I got snagged by a cute service from Lycos: htmlGEAR. It facilitates guestbooks, website stats, and that darling little poll over there. And someone has already voted! Too fun.

A doughnut would improve my morale.

Why do we find Data sexy? I mean, who among us hasn't ruminated on the scene that must have followed his statement to Lt. Yar, "I am fully functional in every regard"?



So what's up with that? There's no question that Brent Spiner is delightfully talented, but that's not the whole cause of the Data fascination. He's intelligent, but I can't really see getting jiggy with my Pentium. (It is artificial intelligence, after all.)



My best guess would be innocence. It necessitates a gentleness and sincerity too often lacking in our real-life interactions. Data's a Nice Guy...



...who can discuss quantum physics, which is what does it for me.

Little did I know that college would be the last time I'd have free time. Funny how I'd believed the opposite.



Hey, what is it about April? At least two of my friends are in a bad state of malaise, and I'm not singing in the produce aisle, either. Winter blahs?

Why is the stock market closed for Good Friday?

I've decided to stick my head in the sand for a while. ...into the sand of the virtual world and, therefore, poking out into the real world. Absent here so I can be present there.



There's something deep lurking in that idea...

Yay! The Very Hungry Caterpillar! Sunday, Jon and I went to a puppet-show rendition of my all-time favorite book, performed by the Mermaid Theatre at the Paramount. It was so much fun, and they did it just right. After the performance, the puppeteers came out and answered kids' questions. It was an evening filled with wiggling and giggling and much eating (especially on Saturday). Tee hee hee.

How do you get to be 24 without learning how to eat an orange?



I don't know, but nobody ever taught me. I tried a new method today. I have filed it under: Failure.



At least they make my cubicle smell nice.

Discussions of gun control always make me feel like people are missing the point. On my radio this morning, some member of Congress, probably a democrat, hinted that she believed trigger locks would have prevented the Columbine High School shooting. Um...right.



Because you can make a bomb out of fertilizer, it should be illegal to own fertilizer, right? And if we outlaw green, spiffy lawns, no one will make bombs, right? Good grief. No, you have to address the issues that make people so angry, unhappy, and frustrated that they are desperate for a change and believe the only way to be heard is to kill people.



So why are teenagers so distraught? What messages are we (media, teachers, parents, peers) spewing out that is creating sociopaths? Why aren't we noticing that someone's having a rough time of things before they get to the point where mass murder seems like an acceptable form of self-expression?



And why is it acceptable to dismiss these kids as freaks and misanthropes?



I'm not just waxing philosophical here. I used to have fantasies of killing my classmates. They were nasty, petty people. (I comforted myself with the knowledge that I would get a better job when I grew up. Reunions are grand.) While I was in high school, a kid from a nearby PA town walked into school, shot another kid in the head, and then waited calmly outside for the authorities. People exploded about what a monster this kid was. (Monster. I remember that term specifically.) Hey, what kind of a monster do you have to be to drive some kid to homocide?



And then there's Penn State, 1997. A lunatic hid on the student union lawn and killed a girl and wounded a guy with a high-powered rifle. It wasn't revenge, and she wasn't gunning for anyone specific. Lunatic, yep. ...Until I found out that a whole bunch of my friends were very close to this... Jill. Her name's Jill. And she's a person. With friends who love her very much. Friends who are my friends. But the justice system isn't even kind enough to decide she's a lunatic; they, with the rest of upright, moral, conservative State College, have gone for monster.



What Jill and that PA kid and those Columbine kids need is attention, guidance, and love, not legislated trigger locks. The scariest result of this attention to symptoms rather than causes is the McCarthy-esque witch hunt currently ravaging the schools. Put up a web site, say your teachers make you mad: get expelled. If administrators behaved like facilitators rather than disciplinarians, kids would address their concerns rather than put up websites. And maybe they'd then learn a little about petitioning for a redress of grievances.

I finally got my photos page moved over to my current site. It needs a smidge of housecleaning, but 4+ browsers will view it fine. After posting it last night, I remembered that I was missing a lot of the photo links from my old site. I'll get them up there soon, maybe tonight.

