Bitties

2 Jul 2013 11:18 pm
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Just got back from MFPS-LICS-CSF saturday night. T'was the first LICS I've been to, and my first time in the deep south. I had fun overall. Definitely enjoyed the French Quarter with its narrower streets, delightful architecture, and other non-American features. And I ran into the Pride parade the day after arriving; I seem to have a knack for that ;) The humidity was killer though.

The slides from my NLCS talk are available here. I've been having some issues with my bibtex2html script, so they're not linked to on the publications page yet; but they will be once I get that issue fixed.

In less happy news, I got some bloodwork back today. Cholesterol is far far too high, and I'm getting into the pre-diabetic range for bloodsugar levels. So, I'm starting a major diet change in hopes of getting those under control. Apparently lack of protein is a big part of the problem (for me), which is ironic since most americans get far too much. Damn midwestern genes. Went grocery shopping today; it's profoundly difficult to get a 1::1 carbs-to-protein ratio as a vegetarian.

To Canada!

3 Jun 2011 08:04 am
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Hello all. This summer (that is, next week) I'm heading up to Canada to teach a DSL bootcamp at McMaster along with Edward Kmett, and staying afterwards for a couple months. Rather than dealing with the TSA's bullshit I've decided to take the train up, which is cheaper and only slightly slower once you account for all the nonsense. But, this means I'll be spending a good deal of time laying over in Chicago and Buffalo. I know a bunch of you have traveled around, and some of you may happen to be there when I am, so: anyone want to meet up while I'm there? or knows of some good places to eat and spend time when visiting?

I'll be in Chicago around 4pm–9:30pm on June 10, and 9:45am–3:20pm on July 29. And in Buffalo around 9am–3pm on June 11, and 1:30pm–midnight on July 28. So that's about five hours each stop, ten hours coming back through Buffalo. Amtrak being what it is, some of this time might get eaten up by poor track scheduling, but I figure I'll still have a good deal of time regardless.

Also, anyone have recommendations for places to eat in downtown Indianapolis? I have an hour to kill around noon when heading up.

Tori

28 Jan 2011 02:03 am
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It's funny how things can come back out at you after so long. I was just sitting there, wrapping things up to go play some games, when my randomizer throws over a decade away. Tori Amos, Indigo Girls, all these beautiful haunting women who filled those early years at college. The stupid years. Finally done with highschool, finally done with the drama (before realizing it isn't done with you), fleeing three thousand miles from an abusive family to find finally that life may be worth the living of it, and those three thousand miles sundering that first longest term relationship, the one when you somehow suddenly silently move from the weeks and months of teenage romance to years, but when years seem still unthinkable, before they've become the expected of adult romance.

"Gods, how did we survive being so young?" I want to ask, an incantation to break the spell, to separate again those memories from the living now and drive them back into "so long ago". I drown myself in reading up on Tori's latest work, a return to the personal, a return to the California of Little Earthquakes and to those two-decade old memories of earlier joys mixed with pains at CTY. As I listen to Plath, Tori intimates, insinuates, her recent moments of brushing up against that all-too-appropriate theme. And something about sitting at home now, alone but not lonely, comfortable against the winter's cold, reminds me of other dark moments, of christmas alone in a cheerful shared home. Our lives are bounded by the great movements, the segues from one phase of being into another, and that odd christmas happened to fall on just such a movement.

Right now, even as these old thoughts come back to me across the years, I am not at all depressed. Usually these scenes only return to me when that whirling deepness settles in again. We spend so much time trying to forget the bad parts of living, it's hard to express exactly what that feeling is when you can look on them clearly and yet not have them drag you down. It's been far less than that decade since I've been gripped in depression, but I do think that was the last time suicide crossed my path. It seems so strange, from here, from now, to think of all that's happened since then. As I get older I keep fearing that the time will slip away, that I'll wake up one day and wonder where it all went. And yet, when I break free from the illusion of the present, this last decade held so much more than the decade that came before. But I also know it's funny the way things can come back out at you after so long. When the boogey man comes he doesn't care about all the things you've learned, all the secrets of the universe unlocked, the identity unearthed from the ashes of childhood, the sexuality wrested from bigotry and hatred, the degrees earned or papers published, the friendships known, the people helped, or the stable happy home with that goddess who makes you smile every day.

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1. The illnesses I live with are:
Chronic major depression
Migraines
OCD
PTSD, Dissociative-NOS ("recovered")

2. I was diagnosed with it in the year:
According to my records, 1998 for the mental stuff. Not sure about the migraines.

3. But I had symptoms since:
Before 1994, which is when my coherent memories begin. Most probably before 1991 when things get really hazy.

There's some 27-odd other questions on the version from [livejournal.com profile] cheshire_bitten, but I can't really get myself to bother answering them. Most of them target people who've acquired disabilities late in life, late enough to remember the "good old days". My father can tell you when he got diabetes, the pictures can show how his diet changed, his children can tell how his temper waned. My mother could tell you when she was diagnosed with bipolar, but she wouldn't because secrets stay in the family. My girlfriend will tell you when she acquired her wrist problems, how that changed the way she lives her life, how she gets around it at work. But when it comes to her anxiety issues or to my depression, what is there to say?

