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Sat, Mar. 5th, 2016, 10:43 pm
We’re back!

My website is now back online following a long outage precipitated by a rather nasty hacker attack and an almost-as-nasty unannounced decommissioning of the servers my web host was storing my site on. It’s good to be back online!

Mon, Dec. 23rd, 2013, 03:10 pm
I hate gratitude.

Gratitude is so venerated in our culture that it feels awkward to say that, despite my indifference to most cultural norms. Gratitude is one thing that nearly everyone agrees on, from the mainstream (check it out, there’s a whole holiday based on it in November — October if you’re Canadian), to the spiritualists who insist that gratitude is not just a noble pursuit for the sake of others, but the path to well-being for oneself, to the scientists who are publishing studies saying that the spiritualists have it right — there are measurable health benefits to the regular practice of gratitude.

And yet I despise it. The word triggers a powerful feeling of resentment that I doubt many could relate to. It’s a loaded word, evocative of someone making demands, denigrating me (and look at how the word grateful and denigrate share a good chunk of letters — though not, thankfully, a root word), and trying to guilt me into something. “Ingrate.” “You should be grateful.” It’s a moralizing word, an attempt to manipulate through shame, a word used by the powerful to attempt to gain compliance from the powerless, or, failing that, to punish them emotionally for refusing to comply.

The idea of feeling grateful makes me feel sick inside. It’s bound up with a feeling of inferiority, of lack of agency, of inability to do for oneself and neediness and dependence. The powerful may be self-reliant or even benevolent, but the powerless lack the ability, therefore they must be grateful for what is done for them.

Gratitude is a dirty word to me, an evil word, a tool of oppression.

And I’m not sure why. I can’t seem to identify any memories that would account for this visceral reaction, this immediate and instinctive hatred that wells up at the very mention of a word that, to everyone else, seems to represent something wonderful and healing, something that helps them focus on the positive and keep their heads up in hard times.

I’ve considered the words for some related concepts and they don’t have the same effect. Starting on Google with “define: grateful”, I come up with “feeling or showing an appreciation of kindness; thankful.” and “synonyms: thankful, appreciative”. No problem with any of those words. Appreciation is great, thankfulness, when appropriate, is fantastic. These emotions come from a place of equality for me, or at least a power-neutral place.

“define: appreciative” gets a little more complicated: “feeling or showing gratitude or pleasure.” Ignoring the word gratitude (or perhaps substituting thankfulness) makes this a positive thing, but check out the synonyms: “grateful for, thankful for, obliged for, indebted for, in someone’s debt for”. Ooh. Obliged. Indebted. Now you OWE someone something. Oddly, I associate those meanings with gratitude, but not with appreciation.

“define: thankful” is simple and positive: “pleased and relieved”, with synonyms “grateful, appreciative, filled with gratitude, relieved”. Again, apart from the Evil Word, nothing to balk at here.

I almost stopped there, but then went back to that word “obliged” and decided to check it out. And here’s the root of the problem: to oblige means to “make (someone) legally or morally bound to an action or course of action”. Legally or morally bound. Synonyms? “require, compel, bind, constrain, obligate, leave with no option but, force”. Heavy stuff. One moment we’re talking about being pleased and relieved, and it’s only two small steps from there to requirement, compulsion, binding, constraint, obligation, optionlessness, and force. It doesn’t get much more disempowering than that. And, for whatever reason, that’s what gratitude is for me.

I may never be able to have a positive relationship with gratitude. If you do something for me, I may be appreciative, thankful, pleased, and relieved, but I will never, ever be grateful. If asked, “what are you thankful for?”, I may happily relate a long and storied list. But if you ask me, “what are you grateful for?”, I suspect the answer will always be, “nothing, and fuck you for asking”.

Sat, Aug. 31st, 2013, 04:44 am

So tired from the work-week that I came home Friday night and went immediately to bed. I was asleep by 6 PM, and woke up at 3 AM. Which I suppose explains why I'm having breakfast at 4 AM.

