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Monday, February 15th, 2010
11:33 pm - I exist!
And about an hour ago, Viga and I got engaged!

So, uh, yeah. Awesomeness.

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Thursday, December 18th, 2008
5:09 pm - Contextual truth-values
I've been thinking a lot about what pristis said in the comments to my last post.

When I posted it, I felt like I was on the verge of understanding something big. After reading his comments, I feel like I'm even closer. But I'm still not quite there. It has something to do with the way mathematics allows you to change axiom sets and derive interesting results, and an analogy from there to New Criticism, and then somehow from there it expands to illuminate the big metaphysical and ethical questions.

It's right on the tip of my brain, but I can't quite straighten it out into something discussable. A little frustrating, honestly.

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Monday, December 8th, 2008
9:45 am - A Question of Categories
Are mathematical statements positive or normative?

How about statements about (established) fictional worlds (ex.: "Hobbits are typically between 4 and 5 feet tall,")?

What about statements about laws? Games?

If they're positive, it implies empirical experience of a construct which has no physical reality, which seems self-contradictory. If they're normative, they shouldn't have truth-values.

I am really stuck on this one this morning.

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Tuesday, December 2nd, 2008
8:12 pm - Important Question; Also, A Thought Regarding Vampires and the Traditional Weaknesses Thereof
Do any of you think I'd make a good professor? Obviously I'd have to go back to school. Either anthropology or writing, I'm thinking.

Thought: Vampires are afraid of crosses because the natural enemy of the vampire is the Hound of Tindalos.

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Thursday, November 27th, 2008
11:05 pm
Happy Thanksgiving! Mmm... tasties.

Random aside for TJ people: 10-year reunion for the Class of '99 is coming up. I'll go IFF people worth talking to are going. Any of you planning on it?

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Saturday, November 15th, 2008
9:41 am
Viga's mother died suddenly, some time between Wednesday evening and the early hours of Thursday morning. We do not know why, and probably won't until the full toxicology report comes back in two months -- leading speculation is an adverse reaction to medication. She was discovered by a neighbor, and appeared to have just fallen asleep watching TV and never woke up.

Needless to say, this has been a huge shock for Viga. She's completely devastated, and it doesn't help that she's the next of kin, so she has to be there to sign all the paperwork, and two members of her family are being unrelentingly horrible to her.

I've just been trying to be there for her as much as I can. It's reminded me of a lot to do with my dad, which hurts, but not half as much as seeing her in pain hurts. And all of my pain is nothing compared to hers. The next couple of weeks are going to be all about Viga, until she's started to heal. Nothing else is important right now.

Still... I'm exactly where I want to be: By her side, in bad times as much as good. I love her, and I want her to heal. I think she will. She's not trying to be tough or strong or pretend there's anything good about this, or any of the other absolutely terrible advice everyone always gives grievers.

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Wednesday, November 5th, 2008
12:32 pm - The bad news in this election...
Congratulations, California. Slightly more than half of you are disgusting, hateful bigots who should be utterly ashamed of themselves.

Likewise for all the voters everywhere who, this election or in any other, voted to ban gay marriage or adoption by gay couples, or who agree with such bans in other states. You disgust me.

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12:31 am

The Schadenfreude Pie was quite good, by the way.

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Tuesday, November 4th, 2008
9:46 pm - Time for Schadenfreude Pie!
CNN just called Ohio for Obama. Add their Pennsylvania call a couple of hours ago, and I'm ready to say that Obama's got this in the bag.

It is time for me to bake a Schadenfreude Pie.

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10:16 am - Going to vote in a few minutes...
I am amused by the fact that the Republicans didn't even bother to run for House or in most of the local races -- it's all Democrats vs. Green.

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Friday, October 31st, 2008
2:00 pm - I live...
And hunger for BRAINS...

Sorry to worry people. I still exist. I've just been really, really busy with the incredibly wonderfulness of having starlightv around all the time. It's seriously the best thing ever. I mean it. We've been living together over a month, and we're still lovey-dovey enough to send observers into insulin shock.

But yeah, I'm here, I just haven't had much to say. Good times make for boring reading; drama and comedy both arise from suffering.

