Notes on a New World Order

Would you like fries with your Universe?

AL&P: Water, Whimsy, and Spirit
2007-05-17 00:00

Maxine Hone Kingston’s chapter in The Fifth Book of Peace “Water” isn’t so much a chapter as a book. The fourth book of peace, if you believe her. (Which isn’t unreasonable, but some are more skeptical of mysticism than others.) By mixing the tail end of hippie culture into the seemingly ancient Hawaiian notion of aloha and ‘aina, along with many other cultural references along similar lines, Kingston creates a milieu of philosophies, emplaced and imposed upon a poor community of renters. Each sees the world through the veil of their philosophy, Witman and Taña through their hippie culture, their impressions of Hawaii from the haole (foreigner) perspective. The natives through the nearly lost philosophy of aloha, the immigrants, the ‘transplanted natives,’ through the eyes of their own culture, and through the eyes of the ‘new’ aloha; take what isn’t given, because they don’t know how to give. In the class discussion, it was mentioned that Kingston had tried to find a “happy ending” for the book and failed to do so. That one could find hhappinessin such duplicitous and hollow people and places as the Ah Sing’s attempted to do seems almost absurd given the above description. Even the provided ending seems to only increase their self-deception of the greater purpose, of aloha and ‘aina, and their place within it. They come to see their place only by creating a world where they have one.

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So, about that job thing…
2007-05-16 00:00

I did get it. I’ll be starting on the 29th. That means I really don’t get any time off after school’s done for the summer, but it does mean I’ll have at least one quarter of co-op, if not two (my employer an I both hope it works out for two quarters) under my belt before starting back up with the academics. I kinda like the academics though, so I hope the ‘job stuff’ turns out to be fun. (If I really hate it I’ll be in more trouble, but I doubt that.) So anyone who was planning on me, being a student, having lots of free time this summer will be disappointed, but if you were hoping I’d have money, then you won’t be. I’m usually broke because I don’t work, now I’ll be busy and uninteresting, but I’ll have money. Hopefully a regular daily schedule will put some good habits in place for the future, you might even see more postings here of a reasonably technical nature, as I’ll start wanting to ‘make my mark’ in the larger technological field, so to speak. This blog seems to get enough traffic (somehow) that people who Google for specific things addressed in my posts will find it. (As long as it’s obscure enough that I’m not drowned out in the noise of everyone else talking about it.) I’ve never been this busy in my life. I think I’m starting to feel the push a bit more than I’m comfortable with, as far as homework and projects and everything else is concerned, so a steady workaday thing will be a (somewhat) welcome change. In any case, my parents are thrilled as hell that I’ve got a job (yeah, uncool to mention my parents and how I’m so totally dependant on them, pshaw) an all though. It’s almost like they expected me to avoid it because I’m not thrilled about the idea of trading time for money. It’s not a good long-term exchange, but, to a degree, I’m trading my time for experience and money, which is quite good for me. Experience will give me options, if nothing else. And options are good.

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2007-05-10 00:00

Why is the Department of Homeland Security and an up and coming shipping service’s acronyms so similar. I havn’t done anything stupid like try and ship something with the DHS, or report terrorism to DHL, but it seems like a ripe place for confusion. Particularly with the proliferation of TLAs (three-letter acronyms, for those “in the know”) in recent times.

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Me, a Job? Yes, really.
2007-05-09 00:00

Well, I managed to get contacted about my application to a company. Just for a co-op, but still, exciting news for me, as I’ve never really had a job before. A little terrifying, a lot exciting, and a bunch of awesome. Certainly an ego boost to be considered for hiring (as long as I’m not way out in left field on what my skills are like, which considering that I’ve never worked in a really professional environment could be the case). The company does telecom-type stuff, which is interesting (particualarly VoIP stuff is what I think is cool, but all the ‘first-generation’ hackers came from the phreaker community (for the most part) so telephony has to have some appeal just for that. ) I go in for an interview/test/thing on Friday, so we’ll see how that goes. If this works out it’ll be a wonderfully good thing for me, just to get all the co-op and work experience stuff started, as I really feel behind compared to some people I’ve met, but I guess some people chose this school with the notion that they were going to do the internship/co-op thing anyway, and they may as well go to a school set up for it. (As a transfer student, it’s a little weird feeling, if not actually weird in practice because I’m not as embedded in the culture of RIT and the co-op stuff, on a social and academic level hasn’t been part of my college experience from the beginning.) So, yeah. Exciting. Terrifying. Linux. C++. Telephony. Me.

