Dickens of a Blog

(May 2009)

If you want to comment, then you can contact me. I will post comments to the journal as soon as possible, unless you ask me not to share them.

  1. May 16, 2009: "The Wizard of Oz"
  2. The Like New Lie
  3. Alternate forms of distribution. Good. Bad.
  4. May 17, 2009: The greatest spam subject-line enticement ever?
  5. Speaking of evil Spam, the worst "referer Spam" I have seen
  6. May 18, 2009: Tried as an adult, the James Bulger murder
  7. That song that was once stuck in my head
  8. May 19, 2009: I'll Be Damned. The SONG!
  9. How is this for a weird "dream" experience
  10. May 20, 2009: Actual ways to answer the question: Does Human Flesh Taste Like Pork?
  11. May 22, 2009: Review of Gamera: The Brave
  12. May 23, 2009: True stories: The internet is a bad, bad place; no water; et cetera
  13. May 25, 2009: This Memorial Day
  14. May 26, 2009: Is the Internet Making Us Dumber?
  15. Same Sex Marriage Ban Upheld in CA, Questions about legal status
  16. May 28, 2009: Tiring day helping friends move
  17. May 30, 2009: Thirty-Two, Today
  18. May 31, 2009: Is Fight Club: Members Only (aka "Bollywood Fight Club") a Rip-Off of the American Movie?
  19. Review of Drag Me to Hell

May 14, 2009. Thursday.

(04:38:12 PM CDT)

Waiting on Sarah, Listening to Crystal Method's newest. et cetera

Currently listening to The Crystal Method's newest CD: Divided by Night. It is only $2.99 in mp3 form right now because of that thing that Amazon does where it deep discounts CDs on their opening day/week. I imagine this is much like the recent report of Amazon losing money on its $9.99 ebooks, where Amazon(MP3) is taking a hit so that it will steal people away from, say, the iTunes model or possibly even from piracy. I like being able to get those few (looks like one album every month or two) albums that I am looking forward to for an awesome price. As for this album, I have been enjoying it. Some fans have chastised the band as going too pop or being too mundane, and such, but really it is energetic electronica/dance album with a bit of intelligence and some catchy lyrics here and there. I have already listened to it three times today.

Lots of random things. Let's see. I watched my first Bollywood comedy, yesterday: Krazzy 4. It might be the first Bollywood movie I have watched to completion. I thought it was an fun, somewhat insane (pun intended) romp that does not really make much sense but passes the time. I have a few other Bollywood movies ready to be added to the rotation (included the Bollywood Fight Club) and after I watch a few, I will decide what I think of the genre.

Also, um, I may have picked up some mp3s of the theme songs from it. While, well, Jameson's was involved.

Ok, that's most of the random things wrapped up, I think. Waiting on Sarah to get home (she should be here any moment) and we will go and pick up a couple of things. First, a new phone. Our old one has reached truly craptacular levels of functionality, with it's battery giving out anywhere from one to three hours after it comes off the charger, sometimes without much warning, and its sound was wanky earlier. I am also going to buy some relatively nice shorts this afternoon, maybe a couple of pairs. Walking to work this summer in dress pants and a couple of shirts (casual shirt and undershirt) will be just too hot. I need to be able to wear something cooler until I get there, and then change at the library. Once summer hours open up and include night shift hours again, it might not be so bad, but until then I want a nice pair of shorts or two so that I can wear them to work without looking like a slob wearing cut off jogging pants or such.

Si Vales, Valeo

May 13, 2009. Wednesday.

(11:24:15 AM CDT)

7 Reasons I Hate Twitter, Despite Kind of Liking It

I mentioned a few posts back that I had this post in me, and so figured I would get it out of the way. Why do I hate Twitter? Let's start with some caveats, disclosures, mentions, and "in all fairness". I do not really hate Twitter. That would be a strange waste of emotions to invest against a website that I can largely ignore by simply not visiting. That's like really hating Facebook. Sure, there are friends out there who refuse to not use Facebook, and friends who refuse to not use Twitter, when communicating, so you almost have to use it in order to keep up, but let's put those aside as rarities. Secondly, I use Twitter and enjoy the overall process. I even have a little Twitter widget that shows up on my home page so people who don't use it can keep up with my tweets in general.

Also, this post is not about certain aesthetics of Twitter. This is not about people posting about eating a sandwich, or about people following thousands of people despite the fact that it makes it pretty much impossible to actually read what those people are up to. I have tried to look at 7 "technical" issues that seem to be off. Some of what I complain about, is due to "aesthetics", but I usually there is some technical root at the core of the problem.

