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When someone comes to you and says,

“hey, I don’t understand what you mean. Because sometimes you say A, and sometimes you say B. (Where A and B are mutually exclusive.) So what’s going on?”

It is not useful to say, “I’ve never changed my mind on this matter”. Even if that’s true, there’s a communication problem and whatever it is you think is not being conveyed.

It is not useful to say, “whenever I say something that doesn’t make sense you should ask”. That person is —at this very second— asking!

It is not useful to say, “I’m sorry you misunderstood”. Because no, you are not sorry in the slightest, you are a fucking jackass. When someone is asking you for clarification, blaming them for your failure to communicate does nothing to clarify matters. Moreover, words like these are an attack. That person was trying to bring up the existence of a communication failure, and because you are unwilling to accept responsibility for the fact that communication is a two-party process, you instead lash out and blame the person. The fact that you are incapable of accepting responsibility is one thing. But attacking the person for bringing the matter up for discussion says that such matters must never be brought up for discussion. This is how you construct a toxic environment.

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I'd like to take this moment to point out that all forms of binarism are bad. (Including the binarist notion that all things are either "good" or "bad".) I feel like this has to be pointed out because we, every one of us, has a nasty habit: in our overzealousness to tear down one binary, we do so by reinforcing other binaries. So let me say again. All forms of binarism are bad.

It's well-known that I've had a long, fraught history with certain "feminist" communities, due to which I have heretofore disavowed that label. Because of these persistent conflicts, around ten years ago I retreated from feminist circles and communities. However, over the past year I have rejoined a number of feminist circles— or rather, I have joined womanist, black feminist, transfeminist, and queer feminist circles. And thanks to this reinvolvement with feminist activism I have come, once again, to feel a certain attachment to that word: "feminist". The attachment feels strange to me now, having disavowed it for so long in favor of "womanism", "black feminism", "transfeminism", and "queer feminism". But because of this attachment I feel, once more, the need to reclaim feminism away from those "feminist" communities whose philosophy and political methods I continue to disavow.

So, to piss everyone off once more: a manifesto. )

Edit 2014.07.13: Added footnotes [2] and [3].

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I'm finally getting around to reading Julia Serano's Whipping Girl (2007), and I thought I'd make a few comments as I go along.

The first couple chapters are, by and large, an introduction to the terminology standard in gender studies and transgender circles. For those already familiar, it's light reading; though there are a few important notes of positioning. The first, and one I agree with wholeheartedly, is explicitly stating that "sex" is a socially constructed concept— exactly as "gender" is. Read more... )


The second positioning Serano makes is one I take issue with. Serano names herself a feminist and considers her work in exposing and discussing trans issues to be part of the feminist enterprise. Read more... )


The most interesting point so far is her distinguishing between anti-female ideologies and anti-feminine ideologies. The distinction between femaleness and femininity should make sense to anyone. Serano goes a bit further in trying to systematically distinguish them and to identify when particular acts serve to subjugate women vs subjugating femmes. Feminism, for example, is very pro-female and has successfully built a world where it is natural to say "men and women are equal"; however, it has done so largely at the cost of sacrificing femininity— a woman can do anything a man can do, just so long as she's not too girly about it. I very much hope Serano delves into this topic more.

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I used to drink the kool aid, it had a nice taste, but the more time passes the more I find myself agreeing with Bart, my mentor of old. Objects are big pile of fail. The Rubyists and the Pythonistas are coming now, with their pitchforks and baling wire. But they need not worry, they will be last against the wall. But to the wall they still will go.

In which I (drunkenly) tell everyone where they can go )
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As the good Tom Waits would say, I want to pull on your coat about something. As I've been revamping my cv and hunting for advisors for the next round of phd applications, I've begun once again lamenting the fragmentation of my field. I suppose I should tell you what my field is but, y'see, that's where all the problems lie: there's no such field. As diverse and Renaissance as my interests are, they're all three sides of the same coin: language, sociality, and intelligence.

