Why?

Because my well-nigh limitless ego and excess of free time compels me to be the first to think up stupid sh-t, that’s why. And because I love you all so darn much.

Read

In my wanderings today, I noticed some things that were said recently and that I found interesting, and may well be worth your time, from Jeff :

This delineation of introspection as constitutive of feeling and more significantly, that the feelings which come from memory are the most powerful ones of all, has colored Western society— feeling is taken as a private rather than public, reflective rather than reactive, individual rather than collectively consitituted response. This is deeply at odds with human appetites. Humanity is far more social than that. Coleridge, no matter how much he agreed with Wordsworth in theory, subverted it in practice. He was loquacious, providing a great deal of his introspection in public. Thinking of the contradictions of publicly generated privacy gave me a headache, and I really needed to soak my head.
[more…]

and from Steve :

Blogging, then, is like my mental scratch pad made visible: it’s much more stream-of-conscious, though still composed and relatively controlled. I think about what I’m going to post for a few minutes or a few hours, then pretty much just write it as I type. Along the way, ideas I hadn’t expected pop up and make themselves known, screaming for attention, and often they turn into other ideas, other posts, or even other projects. I actually, ideally, become more productive in my offline writing because of blogging—in effect, the impermanent work, the scratch pad, feeds what is intended as ‘finished’, lasting work.
[more… (and more from Jeff on this too.)]

Just thought I’d point, and nod.

Trackbackage

Matt has added Trackback functionality to Metafilter. I just tested it out with my previous post, pinging this thread (see the bottom of the thread). When Ben and Mena released the latest version of Moveable Type, with this new trackback functionality built in, there was a great deal of interest and enthusiasm, but that seems to have waned a bit recently, as these things do. I don’t think enough people have been using it, that I’ve been able to see at least. (Edit : I note that Phil Ringnalda has been getting relatively massive numbers of trackbacks, though, so clearly some people are using it! (Edit of the Edit : Clearly it’s time to cut back on the drugs. I was sure I saw (TrackBack(18)) and (TrackBack(30)) there a minute ago!)) It hasn’t quite reached the critical mass needed to sustain the idea and start it metastasizing, but this may just push it over the top, and not coincidentally make Metafilter even more of a Central Bar and Grill for various weblog ad-hoc networks and communities.
I’m hoping Matt’s decision to incorporate Trackbacks into Metafilter threads as an experiment provides that push over the top that the technology needs, because the interconnectedness enabled by tools like trackback, backlinks, and recent referrers fascinates me. Should be interesting – as Matt says here : “Trackback’s the first attempt to string a wire through all the random blogs out there.” I’m curious to see what happens.

Link Dump

Item The First : the tribulations of being a porn-vid store clerk. “Apparently in the old days it was different – no security cameras and longer dead spells. My manager used to clerk then, and she said that having to clean come out of the corners and off the walls was pretty routine.”
[Edit : MeFi discussion here.]
Item The Next : Would it be a bad thing for me to secretly hope that this guy actually is Christ Returned?
Some Other Items : It’s like they aren’t even trying to pretend anymore.
“Bush’s job approval rating stands at 72 percent, virtually unchanged from a month ago. An equally large proportion of people still view the president as honest and trustworthy…”
“And this, basically, is the story of the spectacular unfairness with which moneymaking opportunities are lavished on the politically connected. It is the story of a man who has been rewarded for repeated failures by having money shot at him through a fire hose. It is the story of a man who talks with a straight face about having “earned” a fortune of tens of millions of dollars, without having ever done an honest day’s work in his life. ”
And now for something completely different : Listen to the ‘bottle (or any other web page). No, seriously. I was hoping I’d sound a bit more like, you know, Motorhead or something, but this is pretty cool anyway.

Bitch Moan Whine

The university where I teach hands out student evaluations at the end of each semester. They are anonymous, and we don’t get to see them. In fact, the administration (who collectively have their head so far up their fundament that they can tell if they’re getting cavities or not) doesn’t even deign to tell us the results, normally.
I, however, have my sources.
For the last two semesters in a row (that is, since I began this job), according to the student evals, I have been the number one professor at my university (hooray for me!). Both semesters I had eight of the ten top-rated classes in the entire school (double hooray for me, with a f–king cherry on top!).
This is why I was so annoyed and disheartened when the new contract I was presented with this summer didn’t offer me a raise of any kind. In fact, thanks to some of the clever accounting at which Koreans can be so ept, I think I might end up grossing less this year than last. I genuinely love teaching, but damn it, I expect to be rewarded when I so completely exceed what is required and expected of me.
This annoyance percolated into rage today as I watched them erect a 30-foot, chrome-and-neon crucifix on top of the goddamn auditorium. They can spend what must be upwards of twenty grand on Xtian decorations, but they can’t throw me a bone.
f–kers.
[Edit : I forgot to say ‘Angry? Damn right I am!’]