I'm looking forward to the three day weekend, though I'm not sure what I'm going to do with it. Likely at least some of it will be spent on catching up on work, and some more on prepping and running my Sunday D&D game. Probably some Doctor Who, some Star Trek: The Next Generation, and some D&D Online. Might go to the gym, might tell the gym to shove it. Never can tell with me. Or to REI for bike gear.

All I know for sure is MOAR SLEEP! But not right now.

Mon, Aug. 12th, 2013, 02:30 am
Testing the LJ app for iPad.

I think my audience here is now... Two? At least among people I actually know. There may be as many as two more that I've met once or only know in Internetland out there. So, hi.

I've drifted away from writing, but want to reel it back in. I feel like my skill at it has atrophied a bit and also like perhaps there is a vein of deeper talent and creativity which I might tap with more practice, clearing away the strata of less artful words and works beneath which it lies buried. I suppose what I'd really like to do is become a persuasive writer, able to convince people through my words to think more and make better choices (both for themselves and for those who are affected by their choices). And maybe in so doing I can improve my own choices as well.

Writing here is the first step in that direction. I try to keep the content on my web site more interesting to whomever might happen along, while my LJ is the place for narcissistic ramblings. Which means I tend to start here to scratch my ballpoint pen across the page a few times, trying to get the ink to start flowing. Then, if something of value starts percolating in my brain, that gets posted to the web site.

Anyhow. It is late and I am tired, but I wanted to squeeze out a few words here before trying to sleep again. (Probably shouldn't have had a caffeinated soda with dinner, but I'd been craving it all day. Bah.) 'Night, Internets.

Wed, Jul. 31st, 2013, 08:44 pm
I'd've sworn I'd posted here more recently than that...

...but I guess I was thinking of my web site. Is this place still alive?

Mon, Jun. 11th, 2012, 11:09 pm
Twain always has something relevant to say.

"The man who doesn’t read good books has no advantage over the man who can't read them." -Mark Twain

A quick search of the interwebs turned up several instances of this quote on different sites, but no context. As such, I can't be certain whether it was intended solely in a literal sense, or if Clemens was using it as an example and a metaphor for a broader idea. I prefer to think the latter, however, as it seems equally true for pursuits other than reading.

To generalize the sentiment, we could say: The person who fails to wisely apply their talents has no advantage over those who lack them.

I think I've been stuck in a rut lately of allowing many of my talents to fall into disuse, and thereby deriving no value from them. Fulltime employment (perhaps paradoxically?) increases the challenge of making use of any but a narrow subset of my skills, as few of them are relevant to my position. Employment consumes more of the time and energy available to me for such pursuits than I actually have, leaving me destitute of one or both at the end of each day.

I am not sure what to do about this, except to try to squeeze in a little bit here and there. This blog entry, for example, is a baby step toward keeping my writing skills sharp. It was begun on the bus this morning, tapped into the keyboard of my phone, and completed this evening, in a narrow slice of time between finishing the laundry and heading to bed. I'll try to do likewise tomorrow. The "micro-blogging" medium of Twitter and Facebook is suitable only for the most superficial of updates; to say anything that has any meaning to either myself or anyone else requires more space. So I suppose I’ll try to do "mini-blogging" instead. Not the long, detailed posts I would prefer to write had I the time and energy, but whatever words I can wring out onto your screen in the space between the things it seems I have to do.

Like going to bed, roughly now-ish.

Note: My blogging platform is supposed to publish to LJ too, but does not appear to be working. Unless it's on a delay. In which case you'll see this content twice. Oops.

Tue, May. 29th, 2012, 01:22 am
Chronic Writer's Block

It's been a long time since I've written. The longer it gets between posts, the harder it is to write. I feel a need to write, though, to... keep that channel open. I don't know who or where my audience is, though. Most of my Facebook friends have abandoned this place in favor of (I assume) Facebook. But Facebook isn't a place that... feels right... for writing anything with any length, or depth, or substance. I have a personal blog, but I suspect it is even less trafficked than my LiveJournal. Where's the place for writing real content in semi-public view these days?