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Monday, September 29th, 2008
3:33 pm - I meant to post this Friday, but I was too tired.
48 new and modified web pages, including...

Over 60 (typed, 11-point, single-spaced, standard-margin 8.5x11) pages of entirely new content, most of it written and all of it proofed, edited, and formatted by yours truly (and did I mention said formatting involved lots of numbered and bulleted lists, mixed and nested as much as four deep, or that using tables for formatting violates handicapped accessibility rules?)...

142 new unique links (linking to the same place twice is very easy in AuthorIT, it’s the first time that takes effort)…

14 new external documents comprising lots more pages, including a pair of monster spreadsheets to the tune of 26 megs... each...

12 new glossary terms written by guess who, on a subject about which I knew nothing going into this…

The project of doom is DONE. It is published, it is finished, it is complete.


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Monday, September 22nd, 2008
1:01 pm
So, um, bit of a major development this weekend: starlightv moved in. We had been talking seriously about living together a few months down the line, maybe starting early next year, but a series of unexpected events on Saturday led to her suddenly finding herself in need of a new place to live, so... yeah. I helped yesterday move a bunch of her stuff from her old place to my room -- now our room, which is amazing and awesome and slightly dizzying -- and she and a friend are getting more today while I'm at work. She starts a new job next week, and once she gets her first check from that and sees what it is we'll talk about how much and in what way she'll contribute to the household. Until then, we get to play at being office worker and housewife, which I imagine would get pretty old after a while, but at least for me is fun so far.

In other news, I'm reading Thomas Friedman's much less optimistic sequel to The World Is Flat, titled Hot, Flat, and Crowded. The argument in this one is basically that globablization is causing global resource consumption to grow much, much faster than population growth would suggest, and if this trend continues, we're all pretty much fucked. He claims he will outline a way for the U.S. to solve its national malaise (which he mentions here and there but takes as basically a given) by reinventing itself as a model of a nation in which economic growth is fostered by an increase in the efficiency, rather than volume, of resource consumption.

My main criticism of Friedman so far is that he treats globalization as an inevitability. It's true that, if it can be accomplished without environmental disaster, globabilization represents an opportunity to bring every country on Earth up to the standards of living of the richest countries, which is a Good Thing. But it's hardly inevitable: history is contingent, and any of countless events could derail the process.

I was talking this over with Economist Jim down the hall (he's featured in my posts once or twice before), and he argued that globalization has been tried and failed before. I am skeptical of a number of major points in his example, but find it interesting and potentially instructive nonetheless, so I shall share it.

He made the claim that the industrialization and construction of infrastructure in the Third World was begun in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, citing examples such as railroads in India and Africa and the big canal projects in the Middle East and Latin America. Yes, this was all done for the benefit of the major colonial powers, but it still required building infrastructure and pumping large amounts of money into Third World economies, which could have used it to industrialize. What happened instead, in his model, is that Europe decided they'd rather fight the two World Wars, the U.S. decided they'd rather go isolationist and protectionist, Africa and South Asia (and, to a lesser extent, Latin America) decided they'd rather work on political independence first, and Russia, China, and much of Latin America decided they'd rather be Communist.

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Thursday, September 18th, 2008
6:14 pm - I am like unto an avenging storm
I sweep down upon the project, destroying unnecessary capitalizations with my righteous wrath, leaving a trail of serial commas in my wake.

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12:41 am - Long Post about Obama, Judaism, and Israel
A couple of weeks ago, Kirsten asked me how I can support Obama and still consider myself Jewish and an Israeli.

I didn’t answer at the time, not because I didn’t have an answer, but because I was too apoplectic with rage to give it. This is the first time I’ve been calm enough to answer the question.

First of all, I’m Jewish and proud of it. Most people don’t understand what being Jewish means. Hell, most Jews don’t understand what being Jewish means, especially in the U.S. Being Jewish isn’t about celebrating Hanukah and Pesach. It isn’t about going to synagogue and wearing a little hat. It’s about 6,000 years of history and heritage. It’s about being the Chosen People. Not Chosen like a favorite child, awarded special privileges. The Jews were Chosen to suffer. We were Chosen to be persecuted, spat on, exiled, enslaved, and murdered.

