They Taught Me to Be This Way [I]

[Part I]

Now hosted at: They Taught Me to Be This Way.

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

When did I get so old?

Let's meet at the same time
Same place
Send your jpeg, I wanna see your face
Girlfriend, send an I.M.

My mother says that I was a serious child growing up. She tells me that her friends used to call me the "little old man" when I was younger.

I don't doubt it.

No time to spell
Oops, there goes that little bell
Bye, bye for now

I have always hated the corruption of language for the sake of convenience (though modification for necessity is a different issue). I think that English structure and vocabulary exists with a purpose and that our respectful treatment of it increases our ability to communicate effectively. Communication is one of the things that makes us unique and makes us human. It makes us real.

Hey, LOL, G2G
I gotta go, but watch for me 'cause
I'll be right back, BRB
So sign on, and I.M. me

I have a distinct memory of a conversation with my late Grandfather about online communication. I couldn't have been more than fifteen at the time (he died the summer I turned seventeen) and I was complaining about people making use of single letters for words ("u" for you and "r" for are, etc.). He defended the practice in environments where time was limited, like online gaming rooms of Bridge or Hearts where rounds might be timed and communication's brevity was at a premium.

I remember thinking that is was very odd to find yourself on that side of that particular debate--against your grandfather.

Mom thinks I'm doing homework
Yeah, research
But I can't help it, I've just got to surf
I gotta chat with my girlfriends on line

Recently I was perusing a xanga page from a college student four years younger than me written in the current vernacular. Lots of bad grammar, pointless acronyms, and mindless enthusiasm. I found my eyes glazing over just reading it. It was as if in order to process the meaning of the message I had to intentionally lower my own IQ.

I turned to my mother.

We're digital divas
Believe us
This Girl Wide Web is hot stuff
My buddy list is growing all the time

"When did I get so old?" I asked.

I got a web page
A domain
Sign my guest book with your screen name
Check it out, then send an I.M.

Lately I seem to have gotten more adamant about the respect of written English. I think if our ability to communicate over text is to mature it must be treated with great care. And I'm midway through an essay by George Orwell called Politics and the English language.

What's your profile?
Favorite quote?
This is just like passing notes
It's easier to type than use a pen

60 years isn't so long a time. Many of Orwell's words still ring true. One can only hope that some sense of proper structure and respect for the language can survive.

End Note: I had intended to write this particular entry as part comedy, but I find Nikki Cleary's lyrics so comical on their own I can't hope to top them for absurdity or humour. Besides, I think the contrast between my morose complaining and her vapid and ecstatic gushing about the complete rape of communication via the typed word is pleasing to the mind.

Nikki Cleary - I.M. Me

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Soo. . .

I realized that I one of the things I like about blogging is the ability to post links to random stuff from time to time. So most likely you'll get two posts a week from me. One interleaved, and one random link to something unique. Like today.

My, that is an unusual hobbie for zombies.

Saturday, February 18, 2006


Picked a girl up at the trainstop where I live
Took a drive along the beach by the ocean.

When I was younger, I had this recurring fantasy that this girl I liked would tell me one day that she'd fallen for me, and we would wait for one another until all the insanity and displacement of high school and college had passed us by and our lives had 'settled down.'

Talk about the dreams we had while we were growing old
Wrote a poem on the back of your shoulder.

But lately I've realized that the displacement and the insanity aren't products of our school daze, they're just relfections of the true chaos of living the American dream. The story of humanity is completely unbridled. It is impossible to make anything concrete, permanent, or reliable. Jobs are lost, houses burn down, lovers leave. That is the way of it, and after a year of rebellion against love, I find myself more suited to this life than I was when I thought it was temporary and that love could conquer all.

Tell me your name, tell me your story
Cause I'm into it, runnin' through life like a misfit

My life is good these days. Today the Tango, tomorrow paperwork and installing shelves. If I'm lucky, a month from now Engineering and Apartment hunting. If I'm blessed beyond what I deserve, Hong Kong and a mad-rocket-scientist's toy lab a year or two past that.

