Thursday, April 28, 2005

Contents of sixth-grade note

I recovered the following correspondence from the classroom floor. Very enlightening. When folded, the outside reads:
2: Vic
From: Emi

Unfolded, the interior reads:

Holla HI, waz &uarr, Well me + Dylan r friends again! R U trying
to break &uarr Victor + Amber? I heard u r giving Ambe attitude
Just pick Victor or michale!


The note is cleverly color coordinated in purple and yellow to fit the much-ballyhooed Lakers theme. I thought you would appreciate the sixth-grade experience.


Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Stupid hacker wannabe

Dangerous Hacker!

This is hilarious.

I am not a hacker (l33t or otherwise) but even I think this guy is a complete moron. Basically, he's chatting on IRC and gets mad at a moderator for allegedly kicking him off. He then asks the mod for his IP (great hacking skills there) so he can retaliate, and the mod gives the moron his own IP address. So the moron launches his killer haxxor virus and crashes his own computer. Then he does it again. He comes back and says that the mod has some kind of magic virus-reflecting firewall and asks him to turn it off - because only old grandmothers are so scared as to use a firewall online. The mod, who doesn't even have a firewall, says he turned it off. So the moron launches his super hard-drive deletion program and starts taunting the mod about how his drives are being erased. The mod notices his drives are fine. Finally, the moron disappears forever, apparently having erased his own drives! The transcript cracked me up.

(Yes, three posts so far today. Such things happen when you're a dumbfuck who gets a job for May 3 and shows up on April 27, leaving you with unexpected free time but no money to show for it.)

[via Slashdot]


Texans, I call on you!

If you live in Texas, please write/email/call your state senators and urge them to vote against HJR 6, the so-called "Defense of Marriage Act." This bill, already passed in the state House, not only makes gay marriage illegal in Texas, it makes "seperate but equal" civil unions illegal as well. It gives those of minority sexual orientation no recourse for partnership rights. When combined with the recent legislation making it illegal for lesbians and gay men to adopt foster children, it turns Texas into exactly the sort of intolerant hell that intelligent non-Texans already think it is. If the bill passes the Senate - and let's be honest, it probably will - then get everyone you know to vote against state-wide ratification in the polls.

I am sometimes embarrassed and sickened to live in this state. Thank god for mostly-progressive Austin, the oasis of sanity; not that it will matter when a million-odd Texans won't have any rights left. Lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, transgendered persons, transsexuals, queers and questioning, please understand that some of us breeders still love you. We'll even fight for you.



If there is one thing that I would call a true pet peeve of mine, it is hypocrisy. Almost every day I examine something that I am thinking or feeling or doing and trying to make it as consistently good as it can be. It's that sort of desire that led to me becoming a vegetarian a bit over one year ago. How can I believe that suffering is a moral wrong and yet contribute to the suffering of billions of sentient beings by demanding their flesh for nothing more than my own enjoyment when there are cruelty-free nutritional alternatives readily available?

And hypocrisy is one thing that I don't find cause to accuse President Bush of very often. Don't get me wrong, he frequently looks like a hypocrite. That's merely the result of pandering to voters. But when it comes to his actual goals - the pursuit of a radical neoconservative/theocratic agenda - he is remarkably consistent. There aren't many decisions he's made that part from these goals. I think that Bush is a morally consistent man, but the morals he are consistent with are utterly abhorrent.

The important thing about moral consistency is that it can't be untempered by reason. That is to say, if you learn that something you once thought was right is actually wrong, you should always be ready to change your values and actions.

This is where Bush fails. This whole discussion is brought on by recent events regarding Tom DeLay and John Bolton. DeLay has more ethics violations being accused of him that just about any public official I can recall in recent years, and there is ample evidence to back them up. I am all for due process; DeLay should be brought before a committee and given a chance to defend himself. But that's not to say that any intelligent observer can't form their own conclusions based on the evidence at hand. Many have. Most agree that Tom DeLay is beyond corrupt.

