Blurried Musings (a Kafkaesquí blog joint)
"If you can't annoy somebody, there is little point in writing."    Kingsley Amis
April 13, 2002

Thinking about it (briefly), one comes to realize that everything deserves to have it's own timeline, or at least we seem to accept that as fact. If there's a task people appear to like more than counting money, it's matching up past dates to events, fact and fiction, then organizing it all in non-arbitrary, columnar fashion. Wars, inventions, the sexual escapades of famous people, name it and you'll find someone somewhere has compiled a timeline for it. And an additional joy these days is to then put them up on the Web.

Most timelines (online or not) are typically fashioned to list the bits of knowledge schools are desperate to shove down our throats, somewhat useless now but nevertheless important date data for the Korean War or ancient Rome, but in my opinion the best ones to read are those the educational system never prepared us for, since they show more of the personality of the timeline creator. So a historical roadmap for toilet paper or the story telling chronology for the syndicated television show Xena: Warrior Princess are more likely to get me to stop and read a bit, for the human interest component in it, but also because I already know when Kodak sold their first camera (1888). So give me a good graphic showing the timeline for tea and NASCAR any day.

I'm unsure of what drives us to make these documents, as well as make them public, though I can piece together a few of the parts. There is the draw to summarize the details in some particular interest we hold, such as the lives of those we're inspired or fascinated by, both the heroes and the not so much. And we are obviously made of sturdy stuff that demands categories and lists and fast hooks into the information in our heads. What are the multi-volume works of history texts or biographies covering thousands of pages if not seriously over-pumped timelines. And finally, we love to share what we love, and we so do love to make timelines. If it wasn't true, would there be an entire Web site dedicated to the subject?

(Considering what can get a site, I'd rather scratch that last question.)

Just how fundamental is this need in us to create and use timelines? I can't say, but in terms of output compared to other forms of encylcopedic record taking, it's high up on the list. We surround ourselves with them. Even this blog's archive can be considered as a timeline of posts here; what a shame it traces events of such little account...

April 12, 2002
The World in XML

How the world should work in XML:

<?xml version="2.0" standalone="no">
<!DOCTYPE Encounter PUBLIC world.dtd>
<event xmlwns="x-schema:brief.xsd">
    <participant id="human" sub-id="adult" cat="guy">
        <statement type="question" mode="pleasant">
        Excuse me, but I only have a couple items and I'm
        paying by cash. Can I go in before you and those
        two carts full of groceries?
    <participant id="human" sub-id="adult" cat="mother">
        <statement type="reply" mode="pleasant">
        Of course. Please do.
    <participant id="human" sub-id="teenager" cat="stockboy">
        <statement type="interjection" mode="super-pleasant">
        Actually sir, we'll open up the next register for you.

How the world works now in XML:

<?xml version="2.0" standalone="no">
<!DOCTYPE Encounter PUBLIC world.dtd>
<event xmlwns="x-schema:blindered.xsd">
    <participant id="human" sub-id="adult" cat="mother">
        <statement type="meditative" mode="internal">
        I think I forgot the Cocoa Puffs.
    <participant id="human" sub-id="teenager" cat="stockboy">
        <statement type="stressed" mode="furtive">
        This cigarette display is good place to hide behind.
    <participant id="human" sub-id="adult" cat="guy">
        <statement type="pissed" mode="rhetorical">
        Why don't they have more registers open in this store...

April 11, 2002
Best Ways to Misspell "Kafkaesquí"

  • Kafkaesque

  • Kafka Esqui

  • Kafkaschmafka

  • Kafkayesky

  • Kafkaesqueezeme?

  • Kaffiyeh

  • Kafkaeschew (gezundheit)

  • Kafé Esprí

  • Kafka Din

  • Corfu isle

  • Kaffetti

  • KafkaASCII

April 10, 2002
Notetaker Detention

I have a fair memory for most things, and can usually provide adequate recollection on what was said (though the dialogue may be vague), or done (give or take motivating factors). Sometimes I can even attach a date to an event, if one allows rounding off to the year. I do have a good memory that time has yet to rob me of, but I'm not inclined towards that photographic-like talent where one rattles off data fit more for a column in an accountant's ledger. I'm rarely at the ready with a proper quotation during conversations, though I have been known to get lucky. Expectations on exact figures from me typically require some digging about through bookshelves, searching out the proper reference material. At least I know where to look, otherwise I'd really be lost.