The most invisible of invisible disabilities are the ones we're born with. Because these are the ones we don't know how to live without. I can tell you how I live my life differently than how you live yours. And you may ask whether that's because of who I am or because of the depression, but that question is without meaning. Who I am is someone who lives with depression. To try to separate it out is like trying to separate out that I'm intelligent or that I was born in the States. The person without those traits would be so different that I cannot fathom where my life would take them.

The disabilities we're born with are the most invisible because all too often they are invisible to ourselves. Countless people cope with issues like depression and anxiety for years before realizing that perhaps it's different for other people. Even those who know it must be different often can't imagine what different would feel like. When I started on anti-depressants a whole new world opened up before me, a startling realization that happiness can be a way of life rather than a rare brief moment. When my girlfriend started on anti-anxiety meds she was dumbstruck to find the metaphorical pain of a panic attack was real physiological pain, and that suddenly a wrong turn or change in plans no longer evoked it despite the instinct to brace for the blow. She'd been telling people the pain was real for years, and yet on some level even she didn't believe it.

Too many of us are quiet, not because society frowns on admitting illness, but simply because in our suffering we do not know that it can be any other way. It is important to gain recognition from our peers that, yes, life is in fact harder for us. But for me, the bigger issue is to help our peers recognize that, yes, what they feel is real and they are not alone in what they know not how to name.

Update (Sunday, 21 September 2009): I think I'll tackle this one though,

17. The commercials about my illness
The iconic silhouette of a marine with the inscription "it takes a warrior to ask for help". ... Chesh's bobblely headed blonde twentysomething running through untrammeled plains in a floral sundress. ... An asian woman declaring "I'm glad I failed (to kill myself)". ... A teenage girl in a darkened room staring out a rain-soaked window. ...

Now, I know people who fit these descriptions and have the associated illness (except the blonde), but I know also a lot of people with the illnesses who don't match these images. Yes, soldiers are one of the main demographics for PTSD (aka "shell shock", aka "battle fatigue") but do you know who the other main demographic is? Rape victims and children who've grown up in sexually abusive households. Yes, teenage women are one of the main demographics for depression, but men with depression are more likely to commit suicide.

These commercials are a disservice in many ways. By presenting the soldier and teenage girl they only reaffirm these stereotypes, continuing to marginalize and deny the experiences of victims of sexual assault/abuse and depressed men. And woah, talk about mixed messages! "Not only can't you deal with the stress, but you're a failure as a soldier 'cuz you can't even ask for help." "Yeah, look at you: the failure. You can't even off yourself properly." While I understand the marketing engine behind these punchy lines, for all that they grab the attention they undermine the message they're trying to send. Patronizing, mocking, and teasing are not ways to earn the trust of someone who is suffering. These slogans only serve to reenforce the silence and isolation of those they're trying to reach.

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I'm sitting here, the last night before, and cooking dinner. It's funny how the before always comes a few days ahead of the end itself. Tonight is Lici's last night of work. It's about a week until the drive to Indiana.

I had some music on as I was finishing up some prepacking —books and such— and unintentionally, unexpectedly, came some songs with old memories. Old memories from other befores: CTY and Reed and the Plumtree. Isn't it strange how the memory of old nostalgia can lend a spirit of nostalgia to the present? It's no secret that I was never a fan of Bal'mer, but I did do a lot of growing here. Maybe I won't miss the place, but I will miss some of the folks and the simplicity of being tied to neither past nor future.

The last couple weeks have been nice. In addition to the Buffy/Angel, B5, and PS2 overload, [livejournal.com profile] misshepeshu and [livejournal.com profile] leensterama came out to visit so I took a couple trips to DC. I was reminded how not all the East Coast is like Baltimore, but I was also reminded how long it's been since I've lived in the District. DC was never really quite a home, but it was my escape-home for years before it grew into a home-in-transition for the couple years before moving to p-town and the Plumtree. It's not that things have changed so much as the friends I had then moved on to other cities and other lives. But Baltimore never was even a home-in-transition, it was only an in-transition. I came for a year, stayed for two, but never could settle into the rhythms and flows of the place.

I think "home" is never so much a place as it is a time, a moment, a feeling. We belie this with aphorisms on our inability to return there. We try to make the home into a place, but we can never return in time and so returning to the place once left can bring only sorrow. So too can we not hold time still, whence the solastalgia of remaining too long after the party has gone. We have words like mamihlapinatapai for the yearning and never taking, but what words are there for the never having and finally letting go?

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Here's a quick update on my life as it stands. I seem to be building up a directory of abortive notes like this, so I'm typing this one in directly in hopes of actually posting it. Apologies for the lack of editing or, y'know, cohesion.

For those I haven't told yet, I got accepted to Indiana for a PhD in cognitive science (to be amended into a dual PhD in cogsci and computational linguistics), working with Mike Gasser and Sandra Kübler (along with Matthias Scheutz, most likely). The current plan is to move to Bloomington circa July 1st, with a previsit around June 17th to finalize leases and the like. That way I have some time to get settled and take a break before classes start. Now I need to find a place...

