Monday, July 31, 2006
Sam Jackson + anime. Only good can come of this. Gonzo studios is handling the animation so it should look all purdy like. Only time will tell if motherfucker and snakes is uttered in the show. Let's pray.
Now will they call him Afro-sama? or Mofo-dono?
Dead or Alive and Rumble Roses should be available for the Wii. What with its innovative one handed controller...
Ah the PR train wreck that is the PS3. Now I don't mind stealing ideas. Especially since I'll be buying your end product and if it adds value, all the better. But y'know, saying the competition's ideas are total bunk and then claiming you invented the wheel when no one was lookin - that's another story.
So it's all over the Nerdosphere. Sony swipes Xbox Live's Achievement system. Let's recap.
- releasing 2 versions of the PS3 after saying that the 360 versions would confuse the consumer
- saying you've always had motion sensing planned when Microsoft had it way back with the Sidewinder Freestyle Pro
- saying gamers don't want/aren't ready for internet enabled play during the PS2 era - then promptly touting PS3 online
In all honesty, I hope they do steal it, and Nintendo should follow suit with like Nintendo Merit Badges(TM). Mariopoints? Zeldabucks? :)
And in a perfect world I'd have one Gamertag where all these stats were stored. C'mon. How else am I supposed to measure my e-Wang?
Sunday, July 30, 2006
I watched The Proposition (trailer) last night at City Cinema, and, while it was an excellent movie, the thought crossed my mind about 3/4ths of the way through it to just get up and walk out. Not out of disappointment, but out of shock. This is definitely a movie where, if I was watching it at home, I would take many breaks and pauses before finishing it.
I'm not normally one to flinch at violence in movies, either. Normally I am the one least likely to be scared by a horror movie or set on edge by suspense, since I often find myself thinking about how a certain effect was done, how they made the blood or explosion look that way, rather than suspending my disbelief and thinking that the monster on the screen was actually doing that to the beautiful actress who was actually getting hurt.
But this movie occupies a different mental space. It's not the on-screen violence, so much as the idea of it. Between the dustiness and half-hearted, minimal buildings, and the open spaces that still feel cramped and claustrophobic, the very idea of the setting itself, 19th century Australia, becomes frightening.
The characters thrown into the land become twisted by it, the main villain quotes poetry, but you never know where his knowledge of it came from, you only imagine him living some remotely normal existance in Ireland before finding his way to Australia and having his humanity twisted around and warped into the monster depicted in the film.
Something I noticed while watching the movie is the skilled way music is used. A peaceful panorama will have background music filling the audio space, letting you relax and focus your mental attention on this harmless audio signal, but then the music is taken away, leaving you to face the ensuing on-screen violence with undivided attention. Sort of a reverse Clockwork Orange effect, where the music is the comfort, and taking it away primes you to be exposed to something horrible.
The other aspect of why the violence of the movie was so gripping was that it wasn't limited to the villains. The administrators were arguably just as savage in their doings as were the three brothers that they are trying to catch. Between administering punishments for the sheer sadistic pleasure of public beatings and hangings to the waging of war against the Aboriginees, it starts to look like the only difference between the good guys and the bad guys is self-awareness. The Australian outback seems to reject the presence of these European colonists like a body rejects an incompatible organ, poisoning it until it stops functioning normally and becomes toxic to everything around it. The contrast with the Aboriginees goes without any special mention, because it's so obvious that one must posess an entirely different set of cultural DNA to thrive there.
Saturday, July 29, 2006
Lately I've been unhappy with myself in how social life has been. I'm always on the edge of a few different social circles, never completely immersed in one in particular. I've been characterized as a "ghost" for my tendency to flit in and out of groups and gatherings. I've only very rarely felt like I was completely accepted into a group.
I'm always baffled by how people develop little catphrases and coded language, and can have an instant radar for when someone isn't using them right.
I've always found social events pretty terrifying, often at something like a formal dance I'll find myself out in the hallway hyperventilating and recovering from a panic attack from being in a crowd where everyone was moving around and I seemed to be the only one in everyone's way, not behaving according to the proscribed algorithm.
There are a few different reasons for all of this that I can think of. I'm going to spread out my thoughts about all of this over a few posts, because no one reads long posts and I don't have everything clear about what I want to say right now. but I do have to form into words a statement accepting myself being the way I am right now, and telling myself to not beat myself up over an awkward moment or time when I had to just leave some gathering or other.
The way I interact with the world is, by necessity, fundamentally different from the way most people are able to. This is unavoidable. I know people like to say "I don't notice your handicap" to me, but unfortunatly this isn't an ideal state of affairs. It's part of who I am that I can't recognize you when I pass you in the street. I've probably lost friends or potential close relationships because of some incident where they thought I was slighting them by just walking by, or not going up to them when out some place.
I'm thinking about actually digging out the white cane I have and just carrying it around, not to use but just folded up with the red tip showing as a signal, not to get out of my way, but to understand when I don't make eye contact with you or whatever.
This sort of combines with a fear of rejection and wariness of agressive or overbearing people that came from not having a good social environment in school, and I'm finding developing close friendships rather elusive.
One social misstep by me or someone else towards me that made things awkward has led me to just flee from a whole group of people and start back at square one. It's strange how it's easier to salvage a friendship out of an all-out fight where everything gets aired and exposed and dealt with than it is to overcome a misunderstanding or not meeting someone's image of you.
Anyway, I write about myself because I can't stand the idea of boring someone to death talking about myself in person, so I shouldn't do the same disservice to a bunch of blog readers.
So I think I'll go and see a movie by myself, and maybe go see a show tonight and enjoy myself because I enjoy music, and not be disappointed because I wasn't an integral part of the group socializing that will be happening.
