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MeMeMe

We watched Repo! The Genetic Opera this last weekend via our red enveloped tether to pop culture. Elyssa had been pretty excited to watch it, having high hopes for a silly sci-fi musical featuring a Repo man who cuts out transplanted organs you failed to pay for, starring both Paris Hilton and Anthony Stewart Head.

Now, maybe I don't understand the distinction between an "Opera" and "Musical", but I can say that despite containing many dozen songs the entire film was decidedly unmusical. Flat sing talking, and a near complete lack of any sort of catchy tunes really made me begin to wonder who exactly thought the result was worth sharing.

Despite the fact I didn't enjoy it, it still warms my heart a bit to know that there such quirky creative works are still being made, even if I can't seem to identify any specific redeeming value myself.

MeMe

Another solely personal update, this time on swim class.

Swim class still going fine, although Kelvin still spends most of the half hour in a state of "Holy S**t WTF is happening?", also the logistics of getting a kid in and out of swim suit while trying to do so yourself is a maddening, frightening and nude experience than might be manageable if it all weren't happening in a public place with onlookers. All in all, at this point I'm thinking our enrollment in this particular class as a bit hasty... Had we it to do again, I think we would have waited until he was two.

I have yet to mention the instructor. She is a young girl whose age I have a hard time placing, currently my best guess is 15-25 (I blame the wet hair). In the first class, she brought a sort of crazed feigned enthusiasm that I tolerated since it really seemed to grab the attention of the youngin's. By the third class, the congruency of her performances were beginning to creep me out. Exaggerated excitement is one thing, but it wasn't until I witnessed how precisely practiced it was that it kind of began creeping me out in an "animatronic keyboard playing gorilla at your bedroom window" sort of way.

Thankfully, at yesterday's session (the fourth) I began seeing some cracks in the facade. She displayed a noticeably lower level of excitement, one that was easily recognizable as someone who is in the midst of a potentially tiring job and less like a mentally ill person who is a big fan of liquids.

My body *has* started to get some disapproving looks, but this is likely due to the fact that I goto my Shinbudo class the day before, so I nearly always come in with my chest discolored by bruises as if I offended a vengeful watercolors set. Which would be fine by itself, but Murphy of course, nearly always arranges for Kelvin to have a mean looking head bruise of some sort, which often reveals itself solely under the cold fluorescence of the pool.

The correlation seems unmistakable, and I really wouldn't fault any who assumed it was a matter of causation as well, since I probably would too. At this point my goal is no longer to feel comfortable with my shirt off but to avoid a social services call.

Me

Gave some thought to my New Year's Resolution, and am thinking it is to be "One sweet thing per day".

I know all my avid blog readers in Rwanda right now are besides themselves at the scope of this personal sacrifice, but I beg you, send no cards.

There are a couple reasons for this change. The first is that the free market has caught up to my many years old oath to swear off drinks with High-Fructose Corn Syrup, which also neatly meant no more pop for me. But now even the tiny local market in town carries 4 different delicious flavors of cane-sugar sweetened Jones Soda, a delicious concoctions I am completely not immunized by vow against, seems to have introduced some back sliding into my daily work routine.

So this new vow brings that into check, not only limiting me to one can at most per day, but also making me forgo any sweets for the rest of that day, a non-trivial opportunity cost. Which might not sound like much, until you consider my wife's eating habits.

During this weekend, there was a point where we had literally a three course meal of pure sugar. Starting off with a light appetizer of a 1 lb bag of Jelly Bellys, easing into some Lemon Bars and finishing with half a pint of Ben and Jerry's each.

I have actually attempted stricter versions of this vow before which have always been met with stern disapproval from my wife, it seems that sugar binging is a significant cornerstone of our relationship. While she wasn't wild about this new proposal, I'm hoping she sees that it is an equitable solution between total prohibition and the "keeping an emergency insulin needle around" status quo.

Known Unknowns

(Edit: Apologies for the previously garbled article, should be clearer now)

Read an interesting snippet in Wired yesterday on the rising amount of "agnotology" in the US, which I guess is a Greek word describing culturally constructed ignorance.

For instance, less people believe in Evolution than did 10 years ago. Global warming belief dropped by 10% in the last 5 years alone!