Employment-wise, the week before the previsit is the NIST eval for MT09. Which will be the last huzzah before signing off on my Joshua and GALE Rosetta work. Which means I have about a month to finish that, in tandem with the house hunting. One of the deliverables should be pretty easy to finish off, though it remains to explain to everyone how it works (yay monads!). Another I've done some mindcoding on, but don't have any actual code to show for; I have the unsettling prediction that Java isn't going to let me do things in as clean of a way as I'd like.

Research-wise, I've finished off my post-graduation Dyna involvement to buy time for other things. Jason still wants a meeting to discuss my involvement in the future, which is sensible. The research topics are interesting and'll probably influence my PL research for the next while, though I don't know how much of that will carry over to Dyna in the end. (And there's non-PL research I should be devoting more time to, methinks.) I'll miss working with [livejournal.com profile] qedragon, though we're planning to keep in touch.

Otherwise-wise, things are going a bit better now than they were. Tis still hard getting motivated, but the early summer days and the slow unwinding of obligations are doing some good. Lici says I tap the energy of my surroundings and that that's why I was in such higher spirits after my last visit to Bloomington. Considering how I go on about the dying of Baltimore et al, I can't help but think she's right. To that end, I've only a couple busy months left before I can bask in that relaxation once more.

Enough for now, work beckons once more. (And many thanks to [livejournal.com profile] altrus for Schinji Mix 2008.)

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What ever happened to happiness, unblemished, unqualified? When did skepticism become the norm? Or is age the fading of our old questions, the forgetting of old uncertainties, and mitigation of our concerns. Has it always been this way, or is it our stories to ourselves which become faerie tales as we grow apart from them? Or is it merely once more the chill portent of that childhood legacy. Everyone says the wings are black, but they never remember how fuzzy the feathers, how cruelty can be soft. Cool means refreshing, and yet cold is just another word for numb.

The worst part of chronic depression is how it's always changing. If it were a static thing we could grow accustomed to it; acclimation is the natural course of the body and the mind. We heal what we can, and null the rest hoping that distance and decay will cure what fever and fortitude cannot. For a splinter, a severed limb, a love lost, this works as well as anything. But scorched earth tactics cannot defeat a parasite. Like any virus it evolves to survive.

Our bodies autonomically quarantine the infected loci, a basal response beneath conscious appreciation. In the early development of the disease, it eventually bursts through these walls in crippling waves. But such catastrophes can be damaging to the host, and in time it learns subtler methods of control. Even in its maturer forms, symptomatic threads are eventually uncovered by the mind's eye. Once higher consciousness notices, however, it soon finds that the majority of its support has been damaged or sacrificed to the cause. The synthetic forms of thought are the most wrecked, for they are the most powerful adversary to depression, and also the most alike with the disease and so its best fuel. What remains is but an analytic shell, powerful struts to keep higher consciousness suspended above the battlefield, but the weakest weapon to turn against the now rampant foe.

Long-time veteran of these wars it's hard to remain objective. Each time we hope, naïvely —knowingly naïvely—, that this time will be the last. Or that the next time we'll get to wage our skill against new recruits, inexperienced youths, on the other side. We pray to only have to kill children, but we inevitably murder men. And the next time is more of the same: always different, always subtler. Against such an opponent the only alternative to naïveté is paranoia. But what they don't tell in the textbooks and health classes is that these two are of the same coin, two names for the same denial, the same inability to let go of the fingers at your throat.

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At our weekendly breakfast outing I was telling Lici how I'm not so fond of christmas music, or at least not anything written in the last century. Too many of the tunes and carols are tastelessly saccharine. (Abney Park's Dark Christmas album is more to my tastes: Carol of the Bells, etc. (Yes yes, the carol is just under a century old. Thbbt.))

The Wild Colonials have a song which does hold a special place in my heart though. This time of year many folks go about their capitalist extravaganza and familial gatherings with great enthusiasm, but there are many people for whom it is a trying season. Contrary to popular belief suicide is not much more common than at other times of the year. But suicide is not the only metric of well-being. Many people do not have the finances to support Giftmas, especially with the economy as it is. Many cannot afford heat for their homes. Many suffer from seasonal affective disorder. Many do not have families to turn to because they were kicked out for being queer. Many people have lost loved ones and will find empty chairs at their tables this year. Too often the season of charity is victim to the most mindless acts of brutality.

Yesterday I learned that my grandmother had passed away sunday evening. She was 73. At the end of June my younger-elder sister died at 30 years, leaving my 8 year old niece. Last August my cousin died just as young. His fiancee, a nurse, was with him. All of them sudden, all of them unexpected. In a year and a half I've earned the right to say that I have a strong family history of heart attacks.

Try to remember that the season is not about gifts. And it's not about religion either. Things and obligations only feed the void within. The season is about people, about humanity and empathy. It is a reminder to live mindfully, to cherish, to forgive, to remember.

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Last night I went to a farewell dinner for Micha, who is heading back to Germany after a couple months at CLSP. About a dozen of us had delicious Ethiopian, and half hung around for drinks afterwards. Both establishments were quite nice, reminding me I should hang out in Mt Vernon more often. Micha's specialty is in "Deep MT", a variety of machine translation which makes use of linguistic factors rather than being purely statistical. Or to wit: MT done right. So there was some self-selection involved but the company was, as always, what made the night.

