Archive for July, 2009

Magnum opuses, part 1

Even though we are in the throes of the glory of midsummer, I have undertaken two huge projects that have kept me indoors far more often than I would like to admit.  The first project is attempting to read “1Q84” by Haruki Murakami in the original Japanese.  For barely an intermediate student of Japanese, this is a huge undertaking.  I have fully translated a single page.  In doing so, I have gathered the essential tools around the two volume novel in a prominent corner of my living room so it will be relatively easy to pick it up whenever I have a few moments.

The second project is building a distro-less Linux installation on my netbook.  A couple months ago I got a Samsung NC20.  I tried to install Ubuntu 9.04 on it but the installer wouldn’t launch due to a video driver problem.  After reading about others having the same problem, I played with Gentoo for a while.  That caused me some pain and eventually, my compiler inexplicably broke.  In the course of my journey, I learned that the computer has hardware crypto so I set off playing with hard disk cryptography and hardware random number generation.  Since it’s there I want to use it and, since I don’t want to use Gentoo anymore, I basically have to do linux from scratch.  I had an inclination to do that right from the beginning but the practical side of me wanted to just be done with the installation process.  After hitting a few snags, I decided to go ahead and treat it as a project and reacquaint myself with the state of the art of the GNU/Linux world by building every package from source.

So those are they, my magnum opera.  I have no fear that they will not get done but my progress will accelerate as the glory of Seattle’s summer fades into grey.  For now, I’m content to procrastinate on them whenever the sun is shining.


Jesus is delicious

I was baptized in the Methodist Church in my hometown in Illinois.  Church was fun for me when I was small.  The old people were all nice to me.  I loved singing the hymn’s.  They had a childrens’ time that always felt special.  But the thing I loved most was the monthly communion.  They would bring tiny cups of grape juice and little bits of bread.  I was a little confused about the bread being the body of Jesus and the grape juice, his blood.  But, I gotta tell you, Jesus is delicious.  I think my love of French baguette stems directly from my experiences with communion at the Methodist church.

In later life, I couldn’t reconcile my belief in the equality of all beings and the Christian ideology so I decided that I couldn’t call myself a Christian.  Ultimately, Christianity makes itself very clear with its multiple choice test.  Do you take Jesus as your lord and savior?  Uh, I guess so.  Do you agree that all who do not believe that Christ is the son of God will go to hell?  No, I know lots of nice people who do not believe this.  Verdict: Not Christian.  After more thinking and talking to people who also think, I decided that Christianity and all religions are unnecessary, even harmful.  I still have friends who consider themselves Christian and I don’t fault them for it.  I just don’t subscribe to any.  They kind of boil down to cliques.  Mine is better than yours, etc.  And, they all seem interested in teaching you what happens when you die.  What an irresponsible thing to teach a young person.  Teach them how they should live.  It makes sense to mention to children about the finiteness of life and how that makes life itself precious.  It doesn’t make sense to tell them that when they die, they will go to a beautiful place and meet their dear aunt Jane who passed years ago.  These fantasies are confusing and useless.  Tell them only that they should take care of themselves, spread as much love as they can, and contribute a gift to the world, regardless of how small.

I’m sorta interested in politics

Once I realized that most of the world’s news outlets are commercial, for-profit enterprises with shareholders and all that implies, I precipitously dropped out of the world of the informed into the world of the blissfully unaware.  I think this may have happened fourteen or fifteen years ago when I was in high school.  Most of my close friends have continued to be amazed by my lack of connection to the world.  If I take their reactions as genuine, this aspect of my personality is perceived as high-minded aloofness and adds to my mystique and lovability.

NPR restored much of my confidence in the news media.  I was so excited and grateful, I immediately became a member of my local public radio.  But now that I don’t drive 45 minutes to work each way anymore (thankfully) I don’t listen to NPR regularly.  I slowly but surely slipped back into my comfort zone of being completely disconnected from the world and all the drama that news media drums up.  Aside from learning of Michael Jackson’s alleged death, I haven’t kept up with any current events but something is different this time.  I feel guilty for being comfortably out of touch.

I want to be informed.  I want to be able to discuss current events with my peers.  I am just still disillusioned by news media.  Even my beloved NPR colors their commentary (rather obviously) according to their ideology.  It just happens to more or less align with mine.  And, in an effort to be unbiased, they fall into the industry standard pattern of rattling off streams of statistics until my ears glaze over.  I find it numbing to listen to or to read statistics about the number of casualties in conflict X or the number of citizens unhappy about Y.  The relentless spewing of “facts” drives my brain to sleep.  The problem with news media is that they want to appear unbiased so they spew this cold, unfeeling trivia.  What I crave isn’t data in its pure form.  I crave to augment my experience by learning about yours.  Don’t simply recite factoids to me.  Tell me about how you experience the world.  Let those people directly affected by the calamities happening in their back yard explain the situation to me.  They might get the deathtoll wrong but their experience will transcend the data.  Technology has given the world enough interconnectedness to obviate the need for centralized clearinghouses for unbiased news.  To hell with feigning unbiasedness.  Give me bias.  Give me your bias.  To know you is to know myself a bit better.  That’s how I want to be informed.

So to that end, I am simultaneously ante’ing up by contributing my own experience and subscribing to a smattering of blogs as I discover ones I consider worthwhile.  Consider this my earnest foray into the world of distributed news media.  Bring on the medium as the m[e|a]ssage.  Perhaps in the economy of ideas, where relenquishing yours costs you nothing but I benefit from their reception, idealized social structures may emerge.  Maybe, one day, even I will be considered informed.