The article blames the rise in people being able to self-select the information sources they view, presumably saying that they eventually stop visiting sites which show them information they disagree with... And while I guess self-selection might be a part of it, I also wonder if it doesn't have more to do with survival of the fittest meme.

At a cocktail party, for instance, I would have a hard time citing specific global warming facts. I am not a climate researcher, so really don't think myself fit to rigorously attack a testable climate hypothesis to prove its fitness. I am content with the idea that enough smart men believe it might be a problem, that it seems worthy of concern, even if its certainty is not 100%, but merely flirting with it.

In other words, I wouldn't have much to say on the matter. Whereas the opposing view propagates via the much pithier, and easier to articulate "I think the science is still out". Which happily catapults over the arguing phase into the "Aren't scientists a bunch of presumptuous jerks?" discussion point.

That second meme really has more utility. It is easier to remember, never has to change or adapt to new advances in the field. Better still, the belief in this meme frees the its believer from even having to do continual research into the issue. Best of all, even if one day the Washington Post has a front page article on how "All the Science is In: Global Warming 100% True", you STILL get to smirk and say "told ya so".

Of course the downside to it is that certain people think you're an idiot, but once the debate went from a crystal clear stream to a muddy delta, things changed. Once the debate itself got murky, once people stopped openly laughing at people who claimed the science was still out, it became the more useful individual belief to have.

Now, my explanation may seem a bit more flimsy than Wired's. Self-selection of news sources is certainly happening, explained in my model by the host not wanting to throw such a useful social tool away. But I'd also argue my explanation is also more fit, since it uses a Darwinian model to explain the prorogation of the very form of ideas which are convincing people that Darwin is wrong.

And, as Occam always said, "All other things being equal, the most ironic explanation is best."

Banality Matrix

So, I succumbed to peer pressure, and made a Facebook account.

I tried super hard to emotionally detach myself from it, like a teenager who walks away saying "whatever" and then tries to sneak a peak back at his parent's reaction to his feigned apathy.

I meant to keep my presence kind of on the "low down", but the friend requests multiplied with terrifying speed, and I found myself in the midst of a dopamine rush, greedily transforming my social network of acquaintances into boolean affirmations.

The complexity of Facebook did daunt me at first. Quite possibly my first "how do I set my VCR now?" moments of the age that is to come. Which seems odd, seeing as I am comfortable hand coding blog code, but not navigating the dizzying array of highly specific add-on offerings.

I am unused to a site being so proactive in suggesting ways of pre-packaging content in certain static ways. I am still unaccustomed to it.

So I know have *4* methods of sharing content. This blog, twitter, FriendFeed and now Facebook.

At first I was a bit bewildered, the fatigue of certain unnecessary complexity spreading over me. But as I started using it, I found something strange happened.

With this blog, twitter and FriendFeed, I'm not altogether sure of how many people are viewing/checking it. Sure some people subscribe, but my accountless audience is an unknown. I find that vagueness of audience freeing, like being in an elevator which may or may not have a camera.

More over, the above services are something you presumably check "actively", and are free to ignore without severing a digital carebond with me.

But on Facebook, I know every status change, posting or comment will show up and whom for. So I find myself choosing things that I think people would *expect* me to post. My goal, whether conscious or not seems to be to illicit a "there goes that Kyle, reinforcing my pre-conceived notions about him!" type reaction.

My wife, in so many words has told me that I do this in person as well. In any gathering over a certain number I begin enthusiastically "auditioning" for the role of Kyle for everyone within earshot.

Someone mentioned the concept of someone who is intent on always being liked and pleasing others, and I wonder if I'm not simply taking that to the logical extreme of assuming that everybody wants me to act like they think I act, and thus I imagine how they think I act and act like that.

I think this is why I sometime dread social interaction. The above sounds tiring.

Hopefully one day I'll learn to be myself in a way that doesn't involve the constant vigilance of recursive empathy.

Goals

So I talk about Iraq a lot, and I apologize for that.

It's not entertaining, and is about as polite as discussing airborne fecal spores at a Jello salad convention.

But here we go.

