Postcards from the Bleeding Edge
The Daddy Filter
Paul H - who in space and time lives a half mile and a year away from me, talks about the The Daddy Filter.
Read most of that Beating the Brand and was very pleased to know that I am a lot saner than you are. Your problem is that EVERYTHING you see and hear become integral to you. For me, most of it is just noise.
Helps as a writer, hurts as a person. Now that I'm blogging it gets out of me faster but I have a 9 1/2 year backlog...
Maybe you have to have kids to understand the value of disinterest is child rantings. You need to implement the Daddy filter... Mine kicked in 24 hours after my kid was born. First night Jeremy was brought home from the hospital, every little noise woke me up, every five minutes. All of the noise was nothing more than distress, fear, and being pissed off that his nice, wet, warm little room had been tossed in a garbage can earlier in the week. The next night, I slept like a baby - Jeremy didn't. Next morning Rebecca was noticeably pissed at me with that wifely skewed face that tells you you fucked up.
"Didn't you hear him last night?," she scolded.
"No... was he in trouble?" I asked.
"Just fussy for most of the night - hardly got a wink." She was smoothing out when the post delivery chemicals finally kicked in.
"YOU DIDN'T WAKE UP ALL NIGHT LONG," she scolded.
"Sorry honey, the Daddy filter kicked in," I said quietly.
"What?" was all she was able to utter.
"Oh it's like doing a sampling of certain frequencies over a period of time, gauging the relative importance of the harmonics, the levels and distortions to qualify the need to remove oneself from sleep. I mean really if Jeremy were in Mortal Danger I'd be there faster than you could get out of the bed - but the other annoyance noises are locked out. Sorry about that - it's just noise," I said, thinking real sadly that she had a clue what I was talking about after the first 4 words.
"GIVE ME ENGLISH, ASSHOLE," was her reply.
"Okay... if I was asleep and Jeremy was in mortal danger - I'd wake up damn fast and save his cute little ass. All the other noises and annoyances have been filtered out in my head so I'm not disturbed from my slumbers, and can wake tomorrow to go to work so I can finance the next noise maker you will eventually insist upon."
"YOU MEAN YOU WILL SLEEP AND I'LL HEAR EVERYTHING, FEED HIM... [and a whole
litany of woeismesfollowed]"
There is a time when you can make a woman so angry that they can't speak a word. I was fortunate enough to learn this when I was a lot younger.
So I said, "Yep... you got it. I work the day shift so you can stay home and work the Night Shift. Fair is fair." Then I just left the room. It was safer that way. They might not be able to speak, but they can still pick up a variety of sharp objects and throw or lunge at you with them.
The Daddy Filter. It's real and part of the genetic makeup of most males. Coming soon to a retailer near you.
I've had quite a few other people tell me about how they dealt with kids - I'll write more on their implementations of the Daddy Filter
when I get a chance.
But - you know what? I'm capable of dealing with kids fine - at least for a day-long period - so long as the television isn't on
. I was over at Claire's the other day, the morning tv was on - I haven't watched any morning tv in going on 25 years. I remember this 30 second plug for safety
this and safety
that with safety man
! Brought to by [brand name] and [brand name]. Be sure to be safe! [brand name] and [brand name] want you
to be safe!
I really, really think that this sort of thing overstimulates the associative memory circuit. I turned the boob cube off
at this point - so I could focus on painting - and on not falling off the ladder I was on.
I haven't seen this guy in - I don't know, 9 years? But somehow Brian Clapper
, tuned into some sub-layer-one of the IP protocol, and got in touch last week.
I can't remember when we first met - I think it was at telebase? - or was it earlier?
I thinkit it was when I was trying to get a book done with then VP, Jon Tulk
. (Jon, with Eric Raymond, had written the most influential book on portable programming I'd ever read. It's now sadly out of print.) Jon and I were going to do a book on porting DOS programs to Unix - Jon did most of the work - we submitted the first draft for review and the universal comment came back - what about Windows to Unix? Ugh, aggh, :choke: lesson - don't pay attention to reviews
Anyway, somewhere along the way, maybe over Jon's home-made beer - I met the bearded, code-writin, joke makin, trombone-playin Brian Clapper, and we hung out.
I had an insanely fun day spent with Brian, Jon, and company in early 1994. I introduced him to Linux... there were people leaning over cubies to look at it... Brian really got off on the colored ls ... and inside of a couple weeks he was happily hacking on the system.
Brian moved deep into the woods of Penn about 4 years ago, and loves it.
I've been telecommuting for four years. Been a dad for going on three; my daughter, Arden, will be three in November. As a 42-year-old greying dad, I rarely feel my age. Some days, I feel 50. Other days (courtesy largely of Arden), I feel 30. It's a fascinating (and sometimes scary) trip.
He commented on Beating the Brand
It especially resonates. We're much more aware of such things now that we have a child. Want to get bombarded with marketing pitches and branding? Have a kid. Somehow, people figure out your new status, you enter the Parenthood Demographic, and your mailbox becomes saturated with some of the most amazing, over-the-top crapola you've ever seen. The most common marketing motivator: Guilt. ("You wouldn't want your precious child to [insert dire consequence here], would you? Of course not. Who would? Nabisco's Partially Hydrogenated Oil Biscuits can help.")