So, first things first. Evidently language is a diverse topic, but I mean to focus on formal and theoretical matters, the quintessence of what makes what we call "language". The early work of Chomsky to the contrary, there's an unfortunate —though entirely understandable— break between the study of formal languages and natural languages. On the natural side I'm interested in morphology and its interfaces with other components of language (morphophonology, morphosyntax & scrambling, morphosemantics & nuance). On the formal side I'm interested in the design of programming languages, ontologies, and interfaces. And on the middle side I'm interested in grammar formalisms like TAG and CCG as well as the automata theory that drives these and parsers and machine translation.

Sociality is also a diverse topic, without even accounting for the fact that I'm abusing the term to cover both the structure of societies and the interactions within and between them. Here too there's an unfortunate —though entirely understandable— break between the humanities and the sciences. In the humanities I'm interested in anthropology, gender/sexuality studies, performativity, the body as media, urban neo-tribalism, and online communities. More scientifically I'm interested in nonlinear systems theory, information theory, chaos theory, catastrophe theory, scale-free networks, and theoretical genetics. And again, on the middle side there are issues of sociolinguistics: code switching, emotional particles, uses of prosody, politeness and group-formation; and evolution: both evolutionary computation, and also cultural and linguistic evolution.

And as you may no doubt be gathering, studies of intelligence too are vast and harshly divided— between wetware and hardware, or between cognition and computation if you prefer. Language is often pegged as a fundamental component to humanity's ability for higher thought, and yet even despite this the majority of linguistic formalisms neglect questions of how cognitively realistic they are as models of actual human linguistic performance. Over on the side of artificial intelligence and artificial life there's a rift between those studying complexity, adaptation, and emergence vs those trying to hammer thought and knowledge into the rigid formalisms of logic and probability. Sandwiched between these conflicts are the war-torn battle grounds of machine translation, language learning, and language acquisition.

So how many fields are involved in this tripartite Janus of interfaces, systems, and agency? To make a short list: linguistics, mathematics, computer science, cultural anthropology, gender/queer/feminist studies, women's lit, systems science/systems theory, cognitive science, social psychology, computational biology, artificial intelligence/artificial life/machine learning, and given the vagaries of universities often electrical engineering and philosophy for good measure. How many is that? Too goddamned many, that's how many. And to top it off, all of them are interdisciplinary to boot. Now you may be saying to yourself that I'm trying too hard to unify too many disparate discourses, and perhaps it's true, but there is a cohesion there which should be evident by the extent to which each of those many fields crosscut these three seemingly simple categories.

Systems theory gets it right when they say that the current state of science is burdened by its focus on fundamentalism. )
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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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Communication is important to me. In relationships, in housing, in life. I think this is part of the reason why linguistics attracts me so. I also think this is the big reason why ldap has been so irking (see, documentation is communication too). And communication is, in many ways, about understanding, about conveying a certain ineffable factor of one's consciousness to others, and in so doing binds you to them, makes community, makes society.

I've been reading a lot of Transhuman Space recently. Unfortunately two of the books I recently got which I was looking forward to have been, imo, poorly done by the standards of SJ Games. (Both by the same author, so it may reflect more on his skill/style than on SJ Games.) But the two others I've read so far, Fifth Wave and Under Pressure , have both been quite entertaining.

And they've also gotten me thinking. Not quite so much as the core book when first I read it, but still thinking. It's funny how even just a few years can make what was once bleeding edge seem somehow quaint, seem deep allegory for exploring questions of the self rather than a future almost disturbing in its reality. Is it that the world has changed so much in those intervening years, or is it merely that I have myself?

Certainly I have changed, at least in degrees. I was thinking earlier and have decided that perhaps I should like to live forever. For those who've known me, you would know that this is quite a change. I have always thought before that I should not like to live overlong; tales and stories of the supernatural, of the undead and of illicit pacts, I have taken true to heart: there is a deep sorrow in immortality, more a cursing than could ever be thought of as blessed.

Now don't get me wrong, that I should come to desire long life is not because of fear of death. Rather it is from an abiding curiosity. Humanity is the strangest of creatures to think of itself with such great importance. And yet humanity is a moving target. Even in just the last century, look at all the changes in how societies are driven, in our capabilities to manipulate and explore our environment, in how we even conceive of ourselves and our place in the world and galaxy around us. Imagine what another century will bring as David Pulver and so many others have. Imagine the century after.

