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Monthly Archives: October 2002

So I was downtown today…  §

So I was downtown today and I was looking around and saying to myself, “Jesus, I don’t remember this being such a fscking cool city full of attractive, individualistic people… Has everything changed while I was traveling and writing?”

Then I remembered that it was Hallowe’en and all of these people don’t really look this good all the time, they’re actually costumed up right now. God damn. I especially liked the girl in the Raggedy-Ann costume with the wild red hair. Oh well, I guess tomorrow she’ll be back in her business-casual straightjacket.

I wish everybody would just relax.

P.S. The book is done. I rule.

Digable Planets says: “We be readin’ Marx where I’m from.”

I’m a young person who…  §

I’m a young person who knows exactly what life can be like for the skilled laborer who works for years at one thing, only to find that his knowledge eventually becomes obsolete.

I’m sitting here today thinking about things like the SpecInt92 performance of various Sparc implementations that I used to play with and drool over on campus, ‘alternate’ network technologies like token or arcnet or point-to-point SCSI, the sync properties of various types of pre-multisync CRT monitors, breadboarding ISA bus experiments, the limitations of the original PC BIOS, the joys of assembly language coding and the intricacies of the VAX architecture; I’m realizing that all of these things are issues of the past. In fact, knowing FORTH or how to write good C code that makes use of termcap or how to rewrite a directory in OS-9/68k or manage a LANtastic network or manage mail and news through HoneyDanBer UUCP are all useless skills these days.

In the computer world, I was once an expert. Now, I am an expert on antiquities; most of these technologies have been obsoleted. My trusty old hardcopy of the Sun Hardware FAQ hardly gets used any longer and I just sent a pile of old HP9000 workstations, helical scan and linear tape drives and fixed-frequency monitors to charity, realizing that there will never be a use for them again. I can still hold my own with lots of the second-rate techies of today when it comes to things like network deployment or security and some of the skills I have are still very much in demand — UNIX system and network administration and C/C++ come to mind…

But I stopped working hard to keep my skills current several years ago. As we march into an age in which massive parallelism of commodity hardware rules the day on the high end and XML and Java are the choice for nearly every kind of software deployment, I can suddenly sympathize with the fabled laid-off skilled laborer: a head full of knowledge that will eventually disapper from the face of the earth because it is no longer really needed, and a gradually widening disconnect with the technologies and young people of today…

Damn. Lost Wellstone. Obviously, God…  §

Damn. Lost Wellstone. Obviously, God is a Nazi. Conspiracy theories, anyone? I don’t have a problem with them. Bush + Ashcroft = dead Wellstone? Interesting… Yes, I’m playing with the dead here and speaking somewhat in jest, but not entirely… Well, there goes the voice of dissent. Or what was left of it, anyway.

I wish Barton Fink was…  §

I wish Barton Fink was available on DVD. I need to watch the film again — to be reminded that one can’t help or adequately discuss the plight of the world’s workers without first respecting them and agreeing not to idealize them. To see each person as a person, flawed and individual and proud, not as a cause, archetypal and needy, is the first key to the ability to make a difference.

It’s too easily forgotten. It’s too easy to invest in “the life of the mind” at the expense of the muddy faces standing in front of you. It’s too easy to sit around and indulge oneself in one’s own pretentions… to ignore the fact that simply joining a union and spouting off about this outrage and that one does not bring one any closer to understanding what it is to be a dock worker or a steel worker or anyone who does a serious day’s work for his or her own family, not giving much of a damn about the life of any functionary’s mind. But somehow now I seem to be doing it again…

Guess I need to dig out the VHS copy.

Does anyone feel as though…  §

Does anyone feel as though life is giving them a compelling reason to be here? I mean, aren’t we all just plodding along through minor ups and downs waiting for something more meaningful to happen?

(…and secretly, don’t we all know that it never does?)

I don’t know. I don’t know what I’m looking for or where I think I will find it or even if it exists. I think somewhere deep down inside, I know that it doesn’t. I can’t make everyone happy. I can’t save the world.