I've just now come across the name for a particularly insidious little brain parisite that causes the most frustrating logical hoop-jumping among people in order to justify their lack of concern for others, the Just World Phenomenon. From WikiPedia: The just-world phenomenon, also called the just-world effect or just-world hypothesis, refers to the tendency for people to believe the world is "just" and so therefore people "get what they deserve." One study gave women what appeared to be painful electric shocks while working on a difficult memory problem. Those who observed the experiment appeared to blame the victim for her fate, praised the experiment, and rated her as being less physically attractive than those who had seen her but not the experiment. In another study, subjects were told two versions of a story about an interaction between a woman and a man. Both variations were exactly the same, except at the very end the man raped the woman in one and in the other he proposed marriage. In both conditions, subjects viewed the woman's (identical) actions as inevitably leading to the (very different) results. Studies have shown that those who believe in a "just world" may be more likely to believe that rape victims must have behaved seductively, battered wives must have deserved their beatings, that sick people must have caused their own illness, or that the poor deserve their lot. In this way, if something good (like a job promotion) or bad (like an injury) occurs, people attribute the occurrence to the person, not to a chance turn of events. For example, some people feel that those living on the street are homeless because they are too lazy to find a job, rather than considering alternatives such as bad luck or mental illness. Likewise, if someone invests well and is rewarded by it, most people believe that the person is smart and a good investor, instead of it being chance. Closely related cognitive biases include hindsight bias, the illusion of control, the halo effect, self-serving bias and the fundamental attribution error. The effect could also be explained in terms of cognitive dissonance theory.
God, Karma, The Universe, The Invisible Hand, all of these are names for that little deception we commit against ourselves, that things happen for a reason and that there's no point getting worked up over it, and that we are being good people if we don't make waves and go about our own business and try not to do anything wrong ourselves.
Blaming the victim is pretty obvious and noticeable when people do it nowadays, and it usually gets called out &emdash; at least in the case of violence against women, though the tendency hasn't gone away by any stretch.
The wider phenomenon remains, unfortunately, and you have to wonder how people would cope if that little safety net separating them from the rest of humanity were taken away. If people actually took to heart the phrase "whatever you do to the least of My brothers, that you do unto Me."
To be happy in one's own self, to accept one's self and be content, to notbe caught up in desires and attachments, along with a refusal to sit by while injustices happen in the world, is the most dangerous combination to those who live off of injustice.
The just-world phenomenon, also called the just-world effect or just-world hypothesis, refers to the tendency for people to believe the world is "just" and so therefore people "get what they deserve."
One study gave women what appeared to be painful electric shocks while working on a difficult memory problem. Those who observed the experiment appeared to blame the victim for her fate, praised the experiment, and rated her as being less physically attractive than those who had seen her but not the experiment.
In another study, subjects were told two versions of a story about an interaction between a woman and a man. Both variations were exactly the same, except at the very end the man raped the woman in one and in the other he proposed marriage. In both conditions, subjects viewed the woman's (identical) actions as inevitably leading to the (very different) results.
Studies have shown that those who believe in a "just world" may be more likely to believe that rape victims must have behaved seductively, battered wives must have deserved their beatings, that sick people must have caused their own illness, or that the poor deserve their lot.
In this way, if something good (like a job promotion) or bad (like an injury) occurs, people attribute the occurrence to the person, not to a chance turn of events. For example, some people feel that those living on the street are homeless because they are too lazy to find a job, rather than considering alternatives such as bad luck or mental illness. Likewise, if someone invests well and is rewarded by it, most people believe that the person is smart and a good investor, instead of it being chance.
Closely related cognitive biases include hindsight bias, the illusion of control, the halo effect, self-serving bias and the fundamental attribution error. The effect could also be explained in terms of cognitive dissonance theory.
Friday, July 28, 2006
I haven't experimented with storing my home directory on portable media like my iPod yet, I'm sure there's a way I just don't really need to so I'm not going to investigate too much. Thumbs up for what it is, though I'm going to stick with Windows until my next computer purchase which will certainly be a Mac.
Okay today at work, I witnessed one of the most bazaar things ever. I watched four grown ups ( ranging from 25 to 32 years in age)have a candy eating contest. They were given 7 minutes to eat 33 spearmint leaves and 40 hot tamalies...It was crazy. The shoved these things in their mouths and chewed...The sucky part is spearmint leaves take a lot of chewing and a lot of room in your mouth. You could see Jaws get tired, mouths get a little green and even bellies get sick, but they all persisted. To top all of this off, all of them had degrees in science and in general I would considered fairly brilliant people.
Apparently next week it is chocolate covered almonds and gummy bears. Yeek!
Thursday, July 27, 2006
This is a reply I wrote to someone who posted a message complaining about a lack of diversity in Charlottetown's live muxic scene.
The original thread is here. This is the reply I posted:
It could definitely be a lot worse. I lived in Fredericton for years and it was basically either you learned to like jam bnads or you went without live music.
And yeah, I've noticed that I've been going out during the week and staying in on the weekends because most of the bands that are halfway interesting are playing here during the week, but if a touring band is coming through this part of the country they're going to want to be in Halifax or Saint John on Friday and Saturday and if they come here to play an extra night during the week I'nm going to be there, because that's bloody lucky of us to get that.
Frankly a city as small as Charlottetown is and as isolated as it is really shouldn't be getting the acts it does.
And don't fool yourslef, the majority of the bands playing bars in Halifax aren't cutting-edge underground punk acts, Hali also has its share of workaday cover acts for the 35+ crowd, it's just less likely to run into that tehre because there are more bars period and things are less mashed together.
I'm not without my complaints about the music scene here, but new bands not getting a chance to play gigs isn't one of them.
Wednesday, July 26, 2006
You Are A Weeping Willow Tree
You are a dreamer, and you're into almost any kind of escapism.
Restless and capricious, you love to travel to exotic places.
You are easily influenced by others, as long as they don't pressure you.
You tend to suffer in love until you find that one loyal, steadfast partner.
An empathetic friend, you love to make others smile and laugh.
I've started on the long slippery slope - micropayments. Though there's nothing really micro about them. Money is money and no matter how you try and abstract it, people still think in dollars. Which brings me to digital distribution. I've been on the fence for awhile now. I'm not in the iTunes camp. I still buy music the ol' fashioned way. But that's more about wanting to own a hunk of plastic and growing up with Napster than any slight against Apple.
Games are obviously my kryptonite. I've had Bankshot Billiards and freakin UNO sitting on my 360 harddrive since I got it. Highly enjoyable casual games that you can play in between actual gaming sessions or waiting for downloads.
UNO you say? Yes. I enjoy wasting all that multi-core processing powah on a Macromedia Flash game - because it's good. That, and I've become an Achievement addict. I was never in scouts, so they're like the nerd equivalent of merit badges. I got 20 points towards my Gamerscore for sinking the 9 ball off the break, that kinda thing.
