Sorry, no koolaid...
Updated: 11/7/2002; 8:16:14 AM.

 |::| Thursday, November 07, 2002

 |::Thought for the Moment  8:16:01 AM 

The mound of ashes stirred. After a moment, slightly disheveled, up rose the Phoenix. (Again.)

"It's not the burning that hurts so much," she said, "it's the waking up again and knowing I've got to do it all over."

 |::| Tuesday, November 05, 2002

 |::What part of "the first one's always free" did you think we didn't understand?  7:49:42 AM 
"The real issue for schools is not the cost of proprietary software licensing, but the challenges and costs of deployment, maintenance and skilled human resources....Conventional Microsoft products have rapid product cycles and quick obsolescence, along with expensive long-term maintenance and support implications." -- Joris Kamen, founding executive director for SchoolNet Namibia, in a letter to Microsoft's East and South Africa regional manager. Quoted on ZDNet.

It's so good to see somebody finally lay it out in such lucid terms: The biggest cost of Microsoft products is the upgrade/obselescence cycle. Is it any surprise to see these frank and unvarnished evaluations coming from the developing world -- where they haven't yet drank the koolaid that makes the vicious (upgrade) cycle seem "natural" (or even "innovative")?

Of course, Microsoft can't be expected to go gently...

 |::| Monday, November 04, 2002

 |::|   8:44:32 PM 
Beyond Belief. Barry Carter writes: Imagine telling a person from the Agriculture Age that one day their children will no longer be taught at home. Their children will go off to a building where the parents have never visited and be taught and disciplined by people that the parents have never met. They will be grouped with hundreds of other children in one building. The father and mother will no longer work at home with their family. The mother and father will work inside of separate buildings many miles apart. They will have so little control over their work that they will have to request permission for a drink of water or to relieve themselves. Since both parents will work outside the home, the grandparents will be warehoused in a building with dozens of others and taken care of by people who don't know or love them. The parents and children will be away from home all day doing different things in different places and controlled by people who have little stake in their long-term well-being. (11/04/02) [Synergic Earth News]

OK, I'm imagining it...

It sounds like Mesopotamia. Or ancient China. Or the slave-powered latifundia of Rome. Or... well, or like lots of places. So what's the point? That things were better or more "natural" in that mythic "agriculture age"?

There are no good old days to bless or damn the way we live. There are only the choices we make about what we want. That is the single most salient characteristic of the human animal: Within the limitations of our capabilities, we are able to choose how we will live. Anything justification based on appeals to states of nature or blessed bucolic pasts is mere rationalization.

 |::Wait -- tell me again why we're doing this?  7:46:35 PM 
"Well, one has to be hopeful. Certainly if you're not attentive and not trying to help the situation it's likely it could get worse. If you are attentive and trying to help it it is not necessarily clear that you'll be able to solve it." -- Donald Rumsfeld, US Secretary of Defense

Translation: "You might be damned if you don't, and you're probably damned if you do, too -- so you might as well do." Now everything's clear.

 |::Godless and American, but still invisible  11:31:51 AM 

The Godless Americans March on Washington happened on Saturday. I know folks who were there, and spoke in glowing terms. But if you read the papers or watch the news, or even if you watch the news feeds on the web, you wouldn't know it had happened -- not unless you lived in the D.C. area. I've been emailed stories from the Washington Post and the Washington Times. Here are direct links -- as of 2:45pm on Sunday afternoon (the day following the march), neither is on the front page (though that's probably to be expected).

From the Washington Post ["March of the Godless Takes to the Mall; Nonbelievers Fight Religion in Government"]:

Staging their first Godless Americans March on Washington, the demonstrators said they wanted to show that Americans who do not believe in God or who doubt the existence of a supreme deity comprise a significant part of the population that needs to be taken more seriously.


[Ellen Johnson, president of American Atheists] and other speakers cited the 2001 American Religious Identification Survey done by the Graduate Center of the City University of New York showing that 14 percent of the population identifies with no religion.

This is a larger group, Johnson noted, than many faith denominations, including Jews and Episcopalians. But because "so many of us are in the closet," she added, views of the nonreligious are not respected.