Sun, Oct. 23rd, 2011, 04:02 pm
What would Tony Stark do?

Lately I've been using this question to help me guide my decisions through the course of the day. The answer usually turns out to be one of three things:

1. Create and/or rock some awesome technology.
2. Go on a drunken bender.
3. Hit on Pepper Potts and get her hopes up just to dash them again almost immediately.

If the answer is 1, I start working on that. If 2 or 3, I ignore the result and try something else instead. (Although if I remain single long enough, options 2 and 3 may eventually seem viable to me...)

Sat, Jul. 30th, 2011, 05:06 pm
A Quick Thought on Language and API References

We spend a lot of time and energy on making software usable and user-friendly, and with good reason. It only makes sense to make the computer adapt to the user, not vice versa. So why is it that we don't give this kind of attention to the tools the we as technologists use every day? When is the last time you saw a beautiful, easy-to-use language or API reference? It seems to me that there's a lot that could be done to make these gargantuan beasts easier to use. Things like configurable sort order:

  • Alphabetical is a great default, and fantastic if you know the name of what you're looking for. I fully support keeping this as the default.

  • But what about optionally sorting by subject, for when you know the thing you're looking for is in the library, but you don't know what it's called?

  • How about sorting by frequency of use? Don't show me the arcane shit that nobody but embedded programmers care about at the top of the reference just because it happens to start with 'a', show me the common stuff that everybody needs on a daily basis.

  • What about logical order of use? Show me constructors first, then mutators, then accessors, then utility functions/methods, then destructors, so that the reference document itself mimics the structure of how to actually use an object or library of functions.

Language and API references tend to be huge and difficult to use, and there's no reason at all why this should be.

Tue, Jul. 5th, 2011, 03:24 pm
A fable I've loved ever since I encountered it as a teenager.

Once upon a time, there was a non-conforming sparrow that decided not to fly south for the winter.

However, soon the weather turned so cold that he reluctantly started to fly south. In a short time, ice began to form on his wings and he fell to earth in a farmyard, almost frozen. A cow passed by and crapped on the little sparrow. The sparrow thought it was the end, but the manure warmed him and defrosted his wings. Warm and happy, able to breathe, he started to sing. Just then a large cat came by, and hearing the chirping, investigated the sounds.

The cat cleared away the manure, found the chirping bird, and promptly ate him!

The moral of the story:

1. Everyone who shits on you is not necessarily your enemy.

2. Everyone who gets you out of the shit is not necessarily your friend.

3. And, if you're warm and happy in a pile of shit, keep your mouth shut!

-most recently stolen from http://homepage.eircom.net/~nobyrne/happy.html

Sun, Nov. 7th, 2010, 04:16 pm
At idle.

I am truly at idle right now for perhaps the first time this weekend. I went on a date Saturday which involved rather a lot of travel time, and when I got home I was full of manic energy and wound up doing a bunch of housework (laundry, kitchen cleaning, and so forth) till I went to bed and failed to sleep for a few hours. This morning when I woke up, I went to a friend's house to pick up the couch he's giving me, and then wandered around looking at options for TV stands and such (for when I get a TV soon, so I'll have something to point the couch AT). After that, I did some research on the TV itself, did some more laundry, relocated the futon (which is being replaced by the couch) from the living room to the bedroom (where it will live at least until I decide whether I'm keeping it or not -- anybody want a futon?), and am now just chilling until 5, when I head out for my D&D game. It's been a busy weekend. I always find, on Sunday evening, that I want one more day off so that I can get an actual day of rest after five days of work and two days of differently-busy.

Sat, Nov. 6th, 2010, 09:27 pm
A quick thought about sitcoms...

One of the things that made Red Dwarf great -- arguably the MAIN thing -- was its willingness to disregard continuity in favor of comedy. This I have known for some time, but tonight I noticed while watching The Office that it has a tendency to do the same (though to a lesser extent). This explains to some extend the broad and long-lasting appeal of its humor.

