This is beautiful

From the journal of Quasilaur:

…Just fucking try to be good to eachother. Put a little love in your heart. Forgive those who have wronged you a million times and then some. Welcome those who have scorned you once they come back…throw a feast…and do to others as you would have others do to you. Dance around the maypole….feel god in a sunrise and a sunset, and hug a tree who’s age surpasses your grandmother’s. We only get so long folks. And to me, redemption is not about saving yourself from a hell after death..it’s saving you from the hell that can be life. Forgive yourselves, forgive eachother…ask for forgiveness…recieve it. Endeavor to do better, be better. Listen, and learn. Be humble.

I don’t fucking know. Maybe I’m just saying this all cos I want to believe this right now. I don’t know anything…I just don’t know. I’m over tired, cold, naked and cranky.

Have mercy on us all, for we are all complete fuckheads…

Amen.

The way it was…

Something else I think about from time to time… What would it be like to live in a time in the past. I don’t mean time travel or anything like that, but to have been born in the 19th century, or say the 10th century. When this subject comes up, I sometimes have a hard time convincing friends of something: People really were different then. The way their minds worked was different. Perceptions of time were different. One’s general sense of the world was different.

I kinda remembered this notion in that rant I had, where I mumbled something about people in the Dark Ages really believing that the Pope could send them to hell. Well, the thing is, that’s true according to most historical accounts. And people in Ireland really did believe in the Good Neighbors, left milk outside for them, and skirted around mushroom in the woods. Today, we see things like that as a quaint superstition, and can only really imagine these things in a kind of abstract imagination.

But think for a moment what your life would be like if you never had a clock or watch, and neither did anyone else. Maybe only the sun and shadows it casts. No calendars, unless it was someone’s job to keep track. Imagine that you never learned to associate right now with “8:00 PM”, or that in 4 hours you’d better be in bed. Imagine that right now is simply right now, the sun is somewhere in the sky, and sometime after it is gone you will be tired and will lie down to sleep. Imagine that your logical brain has no numerical handle on the passage of seconds, that it’s all an intuitive brain gestalt or fuzzy sense. You would know where you are in the day, but there would be no precise word for it.

This is not to say that people in past periods of history were completely different than we are now, but I’d say the further you look back in time, the more different thought and behavior were. And I mean really different. People weren’t “exactly like us, only without television”. Think what life was like before the Renaissance, and before science stormed the world. You look at a flame, and you probably know enough high school physics to think about temperatures and states of matter and the particulate nature of smoke. Someone from the past looks at a mystery, a spirit, a god.

Imagine no books or writing. Or, at least, you don’t know how to read or write. Memory is very different without permanent literate forms to fall back on. News flows by word of mouth, follows the rules of the telephone game, and mutates into myth and legend within a few villiages’ distance. Today, the written word prevents many of the progressive errors introduced by word of mouth, and you can personally travel in the span of hours where events would have been unknown to you.

I’m not trying to glorify the present day though. Modern civilization’s benefits are innumerable, lives are longer, healthier, and more enjoyable, and I wouldn’t want to live in the past. But my neo-pagan leanings leave me needing perspective, to remember what it’s taken to get this far. We need some re-linking (religion?) with rhythms and patterns that we used to know first-hand, and keep ourselves in check. And that’s what I realize when I think about how different life and thought was in the past– think about how different life and thought is now and think about how it will change. Will we stumble into disasters because we’ve lost the ability to think in a way that we did before? Will we become something more, or something less?

I Am A Member of a Civilization, and proud of it. But I don’t want to lose track of the lessons that made it possible for me to be one.

Nana-kitty is snoring on my lap (and she’s loud!), and Puck-kitty is curled up on top of the VCR remote.

And wow, I haven’t had a good rant in awhile. I try not to, because ranting is where I’m most likely to fall on my face and reveal myself as a baka blowhard. On the other hand, it’s the best way to get some disagreement and some words going around. It’s the puckish side of me that likes to get a rise sometimes :)

Oh, and one other thing, since I can’t quite think of anything really significant to say… If you’re thinking of setting up a home network, getting a DSL line or cable modem, or just have more than one computer and only one phone line…

Buy an SMC Barricade (model SMC7004BR)

Why? Let’s see… I’ve been building little Linux boxen from spare parts for years now. The usual formula is a 486 and motherboard laying in someone’s closet, a lil <1 GB hard drive, 2 network cards, and a good afternoon of installation and tweaking and maybe a little scripting. And in the end we have a box that stands between the outside network and the inside network. Once or twice, I've even had it set up as a print server, and lately I've had it connected to both a cable modem and a plain phone modem for backup.

