Blurried Musings (a Kafkaesquí blog joint)
"If you can't annoy somebody, there is little point in writing."    Kingsley Amis
March 09, 2002
Zen and the Art of Sarcasm: Foot On Path

One thing few people apparently get is that Zen is funny. Even a large number of students and practitioners of Zen seem to completely miss the boat on this component to the religion-that-is-not-a-religion. If you're one of these, don't worry; you'll get better with practice. Back to the point: it takes little discipline to locate the humor, if that's what you're looking for. Scholars or interested bystanders who spend a good amount of time digging in the Zen Buddhist literature will find themselves inundated by endless references to cow calls (mu!) and other quaint anecdotes whose real meaning is lost to anyone outside the business. They'll also discover numerous tales about injurious whackings with sticks, monks slicing their own arms from their bodies, and the offing of the Buddha by the thousands. Funny stuff.

Such history makes me wonder if the Three Stooges weren't adepts. It's likely the only thing in the Stooges' comedy canon missing from Zen's is the well telegraphed pratfall. Can't have it all. But go ahead and try repeating Curly's "nyuck nyuck" during a meditation session (zazen for the more learned folk). Turns out to be a good alternative to the classic "OHM". So, NYUCK NYUCK NYUCK! There, you should feel more enlightened already.

Zen, once you get past the comic bits, tends to be rather cryptic for the casual observer or participant, a problem few out there can be expected to rectify. Not that it hasn't been tried ad vomitum by those more prepared than I. On the other hand, it may be possible to ignore the usual routes others have taken and come up with our own personal tour of some well known (though not well understood) features of Zen Buddhism. Along the way maybe we'll find time to check out a few of the lesser advertised roads as well. Course, I'll be handling it in a tongue twisted firmly into lotus position attitude. I'm not sure this is a smart way to demystify Zen, but perhaps it can bring it down a tick or two on the enigmatic tote board.

By the way: explaining what Zen means is a different matter altogether, and I won't be attempting such a foolish endeavor as that. We'll see the sights, and if lucky stumble over it by pure chance. If not, hopefully no one gets car sick. Another thing you shouldn't expect on this trip: lots of factoid-like tidbits for party conversation. I may (think I) know a thing or two about Zen, but no scholar am I. So over the coming weeks in somewhat haphazard fashion (it's the only way I work), be prepared as I hit on different aspects of Zen. Since they'll all be spur of the moment or nearly so, I can't wait to see how they turn out!

UPDATE: I've created a new Weblog -- zen trip -- that I'll use to continue my flagrant irreverance towards this well respected and honorable philosophical doctrine. Uh huh.

March 08, 2002
Kafkaesquí's Offensive Rules of Forum Use

I've been online for some years now, and part of those some years has been spent on Web discussion fora (plural of forum - latinesque!), and before Mosaic came to be known as more than just an art term, real terminal-based electronic bulletin boards. Ah, chatting at 1200 baud...

Needless to say (but being adept at the needless act I'll say it), I have opinions on the point of forum posting. One big one is: most aiming to anger or peeve or tick off or annoy or generally look like an ass come across instead as fumbling incompetents. Way too many times I've seen a potentially explosive volly quickly diffused, the flamer lowered to blubbering apologies and offers of a round at the virtual pub. Not good!

So my goal here is simple: provide the flame posting newcomer with a few general rules of thumb that should assure his or her flame-threading on any board will get the participants banging their keyboards and the admins calling their ISP.

Learn to Spell
Those new to flaming typically miss this. I can't tell you how many times I've seen people laughed off boards due to the use of phrases like "fukk yuo al1" or "lynucks sux". If you want to get your offensiveness across, don't give everyone an easy out like bad spelling. Considering the numerous spellchecking options computer users have available to them, there's just no excuse for calling someone a "shhithed".

Stick to Your Flame
Too many newbies allow (sometimes) wiser, more experienced residents of a board to turn the topic of a flame to their own cause(s). If you're attempting to belittle a forum moderator's taste in clothing, don't get sidetracked in a war on whether t-shirts are acceptable in high fashion circles.

Keep Turning Up the Temp
The ultimate goal of a thread flame should be to end with all messages wiped from the BBS' database and at least three participants banned for life from the site. If you're going for the throat of your selected nemesis, why would you stop to trim your nails? You should always cut deep when strangling someone (electronically, that is).

Aim True to Aim Hot
This one should be easy, but apparently it's not. Learn about and understand your target forum before going off on it. On a board discussing Intel PC hardware? Then don't try to ratch things up by badmouthing Sun boxen. On a sports site? Leave behind "Bush sux" topics and the like. Such posting may get you tossed, but for being an idiot, not a flamer. There is a distinction.

