One Clifton, a fellow Chattablogger whose work I had until quite recently not read, posted a very interesting look back on his time in the Episcopal Church (USA). That particular church has been growing more and more interesting to me, especially in light of recent events, but their - at least historic - sense of reverence and unity is appealing to me more and more these days. Clifton's piece is definitely worth a read, and I'll probably spend some time in the next few days going through his archives.
somebody who didn't fit in at school and who therefore sought consolation in a particular field -- computers, "Star Trek," theater, heavy metal, medieval war reenactments, fantasy, sports trivia, even isolation sports like cross-country and ice skating. I'd also include the Anne Rice obsessed (goths), the car enthusiasts (gearheads), and the seemingly homosexual (gaywads).
Okay, fine. She then goes on to point out that, "If it weren't for dorks, America would look like Chile." Fair enough. It wasn't the homecoming queen that invented the light bulb after all, but it was "because of nebbishes like Jonas Salk and Alexander Fleming that you don't have polio and don't die when you get the flu."
I think that this observation is obvious enough as to not be worth making. Of course it's social outcasts that actually wind up making major contributions to society. Read this essay by one Paul Graham. The reason people who were unpopular in high school wind up making the biggest contributions to society is because high school is incredibly stupid. The things it - and mainstream, mass society - values are pointless, mindless, and unproductive. So anyone who shows even a mild interest in shunning something like football, around which all high school social order is constructed, in favor of an even mildly intellectual activity like one of the few mentioned above is just asking to be ridiculed by the jocks. And why? I think it's because deep down, the jocks know that the dorks they beat up really are better then they are, and that they'd best get their shots in while they still can. High school, especially public high schools, seem deliberately constructed to destroy any potential in children by placing them in a social environment constructed entirely by children, the cruelist people on earth, and maintained by adults who haven't the authority to do anything about it.
The fact that dorks are unpopular says a lot more about American society than it does about being a dork. The fact that so many celebrities claim to have been dorks is merely an indication that everyone knows that the little twerp that gets slammed against the lockers between math classes is far more likely to be your boss than you are to be his.
The other day I awoke to discover that two tires had found their way onto Catacombs. I was feeling a little antsy tonight, so we just had a tire-throwing contest in front of Chapel. You could throw it however you wanted, but actually had to throw: no rolling allowed. We all settled very quickly on a one-handed discus style. You'd be amazed how much fun you can have hurling random, not-generally-thrown objects. We're planning on doing it again soon.
The Chattablogs server is a bit wonky right now. The site and all of the Chattablogs are being moved to a new, improved server sometime in the next few days.
A little while ago I saw The Secret Lives of Dentists. This morning I read an essay on Salon by one Jane Smiley, who wrote the novella, "The Age of Grief" upon which the movie is based, about her experiences seeing the movie. That would be interesting enough as it is, for it isn't every day that you read an essay that contains reflections on literally seeing one's self being played by someone else in a movie based upon one's own fictionalized account of one's life.
But it's also a really interesting commentary on love and marriage. Some of it I think she gets exactly right:
If you could just look across the room and feel that scoured-out, aching feeling that would at some point be consummated with thrilling sex (if A, then B, according to the conventional logic), then he was the one.... Now I think that the markers of true love are trust, kindness, perceptiveness, care and respect.
Later on, she strays into a positive view of divorce, something I can't be comfortable with for obvious reasons. That being said, it's still a really good read.
That's the choice that Minnesota teachers may soon face, according to this FoxNews article. Basically, if teachers with proven ability (in terms of increased student test scores) are willing to forego certain union protections, the state will pay in the neighborhood of $100k plus bonuses. Frankly, given the utterly wretched things that educational unions do to school districts, this might actually be a break-even economic proposition for the state, especially in troubled school districts.
So I'm surfing tonight and I come across a two part series about Ecstasy on Salon. Part one is entitled "X'ed Out", part two, "Monkey Gone to Heaven". It's quite an interesting read, though as each part is decently long, I'd set aside a good half hour or so before embarking. Reading them really got me to thinking about a couple of things that have been going on in my head these past few days, so I thought I'd ruminate for a bit. That and blogging gives me something pseudo-productive to do aside from writing the essay that's due on Monday. Here goes.