Nobody can save the world. Because to “save the world” is a meaningless concept. It implies some kind of theology, some kind of meaning, some kind of God. So far, such things haven’t proven helpful… and anyway, I can’t bring that to the world. I can’t create a meaningful God. Even God, in any of his many forms, in any of the millions of incarnations in which humans see him, can’t create a meaningful God.

There is nothing, nothing anywhere other than merely… “us.”

But we can’t admit that to ourselves, because then none of the suffering really matters any longer. Because then there is no incentive to make things better.

But really… what is the incentive? Why should I care?

Why do I care?

I know only that I do. And that it is difficult… and that I wish sometimes that I didn’t.

Some days I think that…  §

Some days I think that this book will never, ever be done.

This book has definitely gone on longer than the other two did, and the revisions are much more difficult. Now I’m working with different editors as well. I hope the final product is worth the effort that went into it…

In a side note, the current conservative supreme court = baby killers.

The war against the Taleban…  §

The war against the Taleban is over; that government has fallen. A new government, engineered by us, is now in power in Afghanistan.

What is my point? This: there are still prisoners being held at Guantanamo bay. The United States refused to give these individuals “Prisoner of War” status in spite of heavy international pressure, ostensibly because war against the Taleban was never declared by congress, ergo the Taleban fighters were not truly “opposing army soldiers” at all. Instead, we chose to call them “Enemy Combatants.”

As civil rights cases questioning the legality of the “Enemy Combatants” designation wound their way through the US courts system, the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals (the highest court which has yet ruled on the matter) found that courts should defer to the military’s designations, such as those of Enemy Combatants, in wartime. Legal scholars were uniformly shocked at this assertion of governmental authority in the face of international law — but law it has become, at least inside the United States.

But an interesting problem now exists. Either we were at war with the Taleban, in which case the prisoners should have been given Prisoner of War status, or we were in wartime with the Taleban (by our own courts’ standard), in which case the prisoners fell under our own Enemy Combatant designation. But regardless of whether we were at war with the Taleban or in wartime with the Taleban, that conflict is now over. There can be no argument on this point; the Taleban no longer exists, its leaders having disbanded and fled to any number of countries, replaced by Hamid Karzai and the new interim government largely as a result of our efforts.

And so, in spite of ourselves, we are once again not only in violation of international law (with which we have yet to comply on this issue by most nations’ measures), but with our own law as well. According to the Geneva Conventions to which we are signatory, regardless of the nature of the conflict or the direction of their loyalties, these prisoners must be returned to their homes once the conflict has ended and cease fire has been achieved. By any reading of the Conventions, this must be the case under either standard — whether “at war” or using our own “in wartime.” If on the other hand they are being held not as the result of such a conflict, but rather as the result of some criminal or civil act in violation of U.S. statute, then both U.S. law and international law dictate that they be given due process, i.e. a trial.

But neither has occurred. These men can no longer legally be held either as Prisoners of War or as Enemy Combatants, yet they remain imprisoned at Guantanamo bay — not a single one has been returned home. The only legal grounds for further detention would lie along lines which would guarantee them due process under law, yet they have not received it — not a single one has been given a lawyer or been arraigned on any charges, much less tried before a jury (or even a judge or tribunal!) in legal proceedings.

These men are, in effect, in a concentration camp. Our concentration camp.

Nothing annoys me more than…  §

Nothing annoys me more than gratuitous use of the word ‘thanks’ when someone doesn’t really mean it. In the end, that sort of thing always comes off badly.

Especially if you’re in a mood because of circumstances beyond your control and worries you can’t help but have.

Life throws curves. I guess you’ve just got to adjust. I mean… what choice do you have, right?

Communication. It’s a complex thing….  §

Communication. It’s a complex thing. Sometimes language is not enough, is not apropos, is not correct. You find yourself full of the desire to express things for which there seem to be no words, really…

What am I getting at?

I can’t explain, naturally. QED, even.

I think you’re right… it will change our lives. And it will be fun, too — all in all, worth the sacrificies.

Yes, this entry is for you. I’ll see you soon. 😉