And think not of being born to those centuries but rather of having lived through all the changes to bring them about. Imagine taking a higher view and witnessing the evolution of all of humankind, and think of grabbing the very essence of "humanity" in your hands and moulding it, of redefining the very corpus of your life and place in existence. For what are our bodies if not tools through which our spirits make manifest our desires upon this world? And does it not make sense to want for such work the best tool one can fashion and is equipped to wield? And how can one take such a view and not wish to stand back and witness the grand experiment, to gaze upon the unfolding era and bear witness to the marvel that is eternity?

I'm not sure how long I've been a transhumanist. In truth, before these past few weeks it's not a label I would have ever thought to self-apply. But at the same time, I've had many of the same thoughts before, if less well articulated. I've always been into body modification, not just for the aesthetic of piercings or tattoos or corsetry, but for the very principals behind the term. Certainly a great portion of bodymod I find incredibly attractive, but bodymod is not just about attraction it is about aesthetic in the broadest sense of the term, it is about not taking one's body for granted but rather viewing it as a work of art itself and as a vessel free to be restructured. In many ways it is about treating the body as a temple, not as an inviolate sanctuary as the straightedge and religious circles would, but from the other side: as a blessed thing which should be decorated and honoured.

But as I mentioned, it is not only about beauty. There is another half to aesthetics that is oft overlooked, a darker side which some find too disturbing to even consider for fear of questions it may raise about themselves. I speak, of course, about the grotesque. There has always been something richly appealing about things which ought appall but which are rather disturbing in their beauty. There is another area for which I lack a term, but has to do with corruption. Those who have looked at the images on [livejournal.com profile] urban_decay know exactly of what I speak. There are some forms of bodymod which fall more in these latter categories than in the lighter ones. Certainly some are done simply to shock mainstream society, but others are about exploring those unsavory questions, about laying open the assumptions we bear which make of a thing unthinkable and yet also enticing.

I think that as a species we are overfond of creating for ourselves small cells of comfort in which we can live and need never question the walls we've built around ourselves. Certainly the alternative, to know that we are at once the greatest and least of beings in the universe, to question not only our place in society but the very strictures of society itself, to be forever uncertain, always questioning and not ever receiving answers, to think that we may not be alone between the stars in the gift of higher thought, or to embrace that fact that we may quite possibly be the only sapient beings out there and yet know the insignificance of that fact as the machinations of planets and celestial bodies churn ever onward in spans we are unable to even comprehend of— certainly the alternative is almost inconceivable.

And yet we so delight in such thoughts. Every culture has questioned its place in the divinity of creation, in every era there are those who would refute common wisdom and think of a larger model with which to view ourselves, our planet, our reality. Imagine what a thousand thinkers who were persecuted for that crime would think were they still alive today. What would Galileo say about postmodernism? What would Socrates think of sustainable living? Would Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. wish to colonize Mars?

Lately I've been feeling out of place with myself. I'm not sure I feel like going into that just now as my hour is almost up, but it's something that has been weighing on me. I'm beginning to think however, that perhaps it's time for an overhaul. Perhaps it's time not merely to change, but to redesign who I am. And yet the question remains, who will I become? Or even: who am I? What do I hold dear that gives meaning to my actions? Should I pare down to these essential things, or are even those subject to modification? What meaning would any of my beliefs have if they can be so freely alterable? Can I be said even to believe, or is it but fashionable thinking? Or is there no meaning, but merely an aesthetic, a free moment of thought caught in an expression of flesh that it may be conveyed to others?

And now, the hour is over.

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There's been some recent furor over this piece recently. And after composing a rather long reply on the matter, I figured it's time to turn it into a full rant. Yes, I think English needs a spelling reform. No, I do not mean that fine example of, er, jernulizm. I mean a real reform. One that has a snowflake's chance in hell of actually happening.

Of all the various "attempts" to reform English spelling, both the serious and the humorous, all have two fatal flaws. First is that they all try to take things as far as they can possibly go thereby making the spelling resemble current English as little as possible. Second is that none of them are done by linguists who'd know what the hell they're doing. A reasonable reform is a reform that makes as few changes as necessary to reach its goal. That's what reform means. Making drastic changes is called revolution. And for the record, no, I am not the one to devise such a reform, I only know just enough about English phonetics to get by.