The series is about recreational drug use, specifically the use of 3,4-Methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA), more commonly known as "Ecstasy," or simply "X". Now for starters, I should say that my own use of psychoactive or other interesting substances is pretty limited, and that at least as much by choice as circumstance. I've never used any controlled/illegal substance that wasn't prescribed for me. I've had a few drinks in my time, but my few experiences with being actually drunk have been pretty unpleasant, so I exercise moderation there. I don't like the smell of anything burning, so I don't and am not really tempted to smoke, tobacco or otherwise.
Yet those facts notwithstanding, I found myself fascinated by the Salon series, especially accounts like this:
For Nigel, 39, it worked reliably for a number of years. Then it stopped working. "Not abruptly," he explains, "but over a period of a couple of years. I'm not sure if I've done too much, or if the X is too speedy, but often I feel depressed two days afterwards. More than that, while I still have a good -- though not great or mind-blowing -- time, I'm conscious of the fact that I can see through the artifice of the drug. While before I could easily suspend disbelief, nowadays I'm aware -- naggingly conscious -- of the fact that I'm being tricked into thinking I'm happy. My brain tells me: You're happy now. But that's 'cause you're on drugs. Just wait till tomorrow."
This is something I can identify with, though I've never actually used any chemical to achieve the same result. Whether it's a movie, book, conversation, video game (see this for an interesting read), or anything else that I use to essentially distract myself from whatever it is that's bothering me, in the morning it's still there. From here I've got two different trains of thought to pursue, one fairly secular, and the other downright theological, so I'll explore them in that order.
I've long wondered about the benefits and legitimacy of using mood-stabilizing drugs as tools in combating long-term depression/anxiety/etc. Let me clarify what I mean before moving on. I've never had any doubts about some of the no-bullshit anti-psychotics etc. used in cases where people are certifiably, mentally insane, cases where something upstairs is honest-to-goodness, empirically, verifiably broken. Schizophrenia is a really scary thing, and I have no problem recognizing that as a disease in need of correction within the bounds of standard allopathic medicine.
But using drugs to correct emotional problems has always bothered me. Using Fluvoxamine to correct OCD is one thing, but using Prozac to correct depression seems me to be somehow different. I believe that brain chemistry affects emotion, but I also believe that emotion affects brain chemistry, and that neither one appears to me to be ultimately prior. As such, I reject the idea that the ultimate root of extended depression is chemical. To be honest, some of this is due to the fact that I've always wanted to be able to keep my shit together, and somehow using drugs (or alcohol, or people, or anything else) is basically admitting that I can't. But more significantly, using anything toward this end strikes me as essentially a distraction from which you'll eventually wake up, realizing that, "You're happy now. But that's 'cause you're on drugs. Just wait till tomorrow." Evening out your seratonin levels may make you feel better while you've got the chems in your system, but not only does that not do anything about the problem, it won't work forever.
More recently, as events in my own life have hit the fan on numerous occasions, I've had a few moments of sympathy for those who believe drugs are an acceptable answer for things like depression. In recent months, I've had to face a series of events and situations that really got to me, weren't my fault, weren't in my power to affect or correct, and showed no signs of going away (they still don't). I've also gotten a little closer to people who have had to deal with depression for longer periods than I have (though I will maintain that I've experienced depression as intensely as anyone has), and had brief flashes of thought in which their using some kind of medication wouldn't be such a bad idea. But I always got back to the idea that drugs are merely one of a myriad of distractions, be they people, entertainment, or anything else, that we can and do use to take the edge off.
Look back at the Salon article. I was overwhelmed with the impression that these users of X were seeking an escape from their condition, found a chemical that provided a temporary fix, and then either moved on to more healthy (read as "non-physical") substitutes or harder drugs as the effects of X started to wane. The solution to these people's problems is not an increase in the amount of seratonin in the brain. On the contrary, they found that deliberate, artifical imbalancing of the state of their brains was ultimately detrimental to their well-being.
This leads straight into my next, more theological train of thought. In the past week or so I've had opportunity to engage in a pretty careful examination of sin, in both concrete and abstract instantiations. Three different and unrelated series of events contributed to this. First, I've been going through a bit of relational upheaval that's given me an eyeful of some pretty concrete examples of sin in both myself and the other person involved. That's always fun.
Second, I had opportunity to go over the orthodox formulation of the doctrine of original sin with a friend who is trying to talk to some of her friends about Reformed theology. It's always instructive to go back to the basics and remember that we are no different than the people who crossed the Red Sea, saw the fiery mountain, and still saw fit to make a calf of gold.