Thought Food

via Metafilter, some marvellously ironic TIPS-related info :

Some food for thought about civilians as informers, about a large number of informers… From the book “Republic of Fear, The Politics of Modern Iraq” by Kanan Makiya (originally published under the name Samir al-Khalil, a pseudonym):
“Nothing fragments group solidarity and self-confidence like the gnawing suspicion of having an informer in your midst. Therefore, to the extent that the public polices itself – a function of the number of informers – it inevitably disintegrates as an entity in its own right, separated from those who rule over it. Informer networks invade privacy and choke off all willingness to act in public or reflect upon politics, replacing these urges with a now deeply instilled caution. In so doing they destroy the reality of the public domain, relegating what little remains to a dark and shadowy existence. In such a world the more well-known violence of state institutions – executions, “disappearances”, murders, reprisals, torture – take on a new societal meaning. Nothing is as it seems, and nothing can be taken for granted. (Page 63 – edition 1989.)”
“The Ba’thist [the party in power in Iraq – IB] postulate that society depends for its very existence on having an unbreachable basic moral norm entails as a necessary consequence that all deviance is immediately and directly an act of treason. The new Arab order must be a seamless moral web. This is the fundamental source of the party’s coherence, and its license to violence. (Page 206.)”
“Once political identity is accepted as belief in an absolute moral imperative, and once morality itself is seen as a striving for perfection towards an unrealizable ideal, then no aspect of conduct is in principle outside the purview of the political organization of the state. Moreover, there is no way to avoid the implication that such all-embracing interference is justified. Justice as the problem of arbitrating between claims on society (rights) never arises, and is not expected to rise. (Page 208.)”

Video

I watch a lot of video on my PC living here in KoreaLand, in large part because I have a grand total of two television channels in English : the (US) Armed Forces Korea Network (see my previous post for a hint of why I don’t tend to spend a lot time watching that) and BBC World, which is groovy, but the same news at 30 minute intervals can get a little tired after a while.
I could spend more time watching the Korean-language channel whose programming consists almost entirely of televised Starcraft matches (no, I’m not kidding – dear god I wish I were), but there’s a fairly good chance that if I did that, I would end up snorting drain cleaner. Last time I did that, I regretted it.
I’m always on the search for new and better-than-WiMP video players. WinAmp 3 has looked promising, but it’s got way too few options for tweaking playback at this stage, anyway.
I found this today, and it is hands-down the best video player I’ve ever found, particularly if, like me, you’ve got a 4 year old PC that chokes when it tries to load up WiMP. An incredible array of both video and audio tweaking options, and it’s lightweight too. Highly recommended. And it’s written by a Korean guy, which is kinda cool.

fcuk Off, Redux

John Pilger argues that ‘war on terror’ is a smokescreen created by the ultimate terrorist … America itself.

…Perhaps the most important taboo is the longevity of the United States as both a terrorist state and a haven for terrorists. That the US is the only state on record to have been condemned by the World Court for international terrorism (in Nicaragua) and has vetoed a UN Security Council resolution calling on governments to observe international law, is unmentionable.
‘In the war against terrorism,’ said Bush from his bunker following 11 September, ‘we’re going to hunt down these evil-doers wherever they are, no matter how long it takes.’
Strictly speaking, it should not take long, as more terrorists are given training and sanctuary in the United States than anywhere on earth. They include mass murderers, torturers, former and future tyrants and assorted international criminals. This is virtually unknown to the American public, thanks to the freest media on earth.