And then he told me about the kind of interruptions he likes
My office is a converted porch off the laundry room (first floor). This morning, Arden and my wife Charlotte were out walking around. As often happens on such days, I was startled from my work by a tapping on the window that's 2 feet from my right ear. They were there. I opened the window, lifted the screen, and looked down to see Arden beaming up. "Hi, Dada." I reached down, extended my hands, and told her to grab hold. She did, and I lifted her two feet in the air for a kiss. I was further rewarded by her giggling.
You just can't beat that kind of interruption.
Brian writes a good schtick. Here's one on why he runs Unix
I spent most of this beautiful Saturday working through paperwork and spreadsheets and thinking about two very hard decisions. I completely forgot about a birthday party Clair was having for her 8 year old at the pool at the Trout Farm
until shortly before it was supposed to be over.
When I got there, I grabbed a beer, sat in the shade, and sat, kinda grumpy, watching the kids and the parents, deep inside their own stories, having fun. I needed to get outside of my own story, but it wasn't working.
That kid saw me, came running up, gave me a hug - introduced me to all her friends - told me about the horses - and I smiled for the first time all afternoon, moved my chair into the sun, and enjoyed the party for a while.
Fake it til you make it
Chipper gave me a good technique for dealing with making phone calls that are upsetting. He said, make the list of numbers, tear them up, put them in a hat, then pull numbers out until you are done. Don't do anything else
. OK. I'm blogging while on hold with the EDD... close enough. I have a ton of other calls to make, in the hat. OK, the EDD is taken care of... now to take on the (drawing in the hat...)
was struck by Beating the Brand
. He wrote about in his latest suitwatch
email newsletter - he called it The Brand Bubble
. He wrote:
We're all canaries in the coal mine of Branded Existence.
Mike is Neo without Morpheus. He doesn't need a Red Pill. He's awake and alive in the Real World, yanking the plugs out of his head, disconnecting from the Branding Matrix. He's nobody's battery, this guy.
To be honest I have the most empathy with the Keymaker in the Matrix reloaded. After outliving his usefulness in building the matrix, the Keymaker gets imprisoned for a long time. When rescued, he runs and runs to avoid being imprisoned again. The agents gun for him rather than any of the other bad-ass characters like Morpheus, Neo and Trinity, because he's the really dangerous one
... Ultimately he opens the final door for Neo, and dies a hero.
OK, I'd like to die a hero - and I'd rather die on my feet than live on my knees - but I'm a survivor, too. I'm going to live on my feet, as soon as I can. I've been kind of crawling for a while, writing around blind spots, trying to discover new techniques for getting by... I'd like
to be Neo... to make a phone call and fly in and out of the Matrix....
...but now I'm making phone calls to stave off disaster. On hold to Countrywide...
Doc's really dead on about how there has been an orgy of overbranding in recent times. I visited two friends house's this week - they had tasteful appliances 15 years old or more. The logos/trademarks/brands on all of them were much less noticible than in my house. The font size on their k****** (I'm not going to immortalize any brands I have't already killed off) fridge logo was easily 1/3 that as on mine.
I was hoping to get the time and energy to focus on writing the followup to Beating the Brand
, where I solved the real problem of my kitchen, once I could see past the brands in it. (I note that nobody has asked me the significance of the painting in the first story...). I've been hung up on a description of what driving has been like for me - it's a hellish trip through 2 1/2 miles of commercial advertisments on Soquel Rd in Aptos. I had to drive it twice, at 35 miles an hour, screaming loud and fast, to capture all the messages on tape.
In Beating the Brand
, I pointed out something major that we've all been abused by - and we need to do something about. We do need to unBrand the world
, if we can, otherwise there won't be a single square mile without some message on it.
I'd rather live in a world where I/we didn't need meds to get corporate messages out of our minds, but I'm grateful they exist.
There were two techniques I discovered later - while driving - you don't have to look directly at things. You can just look at the sky above the cars in front of you - and let all the messages blur out. You can also drive really
fast. For me, that's about 105 miles an hour. The concentration required to do that seems to disable linguistic processing entirely. Too bad its illegal.
I've posted a short resume
over on the side of my blog, in old-fashioned plain text format. I did a cooler one, years ago, that illustrated all the sides of my personality - including my web skills - that I will repost sometime soon. I've worn all sorts of hats in the computer biz - programing, support, & management. I started a couple companies. One did well. I write a fair schtick. I'd like to travel a lot more, and see more of that Real World Doc was talking about. I grok open source and free software at a fundamental level....
I am looking for a gig that lets me fully engage my passions, conviction, and erudition - while giving coding a back seat. I'd like to achieve a few more of my dreams. My biggest dream - to get involved in the private or public space programs. Here's why
. Jim Bezos, John Carmack, NASA, you listening?
I get through to Lois at Countrywide Home loans
. They are my primary mortgage lender. She tells me about hardship packages, puts a note on my account, and asks my story. She tells me to be strong and in a slight southern accent says:
People need to be human to each other. When I was raised that was basic.