Third, I've been reading a book for class entitled Not the Way It's Supposed to Be: A Brevary of Sin by one Cornelius Plantinga (yes, related to Alvin). It's an examination into the philosophical and theological definition of sin, and how the concept has fallen out of favor in the modern world.
Sin is awful. There's just no other way of putting it. For a more detailed treatment, see both the Old Testament, and Nick Hornby's How To Be Good, which I have mentioned before in relation to sin. I'm starting to think that maybe what our post-modern world calls depression the Medievals might call good, old-fashioned sense of guilt. If this is the case, and I am increasingly persuaded that it is, then drugs or any other form of distraction are most certainly not the solution. During one of my periodic bouts of anger (the results of which can be seen here), a friend told me that I was engaging in "unhealthy emotional patterns". Perhaps. A better and more truthful way of putting it would be to say that I was sinning in my anger.
The solution to this is not distraction. A quote from part two of the Salon series gets at this: "...if you can't incorporate what you learn from a positive drug experience [or any other form of essentially distracting activity] into the waking life, but rather need to endlessly repeat it searching for that same high, it's a useless experience. There's that and the fact that (to paraphrase Clements' "Dog"), despite all this talk about consciousness-raising, much of our time was spent simply lolling about in a love puddle. One can only loll so long." Drugs aren't a path to higher planes of consciousness any more than pharmeceuticals are a path out of depression. The Medieval practice of the Confessional has its problems. But the idea that confession is good for the soul is not among them. You need fluoxetine hydrochloride and 3,4-Methylenedioxymethamphetamine a lot less than you need absolution and forgiveness:
When I kept silence, my bones waxed old through my roaring all the day long. For day and night thy hand was heavy upon me: my moisture is turned into the drought of summer. I acknowledge my sin unto thee, and mine iniquity have I not hid. I said, I will confess my transgressions unto the LORD; and thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin.
...and it's name is RFID. Wired has a story about how a middle-school in Buffalo is going to institute mandatory RFID tags for all its students. This means that the location of every student can be known by the administration at all times. If this doesn't make you afraid, you either aren't thinking or haven't read the right books.
Recently the following poem was discovered on a notebook left in room 17. The notebook belongs to Jonathan Horne, one of our freshmen, but we don't know whether or not he wrote it. Link courtesy of Michael.
Obviously, I'm in no danger of this, as my daily readership averages around 50. Whee. But I do think it's important to note that blogging is now recognized as a political voice worth going after.
Okay, here's a few things in the blogsphere I need to link:
First, two from Zen Archery. Ellis has a fairly interesting and graphic piece that winds up being a pretty good response to the irony-mongers. Essentially: "You are going to die." Not exactly the response that I would immediately offer, as there's nothing like a small dose of death to take the edge off a guy, it isn't entirely inappropriate. Second, he notes Elliot Smith is dead, apparently of suicide, and has a few appropos comments to make.
The other thing I need to link to is Mesh's recent
So Apple's iTunes and associated Music Store is released for the PC on Thursday. I'd have said something about it already, but having driven over 2000 miles in the past 5 days, I haven't really had the time. But I sat down with it this morning to give it a good look. My conclusions follow.
Until iTunes, my mp3 player of choice has been MusicMatch, a program with which I have been growing increasingly dissatisfied, but the only one on the market that does the things I want to do. My music library is currently 10125 tracks taking up 47.7GB, so winamp just ain't cutting it anymore. I need something to manage that. MusicMatch does this, and does a pretty decent job of it too.
However, MusicMatch is bloatware by any definition of the word. Moving from track to track on a playlist can take an entire second - not ideal for listening through an album - and updating track information takes longer than it has any right to take. Oddly enough, later versions of MusicMatch (8.0 and onward) perform significantly worse than 7.5. There are three possible reasons for this. The first is that none of my music is actually on my computer. It's all on my fileserver, and I stream it across a 100Mb network. It might not like doing this. The second is that it could be trying to update the entire list every time I make a change to one track and/or searching through the entire list every time it wants to play a different track. With a list as big as mine, that could take a while even with my hardware. But third, and I think this is most likely: the software just isn't written that well. MusicMatch can and frequently does take up 100% of my CPU, and I'm running an AMD Athlon 2600+ for pity's sake. There's just no excuse for that.
All of this by way of saying that the first thing I noticed about iTunes was the speed. Lightning fast. I can re-sort, edit track info, reorder, anything, and it's all instantaneous. I'm not sure how they do it, but it's good. This is one well-written piece of code. I haven't used it all that much yet, but it hasn't crashed yet, and MusicMatch probably would have by now. So from a sheer engineering standpoint, I'm really impressed.