Why? To be a light unto the nations. To know what it is like to be persecuted, so that we can stand together with everyone who’s persecuted, everyone who’s weak, everyone who suffers. We say it during every Seder: “Because I was a slave in Egypt.” Not “they.” Not “my ancestors.” I.

It doesn’t matter that I have serious doubts whether the first 4,000 years of that history actually happened. It doesn’t matter that I don’t believe the being that supposedly chose us exists. I have been Chosen. I have a personal duty to be a light unto nations, because I was a slave in Egypt, because I wept by the waters of Babylon, because I was tortured by the Inquisition, because I died in the gas chambers.

Because he was a slave in Egypt, my father hitchhiked nearly 2,000 miles to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with his African-American brothers in bondage and watch Martin Luther King tell the world about his dream. Because she was a slave in Egypt, my mother risked (and suffered) repeated imprisonment for protesting apartheid in South Africa. Because I was a slave in Egypt, I stand today with the generation of blacks whose fathers have all been imprisoned, with the women who are paid less for the same work, and most of all with the gay couples that aren’t allowed to marry.

If you do not understand that, you have absolutely no right to tell me how Jews should vote.

But we’re in idealism country now. Let’s talk about practical matters. Let’s talk about what’s going to happen to Jews in a country run by people like Palin.

Palin is a right-wing Christian. That’s no secret. She believes America is a Christian nation, and she believes America should be a Christian nation. Her selection as the running mate for the oldest Presidential candidate in history – not to mention the selection of Bush as the Republican candidate in the 2000 primaries – says something about how powerful right-wing Christians have become in the Republican party. We can fully expect that, the more power the Republicans have, the more of a Christian country the U.S. will become. What does that mean for Jews? Total disaster.

Spain and Britain exiled us. Poland, Russia, the Ukraine – all of Eastern Europe – stuck us in ghettoes and then drove us from our towns, burned our homes, and slaughtered our children. Spain, Portugal, and Italy forced us to convert and then tortured us. France? Well, everyone knows what it’s always been like to be Jewish in France. And I don’t think I even have to mention Germany.

Sooner or later, every Christian country tries to get rid of its Jews.

Sooner or later, every Christian country tries to get rid of its Jews.

This is not a problem with Christians. It’s not a problem with Christianity. It’s a problem with Christian countries. The absolute worst thing that could happen to American Jews would be for America to become a Christian nation.

If you want to guarantee, beyond any doubt, that American Jews will suffer a pogrom, that American Jews will be put in ghettoes and concentration camps, then vote for the right-wing Christians. It doesn’t matter whether any of them want to persecute the Jews. If they succeed in making America a Christian nation, it will happen. It’s simply something that Christian nations do. Maybe it’ll be a week before they start, maybe it’ll be a generation, but it will happen.

And while you’re thinking about that, think about this: not even Iran has ever tried to get rid of its Jews. There have been Jews living in Iran for a good 2500 years, and nobody – not the Persian emperors, not the Muslim caliphs, not the Shahs, not even the Ayatollah, has ever tried to get rid of them.

Sooner or later, every Christian country tries to get rid of its Jews.

Now let’s talk about Israel. Let’s assume, for the sake of argument, that the Palestinian terror attacks are entirely unprovoked. What does Israel’s conservative government, backed by America’s unholy coalition of right-wing Christians and conservative Jews, do about it? They build a wall around the Palestinian territories. They block trade and limit the ability of Palestinians to get jobs in Israel. The result? As long as the Israeli government keeps this up, Palestine has no hope of rising out of poverty. Your typical Palestinian has no way to make sure his children stay fed – except one. If he becomes a suicide bomber, the terrorist organizations will take care of his family until the children are grown. Most Palestinians don’t make that choice. They’re not willing to do something that evil, even if it means their children will be safe. But some of them are willing to kill if it will guarantee their children’s futures. So they bomb innocent Israelis, so the Israeli government continues to keep Palestine in the third world. Meanwhile, they plant radical settlers – most of them American Jews – all along the West Bank and Gaza, where they throw rocks at Palestinian children and shout an endless stream of hate.