Three of the folks who stuck around for drinks were the first years at CLSP: two from CS who share my MT seminar, and one from ECE who seemed more grounded than most ;) Add to that Micha, myself, and one of the old-timers. It's amazing what people'll say once you get them off campus, or once you get a few drinks in 'em. On campus it's all business all the time. Which is fitting, it's a job afterall; but it does leave things rather dreary. And somehow it seems to lead to never really knowing what other folks are working on, or what they're interested in. It's nice to see the human side of people. It's also nice to see the business side of the business. But no, I need more humans in my life.

At Brewers Art I spent most of my time talking with A. She was sitting next to me and I could hear her, two excellent points in her favor. At some point we got onto that topic: what we're really interested in. I said I just finished my degree and was sticking around for a year working on GALE, "so that's why you're always so together at MT seminar," and I'm working on PhD apps for next year. The follow on question: the wheres and whys. I began to give the other face of my last rant, a presentation I've been polishing for those selfsame apps. I'm interested in morphology and its interfaces with syntax, semantics, and phonology; and I think we need to be working on linguistically-aware tools, since SMT's ignorance of morphosyntax is one of its principal failures (a point Micha demonstrated fabulously in his seminar last friday); and I think we need to be working on languages with few resources, for political reasons and also because tying ourselves to megacorpora means we will never break away from the need to invest millions to get enough training data to simulate knowledge, badly.

Shortly into my rant she said, "that's my soapbox!" For her undergrad thesis she worked on computational typology: measuring the distances between languages in typological space. The sort of work that would be essential for L3 to use a known system for translating between two languages to bootstrap translations between similar languages. When I told her the places I was thinking of heading she was surprised there were people working on our domain; she'd spent so long justifying this empirical-yet-linguistic approach, and I too know how hard it can be to convince the devout statisticians or the non-computationalists. Typology, more even than morphology, is a domain that gets a passing mention in undergrad years and yet never sees the light of day in modern research.

For her part she tried convincing me I should stick around CLSP, to join her in the battle. A tempting thought, though I worry it may be more uphill a battle than at the schools I've been thinking of. Though maybe it's worth another thought. All in all great food, great beer, great discussions, and intellectual vindication. What more could you ask for in a night?

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It would seem over the last year or two my blog has lapsed from obscurity into death. Not being one to let things rest, I figure this horse still has some beating left in it. About, what, a month ago I handed in the final project for my MSE and so I am now a masterful computer scientist. This means, in short, that I now know enough to bore even other computer scientists on at least one topic.

The funny thing is that both topics of my project —category theory and unification— are topics I knew essentially nothing about when I transfered to JHU from PSU a year ago. Of course now, I know enough to consider myself a researcher in both fields, and hence know more than all but my peers within the field. I know enough to feel I know so little only because I have a stack of theses on my desk that I haven't finished reading yet. I'm thinking I should finish reading those before recasting my project into a submission to a conference/journal. Since the project is more in the vein of figuring out how a specific language should work, rather than general theoretical work, I'm not sure exactly how that casting into publishable form should go; it seems too... particular to be worth publishing. But then maybe I'm just succumbing to the academic demon that tells me my work is obvious to everyone since it is to me.

One thing that still disappoints me is that, much as I do indeed love programming languages and type theory, when I transfered here my goal was to move from programming languages and more towards computational linguistics. (If I were to stick with PL, I could have been working with the eminent Mark Jones or Tim Sheard back at PSU.) To be fair, I've also learned an enormous amount about computational linguistics, but I worry that my final project does not belie that learning to the admission committees for the PhD programs I'll be applying to over the next few months. Another problem that has me worried about those applications is, once again, in the demesne of internecine politics. For those who aren't aware, years ago a line was drawn in the dirt between computationally-oriented linguists and linguistically-oriented computer scientists, and over the years that line has evolved into trenches and concertina wire. To be fair, the concertina seems to have been taken down over the last decade, though there are still bundles of it laying around for the unwary (such as myself) to stumble into. There are individuals on both sides who are willing to reach across the divide, but from what I've seen the division is still ingrained for the majority of both camps.

My ultimate interests lie precisely along that division, but given the choice between the two I'd rather be thrown in with the linguists. On the CS side of things, what interests me most has always been the math: type theory, automata theory, etc. These are foundational to all of CS and so everyone at least dabbles, but the NLP and MT folks (in the States, less so in Europe) seem to focus instead on probabilistic models for natural language. I don't like statistics. I can do them, but I'm not fond of them. Back in my undergraduate days this is part of why I loved anthropology but couldn't stand sociology (again, barring the exceptional individual who crosses state lines). While in some sense stats are math too, they're an entirely different kind of math than the discrete and algebraic structures that entertain me. I can talk categories and grammars and algebra and models and logic, but the terminology and symbology of stats are greek to me. Tied in somehow with the probabilistic models is a general tendency towards topics like data mining, information extraction, and text classification. And while I enjoy machine learning, once again, I prefer artificial intelligence. And to me, none of these tendencies strike me as meaningfully linguistic.