And yet Bush stands by him. He's called the allegations "minor." In the case of Bolton, the hearing has already been held, and it is clear that the man is a bully and all-around jerk. Even Republicans are shying away from their usual enthusiasm for a Bush noiminee. He's just not ambassador material. And yet Bush stands by him. He's called him "the right man for the job."

Bush is consistent in spite of all evidence and reason, rather than because of it. I think this kind of sick consistency, shown throughout this administration's time in office, is far worse than simple hypocrisy. At least with hypocrisy, you can argue that the hypocrites are struggling with their own values and just aren't really sure of the right course, or even that they don't realize they are inconsistent. But with Bush and his close allies, it is clear that they know exactly what they are doing. Bush chooses to stand by bad decisions and bad people. That is indefensible.


Tuesday, April 26, 2005


Remember when I told you I wasn't sick? I lied.

That's why there isn't anything more entertaining here today. Sorry.


Sunday, April 24, 2005

New and exciting

I have a sore throat, but so far without the usual sickness that would go along with it. Perhaps it is an experimental bioengineered retrovirus released on Austin to test for potential uses as a weapon. Or maybe I just have a sore throat.

We bought Rachel a blue iPod mini yesterday, continuing the recent Apple orgy around here. Despite being such a future-phile and gadget geek, I am still a bit amazed that something so small can hold pretty much every album either of us would actually listen to, if not every that we own. Just wait for the future-shock when holographic "Library of Congress in a sugar cube" storage comes around.

I finally saw two of last year's sci-fi movies I had missed, Alien Vs. Predator and I, Robot. AVP was kinda fun, but I was a little disappointed. There was actually a lot less alien and/or predator on screen than I would have liked to see, though I think director Paul W. S. Anderson did a pretty good job with what was there. He really captured the two species in the way I always imagined them, both visually and behaviorally. Now if only he had written a better plot with better dialogue.

I, Robot
was a lot better than I expected. It wasn't particularly deep on a philisophical level, but at least all of the major philosophical questions were asked if not discussed. I am not really a huge Asimov fan - I think he is probably the most important science fiction writer of the twentieth century (and hence, of all time) but I don't really enjoy reading his stuff. Perhaps because of this, I have never read any of his robot stories, and thus could not be disappointed that the film bore little resemblance to them. What it achieved was a terrifically entertaining action plot with enough depth to make the viewer think, at least a little. And the visual effects were outstanding, especially when combined with the "virtual camera" during the final fight sequence at VIKI's core. The swooping and spinning camera angles were really great to watch. Ultimately, the fact that the movie did touch on key issues in personhood and technology makes it one of few "sci-fi" movies that is actually "science fiction" rather than action/horror/romance/fantasy with spaceships and ray guns.

entertainment, movies, personal

Friday, April 22, 2005

Can you see this?

I can't read my own blog.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005


Through sheer (bad?) luck, I haven't worked the last two days.

Today I wrote some novel background, bought some pain reliever for what I am incresingly thinking are migraines, ate a veggie sub, surfed the net, cleaned the apartment, and now I am enjoying a nice Austin afternoon rain. It was a good day, but pretty lonely, as days home alone often are. Even when you're doing different things, it's nice to have somebody around that you can share your random, humorous, and/or stupid observations with.

Here's one such observation: usually when I go to Subway, it's off peak hours so there is at most one or two other customers. Today I went at 12:30, when they were full for lunch. Anyway, I order and all three employees that handle my sandwhich - the bread-meat-cheese person, the vegetable person, and the cashier - seemed to be incredulous that I wasn't eating slices of cow, pig, or bird muscle on my sandwich. I had to tell them each twice that it was a veggie sub, the first time always met with a "What?" I know that only about one in a hundred Americans is a vegetarian, but they never seem to have any trouble understanding the concept when I'm the only customer to deal with.


Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Robot Chicken

If you aren't watching Robot Chicken, you should be. Seriously.

entertainment, television

Pope Benedict XVI


As if John Paul II wasn't bad enough with the whole "I don't care if millions of people are dying of AIDS, condoms are evil" thing, now we get a guy who is noted for being a "hard-line" ultraconservative on such issues as women's rights, homosexuality, multiculturalism, and the seperation of church and state. Just when the world of religion looked like it couldn't get any worse.

I can't wait to hear what he has to say.


Monday, April 18, 2005

Terror on the rise

There were more terror attacks in 2004 than any year since 1985.

This is year four of the war on terror.

The war isn't working.

The Bush Administration isn't issuing their annual terrorism report this year in the hopes that the secret won't get out.


My bad.


Sunday, April 17, 2005

Foundations of hierarchy

I apologize that many of you will likely find this long and boring.

Luke often puts a thought-provoking quote at the top of his blog. It is currently this from recently-deceased radical feminist and anti-pornography crusader Andrea Dworkin:
Sexism is the foundation on which all tyranny is built. Every social form of hierarchy and abuse is modeled on male-over-female domination.

I have to admit that I find this a little absurd, but then I am no fan of Dworkin in general. I generally disagree with everything I've ever heard attributed to her other than the idea that women should be equal to men in consideration and she was hardly alone in that assertion. I think she is making the same mistake many radical feminists from decades past made: confusing patriarchy with oligarchy. Confusing men-over-women with men-over-everybody. Let me explain.

Men try to dominate. This is a fact, whether through the pressure of evolutionary selection or socialization. However, what the radical feminist perspective seems to ignore, in my view, is that individual men try to dominate everybody. Men have historically tried to keep women "in their place," of course, but more powerful men also try to keep less powerful men "in their place," too. That men in general have historically been in positions of power over women in general is not because the class of men dominates the class of women, but because even low-status men often have the advantage of brute strength over women, and this has in millennia since become institutionalized.

What is significant about this is that the pattern of male dominance (among males and over females) was established long before there were "men" and "women;" i.e., humans. All great apes have social structures in which males compete for status. They beat each other, they steal from each other, and they try to mate with as many females as they can. What I am saying is that the historical fact of male dominance over women is an unavoidable consequence of female nursing requirements and male physical strength in a time before men were capable of moral or ethical considerations. There was no point in time, literally or metaphorically, in which men and women were initially equal and then men took control. As a result, there could be no initial subjugation of women after which other hierarchies could evolve.

(Now, Dworkin believed that penetrative sex was an act of violence and domination in and of itself, so if in her quote above she meant only that penises evolved before culture, then perhaps this critique is irrelevant. I don't believe that is what she meant, however, for it would be a pretty useless observation.)

The dominance of the few over the many evolved right alongside the dominance of men over women, not as some social construction modeled on it. Would Dworkin suggest that evolution proceeded for billions of years and yielded a complex system of sexual relations, and then one ape got a bigger brain and instantly all was erased? If so, it is a remarkable coincidence that all major components of human social interaction, on broad levels, are present in non-human primates as well. So strange that we would begin with the proverbial "blank slate" and yet so masterfully emulate our evolutionary relatives. And related to this, just what evidence is there that there is a causal relationship between patriarchy and other forms of heirarchy anyway? Is it pure guesswork?

This is not a defense of male supremacy. Now that we are capable of moral and ethical considerations, the idea that men "deserve" to be in power over women is patently absurd. That something may be evolved does not imply that it is desirable. Cancer is "natural," but very few can honestly maintain that we should encourage it. None of this really matters, because we, unlike our more hirsute cousins, are capable of choosing not to perpetuate our historical inequities.