General Jose Guillermo Garcia has lived comfortably in Florida since the 1990s. He was head of El Salvador’s military during the 1980s when death squads with ties to the army murdered thousands of people. General Prosper Avril, the Haitian dictator, liked to display the bloodied victims of his torture on television. When he was overthrown, he was flown to Florida by the US Government. Thiounn Prasith, Pol Pot’s henchman and apologist at the United Nations, lives in New York. General Mansour Moharari, who ran the Shah of Iran’s notorious prisons, is wanted in Iran, but untroubled in the United States.
Al-Qaeda’s training camps in Afghanistan were kindergartens compared with the world’s leading university of terrorism at Fort Benning in Georgia. Known until recently as the School of the Americas, it trained tyrants and some 60,000 Latin American special forces, paramilitaries and intelligence agents in the black arts of terrorism.
In 1993, the UN Truth Commission on El Salvador named the army officers who had committed the worst atrocities of the civil war; two-thirds of them had been trained at Fort Benning. In Chile, the school’s graduates ran Pinochet’s secret police and three principal concentration camps. In 1996, the US government was forced to release copies of the school’s training manuals, which recommended blackmail, torture, execution and the arrest of witnesses’ relatives.
[more…]

[via wood_s_lot]

fcuk Off

Hey, my American friends, why not take the sage advice of my friend here…

I made this. If you steal it, please credit me. Not the old native guy, the other stuff. Well, not that stuff either, actually. Some underpaid governmnet employee made that...Ah, f--k it. Steal it if you want.

…and tell the bastards to go f–k themselves!
[Edit : Thanks to the random google-surfing psychos who crapped here, but I’ve closed the thread and deleted the bile, pathetically amusing as it was. Sue me.]

Weblog lovin'

I don’t normally do stuff like this, but I reckon it would be a Good Thing™ to stop by BurningBird’s place and give her a little of that downhome weblog-lovin’. If we really are a community (and the recent outpouring of goodwill for Marek and Rageboy in their various hours of need would indicate to me that we are), then when someone is feeling like sh-t, I think it’s the right thing to do to go tell ’em some dirty jokes or something.
Scoot!

RATS

It boggles my mind the things the American people are allowing Shrubya and his cohort of ratbastards to do to their once-great nation. It’s sad, and somehow seems inevitable. Decades ago, when I gleefully predicted the implosion of America as a result of the rot at its very core, I never actually thought my predictions would come true!
Steve invites you to strap on the armband, don the brown shirt, and join in the Happy Fun Fascism Parade. Can I dob myself in for my UnAmerican activities? Will they have McDonalds at the labour camps?

[Background here, and here (thanks, Bb) if you’re lost. The Sydney Morning Herald notes, mildly : “Historically, informant systems have been the tools of non-democratic states.” Now that’s comedy gold.]
Edit : Eeksy-Peeksy spoke recently, in his elegant way, about something tangentially related in Poland, which I was going to mention. Now seems like a good opportunity.

To Live and Die In Bugok

There’s an article up on kuro5hin at the moment entitled ‘To Work in Korea, Part I’, and it’s actually pretty good, other than the stunningly bad advice that one go through a recruiter.
The author promises another on Korean culture soon, to which I look forward. Worth having a look if any of you, my faithful and devastatingly good-looking readers, despite my Korea-related screeds and rants here, are at all interested in coming over to the Land of The Morning Traffic to pick off some of the low-hanging dollars.

There are those who come here strictly for the money. Not necessarily incompetent, they are opportunists who seize the chance to make lots of money for doing relatively little work. I know of one fellow who plans on working here for 10 more years before retiring back in Canada. These are not necessarily bad people, just here for a different reason.

See – I’m not necessarily a bad person or incompetent! This is an enormous relief to me.

Oxford Internet Institute

Oxford Internet Institute :

The Oxford Internet Institute (OII) is the world’s first truly multidisciplinary Internet institute based in a major university. Exclusively devoted to the study of the impact of the Internet on society, the OII aims to put Oxford, the UK and Europe at the centre of debates about how the Internet could and should develop.

A big buncha UBlog wannabes, these folks. Who the hell’s ever heard of Oxford?

Work in Progress

With the help of the mighty Burning Bird, the old ‘bottle is porting over to a MySQL database backend. Some oddness may occur. Please stand by.
Edit : I am aware that the recent conversations sidebar thingo is busted at the moment.

A New Hope?