They've got a few classic games on Live, like Joust, Smash TV. I've played the free trials but I can't bring myself to pay for something I've either bought several years ago or can easily get emulated. This is the big reason why I've never bought any retro compilations. They don't hold my interest for very long. I will, however, make exceptions for Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat once they hit. :)
Nintendo's banking on the retro gamer. Previously with the Gameboy Advance NES titles, not to mention the Super Mario and Zelda remakes-a-plenty. Their Virtual Console pay per
view play system for the Wii is the next logical step. Though for a company that touts innovation I find it funny that Big Bad Microsoft is leading the charge. Live retro titles usually add multiplayer online play, updated graphics mode, Achievements, and ranking. The leaderboards truly make it an arcade experience.
Microsoft doesn't have a rich history of retro titles to draw from so they've got more original content on Xbox Live Arcade. Geometry Wars, Cloning Clyde, Small Arms, and Castle Crashers are great examples. I'm looking forward to these new titles. We're still a ways off before everyone's got broadband and is able to download multi gig games with ease. But this is the first step to bye-bye physical media. Obviously this'll make the HD-DVD/Blu-Ray war pointless, but don't tell that to Sony. The other 2 guys are busy getting their foot in the door. :)
I wonder if someone's working on the USB quarter... I got next.
Tuesday, July 25, 2006
That said, I'll take back the comparison if people actually get a third of their ticket price back.
OK, I'm off to trivia, even though I have no idea if anyone else is actually going to show up. That's OK, I wouldn't mind testing my knowledge against the rest of the room.
Sunday, July 23, 2006
Stolen from Jaymi, who rules.
You Are Rain
You can be warm and sexy. Or cold and unwelcoming.
Either way, you slowly bring out the beauty around you.
You are best known for: your touch
Your dominant state: changing
Okay at work we have switched from Magic 93 to the new ocean 100. My current opinion is in general the radio personalities are not really different from the rest of the radio personalities of island radio. But I didn't really expect that. What I have heard that is different is that they play a much larger range of music. I have heard songs I have forgotten existed. They claim to play everything. Yet I still hear no hard rock on the station. It seems by everything they mean top 40 over the last few decades...Much better. And if they play everything why not dedicate some time to local music. We have some pretty good Canadian, Atlantic Canadian, and Island musicians who deserve some radio play. Come on Ocean 100 broaden your spectrum and give out local musicians the start help they need.
Now I have actually switched my car radio to 105.5 Krock. I am enjoying listened to the rock, as I enjoy rock more than I do pop or easy listening, for the most part. I can't really say much about the radio anouncers as they have 5 or 6 pre recorded messages that tell you they are currently testing their new transmitter. I have hope for them though. Tuesday is the top 100 rock songs on shuffle. I will be interested in what they consider to the top 100. I hope to hear some zeplin, queen, Nirvana, metallica and a lot more on the list. So far on the test, I have actually found the majority of the their selections to be okay. They will always be a few songs that show up that suck, but so is the business. As my friend justin and Al keep telling me their are a lot of people out there with bad music taste.
I think it's pretty obvious to anyone who thinks about it that Israel aren't acting with a plan to rescue two captured soldiers. The way they went about going after Lebanon's infrastructure, including ports in the North, and now Christian-run television stations who were broadcasting inconvenient imaes, is a sure enough sign that this was planned.
Juan Cole now lays out the bloody details: Link.
Matthew Kalman reveals that Israel's wideranging assault on Lebanon has been planned in a general way for years, and a specific plan has been in the works for over a year. The "Three Week War" was shown to think tanks and officials last year on powerpoint by a senior Israeli army officer: I'm mostly posting this as a lure to get you to read Cole's blog every day. He's been the best source, along with Robert Fisk and a few others, for unshaded news from the Middle East.
"More than a year ago, a senior Israeli army officer began giving PowerPoint presentations, on an off-the-record basis, to U.S. and other diplomats, journalists and think tanks, setting out the plan for the current operation in revealing detail." The Israelis tend to launch their wars of choice in the summer, in part because they know that European and American universities will be the primary nodes of popular opposition, and the universities are out in the summer. This war has nothing to do with captured Israeli soldiers. It is a long-planned war to increase Israel's ascendency over Hizbullah and its patrons.
Cole is now facing a wide-ranging right-wing smear campaign, which was successful in blocking him from getting a position at Yale university.
Cole is one of my personal heroes, not just for his political blogging, but for a history of standing up for principle in the face of entrenched, corrupt power structures. This is nothing new for him, and he's handling his anklebiting opponents with the kind of fierce grace I can't get enough of in proper, angry prose.
1) being a rock star...It took a few years but after being told I am tone deaf over and over I eventual conceded and now I no longer try to imagine my self up on a stage with hundreds of people looking at me. I just sing loudly to myself in the car on the way to work in the morning.
2)finding Candy land....Way to many calories...And way too much of a belly ache...Sometimes growing up and learning reality sucks.
3)building the greatest tree house the world has ever seen....Now I want a cute little house on the ground.
4)Being a princess...Wow have you notice how much publicity the royals get...No thanks...I like my privacy. I can just imagine all my little indiscretion splashed all over the tabloids...I'll stick to middle class islander
5)Having a pet alligator...Not to interested in feeding it...Way to much meat.
6)Becoming a super hero...Way to much responsibility...I like to go out and have some fun once in a while.
7)Having peanut butter and jeally for every meal...My palate has grown over the years.
8)Living to be 1000...yeek can you imagine the wrinkles...I've also developed a bit of vanity as I have grown from 5 to over 25.
9)Having a pet dragon...The dragon's I know all require heavy feeding...Again way too much meat.
10)Becoming a mermaid...Still maybe fun...But the pollution in the oceans today...Man humans suck.
Saturday, July 22, 2006
“I believe that libels and press--campaigns of this kind, and the habits of mind they indicate, are capable of doing the most deadly damage to the anti-Fascist cause.” Reading Homage to Catalonia was an incredible eye-opener for me and my understanding of the Spanish Civil War. I haven't read any proper historical text of the war, the most detail I have gotten was from novels and in the biography of Dr. Norman Bethune, who developed a mobile blood transfusion station while helping the Communists.