I will start again

And these days I don't regret that. I have a friend who quotes her professor often: "You can never start over, but you can begin again."

I'm approaching a point where the repetitive nature of life--trying and failing and succeeding and trying once more--is something I can relish.

Give the dog a bone to chew as I drive around
Wrote this song last night while I was sober

I like my life these days. But there are always a few loose ends that still need snipping.

Tell me your name, tell me a story
Cause I'm into it, runnin' through life like a misfit

And I kept on driving. . .

I like it where I'm going. The money will be good and the work straightforward. I'll get to live simple. And that will be good for me. Plus there are still a few debts that need repaying.

I will start again.

but I won't start over.

[Elefant - Misfit]

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Format Change.

So I hinted at a format change within the next month or so.

Here it is.

I've started enjoying the interleaved writing the most of all the stuff I do here, and honestly it's the only thing I feel I do in a manner that is even moderately unique.

So I'm going to move to a once-per-week interleaved post. Probably weekends. Saturday afternoons maybe. I'll abandon using this space for my personal story altogether. In short: if you don't hear my personal story from me, odds are you don't need to know it.

I'll try for some humour, some drama, and maybe even some fiction, but the interleaving stays constant. Expect the first one tomorrow.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Be Ye Educated.

Ars Technica responds to "Digital Rights Management Helps honest Users"

Frankly, this editorial is an overview of something that you, dear reader, should know. If you don't follow the link (and others in the same vein), you're the equivalent of the 18th century US citizen who didn't bother to read Thomas Paine's Common Sense. Your rights are being taken from you and you should know what that means.

And don't talk to me about some "but Music Piracy is illegal!" bullshit either. When our forefathers snuck into a Boston harbor and participated in acts of vandalism and destruction of property to help force a change they did so because the law was wrong, and breaking it was the first step to making a better world. This is no different. The law is wrong.

In other news, there's a format change coming to AiW. I expect it to be in place in about two months. Between now and then don't expect much new material.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Spin Me About

"I got no answers
for you, Inara.
I got no rudder."

Many of you know by now that I am a browncoat through and through. I've personally introduced half a dozen people to the crew of Serenity and I increase that number at every chance I get.

"Wind blows northerly,
I go north.
That's who I am."

With that knowledge in hand it probably won't come as a surprise to most of you that I saw Serenity (the movie, not the pilot) again last night.

My mind had tripped over this monologue of Mal's both of the previous times I had seen the movie, but it hadn't sought out the cause of the trouble till this morning.

Now, maybe that ain't
a man to lead,
but they have to follow.

I am a gypsy. Most of you know that too. I cut a deep path and I don't expect many to walk it with me, but a few have offered and a few have tried. Most of the ones that offer succeed, most of the ones that try fail.

Some others try and make me walk their paths instead. I don't take that as a kindness, even when it's meant as such.

So you wanna tear me down...
do it inside your own mind.

I don't go looking for fights, but I find them often enough to suit. I'm not one to latch onto others, I let circumstances and my own will set my course, not what other's think best for me.

And only once, years ago now, did I find a woman that challenged my course not by effort or intention but by her nature alone. The others might want things of me, and make requests of their own--some of them even claim they want me on my terms, but they're usually lying to us both.

I came to a realization a year or so back, that the woman who tames me (if such a creature lives and breathes) will reach out to me. But now I am coming to a new realization, that the extension of her self to me is but one facet of a much longer process.

But you fog things up.
You always have.
You spin me about.

The woman who tames me will need something more. Something integral. Sometime elementally powerful and buried so deep she doesn't control it, it just shines through her skin like a searchlight buried in her soul. That woman will be my greatest enemy for many days, because I've become accustomed to keeping my own course and council and being spun about is not something I will appreciate if it happens.

"I wish like hell
you was elsewhere."

Such a woman, if I find her, might well be my threat and my salvation.

Or perhaps she'll abandon that opportunity, and choose to become another conquest instead? Those roads diverge early on, and the traveler must stick to the course she chooses.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Why I don't spend much time in Forums any more:

Edit: Wow. . . Today's Pearls Before Swine is exactly the sort of thing I'm talking about.