But you know what? This little box, the SMC Barricade, is all of the above (minus the hard drive). It's a 4 port switch (in short, better than a hub); is managable via web browser; does NAT so that up to 253 machines can share a connection; does DHCP so that those rhetorical 253 machines all get addresses; shares a printer between PCs; supports DSL, cable modem, and even plain PPP over a serial modem.

The thing is smaller than the US Robotics 56k modem it’s connected to right now. And it worked in 15 minutes. Plugged it in, got it on the network, plopped in the settings for my ISP, and voila. To use the printer I attached to the box, I had to install some drivers on my Win98 laptop that give it a simulated printer port that talks to the box over the LAN.

So, from the box, it took me all of 20 minutes to have a net connection via phone modem, IPs and network for all my machines, and a shared printer. I haven’t tried it yet, but supposedly the printer sharing even supports UNIX lpd printing.

And I bought it for US$120. I’d say that more than makes up for all the spare part scrounging, tweaking, and afternoons I’ve spend futzing with mini-linux boxen.

Wow. I love things that just work, and that simply do everything I want them to do.

“Evil” is good and “Good” is wrong.

(Warning, this might tick you off :) )

Here’s the question that bothers me sometimes: In most dramatizations, characterizations, or anthropomorphic representations of Good & Evil, the Evil entity or force tends to be the more complex, interesting, and charismatic. Why is that?

If I remember right, this was one of the huge controversies with Milton’s Paradise Lost, because his Satan was so much more suave than the forces of good. Now… on one hand, one could say, “Duh, that’s because Man is depraived in nature, so of course people will be more attracted to Evil!”

But the thing is, that’s bullshit. This kind of thinking is what drove the Dark Ages and made every person beholden to both a King and a Pope.

This is fiction we’re talking about. In reality, I doubt that people, on a statistical scale, are attracted to real evil– and I mean terror, death, gore, slaughter, pain, atrocity, and holocaust. Real evil is not fun, or attractive, or clever, or suave. Real evil is bloody and tragic and senseless and blind. I tend to believe that people are, overall, decent and good. Because, otherwise, the species would have never risen to dominance or lasted this long. It’s a practical matter, more than one of faith.

So why, in fiction, is the bad guy or anti-hero so attractive?

Consider context. In American culture, “Good” and “Evil” tend to be defined by the Anglo/Christian context, and so the use of Good and Evil in fiction tends to draw from that. So my explanation? The Christian definition of Good and Evil is perverted and contrary to our human natures. We’re not tragically flawed, the religion is. We have a sense, deep down, that there’s something good in the “Evil” character, and something wrong in the “Good” guy.

I’ve got some specific notions on why this is, and what the perversions are in particular, but I’ll try to keep this from becoming a 40 page book.

Anyway, in fiction, you can do almost whatever you want to with the fabric of reality there. And the thing is, you can keep the reader captured as long as you can manage to walk a tight rope between belief and disbelief. And sometimes, belief is not realism, it’s adherence to shared context. So, if the story agrees just enough with what you’ve been told, and just enough with what you’ve seen, you’ll be carried along. The danger is, you might not realize what’s reality and what is doctrine, and where the two might diverge.

So, yeah, I’m saying that Christianity diverges from reality. Thus the fictional good & evil are not the same as real good & evil, and at some level we know there’s a difference but we might not know why.