My 7 mostly-technical reasons for quasi-hating Twitter:

1. Protocol v Server Confusion: One of Twitter's primary issues is that it does not know if it is a protocol or a server. It is trying to be both right now, and a good amount of its problems stems from this. Twitter is what would have happened if someone had come up with a server called, say, Email.com and all e-mail in the world were based on its users. Plenty of social sites and messengers confuse being a server and a protocol, sure, but none of them are about the sheer volume of minutiae that Twitter is. Not only that, but you take hundreds and hundreds of bits of minutiae a minute and share it with hundreds and thousands of friends? Twitter has some interesting powers when it comes to sharing bit information in a certain way, but when you have weather reports, blog updates, personal messages, news updates, links to pictures, and so forth being pumped through a single server, you get tons of crashes. Why is Twitter emulating RSS/Atom feeds anyhow? Technology already exists for such things and there are plenty of apps to keep track of them already. Besides, protocol and server confusion leads to a derth of useful tools like proper feed intergration, filters, killfiles, and so forth while simultaneously allowing the central server to make decisions about who can use the protocol, what sort of things can be done with it, and what options you should have as a viewer of it.

2. 140 Character Issues: What's more, a key factor of the "protocol" side of Twitter is it's 140 character limit, which turns out to be half BS because your average tweet includes a lot more. It's just that the majority of the tweet is hidden in the XML encoding of the protocol. For instance, my current (as of writing this) status is "The 'Bathory' scene from Hostel II is one of the most disturbing in pop-horror history." Let's count that together. It is around the 90 character mark (I think 87 to be precise). If you look at this XML encoded tweet of said message (I saved it as a text file to stop from having to worry about getting XML in an HTML text) you will find a lot more characters. According to "wc -m" on the command line, it is 1841 characters long, or 1750 characters having nothing to do with the tweet itself. There are bits about how many followers I have, about my color settings, about my location, my background images, and so forth. Sure, this can save some server side pull if people don't have to go to my profile to find out about me, except tweets are a much bigger portion of what Twitter is than profile lookups, and few third party apps actually get the profile information from the tweets.

3. Security Issues: Do you know how I got that XML information, I sent something on the command line. You want to know what the command line command is for checking my friends status updates? curl -u USERNAME:PASSWORD https://twitter.com/statuses/friends_timeline.xml. Except instead of "USERNAME:PASSWORD", it expects your username and well, password. One of the "secrets" of Twitter is that it's API is extremely open and plaintext. Passwords to your account are often submitted in just that. Even if you use their "https" or "secure" method, there are some flaws. I am under the impression they are offering better versions of security, but with so many third party apps asking of usernames and passwords and handling them however they want, it cannot be all that great. What's more...

4. Third-Party Integration: security can be an issue because of the large amount of third party integration. Not only apps, but things like Twitpic and Blip.fm that tweet for you because you make an account with them that includes your Twitter account information. Even when security is not a problem, like with the hashtags, a third party is keeping track of the information and greatly changing how Twitter works. Being a third party, their EULAs and APIs can change suddenly and without warning, possibly exposing more security holes and possibly just wrecking how people use Twitter. Possibly the most bothersome third party of all is...

5. Short-form URLS: short-form URL generators. TinyURL and it's ilk. These are fairly innocuous websites that probably have never had as much success as they have now. They take long URLs (long is relative, but with more and more URLs PHP generated, there have been quite a few long ones as of late) and shorten them into something that is easier to type. http://longestever.long.com/long_long_long_superlong... becomes short.com/5tu. With that pretend 140 character limit hanging around, short-form URLs are the standard on Twitter. In fact, a fair number of links are automatically put through the TinyURL even if you do not choose it (a bonus reason to hate Twitter: there seems to be no rhyme or reason as to when this is true). Not only are they harder to recall and it is harder to find a specific one while scanning a page (if not impossible) but by their nature they obfuscate the URL. Spammers, Spoofers, and Phishers are practically handed a tool to carry on their craft in the Twitter API. They use it, too. A fair number of accounts who "follow" me are spammers who are mostly trying to make me see their profile, which consists of a bunch of fake tweets with tinyurls in them. Thanks to one aspect of TinyURL, though, the same link gets the same short-form url, which means their attempts to hide a bunch of links to their product are somewhat exposed when all the short links are the same. Still, someone who doesn't pay attention to that might end up on any number of scam sites. Even if not a scammer, short-form URLs can lead to all sorts of mischief because you cannot see and evaluate the link before following it.