This whole topic is related to my general dislike of the word patriarchy as it is used in feminist discussions. I guess I just reject most "class" talk. I think, for instance, that Marx was essentially correct in his analysis of economics, but I think that his division of people into black-and-white proletariat and bourgeoisie was deceptive. People aren't poor workers for their entire lives and then, when they obtain capital through whatever means, psychologically change to want to perpetuate their power. The workers are poor in spite of their own aspirations to become the very people keeping them down. Likewise, I feel that the separation of patriarchy as a specific example of male dominance out of the general competitive nature (and I use the term nature here to include social explanations) of humans, especially men, to be counterproductive. I am not convinced that it is useful to address male dominance over women as distinct from male dominance over everybody else, because I don't think there is a distinction between the two in the minds of the perpetrators. I think that the same thing drives some men to "win at all costs" in sports, to "maximize profit" in business, and to "rule the household" in sexual relations.

What does all of this mean? Well, I think it means that the most productive way to achieve social justice is to stop thinking of ourselves as men and women, white and black, rich and poor, and to start thinking of ourselves as humans. The goal of eliminating, say, sexism is laudable, but not fundamentally distinct from the goal of eliminating other forms of oppression. For what it's worth, I think that most modern feminists, including radical feminists, understand that. Specializing in gender relations is one thing. Suggesting that gender relations are fundamentally more important than all others is another entirely. It is the idea - borne of biology but accepted only through culture - that one person has actual authority over any other person that underlies all forms of hierarchy and oppression, of which so-called "patriarchy" is only one example.


Saturday, April 16, 2005

The official God FAQ

The Official God FAQ

You need to see this. It is quite possibly the most important, groundbreaking, and revolutionary FAQ on the internet.

atheism, humor, religion

Friday, April 15, 2005

Review of the year

From Warren Ellis's comments about a new anime film:
AQUARION is like ironing the farts out of a dozen pairs of old trousers, sucking them into a bottle and then trying to sell it as a new perfume. This is such an arse-burgling zombie horror of a thing that I don’t even want you to steal it.
Pay attention, Roger Ebert, that's how it's done.


I am digging this wireless internet thing. I went to lunch at Subway, spotted a free-wireless-offering Schlotzsky's nearby, and am now posting from my car. It's not that big of a deal, but could you even dream fifteen years ago of connecting to a global information network for free from a deli parking lot? We are living in the future.


Thursday, April 14, 2005

Science and religion

On Air America's Morning Sedition they had Fordham University theology Professor Jeannine Hill-Fletcher on to talk about the alleged conflict between science and religion. She was a reasonable person, the kind of theologian that can stay after the Evil Atheist Conspiracy purges the--I've said too much.

Anyway, one thing that I thought illustrated the difference between a religious and a scientific outlook was when she tried to give an example of a question that science couldn't answer: when does personhood begin? She said, as most people might agree, that we have no way of really knowing, and so it was a matter of religion. I think this is nonsense. As long as we can agree on a definition of what a person is, science is perfectly adequate to answer the question. If a person is a being with human DNA then personhood begins at conception. If a person is a thinking, rational being then personhood begins sometime during the first year after birth. The point is that the current difficulty with personhood is one of definition, and no religious text I am aware of gives any clear-cut definitions. In other words, all the religious thought in the world is just the same speculation as any other philosophical discourse. But once the terms are defined, only science is capable of answering the question itself. If society agrees that a person is X, reading the Bible, praying, and meditating aren't going to tell anybody where X is. Looking at the developing mind and seeing when it reaches whatever milestone we set will.

religion, science

Monday, April 11, 2005

Product placement

This is a little late, but I wanted to pass it on.

Two weeks ago, on The Apprentice, the contestants had to create a pizza for Domino's. Donald Trump mentioned he liked meatballs, so naturally both teams invented some form of meatball pizza. Coincidentally, during the show Papa John's aired a commercial saying something to the effect of "Don't eat pizza made by an apprentice, try Papa John's new meatball pizza." It was kind of cute, in a way.

Here's where things get sick. The next episode, Trump is laying out the challenge. Out of nowhere, he says, "By the way, last week you both made meatball pizzas. If you had done your market research like the people at Domino's, you would have realized that people don't want meatball pizza, they want cheeseburger pizza."