There was a site I found a long while back — which, alas, I seem unable to locate presently — which had a simple program. All this program would do is take in a list of spelling-to-pronunciation rules and compare them against a dictionary. The author initially devised the program as a tool for generating fictional languages. He found however that, as memory serves, something like a hundred rules covers over 95% of the English language and all its "irregularities". This would seem to support the intuition that many native speakers who are opposed to a spelling reform have that English spelling is not so forgone as to require twenty years of reform. A reform that I would suggest would not go so far as to try to break those hundred rules down into a much smaller number, but rather would only seek out the rogue 5% and change them to follow the rules, maybe simplifying a few esoteric rules along the way.

The big problem with such a minimalistic reform is that it wouldn't change things (well, that is the point). What I mean is, what they teach as "English" in schools has at best a remote link to the language that is being spoken in ever further corners of the globe. Even if a mere 60 or 80 rules covered every single word in the English language, it is unlikely that English teachers would inform their students of that, or if they taught them at all they'd only teach the first 15. The difficulty of the English language is not so much that it is irregular (though it is), it's that we refuse to teach it to anyone [1].

Most languages seek to primarily encode pronunciation in their spelling systems which is why they have "easier" spelling. When words are borrowed into the language, by the time they're accepted as "part of the language" instead of just being a loan word, their spelling is reformed to match the rules of the language. English however tends to prefer encoding etymology when it has to choose between that and pronunciation. When English is taught it should be required to teach the basic etymological history of the language (i.e. point out Old English, French, Latin, and Greek words). Knowing the origins of words helps a lot for narrowing down the possible spellings. There's no need to unify F and PH if you know when to expect which.

Other than teaching the fact that English really is pattern-full and has an actual history to why things are spelled the way they are, there are two big areas were I think English needs to be reformed. First is to actually admit to the quantity of vowels we have instead of blithely pretending there're only five. (For the curious, there are approximately ten for which cf. the near-complete minimal pairs: heed, hid, heyed, head, had, who'd, HUD, Hod, hawed. There's some contention about whether schwa (which most vowels destress to) and the mid-back-lax vowel should be considered the same or not, and some dialects don't distinguish the mid-back-tense and mid-back-lax vowels, but all the same: Five is a lie.) Having admitted this, the spellings for these vowels should be reformed so it's obvious how to pronounce them. I'm not saying here can be only one spelling for each sound, just that each spelling should have only one pronunciation. The majority of languages have between four and seven vowels— real vowels that is. One of the major obstacles to foreigners learning English is learning to deal with all those extra vowels. That we can't seem to keep the spellings straight only makes it all the harder.

Second, morphological spellings need to be cleaned up. Anecdotally, I think that morphological spelling is the real area that gets people caught up, not spelling of the basic words. One example of what I'm talking about is the subject-substanitive ending on verbs (i.e. verb becomes noun of person who does the verb). Most of the time this is -er, but sometimes it's -or. Another example is the "able" ending. Generally it's -able, but sometimes it's -ible, and sometimes it's -eable. Sure, there's an obscure pattern to which is correct, but it's obscure and not particularly reliable. Rules about doubling consonants when adding suffixes are yet another example; relatively rule driven, but with many senseless exceptions. Perhaps most importantly, few if any of these differences are pronounced any differently in the spoken language. These are the sorts of things that I think need to be cleaned up.

A challenge is that when altering spellings to better conform to pronunciation one must take into account the issue of dialects. Given the full breadth of differences between the Englishes (American, British, Australian, Kiwi,...) a reformed English would need to pick one of them just to narrow the scope enough that an equitable solution could be found. If we picked American, even there the breadth of dialects is amazing. Which is the reason why the reform could only be done by linguists who are quite knowledgeable about English's phonology and dialects. Anyone else would only look at their own pronunciation and come up with some incomprehensible system that would make us weep for the easy days of l33t and gyaru-moji.

The example of GH )
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Learn that the heavy thoughts of love's disunion should ne'er take place in one's own room. Emotion lingers in the floors and walls and hangs like miasma needing cleansing by light and wind, by earth by sun and water, and smoke and ki and time.