Israel and Palestine are both trapped in an endless cycle. The real enemies of Israel – and Palestine, for that matter – are the people perpetuating that cycle. Who is that? The Palestinian terrorist organizations, definitely and without a doubt. But the Israeli government and military are doing their part to keep it going, too. The settlers are nearly as big a cause as the Palestinian terrorists. American neo-cons, conservative Jews, and right-wing Christians are helping fuel the flames, too.

So, if I want to vote in a way that helps Israel, who should I vote for? Obviously, it’s someone who will oppose the terrorists AND the Israeli government AND the settlers AND the neo-cons AND the conservative Jews AND the right-wing Christians. McCain and Palin are going to oppose the terrorists, but they’re going to support everyone else on that list. Obama is definitely going to oppose the terrorists, the neo-cons, the conservative Jews, and the right-wing Christians. There’s a decent chance he’ll oppose the settlers, and (let’s be realistic) he might oppose the Israeli government in some small ways, if the political climate allows it. The better choice for Israel is obvious.

The better choice for America and the world is obvious, too, but that’s a whole different argument, and this has gotten long enough.

Good night everyone, and remember: We are never not obligated to be superheroes.

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Wednesday, September 17th, 2008
2:39 am - Well, one of you asked for it, so...
Suffer a politics-free post about my actual life! Bwahahaha!

First, some gushing: starlightv continues to be the awesomest person in the history of awesome. Which is a lot longer than the history of people, if you think about it. She kept nudging me to go to the doctor (see below) and finally helped me get there on Friday, when I hit the point of total collapse. I am completely in love with this woman. I've gotten past the honeymoon phase, I'm perfectly capable of seeing things she does that annoy me, and I don't care. We're still as disgustingly lovey-dovey as ever, and even when I'm annoyed with her I still love her, and it passes quickly.

Speaking of gushing, I have a nasty infection (probably staph) on my jaw. No idea where it came from, one morning I just suddenly had a lump on my jaw that leaked a nasty-smelling yellow liquid when I poked it. This lump soon grew bigger and oblong, and starting regularly leaking a more viscous version of the yellow liquid, which at times was brown. Also, sometimes blood. Last Friday I got suddenly sick as a dog, and Viga helped me to the doctor, who used a word you never want to hear your doctor say: "necrotic". Turns out a good chunk of the infected area was actually dead, and it had crossed the line over into "abscess". I have to get some lab work done tomorrow, and I need to contact a surgeon to drain the thing, but in the meantime I'm on heavy antibiotics and doing fairly well -- no more fever or vomiting, and the lump has gotten a little smaller and isn't oozing as often.

Work isn't so great. I got reprimanded for missing time again as a consequence of the infection and the awful bout of flu that preceded it. I then got reprimanded a few days later for spending too much time on the Internet at work. I think it's kind of silly that I'm getting in trouble for these things, because they always say they're satisfied with the work I'm doing. If my work is good enough, what difference does it make whether I'm there a certain number of hours or I'm spending a lot of time goofing off? What needs to get done is getting done! However, my therapist says (well, not really, but she very heavily implies) this is a childish attitude to take, and when I called Viga to bitch, she very diplomatically agreed, so I guess I'm probably going to lose on this one.

So, yeah, that's life of late. How're all of you?

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Tuesday, September 16th, 2008
10:08 pm - Two Kinds of Voters
Increasingly it seems like voters can be split up into two camps: those who'll vote for the sort of person who names her kids things like "Trig" and "Piper", and those who won't.

It's a flippant way of putting it, but it's basically true: those who want someone average, someone like the people they know, and those who think a leader ought to be a little smarter, a little better than the rest of us.

The first kind of voter trusts someone based on how they appear. They don't care that Wasilla made rape victims pay for their own rape kits under Palin, or that McCain voted against a law that would require the states to pay for rape kits, just as they do for DNA testing and fingerprinting in any other crime. They don't care that McCain released an ad attacking Obama for supporting teaching kindergarteners the difference between "good touch" and "bad touch" (the entirety of the "comprehensive" sex-ed program for primary school).