The second thing I noticed was the interface. It's far more like Windows Media Player than MusicMatch. I despise WMP, and not just because of it's evil DRM bullshit. I like dealing with my music as a library rather than as a series of playlists. iTunes may force me to change this. But as the lack of playlist integration in MusicMatch is something I've always kind of disliked, this may not be a bad thing.
What is a bad thing is that for the life of me I can't find a way of viewing my collection by album. This is a real problem, as it means that at the moment I have to look at an entire album at once, every single track, with no way of collapsing the view for efficiency's sake. The tracks are all grouped together by album, and they're in the right order, but I want to be able to view just album titles rather than track titles, and I can't. The other thing it means is that albums with multiple artists have their tracks scattered throughout the library as you can't sort by album. With MusicMatch I would organize by album and sort by artist so that on the left column I would have a list of albums grouped together by artist. If I wanted to see the tracks in an album, I could expand the album in question. This is bigtime negative points, especially with large collections. I'm really hoping that Apple patches this fast, because this is really annoying.
Now for functionality. iTunes just shines. Playback is smooth and rapid, and you can even select "Crossfade" to blend one track into the other. Burning is a lot easier and more efficient than with MusicMatch, and the speed is comparable. As a bonus, iTunes preserves playlist order on mp3 discs by automatically renaming files "x trackname" where x is the playlist order. This is a good thing. 10 of 10 here: iTunes does everything you want it to and more.
But what about the vaunted Music Store? First off, it's better than it's competitors, if only because it isn't using WMA as it's standard. AAC is just as proprietary, but it sounds better and will work on the sexy, sexy iPod (I gotta get me one of these!). As far as restrictions on usage go, Apple's Music Store is at least comparable to other offerings and better than most. You can play a track as many times as you want, burn a unique playlist 10 times (easily circumvented by adding or subtracting tracks), play a track on up to three different computers, and transfer tracks to your iPod. Currently only the iPod works, as no one else supports AAC, but that isn't a huge negative as the iPod is the mp3 player to have. Pricing is standard (99 cents a track, $10 an album). As a real bonus, you can listen to a 30 second preview of any track you want for free, just to make sure it's the one you're looking for.
Finding and purchasing music is pretty painless. This morning I downloaded a collection of organ compositions by J. S. Bach (classical albums are priced differently than pop, so it only cost $7.92; some are less, some are more, depending on the number of tracks and length of the album). You find what you want through either browsing or searching, both of which are fast and efficient, and hit "Buy Track"/"Buy Album" and it downloads. Fast. 40MB in under 5 minutes, and Covenant has metered bandwidth, so I don't want to think about how fast it'd be with a real broadband connection like Comcast.
Regardless of the structure of the Store, no one will go there if you can't get what you want. It's here that it falls down a bit. If you're looking for the best in modern shit-pop/rock, you're in luck. They've got Christina Aguilera, Missy Elliot, and more alternashit than you can shake a stick at. If, however, you're looking for classics, whether it be Baroque, Romantic, or rock, you may run into trouble. The iTunes music store has no, and I mean no Led Zeppelin available for download. Nor does it have AC/DC. This is inexcusible. Other rock 'n roll greats were present, but the collection was not complete. Definite negative points there, though as the store has only been open for 6 months, I'd give it a bit of time. They're adding music every day, and it's only a matter of time before they get to the good stuff.
Overall, I'm really liking iTunes. The non-collapsing albums are really annoying, but given the massive performance differential, I'll deal with it, at least for a while. I'm sold. Go download it today.
As you may or may not be aware, the issue of homosexuality has recently proven to be quite explosive in the Anglican Communion, especially the Episcopal Church (USA). The Diocese of New Hampshire recently ordained an openly gay man as its next Bishop, much to the displeasure of conservatives. The Diocese of New Westminster in eastern Canada made provision for the recognition of gay marriage. This provoked a firestorm of controversy. This week, ending today, the Primates of all of the churches in the Anglican Communion (except for the Primate of the Philipenes) met at Lambeth Palace to discuss the issue. They issued a statement, which can be found here. The gist of it is this:
"...therefore, we must make clear that recent actions in New Westminster and in the Episcopal Church (USA) do not express the mind of our Communion as a whole, and these decisions jeopardise our sacramental fellowship with each other."