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AL&P: Something somethings — I'm late, so sue me.
2007-05-02 00:00

Yeah, I haven't posted in a while. It's bad. I know. Things got busy and I decided to spend my time elsewhere. Anyway, since I last posted, I've still got no idea what to do with Foer, there's a bunch of cool poems we read that were, honestly, pretty shallow in terms of philosophic content, except in the broader sociological context they are from. ("America," "The Solution," etc.) And now we're reading Maxine Hong Kingston's The Fifth Book of Peace. The first 'chapter' "Fire" is a stream of consciousness experiental account of the massive fire wherein she loses her manuscript for the Fourth Book of Peace she had been writing (in addition to her home and most other worldly possessions). The second chapter, "Paper," describes in detail how the notion of the books of peace, particularly the "three lost books of peace" came to be a form of personal mythos for her. Other than annoyance at what appear to be grammatical (perhaps typographic) mistakes in the text (and which I am sure are intended to be that way) the book doesn't engage me the way Foer's did, though I must admit neither would be a book I'd choose to read on my own. (Knowing what I know now, I would say I'd read Foer.) I feel beaten up by the workload from the past few days, and the discussion in class seems to have mellowed in the same way. Nobody wants to deal with Stuhr because he's hard to understand and difficult to peice together without a lot of philosophical background, which he seems to want to throw out anway. We read, and we speculate, but the discussion just grow broader and broader, different people are starting to monopolize the talking because they have outside knowledge or experience that seems to be given more relevence in the literary sense than in the philosophical, particularly with respect to cultural identifications with Chinese-American culture and Zen Buddhism (as practised in the West or as in China). Everyone seems to really be focusing on their projects (in this class and elsewhere) rather than spending their time working through the readings. I hesitate to consider the longest of the readings "Water" from Kingston's book, I wonder if the discussion will turn into summary and barely touch on the literary or philosophical things said on more than a surface level. There are some good things to say about peace and war, but it seems like most of the rest of the class discussion has been focused on education and learning, and we don't, collectively, have the tools to really dig into the theory of peace, war, and mind --- especially from the Chinese/Eastern traditions. I know I'd rather be spending the time digging into some of our earlier themes in the class: education and experience, in order to more fully round out our discussions of the literature we've read, and become a bit reflective towards the end of the class, up until the presentations, where there will be the products of our shared labour fed back into the 'collective.' (An interesting educational notion in and of itself which might deserve a day or two of exploration.)

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2007-05-02 00:00

I'm the opposite of bored. I'm flooded with things, all of which are awesome and interesting. I theoretically have enough time in the day to do them, but my habits, being those aquired through periods of mostly moderate to little stimulation, don't break easily enough into a longer and more intense working schedule. (If one could say I've ever had a working schedule.) I'm not bored, I'm anti-bored. I'm busy plus plus. Busy incremented. More than busy.PLAIN TEXTC++:

  1. Busy += Busy++;

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AL&P: Beyond the P{age,ale}?
2007-04-23 00:00

In an attempt to further understand Stuhr, in his latest chapter "From the Art of Surfaces to Control Societies and Beyond: Stoicim, Postmodernism, and Pan-Machinism" (which is actually skipping a chapter in the book, blame my professors, not me.) I have decided to appropriate this journal to my own ends. Stuhr references a billion (not quite literally) things in this chapter, and I can't follow all of the references. There's some URL's he puts in the text, music he expects the audience to listen to, and a whole set-up to get the 'full experience' of the chapter. While there is something to be said for multi-media experiences, and their value æsthetically in addition to philosophically, scientifically, and whatever else to which you attribute the utility of experience, I don't trust Stuhr's writing to convey his notions clearly and accurately, even in part. How can I possibly have confidence in the evocative, invocation, and perhaps even revocation present in this much more nontraditional paradigm of communication?

My answer? Respond in kind. If Stuhr wants to call up philosophers I've not heard of, make allusions to cultural artefacts I've not experienced, or appeal to æsthetics I don't share, then I will push my own æsthetics, cultural artefacts and experience into philosophy, just see where they go. According to Stuhr, this is what he's trying to get us to do anyway. By our listening to him to do it, are we not coming to unique experience? Decide for yourself.

"People who know exactly what they want have always frightened me, and Lise had known what she wanted for a long time, and wanted nothing else at all. …and I'd seen enough strangers' dreams, …, to know that most people's inner monsters ware foolish things, ludicrous in the calm light of one's own consciousness.