Most of the accounts of the war that we have seen were sympathetic to the Communist faction of the Government side in the struggle against Franco's revolution. The divided character of the government forces, made up of rival leftist political parties and the government, was not in the interest of the narrative of the time, of a struggle against encroaching fascism, that the UK and France and the U.S.S.R. wished to be accepted.
The most striking part of the dynamic of the relationship between the U.S.S.R.-backed Communists and the native-born anarchist and Marxist resistance movements which originally gought back Franco's attack was that the Communists were the most stridently counter-revolutionary force in Spain, directly on the side of the government. The speed that a revolutionary force becomes a force for the status quo is astounding. The system of military alliances in Europe meant that Stalin's U.S.S.R. was better off with a strong, capitalist Western Europe than a chaotic one in the midst of revolutionary workers' uprisings. Orwell, by chance of where he landed when he arrived in Spain, ended up being one of the few foreign witnesses to the conflict between revolutionary and communist forces, as well as having seen what real worker revolution looked like in the Andalusian region of Spain, where even ccommon forms of speech such as "senor" and "usted" fell into disuse in favour of genuine, non-ironic use of "comrade" among all previously divided classes.
In fact, watching the way the communists used propaganda and their channels to foreign press to control the narrative of the war is, for me, an even more compelling illustration of the power of information than 1984 was. Not only because it was real and not a science-fiction novel, but also because of the more interesting narrative of trench-warfare that the historical account is wrapped in, and his expression of actual fleeting hope at the site of what a real worker's revolution might look like, only to acknowledge the ultimate futility of the dream against entrenched greed and human nature.
Authors who have fought in real wars seem to be the most capable of exploring the darkest capabilities of humans in power that I've read.
I can't do the looming warning Orwell gives in Homage to Catalonia justice here, go read it. It's a short enough read that you can polish it off in a couple of hours, but as a foreshadowing of Orwell's vision of the power of information control, it's very chilling.
Well, I'm not going to Shoreline this year. Rides kept falling through and it just became too last minute. I've been feeling a little isolated and alone in a crowd lately, having that feeling multiplied and stretched over 4 days might not have been the best situation to put myself in right now, anyway. I'm currently reading, basically in one sitting, George Orwell's Homage to Catalonia, recounting his service at the front lines of the Spanish Civil War. Bet they never mentioned this part of his life when you read 1984 in Grade 12, did they? I may or may not write a longer post about it, I don't think I have any serious idea that I could contribute anything new by writing about it, so I'l ljust tell you to go read it. It's legal to find it online and read it in Canada, because the copyright term of it, and the rest of Orwell's work, has expired.
Maybe I'll do something constructive this weekend, like seriously get into this ear training software that I just bought, EarMaster Pro, as a way to make up for the massive amounts of self-destructiveness I'm missing out on.
I've been really exasperated about the news lately. But even more with myself when I noticed that more Iraqi civilians died yesterday than the total number of deaths in Israel and Lebanon so far due to this conflict. But Iraq is old news, apparently, and reporters can still safely walk the streets in Haifa and Beirut, and so even my attention was grabbed by what's exciting and new. There's something very very wrong happening in the world right now, and it's brought on by the industrial nations, even as they looked so dazed at the G8 conference a week ago.
Well, I'm not going to Shoreline this year. Rides kept falling through and it just became too last minute. I've been feeling a little isolated and alone in a crowd lately, having that feeling multiplied and stretched over 4 days might not have been the best situation to put myself in right now, anyway.
I'm currently reading, basically in one sitting, George Orwell's Homage to Catalonia, recounting his service at the front lines of the Spanish Civil War. Bet they never mentioned this part of his life when you read 1984 in Grade 12, did they? I may or may not write a longer post about it, I don't think I have any serious idea that I could contribute anything new by writing about it, so I'l ljust tell you to go read it. It's legal to find it online and read it in Canada, because the copyright term of it, and the rest of Orwell's work, has expired.
Friday, July 21, 2006
Clerks II is out this week. The trailer didn't make me laugh at all, so I was kinda disappointed. Nothing stood out. Well, other than seeing familiar faces, 'cept only older. Maybe it's just my inner cynic asking "how fun is it to watch aging slackers make boob n' fart jokes?". Did I get my fill in Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back? Eh. We'll see.
Thursday, July 20, 2006
I'm a product of the net generation and can never go back. In my youth I used to read novels. There's nothing wrong with them. I just don't have the attention span for them with competing instant gratification media. The typical, I'll wait for the movie syndrome. I'm a visual creature. I want to see your vision in glorious technicolor, not my vision. TV killed that.
I no longer watch TV. Why wait? I can download what I want to watch and when. News is instantaneous on the web. Why go to one source when I can google/blog it? Aggregate sites. Everywhere. All at my fingertips.
I no longer listen to albums. If a track doesn't excite me then I skip to the next. So now, most musicians are reduced to 1 or 2 catchy singles without any lasting power. Y'know. That one track on that CD that you passed over but upon repeated listenings grew on you and now it's one of your favourites. Yeah. That one. -- Dead to me.
Shopping. What? Walmart doesn't have it? eBay. And I don't have to waste gas.
The microwave. I'm hungry. I want it now.
IM/email/blogging. My sense of sentence structure is shot. I'll throw in the odd comma here and there to let you breathe, but I'm quite happy letting these suckers run on. Less keystrokes that way. Fragments ahoy.
Do I miss life before the OnDemand world? Meh. Not really. But it's my loss and this post is getting long. Oop. Flavor's gone.
Wednesday, July 19, 2006
Witness. Aw, who am I kidding? I've preordered in yen.
This completely shallow post brought to you by hormones.
Monday, July 17, 2006
Someone was using his Blackberry on the toilet today. I was standing at the urinal and all I could hear from the stall was "click click beep.. click click beep".
I made sure to finish up and leave before they came out so I wouldn't lose any and all respect for whoever it was.
Not a pet peeve. Pet peeve's are small annoying things. Now peeves that affect a whole nation's populace cause of some policy maker in Ottawa...
So the documentation tells you to submit your spouse's passport along with a host of other papers. You are called to an interview, during which time, one person will evaluate whether you're lying through your teeth. Then all your pictures and personal documents that they don't need, along with your passport, are returned per policy.
Then several months later they ask for your passport to be stamped. Thus delaying everything by several weeks - per policy. Now if they would have kept the passport until processing was complete...