6. Trending Topics: Twitter has a tendency at it's core of being a giant swirling meme pool (a memestrom, if you want a bad punphrase). What better way to track the topics that people care about than include a list of "trending topics" that is updated constantly? What better way than to generate a bunch of crap tweets about said trending topics and, what's more, what better way to give spammers and scammers a list of buzzwords to include to get attention? If you click on the "trending topic" you will see all the posts that include it. Not only is it borderline useless because hundreds of people are posting every minute going "Why is everyone talking about #twatlight?" (see, you think I am joking, but that was a real tweet from last night when I was looking some stuff up on this article) but a fair number are just an attempt to get you to follow a link. Fact is, it is all too easy to make a spam bot that posts once every 2 minutes with a message along the lines of "Hey guys, neat video on [Trending Topic]: http://short/blah" with [Trending Topic] changed to whatever you want and the url being a link to your sales pitch.

Finally, 7. Failure to Enforce API: This one is something of an addendum, because I am under the impression that Twitter is actually trying to get a grasp on this, but one of the big problems you have with the service is people hitting refresh because they are afraid that their 10,000 friends have updated in the last 8 milliseconds (and they are probably right). Between this and the people who past 10 tweets in a row because they do not understand how they are actually looking for a blog and not a micro-blog; you get some pretty big server slow down moments, and outright crashes as well. It would hurt no one to enforce a "no more than one tweet a minute" rule, or to only allow an account to check their friend's timeline only so often. Sure, it would slow down some of the communication, but the website would stay up. I can see a lot of reasons to not listen to me on this, but I think a little bit harder enforcement would only be good for the server.

Si Vales, Valeo

(09:31:50 AM CDT)

3 Quick Things I have Learned in the Last 8 Hours

Having someone use power tools right outside your bedroom window can lead to intense dreams about strange towering tree-houses made up of junk and old car parts that come crashing down. Note, watching Metropolis (1927) and reading Elven Star (fantasy novel about a world made up giant trees where it is never night) might also have contributed.

Insomnia can sort of randomly hit. Despite being sleepy around 1-1:30am, it was closer to 5am before I could actually go to bed.


Si Vales, Valeo

BONUS: Neil Gaiman says "George R R Martin is not your bitch!"

May 11, 2009. Monday.

(03:06:08 PM CDT)

Doug as sexist, or: using signal-noise ratios for fun and profit

Believe it or not, this post occurring was chiefly put into motion by my use of the word "guys" as a gender-neutral, plural second-person. I am from the South, and Deep, so I should use "ya'll" I suspect, but that feels a bit colloquial for me. "You" is too ambigious (and I have had a couple of my male friends whinge over the usage, apparently disparaging them through not specifying them). "Guys and gals" is out, partially, because I simply do not like the use of "gals" to sum up females. Not only does it bring up sun-dresses and pig-tails, but it sounds like some sort of hidden insult. I also like Latin and its insistence that in mixed-sex company you just default to the masculine as something of a gender-neutral. Beats "he or she" and that awesomely horrid s/he, really. I mean, do we want to spend the rest or our society's life specifying both sexes when both sexes should be implied? It sounds like I am flapping my gums, but these bits will come into play shortly.

Sometime in the past couple of days, Alicia, my lovable and spunky sister-in-law (don't know, just felt like describing her as a side character in a 1970's science fiction show summary), posted a Facebook note that included, amongst other things, that women notice details more than men. It was actually that women notice body language more than men and was followed up with women notice the hidden meaning of things more than men. The conclusion is that men are stupid and give stupid gifts. You get the point. Women > Men. She's a rabid sexist, did you know that? Rabid. She once killed a man because had a penis. True story. She said it was an afront to the matriarchal energy of Gaia.

Of course she isn't, and, case pending, didn't, but something I have found is that polite sexism, in which it is assumed that male and female minds have inherent and often comedy inducing differences, is not only so rampant as to be part of the language, but is also the fodder of the last fifteen hit sit-coms. For those paying attention, I just told you how to write a hit sit-com. Go. Get rich.

Now, due to hormonal differences, there are going to be basic differences between the masculine mind and the feminine mind, but I guarantee you that these differences are going to be of such an esoteric character that they would be hard to spot outside of clinical trials. Whether or not detail-oriented cognition, body-language detection, or subtle-pattern matching is part of the inherently, inescapble nature of the male versus female brain, I do not know. I am not a clinical research psychologist and I do not feel like "asking Mr. Wikipedia" at the moment. What Alicia has engaged in is something I mentioned a few posts back: Matter/Process confusion; when we confuse the statements about the inherent character of things with statements about the definite actions of a given subset of things. What she said is something that is likely well accepted, mind you. Everyone knows that women pay attention to minor details, to the point of paranoia and anxiety inspiring micro-managing, while men fail to note all except the big details, though they tend to be more rational in processing them, right? If you spend even a couple of minutes thinking about it, I imagine the exceptions you can think up might be of a number that it boggles the mind. Yet, this polite slice of sexism will dominate sit-coms, books, public discourse, and stand-up comedy for years to come.