"[the scene is] like you're on a motorcycle at midnight, no lights but somehow you don't need them, blasting out along a cliff-high stretch of coast highways, so fast that you hang there in a cone of silence, the bike's thunder lost behind you. Everything, lost behind you….It's just a blink… but it's one of the thousand things you remember, go back to, incorporate into your own vocabulary of feelings. … Freedom and death, right there, right there, a razor's edge, forever.

"What I got was the big-daddy version of that, raw rush, the king hell killer uncut real thing, exploding eight ways from Sunday into a void that stank of poverty and lovelessness and obscurity.

"And that was Lise's ambition, that rush, seen from the inside."

—From The Winter Market by William Gibson

The above evokes unspeakable emotion, internal drive, the heart of experience. Can we capture that, in our pan-machinistic worldview? Can we, as in this story, record, process, duplicate, and mass-produce compelling experience, if even not with such a sophisticated technology as portrayed in the story? I would say, given our technology and its capabilities today, we already, and will continue to produce ever more compelling, even 'real,' experience. The machine of experience will unite and fragment simultaneously; compelling experience is not simple, easy, or straightforward, but a unity of compelling experience will create a discourse as varied and complex as the experience itself. Should we press onwards towards mass-produced, commercial experience as a way to reëstablish democractic unity? Perhaps. I think there is another way. (I just don't know what.)

"[I might have found a way to] trust in whatever it is that she's since become, or had built in her image, a program that pretends to be Lise to the extent that it believes it's her. I could have believed …, that she was so truly past it, …, that nothing mattered to her except the hour of her departure. That she threw away that poor sad body with a cry of release, free of the bonds of polycarbon and hated flesh. But seeing her there, …, I knew, once and for all, that no human motive is ever entirely pure. Even Lise, … Was human in a way I hated myself for admitting."
—From The Winter Market by William Gibson

But there is a danger. A real and serious danger in these hopes. We can fly to our futures, our ultimate fate, consumers of packaged dreams, consumers of democracy rather than creators. Will our motives be as pure as the words on our lips? Can we mechanize our thoughts as we mechanize our speech? Perhaps. But what do we lose?

"The integrity of [the Bridge's] span was rigorous as the modern program itself, yet around this had grown another reality, intent upon its own agenda. … The result was something amorphous, startlingly organic. At night, illuminated by Christmas bulbs, by recycled neon, by torchlight, it possesed a queer medieval engery. By day, seen form a distance, it reminded him of the ruin of England's Brighton Pier, as though viewed through some cracked kaleidoscope of vernacular style."

"Dreams of commerce, their locations generally corresponding with the decks that had once carried vehicular traffic; while above them, rising to the very peaks of the cable towers, lifted the intricately suspended barrio, with its unnumbered poulation and its zones of more private fantasy."

"Steam was rising from the pots of soup-vendors, beneath a jagged arc of scavenged neon. Everything ran together, blurring, melting in the fog. Telepresence had only hinted at the magic and singularity of the thing, and he'd walked slowly forward, into that neon maw and all that patchwork carnival of scavenged surfaces, in perfect awe. Fairyland. Rain-silvered plywood, broken marble from the walls of forgotton banks, corrugated plastic, polished brass, sequins, painted canvas, mirrors, chrome gone dull and peeling in the salt air."
—From William Gibson's Virtual Light, chapter "The Bridge"

I would say we lose what the above quote from Virtual Light depicts. The organic human island in the midst of technology, organically intertwined, symbiotic; somehow apart but hopelessly interdependent. We, daily, hourly, seek to understand this connection, our place, the place of our technology, where we are and where we're going. Whether we need to change in this way or that. There is hardly even a question of the need for change. Writers like Alvin Toffler, who wrote Future Shock in 1970 speak of change as the normative assumption, not stability. Dynamism over Modernism, in a sense. Ray Kurzweil, author of numerous books on the impact and progression of technology in society, a futurist and innovator, as well as author, puts the future squarely in the realm of technological control. He paints technology as our salvation, not without risk or problem, not smoothly, but disjointly and rapidly (on the human timescale we know today) approaching the "Singularity." The world we live in, by the time we (young adults) leave it, if we leave it, will be nothing like today's world, just as today's world is nothing like the stone age. Will the transformation of our world bring about new paradigms in democracy? Will democracy even seem reasonable? What will replace it?

Nearly by definition these questions are unanswerable today. But we can guess. My guess?