Thanks, Lois, I'll keep on trucking. When I was raised, it was basic, too.
Some more phone calls...
Wilshire Credit Corp
(the secondary lender) was very demanding, insisting that I take care of them, entirely, now. I look forward to refinancing someday, entirely, with Countrywide.
In the mail today - two credit card offers from Chase - and a census from the Republican National Committee. Also: The letter from Unum Provident. They think I was cured by the 28th of march. Well, some awful stuff happened in march that I haven't been able to write about - but I have largely managed to put that aside in recent weeks. Via google I've discovered Unum Provident has had 3000 lawsuits
in the last 5 years...
I was expecting to make it back to work, part time, with a simplified job description, by July 1. I haven't made much progress on that goal in the last week - I am massively stuck in a negative feedback loop - but sometimes along the way I meet people like Lois.
The Republican Party Census... hoo, boy - the letter tells me that my answers will represent the views and opinions of all Republican voters living in my voting district
. Heh. Heh. Heh. Fillling this out is going to be FUN
Sometimes... throwing sand in the grease is very satisfying
. Let's get on hold with some other company... reaching in the hat... Ah... SBC... dang, I got through immediately... What's left? There's a pile of unopened bills I can sort through... Naw, it's time for lunch and to fill out this lovely census.
I titled this piece Fake it til you make it - because that's what you gotta do if you've had two weeks like I've had. And now... a letter to my doc to do, & some BBQ to make.
blogs about the Apathetic & Pragmaticratic parties
Me I'm still a member of the opposition party... and think we need a little more Sex in Politics
As much as I have fantasised recently about hanging with Henry Miller
, or skinny dipping in Walden Puddle - I think writing out my story is something I can do in my spare time now. I've spent a lot of time writing these past weeks, trying to get myself ready to go back to my old job, and I don't have to do that anymore.
Result - I slept good last night - at least partially due to the lack of power in the house - and I looked in the mirror this morning - and I liked myself. I'm in the best physical shape I've been in in 8 years. The stilletto heel holes in my heart have healed. I don't have nightmares anymore about things I'd rather not talk about today. All my problems are external problems at this point - and awaiting rescue is dumb. I'm perfectly capable of strapping on my own Blackhawk again, loading up my ammo, and taking to the skies.
I went down my checklist of things I know I can still do:
|Coding in X11/C: || please check back again later|
|Interact with people: || Check|
|Linux: || Expert mode is |
|Write: || Like a mother****|
At 6 AM - I called "Sancho - my armor!" - and strapped on a suit I haven't worn since I left florida. It fit perfectly. I felt ready for battle - I called a couple honchos I knew in florida to see if they were doing anything interest. At 8 I called my lawyer about this little unum provident thing, he's an attack dog, he'll get em. I looked at my golden rolodex of all the contacts I'd made here and decided I'd tempt them with somebody as good at what I do as me, later.
By 8:30 I was out of there. I had to face one of my greatest enemies.
At the Wired wash cafe the score is now: Me: 3, Laundry, 0.
Let's see how the rest of the day goes.
Over the past couple days I've had some wonderful emails and phone conversations with people, concerned that I'm broke, jobless and having trouble with the insurance company...
And you know what? - some days really suck. Yesterday morning sucked. By mid-afternoon things got better. I did some gardening, I emailed a few literary agents, and I had a really excellent evening of meditation and thought at Satsang. Afterwards I cooked myself some salmon for dinner. $2.50 worth of salmon was more than enough to fill me up, where, during the internet boom, it wasn't enough to have a single piece of sushi and I ate a lot of sushi then.
I was broker when I was busting my ass working as when I'm busting my ass blogging - and I didn't realize it.
Postcards from the Bleeding Edge has been my daily journal of my steps back from total collapse. I didn't intend that, it just turned out that way. Through publishing it on the net I've learned many important things. The most important?
Everybody has days that really suck.
When you are deep inside your own navel sometimes you think you're alone in the universe.
You're wrong. You're not alone in having days that really suck. That's just your limbic system fooling you. It really helps to share your pain with others - and your joy! -1 + 1 = 0 - and in that 0, that emptiness, exists peace.
I do feel, often, that mixing in the good stuff (Sex in Politics, Beating the Brand, Uncle Bill's Helicopter) with the bad is unkind to my audience, that perhaps I should switch to having one page for finished work and another for the diary. I may do that. At the moment, I only notify the A-list bloggers when I have something worth reading. My RSS is broken, so even people that want to subject themselves to everything I write can't get updates.
I'm not that organised right now. Apologies. I'll start a mailing list soon...
The person that I need to write for, first, is me. As I journal I dump things out of my overcrowded cerebellum and let something else float to the top. When I look at it again, hours or days later, I understand better what my overworked subconcious is trying to tell me. Sometimes I'm inspired to write more, to revise and polish. Sometimes I get a story idea - and sometimes I get wonderful emails filled with friendship and ideas!
I'm pretty sure that if you out there were to start a blog - that you first need to write for yourself, not others, too - and you will understand yourself better. Our inner voices have been so drowned out by the rest of world, by television, by mass production, by hollywood - that most of us can't remember who or what we are - thinking, reasoning, feeling, literate human beings.