The champions of orthodoxy in this case have been the Africans, especially Kenyans and Nigerians. If they are what we need to preserve orthodoxy, then more power and God's blessing upon them. If Archbishop Williams and the rest of the Communion did not recognize something along the lines of the current decision, it is likely that not only Africa, but Asia, South America and conservative America would probably have left the Communion as they had promised. The Bishop of Pittsburgh is quoted as saying, "For Rowan Williams [the Archbishop of Canterbury], the last British Empire is his to lose."
I think this is an excellent and profound result. The Primates declared that the current homosexual agenda is innovative, and condemned the innovators as threatening to the unity of the church. It would be one thing if the innovators were trying to re-establish a forgotten orthodoxy. But as they are introducing something that has never before been allowed in the Christian church, they cannot be allowed to continue. The council condemned, not conservatives for being closed minded, but liberals for being divisive.
Still, I have reservations. The council maintained the provision that deviant "sexual orientation" does not jeopardize one's status as a faithful member of the Body of Christ. That makes me nervous. But as even the Africans were willing to sign on, I'm slightly okay with it. At least no ground was lost, and as the ECUSA was impugned for being divisive, some ground may well have been gained.
So the Sox lost last night. This is bad for two reasons. First, I hate the Yankees. Second, this weekend is Covenant's fall break, and I'm taking a bunch of people to good old NYC. Which means we'll be on Manhattan during game two. This should be fun. Let's here it for ferries and mass transit, shall we?
Buisness Week has an article describing a growing demographic shift in America: married couples are about to be in the minority. The number of legally single people - divorcees, widow(er)s, gays, and "normal" singles - will soon outstrip the number of traditionally married people, causing a tremendous socio-economic snafu. Benefiting marriage and married life is firmly ingrained in our social, political, legal, and economic system in such a way that single people lose out pretty badly. Yes the "marriage penalty" is a reality, but it's also true that singles can't share or be shared with for health insurance, pension plans, capital gains taxes, etc. Related stats can be found here and here.
Frankly, I'm glad it's this way and hope it stays that way. I've consistently argued that marriage is the glue of society, and hate to see it deemphasized. It's getting harder and harder to get and stay married, even as our culture's obsession with the institution reaches an all-time high. It's hard to say that the two things aren't related somehow (especially up here at Covenant).
Combining the above article with this one is left as an exercise for the reader.
I just want to say that Blood on the Tracks is a freaking amazing album. That is all.
But this takes the cake, so to speak.
Salon also has an article dealing with the so-called "urban tribes" that I blogged about a few weeks ago. It's a more personal and critical take on Watters' idea, and pretty interesting. Give it a look.
I've felt for a while that the number of legitimately middle-class families (earning between $40-80k) is declining fairly rapidly. Jobs are being eliminated through either outsourcing or labor-elimination. But in any case, Salon has an interview with Elizabeth Warren of Harvard Law in which Warren suggests that the reason more and more people are filing for bankruptcy is that no one can really afford to live a middle-class lifestyle on middle-class incomes. It's something of a plug for her book, The Two Income Trap: Why Middle-Class Mothers and Fathers Are Going Broke.
Josh Ellis emerges from an extended bout of pissyness with a post on irony in modern music. I may disagree with some of the instantiations of his argument, but overall I think his point is well made. And he hates Dashboard Confessional, so he's automatically cool. Give it a read.
Jimmy "The Virgin Pimp" Rafetto came into my room five minutes ago with a book. He is supposed to read this book and review it for his Doctrine I class with Dr. Stewart. In typical Jimmy fashion, the review is due tomorrow and he is now on page 4. That doesn't bother me at all, because that's the kind of thing I do and get away with on a depressingly regular basis. No, the thing that's got me down is the fact that the book he's supposed to review for a doctrine class is Frank Peretti's This Present Darkness. Yeah. Right. Can you please stop the room? I'd like to get off now.
Yeah, a water main busted on Catacombs this afternoon. It's relatively minor, compared with floods in previous years and the massive flooding that happened last semester in Rymer, but it's still a pain. Fortunately, both my bed and my file-server - which both reside on the floor - were spared. Many of my clothes, however, which do not reside on the floor, were used to dam someone else's door. I have extracted money with which to dry them out of the guilty party. So all in all, no damage, but a pretty big pain in the neck. This was not on my list of things to do today.