Thu, Sep. 16th, 2010, 03:39 pm

If you can name the source of that movie quote... you have my pity.

Usually financial institutions piss me off, but today one is entertaining me instead.

In December of 2009, I was running low on cash (since I hadn't worked for almost a year), so I sold all my stocks so I could continue to pay rent. At the end of the month, I received a dividend payment in my brokerage account in the amount of exactly $0.01, triggered by something that I had owned before I sold it all. I left the penny in the account, figuring it would take more than a penny's worth of time to initiate a funds transfer. Besides, I planned to use the account again after securing a new source of income, and the penny would then roll into my stock purchases.

Today, I've reached a point financially where I'm ready to start investing again, so this morning I logged into my brokerage account. I was surprised to see that my penny was missing -- my balance was a paltry $0.00, not the exhilirating $0.01 I expected. Checking my account history, I found a debit on 7/1 in the amount of $0.01 labeled "RESERVE PENNY BALANCES". I assume that's a euphemism for "we're stealing your penny because we fucking feel like it".

Now, I wasn't too worried about the penny, but just for a laugh, I clicked on Contact Us and sent them a message:

Subject: Where did my penny go?
Body: Really? You took away my penny?

This afternoon I received an email from customer service: "Thank you for contacting ShareBuilder about your $0.01 balance. It is in your account, and available for withdrawal."

I just about died laughing. I made them give me my penny back! :D

Sun, Sep. 5th, 2010, 12:05 pm
Mostly just confirmation that I still exist.

Yesterday was pretty awesome. I spent pretty much the whole day communing with technology. It's the exact polar opposite of what I was supposed to be doing this weekend (camping, during which I leave all electronic devices of any sort in the car, which should be a minimum of a quarter mile away), which would also have been pretty awesome. But campsites are in short supply on Labor Day weekend, so instead I wound up camped out in my bedroom, roasting Chinese delivery over the heat of my CPU...

It was a very productive day. I wiped about half a dozen hard drives in preparation to pass them on to others who can still make use of them. I backed up all my data from my old Windows XP laptop and installed Linux Mint on it. (A couple of months ago I picked up a Windows 7 laptop. Windows 7 is really surprisingly good, and that's high praise coming from me. There's nothing I like more than to talk shit about M$, but credit where credit is due -- Windows 7 doesn't suck. In any case, that gave me the opportunity to put Linux onto the old laptop.) And I got five loads of laundry done, when I usually only do two in a week (and then not until Sunday). I am WELL ahead of schedule this weekend.

Today, I've been to breakfast with my dad, am about to spend a few hours prepping to run a D&D game, and then I'll go run the game itself. And tomorrow... I dunno what I'll do tomorrow, which is awesome in and of itself. :)

Wed, Apr. 14th, 2010, 03:04 pm

Things I did in the past two days that kind of sucked:
1) Got less than four hours of sleep each night.
2) Spent a total of four hours (counting the hour yet to come this afternoon) in a crowded shuttle van with loose seats, poor suspension, and a rather poor driver.
3) Attended a two-day business conference put on by the company I'm working for, but didn't get paid for it.

Things I did in the past two days that were kind of awesome:
1) Met a bunch of co-workers who work remotely that I've only worked with online previously.
2) Went to the California Academy of Sciences, where I walked through an artificial rain forest, attended a planetarium show, saw live penguins, and heard the Sugar Band play.
3) Went to a breakout session by a muckety muck from Red Hat and wore my Red Hat fedora.
4) Went to a keynote address by Fake Steve Jobs (Daniel Lyons, who is a FUCKING HILARIOUS speaker).

Net positive, despite the whole not getting paid thing.

Fri, Mar. 19th, 2010, 01:08 pm
End of an era.

Something happened today that hasn't happened to me in a VERY long time.

I got turned down for a credit card.