Oh. Right. 800,000 (I am not making that up) applications in the queue. Red tape is a must.
I know Al has this issue sometimes, and franckly I don't know how he deals with it. I am going crazy.
I normally don't get enough sleep, but the last probably 3 or 4 weeks, I hav ebeen having a lot of trouble actually getting to sleep, maybe it is just the heat, who knows.
I do however know that I am going crazy trying to get myself to fall asleep. Tried meditating, warm milk. getting out of bed and doing something else. Nothing seems to be working for me at the moment.
Sunday, July 16, 2006
Well, that was quick. I finished the rest of Jared Diamond's Guns, Germs and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies this afternoon. Actually the whole book was a rather quick read, not at all like a more academic history text full of necessary-to-read footnotes and assumed context.
Essentially what the book lays out is the idea that while no race or ethnic group can be said to be inherently superior to another, let alone that racial characteristics might explain why Eurasian societies have come to dominate the world stage, rather that a series of environmental factors came together to create a positive feedback loop that encouraged adoption and evolution of an agrarian and city-state-based society over a hunter-gatherer one.
The key assertions of the book are:
Presence of large numbers of suitable plant species for farming - while every continent (Diamond refers to Eurasia & Northern Africa as a single continent, for the purposes of historical interaction, with the other continents being sub-Saharan Africa, Australia & New Guinea and the Americas), Eurasia, specifically ancient Iraq, referred to as the 'fertile crescent', contained a larger number of plant species, such as wheat and olives, that were able to be domesticated almost by accident, with gathered seeds cast away then taking root and growing new plants, making it fairly obvious to ancient people that this process could be taken advantage of. And with the ability to domesticate one species of plant fairly easily, a sedentary lifestyle was possible, thus giving more time and opportunity to experiment with more difficult-to-cultivate plant species.
Along with a variety of domesticable plants, Eurasia, specifically the Fertile Crescent region, is also home to the five most important large domesticated animal species, the cow, horse, pig, goat and sheep. By contrast, the Americans and Australia had no analogous megafauna, save for the Llama, but it was never brought out of its native region of the Andes, and was never kept in large numbers. Having cows and horses around allowed Eurasian peoples to plough fields and thus increase agricultural productivity.
The rise of city-states: The most important consequence of sedentary lifestyles and increased food production of agricultural societies was the increased population density that they allowed. This gives rise to two important advantages agricultural societies have over hunter-gatherer societies, the ability to wage war for longer durations, and as a breeding ground for infectious diseases that jumped from domesticated animals to their human keepers, who would eventually develop a resistance to them, but which was not shared by hunter-gatherer societies that they might come in contact with. This is how Desoto came across entire towns devoid of people in the Mississippi delta, smallpox had gotten there a couple of years before his exploration party.
Agricultural societies can fit more people in an area of land, many hundreds of people per squire kilometer compared with about 1 person per square kilometer for hunter-gatherer societies, and can grow at much faster rates. The average gap between children for hunter-gatherer societies was about 4 years, since a mother could only realistically carry one baby around with her when moving camp, but in agrarian societies the gap is only about 2 years between children. And with growth comes the need for territorial expansion, and thus the historical muscling out of neighbouring societies when encroached upon.
Geography and Communication - Eurasia differs from the other continents not only for being larger and having a wider variety of domesticable plants and animals, but also for being laid out in a relatively East-West orientation, whereas Africa and especially the Americas are very much oriented in a North-South fashion. In the Americas, your neighbours a few hundred miles to the North or South live in a markedly different climate and environment than you probably do, which makes growing season, soil characteristics and climate different enough to hamper the spread of crop technology from one area to the next. Mexican corn could not be easily transported further north to the Appalachian region and grown there, for example. This is why the native American societies that did develop some form of agriculture did it relatively independently.
The geographical layout of Eurasia permitted more solid communication and trade links between East and West, where natural barriers existed in the Americas, like the jungles of Panama and deserts of Northern Mexico which effectively isolated the Aztec civilization from the Incas to the South and the Mississippi Delta population to the North, or in Africa where North Africa was cut off from the rest of the continent by the Sahara desert.
The open communication links from East to West in Eurasia meant that interactions between neighbouring societies created a cross-pollination of technologies and ideas, and competition drove the development of newer and more efficient means of producing food. Diamond's central thesis is that this communication and interaction is what allowed talented and inventive members of Eurasian societies to fully realize their potential for discovering new technologies, while farmers produced the food that allowed the inventors to have such specialized pursuits.
What I found the book lacked was an exploration of the cyclical rise and fall of city-states based on their resource consumption patterns. Most notably, why is the "fertile crescent" now a desert? He refers to the ancient area now known as Iraq as the "fertile crescent" dozens of times throughout the text without tackling this question. In fact, the resource consumption and deforestation that goes along with growth in population and increasing agricultural production isn't explored at all. Nor is the unsustainability of most of the historically significant Eurasian empires that grew to dominate their own time periods. Rather, the progress of Eurasian societies was largely treated as a steady march forward, with the other societies around the world mostly staying as they are until they come in contact with Eurasian expansion and are either subsumed or exterminated.
The main assertions of this book were covered in a less complete, but more environmentally-focused way in Thom Hartmann's book, The Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight, which I found to be a much more compelling read. Diamond's book was more of a deliberate and systematic laying out of the factors behind how and why the world's civilizations developed as they did, while Hartmann's book brings it into the context of how the mindset created by this dominating and ever resource-hungry culture is creating our current environmental problems.
I'll write a longer piece, perhaps more than one post, about Hartmann's book soon, I want to give it a proper treatment since it is a more compelling and eye-opening book than Diamond's basic treatment of history.
I still recommend this book, though, as a good foundational history of how the world came to look the way it does, and for the tidbits of information about the development of the first writing systems and early agricultural technologies. Part of why I love reading non-fiction is that even if you don't end up being overly compelled by the text, the information you gain from reading it is still useful and interesting to carry around later, as long as it's accurate and well-researched, which Diamond's book is.