Easily lost, but not insignificant, is the fact that many of the "godless" are not atheists or even agnostics. Many of them are simply a-religious; many others are practitioners of religions which don't conceptualize a "personal god", like Enlightenment-style Deism, or like Taoism and many flavors of Chinese and Japanese Buddism. Still other categories, like La Veyan Satanists and many neo-Pagans, count themselves among the "godless" because they do not accept the canard that "God" in popular usage is an ecumenical term. (And they're right, in my not-so-humble opinion. After all, it's just plain not an ecumenical concept to lots of very large groups of Americans, such as Missouri Synod Lutherans and "KJV Baptists", among others.)

"I want to show people that we are part of the United States and are just like them even though we don't believe in God," said marcher Anne Richardson, 49, a graphic artist from Annandale. [::]
In many states it's illegal for me to hold public office (which has been upheld by the 8th Circuit). I could never be a Boy Scout leader. I'm regarded as inherently amoral by many people as soon as they find out I'm an atheist. So, yes, there are a lot of people -- and a lot of institutions -- who don't understand that I'm "just like them", to borrow Anne's phrase.

Plans for the march provoked criticism from some conservative Christian commentators. In an essay, Paul M. Weyrich, chairman and chief executive of the Washington-based Free Congress Foundation, wrote: "This will be a sad day in my view. And the interest expressed by the 'Godless Americans' in increasing their political activism is something that requires the close attention of social conservatives."

Many in the crowd said they hoped to dismiss [sic] the myth that nonbelievers are unpatriotic. Against the backdrop of a huge sign that read "Atheists Bless America," about 100 military veterans were called to the stage to receive a round of applause. Other atheists currently serving sent their support.


(Curiously, the Post story appears to have been published in the "Alexandria supplement" section of the Sunday Post -- not in the National section, as you'd normally expect.)

From the Washington Times ["Nonbelievers march on Mall"]:

"This is a class in Activism 101. ... We Godless Americans are everywhere. Nonbelievers comprise 14 percent of the population. ... We are your husbands and friends. ... We work for corporations, and we, too, served in the recovery after 9/11," said Ellen Johnson, president of American Atheists, the Cranford, N.J., group that organized the march.

"We still need to keep marching and protesting," Ms. Johnson told the crowd. "I'm asking you today ... to work with Godless Americans Political Action Committee. Some of you came thousands of miles to be here. You care about the separation of church and state," she said. She encouraged the group to become more politically active.

"We are on the move to becoming a well-oiled machine who knows how to play the game," Ms. Johnson said.

Johnson at least has the rhetoric right -- but American Atheists may be exactly the wrong organization to lead such a fight, considering the history of bad blood with other freethought orgs (the American Humanist Association refused to even mention the GAMOW).

I also checked ABC, NBC (, CBS, CNN, USA Today, my local Gannett affiliate, LA Times,, (same as MSNBC), and the AP, UPI, NYT and Reuters feeds on Yahoo, with nothing found. I threw in the London Times, and the Guardian/Observer for good measure. Nothing.

Finally, I found this at the San Francisco Chronicle -- but it was dated 11/1, the day before the march ["'Godless' forces to rally in capital; Many say, unlike his predecessors, Bush has blurred separation of church an state"]:

....[A]theists concede they just don't know how many people in America, home to a smorgasbord of active religions, endorse their views. "The community of reason is not one that joins organizations," said Ron Barrier, a New Yorker who is national spokesman for American Atheists. "It's not like we're offering eternal life or grace."

I gave up looking after hitting all the Chicago dailies, and checking and to see if anyone had posted something I couldn't find. these three stories are _it_.

In other words, if the point of the march was to increase awareness, it failed. While it's perfectly reasonable to suppose that the press didn't notice because it had other things on its mind (there is an election Tuesday, after all), I know damn well that a lot of the folks who were there in flesh or spirit will see this as a conspiracy -- and be further marginalized because of that. I don't envy Ellen Johnson, and kick myself more than ever over not just blowing the budget and pointing the Volvo south. No, one more body wouldn't have made a difference if nobody was going to notice; but at least I could say that someone had failed to notice me.

 |::| Saturday, November 02, 2002

 |::|   10:37:43 AM 

From Scripting News:

Hey I didn't know that Variety has an RSS feed. It's been out since July. Yow. Unfortunately it's not valid. It's got HTML markup in an item title.