The internet is a magical place. In the following I'll assume you, fair reader, have some knowledge of forums. If you don't, refer to the asterisks.

I've been a netizen (yeah, an old terms, I'm acting like an old man, blah blah, shut up) for over a decade now.

I started in the early 90s using a Juno e-mail account and Pointcast to receive daily news. In those days, my insignificant hometown didn't even have dial-up access, and that meant we wound up shelling out for a long distance calling plan so we could call locally to Montgomery for our access. After Juno we went to AT&T dial-up, and a year or two after that, we converted to a local provider, the tiny that allowed us to access via a 'real' local call. We dumped our long distance plan and got a second line--local this time.

In the years to come, I would learn the wonders of broadband access from college labs and my university dorm. And in those days there was one part of every summer homecoming that I dreaded--returning to the hell of that screeching modem (yes, I know you can disable the speakers, I chose to serve it as a kind of penance) and incredible load times, during which you could get up and make yourself a sandwich if your connection dropped. Then one summer I came back and found my father had gleefully become one of the first Cable internet customers in my county. It was like returning to a stuffy private school you hate only to find they've torn it down and built an amusement park there.

Now, I dredge up all this back story only to make clear that my time on the internet has been neither short, nor limited. I have some perspective on the matter.

Now, my musings this particular evening are pointing in a particular direction, towards that of John Gabriel's Greater Internet Fuckwad theory.

Now, this is a particularly ironic observation for the reason I'm about to discuss. This evening, curious about the fact that the current comic from PA isn't loading, I dropped by their forums to see if some sort of downtime was an article of discussion. What I found in "the monkey den" (their primary discussion forum) was a sticky* thread created solely to announce who has been banned.

I noted, upon glancing over the forum, that my particular question was not being discussed, but that the banning thread had 27 pages**. Now, normally a thread with that many pages has changed topics several time, and I thought to myself "wow, this must have become the thread that won't die***.

Now, I clicked on it out of curiosity and noted with surprise that the creator of the thread (a moderator) announced that the thread was locked(*^). I was also impressed to note that mods didn't comment multiple times for a single time--they edited past posts. So each post represents a single ban. So I ran some numbers. The thread was created in early October, 2003--roughly 850 days ago. And with 27 pages at 25 posts per page, that 's roughly 675 comments, each of which represents a banned (or jailed/muted) person. That's an average of one person being banned every day and a half. So basically. . .the board is full of people that take away from the experience. Daily.

I've started to realize that the vast majority of 'discussion' areas on the internet (news discussion groups, many martial arts boards, every religious board ever) have a terrible signal/noise ratio(^). I still know of the occasional forums (the overflux parkour forum, for example) where the signal noise ratio is decent (maybe five or better). Those forums are not only rewarding to visit, but they refresh one's faith in humanity in some way. However, they are so few and far between that rooting them out often takes more time and effort than it is worth.

This, I don't spend much time on forums anymore.

* Sticky threads stay at the 'top of the pile' and don't get pushed down the stack by 'normal' threads, so topics that are constantly discussed don't constantly have new threads created if there is already one in progress.

** Forums broken into pages typically sport 10 to 30 posts per page. The PA forums have 25. These pages keep each page from being ridiculously huge.

*** Most forums eventually get a thread that won't die. The MAAC forum that I used to be present on had one with around 7000 posts. The Ag/Ath board had one that is past 50,000. These threads are far more immortal than their topics, and typically wander to whatever the off-topic-topic-of-the-day is.

*^ locked threads can't be posted to by regular users. Only a moderator may add new comments to the thread.

^ Signal/noise refers to the amount of discussion that is actually about the target of the forum vs. the amount of discussion that is off-topic. Signal/noise of 1 means that for every post someone makes in a martial arts forum about proper stance or TKD politics, someone else makes a post about a puppy, or how much fun they had water skiing last week. S/Ns of five or better are startlingly rare.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006