"The more things change…"

AL&aP: Musings of an angry critic.
2007-04-18 00:00

I’m going after Stuhr again.The chapter “Democracy as a Way of Life, Democracy in the Face of Terrorism” in his book Pragmatism, Postmodernism, and the Future of Philosophy leaves me annoyed, wanting more (or less), and breathlessly protesting. Hopefully the rest of the book will fill in some of the gaps in the theory, or flesh out how his ideal isn’t a broken concept hidden behind defining it as something else. What Stuhr outlines is basically a “secular faith” in “Democracy,” which is moral and accounts for all the things democracy needs to be that aren’t governmental, how democracy can be a way of life. I don’t buy it. I didn’t when I read it, after class discussion I’m still not convinced, and I’m going to outline my concerns momentarily, but first, a pseudo-ad-hominem attack on the book itself: I can’t believe this got through an editor’s hands. Stuhr manages to require the reader be both familiar with the writings of Dewey (which, for a philosophical audience is possibly the case) and (at least suggests) the reader should abandon the past, as such, asking us to reinvent Dewey’s philosophy. I think the audience of this book is confused, because the writing is confused about its audience. On the one hand, the book is quite readable by non-technical (philosophically) readers, and seems to be able to speak to policy-makers, on the other, the book seems to require a large familiarity with Dewey’s work to fully understand (in a perversely historical manner, considering the message) its message. On to Stuhr’s theory of democracy: He calls for the formation of a democratic cult. “Democracy” will be defined differently in different instances, but it is somehow still democracy because we call it that. As a moral judgement this doesn’t work. I can say the (according to my values) democratic answer to the proliferation of genetic diseases due to lifesaving treatments is to ban carriers from procreating. The moral result defines democracy, not vice versa. This may be a matter of symbolism, which I think Stuhr is completely abusing, as democracy represents a fairly well-defined set of ideas, so long as one doesn’t try to make a cult from them. The idea we need a new system is all well and good, but that system is not going to be a democracy, it is going to be a step beyond. This system doesn’t have a name because of the arrogance we have (societally) that democratic theory is the ultimate theory, that it is the top and no more progress can be made. This very notion is the one by which there is justification for imposition of democracy on others as a long-term benefit, even at the expense of the present (working) system. The very notion of pluralism Stuhr seeks to uphold is thrown down by the arrogance of democratic theory. This cannot be the answer, as means are coercive, constraining, and socially dependent, everything democracy seeks to remove; thus even Stuhr (given my criticisms are correct) would have to admit, by his own theory, that the democratic faith is a self-contradiction as democracy can only be achieved through democratic means. (Which the democratic faith is not. I don’t see a way to save this argument. I really don’t. My thoughts may not be clear, and I may lack the historical background to understand how Stuhr is writing and to whom, but given my own experience and understanding, introspection, and thought about democratic institutions, policy, and cult-like ideal worship (editorializing a bit there…), I see no way this democratic faith could be pragmatically, much less theoretically, viable.

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AL&P: Part of the Whole
2007-04-09 00:00

Well, I’m not quite sure what to write. I know what to write about: Jonathan Safran Foer’s Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close. I think perhaps part of my ‘writer’s block’ (so to speak) is the sheer volume of material that this (and other entries on this book) are meant to address. Part might also be the emotional power of the work; as a book about loss, tragedy, and coming-of-age-identity-finding, Loud & Close (or EL&IC, Extremely Loud, Incredibly Close, whatever. You try abbreviating this book title to something that fits in your mouth and flies off your fingers…) finds it home in your heart, which is a difficult place to look for analytic and reasoned thinking. Perhaps most tellingly, I find little criticism to give, nor cloudiness to unmask in Foer’s writing; he shows great craft, has timely subject matter, and addresses a complex topic with appropriate complexity. That might be it, though; hidden in this very personal little reverie over the difficulties of writing to such a work as Foer’s happens to be, there is a grain of insight. Foer’s work speaks so incredibly closely, and extremely loudly to our own hearts and minds that we find him not only hard to ignore, but hard to quantify, qualify, or deconstruct. It seems (to my eyes at least) Foer’s novel contains a great deal more than the sum of its parts, and to break it down, to analyze it, would be to do it a disservice. Hopefully I can find a way to address the novel as a whole after I’ve finished reading it, but the next two segments (a third each) will not be completed until the end of this week (9 Apr-13 Apr), so I have no great hope of appropriate analysis until then.