With that being said, I played along and wrote a "defense of men" in reply that joked about women's unduly high signal-to-noise detection. I asked, "seriously", how long can a woman sit in a room with two foreign speakers and not assume they are talking about her? Burn! I played a similar game that is often played in polite sexism, except I changed it around to make one sex's positive points sound like one step above crazy. I can reverse spin-doctor better than pretty much anyone I know. I think it's a gift, but it's probably not. This is all pointless to mention, outside of patting myself on the back, except it brings me to what it made me think of...

Signal-to-noise ratio. In every transmission (T) there is some quantity (between 0 and 100%) that is signal (S) and there is an inverse quantity that is noise (N). Signal is the impartation of information and noise is everything else. You can say there exists a simple formula of T = S + N. Both signal and noise can be subdivided into ruly and unruly, in which unruly signal (Su) is information that is not informative to the given packet and ruly noise (Nr) helps to format and inform the information of the packet, though in and of itself is devoid of information. An example of unruly signal could be a person talking about their aunt's health in a conversation about computer science, while an example of ruly noise could be an HTML's page CSS sheet that makes the page more pleasant to read while changing none of the given information. The formula now looks like T = (S + Su) + (N + Nr).

Your signal-to-noise ratio can vary depending on a lot of things, and I am sure you can write long theses about what an appropriate amount is. Let us say for most conversations, it is about 1 (about as much signal as noise) and for informative conversations it is 3 or 4 (75%-80% is signal) and in this later case the Su to S ratio being as near 0% as possible. At any rate, there are two additional considerations. The first is the ability to detect the correct amount of signal-to-noise. Thing that signal is noise or that noise is signal will lead to false positives in communication, as well as possibly disastrous outcomes. If the S to N ratio 3, then any perceived ratio not-3 is going to lead to mistakes in information transfer. Like the example that Alicia gives. The guy gives his girlfriend an exercise book because she likes some form of exercise. The girl gets upset because the guy just told her she is fat. Someone did a dumb thing in that example. It was the guy. He dated that girl. Maybe he learned from his mistake and sought a saner relationship. I pray for him.

Let's call this ability to appropriately detect how strong the signal-to-noise ratio is the precision. Let's also state an axiom that the sole deteriminant of signal-to-noise is the transmitter. The receiver has to interpret it, but there can never be more signal or more noise that is given in the initial communication. There can be unintended consequences. There can be social faux pas. There can some association to false patterns. But, there can be no more signal-to-noise than intended. We can go ahead and call the transmitter's ability to understand the impact of a transmission as responsibility, but this is secondary for the point of this post. Also, let's call the ability to correctly interpret the signal's shape and meaning as the accuracy. To properly understand someone, you have to have the abililty to be precise and accurate in digesting their transmission.

In the above case of the guy and his exercise book, the stereotypical response is not only assuming that more than one message is being sent through the transmission, but also that key componenet of the signal was something else. Precision and accuracy are both lacking. An interesting side-effect of this whole thing is that people often pride themselves on being more precise or more accurate than average (paradoxically, I would wager that the vast majority assume they are better communicators than the vast majority of people), or than some other specific group, but people who think they are more precise than average are probably suffering from some degree of apophenia and people who think they are more accurate are probably suffering from delusions of reference.

My proof of this? I have a theory that people assume signal-to-noise ratios in proportion to the signal-to-noise they generate. However, the caveat to this is that people seem to assume greater amounts of signal-to-noise in reception than in transmission. We tend to obsess over what people tell us more than what we tell people. It takes a relatively short period of time for us to send a message. Once sent, it exists in indefinite perpetuity and can be rehashed unendingly, each rehashing possibly adding levels of flavor that were never there.

Ok, I have went overlong, so I will end it here.

Si Vales, Valeo

(12:17:42 PM CDT)

Derth of LJ, possibly for Twitter. Grad school semester. Recent work experience.

When I woke up this morning, one of my first thoughts was that Livejournal has gone extremely quiet. I check a series of websites when I first wake up (or roundabout) and LJ is one of them. Not only were the last couple of posts on my friends' page my own or re-postings of tweets (micro-posts on Twitter), but once I filtered those and lj-community posts out, it turned out my friends' recent activity page, the last 20 entries posted by my friends, goes back 10 days. That is an average of two posts a day from everyone for the better chunk of two weeks. I was not quite sure about saying something, but another friend also commented on it and so I figured I would toss in my agreeance.

In fact, in a moment of egotistical weakness, I have to confess to not posting a couple of planned posts because I fear the contrast to me posting once or twice a day would make me look like I am trying to imbalance the whole thing. Of course, this is somewhat moot since my posts originate at Dickens of a Blog and so it is not hard for me to edit out a couple of blog entries prior to posting them to LJ, but still. It feels weird.