An old friend now distant, a mentor even of sorts at times, would say to me his life was a series of vignettes.

The bus driver welcomes me aboard. The new one, older, stooped, who always looks so beaten, broken, by age and time and life. Surrendered to fate yet whipped when down. Familiar faces. Continuity, stability, that glint of relief when I step aboard. His words say welcome, but his eyes say thank you.

Rose Park Transit: there's a family of the street on the corner with their bags and matching clothes. See the men in matching uniforms, a queer conspiracy, blue gloves and passes them a card. Two officers in Portland blue and you notice the two in green must be too. Medical? Loitering? The meishi offering hope on the back of three and a half by two.

From where the bridge starts you can look over the tracks crosst a lonely park just grass and two trees or three. There's a sign on the side of the building there, where too few would seem to look. A white sign, the kind which rolls on with paper and with paste. On the top is a picture of the american flag, the bottom torn away, systematically erased. But the concrete behind the paste and paper cannot erase the image once seen. An american flag feld up into a box, two meters long by half by half...

Out over the bridge the river is bright in the sun of days. The vault of heaven far above and filled. Rolling cumulus slightly greying, not from rain but for the darkness. Beyond their majestic guidance the blue and clear crystal far too far to reach. The skies exalt us with their presence. And we in out meekness scurry 'bouts, some fearing the thunderous foot, the silent loud oppression. It will not come today, only but we can play our gods. They wish only to remind us of the gleaming brightness they obscure. And we so far from heaven feel a darkness under that far veil, the distance all we can remember.

Chinatown is dying. We've all known and turned silent eyes to the historic district, the past too dirty, the fanciful image too new. Buildings turn bleak and dark, boarded up forgotten. But busses still pass through, down the bridge past Blanchett House and all her charity. Rumbling down concrete streets, homes for the humble but not the few. A man on the corner standing. Two police, not partners, two squad cars, but maybe partners. Well dressed he's pointing out directions, a story telling. Asphalt rumbles under feet as the wave of the intersection fades past and we head where he directs and we forget again. The fountains have turned on for spring.

TIme comes to deplane the bus on these familiar foreign streets. A parade of roses will doubtless flower the streets again at nights. Until then, sun. Buildings loom, not frightful but large, the great masterwork of Man. The velvet under ground. A café filled with aging crowds, but the age becoming slowly my own. These magic moments as looking over tables of tables of the prosperous discovering hope and fortunes in boxes of electric. And the song fades into another, and the mood becomes vibrant, the air excites and thunder quiets in our heads. Outside the clouds have cleared and our music reaches up, up, into the lightness. And I step out the bus and the driver looks over. I wish him the day's goodness, but he's already smiling.

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So, as you know, I recently got a cell phone, my first ever to be exact. Add so, of late I've been exploring the wonders of awkward interfaces, bizarre limitations, and vendor crippled hardware. And the first thing I thought was, y'know? We need linux on this thing.

If we could only get a well understood, free, open operating system on one of these things we would finally have the universal communicators we've always dreamed about. If we had such a CellOS we could use cells to communicate over typical instant messaging protocols, to communicate over irc, to check emails, to freely copy our program preferences between our cells and our pcs.

in which the future unfolds ) and what it takes to fold it )
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Talking. Talking. Talking. I've been doing a lot of that recently. On Pyramid, on IM, on livejournal. To be true it's kind of strange. I think part of that is because it's all been online. Which in turn means that more than too much of my talking in person is but rehashing discussions I've had online. And of course, I haven't been talking much in my own journal, which only compounds the situation. Do I rehash yet again?

I argued earlier today on the nature of authority and child rearing. I read segments of that to my housemates and was accused of being the most cogent presenter of some of my points, so y'all may find it amusing. Rather than give my unspoken thoughts on the matter, I'd be interested in your take on it all.

But I've been having other discussions as well. The more recent ones have been striking me at bad times. The dangers of taking so bloody long reading email and lj whilst on im I suppose. I was chatting with [livejournal.com profile] snowcoma last night and we got onto discussing religion, mine in particular. In large part it's a topic I don't tend to discuss very much, and when I do I tend only to discuss individual facets of it. I don't recall the last time I sat down to give a full accounting of my beliefs. Oh, hey! don't run away yet! I wasn't planning on doing so just now, I was just saying.