In my case I have to stack up all the things that are going right for me against the bad - and having money and work is far less important than having my mind and health back, and having friends to talk to, and stories to write. I was ridden by demons hiding in my blind spots and now I'm not - most of my problems now are external to me. This is Progress with a capital P. I'd rather battle with an insurance company or seek work that I can do than wrestle with things unseen.
Today, things suck, worse. I'm going to lose my electricity in a few minutes. I should be able to restore it in a few days. And Joanne, a nurse from Unum Provident, called me with questions. I told her my story. She gave me empathy and encouragement, and said she would do everything she could, to help. I wanted to tell her about Uncle Bill's Helicopter. I think she already rides in one.
I should be able to check my email and blog from elsewhere.
Uncle Bill's Helicopter, redux
I get choked up about how much good blogging has done me. I think that the more people that put part of themselves in Cyberspace, the happier all of us will be.
My case is an extreme one, I'll admit. Everything I wrote between 1984 and 1988 was lost in a disk crash. 5 years of journal, several dozen stories, some unique software and two books in progress were stolen with my computer and backup tapes - Christmas day, 1993.
After that, I stopped
writing. The trauma of losing everything - absolutely everything - scarred me deeply. I wrote pieces here and there, and tons of email, and I worked really hard on everything but writing. I stopped journaling. I have been executing - not thinking - on a program I laid down for myself to run 10 years ago. That program's got kind of crufty and old.
Some days I think I spent these years building the internet - and not using it - because my limbic system wanted me to have a really good backup system
before it would let me invest time in writing again. I'm happy about blogging - because somebody else makes the backups. Memories of a brighter day are always clearer with my blog nearby.
Sometimes I forget what I wrote and need to be reminded. In Uncle Bill's Helicopter Version 2
, published this month in the Kudzu Monthly
, I'd spoken about the problems I had when I wrote first version
of the speech:
Up until recently I'd felt that everything I had put so much work into was being misused. That the people that I was trying to connect were trying to disconnect everyone else. I was schlumping around, carrying this guilt, this pain around, I had two major problems in my life that I couldn't solve... and it seemed like time was running out... And then, something happened to change all that for the better.
I blogged the problem
on the internet... and we found josh
! And - I got what I needed to get up, pull myself out of my personal crater, and keep on breathing. All the people out there willing to help - restored my faith in my profession and in other people.
I spoke about some of the lessons I'd learned about how to get up in the morning, when you're stuck under a 14,000 pound pillow:
If you're lucky, right next to you in bed is someone you love. Turn over and give him or her a hug. You'll feel better. Hugs are far more poweful than the internet itself. In fact, stand up, right now, tell 'im that everything's going to be all right, turn to your neighbor and give them a hug. Doesn't that feel good?
There's a device just within reach, from under that 14,000-pound pillow. It's called a telephone. At the other end of it are all the friends, and family, and loved ones you have in the world.
And out on the internet, there's more friends and support groups than you can ever imagine. Than I ever imagined, and I helped build the darn thing...
I've realized that the internet really was the force for good and bringing people together that I'd always wanted it to be. I know that, as engineers, we work on things that don't immediately reward us, we generally work on things that don't love us back. That sometimes the technologies we've worked on are misused and underappreciated. But sometimes, they come back to us in totally unexpected ways, and make all the heartache and hard work worth it. I know that we can come back from making terrible mistakes.
Now - for months that bird hasn't flown for me, I still have a third and fourth part of Josh's story left to write. But until I read the speech just now - I'd forgotten that we all can come back from making terrible mistakes
I know that the story
of Uncle Bill's Helicopter has flown for others, piloted by their own heroes with angels in the rescue chair.
Today, I can hear dozens of helicopters, circling around my personal crater, and thousands more now fly on rescue missions throughout the world - piloted by you, the Reader, and you, the Writer.
I know that we gotta keep on trying, and we gotta keep on flying.
The cruelest vmail I've ever had
Yesterday I got a voice mail. I reeled in shock. I blogged it, then I unblogged it - why share all my troubles with the world, after I just made them laugh so hard with Sex in Politics
? Today, I reblogged what I wrote yesterday...
"Hi Michael, this is Ivonne Turner from Unumprovident. We have made a decision on your long term disability claim. I've put the letter in the mail today. If you have any questions after you receive it, please call 877-851-7637 ext 4867"
Her voice was professionally neutral. She didn't tell me any details. Am I Approved? Denied? Delayed? I felt like Shroedingers cat - except that Shroedingers cat had less stress, and probably slept better than I do.
If it goes down one way - I get enough cash to catch up on the mortgage - get some more therapy and tests - let the meds kick in fully - and continue on the road to recovery I'm on.
If it goes down the other way - I thought - if I get denied - I may be forced to declare bankruptcy and shortly thereafter - have no place to live. Worse - have no place to logon.
I don't write about the amount of time I spend curled up in a ball - but I did that a lot this winter. In recent weeks I've managed to find a diet, meds, and an exercise regimen that help. I've identified a whole bunch of the invisible monkeys on my back. And I've slept better.