Speaking of the old DB (whose full title—W. Doug Bolden's Dickens of a Blog —forms a couple of recursive acronyms around my own initials: WDB), I have been retooling it to include a couple of widgets, which is apparently computer geek speak for "whatever we want it to mean". In this case, a "widget" is small box of content that is generated by another websites. I have included widgets to show my latest activity on Twitter (tweets), Delicious (bookmarks), and Goodreads (current books). Though my blog gets about a post a day, and sometimes more, those websites have their own interesting information about me and so it makes it easier to just link to them than try and repeat bits from them. I had set up some stuff on my Facebook account to do similar, but wondered why I would do that for Facebook and not my own website. Problem solved.

I have mentioned at least twice (maybe even three times) Twitter and once mentioned Facebook on a post about LJ drying up. Those are not accidents, per se. I think that people are becoming more and more obsessed with "micro-blogging" for all sorts of reasons, and one of the main reasons is that we are afraid that people won't really listen to us if we blather on. Instead, we try and send out these cute, short blurbs about ourselves in an attempt to keep their attention. This does not stop us from wanting to blather on, so you get people posting as many as 10-15 tweets in a row in order to get it all out, which completely screws up the whole point, because they have essentially created a blog entry. Anyhow, I have a post perculating in me that will be called something like "Why I hater Twitter even though I kind of like it" and believe it or not, it is a post about actual technical issues and such as well as some psychological and anecdotal issues.

Enough of that. Grad school grades are in. I am a 4.0er for my first semester. I have one class in the summer and two, maybe three, in the Fall. I will keep you guys posted.

As for libraries, the work is going well. I was expecting Saturday to be painfully quiet, but it turned out to have a fair amount of traffic and after a little over 9 hours, I was definitely feeling it. Fair being, I don't know, a dozen requests for information, maybe two dozen. One of which was a phone call that lasted for 50 minutes and which I was able to find exactly what the person was looking for which is a good feeling. Sometimes the information people need can be either too old, or have too few landmarks in order to track down. In this case, the landmarks were not plentiful and the case was a tad cold, but a combination of a couple of tools and trying different approaches came back with a hit. I am pretty sure tonight will be dead, though. Even the online students are wrapping up their materials and so most of the people flowing through tonight will probably be a) foreign students who don't go home for the break and want a place to study, and b) non-students who come to the library to surf the net and print things off. It's kind of cute, but the past few days we have gotten a half-dozen to a dozen young Asian women who come in and read and sleep pretty much the whole time the library is open. No clue what that is about, but they are really quiet and respectful and really polite if they have a question. Back when I first came to UAH, I would do things like that, just go to the library and hole up for a dozen hours for the fun of it. Fun was not used ironically in that sentence.

Si Vales, Valeo

May 10, 2009. Sunday.

(12:00:40 AM CDT)

Thorne Smith's Turnabout. Metamorphosis.

Today, I read Thorne Smith's Turnabout. One of the advantages of reading a novel "all at once" is you get to experience it in a heady density. One of the disadvantages is that it does not have room to breathe. Both of those factors taken into consideration, I found it to be delightful in the way that 1930's gender and social satire can be when it done well. I'll get back around the novel in a bit.

I found myself analyzing the theme-plot. In it, a husband and wife, both highly critical of each other, have their identities switched. A transgender body-swap plot, as it were. Body-swap plots, often known as Freaky Friday plots, though they were first (I think) encapsulated in F. Anstey's 1882 novel Vice Versa, a much less interesting through more descriptive title, are a subset of major-metamorphasis plots. These, in turn, are of course a subset of metamorphosis plots, which might be arguably a subset of the journey/quest plot. Except in the case of the metas, the journey is often internal and end up where they started, with a hero/ine that has found some new truth. Major-metamorphosis plots generally fall into two types, namely the Id-plots, where the character is turned into an animal or some other extreme version of his- or herself; and Super-ego-plots; where the protagonist is thrust into a new set of rules (think Big); and the end result is often the same. What. Is. MAN!? Metamorphosis in this case is just a way to contrast and juxtapose a normal state to a new state, and come to some conclusions, which are often the author just telling what he or she thinks. Body-swap plots are, by nature, all about finding out that other people have valid points and you should not be so harsh on them.

What is possibly most interesting about Turnabout is its utter irreverance. Rather than learn what it means to be more feminine, the husband just continues to go around topless and smoke cigars and uses his newfound body to bait his wife's lover over to try and kill him. His wife becomes more aware of what a man goes through, but just barely, and largely opts to stay more feminine than not. Being a product of the 1930s, it is not surprising that the woman really just wants to have a baby (in this case, the man in her body has been impregnated by her in his) and comes to see that the man really does suffer having to go to work. It's a bit sexist. And horrifying, considering the husband-turned-wife drinks heavily for the first seven or eight months of pregnancy, and smokes heavily. That kid is screwed. Some of the more redeeming scenes are centered around the husband's reaction to the things women are expected to put up with continuously: childbirth, OB/GYN, bras. His refusal to take with quiet dignity not only makes for a fair amount of humor, but gives a hint that Thorne Smith is not merely just telling women to suck it up. While women are expected to complain about childbirth but really appreciate it, Tim (the husband) complains and really means it.