Ooh, I went to the beach this weekend. Er, I mean, on with the post )
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Feh, I'm feeling lazy. Go read my real blog. There are four five new posts which I'll port over at some later point; maybe after I finally write that script to automate the process

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"Let's turn on the funk. I'm here tonight to talk with you about open-source." Cue dimming of the lights. A single spot alights the stage wherein a lonely mic, a barstool, and an over-dressed geek or an under-dressed poet approaches. A lonely cello (or is it a bass guitar?) waits, stage-left, the clicking clapping crowd dims, waits, a blue smoke curling 'round the luminescence casts the world into amber and cobalt. "There's been a lot of discussion about open-source in the past, but for some reason noone seems to discuss it much these days...

Now, I'm not going to tell you f/oss'll save your soul. Not gonna tell you f/oss'll make your millions. I'm not here to sell software. Not today. But I am going to talk about software —no, I'm not going to talk about software, I'm going to talk about ideology. It's not an ideology of community, not an ideology of coöperation; I'm not talking about f/oss here, but rather about a new world order f/oss is but the harbinger for.

You are not it the world of your forefathers and -mothers. Not in the world of the dot-com era. Not in the world to which you were born. You are a nomadic hunter first discovering that grain left to moulder in sodden fields bears fruit. You are an entrepreneur discovering that heated gasses expand and captured in a vessel can force a piston into motion. You are discovering that lightning can be stored in jars, can transmit sound to the stars, can teach sand to think. You are discovering that everything you know is wrong. The world has shifted and you've been left behind to collect the remnant shards of nostalgia.

And you are being told this is cause to rejoice.

The Revolution will not be televised )
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...more valuable than the whole of his kingdom.

"Why not seize the pleasure at once? How often is happiness destroyed by preparation, foolish preparation?"

There's been a lot of talk about Peak Oil lately. Both on livejournal and elsewhere. For the record, with a strong interest towards sustainability, I do believe that peak oil is coming. I remember in seventh grade my biochemistry teacher told us all, children unknowing of politics, that within our lifetime — not soon, but within our lifetimes — that we would have to choose whether the remaining reserves of petrochemicals should be spent for power or for plastic.

It has even been suggested, for those who don't believe in peak, that it is largely irrelevant whether or not the notion matches objective physical reality because so long as people believe it to be the case they will act in accordance with that belief. But this is not what I'm here to talk with you about today.

Today I'm here to talk about a different facet of peak oil than the political force behind the meme. )

Moving on

23 Jan 2006 07:49 am
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"It's the end of an era", he said looking down at Lucifer sitting on his xbox. He'd be having to take that away pretty soon since I was moving out. But he's right. The end of an era.

on life )
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(This post is something of a stub, but I figured I should get this much out there at least. A more thorough writing may come in the future.)

The face gazed up at him, heavy, calm, protecting: but what kind of smile was hidden beneath the dark moustache? Like a leaden knell the words came back at him:

WAR IS PEACE

FREEDOM IS SLAVERY

IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH

Amongst a consortium of others, Microsoft is leading the front line war against open source. Yeah, so what's new? What's new is that if they succeed the entire movement of open development will become illegal and open software will not run on computers that are legal to own. The devil is TCPA and they're funding it under the premise that it will protect us. But the only thing it protects is the old regime's stranglehold on the market[1], a stranglehold which demands that you never own anything lest you perform that most profane act of using it. They would but protect us from ourselves.

Some excerpts from the site linked above:

... )

Edit, the second: Wikipedia has this to say about the matter. And Richard Stallman, however you feel about the man, has this.

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(This is part three of a series on my trip to Japan. Be sure to go back and read the first and second parts.)

Neil Young - Comes a Time plays in vinyl on the turntables as I settle in to my avant-garde couch at the Stumptown on 3rd: a somewhat lesser known coffeeshop off the main thoroughfare in a nearly more urban area of downtown. They make a mean mocha. Nothing special, nothing outrageous, just a solid straight up mocha. Part of a local chain that roasts their own beans, this Stumptown is but one of many.