There are almost certainly more refugees from Metafilter than there are people who actively participate, these days. The registered user count is up over 14000 at the moment, but if I recall correctly, Matt recently said that the server logs indicate there are only (only) a couple or three thousand registered users that hit the site on a regular basis. All indications, based on the numbers, at least, are that Metafilter continues to be a robust and roaring success. Matt has recently purchased some new hardware, and there are days and threads when I would defy you to find anything smarter or more amusing anywhere on the iNtARwEb.
But everywhere I turn, there is a constant keening lament about how bad the site has gotten, as compared to its long-past Glory Days. It is typical of these things, I suppose, but amuses me anyway that some disgruntloids insist that the golden age ended only recently (with a raft of calm, reasonable, and highly respected old guard users quietly calling it quits) while others point to the beginning of this year (when there were some high-profile, I’m-taking-my-ball-and-going-home departures). Still others glare and hurl imprecations (though mercifully stop short of screeching and flinging their poo) at the huge upsurge in registered users following September 11th last year, and yet other others pinpoint the date that everything went to sh-t as November 16, 2000, a day of infamy that was marked by the first appearance of a certain wonderchicken on the #006699 scene.
Michael Sippey, for instance, lamented in Swiftian style

It is a melancholy object to those who click through to the great site of MetaFilter, when they see the front page, the comment pages and the MetaTalk sections crowded with chatter, with noise, and with meaningless posts that should have never seen the light of the submit button. Readers, instead of being able to rely on MetaFilter as a trusted source of daily diversion, are forced to employ all their time in scrolling to beg sustenance for their starving minds: which, as they evolve over time, either whither into dust, or abandon their dear MetaFilter for sites unknown.

almost a year ago!
A while back, I spent some time (way too much time, compulsively hitting the refresh button, wirehead monkey at the joyjuice hotbutton) hanging around with some folks who splintered off a long time ago from the grandpappy of Metafilter cult threads, 1142 (folks I miss, but in order to actually accomplish anything with my time must continue to hug from a distance – *waves*), and amongst all the other things that were talked about, they spent a lot of their time bemoaning how bad Metafilter had gotten. These were, are, some of the smartest, most creative people I’ve ever spent time with, virtually or otherwise. The few months that I spent a lot of time there were almost a year ago.
Since then, some of them have stopped appearing at all on Metafilter, although the occasional Special Guest Appearance leads me to believe that they are still watching, still disapproving, still shaking their heads in dismay at the decline of the Mothership.
Another gang of Meta-refugees with whom I hang out, the wacky kids at 9622.net, another MeFi splinter site that was birthed from a cult thread (9622 this time, duh), although much more concerned with having fun and being silly, also note occasionally, between flinging poo and screeching, that Bad Things are happening these days.
Recently, jpoulos (one of the admins of 9622.net) has been talking about his disenchantment in more direct terms in the comments attached to this post : Why Metafilter Sucks Ass. I find myself agreeing with him, with some reservations.
jpoulos doesn’t participate at Metafilter anymore, and is missed.
Many many words have been spoken and typed about the Metafilter and how it has changed over the past year or two. Hell, I’m adding to the wordcount now, and I can’t seem to stop myself. Nick Sweeney said a few months ago :

Matt’s always been very trusting towards his membership, and in general, receives the respect that’s deserved by such trust. I can’t help thinking that it doesn’t accommodate 13,000-odd members: partly because the times don’t lend themselves to seminar-style discussion; partly because you’re dealing with the friction between oldbies and newbies, and their different conceptions of what the place is, was, and should be. ‘Member memory’ is a vital aspect of community sites, even ones which profess to deal with the transient meme-feed, and I think it’s much stronger at MeFi than Plastic: so that when you have members who take perhaps two years’ worth of discussion into the day’s discussion up against new arrivals, it’s bound to create the same kind of frustrations as a USENET September.

Nick doesn’t participate at Metafilter anymore, and is missed.
For my part, I’ve written defenses both impassioned and tongue-in-cheek of the place in the past. I’ve said

…things are pretty much as they’ve been since I started coming here, at least – some good days, some bad ones, some thread hijacks, some crap posts, some egos and wrestling matches, some absolute diamond-hard fascinating discussions, some erudition, some crap jokes, some pee-myself-laughing ones too, a generally tolerant and friendly hubbub.