So this was surprising. NPR interviewed Gov. Jesse Ventura, and he was fun to listen to. He can certainly hold his own in a debate, and his answers are startlingly honest--startling because they sound like a real person's, yet they're coming from a politician. He actually came out and stated his stance on a number of issues. He's got real opinions, and he tells you what they are.



...and I found myself agreeing with many of them. Maybe we should elect more wrestlers. The OWOW organization is shamefully untapped.

Yipe. Jeremy is not only reading my blog, but picking points of it to debate with me. Follow suit.



And speaking of Jeremy, it is now officially Invisible City Productions, Inc., thanks to Jon.



First a real tech writer job at Dell and now member of the board of directors of a corporation. When am I gonna get found out?

In my media experiences post, I forgot to mention seeing Brazil, directed by Terry Gilliam. (There's an American release that you should never, ever watch. Get the European version.)



Beurocratic dystopia. I'd like to talk about the ending of the movie, so skip the rest of this post if you want to go see the movie first. I mean it. Here comes the ending. .........still here? Okay. So all hopes are dashed as we learn that Sam's dramatic escape was just a delusional fantasy. And, if you've flouted my advice and seen the American release, you know that Universal decided that ending was not commercial enough and Sam should get the girl and live happliy ever after, blah, blah, blah. No! Don't you see? In that society, dissenters will always be hunted, especially those who might be off having a nicer life than the beurocrats. Sam found the only true escape--he, alone, is truly free, beyond the Ministry of Information's grasp: He has retreated to the perfect world inside his skull. He doesn't have to run, or hide under the couch every time there's a knock at the door, or bite his fingernails to the knuckles when Jill goes out for a quart of milk. He wins!



Would this be the first time that Universal Studios completely fails to get it? I think not.

It's been a great few days for media experiences. Bucky, the Buckminster Fuller play at the Zachary Scott Theater, was wonderful, moving, and inspiring. Jon was hoping for more about his inventions, but I enjoyed that it was about his ideas. The most important lesson I'm currently aware of absorbing is that, to excise limited, outmoded thinking, you must become conscious of and then shun old-fashioned language. The words "up" and "down" perpetuate the notion of a flat earth. Try saying "in" and "out" for a day.



Last night, Jon and I actually splurged for a movie--paying full ticket price in a theater, of all things. Luckily, High Fidelity was worth it. We're big fans of John Cusack, and this movie is pretty much his monologue. Tim Robbins, whom I can never get enough of, also makes a delightfully hateable appearance. Of course, you can't have a movie co-directed and co-produced by John Cusack without seeing sister Joan, and we love her, too. And, though you wouldn't guess it from what I've said here, the film even has merit outside of its cast. Cusack's Rob is endearing yet hard to like (mostly, he needs a cosmic smack upside the head), and the film is an unsympathetic look at co-dependence. I think Rob finally gets his emotio-mental act together, but I'm not sure I'd ever label him healthy. Makes me feel better about myself, anyway.



And if you've ever owned a retail store that attracts fans, geeks, and collectors (I think I was laughing more at Jon than at John), this film will strike a chord. I watched these three dysfunctionals (Rob and his two, um, friends) and thought, "Geez, I *know* these guys."



Yeah, go see it.

Smokers successfully sue tobacco companies. Philadelphia is suing gun manufacturers. Both cases claim negligent and deliberately harmful marketing.



C'mon gang. Time to send your Weight Watchers bills to McDonald's.



America is insane.

I love using a language that has such a specific word as akimbo. It is an adjective that means having your hands on your hips with your elbows bent and aimed out, showing that you're impatient or annoyed. Unless you get metaphorical, the only thing that can be akimbo are arms. How odd.

I find that I don't like not being the youngest kid in the game. In school, I was always younger than my grade peers; likewise, college. As a staff member at Penn State, not only was I younger than the other secretaries, I was younger than the grad students.



At Dell, there are whelps with wetter ears--and more marketable skill sets and higher pay, which is probably what is actually bugging me.



I've always been bad about aging. You can't be precocious if you're not young--unless maybe you manage to get Alzheimer's in your 50s. When people object to tracking in schools (splitting kids into sections according to ability), I think about my own inept schooling, which *was* tracked, but not tracked enough, apparently. I was "bright," "smart" (pronounced like an epithet), "gifted," whatever. Operative word being "was." Forced to learn to get along with meatheads rather than pushed to exceed my own abilities, I let them catch up to me.