More than the baroque obfuscatory traditions of their terminology, my distaste for statistics is more a symptom than a cause. A unifying theme among all these different axes —computational linguistics vs NLP, anthropology vs sociology, mathematics vs statistics, AI vs machine learning — is that I prefer deep theoretical explanations of the universe over attempts to model observations about the universe. Sociology can tell you that some trend exists in a population, but it can make no predictions about an individual's behavior. Machine learning can generate correct classifications, but it rarely explains anything about category boundaries or human learning. An n-gram language model for machine translation can generate output that looks at least passingly like the language, but it can't generalize to new lexemes or to complex dependencies.

My latest pleasure reading is Karen Armstrong's The Battle for God: A history of fundamentalism. In the first few chapters Armstrong presents a religious lens on the history of the late-fifteenth through nineteenth centuries. Towards the beginning of this history the concepts of mythos and logos are considered complementary forces each with separate spheres of prevalence. However, as Western culture is constructed over these centuries, logos becomes ascendant and mythos is cast aside and denigrated as falsity and nonsense. Her thesis is that this division is the origin of fundamentalist movements in the three branches of the Abrahamic tradition. It's an excellent book and you should read it, but I mention it more because it seems to me that my academic interests have a similar formulation.

One of the reasons I've been recalcitrant about joining the ranks of computer scientists is that, while I love the domain, I've always been skeptical of the people. When you take a group of students from the humanities they're often vibrant and interesting; multifaceted, whether you like them or not. But when you take a group of students from engineering and mathematical sciences, there tends to be a certain... soullessness that's common there. Some of this can be attributed to purely financial concerns: students go into engineering to make money, not because they love it; students go into humanities to do something interesting before becoming a bartender. When pitting workplace drudgery against passionate curiosity, it's no wonder the personalities are different. But I think there's a deeper difference. The mathematical sciences place a very high premium on logos and have little if any room for mythos, whereas the humanities place great importance on mythos (yet they still rely on logos as a complimentary force). In the open source movement, the jargon file, and other esoterica we can see that geeks have undeniably constructed countless mythoi. And yet the average computer geek is an entirely different beast than the average computer scientist or electrical engineer. I love computer geeks like I love humanists and humanitarians, so they're not the ones I'm skeptical of, though they seem to be sparse in academia.

I've always felt that it is important to have Renaissance men and women, and that modern science's focus on hyperspecialization is an impediment to the advancement of knowledge. This is one of the reasons I love systems theory (at least as Martin Zwick teaches it). While I think it's an orthogonal consideration, this breadth seems to be somewhat at odds with logocentric (pure) computer science. The disciplines that welcome diversity —artificial intelligence/life, cognitive science, systems theory, computational linguistics— seem to constantly become marginalized, even within the multidisciplinary spectrum of linguistics, computer science, et al. Non-coincidentally these are the same disciplines I'm most attracted to. It seems to me that the Renaissance spirit requires the complementary fusion of mythos and logos, which is why it's so rare in logocentric Western society.

Moving!

17 Aug 2008 03:20 am
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So it's official now, I shall be moving in a couple-few weeks. Out of suburbia and into the dangerous city. We managed to find a nice little pocket that looks clean and safe enough. Just off the lightrail and only three miles by bike from campus. Also near a little neighborhood that reminds me of Alberta.

That school thing seems to be coming along. This week my advisor and I'll be discussing where to place the final nails in the coffin. My post-graduation work is starting to get underway as well. And I've started releasing various bits of my Haskell code into the wild. Eventually I'll get around to updating my main homepage again to include all that.

Speaking of which, my posts have been rather programming-centric of late. I know many of y'all are into that sort of thing, but I don't want to scare the rest off. I've been thinking about joining Planet Haskell, though I'm wondering if I should spawn off another blog more focused for that (or, y'know, get the RSS feeds from my main site working again; though that doesn't allow for comments). Thoughts?

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I'm a big fan of bodymod. Perhaps the piercings give that away. But there's more to it than the piercings themselves (delightful as they are). Beyond the metal, beyond the ink, there's a culture of unlike minds who use tools like these to say things we know not what and know all too well. Behind every sleeve and ring there's a story, however exotic, however banal; stories of the act and the decision leading up to it, stories of the healing process, stories of people's reactions, interactions, stories about society and reclaiming humanity, stories about a life lived, about a body lived in, about stories about stories about the world in which we abide, eat, breath, love, and die.

nape piercing

About a year ago I got a double nape piercing much like this one. To anticipate the question, no it didn't hurt at all. Getting pierced typically feels like the pinch from a needle (er, duh) followed by warm flushing like from shock or getting slapped. Depending on the location and the person, sometimes it'll hurt more than that (my earlobes hurt far worse than the cartilage piercings, contrary to most people's experiences). But for the nape, nothing. There was some weird friction while inserting the bar, but not even the flushing sensation, let alone pain. Your neck feels a little stiff afterwards, but that goes away after a few hours.

I had been meaning to post pictures, though I wanted to wait for it to heal entirely first. It healed, which isn't a given for napes, but it's always been a bit finicky. This last year's been filled with too much stress, too much coffee, not enough sleep, not enough rest. I wore a suit to my sister's funeral a few weeks back and they started acting up again. This morning I woke up and one of the beads had come loose in the night. I found it later, but before that I had a long think. It wasn't rejecting, just to be clear, and it didn't hurt or anything, though it was starting to boil and look bad even though it felt fine.

