Less than a fortnight past one of my academic heroes passed on. Language Log has a good summary of the highlights of his life and some touching stories of bygone eras. I haven't a lot to add to Dan Everett's treatment, but I thought I'd send it along for those who don't read LL.
My love for bringing linguistics and anthropology into the discourse of other fields, and much of my philosophical perspective on the need for integrating formalism and functionalism, both stem from Lévi-Strauss and his work. Too rarely do people cross the borders in academia, and too rarely do they try to integrate opposing theories rather than choosing a side. One of the greatest of our clan is fallen.
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.
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.
It's time once again for a list of some recent interesting reads. I'm debating moving the link roundups off to their own newsfeed, but that'll have to wait until I've free time. Now, in mostly-devoid-of-pithy-retorts format:
- Octavia Butler, R.I.P
- I'm sure you've already heard, but in case you haven't...
- Gulf War vet supports veterans traumatized by war
- Regarding an ongoing project by one of the PIGies.
- New Kids on the Block
- Pinball is all about a spherical object rolling around on a smooth surface, so the thought of building a pinball game from Lego doesn't immediately seem like one of the better ideas. But that's exactly what Gerrit Bronsveld & Martijn Boogaarts from The Netherlands have achieved.
- The Ugly Face of Crime
- Not only are physically unattractive teenagers likely to be stay-at-homes on prom night, they're also more likely to grow up to be criminals, say two economists who tracked the life course of young people from high school through early adulthood.
- The Long March to Nerd Prom Begins
- Warren Ellis v. Joss Whedon. Y'know y'wanna. ( Demons, Perl... )
- New Body Armor Technology Aids Athletes
- Slalom racing suits provided to the U.S. and Canadian Olympic teams by ski wear maker Spyder, for example, contain pads from the British firm, d3o, that contain a fluid that hardens when struck, said Spyder spokeswoman Laura Wisner. [...] "It's very soft and pliable when you just manipulate it in your hand. However, when you hit it with a hammer or some kind of impact, it instantly becomes hard." ( Roleplaying, appalling crimes, cooking/recipies, fuck.com... )
- Hubble Confirms Two New Moons of Pluto
- The confirmation [of the moons] reinforces the emerging view that the Kuiper Belt, a swarm of icy bodies encircling the solar system beyond Neptune, may be more complex and dynamic than astronomers once thought. Pluto resides inside the Kuiper Belt and is about 3 billion miles from the Sun. Pluto was discovered in 1930.
- Stealth sharks to patrol the high seas
- More controversially, the Pentagon hopes to exploit sharks' natural ability to glide quietly through the water, sense delicate electrical gradients and follow chemical trails. By remotely guiding the sharks' movements, they hope to transform the animals into stealth spies, perhaps capable of following vessels without being spotted.
- Editing tips from the NSA (I forget if I've posted this)
- Hiding confidential information with black marks works on printed copy, but not with electronic documents, the National Security Agency has warned government officials
- Brokeback of the Dead
- Who says goths can't take their music unseriously? ( anime... )
- Love Yourself and Your Blog
- Some tips (and links to more tips) on how to blog well. Tips of which I'm flagrantly ignoring for the moment due to time constraints. But this quote bears repeating: "If you start thinking you're a big star just because a lot of other nerds read your online diary, you need to aim higher. Go outside."
- canadians confuse anime with pr0n... again
- And now for the Macworld roundup:
- MPAA suits expand war on illegal file-trading
- Widening its legal assault on copyright infringement, the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) has filed seven lawsuits in U.S. federal courts against search engines and news groups affiliated with P-to-P (peer-to-peer) networks.( ... )
- Political rivals unite against AOL, Yahoo e-mail plan
- Both sides of the U.S. political spectrum have found an issue to unite them: Free e-mail. ( ... ) With CertifiedEmail, senders agree not to send unsolicited e-mail. They pay a fee of between one-fourth of a U.S. cent and one cent in order for their messages to receive preferential treatment in AOL and Yahoo in-boxes.
- Germany joins calls to end Google's "free lunch"
- The chief executive of Deutsche Telekom AG became the latest head of a major telco to call for Web companies, such as Google Inc. and Yahoo Inc., to help pay for the billions of dollars required to build and maintain high-speed Internet infrastructure. "Customers should not be the only ones to pay for this new world,"
- RIM to judge: BlackBerry too important to shut
- ( ... )"I'm surprised, absolutely surprised, that you'd leave this ... incredibly important decision to the court," he said.
- Li verdict shows Yahoo played key role, group says
- Yahoo Inc. played an important role in the Chinese government's prosecution of Li Zhi, Reporters Without Borders said Wednesday, citing a copy of the court's verdict to back up its claims.
And now that you've been amazed by what the future promises, mourned the loss of the past, been enraged by human actions, witnessed the attempted mockery making of the judicial system, and more it is now time for me to retire. And so, I bid you adieu.