I laughed a lot during the book, but then I can take a dirty joke or two and don't mind a bit of irreverance. Other things that might offend, by the way, include a couple of racial stereotypes (black women have lots of babies, and a black man is guilty of more than what he is convicted for, for instance) and a handful of homophobic jokes (naturally, considering the subject). Also, the book is matter of fact about them having affairs. In the first night of the novel, the husband shags an attractive neighbor (well-read with creamy skin and deep red hair, so I have to go on the record saying that I understand) and the wife later has no issues with this. Note the plot bit about him trying to kill her lover, though? Ah well, I still laughed.

Anyhow, the only bit that counts as any change is the wife offers to have twins for the husband, and they come to accept the dog more, and they fight a little less. It's almost an ironic use of the plot device, one could say.

Si Vales, Valeo

May 07, 2009. Thursday.

(12:03:27 PM CDT)

Matter versus Process (aka Subject versus Discipline), random thoughts on racism

Is racism dead in this country? Well, your answer depends on who you are, most likely. A growing number of quasi-affleunt whites seem to be claiming that real racism is a thing of the past and oh, have we pointed out, that real racism is something that black people do? I wrote it contradictory because I have seen both of these claims said by the same people over and over again. Racism is dead and black people are doing it. It's down right cyclopean in it's Lovecraft-like cosmic horror implications. Of course, it is just easy to poke fingers at people who cry racism at any sort of personal attacks, or the nature of hate laws, or the nature of affirmative action.

My belief? Way alive. I won't go into many proofs because it would be pointless. I do think it is a matter of degree, for what it's worth. We no longer consider blacks to be inherently slaves, or consider Asians to be inherently evil, but we do engage in activities that underly a racial profiling. Some of us. Most of us. Whichever.

I started thinking about this because of Morgan Freeman's infamous claim on how to stop racism. Just give it racial lables, is basically his answer. Just let it go. However, and this is a big however, I think there is one flaw in his thinking.

In philosophy, you have a few dichotomies. While a lot of them are interesting to play with, one of them is shared, sort of, with a facet of library/information science. If you are organizing information, do you focus on where it comes from, or where it is going? One way of looking at this is do you focus on the subject's source, like the Library of Congress does, or do you focus on thes subject's use, like Dewey Decimal Classification does? This is closely related to event-object questions of epistemology. Do we look at the objects in a system, or at the events/processes they are capable of? I personally am an event man. I even wrote a somewhat long thesis as an underground about how most forms of event analysis are based around object-oriented terms like time and distance and not rooted in the concept of event itself.

Look at the way racists think. Look at how many are, to use one phrase from Library Science, subject/matter oriented, even though they pretend at being discipline/process oriented. The viability of a world view is deeply rooted on its predicative properties. What can it assert about the world? Also, what predictions can it enable? This means that a "racist" philosophy is valid if it allows you to make sociological statements and predictions with a high enough degree of accuracy to make it worthwhile. This is something racists (also nationalists, culturalists, sexists, and what have you) often claim to be doing, but their analysis fails because they are trying to make statements about the qualities of an object rather than qualities of an event. Like a friend who took his watch off before going into a liquor store run by black people. He claimed he was just being "smart", meaning he thought he was predicting the likelihood of his watch being stolen based on the type of people working there. He, of course, was making a ton of assumptions that had they turned out true would have been true for the wrong reasons, because the object racists pick, being other human beings, is possessed of all that human potential to defy qualities, to escape every definition, and often does things for reasons having nothing to do with a genetic requirement.

Are black people smelly? Let's not even try an "all". Let's just ask, are black people smelly? If you were to step into an elevator with a black person, is it likely you would have to hold your nose? Any rational person will see that this is a pointless and offensive question, that whether or not a person has bad body odor is a factor of several life style choices that have nothing to do with race. Are people from a place in the world where hygeine is talked down smelly? Yes. Are people from a part of the world where body odor is considered attractive smelly? Yes. Are black people smelly? It's implying a quality inherent in the concept of "black", a quality that simply is not there. Note, though, that racists often use the body odor of black people as a point of derision, because the other half to racism is not merely being object-oriented in thinking, but it also assumes that processes are secondary. Black people that do not smell are exceptions, you see. Black people who do smell are confirmations. The truth is, to these racists, black people smell and even if they only meet one out of twenty who have any body odor, that does not change the quality of the object, the inherent truth. The processes were just butter on the bread to these people.