Belief

Thanks to quasilaur for the link to the belief-o-matic, which in turn she got from ascetic’s journal…

Here’s how I apparently rate:
(I was raised somewhat in the Lutheran sect of Christianity, but I don’t quite remember…)

1. Neo-Pagan (100%)
2. New Age (93%)
3. Unitarian Universalism (91%)
4. Liberal Quaker (79%)
5. New Thought (70%)
6. Secular Humanism (68%)
7. Theravada Buddhism (67%)
8. Mainline to Liberal Christian/Protestant (61%)
9. Scientology (60%)
10. Mahayana Buddhism (59%)
11. Reform Judaism (56%)
12. Hinduism (56%)
13. Sikhism (47%)
14. Atheism and Agnosticism (46%)
15. Orthodox Judaism (45%)
16. Jainism (44%)
17. Taoism (42%)
18. Christian Science (Church of Christ, Scientist) (41%)
19. Orthodox Quaker (41%)
20. Baha’i (39%)
21. Islam (30%)
22. Eastern Orthodox (25%)
23. Jehovah’s Witness (25%)
24. Mormon (Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) (25%)
25. Roman Catholic (25%)
26. Mainline to Conservative Christian/Protestant (19%)
27. Seventh Day Adventist (19%)

It seems about right in line with how I think about myself, though I don’t really know much about Quakers. I will have to look at some of these categories more, not that I am those categories, but it’s interesting.

Mmmm… iBook

Okay, so I’ve had a Sony Vaio PCG-505TR SuperSlim laptop for about a year and a half now, and I’ve loved it. It’s tiny-but-not-too-tiny, light, and works almost perfectly running Linux. I use it as my main development machine, and workpad. It’s not a workhorse, but it does enough, and I also know whatever I get running well under its conditions should run great on a bigger box. But, it’s starting to show its age, and I’m starting to get into some Java development that is straining the poor thing.

So… First I look at a new Vaio, but then this shiny thing first caught my eye. Now, you need to recognize the significance of this. In years past, I was a joyous Mac taunter. I giggled at iMacs and belittled their freaky little puck mice. And although the styling of G3 macs gave me pause, I still pointed and chortled at the pitiful Mac OS it was running. But now… but now… Mac OS X is in the world, and this latest Powerbook from Apple is even sleeker and better designed than my beloved Vaio. But damn is it expensive. I could *almost* swing it…

But then someone sent me a link to the new iBook. I think I’m doomed now. It packs so much into a package only marginally bigger than my lil Vaio, yet costs less than my Vaio did when I bought it.

Apple must be doing something right, if they’ve managed to turn this old Amiga-enthusiast-reluctantly-turned-PC-user into a budding Mac enthusiast. I think Apple’s doing what I’d hoped Amiga would have someday done, only with more flair and clout than the old girl could have swung.

Jinkies.

Coming to you from Ann Arbor, live via cellular modem…

Okay, so I’ve been almost completely incommunicado over the last few days. I kept you all in terrible suspense about the move and everything. (Well, maybe not you, but someone’s in suspense out there. Well, okay, maybe they’re not in suspense about me moving. So, let’s say: a) I moved. and b) Someone’s in suspense. Okay? Fine.)

So anyway, the roommate and female friend helped me move out. Amazingly, they packed the truck almost completely without me. I was working on cleaning up the basement a bit, came back up and discovered that everything was almost done. In the end, there was really no confrontation. I got the couch and a TV, but I wussed out on the microwave and the DVD player. After packing the truck, we drove out to Ann Arbor and in record time dumped everything that I own into this apartment. I did not really expect to have this all done in one night. It was amazing, considering that due to ATM withdrawl restrictions, I almost couldn’t come up with first month’s rent in cash… and that we had to chase a Uhaul truck between Royal Oak, Roseville, and Pontiac.

The next day, Saturday, I was hoping/expecting to see some of the people who’d mentioned they’d come to help. Granted, I didn’t need as much help as I’d thought, since the truck was already unpacked. But, no one showed or called, at all. So, I spent most of the day moping, and unpacking, and rearranging furniture. I did not eat any mangoes naked.

Sunday, my Mom and Grandma came by and tore through the place like a force of nature. They threw books on shelves, cleaned, helped me rearrange the kitchen, and expressed amazement at how much I’d already done. (I mean, for goodness sake, a batchelor already had a roll of paper towel, dishsoap, and a bath mat down in the tub?!) No one else showed up or called.

So here it is Monday, my last day off to finish my move-in. I have a few tasks yet on my list, but nothing major. Tomorrow, after work, I should be coming back to a nice, comfy apartment that’s mine-all-mine. When I walk in the door, there will only be cats on the couch. And at night, there will be relative silence– the adult entertainment will be gone, unless I rent it or select it from pay-per-view.

So I’ve probably got lots more to say, but I’d better get the day started. More later.

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