20020919

What the heck am i doing here

OK so this blog was started as an experiment... to see how I felt, and my regular readers felt, about a different format for my semi-regular rant-like e-mails.

I confess that this wasn't my only motivation. Part of my motivation was to just get some practice writing, putting things up, getting things out...

The practice helps, I"m sure, and it helps me get through the duller moments of my days. I kindof like it. I just don't like the crap that I'm spewing out.

Comparing this stuff to my e-mails, I've noticed a few things:

1 the grammatical quality is much better here
2 the depth is much lesser here
3 the practicality and reality is much greater here
4 the personal insight and significance is much lesser here

At this point I don't really think there's a way to combine the two, effectively. So what's my real goal, now?

Part of me strives to one day write for real, i.e. for money. In all practical terms, this is far greater of a practice session for that purpose. It provides regular outlet, and more rigorous structure, as well as more commonly consumable crap.

I like my other stuff better. As impractical and indecipherable as it is. The grammar and structure can be fixed, cleaned up... but unfortunately the market probably can't.

Or can it?

I'm trying to think of authors past who have truly bridged the gap of what they like to write about, what style they prefer, and made it actually successful. My first thought was the intellectual libertarian satire that appeals to the masses: P.J. O'Rourke and Dave Barry. That's, um, as far as I get. Someone help me out here?

More thoughts on this later. I'm going to go to a book signing by Orson Scott Card. I think I'm bringing a dog-chewed, beaten up, smelly paperback copy of Ender's Game. Probably a faux pas, but dammit, that was the first copy I ever picked up and read.

If I were Saudi Arabia...

I'd be screwed. Let's think about this...
>your biggest customer is against terrorism, tyrannical power, and the subjugation of citizens especially women
>your country and rule are known for having ties with if not practicing terrorism, tyrannical power, and the subjugation of citizens especially women
>your biggest cutsomer hates your biggest competitor even more than he hates you, or so he says
>your biggest competitor isn't really all that different from you
>your biggest customer needs your land to launch attacks on your biggest competitor
>if said customer destroys the competitor, then he will control the market enough to no longer need to be your biggest customer
>once your biggest customer is no longer a customer, he may use his newfound land to do something against the next biggest ideological enemy: you

So basically you're forced to offer use of land and resources to help destroy a competitor, after which you yourself will be destroyed. What does it feel like to look at a timeline of your own loss of power? To help it along?
When they say "5 people were killed" by a "suicide bomber," is the suicide bomber included in that number 5? I could argue for either case, I think.

20020918

Ah, what the heck, I'll link to it. It's pretty funny, actually. Tim Ireland, the man who spoofed Tony Blair's e-mail address, has a point he'd like to make: Can Weblogs Make a Politician Keep a Promise? Make sure you check out the Register article that accompanies it, too.

I'd like to take a moment to recount a wonderful e-mail exchange I had with a U.S. Senator (at the time) from Virginia, Senator Charles S. Robb.

As a minion of the IEEE, I had e-mailed a standard form letter e-mail, a call for action, to not pass the HB-105 technological worker importing bill thingy, kinda hazy now... Unfortunately the e-mail system of my University was kind enough to kill all my archives at random occasions while i was a graduate student there, so you can't read the exact letter. It was boring anyways.

Anyways, the response I got was interesting. Whimsical. Amusing.

Date: Tue, 07 Mar 2000 17:30:59 -0500
From:"Charles Robb" <Charles_Robb@robb.senate.gov>
Subject: Re: Green Cards, Not Guest Workers, Is the Answer
To: <bmccaughey@ieee.org>

Thank you for contacting me in support of reuniting Elian Gonzalez
with his father in Cuba. I understand and share your concern for
this little boy who has suffered a great deal given the loss of his
mother and separation from his father. I firmly believe politics -
associated with debates involving larger issues such as our
political relations with Cuba - ought to have no role in deciding Elian's
fate and that the boy's personal well being ought to be the paramount
concern so that he can return to a more normal life as soon as
possible. Thank you again for contacting me.