And so I've decided it's prolly best to let them go before the damage is permanent. Deciding whether to let a piercing go vs trying to recover it is as hard as the decision whether to get them in the first place. But like that decision, once you've chosen, you can tell when it's the right thing (before it's too late, even). Perhaps I'll get them redone some day, or perhaps another story will come along before then. It's a wide wide world, with the wind at my back, in which to eat, breath, love, and abide.

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Yesterday I had a spare moment and so I got caught up on XKCD and the other webcomics I follow. Not following tv, radio, or any other news, I've only just learned about Gary Gygax. I'm not sure why it's touched me so, to me Gary's just always been a name in the field. I was never enthralled by his work, I joined the game too old, after other names were bigger.

The idea of the reaper being held up for days, noone dying because of a game, deeply fills our wishes that somehow, somewhere, there is the hope of escape. The idea of death as bungling and incompetent, as bound by rule and tradition, is deeply amusing in the "ha ha only serious" manner usually reserved for geeks. Dark humor is a rare breed. It touches on the things we fear most, but people these days don't use humor as release, as self mockery, most use it only for denial.

Death, is everywhere, is in every thing. I've had more brushes with it than I care to talk about, more brushes than I often think about. I still hold out hope that transhumanism will arrive before I'm gone, but as I grow older I grow more accepting that death too will one day come for me. I do not fear death, it is missing the rest of the great story that I lament, not seeing the next plot twist, not seeing how it ends, how all the loose threads get tied up.

I sorely miss Portland, the city, the people there, the zeitgeist. Though I'd flirted with it before then, Reed was when I first got into roleplaying. After so many years away from CTY, Reed felt at long last like coming home. The year I took off from Reed most of my friends and gaming circle graduated and flung themselves to the ends of the world. Junior and senior years and the time since then I made new friends, found new gamers, but there was never that critical mass anymore and people seemed to leave Portland and leave my life as quickly as they entered it.

I worked at Reed for a year after graduating, and in that time I broke my ties to all the beauty and wonder of college. By the time I quit working at Reed I was completely disillusioned. Years afterwards I went back to the campus for some transcripts and I could feel the glimmerings of magic beginning to return to the place. Not my magic anymore, but a nostalgic magic, the magic you can see for other people and their first discoveries of life outside of their parent's houses. Though Reed was the greatest place for me at the time, I've outgrown that home just as by the time I left CTY I had outgrown that home. I still miss the magic of those years, but that's not the magic I need now.

In my time since Reed I would get fluctuations of friends and happiness. The Plum Tree was a fabulous home and I miss Karen (and Jasmine, Ryan, Lonnie...). Free Geek was a fabulous home and I miss all the spin-off groups of friends with their isolated interconnected dramas. The CAT was also a home to me, though it was always more distant, more professional, than I think of home being. And then there were the unnamed groups —with Eric, Amos, Antonia, Arlo, Serenity, Zeo, Candy, Schwern— the ones often more personal than the others. Portland's a small town, and yet, somehow I couldn't help but feeling lonely.

And now, this last year, I too have left Portland. Not having a car and being too overwhelmed by school I've not had any real chances to get out and explore Baltimore. Even still I've already noticed that Baltimore is a city of death. Baltimore used to be a big port city, but unlike Portland it's never figured out what to do now that shipping has changed. Baltimore's been in a state of decline for decades, the streets are riddled with potholes, the urban schools are destitute, the racism between the large poor class of blacks and the pockets of middle-class whites is overt. The liveliness I've found is like the liveliness of a town once the battlefield lines have moved one town back.

After a year here I've started forming new friendships, but like the CAT they're not the emotional friendships I miss. I'm still on mailing lists for Free Geek and the PIG list, every now and then I log into the CAT's irc. Somewhere I still hold hope of one day moving back to Portland, of finding all my friends again but somehow without the loneliness that always seemed to grow into longer and longer stretches. I'm an alien in a philosophical wasteland. Free/open-source software, ecological sustainability, social engineering, technological enlightenment, goth/punk social commentary, political activism, polyamory, childfree, gender/sexual deviance, —in short being revolutionary— all of these are foreign concepts treated at best with cautious skepticism here. Gary's death is in some way a death of gaming, and for me gaming has always been tied up with my deepest friendships and all those ideologies, has been tied up with the spirit of Portland itself. His death reminds me that I can never go home,

but I haven't found a new one yet.

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I've said it before. I am not ashamed to say it. But noone understands it. I think there is a lot of wisdom in feminism. I do not generally disagree with feminism when practiced. But I am not a feminist. Some readers might think that this has something to do with the false notion that men can't be feminists. It does not. Some readers more familiar with my multifarious interest in gender and sexuality may think perhaps that is why I am drawn to queer theory and its ilk rather than to feminism. It is not.