Technorati Tags: Books, Book+Reviews, Jared+Diamond, History, Sociology
Saturday, July 15, 2006
Okay anyone who knows me is aware that coffee is not my drug of choice, but this morning after not being able to get up from my bed to go to the gym, I decided coffee, or rather a French vanilla capccino would be at least slightly helpful. Since the line up at 7:45 was wrapped around the building, I decided to park and go in. When I got back in my car a man, at least 50 probably older (I thought about 70 when I saw him). Got out of his car with a piece of paper in his hand. He came over to my window, knocked on it. I was thinking he was trying to sell me something. When I rolled down the window, I nervouly took the piece of paper as he said to me. "A funny story for you"
because of lack of sleep and no mental function what so ever I was scared to read the paper, thinking any number of weird things. The top said "On the lighter side"
So I read through it.
The story goes much to the fact, a guy driving a truck, was approached by the girl driving behind him at the next light, she told him her name and that he was slowly loosing his load, every time she did this, he ignored her. After the third time, he decided to return the favor and when she rolled down her window, he said his name, welcome to PEI and that he drove the salt truck.
I think I ended up laughing at my self more than the story, but it was cute.
Friday, July 14, 2006
1) many people have never really been hurt seriously. This is a good thing, but it is a relative thing to. I hear many people say things like, I got a crazy huge bruise on my leg or this nasty cut on my knee. when they do show you, you wonder if you should tell them that you have a bruise 8 times that size on your arm, or you have messed up your knee so badly it is hardly visible as a knee and you just didn't think your new injuries were all that bad.
2) From above I begin to notice that many people really are not that adventurous. Won't go to the beach in the middle of the winter to check out the ice flows, or try wall climbing just because. Hence the reason their great injury is only a mild one as far as you are concerned.
3)The busiest people are the most organized. The people who look the busiest are the least organize. Just watch.
4)All men loose their ability to be Macho when a small child or baby enters the room. I rather enjoy this one. Kids just seem to make men melt.
5) All mothers want their kids happily married with children. Check out my own mother, my aunt with her daughter...ask Ming.
6)Bills never show up and are evenly devisible by the number of roomates.
Aw. They's all growns up. Ming, that football player with the Viper was... Zachary Ty Bryan of Home Improvement fame. Also, Lucas Black (who most definitely doesn't look 18) was the little kid who befriended Billy-Bob in Slingblade. And let's not forget Lil Bow Wow (who's dropped the Lil) as token urban sidekick.
Yay I feel old. :) Actually I hated that they went from the late 20's/pushin 30 crowd in the previous films to - high schoolers? Boo. Like I wanna see snot-nosed punks with more money than common sense. What next? Go karts? Oh. Wait. They already made that one.
But then, who really cares? The cars are the stars. This movie has actors? It could be distilled down to a music video and I'd have my money's worth.
Man. A Scanner Darkly is still nowhere to be found. I need my fill of Dick. Philip K. I'm lovin the Michael freakin Mann's Miami Vice. We need more of this stuff. Like Michael Mann's Winnie The Pooh.
"if it's between you and some poor bastard whose wife you're gonna turn into a widow, Christopher Robin, you are going down"
Thursday, July 13, 2006
Trang submitted her passport today. It should be stamped in about 7 weeks. They said 4-6, but they've never done anything within their stated timeframes so far.
I'm firmly putting her release date at 'late Q3 06', barring any unforseen problems from
the publisher Immigration Canada. Yay. I don't hafta leave Canada.
I'm thinking we need a countdown ticker. Trang in T-Minus... and have a big shindig for zero hour. Y'know? We could play the Immigration Drinking Game. Take a swig for every unreturned call. Down a bottle for each piece of paperwork they let expire. Empty a keg for each lie they tell. That kinda thing.
Honey, to celebrate, I've compiled a list of English words you'll learn to hate. :)
Ninety Nine Nights
Gears of War
DOA Xtreme 2
DOA Code Cronus
Resident Evil 5
Ninja Gaiden 2
John Woo Presents Stranglehold
Sonic the Hedgehog
Sonic Wild Fire
Metroid Prime 3
Zelda Twilight Princess
Super Mario Galaxy
Gran Turismo 5
Metal Gear Solid 4
Final Fantasy XIII
Final Fantasy Versus XIII
Devil May Cry 4
Ulterior motive. Name drop games Duc should buy and not have the time to play. ^_^
Mass Effect and Too Human are headed by canuck developers and they look outstanding. Impressive stuff.
Wednesday, July 12, 2006
It's all in the mind.
I have no rhythm. Nada. Which is why I'll never experience the joys of Dance Dance Revolution, Donkey Kong Jungle Beat, or Guitar Hero. And I'll never be able to beat Duc at DOA or Tekken.
Timed memory patterns scare me. The rare game that employs musical button presses kicks my ass. I'm lookin at you Brave Fencer. Oh sure. I can play a simulator where any number of buttons has a different function. I'm comfortable with that. But ask me to press button A 5 seconds after I've held B for 10 seconds. God forbid. Create synthesized muzak. Owned.
"She bangs! She bangs!"
Human nature is interesting. Let's face it. We're curious monkeys. Whether it's the miracle of creation or the tragedy of destruction. We're there.
There was a fire at the factory across the train tracks yesterday. As I walked to the parking lot I saw black smoke in the distance. My initial thought was "Dammit! I only have 5 more payments on that car!!" Or not. But it was nice to see the Subaru safe from harm.
The lot was full of onlookers and traffic was actually coming in for a closer look. I had my brief "ooooOO fyre" moment then made my way through the throng.
On the flip side, sit me down in front of some assembly line "how they make that" footage and I'm glued. And that's how we turn a cow into a baseball glove, Billy. Fascinating.
I'm totally convinced men turn into home improvement junkies in their old age because they can't give birth. It's the same with modding cars, case modding, making models, woodworking, all that stuff.
I enjoy it too. I loved shop class. I love building stuff. But it all depends on how much effort I have to put in and my percieved fun factor. Model kit? Sure. Drywall? No.
But I can understand all the aspiring Bob Vilas. I'm surrounded by them. Not a day goes by without Kent or Home Depot mentioned. Come to think of it. It's a good thing we can't give birth. Ever see a grown man with a cold? Yep. We're huge babies. Now multiply that whining by 10. :)
A few pieces of clearly useful knowledge I now know thanks to my inability to sleep like a normal person.
Tuesday, July 11, 2006
Lately I've been examining the causes of unnecessary stress and unhappiness in my life and doing what I can to minimize or avoid them. Obvious things like not getting involved with people who are self-absorbed or overly cynical, not bringing up old injustices or slights if they're in the past, and trying to detach from attacchment and desire for things that aren't core to my wellbeing or happiness.