I thought - only a week ago - that I was going to make it out of this abyss. Writing Beating the Brand - writing about what my thought process has been like for so many months - helped me and my shrink identify what was really wrong. I'm still at the bottom of the abyss, but daylight breaks through now and then.
Frankly I've hoped if I kept practicing writing in english - an editor would land an advance on me for "An itinerant account of adventure through the Internet Explosion" - and I'd never, ever have to look at a line of C again.
Sunday and Monday, I helped paint a neighbor's house. It felt good. There was a time, not too long ago, when I couldn't focus long enough to stay at such a tedious task for more than 20 minutes. I had pride, and joy, in doing that job, right.
After talking with Evan on Thursday, he felt compelled to write something profound about protecting the commons.
I felt compelled to write something outrageous, and funny. Many of America's greatest humorists - Mark Twain, H.L. Menken, Tom Wolfe, H.S. Thompson, PJ O'Roarke - were often deeply depressed. I may not be the former - I certainly qualify for the latter.
I wrote about Sex in Politics. The day I can't crack myself up will be a really bad one. It hasn't happened yet. I hope you laughed reading it as hard as I did while writing it.
And I wrote a few hours ago:
Today, I got a call back from Unum Provident, after I called them, repeatedly.
Despite representations in writing to me from John Motroni and Janet Vreeland and in corporate documents from MontaVista - that the elimination period for Long Term Disability was 60 days, Unum Provident claims that the elimination period was actually 180. Janet tells me that:
I've asked Christy at Advanced Professionals to work with them asap. We have a contract that states the waiting period is 60 days but I don't think Unum shows that correctly in their database. We thought this was corrected months ago. I'll contact you as soon as Christy straightens things out.
Thanks, Janet. You're a tribute to the HR profession.
Unum Provident disqualified me from even that for another reason that I will fight, when I get the strength.
I really don't know what I'm going to do, and I'm going to go back to bed and spend some time curled up in a ball. Until then, I'm kind of looking for advice. Actually, I could use some jokes. I haven't been able to crack myself up today, yet.
After I posted that I went and curled up in a ball in bed with a 14,000 pound pillow
over my head. Not 10 minutes after that Christy wrote Unum...
HI Jennifer Silliman -
Can you please look into the below message from Michael Taht from MontaVista Software? He is currently out on disability and has not received any payments yet. When he called the Unum 800#, Yvonne Turner told him that the Monta Vista waiting period was 180 days. As you know, there was an issue where the contract stated a 90 day waiting period and we had Unum correct the contract to say 60 days. I have no idea why he would be told that there is a 180 day waiting period and why he has not received payment. Can you please look into this ASAP and let me know what is going on?
...mail from me elided...
And there things sit. I heard the mail truck come but I couldn't face it - more bills
- I thought. I dreaded the idea of leaving my house to even get as far as the mailbox, and rolled over and got some more sleep.
I also thought - it's nice to have two more people playing on my team while I'm on the bench. I finally got up - to feed my cat...
Still couldn't laugh... then... I got a whole bunch of email that did make me laugh - I'll get to that in the next blog entry - and one also lectured me:
Betting the farm on an insurance company was a suckers bet. I'm suprised at you. They will fuck you anyway they can. Once, only once, they forced me to take 5K so I'd sign their fucked up papers. I signed, my neck still hurts, always will. All I asked was that they pick up the bills. They wouldn't do it, picking up the bills implied responsibility. Liars, cheats and thieves.
Dance with the Devil, the Devil don't change.
You've been curling up in a ball for years, it won't work now anymore than it did before. Dope won't work, Drink won't work, Sex won't work, and avoidance sure as shit won't work.
If you need to take care of something, you need to take care of it. Procrastination has been dogging you since I've known you and it complicates your live exponentially.
Whatever it is you need to do, you need to do. Tomorrow you could be dead, and no, that isn't better.
I got a little angry at being yelled at by my friend for a while, but then I refocused it (as was his intent) and felt balanced enough - with a little laughter in my head and a little rage in my heart - I staggered outside to get the mail.
Yep - a big internet bill I have to pay by the 21st... and surprise! A postcard from a friend in Oregon - she said the kayaking is great and it's cheap to live there. I can see the rocky craigs above a green river, and a red and yellow raft floating downstream.
Thanks A-K, you warmed my heart, too.
Two things I learned today:
Sometimes - no matter how much you dread something, you may get pleasantly surprised by something else, if you face the thing you dread. You don't have to face it immediately, but you should face it sooner rather than later. Get it over with. Move on.
Secondly - friends will help
Thanks for the help, reminders, lectures, and laughter, everybody.
What can I do today that's actually constructive, now that I'm out of bed? I have something to write about where Uncle Bill's Helicopter
landed next on it's flight... but I think it's time to work on weeding my garden.
On my skewed perspective on politics
I came of age during some of the most colossal inflation and highest interest rates that there ever, ever was. During my early dating years gasoline was a $1.50, back when $1.50 was real money. My first car got 7 miles to the gallon. I biked to see my gf 24 miles away. It was uphill. Both ways. I spent more time on top of my bike than on top of her, but she was worth it.
Interest rates went well above 20% - and I'm not talking about credit card rates - I'm talking about mortgages.
