that the khenpos gave when they first began teaching in the west. in the afternoon I went to a killer yoga class with orelia and then to improv after that and then I tutored karren in algebra. oh yeah, and I went to the library in the morning too.
monday I went for a hike at governor dodge state park. a lovely day, and I was taking advantage of the weather, not knowing that we were in for a full week of gorgeous warm sunny days. the (flesh-eating) asian lady beetles were swarming, dive bombing the car, and me while I was hiking. as I got back to the small lake that I started from I saw an enormous flock of buzzards circling high overhead, but they seemed harmless compared to the lady beetles.
looking forward: I really ought to exercise, but it feels like a burden, like heavy lifting. I just punctuated that last sentence with a convincing yawn. tomorrow night bill & I are going to see sweet honey in the rock at the civic center, karren got us tickets as a thank you for the algebra help. we have a house meeting too, the usual business plus plans for a halloween party. aside from that I hope to jump my start my writing --- it's been a bit sluggish all this week.
okay, bill's taking a nap and I really really ought to exercise. iTunes has moved onto the mantra of chenrezig, the bodhisattva of compassion:
om mani padme hum
you can't out-dork me. I am un-out-dorkable.
dang. I wish I had written that.
but I read it here, on someone else's "about me" page. I've noticed that my still unfinished entry "I eat a lot of vegetables" is already one, and possibly two, orders of magnitude longer than the modal "about me" page. and it's only the first item in a list of 10. I guess that says something about me right there.
I really like vegetables but they can be scary sometimes. case in point, the "cauliflower" matt brought home from the farmer's market yesterday, which seems to have taken on a life of it's own. if you are what you eat, we could be in trouble here at rivendell. and forget advanced meta-meta inverse procrastination, this is regular old procrastination --- photoshop vs.the cauli-monster --- I haven't had fun with filters in a long time.
yesterday I really meant to finish the first installment of the "it's all about me" series: "i eat a lot of vegetables." I mucked around with a few sentences but I really didn't feel like working on it. instead I headed out to a coffeeshop and worked on one of my big writing projects. that's the opposite of how it usually goes --- I get frustrated with my big projects and decide to write for my blog or website instead.
bill says "inverse procrastination? you mean, like, working?"
rachel's environment and health news is running an excellent two part feature by sandra steingraber on the emerging relationship between exposure to toxics and dementia. (link to part I; link to part II.)
the series draws largely on new research presented at a conference at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York on early-life environmental origins of late-life neurodegenerative disorders such as Parkinson's and Alzheimer's disease but also includes some extremely interesting and thought provoking information on fetal development and disease. definitely worth a read.
a few articles that have been waiting for links, lurking between comment brackets all week in the source file for this webpage. here are a few that are worth a read.
the salt lake tribune ran an editorial last weekend that demonstrates that "supporting the troops" does not mean "supporting bush and his cronies," quite the opposite. while I don't agree with all of their perspective, it's nice to see that patriotism is not always the last refuge of scoundrels.
beyond the call 27 sept 03
Our soldiers fulfilled their part of the bargain. They not only answered the call, they accomplished their mission with skill, courage, honor and, perhaps most important of all, precision.
the san jose mercury news ran a good, comprehensive story about the motivation and strategy behind the bush administration's UN policy. the neo-conservative agenda for iraq and the bush adminstration's relentless pursuit of crony capitalism are both at odds with increased UN control.
Bush risking chances for U.N. help in
Iraq 26 sept 03
"Ideally, we'd like to see military bases maintained in Iraq for many years to come. That is a long-term goal. You cannot do that if you've got the U.N. running the show. You would have the French and the Russians and the Germans all having a say on developments on the ground," said Nile Gardiner, a foreign policy specialist at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative research center.
seumas milne's scathing overview of the situation in iraq in the guardian points out that while the US and the UK drag their heels and refuse to commit to a timetable for ending the occupation, it's "damn the torpedoes --- full speed ahead" when it comes to selling off iraq's industries to foreign capitalists. after all, we wouldn't want some pesky elected government letting the people of iraq decide the future direction of iraq's economy.
Iraq has now become the crucible of global
The real meaning of US promises of freedom and democracy was spelled out this week by two decisions of the US-appointed, and increasingly discredited, Iraqi Governing Council. The first was to put the entire economy, except oil, up for sale to foreign capital, combined with a sweeping free-market shock therapy programme, pre-empting the decisions of any elected Iraqi government. The second was to impose restrictions on the Arabic satellite TV stations al-Jazeera and al-Arabiya for their reports on the resistance to the occupation.
grad school requires advanced procrastination skills -- the more difficult the activity being avoided the more involved and esoteric the procrastination activities must be. "I wonder if there's any pizza left in the refrigerator, maybe I should go check" and "I'll just watch this one episode of general hospital and then I'll do my homework" just don't cut it in grad school.
but jamie is up to the grad school procrastination challenge -- after being unable to locate her fuzzy hat despite searching all day yesterday, and being unwilling to continue the search in the trunk of her car (aka the trunk of the damned) for reasons of personal safety and mental health, she spent the morning turning a shrunken old sweater into a very attractive, 100% recycled, warm, fuzzy hat (& a scarf is on the way.)
this morning I procrastinated by taking a picture of jamie wearing her new hat, posting it to my website, and then commenting on it as an exercise in post-modern meta-procrastination. the conflation of public/private discourse in the digital realm allows me to remove myself from the narrative and deconstruct the process of procrastination while simultaneously experientializing that process for the reader. through the vicarious experience of the same procrastinative narrative, the reader interrogates procrastination as a context-dependent technologically-mediated cultural practice while procrastinating at the same time. share the love.
entries from 09.03