March 07, 2002
Bright Neon Meat

I've been rereading Kurt Vonnegut's 1987 novel Bluebeard. I have a small collection of Vonnegut's writings; a couple signed works includes a limited edition of Bluebeard. I own some of his non-fiction as well, though I prefer his earlier stuff here. It gets a bit gammy reading nostalia, even entertaining nostalgia. By the way, has any writing about Vonnegut ever note his signature includes a rendering of his anus? In Breakfast of Champions (page 5, Dell paperback edition, published 1975), there is an illustration by the author which he claims represents his asshole. In his signed name, at least the ones I have, he's scribbled what appears to be a cruder version of said image under his name. So you might say -- in essence -- anyone who gets Kurt Vonnegut's autograph also gets a piece of his ass. Funny old Kurt...

As I started to say, I've been rereading Kurt Vonnegut's Bluebeard. The main character, Rabo Karabekian, is a one-eyed failed abstract expressionist and multi-millionaire known for works which dropped off their canvas due to a decision to use an acrylic wall paint: Sateen Dura-Luxe, the paint that would "... outlive the smile on the 'Mona Lisa'." Karabekian's paintings, before they chemically self-destructed, were nothing more than fields of Sateen Dura-Luxe with strips of colored neon tape across them. It's called Abstraction.

Some way into the novel, Karabekian mentions he's come to see people as little more than this; that is glowing, flexible neon tubes. He's found that seeing someone this way, in a non-religious, non-theological manner, makes it easy to forgive them for transgressions against him and whatnot. It's hard to be angry at a glowing purple tube, I guess. He also states that the tube (us) and the meat (our bodies, so presumably also us) are not one and the same thing at all, with each acting according to its own demands, rarely involving itself in the interests of the other, nor holding any power to control or influence its actions. Or such is how I've taken Karabekian's words.

I've tried seeing people this way, but it's hard, and more than a little humorous. I fail not due to a lack of imagination on my part; I just tend to see people as the meat they inhabit, with that other intangible something-or-other that you might call a soul, or spirit, or tube, an add-on but tied to our earthly matter by a knot so strong only death can snap it loose. I believe those ties hold us down more than physically, and make us part and parcel in the body's doings during life's run through.

So I think what I'm saying is: the tube can't claim ignorance and that it's just along for the ride, waiting to be set free when the canvas self-destructs (chemically or otherwise). It's as responsible for where its going as the meat is. Oh, happy meat.

March 06, 2002
Linka Dinka Doo

Let's all sing!*

Books about Perl and cold beer in the kitchen;
Cheap buys on hardware and time out for bitchin';
They Might Be Giants and maybe the Kinks;
And hey, here's a few of my favorite links.

Jakob Nielsen's site (Usability and Web Design)
The Internet is like a scatological exam for a woman who swallowed her diamonds: you may come across a brilliant gem or two, but look at all the crap you have to dig through first. Whether a site is a jewel or... less so, there's nothing worse than designing a lousy one. No, that's not quite correct. Having it talked about disparagingly by Jakob Nielsen is definitely crappier. Just one thing Jakob: drop the turquoise-colored table cell. Great Books Online
Bartleby's is the online reference I suggest to everyone. They offer a large number of searchable sources, from American Heritage Dictionary to Bartlett's Quotations, from Robert's Rules to Gray's Anatomy. Need a look in Bulfinch's Mythology? They got it. King James Bible? That too. Sanger, Shakespeare, Sophocles? Yep, uh huh, certainly. And it's all free.

The End of Free
Regardless of places like the last link, free stuff on the Net is like a species on the way to extinction. Here's where I watch them vanish.

Project Gutenberg (PJB Software's easy access links)
I'm a reader. To have free, electronic access to the vast potential library of out-of-copyright works leaves me -- well, leaves me reading. There is also an official Project Gutenberg site to check on.

Bits of Net What Are Good
BONWAG is sort of an overblown Weblog, though not really. And it offers the feeling of an Internet portal, yet it's nothing like one. My point is, this is what a family Web site should look like. I think. Anyway, it's my favorite!

Law for Kids - Magic 8 Ball
So why the last link is one to a virtual Magic 8 Ball? Because I love Magic 8 Ball! So much so I've written Magic 8 Ball chatbots. But mainly it's that I'm perplexed by why Magic 8 Ball is on the Law For Kids Web site. Is this how the judicial system goes about its decisions? The Magic 8 Ball says... "Seek professional help!"

Ah, thank you Magic 8 Ball.

*Sung to the tune of My Favorite Things, written by Oscar Hammerstein and Richard Rodgers. I prefer to steal from the best.

March 05, 2002
Fragments From the Memory Log, Entry Two

Remember G.I. Joe? Let me rephrase that: remember the real G.I. Joe. Not the Joe action figure who stands a mere 3 & 3/4" tall and dangles within a plastic wrapper display unit off a store wall. Not the Least Likely to Win a Medal of Honor Joe (as part of the G.I. Joe Delta Commando Action Response Team Unit Squad) who finds himself in a never ending hit and run accident with the effeminate, leather clad Cobra and his similarly, unprotectively-attired henchmen. What's up with Joe on that? I mean, take them out already! For crying out loud...