One of the things I've always felt the most stress about is time. We always think of time as a constant drumbeat that never speeds up or slows down, that it is the one thing we have no control over. We observe the world through our senses, as we process our perception of the world, we learn to fine-tune our attention, to filter out distracting or unhelpful sensory input. If we can tune out street noise and focus our vision away from unpleasant things, why can't we affect how we perceive time as well?
So I've been trying an experiment at work, since I always found myself thinking about what time of day it was, wondering why things were taking so long, wondering if I should start something even if it's almost lunch time, to try and put these thoughts out of my mind the first thing I've been doing when I sit down at my desk is to take off my watch and put it in my pocket. Then I set my computer to hide the clock in the corner of the screen and just sat down and started working.
Now, perhaps in the same way as our perceptions control our thoughts, perhaps our expectations will shape our experiences, but I've been amazed how noticeably more smoothly my days have been going. If I feel like a coffee, I'll go get one, if I don't then I won't inturrupt my thoughts just because it's coffee time. I've gotten just as much done in the last half hour of Friday afternoon as I have at any other time of the day.
But most importantly, my mind isn't constantly worried about what time it is. My choosing to not perceive time has loosened its grip on my consciousness.
On a fundamental level, biologically, our brains do not operate on a set clock the way computers do. We can experience an entire dream in less than two minutes, and the split second of a car accident can seem like an eternity. When we sleep, an entire night simply slips by unnoticed. Clearly, imposing an external measure of time on our brains is a totally unnecessary constraint on how it's capable of working.
Our heart rate speeds up or slows down as our body needs it to, we don't run to the beat of a ticking stop watch, we control our pace by listening to the signals that our body gives us. Why don't we listen to our brains the same way we listen to our bodies when doing physical tasks?
The amount of worry and stress we put on ourselves by sleeping with a digital alarm clock staring us in the face should tell us that perhaps working with a clock on your wrist and on your computer screen is also going to be harmful.
Imagine a great writer sitting at his or her typewriter trying to pour out the spirit of his inspiration with a little digital clock Protruding onto the page out of the top of the typewriter. The absurdity of such a superfluous torture in this context should tell us a thing or two.
Monday, July 10, 2006
This is a public service announcement:
If you say “howareya’” as if it were a single word, and say it in a way that makes it clear you don’t care in the least how the person you are addressing is actually doing, you are probably an asshole.
That is all.
Edit: Moe puts it very well in comments:
i think i know what you mean maybe. maybe not exactly the speed in which it's said, but the speed in the whole encounter.
it really pisses me off when people pose that question, and then just keep plowing through not waiting for a response.
don't ask me a question if you don't want the answer please.
This bit of news made me do a double take. I'd never be able to go from the world stage to be big fish in the US oval.
He's got the skills. If he doesn't cut it in NASCAR then what? Back to go carts? I mean. Gah! There's Touring Cars, Rallying, LeMans, plenty of other non-oval series.
Ah well. Matters not. I don't really follow F1 as much as I used to. I just thought it funny that someone would actually be willing to trade Monaco for Martinsville. Umm. See you at the Neighborhood Excellence 400 presented by Bank of America.
Stolen from Circe
Your Aura is Violet
Idealistic and thoughtful, you have the mind and ideas to change the world.
And you have the charisma of a great leader, even if you don't always use it!
The purpose of your life: saying truths that other people dare not say
Famous purples include: Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr., Susan B. Anthony
Careers for you to try: Political Activist, Inventor, Life Coach
Saturday, July 08, 2006
Got to hold Sabrina's niece, Nimue, for the first time last night. She's 3 weeks old, and I'm pretty sure I've never held a baby that young before. This is the first baby that a friend of mine has had while we were close together enough to visit. There really is an instincual tendency in mammals to find all babies cute, evven when they burp and cry and do all the disgusting things living creatures do.
Humming to her and her feeling the vibrations of my voice through my chest and arms was one of those profound, small moments that I talked about yesterday. When I felt her react to my voice and stop crying so much and finally pay attention to her pacifier it wsa probably the closest I've felt to another human being of any age in a very long time.
Friday, July 07, 2006
I'm recoiling in horror right now. Reading that whole article made my head hurt. My brain is already wired for modern day spelling. Truth is they don't even need to lobby for a new spelling system. Language is not static. Just give it a few generations and we'll all be using the netspeek.
I like using alt spelling for emphasis or to sound a certain way through text. But reading a scientific journal? Fugghedaboudit. It's like you're trying to raise a nation of George W's. I'm already living through The Great Dumbening. Turn on the telly. Whaddya got? Popularity contests, demeaning for dollars, and pimp my noun. That's the entire landscape. Sigh.
Language evolves with us. You can't just create it and expect people to adopt it. I'm lookin at you Esperanto. I do agree we have to do something about our illiteracy rate, cause there's still that social stigma. We have to not make people feel stupid because they can't memorize words. But then again kids also have to try to read and write. I feel they get off too easy in that department.
Back in my day we used to spell check in the snow... uphill... barefoot...
So it's that time of year again to start looking for a new job. My contract at my current school is up in a month and a bit and after all the BS that went down at my current school, there's no way I'm signing up with it again.
This is my least favourite part of living here....the constant deadend phone calls (no, I am not going to accept less money than I make now for more work, thank-you very much,sir) and researching endless schools/companies to make sure that they are decent offers.
Then I got an email from this one company...they were offering a great deal more money for 3 hours of work a day.
3 hours? That's it?!
It couldn't possibly be right. So I researched the company. Reputable enough. checked to make sure there weren't any hidden hours of work that might not be accounted for (prep time, marking, testing, report cards)..again nothing.
Went for the interview and instantly knew that this is the job I need to take. I am confident that everything will be great and work out well....
On top of all that, it will give me ridiculous amounts of free time to work on my writing.
Only one question remains...where the hell is the horseshoe at?
I just woke up from a dream, where I was somehow dropped into the setting and plot of a television drama series where relationships build up and fall apart like clockwork, where everyone is beautiful, where style is subconscious, in short, exactly where I would be most uncomfortable.