Sounds to me like a bad standard. Why in hell woould you spec a standard that didn't let you put some kind of markup in item titles? Or did they simply make the decision to discard the information that might be provided by sub-block-level markup like EM, CITE, I, STRONG, .... Frankly, it boggles my mind still that RSS stores content in attributes, and not in containers. What a strange notion.

 |::Cool! I always wanted to be a minion!  9:10:02 AM 

Hey, now here's a job opportunity I hadn't thought of: Minion of COBRA, the evil foes of G.I. Joe! And you don't seem to even need any skills! I'm sure I'll be just the guy to show those G.I. Joes what COBRA is made of! Thanks, McSweeney's!

 |::|   8:40:39 AM 

I have to love Radio's automatic update feature. It ensures that I get new interaction-changing features whenever they're released, without having to actually learn about what they do.

At some point in the past few months, something changed about the way that Radio determines the layout of pages. Where once it referenced templates with the extension ".txt", now it references templates with the extension ".htm". And I found an additional, undocumented template that appears to determine the layout of many pages.

As a result, I was finally able to get my relatively simple site changes to percolate through all of my pages. With any luck, my cute new DHTML buttons will now show up for everyone using IE5+ or NN6+. (I already know that they break for Opera. Lots of things break for Opera. Unless you've got RAM issues, you should use Mozilla, instead.)

 |::|   8:30:10 AM 

Warning: Jesus Might Not Love YouThis morning's edition of "Today's Papers" and the rest of the news are full of the [latest] Microsoft settlement.

When Microsoft falters and fades back into the pack to become a merely mortal company (and it will), there will be literally generations of argument over the cause. Was it the Visible Hand of judicial and regulatory oversight? Was it greed and stobbornness? Or was it Open Source, and its spiritual essence, the implacable, irresistable, ineffible, sanctified Spirit of the Market? ("And lo, the Customer and Supplier did ride together upon the Cluetrain, and their passage was fueled by the Holy Spirit of Commerce, and it was as though the Market Itself reached down with an invisible hand and pushed them toward their Just Destiny. Amen.")

As always, and of course IMNSHO, no single cause will suffice to explain it. We humans will always seek such causes, though, if not in the markets, then in the skies or the waters or the engines of stars. That kind of seeking is a highly adaptive trait, after all...

 |::| Thursday, October 31, 2002

 |::The Dance Of The Fellow-Travellers  7:33:23 PM 
H.M. LUDENS: [cont'd] Ask yourself -- who do you want to be setting the cultural agenda for America in the 21st century? Hm? Rush Limbaugh? The "political correctness" mob? Some corporate-puppet "moderate" stealth-fascist like Bill Clinton? Hm? Or do you want the kids of America to be turning themselves into Nietzschean super-mutants? Hmmm? WHAT'S IT GONNA BE, BUDDY?
PETER: Shit... I don't know anything anymore.
[::] Patrick S. Farley, "The Guy I Almost Was" at E-Sheep

Let's see, what would I do if I wanted to engender in myself a highly exaggerated sense of the importance of some ideas I believed in very strongly? Why, I'd sequester myself with several of those ideas' other major advocates, and toss in some folks who are being paid to create the expectation of making a lot of money off of it.

There are lots of reasons to suppose that open-source software will be successful. But there are really no good reasons to suspect that the major corporations funding OS development have suddenly become so stupid that they'll pour money into something that they believe will invalidate their entire business model.

It's similarly naive to suppose that the decision-makers in those same corporations can't follow links and read opinion pieces by guys like Doc Searl and Eric Raymond that predict their demise (or at least their radical reformation). So I really think that Raymond, Searl, Kapor, and their Cluetrain compatriots should do some serious thinking about who is jerking who -- and who will have the legal, logistical, and fiscal muscle to take advantage of the host of economies that open-source models offer.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: There are no natural laws that protect us from domination by large-scale interests. Given competent leadership, large and powerful organizations will generally prevail over popular movements. Anyone who thinks otherwise isn't really looking very closely.