The first I discovered was on Belmont— the soul of Southeast waiting to be undiscovered like the once heart of Hawthorne, bought up by big spenders. I'd walked past it countless times on my way to other nooks, until one day, no destination in mind, I decided to brave a trip inside. Smaller than this one, the front of the shop has wide pane glass windows where you can watch as kids too cool for you stare out at passers by with indifference as they suck down their cigs. But in the back, separated by an awkward aisle that serves as queue and pathway both, is where the magic happens. It has an unfinished brick wall with too small windows fighting the too harsh light from too high ceilings. A paradise of abrasive surroundings that can do nothing but inspire the disjointed prose and broken couplets of would-be writers and beatniks trying to eke out a life of stifling misunderstanding.

Still my favorite of the chain, it's a bit out of the way and so I don't go there nearly enough anymore. It was one of the first spirited kissaten I'd found once the cybernetic hole in a wall, Heaven, closed down its promises of retrotechnical elegance, of 1980s underground movements of hacker-elites resisting the crumbling of society. But it was in 京都 that I found my love again.

03. 京都 (Kyouto): Arrival )
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(This is the second part of my series on my trip to Japan. Be sure to go back and read the first one.)

02. Traveling around 東京 (Toukyou): 上野、秋葉原、浅草、渋谷、お台場 )
winterkoninkje: shadowcrane (clean) (Default)

A month ago when I returned from Japan I promised to write a tale of my trip. And so far I have shirked that promise. Not because I've been meaning to, just... I had no reason at the time, I just didn't feel like writing, the spirit didn't move in me. Looking back on that month now, I suppose I just wasn't ready. Wasn't ready to put those two weeks behind me, wasn't ready to let go so soon. Not that my time there will ever really be behind me, but I think, now, that I've taken enough time to make it a part of me, a part of my history, and distance enough to finally let go.

I'm sitting now in the Fireside Lodge, a city night to finish a lazy end of summer day, in just under an hour a jazz band is coming in to play. But when I first drafted this letter—the rest of it—I was sitting in the Red+Black Cafe, a wednesday morning— before 11:00 if you'd believe it. I'd just biked down for an early morning drink/exercise and hammered it all out on Elsamelys, my new zaurus I picked up in 秋葉原 (Akihabara, Tôkyô) on the second pass since I never managed to find the one I wanted in でんでんタウン (DenDen Town, Ôsaka). While there, other than coffee, I had the "free greek"— a bagel with cucumbers, feta, hummous, and kalamatha olive spread— and by the gods it was good. I'll have to remember to get it again sometime.

Even then in the R+B I was sort of reluctant to start writing a recollection of my trip. I wished I could say it was out of "not wanting it to end", but—to be honest—that's not true. At the time I couldn't entirely say why it was that I'd been putting it off. I had some ideas and—to be fair—part of it was not wanting it to end. But part of it was something else, and part of it—I realized the night before—was that I've rediscovered that I really do prefer writing by hand than typing. It took me a long time to switch over to typing things, influenced largely by having gone to college where hand-writing essays is absolutely not an option.

When I was in Japan I kept my tale in my journal: 42 pages all together. I'm not going to type them all out here. That wasn't the point of keeping it, and much of it has more personal significance than it would have to you. No, but there are portions I feel I should share. Even editing, the tale is quite long, so I'll be breaking it up into sections. I'll be writing place names in their Japanese, glossing them as they're first introduced. If/when I get around to it, all references will be linked to a translation index, possibly with some basic maps of Japan to show where they are.

01. Arrival in 東京 (Toukyou) )
winterkoninkje: shadowcrane (clean) (Default)

So I received the latest J&R catalog a few days ago. I never ordered it. I never ordered anything from them. Originally I think they mailed them to a friend and previous roommate who is also a computer geek since he ordered things from them. After he moved out they kept sending them but somehow figured out he'd moved and so started addressing them to the landlord, another roommate at the time and I don't think she ever ordered anything either. And since she's moved out they've started sending them to me instead. I wonder who they'll be addressed to once I move out? So anyways, I received the catalog and for once in a long while decided to read through it. I'm sort of making my way onto the market for computer gadgets and it's been a while since I've looked at the market for them, so it'd be interesting to see what's about.

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