I listen to NPR and read sci-fi instead of watch television, and I read Stephen Hawking rather than Danielle Steele, so maybe I'm a little "above average," provided you use the right measure. But I'm certainly not a phenomenon. The results of those "gifted" classes are simply the stigma of having been a Smert-Kid and a very real sensation of feeling my synapses harden.



As much as the Allentown School District was incompetent, CTY was brilliant. Without question, it is what got me through adolescence. CTY's model should be widely implemented: Find intelligent children and give them wings. In fact, I bet if you stop telling them to be quiet and conform, all kids can fly.



I'd like to object to the term "gifted" here. "Gifted" by whom, God? So all my talent and inquisitiveness were bestowed upon me by some magical power? And kids who don't manifest this potential for great nerdom were passed over by God, didn't warrant Its blessing, and shouldn't bother trying to be smart, since they lack a silver Good Witch Kiss on their foreheads?



How about "special ed"? Shouldn't smart kids get a specialized training program, too? Well, in fact, they do--it falls under the same jurisdiction as the mental retardation classes, interestingly enough. Both groups get an IEP (Individualized Education Plan), and their funding comes out of the same bucket. Now, say it with me:



Doesn't *every* kid deserve an individualized education plan?



Our schools love mediocrity because it is easy to stamp, file, and ignore.



Do your kids deserve a mediocre education?

Lockheed Martin has been taking a beating lately. First, the government is investigating whether or not they compromised national security by giving Chinese satellite manufacturers advice about a rocket that exploded. Now, their employees are going on strike. And what's the union's main beef? Boeing's employees get paid better.



*ahem* So go work for Boeing. Compete. For pete's sake. And if Boeing won't hire you, then you don't warrant the extra money they're paying their employees. Tell your employer how you want to be treated, and if they can't comply, be prepared to leave; make them compete for your services.



Unions are obsolete.

I'm going to see a play about Buckminster Fuller tomorrow. I love this town.

From the It Seemed Like A Good Idea At The Time Department:



Dell has changed its branding from "Be Direct" to "Dell E Com" (no comment). This comes with a new logo that has the old DELL (with the turned E), then a floating blue ball with a crooked E on it (complete with shadow underneath it), and then a gray COM. To promote its new branding, Dell has given each of us a styrofoam E-ball car-antenna topper, I guess to make it easy to find our cars in the Dell parking lot.



They're wonderfully aerodynamic.

Again from NPR, quoting someone important whose name I have forgotten:



Perfection is achieved, not when nothing can be added, but when nothing can be taken away.

Earlier I discussed Neverwhere and the Harry Potter books; I suggested that a possible explanation for their popularity is that they propose a hidden world, implying that this isn't all there is.



Last night, from a bus window, I was watching people in the pools of lights in front of buildings going about various tasks, and I was struck by the notion that so many of my fellow travellers are cold, lonely, and sad. Continuing that theme, I heard on NPR this afternoon an interview with the authors of a book on Nietsche, who suggested that people need to believe in heaven when they are not satisfied with their existance here.



You will never enjoy the party you're at if you spend the whole evening thinking the party down the street might be having more fun.



It is a cool, sunshiney day in Austin, and the air is so bright and clear it makes you squint. The wildflowers are incredible. Yes: heaven.

I've always been fuzzy on disinterested versus uninterested, so I thought I'd post a blog entry and clear it up for both you and me. Merriam-Webster's on-line dictionary reports an interesting usage history for these two words (found under the entry for disinterested).



Prescriptive grammar snobs will scold you and tell you that disinterested means unbiased and uninterested means bored. M-W tells us this is not entirely accurate. The two words used to have the opposite meanings. During the 18th century they swapped, taking on the senses I listed above. Early in the 20th century, the bored sense of disinterested experienced a revival, which is now attacked as "incorrect."