As a kid I had a G.I. Joe doll. A real one. Have no idea what happened to him along the way to adulthood (still striving at that after all these years, by the way). Joe likely ended his days down a garbage chute, or if there's some sense to the world, buried in a pit in a backyard of some forgotten neighborhood; after a last battle just like a real soldier might. My brothers and I were anything if not hard on our toys. And our clothes. And our rooms. You get the picture. There was a jeep for Joe along there somewhere, and various accessories befitting his war-like nature. All of it's gone now. Such is life. Such are toys.

I also had an Evel Kneivel doll, an exact duplicate to the Evel my younger brother asked for and received one Christmas. Except his came on a motorbike; mine went to the limit in the X-1 Sky Cycle. There was a time when heroes were people who did serious and important things like jump over cars and into canyons and things like that. Can't go far if you don't have heroes! We spent many a day with the twin Evels, treating them like mortal enemies, revving up their respective cycles and blasting them at each other. Amazing how much punishment some types of toys can live through. Pretty much like Evel.

And we had another sort of doll kit I no longer recall the name of. They were campers, or scouts, or forest rangers, or something along those lines. I figure they must have been an attempt at dolls for boys without all the killing and self-injury attached to other, cooler, much better selling dolls. Whatever their names were, they came with a great jeep of their own that had a rig up front providing a gear and pulley system, which they used to rip up dead tree roots and retrieve lost kittens in wells, I assume. We certainly never used it for such standard or humanitarian tasks as that. I'm not certain, but we may have ended up pulling the arms off those dolls.

Anyway guys, as rough and tumble boys we weren't actually playing with dolls, right?

March 04, 2002
Curriculum Voodoo

I'm updating my résumé, again. Nowadays, whether you're out of work or gainfully employed, you're forced to stand rigid and be fully prepared for those wildly swinging arms of the business market. So it never hurts to keep it fresh.

Going through mine can feel like an archaeological dig. Bits and fragments of former work lives emerge from the dust, nearly forgotten; and apparently from other, smarter people. I don't remember developing hiring procedures when running a small corner deli and convenience store (a.k.a. bologna and beer stop). I'm pretty sure the procedure was nothing more than looking over chicken-scrawled applications trying to guess which one hid enough talent to handle the slicer. When I supervised remaindered and sale books for a bookstore chain, I forget to mention it was a chain of four locations, the position was actually dumped in my lap, and it was a department of one: me. Considering I still had the title of Assistant Manager for one of the stores, at least I was supervising fellow employees in some capacity. Always a good one to persistently point out when going for those middle-management positions. Ick.

Do I lie on my rez? Well, answering the exact phrasing of that question, no, I don't lie. I do redefine honesty a bit. I phrase my activities and duties to better aim at a target job. I angle past performance for the best light. It's not hard to do. And sometimes, it's necessary.

I have to document a position as Manager of MIS (or MIS-Manager, as I prefer). But what the hell does it mean? If I don't go through excrutiating descriptions of what I actually did, it gets lost in the translation of a title like that. For example, I managed our Web group (all right, it was just me and a Webmaster). This involved the simplest of text changes to creating graphics to formulating new content to coding cgi scripts, and yes often required making the big decisions on things like layout and design. And it was many sites I watched over.

But having a résumé state the dry "I managed all aspects of the company's Web sites and online servicing of our customers and employees" says little of how I'd be awakened at five in the morning because something on our "home page" wasn't working (didn't matter it would turn out to be a problem our System Admin group dealt with, because guess who ended up explaining what was wrong and how to fix it?). Or that I'd spend an extra hour at work reformatting a press release to html. Or all the times I massaged information for our engineering and marketing and support groups (each required a different take on the data, naturally). It most definitely leaves out all those tools, techniques, and solutions I devised to the benefit of the company.

And none of it was part of the job description. Well, not until it hit my résumé.

March 03, 2002
My Favorite Atypical Favorite Categories

  • Favorite Non-Lethal Skin Disease: Eczema.

  • Favorite Lesser Known Saturday Night Live Alumnus: Tim Meadows (Tina Fey's a close second).

  • Favorite Way to Open Envelopes: Pluck out the top seam with a fingernail.

  • Favorite Capital Offense Punishment: Can't beat the controversy surrounding the electric chair!

  • Favorite Drug Addiction: Heroin (with a little Percodan dependence thrown in).

  • Favorite Popularly Disliked Musical Instrument: Harpsichord.

  • Favorite Finger Counting Method: Lift fingers in turn starting at index, finish with thumb.

  • Favorite Quality of Life Issue: Noise Pollution.

  • Favorite Zoological Word: Annelidous. Look it up!

  • Favorite Standard Movie Making Goof: When the boom mike moves into camera shot.

  • Favorite Bad Fast Food Hamburgers: Dairy Queen's. They're so bad, they're good.

  • Favorite Harmless Term For the Homeless: Rent Free!


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