The latest Domino's gimmick is the cheeseburger pizza. Donald Trump appears in the marketing campaign. Do you suppose, just maybe, that Domino's was miffed that their spokesperson expressed his preference for a rival's product and to make things right Trump had to plug theirs? And how blatant to have Donald Trump literally telling people what they want.

advertising, , television

Sunday, April 10, 2005

The Cult of Mac

My parents came to town for a visit this weekend. We had a good time. The usual catching up, since it has been a while since I saw them. We were talking about this and that, and I was mentioning how I wished I could write when I felt like writing, instead of having to wait until I was home, in the office, at the computer.

So my dad, being the kind of guy he is, says, "Are you telling me a laptop is the only thing keeping you from writing?"

Of course it isn't, but we joked about it. I did want a notebook computer eventually, and it wasn't happening anytime soon since we're far from rich. He decided that he was going to buy me one. I tried to talk him out of it - somewhat half-heartedly, I'll admit - but the thing about my dad is that when it comes to his own family he is extraordinarily generous and frankly unstoppable in that regard. If I had talked him out of a notebook, he would have found some other way to give us something . . . another trip to Las Vegas, for instance.

He won.

I've kinda had my eye on a Mac for a while now. I don't think there's anything wrong with a Windows PC; after all, I have had many in my day. They're OK. But I figured it was time to shake things up, Macs are notoriously reliable and easy to use, and I do have some experience with them so it wouldn't be a complete culture shock.

So now I have a 14" iBook G4.

Friday, April 8, 2005

Writing a novel

I think I am going to write a novel.

What? But Ryan, you have a hard enough time finishing a short story. How are you going to write 100,000 words when 5,000 pushes your limit?

By taking several years to do it, that's how. See, I already know there is no way I could just start writing today and have a novel finished in eight months or something. So what I'm going to do is just write a two-page summary. Maybe next week I'll write some character vignettes and profiles. I'll do research. I'll add new subplots. And one day, in a year or two, I'll have so much raw material that there will be no excuse not to put it all together. In this dream, putting it all together will actually be simple; evolutionary, even. We'll see.

I'll keep writing short stories, of course. I actually have 3 now that if I sat down for a few days on each could be finished on at least a first-draft level. One is a series of chunks that needs to be tied together. The other two just sort of stop about two-thirds of the way through. But I am definitely on track to meeting my goal of getting my first sale or rejection by the end of the year. What I wouldn't give for financial independence to let me write when I actually get ideas rather than cramming in a few minutes between so many other competing interests. I can't begin to imagine the number of ideas that have been wasted because I forgot them in the hours between conception and regurgitation.

As to the novel, I do have a plot in mind. It's big. The sort of thing that if Hollywood ever wanted to adapt it into a film they would have to break it up into sequels or cut most of it out. Or hire Peter Jackson. I meant it when I said it would take several years. With my notorious writing discipline, look for it on shelves in 2015! Now that you know it's in progress, keep me to it.


Wednesday, April 6, 2005

Oh, woe, alas

I wanted to post yesterday about my illustrious and beloved Texan Senator John Cornyn, who said:
"I don't know if there is a cause-and-effect connection but we have seen some recent episodes of courthouse violence in this country. Certainly nothing new, but we seem to have run through a spate of courthouse violence recently that's been on the news and I wonder whether there may be some connection between the perception in some quarters on some occasions where judges are making political decisions yet are unaccountable to the public, that it builds up and builds up and builds up to the point where some people engage in - engage in violence."

Let me translate this for you. "The United States public overwhelmingly agreed with the courts about Terri Schiavo, but a few nutjobs shot some judges so I am going to not-so-subtly warn the surviving judges that if they get shot for making sound judgments it's their own fault. Oh, and let's go ahead and get rid of the filibuster so that judges will be really unaccountable."