But at the end it had a scene where a singer performed what had to be the most beautiful and touching song of hope and pain ever composed. I can only remember one piece of the lyrics, and the sounds of the backing instruments, strings played perfectly in synch with the movement of the aging singer's nodding head. The singer, filled with pain like Tom Waits but young and somehow naievely hopeful, holding his guitar like it was the only thing he could touch that would respond to him, and fearing to ever lose it, holds it like a dying friend, so gently that it feels like love, but with the ghost of firmness and desperation lurking behind the the hands and arms.
His eyes are closed, or looking up towards the ceiling and welling with tears. As if by perfect Jonathan Demme direction I see the necks and tips of bows of violins moving along, not as separate instruments played by other people, but as a projection of the sound coming from the singer's aching, longing heart. In a movie with too much flash they would be holographic images springing directly from beams of light.
There is only available light streaming in in irregular waves from the window to a nighttime city.
The pained love song has been done so many times, only because every man who attempted it, from Sam Cooke's brilliance to James Blunt's questionable attempts, has been becauuse we all know we shouldn't attach ourselves to something that will hurt us the way these human entanglements do, but we continue on because to stop would mean to die to the only part of life that really is meaningful, not our considered and refined intellectual assessments, but our unblinking and unavoidable self-knowledge of feelings and emptiness, that compel us to form true connections to others.
As the singer goes into the chorus, singing "I'm not strong enough to love you..", afraid of what will happen, your heart sinks in time to the descending melody. You feel sad, but more deeply than your sadness, you feel that centered and strong feeling of a bowling ball lowering through you to plant you firmly to the ground that you get when you meditate. Self accceptance is willingness to accept pain and loss and realize that it's just another sign that we are conected to others, the most affirming idea there is.
The melody is in my head, but I'm too scared to go over to my guitar and try and reproduce it. I'm not good enough. I am not a songwriter. I can only pluck out the paths blazed by real songwriters, who did the hard work of cutting through the jungle of notes and tones and left a path behind to follow.
And the words are there, but I seem to be only able to talk about them, I'm not brave enough to present them in so bare a form as a set of 4 line verses that tells a story in a way that makes people want to hear it over and over.
What I'm afraid is that if I don't produce this dreamed-about perfect song, that what I do create will not be worth anyone else's time. I'm afraid of presenting the small stories to the world and letting the meaning arise from them in combination, uncontrolled, instead of trying to produce the final meaning myself.
The most beautiful poetry is written about the smallest of objects and the thinnest slices of existence. Not the life of rising hopes and confronting rejection that we all live, but a single moment from a single round on that journey when the force of it all hits us in full.
Monday, July 03, 2006
Remind me to never read autobiographies by people who have just become famous in the last few years.
All I caan say about Lewis Black's book, Nothing Sacred, is that it doesn't make me think any less of him as a comic. But it definitely cements his place as a comic and not a comedian. Yes there's a difference, which may reside solely in my own head, but a comedian is someone who's material is humourous in itself, and can be read on a page and still be funny. A comic relies on his performance abilities to draw laughs. The very best stand up artists combined elements of both, like Bill Hicks' much copied sound effects combined with his insightful social commentary.
Lewis black has built an entire career out of his delivery, but as it turns out, the thoughts and insights he has are entirely predictable. He's just really good at putting a voice to your internal crankiness about the weather or government that you think they deserve.
So the humour content in the book is quite a disappointment. Unfortunately the life story part is also pretty sorely lacking. Lewis Black's life just isn't that interesting, at least not the part he decided to write about. Much better accounts have been written about peoples' boring office jobs, their first LSD trips and moving away to college. Basically switch the place names around and you've got the life story of every reasonably intelligent American boy luckily enough to be squarely middle class but not too comfortablely so.
The narrative ends just as things might have conceiveably gotten interesting, after he abandoned an ill-fated theatre troupe and before he pursued stand-up comedy as a career. Yes, that's write, a famous stand-up comic writes an autobioography and neglects to include a single chapter of his real road to fame and success.
This is why 'fresh' autobiographies are often so bad. That part of his life probably isn't something he's fully digested and extracted meaning and significance and symbolism from yet. As of right now they're still jsut a bunch of stuff that happened, but haven't yet been turned over enough times in the subconscious to extract a little pill-sized life lesson from yet. So instead we get half-assedly told stories about student activism and his mother, the substitute teacher with such a famously sharp wit that she could stop a junior high class in its tracks, a story he told without mentioning, or even making up, a single thing she might have said that was so famously sharp.
This is just bad writing, and the only parts I chuckled at were recycled in whole chunks from his act, so I was mostly remembering how funny it was when he actually was up on stage saying them for the first time.
I'm afraid this is just plain bad writing, and a huge disappointment. But a good secondary lesson can be taken away from Black's example, that it's not so much what you have to say but how you say it that grabs people's attention and sparks their imagination.
So I finally got a chance to check out the Royal Tandoor today, the new restaurant on Buffets are normally gut-busting affairs, and having gone 4 rounds with the Mandarin on a couple of occasions while in There was a perpetually empty tray that I can only guess must contain naan bread at some point. I never managed to get to it in time, though, it seemed. Instead I was stuck with these thin little tortillas that were fine for the first one, but after that they didn’t hold their structure very well, so I was forced to use a fork and just eat the curry off of the plate. Not quite the same as when you get to play with your food, sadly. The different varieties of spices and sauces are quite the food education, I hope they stick around, and maybe get a menu going as well sooner or later.
So I finally got a chance to check out the Royal Tandoor today, the new restaurant on
Buffets are normally gut-busting affairs, and having gone 4 rounds with the Mandarin on a couple of occasions while in
There was a perpetually empty tray that I can only guess must contain naan bread at some point. I never managed to get to it in time, though, it seemed. Instead I was stuck with these thin little tortillas that were fine for the first one, but after that they didn’t hold their structure very well, so I was forced to use a fork and just eat the curry off of the plate. Not quite the same as when you get to play with your food, sadly.
The different varieties of spices and sauces are quite the food education, I hope they stick around, and maybe get a menu going as well sooner or later.
Saturday, July 01, 2006
Most of you may remember a friend of Al and I has been in the hospital for a very long time, but tonight was one of the best things ever, he was down at the concert tonight (Matt Maze, Sam Roberts band, The Hip). He look like he was enjoying it and he got managed to get back stage pass the lucky F@#$