This is as good a forum as any to express my opinion on prescriptive versus descriptive grammar. When you're being told rules you have to follow or else get labeled as wrong and ignorant, you're experiencing prescriptive grammar. Linguists, on the other hand, seek to develop a descriptive grammar, which sets down the rules you unconsciously follow as a native speaker. Some utterances that are grammatical in descriptive grammar are ungrammatical in prescriptive (splitting infinitives and ending with prepositions are two examples).



Dialects are not "wrong." They have their own grammars; they have coherent rule sets. Social bias is what labels a certain dialect as ungrammatical. Black English/African Vernacular/Ebonics is not agrammatical; however, it fails to comply with the rules of another dialect, SAE (Standard American English). If you'd like a good job in the US, you'd do well to learn the latter, not because it is "right," but because employers think it is. And this is at the heart of all the hubbub about getting Ebonics accepted as a "language" (I assert that it is a dialect instead). The real debate is (should have been) to get Ebonics acknowledged as equally valid as SAE, to make educators and the rest of the public stop telling black kids they're wrong and bad for the way they talk, and to get them to teach SAE as a second dialect, useful for getting along in mainstream white society.



Likewise, ASL (American Sign Language) (and all the other natural sign languages, for that matter) is not agrammatical. Deaf kids should be in ESL (English as a Second Language) classes, not speech classes or, worse yet, special ed/remedial/mentally retarded classes.



If you're interested in learning more on this topic, a college-level intro to linguistics class will address descriptive grammar, as will a text book for such a class. Look for LING 1 or 101. Also, you can chat with me about it further.

What a weekend! First, my friend Fred is visiting from State College, so we're trying to show him all the cool reasons he should move to Austin. He's actually thinking about it. Neat.



Saturday saw three great events. We visited the capitol (looks just like the National Capitol, except for the statue on top of a lady holding aloft a star...and that it's pink). It's open to the public--you can just walk in. It's really stunning inside, with mosaics on the floor representing the six flags that have flown over Texas, marble statues of Steve Austin and Sam Houston (everybody looks good in marble), paintings of all the governors of Texas (a few were women, yay!), and a view clear up the inside to the top of the dome. Wow.



In contrast to that bit of dignified history, we also attended the annual Spamarama. Oh, the rich cultural palette Austin has to offer. I tried many different dishes in the Spam cookoff contest, the last of which was an egregious error. The hairy men in drag, dressed like Girl Scouts with pig snouts (thereby becoming the Girl Snouts), should have clued me in. Failing that, the three Worst of Show trophies were a good hint. But, no. People started to cheer, men with pigtails and lipstick were tittering, and, really, they wouldn't serve me something horrendous, would they? Decide for yourself: Girl Scout cookie, Spam puree, rainbow sprinkles. I might have been alright had I chosen a shortbread; I went for the peanut butter and chocolate. Erm.



But Jon wins the Stupid Food Trick of the Day award in our household. He and Fred participated in the Spam Olympics: as a team in the Spam Toss, and just Jon in the Spam Put. And then Jon, bravely flying solo in the Spam Cram. The name of the event plus the lack of entrants should have warned him away. The contest is thus: How quickly can you eat the entire contents of a can of Spam (but still keep it down for two minutes)? At the two-minute mark, Jon had not finished, so they let him off the hook. The winner completed his ordeal in 47 seconds. Second place, at 1:03, gets the highest style points from me: a gentleman named Hutch, in his flannel shirt and trimmed beard, munched happily along, one hand in his pocket, after unassumingly stating, "My mom used to make it."



I consider Jon a success simply because he didn't hurl. It was touch-and-go for a while, and we left the event hastily to get him non-Spam-flavored food and a whole lot of water. Lots of people recognized him and congratulated him, even later that evening at the Paramount theater: "Hey, that's the guy!"



Which is the third thing we did on Saturday: Spalding Gray performed his new monologue, "Morning, Noon, and Night," at the Paramount. Funny and moving, brilliant as always. What a hoot to actually be there in person.



As for Sunday, we humored Ben and went out for Pho, which is Vietnamese soup. Yum. Then we took Fred out for a Texan treat: Amy's ice cream. Double yum. And, because of that stupid daylight savings time change nonsense, we were over an hour late for a meeting with the theatre troup we belong to. When are we going to abolish this anachronistic remnant that no longer serves any purpose other than disrupting sleep schedules and making everybody late to stuff in early April?