The reasons given were that I have no real estate accounts, my average account age is too young, and I haven't got enough available credit. This last seems a little bit silly, as my credit report notes that my debt to credit ratio is 7% and my amount of available credit... well, it's kind of ridiculous. The other two reasons are defensible, however.

In any case, I already have cards with a bunch of different companies, and I'm starting to run out of places that haven't already given me a card with a zero-interest intro rate. So I've decided that it's finally time to actually pay off my credit card debt instead of keeping it around, surfing it from one zero-interest intro rate card to another, and trying to make a profit off of it (which worked for a while, and I could probably still do, but it's more trouble than it's worth). It's down to ~$4000 from a high of ~$14,000 in 2005 anyway, so I guess it's finally time to say goodbye to it and go debt-free. So off it goes to my low-interest card instead of to a new 0-interest card. Next paycheck I expect to have an overage after paying my bills, and will begin the process of eliminating this last vestige of the underemployment I tolerated before I moved to Portland.

Next up, deciding whether to keep the other (young, empty, formerly-zero-interest) cards around, or close them up to raise the average age of my accounts. 1/3 of my available credit is on my oldest account (which I'm keeping for many reasons), and another 1/3 is on another relatively old account (which I'm keeping for its AWESOME non-intro interest rate), so I'm not worried about lowering my credit limit or raising my debt-to-credit ratio -- 10.5% isn't so very different from 7%. I think I'll probably end up closing those accounts to clean up after myself. Yay, financial minutiae.

Mon, Mar. 15th, 2010, 09:48 am
Am I awake, or am I dreaming? Or are they the same thing?

I had a dream this morning that amused me entirely too much:

A former co-worker gave me a dose of a hallucinogenic drug in a little device roughly the size and shape of a push-pin. In place of the metal pin was a little hypodermic needle. The drug was administered by pushing the little pin into the vein on the inside of the wrist from the back, then squeezing the barrel of the pin from the sides to squeeze the drug through the needle.

Three of us wanted to try this drug for the experience. We were all in separate rooms. I administered the dose to myself, but made kind of a mess of it because I'd never done it before -- I wound up with a bunch of the drug (a clear liquid) on my skin... more on my skin than in my vein, I think. I hoped that I'd gotten enough into my bloodstream for it to work, or that what was on my skin would soak in and get into my bloodstream through osmosis.

I settled down to wait and see what sort of hallucinations I might experience.

Seconds later, my patience was rewarded -- with the blaring of my alarm as I woke up in what I normally think of as the real world.

So... which is the hallucination: the dream, or the existence I've been experiencing since I administered myself the hallucinogenic drug? :D

Fri, Feb. 26th, 2010, 10:37 pm
Yet More Books.

Box three. Same rules.

Red Dwarf 8 by Doug Naylor
The Way Things Work by David Macaulay
Geosystems Fourth Edition by Robert W. Christopherson
SAMS Teach Yourself E-Commerce Programming with ASP in 21 Days by Stephen Walther with Jonathan Levine
Java Programming For Dummies by Donald J. Koosis and David Koosis
Windows 98 Programming For Dummies by Stephen R. Davis and Richard J. Simon
Windows Game Programming For Dummies by Andre LaMothe
A Guide to the Celtic Dragon Tarot by D.J. Conway & Lisa Hunt
All I Really Need To Know I Learned in Kindergarten by Robert Fulghum
Unofficial Guide to Dating Again by Tina Tessina, Ph.D., MFT
The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery
Pets Are Friends You Like Who Like You Right Back by Tom Wilson
A Tale of Time City by Diana Wynne Jones
Aunt Maria by Diana Wynne Jones
The Ogre Downstairs by Diana Wynne Jones
Witch's Business by Diana Wynne Jones
The Merlin Conspiracy by Diana Wynne Jones
Red Dwarf Quiz Book by Nicky Hooks and Sharon Burnett
The Simpsons Xmas Book by Matt Groening
The Klingon Dictionary by Marc Okrand
The Famous Cactus Book by Reg Manning
Dragonology by Ernest Drake and Dugald Steer

Fri, Feb. 26th, 2010, 10:20 pm
More Books

I made it through another box. Same rules as the last post.