Many friends of mine, however, both here on the internet and in my daily life, are themselves feminists. And I do have, as I mentioned, quite an interest in gender and sexuality and the ways in which they interact with the social, political, economic, cultural, linguistic, and psychological spheres of the world, as well as how we can go about disentangling this menagerie of thousand-dollar words in order to say something meaningful about what is a central facet of most people's lives and how we can use that knowledge to strive for greater equality. So some have found it curious that I eschew the title.

for reasons why, and history personal )
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So it's been a while since I've writ, even yet again. I seem to have fallen into my videogames once more and find it hard to convince myself to get online regularly. That will all change in a couple weeks when school starts up, though I'm afeared it won't affect my posting regularity. I have been keeping (relatively) up to date reading others' journals, though.

Xenobia was returned to me shortly after my last post. It was just the battery that was shot from the looks of it. The new one works just fine. It's so nice to have hours of unplugged life once more, instead of less than half a dozen minutes.

One of my cousins passed away shortly thereafter. It was unexpected all around. His fiancee, a nurse, found him but he never regained consciousness. I never knew he was engaged. He, his brother, and his sister were the only extended relatives of around my age and so it was nice to see them when we did. But I never did get to know them too well. The Gilchrists were always a large enough family that we had to go to them for the big holiday celebrations, but we rarely saw them outside of those large parties. His mother, my aunt, is the one who maintains the family cookbook, a rare family tradition I value though for so long I was too young to appreciate it.

I have many half-written posts, too many: book reviews and rants on feminism and other things. So I will leave this here, that it might escape from my over-analytic clutches before it remains forever unfinished.

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So xenobia's been having issues with her power system for a while now. After the extreme busyness of the end of the school year, followed by moving, followed by getting settled in and caught up on everything, I finally have time to send her in to get fixed. And so, it may be a while before I can get back online. Take care all.

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So I've been gone a very long time once again. It's seeming become a habit more than exception. But for now, this note from across the sea of three thousand miles of corn and desolate housewives.

So I finally got my stuff tuesday, quite a bit late, but all arrived intact. I got to unpacking the bulk of it yester morning, which was nice. Nice to have those helpful trinkets to hand, instead of constantly thinking "I have just the thing for this... in a truck floating over the arkansiatic". The kitchen'll need rearranging now, but I have all my cooking gear and spices!

So the morning was good, productive, got up early. And then, just after a nice lunch (an experimental stirfry of fivespice and turmeric) I checked my email and read an offensive comment by someone I thought a friend. Now, most y'all know me, know my mild temperament rarely angers. And barring one day when [livejournal.com profile] anonamyst saw me come home, I don't think any of you have ever seen me furious. I don't get furious. Outraged sure, upset now and again, angered on special occasion. But then, I don't generally have people insulting my life experiences, life choices. Even the conservative who would dismiss them ununderstanding doesn't do this, or if they gab behind my back they certainly have the decency not to say it to my face.

Shortly after, in the midst of writing the first version of this post fueled by that fury, my dearest came home. And like a balm to calm the nerves and soothe the burn, doing nothing she melted it away. There's a voice in the back of my head wonders whether I should beware that skill of hers. But deep down, I think everyone wants to be charmed. The eyes of a serpent, the smile of a saint, everyone wants to fall in, to see if the dream is as sweet as the promise.

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I am not at Renn Fayre. To be honest I had not truly intended to go, but some part of me did want to, did consider, for the first time in the last couple-few years. The thing that prolly did me in was the ticket price (alas poor student!) though my back getting all messed up this week didn't help for having the schoolwork out of the way either. And since I'll be moving out to Baltimore this summer, this is the last year I could go for some while. More's the pity: this year a number of old friends came in for the weekend.

Livingroom table, covered with papers and oddments. Dinner, a simple dish of spicy tofu and baby bok choy. On the side, Dos Equis. On the mind, time. Passing, withering, wasting, empty. In the background, Type O Negative, Bad Religion, This Mortal Coil, Social Distortion. Songs grown old with playing, flat and infirm now, not strengthened by the fermentation. I've a'once too much music to listen to and not enough that's new, different, emotional. There's something in the water, or something in the age. The affliction's been going round like influenza for a year amongst the élite of all my friends.

Years ago I took steps to remove myself from the public stream of media. And for the longest time this was a good thing. Friends partook oft enough to know enough of what goes on in the world abroad, filtered of the nuisance and propaganda of the presentation. But as time's worn on those friends have flown 'way, worn thin. These days there seems to be more of a disconnect, like I'm being left behind by the world, rather than having time to enjoy it untethered by frivolities.

The problem with age is that the older you get noone tells you to go out and play. Trapped in the workaday world, every moment is a moment you could be doing more work. Trapped in the studyaday world, every moment is a moment you could be doing more research. Scheduled downtime, for movies, or shows, for gaming, for walking, slips away. Entertainment is scheduled in the cracks, reading on the bus, blogging before work, a moment's respite in a restaurant, but without a time out of time they are but passing distractions in the big rush, to make it big, to make a difference, to get known, to get ahead, to get dead.

Growing up we saw in our parents the dismal life we could never understand. No friends, no fun, no lives, no sleep —or perhaps sleep for once, that blissful narcotic, the waters of Lethe to wash away the worries of today, tomorrow, forever, waters rushing calmly over slumbering heads. And through our rush to grow up, to be free of the shackles of youth, we rush headlong until we wake one day and wonder where it all went so wrong.