Civilian deaths. There are a lot of people counting it. The United States army very likely tracks it, but doesn't release it's numbers. Some group have put the tally at 800,000. Others have it around 150,000. The seeming most respected and conservative tally seems to be the people over at Iraq Body Count who currently have it at 90,000-ish.

Numbers themselves lack perspective, so here's some: 200,000 killed in Bosnia-Herzegovina (1992-1995).

So, again, the civilian death toll in Iraq is currently half, of a place where they were actually *trying* to commit genocide for three years.

That seems kinda of high. Especially for an enterprise that has continually claimed that it's is in the best interest of the people we're occupying.

First we lost our "shutting down the rape rooms" high ground, and now it seems likely to me that given the choice between "Genocide Lite" and "Mustachio'd Dictator" the consumers of Iraq might have went with their brand loyalty.

Alright, at this point I'm a paper mache' puppet away from being a shrill anti-war protester, so let's change gears.

I'm not particularly mad about all those civilian deaths. I'm so far away and it has gone on so long that it seems an impossible truth to tether to my reality.

But I will say this. At least the people committing the genocides in Serbia had an emotional opinion on the matter. How much more evil is it to not even care?

Water

Had my first swimming lesson with Kelvin.

As Mike commented, my bare-chested presence drew an amount of attention close enough to zero that you'd need several dozen significant digits to record it.

The swimming place is, first, located in a mall. The entire complex occupying the same footprint as a Spencer Gifts might, which is sort of a mind-bending concept in itself.

Inside, is a smallish pool, with five lanes, two classes at the end of each. So, 10 classes going on simultaneously. 3-5 children from 0 to 8 years old at a time.

The noise, how to describe the noise. Cacophony comes close. Imagine for me a frantic game of tag being played by 3 dozen children. Quite noisy. Now imagine that 3 werewolves lope out of a nearby forest and join in the chasing. That result, I think, comes close to the auditory experience.

Kelvin and I both held the same muted "WTF" expression on the whole time, finding it difficult to pay attention to anything amongst such a tempest.

Afterwards, I stood by the shower stall, and waited nearly 2 minutes while an 8 year old sat under the shower ignoring his parents, doing the most bizarre and stupid things.

I originally went to these lessons to do something that frightened me, and while the original intent turned out to be a moot point, being stared down by a representation of such Elemental Childhood straight up frightened me.

Elyssa and I affectionately refer to Kelvin's dervish tendencies. It is the nature of the young to explore and make mistakes. I love that, and wouldn't mind relearning how to do it properly.

But being confronted by it on a macroscale was another thing entirely. Right now Kelvin is manageable, worse comes to worse, he is liftable and easily portable. I think what frightens me is the realization that, far sooner than I realize, that will not be the case. That he will begin expressing his own (sometimes very stupid) freewill, and picking him up and putting him down somewhere else will not dissuade him from it.

I had already come to terms with the responsibility involved in being a parent. The fact that this responsibility extends past the point when they begin not obeying you seems particularly unfair. Despite it being undeniably fair from a karmatic perspective.

Work Release

So my company graciously allowed me to not sell my labor to them for a few days, which is pretty righteous of them.

We went to Texas, where the temperature swung wildly from 50 to 80 degrees (F), which I suppose is a nice change from -20 to 10.

We left the day after Christmas, which made me anxious prior to leaving, since the keen of the holiday season had reached such a din that it seemed impossible that we'd properly plan for it.

As is, one of the great gifts of the holiday was the total and complete lack of planning. We didn't rent a car, which limited our options in a pleasant way. We spent most of our time watching Kelvin play, interrupting his curiosity related suicide attempts , napping, eating, going on walks and watching movies, none of which required any sort of forethought.

It occurred to me the only time I can actual relax is when most of my options are stripped from me.

In general, I dislike vacations. I spend much of my time trying to be less lazy and gluttonous, and taking time off to just stay at home often resembles a relapse of self-control rather than actual relaxation.

Thinking on this, I tried musing on what sort of vacation would allow for pleasantly mindless activity while not encouraging me to attempt to set a pickled okra eating and napping biathlon record.

The best I could come up with was some sort of Soviet-Era forced work camp. If only they provided day care...

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