Last week Jack Valenti, president of the MPAA, better known by his true title, "Monopolist Hegemonic Bastard", announced that the distribution of DVDs to members of the Academy for the purposes of Oscar screenings is prohibited. His nominal reason? Piracy. Umm, yeah. But then he also prohibited the distribution of pre-existing retail DVDs as well, not just the industry-insider screener DVDs. Roger Friedman has an essay posted at Foxnews in which Valenti's real reasons are exposed. It has nothing to do with piracy, otherwise he wouldn't care about retail copies. If the public already has access to the DVDs, distributing them free can't hurt anything, now can it? No, Valenti is really concerned about film houses like Miramax, Artisan, Sony Pictures Classics, Fox Searchlight, etc. stealing the thunder from films produced by Hollywood that are better off measuring their budgets in fractions of billions rather than millions. The article explains it all. And it sucks.
Afterwards I crashed at Mesh's place because I had to be at Erlanger early this morning. We watched the good parts of the Red Sox/Athletics and Colts/Bucs games. Both of them were actually really entertaining, which is something I have yet to say about televised sports. The baseball game came right down to the last pitch, and the football game featured an amazing 28 point comeback by Indianapolis.
This morning I headed off to Erlanger to begin volunteering. I from this point forwards I will be spending Tuesday and Thursday mornings working for Central Transport, escourting patients for admission and discharge. I spent most of this morning being shown around the place (it's big) followed by lunch with mesh.
I'm feeling better today than I was yesterday.
Dang, I've posted a lot today. But before I head off to lunch, I submit the following essay from The Weekly Standard. It's about Jonathan Edwards of all people, which is cool. The title? "Edwards Was Extraordinary."
Dang, I'm having a good time.
So I went to Accounting and complained about this morning's events. As it turns out, notice was posted. Posted on the electronic Campus Bulletin Board. This is the equivalent of placing them in the proverbial "locked filing cabinet stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying 'Beware of the Leopard.'" Anyone can technically get there, but practically no one does, especially now that most people are getting their email in their rooms, making access to public folders a gigantic pain in the arse.
The good news is that it is possible to appeal interest charges. This I am going to do, and I'm going to try and make it a class appeal. It seems that quite a few students got this email after their payments were due, and I'm pretty sure I can make the case that given the number of people getting burned that Accounting's communications method of choice was pretty ineffective. This will take a bit of investigation, but I should have something together by the end of the week.
To add to the general state of my life, I get this email in my inbox this morning. It's from the financial office at Covenant. And what does it say? It says that they've made a lot of changes to the way administrative things are done at Covenant, and that they will no longer be sending out paper billing statements:
"Due to these changes, it is more important than ever that you actively manage your financial account with the College. Please read and follow the information below that applies to your situation so that you can avoid missed payment deadlines and late fees."
Okay, fine. I'm always in favor of using less paper, especially paper that winds up in my mailbox. But it gets better. About 3/4 of the way through the email we happen on this choice bit:
"The first interest deadline was September 29 and interest charges have been applied to those accounts that were not paid in full by that date. You can see your real-time account balance with any such interest charges at any time."
That's great. That's just great guys. Maybe next time you could give us a heads up before the first billing deadline, huh? Maybe?
I'm heading up to the financial office to raise hell.
I am so eff-ing ready to be out of here. As in yesterday.
I've enjoyed my time here. I've learned a lot. An incredible amount, actually, as anyone who knew me four years ago will testify. But damn it, I want out. From this point forward I plan on spending as much time down the mountain as I can get away with. I'm sick of sharing a bathroom with 18 other people. I'm sick of not having that bathroom cleaned but once every other week because the slackers in BEST can't be bothered to do their jobs. I'm sick of having random unpleasant shit strewn all over my living space. I'm sick of smelling who-knows-what ground into the carpets because some nut-job thought it'd be funny. I'm sick of having to pretend that the friendships we make here will last forever, and that the few that do actually survive college will be anywhere near the same as they are now. I'm sick of people carrying on three hours after I want to go to bed. I'm sick of listening to pretentious blowhard freshmen air their asinine and ignorant theories in class and having professors humor them. I'm sick of having my clothes
stolen *ahem* "borrowed" and either destoryed or otherwise never returned. I'm sick of all the immature, unprofessional bullshit. I'm sick of having to living in a place designed to deal with people four years younger than I am whose fundamentalist Baptist parents think that life is and ought to be rated PG. And I'm really, really sick of having to put up with the ridiculous, nonsensical, irrational, nauseating theories people have about cross-gendered relationships.