Yet in our introspection we have our answers. In our friendships we have our drugs. And in our memories we have, of our demons, also Annwn. And Time too, the Great Destroyer, is the antidote to the suffering it brings. We have only to adjust, to relearn, to forget. And to never stop searching.

winterkoninkje: shadowcrane (clean) (Default)

I finally had a few spare moments to clean up my computer a bit. It's been a couple years since I've really had the time to do a complete reorg. I've needed this for a while. I didn't finish the reorg, just cleaned up some of the cruftier corners, but still it's nice. I noticed long ago that the organization of my computer has a direct link to how organized my life feels, and hence my happiness. As far as OCD goes, it's a simple enough burden and frees me from worrying about so many other things. Unfortunately, the main impetus behind the organizing is so I can get a nice clean fresh backup. My battery's been going on the fritz and I blame the manufacturer. Might be some other power issues too. In any case, xenobia's still under warrantee, but in the event I need to use those backups, I'd rather have them be nice and pretty.

Taxes are done. Note to self: never be self-employed. Or a farmer.

I'll be attending Johns Hopkins in the fall. I've talked myself out of that pesky CS PhD again, which makes things easier. I'll have to check to see if I can apply my excess CS credits to the cog.sci PhD if I end up going for that over linguistics (which depends mainly on the school I go to, e.g. at JHU cog.sci subsumes linguistics).

Still no word from Seoul.

Classes are good this term. Much nicer than last, even if one does have a fucktonne of work. Note to self: if you've never needed programs to randomly partition and shuffle files before, you've obviously never created training sets for machine learning.

It's time to try to break the coffeeine addiction again. Boozeohol might be the key.

The light of my life is getting depressed again. I feel bad because I don't know what to do about it, how to help. Being all too familiar with depression, I know what doesn't work, but that doesn't help to know what does and the only things I know require being in person. It doesn't help that I've been stumbling up and down over my own for the last year or so from the look of my posts. Back in days of yore, she was the one who helped me through so much but whenever she needed help she would run away and hide. But how can you help someone who doesn't want it, how can you take away the barbs and scars of history, of others' failings, or a world cruel and harsh and unforgiving?

Now, back into the fold. I'll try to send a missive next we meet civilization.

winterkoninkje: shadowcrane (clean) (Default)

This term has been quite hectic for me, though to be fair it is surely my own fault. But for now at least I have a brief respite. I finished my term paper for software engineering last night and think I did a decent job of it. Once the suitable grading period has passed, I will post it and join in a long tradition of online articles analyzing hacker culture.

I've still the project paper for artificial intelligence, but that shouldn't be too difficult. Twenty pages, but with a partner and we gave the presentation today. There's plenty of room for tweaking the project and running more trial simulations, but we have enough for the paper I think. And I still have finals, though I'm not too concerned about them; I've some back reading I need to do before taking them, but the concepts of the classes are simple. My contract job, though still ongoing, has passed the initial development stage and passed into the long slow calm of maintenance.

Though of course there is still much to do. I've given the day job and Free Geek less attention than I ought and so I must catch up on them. I've been concerned about Free Geek in particular. There was a break in recently which you may have already heard about. The press coverage has been good from that, a silver lining though still a heavy blow. But I've also been concerned about growing distant from that community. It's been a long while since I've made time to just hang out around there and take pulse of the place, and I worry about loosing touch with the daily happenings at the Geek, as well as the degree to which I am contributing to the well-being of the organization. While I doubt I'm doing any harm, I'm uncertain about whether another might do a better job than I.

I must also look to the future. It's time already to start looking into doctoral programs and to make more solid plans for where I will pursue my degree and with whom. I should probably take the GRE again, though I did well enough the first time. I need to hurry up in looking for other masters' programs too. I've grown weary of PSU. A while back I realized that even if I do get my degree from there, it won't offer me what I need from a CS masters. Without published research in computational linguistics or supplementary studies in sociolinguistic change, a CS degree is a tangent besmirching my dedication to linguistics.

I've begun thinking about Eng again, working out some of the details. One of the basic design considerations looks like it may be more technically challenging than I originally hoped, namely the notion of having no primitive types built into the language itself. The difficulty comes in from how primitive types are defined (in assembly naturally, but there are countless varieties of assembly) and how those definitions could be used by the compiler in an optimal manner. Perhaps the most challenging thing to design is how to deal with translations from literal values into the binary representation which the primitive type uses, i.e. what internal representations the compiler uses.

And then there's romance. Ah, sweet sweet romance. We've been spending much time chatting this term, and over thanksgiving she came out to visit. Hands down the best thanksgiving I've ever had. Hands down the best five days I've had in quite a long time. Though it's strange for her to cross over into my life out here, I could not have wished for a better set of memories. If I can drag her out here again before I leave this town there's still so much I'd like to show her. But deep down, it doesn't matter where I take her, for she is what makes the evening; delicious food and pretty sights are but a pale stage to highlight her wonder. And as she said, it doesn't matter where I move to, I shall always find those intimate authentic holes in the wall. It's what I do.

Still not sure where-all things will go or how to resolve those few thousand miles. I'm sure if nothing else that changing schools will throw all that into a tizzy anyway. But for once I'm not too worried. Time will explain it all. He is a talker, and needs no questioning before he speaks.

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