Aren't the Republicans the ones who say we don't need to understand why terrorists hate us, we just need to kill them? That nothing can justify the use of terrorist intimidation? And yet here's my senator telling us that he "wonders" (read: believes but doesn't want to commit) whether people's discontent with political decisions can lead to violence! Do you think so, John? Great insight. Now that you understand why terrorists do what they do, how about you stop pissing on the rest of the world so they won't have to fly planes into our buildings next time. Thanks.

Monday, April 4, 2005

Alias and the CIA

Between fact and fiction
Are we responsible for discerning fact from fiction when we watch television? I believe the answer is yes. I will continue to watch Alias and be intrigued and even entertained by the flashy covert operations and fantastical story lines. But I will continue to feel guilty about it, because I know that it is a farce and a lie, an inexcusable misrepresentation of a deplorable organization.

So concludes a nice piece about one of the handful of TV shows that I think are worth watching, Alias. I wholeheartedly agree with the column. As an Alias fan, I do sometimes get that feeling of irony whenever a character talks about how they are the "good guys." I also found it a little ironic in the show's early days that the fake-CIA covert organization SD-6 was actually more like the real CIA in terms of ethics than the CIA in the show.

But I don't watch the show for a lesson in patriotism, I watch it because it is tremendously fun, smartly written, and has a great cast. Besides, they only mention the CIA's alleged goodness once a season or so. And it would be a little silly to expect super-spies to think the organization they work for sucks, right? It's fiction.


Sunday, April 3, 2005

Sin City

Brilliant. Sin City had some of the most amazing imagery I've ever seen in a movie. It was chock full of violence, murder, blood (red, white, and yellow), graphic castration, dismemberment, car chasing, cannibalism, sexism, amputation, chain smoking, irreligion, gunplay, swordplay, nudity, corruption, decapitation, revenge, insanity, double-crossings, suicide, prostitution (both adult and teen), blasphemy, torture, pedophilia, and just for added fun, a case of heart arrhythmia. Every single character was depraved and sickening in one way or another, but then, that was the point. And it was beautiful.

I think the moral of the story can be found when Mickey Rourke's Marv, somewhere in the middle of what will amount to dozens tortured and dead at his hands for revenge over a dead prostitute, merely punches a guard dog rather than killing it. He tells the unconscious animal that he has no argument with it, only with the people it guards. And that is the essence of this movie, that humans are the only creatures with the ability to choose what we make of our lives, and every choice we make will resonate with ourselves and with everyone else. We are responsible for the choices we make. We choose to live in the world we live in, and there can always be another choice.


Saturday, April 2, 2005

This is the life

I came in third out of eleven playing poker last night. Chip-wise that is. We got sick of playing after four hours and split the pot. Might I have gone all the way? The world will never know, and the world is cheapened and tarnished by that fact.

Going to see Sin City today.

I've been reading Austinist lately, a blog whose name should tell you all you need to know about the subject matter contained within. It has given me all sorts of good ideas for places to go and things to do. I have yet to go to or do any of them. However, coffee and donuts are two things I will gladly travel great distances for, if they're worth it.

Friday, April 1, 2005


Just look at how beautiful the world is. Kittens. Sunsets. Love. I was so depressed when I thought that we were all alone, but now that's all changed. Now that I went down on my knees for Jesus, He has shown me that there is more to life than just living it.

I was so wrong about so many things. The human body is a miracle of intelligent design, perfect in every way. People who get sick did something wicked to deserve it. And God put the fragile and sensitive testicles outside the body to remind you of His love. He even made some people gay so that those of us who have been Born Again could practice the taunting, beating, and killing skills we'll need when we die and join His Holy Army. I LOVE JERRY FALWELL!!!!!!!11

I've also realized that the Republicans were right all along. How could I have been so elitist and immoral? Look at the flood of democracy spurting across the Middle East as we speak! We need to invade more countries, kill more people, and then everyone who is left alive will be free! To produce our consumer goods! And to eat our McDonalds!