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Explaining "Delicious"
2007-04-09 00:00

…and no, I’m not talking about the ‘niced-up’ version of the 300 trailer. (Watch it if you haven’t, if only because you’ll learn something about how the Internet community feels about censorship. i.e. It’s funny and stupid.) In any case, I figured, since I haven’t been posting anything but school related journals for a while (and, FYI, I’ve gotten back the first evaluation on them — 25/25, so..if you don’t like them my professors do. One even commented.) I’d go through some links that are posted on the sidebar and explain them, and why they’re interesting. However, do realize those links are merely those I’ve found that I wanted to save since I started using…I have many other random bookmarks that I should put into, and many that I probably shouldn’t…so I might continue this post-idea (perhaps even make it a series) by posting some of those links and explaining about them simultaneously. I’ve certainly got some history on a bunch of them. I’m pretty sure I have bookmarks from before I bought my own computer. Anyway… I’ll start with the most recent links I have posted, as I remember slightly better why I saved them, and they’re (I think) more likely for you to have noticed.

  • - The Ultimate DDR Deck 2.0 - Overview: This is just cool. I’m a big fan of DIY hardware (it’s a theme you’ll notice in the links I’ve posted. I think I found this on HackADay but I’m not sure. This struck my eye as I’ve often pondered building DDR devices, as it’s one of the few video games that I can stand to play for more than a few minutes, and have gone back to and actually wanted to play again. Recently I even got StepMania working again (from CVS/SVN even) and got a PS2 Controller to USB adaptor so I could play with a controller instead of a keyboard. In any case, I’ve never built a dance pad, and only ever used one a few times, so I suck at DDR on one, but I’d be really fun, I think. Plus, I need to do more physical activity, and this would be a pretty decent way to do it. (Horribly horribly desparately freakishly geeky, but I’m OK with that.)
  • Real Men, Real Roleplayers, Loonies, and Munchkins: This is straight up Pencil and Paper (Tabletop) Roleplaying Humour. I used to play Dungeons and Dragons, and would play something now (preferably something with a more modern setting, but I’m still down with rescuing princesses and killing evil dragons) if I wasn’t so lame as to have no friends. I have to have read this at least six or seven years ago, which seems like a long time to me. I have the sad feeling that it’s only really funny if you’ve played a few games and actually know something about the “old guard” gamer culture, so to speak. I’m sure there are jokes that I’ve never gotten in there, but I understand most of it, and it is true, like all humour is true. Just funny, even if you’ve never played anything like a paper and pencil RPG, check it out, the worst that will happen is you won’t understand it; however, it could be a riot.
  • The Tale of Eric and the Dread Gazebo [rec.humor.funny]: Same sort of thing as the link above. This is so classic that anyone should understand it though. It’s really funny, even if you’ve never played a game in your life. And if you quote this around any gamer that’s heard of this, they’ll love you forever. It’s another piece of classic gamer humour. There are a few others in my list of links on, so filter through on some appropriate tags and you’ll come across mine. And, of course, there’s a ton more on proper by everone else.
  • Just you try and stop watching this…: Yeah, it’s a goofy flash thing, and it’s rather scarily hypnotic. This marks the segue into strange, odd, or wonderfully different things I’m going to showcase. I have no idea what this is or where it came from, exactly, but it’s in the list of links because “I Found it on the Web.” (And, if you happen to know a neat place that has a forum called that, yes, I found it there….)
  • Creating Passionate Users: This is an interesting post, and a blog that I should read if I had time and/or inclination. Explains a lot of stuff about design that you don’t get in a computer science course. Very good, and if you run a blog, seems to make a lot of sense. I’m writing this from memory, so I have no idea what’s going on with the blog right now.

And that’s that for now. Just though I should have a real post that wasn’t school related so you readers don’t get too board and just disappear. Having readers like my professors is pretty fun and all, but that’s not the point, so much. I’d like to have actual readers, who read because I’m interesting, or they know me and want to keep up to date with my oddities, or whatever. Professors are cool and all, but a couple professors do not a personal blog readership make. (To absolutely destroy the idiom.) Have fun reading this, and checking out a few things, hopefully I’ll have a few posts on my other classes and things that have struck me as needing a rant recently. Classwork on the blog seems weird, but it keeps me thinking about it, which is good for you all readers and whatnot. Hopefully I’ll put to use my little book of blog ideas, or start a list of my own, save up drafts of things so when I need a post I can just pull one out and throw it up. (Which sounds like vomiting things onto my blog, but that’s more like what happens when I realize I haven’t posted anything in a few weeks and should, or my two readers will just remove my feed from their readers.) Gah. I’m done. I’ve gone on and on and on in a most boring way. Go find some cool stuff and tell me about it. If it’s cool enough, I might even blog it.

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