I know: If you don't work for a better world, you'll never get one, right? But we've been here before -- this kind of naivete gets people's lives twisted. But hey, life is pain -- so what if we cause a little more chaos? That's the way the world ends anyhow. As long as I cashed out my options early so I don't have to live in it...

 |::|   5:09:48 PM 

"There was a recession?"

 |::| Tuesday, October 29, 2002

 |::|   11:02:54 PM 

A friend: "I can't even watch a movie anymore. I find myself watching thinking about all the details about how this stuff is done, and I can't enjoy it. I just can't get that release that I used to."

 |::|   11:01:11 PM 

I missed seeing the second Tim Burton Batman movie in the theaters. (Actually, I've never seen any of them in a theater, but that's beside the point...) I ran into a friend, who admitted that he had seen it, sometime after the theatrical run had finished. I asked him how it was.

"It's not bad, for a bondage fetish movie," he replied. Which was true enough...

I just got done watching the season opener of Fox's 24. I hadn't watched any of the first season. I suppose I thought I didn't have anything much better to do, tonight. I found myself examining the mechanics of the production:

  • Tight shot framing on all person to person interactions -- but still: Women seen from a man's vantage always appear closer than men from a woman's vantage. Is it to appeal to the male libido and comfort the female fear of male violence? That would be very (read: "too") caluclating. I can only speak from a male perspective, and note that there was an undercurrent of eroticism in all the male-female interactions.
  • In the old family photo, Jack strokes his daughter's face -- not that of his late wife.
  • Disfunctional "stocking game" relationship between daughter and father, daughter and employer.

This show is really interesting. But I'm afraid it might be a bit too disturbing for regular viewing. What on earth are these people reaching for? And do they ever admit to themselves that they're doing it? Is it even remotely possible that they don't know? There hasn't been anything so blatantly BDSM on TV since Twin Peaks.

 |::| Friday, October 11, 2002

 |::I'm An Adult, Now. And I've Got The Certificate To Prove It.  11:20:08 AM 

There's something about the idea of planning an adventure that's always bothered me.

Down at the other end of the bar, a nattily-dressed young woman crowed about her good fortune: In three days, she'd landed a new job in NYC, found a nice apartment on Park, and found someone to assume her lease here. (Good for her.)

But then she went on. "You only live once," she said, "and I've got to get out of this town." But only for a while: "When I want to get married and have kids, then of course I'll want to move back to Rochester. I don't want to raise kids in Manhattan."

It's would be trite to remark that she'll get more than she bargained for, because I expect that most people don't. They run off to Manhattan or Los Angeles or San Francisco looking to have a (carefully controlled) life-adventure, and I think that most often they come out of it thinking they're Really Changed. But what's happened to them that wouldn't have happened in Rochester or Schenectady or Tulsa? Did they learn that [love/life/friendship/people] are somehow "different" in [Los Angeles/Boston/New York/Chicago/Philadelphia/Atlanta/Miami/Houston]? Would that really be learning much of anything?

Part of me says I'm being too hard, that I'm categorizing people when I shouldn't. But I've known so many people who struggled to make a life-changing event out of any tiny crisis.

It's great if someone wants to go to New York to change her life. It can be wonderful to throw yourself into an entirely new millieu, even on purpose, even by plan. But it strikes me as -- what, arrogant? presumptuous? naive? -- to do that with a clear plan for afterward. It's as though you're entering a carefully planned rite-of-passage where you know that When You Emerge, You Will Be A Grownup. When New York has taught her the lessons she plans to learn, she'll come back Home and Find Her Husband, and then bear and raise 2.5 children in [Irondquoit/Penfield/Pittsford/Webster] (because, of course, the schools are so much better there).

Is my quiet contempt for convention coming through a little too loud, today, perhaps?

 |::Certainty is Certain.  10:59:23 AM 

I sat down for a couple of beers last night. Three empty stools down sat a guy, talking loudly about something. Didn't seem to matter what, as long as everybody heard him and knew how sure he was of whatever he wanted to talk about.

I do know that he was very, very sure about noise. And about phone calls after 10pm. No one should ever play their stereo or make phone calls after 10pm. Period. Unless you're talking about a bar, of course. Then it's ok. [Adjusts his bill-cap and coiffs his premium pint.]

Conservative mooks are such a strange breed...

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