When I was 16 the price of Ring Dings went from 25 cents to 40 cents from one winter to the next. My wages went from $3.35 an hour to $3.45. Despite my blather about the Ring Ding Index to my boss, he refused to use this more accurate inflation measure for my age, and didn't bump my pay up to 5 bucks an hour. Result: I switched to drinking the free soda instead, and spent the next year depressed due to chocolate deprivation.
I grew to distrust the inflation measure. It seems to get perversely redesigned every couple years to not measure the things that cost me the most money. It didn't cover ring-dings in the 80s and it sure as hell didn't factor in the explosion of housing costs in the 90s. It really bothers me that the algorithm and the raw data for the inflation calculation are not published by the government.
Kids learn by example. When, the government started taking social security out of the wages of 14 year olds, despite the impossibility of them ever collecting a single dime back, they grew up understanding the primacy of theft and retaliated by copying music files around.
I dropped out of politics in the late 80s and 90s. That's because I was doing something constructive to make society better. I went into engineering, and worked on BBS's, Unix and the Internet. I had hoped if I could add multiple voices, in multiple languages, to the global conversation, the friction between peoples would get less destructive, and more creative.
What happened? Instead of building on a solid backbone like irc for chat - mega-millions were spent on two chat systems that didn't interoperate. People spend a lot of time talking to other people of similar views on slashdot.org. Bloggers read each other and not usenet news, usenet news users don't read blogs, AOLers only talk to other AOLers, almost nobody uses language translation services like babelfish to make friends overseas - and few in the print or broadcast media have crossed over to the Net - and very few on the Net have crossed over into print...
Yet, to be fair, I believe that the level of creative friction between cultures has increased over the past decade, and I'm glad of that.
In all that creative friction, I'd hoped that somebody smarter than I am would come up with THE answer to life, the Universe, and Everything. Ha. Fat Chance. They'd all rather play doom or solitaire. So now, damn it, I have to figure it out for myself.
So I wrote down some of my thinking below. It starts a little slow, but I hope you're roaring at what I think about Sex in Politics
The one thing I hope that's common across all cultures is the ability to laugh. I don't know who said it - but "Man is the animal that Laughs".
On Sex in Politics...
I'm for it!
It would be a far better world if more politicians spent more time pounding the flesh rather than pressing it. Every minute Clinton spent banging Monica Lewinski he wasn't screwing the rest of us or the world. Every time she knelt before that mighty cigar - she was a heroine.
Because - unlike most Americans - She could take everything a politician could put out - and swallow it!
Result - the greatest economic expansion ever - a massive decline in the murder rate - the biggest corporate party that anyone has ever attended - and something close to world peace was achieved.
Monica Lewinski deserves a frigging medal for all that.
After she stopped seeing the president, this country started going to hell.
I think Bush invaded Iraq because he's not getting laid enough. Maybe if we all faxed him the 5 messages a day we all get on expanding the size of our penis and on getting off-shore viagra - he'd get laid more often, or he'd get spam banned - any way that goes down, we all win. Let's try it and find out.
I hope that somewhere buried in the Bible Belt is a babe that believes that blow jobs are the path to bliss. Because I'm not looking forward to another five years of the Bush administration if the guy stays this tense and gets re-elected. I'm not looking forward to the next couple years with any kind of administration if I stay this tense, either.
On the multi-party system
My favorite sort of congress? A bitterly divided one. We had that through most of the 90s. I liked it.
I admire Europe for a multi-party system that extends all the way up into government itself. It strikes me as pointless to have a multi-party system that can't get into power, form coalitions, and make their own hash of things. It blew my mind that greens and libertarians haven't tried to team up in this country. Then I became I libertarian leaning green and understood that the medium is the massage.
We could use a few more rock stars
, professional wrestlers, doctors
in government. It would make C-Span a hell of a lot more interesting than MTV. Maybe MTV would become more like C-SPAN. I'd like that. Every time there's a close up of a particularly tricky guitar or piano part the trigger happy boys in the back room with Premier cut to something else.
MTV - never, ever, gets through two bars of one song focused on one guy. Why is that? Are they afraid that some starving musician like myself might learn something? But I digress. I was talking about Sex in politics.
I flirted with Libertarianism in my youth. I followed Ron Paul's 80s campaign closely, even attended a few rallies.
I remember: Ron Paul, in Philadelphia, having an argument about private coinage with a crank. In 1992 I still thought private coinage was impossible, but I bought into John Perry Barlow's Wine without Bottles. By 1994 I thought microtransactions would make it possible for the little guy to make money with their own printing press. I strongly supported cryptography (it was a felony then) while dismissing the Clipper Chip. By 1999 I thought cynically that we'd all be able to say what we wanted if we all sold advertising to each other. In 2000 PayPal came along. And holy cow, we suddenly had a private currency that actually worked.
Then they got bought by ebay. I think: the government should buy ebay rather than institute a VAT tax.
And still I can't get anyone to pay me a penny for my thoughts. Anybody want some beta eCash, cheap?
Ron Paul's back to being a republican now. It's really great to know that after flirting with multiple parties you can just join the one that gets you elected. It gives me hope for my own political ambitions.