Yes, by the way, I used "these" people as an ironic stab at "those people".

The flaw in Morgan Freeman's thinking that is not that he is protesting using race as a quick-label. I agree with that. Black History Month, as a concept, celebrates first the color of a skin and secondly what was done. It celebrates black inventors because they were black instead of for their ingeniuity. It does exactly the objectification that I am, pun intended, objecting. I think Morgan Freeman is wrong is because this object-oriented look at people cannot be a mere accident. The number of us that do it, that seek for categories to put people in, that all Hispanics are this (never mind exceptions), that all French are this (never mind exceptions), that all gamers are this (never mind exceptions); implies that we are hard wired to seek out differences and then try and mentally summarize them. Not only summarize them as different, but often to summarize the difference as perjorative. How are they less than me?

I think it might be related to our evolution as a tribal entity, that we had to sum up people as a group because why not? Back when there dozens of tribes, and most tribes were heavily led by a single person, it makes sense, somewhat, to get used to talking about one tribe as a whole versus another. I think it stuck with us, though, and so we are still looking for tribes. Both to belong to and to look down upon.

Si Vales, Valeo

May 05, 2009. Tuesday.

(11:29:32 AM CDT)

Just like an episode of Spin City: Albertville and the Spanish/English sign debacle.

For those not regional, Albertville is near Huntsville in Alabama. Apparently like many places, a growing hispanic community is developing. The mayor of Albertville suggests that the rapidly expanding Spanish-speaking community include English tranlations on their signs as a matter of public safety. "Well," replies an advocate for Hispanic rights, "make all the businesses include Spanish on their signs and we have a deal." The Mayor replies: "Um, this is not Mexico!" (note: It's funnier to picture him saying "Mey-HE-ko" in a strong Southern accent). The Advocate replies, "When it comes to businesses, let's not make language an issue. They pay taxes." Mayor goes "We need to have english names so public services like police and firemen can respond faster." Advocate concludes, "You just hate them because you think they are illegals. They pay taxes. One-fifth of this city is Hispanic, all signs should have to include Spanish."

It really is just like an episode of some sit-com. You can read the full story on Al.com: Albertville mayor's English sign proposal stirs up language debate.

What is particularly frustrating is that rarely does the Advocate addresss anything the mayor actually says. The Advocate assumes this is some witch-hunt against Hispanics, and continues the mantra that this becomes discriminatory because they pay their taxes. She goes on to talk about how it is right to deport criminals but this is some city wide attempt to drive Hispanics from the community. Then she concludes with "You can have one state bird, but there are many birds in an environment". I'm not from Albertville, maybe the Mayor saying "Hey, we need to have more recognizable placemarkers" is racism, but it seemed to be a reasonable request. Kind of. It depends on what sort of signs we are talking about here. Are we talking about making Casa Blanca write out "white house", or are we talking about more intricate signs identifying places as fooderies versus grocery stores versus drug stores versus etc. The latter might save time in figuring out which business is the "drug store down the street". In the former case, it does come down to something like silly. In the latter, I would say the mayor is probably right.

But, again, the whole thing just sounds like some sitcom episode.

Si Vales, Valeo

PS: bonus! Today's Bad Chemicals brings us the scary story of "evil talk show hosts" driving gun crazed people mad and an attack on intellectuals. Well, real life sort of brought us that, but The Bad Chemicals just sums it up.

May 04, 2009. Monday.

(02:24:39 AM CDT)

Random Doug Fact: He Gets Wistful at Series' Ends.

Ever so often, some sort of meme goes around that asks us to expose random facts about ourselves. Twenty unique statements. Six odd habits. Places we have visited. Weird fantasies we have had. Members of Hanson we thought were girls back during that "MMMBob" stage. And, like good little snowflakes, we demonstrate our uniqueness by responding to these in massive quantities. Until they become blaise, which is about the time that ever living soul has done one, and then we wait for the next one. Since it will be hard to top the "25 things" in size, my guess is the next round will focus on quality and not quantity. Something like "Name two things you would insert into your body for cash without washing first".

I have skipped the last couple rounds of these because, well, I bore me. "I read books for pleasure," might put me in a very small minority, as might "He is ok with the fact that world sucks," but how many times can I say them? Should I rearrange them into a dougified remix? "He sucks books ok for pleasure fact"? That's pretty cool. Consider that numbers 1 through 24 on that 25 things thing.