Needless to say, it's been a really shitty week. Come to think of it, the past two months have been pretty much unadulterated crap. A few bright spots here and there, but fleeting, and serving more to highlight my current trend than doing anything to alleviate it. I keep having to deal with messy situations that are neither my fault nor within my power to remedy. I just have to deal with them. And no matter how fucking sick of things I get, I still have to deal. It's just one thing after another, with no end nor relief in sight. I keep going, I try to keep my head up, I try and put a brave face on things, and then something else comes along. Nothing is working out for me right now, and I just want to get the hell out of here.
Yes, I'm in a royally bad mood. Yes, I'm complaining. No, I don't care. Fuck it, Donny, I don't even want to go bowling. I just want to go to bed. So I will.
I saw Lost in Translation tonight. I want to go sleep for the next three weeks.
The first is a really good discussion of the controversial Do-Not-Call list, a list about which I find myself increasingly ambivalent. Dahlia Lithwick, a senior editor of Slate, points out that a lot of the discursive noise generated about the list is of little-to-no constitutional interest.
The second is an article about Rush Limbaugh's recent resignation from ESPN. I've never been that much of a fan of Rush. I've always thought he was a pompous blowhard. But this essay is really good, and points out that Rush didn't say anything that wasn't true, nor did he say anything he shouldn't have said. To quote the article: "If they didn't hire Rush Limbaugh to say things like this, what they did they hire him for? To talk about the prevent defense?"
Wired has an article outlining the University of Florida's new "Icarus" software that automatically detects any P2P-like usage of the network and immediately disables the network accounts of anyone using them. First time offenders get booted for 30 minutes, a second time will boot you for 5 days, and three tries will have your account suspended indefinitely and render you "subject to the school's judicial process".
The RIAA, of course, is hailing this as "a tremendous success story". Of course they are. They want to turn "interactive computing into television". They absolutely hate the idea that users, consumers if you will, want to and now can exert a measure of control over their media inputs, rather than simply sitting glued into whatever sewer pipe the industry wants you to pay for this month. The industry hates devices like TiVo, which lets consumers have just a bit of control over their own television.
The RIAA, MPAA, and any other number of media corporations cannot stand the idea that consumers may use technology to not only strip out parts of their programming that we don't want, but might choose to enjoy it in ways of our choosing and not theirs. Until TiVo, if you wanted to watch television, you had to organize your schedule around theirs. You had to deal with the advertisements. And unlike the Internet, you are still all but prohibited from inserting your own content by the nature of the system. You have to watch what they want you to watch, when they want you to watch it, or you watch nothing at all.
Getting away from this is exactly what the Internet is all about. Content providers put up content that no one is forced to watch/read/listen to. You can read or not read at your leisure, and only when you want to do so. And if you want to, there is nothing from preventing you from creating and distributing your own content. And once you pay the not-insignificant entry fee to get online (a computer and an ISP account), almost everything on the web is free. Free-as-in-beer and free-as-in-speech.
And now, as a result of legal pressures from multi-nationals, places like the University of Florida and Covenant College are enacting incredible restrictions on the functionality of the web. No network services. No P2P. No gaming (the UF system prevents a lot of that by disabling all servers). Just email, the web, and a few chatting services. Whoop-de-f-ing do. Way to devolve, guys.
Regardless of the cost to the economy, I hope that the RIAA and MPAA go down for what they're trying to do to the Internet. They should burn. This was our one chance to participate in a truly interactive medium with real freedom of choice, and now the old draconian dinosaurs are trying to take it away from us. I haven't strong enough curses for them.
Believe it or not, most of the big names in online culture apparently think that email as we know it is dead. Ross Mayfield says so here, in as many words. Joi Ito makes the announcement official. David Hornick relates his discussion with a computer scientist who believes much the same thing. Then there's David Gelernter, Yale professor and long-time Internet prophet, who has a piece in Monday's Weekly Standard talking about how lots of the hopes we had for email have proven false, and offers some suggestions for how to preserve email as a useful communication tool. Ray Ozzie notes that instead of increasing productivity, email actually tends to reduce it, and in mysterious ways.
Why is email dead? In a nutshell, the combination of massive spam loads and autonomous spam-bots (SoBig, Blaster, etc.) have caused the time spent on sorting email to finally eclipse the usefulness of the medium. Furthermore, the sheer amount of legitimate email has escalated beyond most people's ability to productively deal with it. Mayfield's post has a pretty detailed discussion with copious linkage for the interested.