I loved the Libertarian party platform in the 80s. Why? It was 13 pages long
. You could spend an early evening discussing all the principles in it, then (theoretically) kiss the bitch and take her to bed.
All the hookers hover around political conventions of the main political parties because all the people there of both sexes are too busy discussing fine points on page 2008 of the platform to work off any steam any other way with each other. This must be true. Hunter S Thompson told me. I could never afford to pay for sex. So I pursued parties with smaller platforms.
By 1990 or so I was saying that the Libertarians were pulling in the right direction. I believe in self determination and limited government - and corporate - intrusion into our lives. But I'd realized that despite my empathy for John Galt, if Ayn Rand had had kids Objectivism would have been still-born.
There's a lot to libertarianism I like, but I'm not a libertarian any more. Why? Well...actually, I didn't get laid the whole time I flirted with libertarianism - and that's why I'm not one now. I didn't learn until later in life that you could pound through the party platform before bedtime and resolve the rest of your differences horizontally. I learned that from a Republican.
On the Green party
I didn't pay attention to politics in the 90s - I was too busy working. By the late 90s I was actually getting laid regularly - and I didn't notice that Clinton wasn't until it was too late.
I did become a green for the 2000 election. Why? The Gore-bot looked like a borg. While touted as being technically literate, we were on opposite sides of nearly every technical issue, from the Clipper Chip to who actually invented the internet.
It was easy to be a green then - all I had to do was look out my window at the sea of smog that covered the Silicon Valley. Most days in the summer I could see Mt. Diablo - 60 miles away - and nothing but a black miasma in-between. I telecommuted as often as possible, but still I had to descend into that sea far too often for my sense of taste. And smell.
Nader lost - and it turned out that the Republicans had a quick answer to the smog problem - crash the economy, force everyone here on a H1B visa to leave, and raise the unemployment rate to 9%.
That cleaned out the highways and the air but good
. A brilliant move. I have to tip my hat to the Republicans, I never would have thought of cleaning up the environment that way.
I'm not a green anymore. Suggesting that market forces be used to save the redwoods didn't go over with the girls at parties.
What party do I belong to?
I'm a member of the opposition party. I am compelled to root for the underdog.
Why? I grew up near Philadelphia. Years and years of watching the Phillies almost
make it to the world series and being exasperated by the Eagles finding some totally unique way to screw up before reaching the Superbowl - really, really warps a guy. I've seen all the Rocky movies. I weep every time someone crys out "Adrian! Adrian! Adrian!". If I'd grown up near some town that actually had a multi-year winning streak, like Dallas, my outlook would be very different.
Most republicans give me the heebie-jeebies, but I did sleep with one for a year. I learned a lot. Lesson 1: Republicans have the most interesting sex fantasies. Lesson 2: My sex fantasies are a little more normal.
Democrats like Edward Kennedy give me the heebie-jeebies. I don't want to think about what kind of sex fantasies he has.
I liked Ron Paul, but I couldn't vote for him. I was too young. As I said earlier, I flirted with libertarianism, but never really consumated the relationship. Ron Paul got in bed with it, rode it all the way to dismal failure in the election, and then went back to being a republican. That's how twisted a republican sex fantasy can be - "Honey - I dreamed I was a libertarian - and I was so baaaaaad"...
Most recently, I voted for Nader, with some reservations. Reservation number 1: I like to live dangerously, and he took Covairs off the market. I always wanted to have sex in the back seat of a Corvair, or in a Gremlin with a full gas tank.
I used to be proud, fiercely proud, that not one candidate I've ever voted for has ever achieved political office. Lately I've thought this was my curse, my own personal superpower, that anyone I voted for automatically wouldn't get elected. I've thought about becoming a republican this coming election for precisely that reason.
I couldn't do it. I don't believe in superpowers. Curses yes, superpowers no.
This year, I registered Democrat. I've tried not voting - it didn't work. I've voted for third parties - it didn't work.
The only thing I haven't tried is voting in the primary against the party in power - and I'm pissed off at Mike Honda for not answering any of my emails. The guy has done nothing more for the technology district than smile and wave for the cameras. So far as I know he has never addressed any of the issues that concern technologists - but he better speak up this time - we'll be blogging....
If I still believed in bumper stickers I'd paste over the Saturn
brand on my car with:
I'm stone crazy - and I vote
If the Democrats actually win the next election I don't know how I will live with myself. It means I'd be partially responsible for whatever happens next.
Am I left wing or right wing?
I reject the Left/Right distinction. About 10 years ago I thought the Pournelle Political Axes
is a much better description of where most people stand politically. It looks like this
In recent months I've come to understand something Douglas Adams once said. Paraphrased: "As soon as you describe the true nature of the universe to enough people, it changes. Perversely." I try to draw myself on that graph now and it looks like shotgun pellets hit it.
I live in a county that leans so far to the left that standing upright takes effort. I'm to the right of so many people here that I forget that places like Indiana exist, where I would be flayed alive just for my pigtail.