Number 25 is this: Doug gets wistful at series' ends. Which series? Well, I primarily mean television and radio series, but I suppose a little with books, too. Normally, though, when I get done with a book, I am quite happy. I get a very nice positive buzz, no matter how it turns out. Movies, I might get a positive happiness, but generally the feeling is emotionally neutral with a bend towards my feelings on the movie. What I am talking about is not just enjoying or hating the material at hand, but an additional sense of joy or sadness based on the act of being done. And, no matter how happy or sad the ending to some TV or radio series is, I get wistful.

Some cases are worse than others. I was pretty much in a depressed funk with the end of Arrested Development. I was borderline teary-eyed at the end of Black Books. You probably could have put me out to pasture I was so sad that end of Are You Being Served? (in my defense, I had been watching that for years). Red Dwarf is a weird one, because it has "ended" a couple of times, so I don't know what I think any more. I was relatively ok when Scrubs ended. What's that you say, Scrubs has been for seasons past the fourth one? Bah, that sounds like brazen lies. I was even sad at the end of Jeeves and Wooster which had not gone anywhere besides downhill sense the end of the second series.

Anyhow, I bring all this up because tonight I started listening, again, to Space Hacks which is a delightful little science-fiction comedy that came on BBC7 (and still, I think, is up for more). It is near impossible to hear "British", "science fiction", and "comedy" in the same sentence without thinking about Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, which I have had for some time but never listened to the last couple episodes of the second series (which was the original ending). Partially because the original second series goes kind of oddly off the mark, in my opinion. It is not not-funny, and has some classic lines ("To summarize the summary: the problem is people") but still feels out of vibe with the first eight or so episodes, even though the "shoe event horizon" seems about as poignant a description of our current economic situation as anything I have ever seen. Heard. You know what I mean.

I get to the end of the twelth episode, which was the ending to the series until the later books went in a different way and until the later follow up radioplays came out, and I felt wistful. I always do. I liked the original ending to H2G2 but that does not mean anything. Had the ending been the happiest ending in the world, maybe something like the way the movie ended, I would probably have still felt wistful. It is just the way I react to such things.

And that feels weird to me.

Si Vales, Valeo

May 03, 2009. Sunday.

(05:59:36 PM CDT)

Rain Leads to Uneventful Weekend. Dampness.

Goodness, it is raining again. And hard. I am on the second floor of our apartment complex but due to some sort of pipe malfunction, water is gushing down right outside of our door and making this little micro-flood that might very well come over our doorstep if it keeps it up for very long. I do not think it will, but who knows?

The rain has helped to insure that I have no done a whole lot this weekend. Friday, between the downpour and the continued random feer of Flu A-H1N1, the library was fairly empty. There were a few students there doing some final projects, often attached in various ways to other institutions, and some people trying to get their final UAH affairs in order who needed some help on how to access this or that part of their account before they stopped being students, but mostly I read The Thief and the Dogs (this years Big Read Title, or at least one of them) and just acted friendly towards people. The original plan was to walk home after work. However, the torrential downpour would have soaked me in seconds. Sarah swung back and picked me up (thanks, love!) and kept from drowning on my swim home.

The downside to my heroine's (man, that's unfortunate) being able to help me is that she was partially able because Relay-for-Life, which she has busted her but getting prepared for and such, was as affected by the storms as I was. Meaning that no one was expected to walk in a time of floods and lightning strikes. She had hoped, as had I, that they would reconvene in a couple of hours, but it was not meant to be. After a couple postponements, it was cancelled and to be rescheduled some later weekend.

We one time though about going out and walking in the rain but that never came about, because about the time we got to the park, it was near a white-out level condition. Very, very wet. I think if I would had one more act of encouragement, though, I might have still done it. Sarah just recently (as in, two-three weeks recently) lost a grandmother to cancer. Her other grandmother (and my mom) survived cancer. She has lost an aunt and an uncle to cancer, and all the issues that the rebuilding of family homes and such have brought about. I lost a grandfather to cancer. It has hit a lot in our families, and so it would have been nice doing some honor to them. Walking in a full on thunderstorm, maybe not such a good idea, but I would like to do something.

Anyhow, Saturday and today have been much the same. Reading, playing on a computer, watching lots of rain, enjoying the overall dampness in the air. I'm a water guy, most definitely, and so I have been liking it. I may not like it so much tomorrow when I return to work, but I guess that's the price I pay. It would also be nice if it did this British style. You know, rain a bit and then stop. Rain a bit and then stop. Keep the crops and the aquifers healthy but not destroying homes and bridges. Alabama weather does not compromise for anyone, though, so I am used to that.

Oh well, back to drinking my juice + white chai mixture, smoking a bowl or two of toasted cavendish, and playing some more Lost Cases of Sherlock Holmes. Later on, I may or may not watch Midnight Meat Train, Crash (the Cronenberg film, natch), or just read some more and stare out at the continued downpour with a cuppa in hand.

Si Vales, Valeo

Written by W Doug Bolden

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