What I find really interesting is that most of these people suggest that IM utilities and - get this - blogging are proving to deliver the communication gold that email promised but failed to achieve. It'll be interesting to see how this develops.
The Hindustan Times is running an AP article about how the Kuwati government foiled an attempt to smuggle $60 million of biological and chemical weapons out of Iraq. This could be big. Or it would be, if the media would stop following utterly pointless stories and cover real news. Sheesh.
And could be the thing that gets me to switch from WinXP as my main OS to Linux, which I've wanted to be using for years. The two reasons I keep using Windows: games and ease of use. Linux keeps improving on the latter count, but no one - including most Linux users - considers the platform to be a serious gaming outlet. But that could all change. A Cambridge research lab has created what they appropriately call Xen, which looks like a way of running multiple OS's on the same box, at the same time. They realized that modern boxes are more than sufficently powerful to do this, and that it was simply a matter of writing the code. I'm not exactly sure how the actual implementation works, but if it is as advertised, I could be formatting for Mandrake in the immediate near future.
The music industry just doesn't get it. The BBC (Baathist Broadcasting Corporation?) has an article about how US music sales have continued to plummet, and that in the face of legal efforts that the RIAA claims are working. I'm not entirely convinced that they are, but the numbers are telling. 300,000 legitimate tracks are available for purchase online (provided you've got a Mac or are willing to put up with wma from MusicMatch), and sales of other media are up, despite their availability online. Conclusion: try to sell the public overpriced crap and they're going to find something else to do.
So Founders' skit night was tonight. For those of you who don't go/haven't been to Covenant, this isn't going to make much sense. For those of you who have, you know the kind of things I'm talking about.
Well, it seems that Catacombs has attained an entirely new level of fame/infamy, as two different halls (both girls) attempted to copy us this year. Highlands had a fight scene, and Caledon used some nasty jello shit. But with the exception of Rivendell, Catacombs, and Blackwatch (we had a wedding in ours, but it had absolutely nothing to do with real life, so it doesn't count), the theme for the night was definitely dating and marriage at Covenant. And let me tell you something, if the amount of time spent on the subject is any indication, the level of sexual frustration in that room must have been breaking some kind of record. All of the girls halls focused on it. 1st Belz themed theirs around it. It was just depressing. It seems that it's all people really think about around here. Which would explain the dramatic lack of interesting discourse these days.
Don't get me wrong. It isn't like I never think about getting married. Just read my archives. But come on, people, I have a life. I don't think that my life is unbegun until I get married. I have other things to do, really. Again, read my archives. There are better things to do - like actually taking concrete steps towards something like marriage - than sitting around all day endlessly obsessing over getting married. If the skits tonight are even remotely close to reality, it seems that every single cross-gender activity is just weighed down with overtones loud enough to compete with Disaster Area.
I've managed to avoid that almost entirely. Yet another reason to count down the days until I'm out of here.
So I'm browsing Amazon this afternoon and I start to notice a really disturbing trend. I'm scanning down the list of top-sellers and I see titles like Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right , Dude, Where's My Country?, and The Great Unraveling: Losing Our Way in the New Century. Then there's choice picks such as Bushwhacked: Life in George W. Bush's America, and The Lies of George W. Bush: Mastering the Politics of Deception. And that's just in the top 50.
Which is not to say that the Left is alone in such lunacy. There are also books in the top 50 entitled Persecution: How Liberals Are Waging War Against Christianity and Shut Up and Sing: How Elites from Hollywood, Politics, and the UN are Subverting America. A little while ago, Ann Coulter published Slander: Liberal Lies About the American Right and Treason: Liberal Treachery from the Cold War to the War on Terrorism, both of which sold like wildfire.
My conclusion? Politics is out to lunch and the general public is "off its meds". I was talking with Matt the other day about the utter debacle that is the Alabama tax situation (let me just say that while I'm generally opposed to a graduated income tax, I'm really opposed to a graduated income tax with the heavy end at the bottom). He suggested, and I'm really starting to agree, that maybe the problem isn't with "the system." Maybe it's just that people are stupid. I've long thought that whatever it is that the US has going for it stopped working about 50 years ago. I used to think that it was because the system had ultimately failed. Now I think that the system is working decently well, but that the population is so mind-bogglingly, blisteringly stupid that they'd fail general human competence exams, were someone smart enough to impose one. If there was ever a nation that's just asking, begging, for a charismatic dictator, it's us.