and other things, more embarrassingly and openly in love with the place.
I personally think the exodus started when Jason Kottke posted this Metatalk thread not long after the massive influx of users after September 11th, which seemed to be a continuation of a real-world conversation that he and Matt had been having. Matt commented in the thread that he was tired of it all, and thinking about folding the tent. Much consternation ensued, and I honestly think that some people who might have stuck around and dug in their heels to try and make the place better and lead by example threw in the towel at this point.
There were other things – the rise in chattiness, the rise in incivility, the decline in collective intelligence, the increase in jokiness and pointless IRC-esque chatter (in which I admit my occasional participation) – most of which were probably as a result of the massive influx of new users.
Whatever the reason, even though there are many voices still participating that I enjoy hearing, lots of people with whom I enjoy interacting, I’ve got to agree for the first time in public that the Mothership is not what it once was.
What to do? This is the $64,000 Question, of course. I still enjoy the place a lot, and will continue to participate until Matt bans me permanently for conduct unbecoming a wonderchicken, but I am starting to understand a little better the complaints that I’ve ignored or argued against for so long. To some extent I wish that I’d paid them more heed a year ago.
(Should I mention my theory about the disenfranchisement of the A-List now? No, perhaps not. Not until my secret plans for World Domination have been hatched, my pretties. Not until then.)
It has been said, and truly, ‘it’s only a website’. Can you love a website? Is it internet-era pathological behavior to say ‘I love that website’?
I dunno.
But some days it feels as if my love is turning into common street trash before my eyes, and no matter how well-documented my weaknesses for common street trash, that’s just not the girl I fell in love with.

Existence

This late evening, reading AKMA, who was messing around with a lovely, famous phrase from the good Doctor W, made me want to make this. Just for fun. I like playing around with stuff.

existence.jpg

Edit : While I’m at it, I also took some words from one of his recent posts and made this for Rageboy today, for Gary’s collage, because though I’ve never met the man, I love him, and it would seem that he’s very unhappy, and I have no idea what else I could possibly do.

rb2.jpg

You must not attempt this

As Kent recently intuited, I’ve been rereading Douglas Hofstadter’s Gödel, Escher and Bach recently, in part in hopes that a rereading will illuminate corners that I missed the last time through, and in part because good books in English are very difficult to find here, and prohibitively expensive when I do find them. There are no libraries of which I am aware within a two hour radius of my home, and even if there were, they would not have any books in English. This situation is particularly unhappy because I am and always have been a voracious reader, getting through an average of two or more books a week. Needless to say the tomes that comprise the meager collection I brought with me when we moved here from Sydney are well-thumbed and dog-eared by now.
Bitch, moan.
Anyway, this anecdote from GEB struck me, and I thought I’d share it with you.
Johann Bolyai and Nikolay Lobachevskiy independantly and to all appearances simultaneously discovered non-Euclidean geometry in 1823. Euclidean geometry, of course, is based on five postulates, four elegant and one perhaps a little less so, and had stood proudly for about two thousand years.
The first four postulates :
(1) A straight line segment can be drawn joining any two points.
(2) Any straight line segment can be extended indefinitely in a straight line.
(3) Given any straight line segment, a circle can be drawn having the segment as radius and one end point as center.
(4) All right angles are congruent.
and the fifth, which lacks a little of the concision and elegance of the first four
(5) If two lines are drawn which intersect a third in such a way that the sum of the inner angles on one side is less than two right angles, then the two lines must inevitably intersect each other on that side if extended far enough.
Over the intervening centuries, dozens of attempts had been made to prove that the fifth postulate was in fact part of ‘four-postulate geometry’, all unsuccessful.
One of the people who had attempted to do so was Bolyai’s father, Wolfgang, who was also a mathematician and a friend of Gauss (who is part of Graham’s mathematical family tree, synchronicitously enough). The elder Bolyai wrote to his son, in an attempt to steer him from the black sinkhole of depair that was Euclid and the Mathematical Life :

You must not attempt this approach to parallels. I know this way to its very end. I have traversed this bottomless night, which extinguished all light and joy of my life. I entreat you, leave the science of parallels alone…I thought I would sacrifice myself for the sake of the truth. I was ready to become a martyr who would remove the flaw from geometry and return it purified to mankind. I acoomplished monstrous, enormous labors; my creations are far better than those of others and yet I have not achieved complete satisfaction. For here it is true that si paullum a summo discessit, vergit ad imum. I turned back when I saw that no man can reach the bottom of this night. I turned back unconsoled, pitying myself and all mankind…. I have travelled past all reefs of this infernal Dead Sea and have always come back with broken mast and torn sail. The ruin of my disposition and my fall date back to this time. I thoughtlessly risked my life and happiness – aut Caesat aut nihil.

This passage astonishes me. Even allowing for floweriness of language, that a man could so deeply feel his life ruined and wasted as a result chasing a mathematical proof somehow sets me back in my seat, a-wondering about how we have changed, or if indeed we have. It may not have a similar effect on you, and if not, I beg your indulgence.