Wolves of the Calla by Stephen King
Song of Susannah by Stephen King
Stardust by Neil Gaiman
Composer/Artist by Paul McCartney
Lennon & McCartney 'Deluxe' volumes 1 and 2 by John Lennon and Paul McCartney
Introduction to Networking by WestNet Learning Technologies (and included CD)
CGI Programming with Perl 2nd Edition by Scott Guelich, Shishir Gundavaram, and Gunther Birznieks
Programming Web Graphics with Perl & GNU Software by Shawn P. Wallace
Learning Perl/Tk by Nancy Walsh
Wheelock's Latin Reader Second Edition by Frederick M. Wheelock, revised by Richard A. LaFleur
Red Dwarf Log No. 1996 by Paul Alexander
Goal-Free Living by Stephen M. Shapiro
Be Your Own Dating Service by Nina Atwood
What in the Word? by Charles Harrington Elster
Amo, Amas, Amat and More by Eugene Ehrlich
Uppity Women of Medieval Times by Vicki Leon
Throw a Tomato by Jim Erskine and George Moran
The Magic: The Gathering Pocket Players' Guide
The New American Webster Handy College Dictionary Third Edition by Philip D. Morehead and Andrew T. Morehead
Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes
Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card
Red Dwarf Programme Guide Second Revised Edition by Chris Howarth and Steve Lyons
The Ferengi Rules of Acquisition by Quark as told to Ira Steven Behr (2 copies)

Fri, Feb. 26th, 2010, 09:53 pm
Books For Sale and/or Free

I've been promising for a while that books would be on the chopping block, and so they are.

These are what I have available, all used, and in varying conditions (some are older than I am, some came to me used, etc.). If you're interested in a particular one and worried about the condition, let me know -- the only ones I think are in poor condition are one of the Garfield books (#15) and one of the Sluggy books (#5, I think), which are coming unbound. The rest I would describe as fair or better, taking into account the age of any individual book.

Let me know if you want any of these. Some are free, some are not, and anything that isn't claimed is going to be sold at the used book store.

The Church Cat Abroad by Graham Oakley
The First Practical Pyramid Book by Norman Stark
Cattus Petasatus by Dr. Seuss
Wheelock's Latin by Frederick M. Wheelock
Workbook for Wheelock's Latin by Paul T. Comeau and Richard A. LaFleur
The Writer's Guide to Everyday Life in the Middle Ages by Sherrilyn Kenyon
Secret Fighting Arts of the Warrior Race by HetaQ
I May Not Be Totally Perfect by Ashleigh Brilliant
I Have Abandoned My Search For Truth by Ashleigh Brilliant
All I Want Is A Warm Bed... by Ashleigh Brilliant
I Want To Reach Your Mind... by Ashleigh Brilliant
Appreciate Me Now and Avoid the Rush by Ashleigh Brilliant
The Key to Hypnotism by Walter B. Gibson
Beginner's Slovak by Elena Letnanova
The Superior Person's Second Book of Words by Peter Bowler
Proof by David Auburn
The Best of Uncle John's Bathroom Reader by The Bathroom Readers' Institute
Garfield 1-9, 15, and 16 by Jim Davis
Sluggy Freelance 1-5 and Mini Book: 1 by Pete Abrams
Primordial Soup by Rob Grant and Doug Naylor
Son of Soup by Rob Grant and Doug Naylor
A Question of Smeg - The 2nd Red Dwarf Quiz Book by Sharon Burnett and Nicky Hooks
The 4-Hour Workweek by Timothy Ferriss
The Homeward Bounders by Diana Wynne Jones
Rachael Ray Top 30 30-Minute Meals - Guy Food by Rachael Ray

There you have it, the contents of one file storage box, in no particular order. I've got three more of these to go, I think. Anything that isn't spoken for by Saturday, 3/6 is apt to be fodder for Bookbuyers. Till next time...

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