No, McCain, and especially Palin, act like the good folks they know, so they must be trustworthy. And they say they're on the side of law and order and family, so it must be true, no matter how they act to the contrary. After all, nobody could pretend to be "good folks", right? It's not like we've spent the last eight years under a President who got into office on the strength of his ability to act like good folks, and then proceeded to completely screw over the country in every way imaginable by an incredible combination of bungling and corruption.

No, we know that McCain and Palin can be trusted to run the country no matter what they do, because they told us so. And we know that Obama is an evil schemer, because the people who say one thing and do another told us so.

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2:06 pm - Quick thought on my lunch break...
Thanks to Bob Altemeyer's excellent The Authoritarians, I now know that sociologists believe they have found a strong correlation between scoring highly on both of two quantifiable personality measures (right-wing* authoritarian follower traits and social dominance orientation) and being a power-hungry, unscrupulous, domineering bastard.

Political candidates should be given tests to detect authoritarian follower traits and level of social dominance orientation. The results should be published. No screening or anything, we don't want to start discriminating against personality types. But...

...the following ad should be all over the country during elections:

"We all want leaders we can trust. That's why we look at more than just what the candidates say: we look at their lives, their records, and their finances, so we know whether we can trust what they say.

"Well... researchers have found that people who test highly in social dominance and authoritarianism are more likely to seek power, more likely to lie to their constituents, and more likely to abuse their position. Some of history's worst tragedies have been caused by people who, researchers believe, were authoritarian social dominators.

"Shouldn't you find out where your candidates stand?"

*This has very little to do with the traditional American right-left distinction. Rather, it's to do with the way power and authority are constructed, so that Hitler (who would be way, way out on the extreme right of the American system) and Stalin (who would be way, way out on the extreme left of the American system) are both considered "right-wing" authoritarians.

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Thursday, September 11th, 2008
12:35 pm - Remember when you were a person?
We had to become employees to eat.

Then they turned us into human resources, things to consume.

Now they've announced the Federal Human Capital Survey.

We're things to be spent.

Remember when we were people?

current mood: dehumanized

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Wednesday, September 10th, 2008
8:08 am - Random Stuff, Including an Update on cnorgard
cnorgard e-mailed me, he's fine, he's just lost his phone and has computer trouble. So, apparently I'm contagious.

As of 8 a.m. EST, the LHC has not destroyed the world. So I guess I have to go to work. That sucks, because I really don't want to be wearing pants if the world ends.

Had a bizarre dream last night. I was in some sort of a class (with really bizarrely arranged desks, sort of loose clusters but all facing the center of the room), not paying attention and reading the new, much darker Ah! My Goddess manga (which doesn't exist). This got somehow scrambled with another dream in which Jason, Benny, and I had a whipped cream fight, greatly upsetting Kirsten, who was trying to home-school him. Then I got a call from the social worker (pets division) who was investigating the theft of K-9 (whom I had owned since childhood). Apparently a very wealthy man had registered K-9 as his pet, which I had never done since K-9 was, you know, a robot. Legally, I had no proof that K-9 was actually mine, so... At this point I became very upset and shouted that K-9 was my dog, and she promised to do what she could.

Then things got *really* scrambled, to the point that the first volume of the manga ended with Keichi used his newly developed psychic powers to win the trial and get back his dog, K-9, and I was just reading about it. Then I started up Volume II, subtitled "Belldandy Goes to Hell", and the class metamorphosed into a literature class on manga with two teachers, a very strident old lady and a Japanese man that needed an interpreter. We discussed the first two chapters of "Belldandy Goes to Hell", in which she died and encountered the Triple Woman, who, much like Neil Gaiman's version, kept shifting between different cultures' Triple Woman. I wanted to make a point about how odd it was for them to appear, as Belldandy is herself the Norn Verthandi, but there were a lot of hands up. The teacher created a list of the order in which people would get to speak, but she didn't know my name so she came over to introduce herself, tried to steal my pen, and then when I made her give it back tried to steal a blank sheet of paper off my desk, which I made her give back.

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