I argue with people a lot, but I'm not sure what I really believe in. It's my father's fault. He's a lawyer. I learned late in life that the only thing he really believed in was a good argument. I enjoy a good argument. I go to parties and pick a side opposite the prettiest girl in the room just to watch every other wussy new-age male rise to defend her. I try to persuade her over to my side by sheer eloquence and and rigorous logic, and go home by myself every time.
I end up arguing about nuclear power with people that believe in Chakras and past lives.
What do I really believe?
I believe: that honesty is the best policy. Currently I'm honest to a fault. I told the DMV that I was having trouble sleeping - and now they want me to fill out 20 pages of forms explaining why I should still be allowed to drive.
I believe: That if I formed a church, ultimately I'd have to form a splinter sect.
I believe: That I have something to say. I don't know what it is until after I write it down and inflict it on others.
I believe: That I have millionth monkey syndrome - it's the biggest and most mis-diagnosed disease of this century, a lot of people have it, and the only cure is to rant, rail, howl at the moon, and blog
Taping out the Brand
Courtesy of Captain Napalm
He says we've met. I don't remember it. I look at him and I'm scratching my head, when? Where? I'm getting old.
His blog kicked off old memories of AD&D for me. I remember when my friends used to get together, in the loft of the local toy store, and share an adventure. We'd solve puzzles, role-play out life roles, and use each other's skills to their advantage - sure, we'd battle monsters, but that wasn't the primary goal. Fast forward to today. While I know there's games like "EverQuest", and "Riven", I can't help but feel that most modern computer games drive people apart rather than brought them together. Doom. Duke Nukem. Quake...
To my old gamer crowd - Bob Pierce, Mark Mason, Ruth Stefan, Al May, Pat Orlando - and the rest of the 8th street irregulars - Thanks. I doubt we would have grown up the same way if we had played Doom, rather than D&D, together.
I like what Mr. Napalm said about one basic issue of transclusion - so few people on the web have actually read about what Ted Nelson
wanted to do with hypertext. What we have on the web is only a subset of what Ted dreamed up so many years ago
. Maybe in another 30 years - standards commitees willing - we'll really enter Xanadu
Me, I'm going to go hang out with Kubla Khan
for a while. Later.
The voice on the phone
asked: Mike... you aren't a capitalist, are you?
I gave him my standard riff about being a mess of contradictions:
"I'm a a pro-nuclear green - a gun-toting democrat - drug-taking republican - a libertarian that believes that without unionisation no-one would be literate enough to read Atlas Shrugged - a communist that's passionate about protecting private property - a socialist that hates slow trains -
But am I a capitalist? Um...
"I mean... you've started a couple companies, and made a pile of money, and spent a pile of money..."
Am I a capitalist?
I'm a red blooded reactionary that's tired of overreacting to everything. I want some peace, some quiet - and I want to be left alone, to think, to sort things out, to write some stuff down, learn from it, and eventually - act on it. I want to have the sense of calm and peace and direction that I haven't had since AOL added itself to the internet."
Money. It's great. I wish I had some. When I had a lot of it, I spent it foolishly, and worried about it a lot. Now that I don't have any, I spend it fairly wisely, and worry about it a lot. Now, most days my choices are limited to lunch or cigarettes. I've lost a lot of weight.
Money. It's a universal medium of exchange - never mind that 80 bucks buys a 1 1/2 hr massage in Santa Cruz and a 40 minute one in Los Gatos - two towns, separated by a scary 2 lane highway, 20 miles apart. I don't know what a "massage" costs in a major city, it's not the same thing. I've spent a lot of money on a lot of heavy duty computers and now I can barely stand to look at one long enough to type in this blog. I can't stand to listen to one, either.
For what I used to spend on one sushi dinner now I stretch out for 2 weeks, and I still have salmon, home cooked, twice a week for the Omega-3s. I go to the public library - actually I order stuff online - read something, make notes, and return it. On time. I never used to do that. My entertainment budget? 20 bucks a month gets me all the dvds I want from netflix, and no commercials.
Periodically I go through a moral meltdown - once every 2 1/2 years I spend 6 months howling at the moon - and now matter how much money I have when I start, insurance, whatever, it's all gone, spent, before I get up off my ass and do something about it.
If accumulating enough capital and insurance to somehow survive this sort of self abuse is capitalism, then I'm a capitalist, by god! Hey, buddy - want some stock options?
Am I a capitalist...
Damn it, I don't know. My subconcious labored at the idea all night. I woke up and spent all yesterday, writing something funny about the concepts that I really believe in - when I should have been gardening, or surfing, cleaning my house or my car, or just doing something outside. It was all sparked by a conversation with Evan Hunt
where we talked about politics and Beating the Brand. Evan came up with an analogy for environmentalism
that I really liked, and wrote it out, in a piece called More thoughts on ad-pollution
. He extended the idea to talk about noise pollution and the collapse of the commons. He spent that day writing it, while my subconcious was making me toss and turn, while grousing about the lack of sun-time he was getting...
Maybe one day we'll get laptops and hang out in the sun together.
If I am or am not a capitalist, then what do I believe in? I'm done writing most of that up, I'm going to let it ferment for a few hours - and get out - strap on a wetsuit - and enjoy real life for a while. I also got some wonderful emails today from Clare Machado that I kind of need to sit and think about.