Senator Charles S. Robb
United States Senate
robb.senate.gov
senator@robb.senate.gov


This, of course, having absolutely nothing to do with importing Sri Lankan C++ coders or Indian Electrical Engineers. I wasn't even sure how the auto-replier in the senate office thought to send this response; there had been no mention of 'Cuba' or 'Elian' or 'INS' or anything like that - just talk about green cards, visas, and foreign software programmers. A second reading of the reply got me more fired up - he hadn't even taken a fucking position on the damned Elian thing. Come on, Chuck. Gimme something to work with here. I replied:

Date: Wed, 08 Mar 2000 16:15:05 -0500
To: "Chuck" <Charles_Robb@robb.senate.gov>
From: "brendan" <bmccaugh@osf1.gmu.edu>
Subject: Regarding your insulting reply

Senator Robb,
Thank you for your quick and insulting reply to my inital e-mail entitled "Green Cards, Not Guest Workers, Is the Answer." Your promptness almost made up for the ineptitude of your e-mail filtration system, the complete and utter contempt your office has for your constituents (as evidenced through a disregard to even GLANCE at the e-mails being received/replied to), and finally the complete and utter inability to even properly address the question that I didn't even ask. Frankly, you couldn't even go so far as to take on your party line. What the hell? Are you sensitive about people writing nastier e-mails in reply to your auto-responder? Will the auto-responder feel bad?

I recognize that maybe it was just a fluke that the last reply was horribly insulting and innappropriate. To give you a better chance, I'm not mentioning any of the key words relating to the last reply topic, and I'll even go ahead and through in some more stuff to see if anyone is at all looking at these, ever. In this spirit, all I have left to say is: fuck you, autoresponder, go to hell, or the House, or Liebermann, or wherever. Kiss my fucking ass, bitch.

Sincerely,
-- Brendan
Voter, Taxpayer, Virginian.


I sent it, and sat back, wondering what the odds were that tomorrow morning I'd have a wire tap, an e-mail filter, a white van with no windows parked outside... the chances that someone would read it and find it funny or something or anything and actually respond for real... and then came the respone:

Date: Wed, 08 Mar 2000 21:03:26 -0500
From: "Charles Robb" <Charles_Robb@robb.senate.gov> ;
Subject: Re: Regarding your insulting reply
To: "brendan" <bmccaugh@osf1.gmu.edu>

Thank you for contacting me in support of reuniting Elian Gonzalez
with his father in Cuba. I understand and share your concern for
this little boy who has suffered a great deal given the loss of his
mother and separation from his father. I firmly believe politics -
associated with debates involving larger issues such as our
political relations with Cuba - ought to have no role in deciding Elian's
fate and that the boy's personal well being ought to be the paramount
concern so that he can return to a more normal life as soon as
possible. Thank you again for contacting me.

Senator Charles S. Robb
United States Senate
robb.senate.gov
senator@robb.senate.gov


Well, ain't that nice. Part of me wondered whether some office worker had actually read it, and simply found it funny to respond with the Elian thing again anyways. I'd appluad that, but I doubt that's the case.
Quote of the day

"None are so hopelessly enslaved as those who falsely believe they are free."
-- Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

20020917

John Derbyshire, in this National Review Article, has this to add to the growing battle over the use of the word "niggardly":

One friend, who has serious credentials as a conservative thinker, said this: "John, you are a gentleman, and I know you would not knowingly give unnecessary offense. I am sure, therefore, that you would in fact avoid the word 'niggardly' in a group that included not-very-well-educated black fellow citizens." I had to admit that he was right: I would.

Thoughts: One has to wonder how much attention need be paid to the audience from the speaker's point of view? Must a group audience always be lessened to the least common denominator, which is the usual case in the incidents that gained national attention? Think about it... always lowering to the LCD contributes to the de-education of the populus, in general.

Someone once employee intiated harrassment charges against me for using the words "company picnic," which according to her was a derivation of some sort of Old South term involving "picking" and the n-word (as opposed to the Old French "pique-nique") Yes, it was offensive, and yes, if I had accounted for her intellect level beforehand, I might have avoided talking, ever.

Then there's always those stories about people being fired for saying "pedagogical"...

20020916

Preliminary thoughts-in-quotation-form about the idea of a university, the next major essay:
(warning: TEASER here!)

From your first day at school you are cut off from life to make theories - Taisen Deshimaru

There is not in all America a more dangerous trait than the deification of mere smartness unaccompanied by any sense of moral responsibility -- Theodore Roosevelt

Education begins as playful adventure, but this is just a confidence trick. Creativity and curiosity soon falter under the increasing weight given to obedient imitation and the spirit of competition. By the time the child reaches high school education has already become a chore. -- Gavin Gee-Clough

...that instruction is different from education -- can't remember

The purpose of a University is to establish, perpetuate, and indoctrinate social norms, within the framework of academic elitism, as well as to establish and perpetuate themselves. -- me


I'll be re-reading Newman and Pirsig soon... and I'm welcoming any thoughts and considerations.