Based on this, one probably wouldn't imagine I despise the art of taking notes. I am not one to accept the chore of secretary for any group, and can never be bothered to write down the minutes for a meeting. If you can't find it on my notepad when I walk into a conference room, chances are it won't be there when I step out for lunch. I try, I really do; I force my attention down on the page before me, and refuse to let the pen slip from my hand -- or worse, bounce playfully over my fingers. But anything I've scribbled will be nearly nonsensical, and even I'm hard put to decipher topics from my notes. Thing is, when I've taken them in a dedicated and clear manner, I benefit from what I've written. I just don't reach those heights often enough.

Maybe the problem is it feels too much like schoolwork. In most meetings there'll be an adult standing at a board on a wall, awkwardly writing out with a magic marker important points from their Powerpoint-ed presentation, and I slowly reach this deep emotional conviction there'll be a test on it tomorrow. All this is not to say I despised school to such a degree it's causing unwanted flashbacks, but I paid my educational dues (somewhat). I keep thinking "been there, done that, wore the school jersey". I love to learn, but on my own terms, and I see no reason to suffer through further grading semesters. So throughout adulthood I've built up a pretty effective firewall to anything remotely behaving like a school brush fire. Even short work-training sessions can cause painful migraines, but I've learned to live through that. Pain is easy; it's the discomfort that's hard to get used to.

And so the note taking phobia remains, even if I've found ways to work around it. Computer gadgets have always held sway over me, or at least when I'm making enough to afford them. Carrying around a handheld device instead of a pad of paper allows me to play up the chic geek look as well as diminish the loathing of ring-bindered pads. And a little notebook computer is a great way to type it all in while avoiding the pen to paper effect. It's a trick of taking notes without actually taking notes, and thankfully technology has helped some. You see, I hate the physical act of note taking, but I love information -- and that's the rub. I can't do without one if I want access to the other.

There's a sad, poetic twist in there somewhere.

April 09, 2002
Internet Advertising Under the Fingernails

Just received my first targeted "Purchase Me" email in regards to Blurried Musings, thanks in part to the advertiser's windfall it must represent. It was targeted in the sense the sender took enough time to dig up an appropriate address to post it to, and refers to the site directly. It's been up since late February, so they've been a bit slow in getting around to me. Then again, they're hoping to sell their particular genius at submitting things to search engines and directories (over 500,000 of them!), so that may go a way in explaining why they haven't come across this page sooner. Really should check up on that Google submission...

Though I know this type of unending, unsolicited bare-breasted marketing attack works enough of the time to make it worth their while, I often question it's long term effects. Not for the company foisting it upon us, as this is apparently the only way they know how to locate a profit margin. I mean its psychological results on us. There's a Chinese water torture feel to the constant drip drip drip of the Internet advertisement blitzkrieg. They want us to be taken in by the propaganda machine and buy buy buy. Sad they prefer to build a customer base constructed entirely of indoctrinated prisoners of war. These tactics may get them to where there's lots of our money in their bank accounts, but they also end up with a clientele no more loyal than a whipped dog on a spiked leash, and you never know when that angry mutt might turn around and bite them in the ass.

So it's more important to bombard us until we give up and give in then for them to sell their products or services based on simple issues of quality or merit. Or even need. And what a merry bunch of weary consumers we have become due to this attitude. Just try to avoid screaming when you lose it on the rack.

Anyway, I'll admit the email advert they've sent me is impressive, and goes to some lengths to prop up a very pretty screen shot of my page in the lingering HTML attachment. If I had read it with interest I may have been taken in. Must be a sad thing for ad wizards to hear I only gloss over Webified content in email messages -- when I look at it at all -- before pounding the Delete key. Think of all the man-minutes they've got in this, as well as the time spent going over placement of images and content with their focus group (no doubt a few less than perceptive employees from Sales). And the software suite they used to cobble this beautiful email billboard together must have cost marketing a good percentage of their budget for the year. Yes, you've done some nice work here guys.

* Delete *

It's always a relief when you fix the drip.

April 08, 2002
Fragments From the Memory Log, Entry Five

There are key moments from my youth that stick out like lightning bugs in the summer darkness of an open field. Some are turning points in my life, great and small, while others appear to be blinking bright only by happenstance. For all these encephalic frames of time, my brain is an efficient neural Web search engine displaying the most important and relevant clickthroughs to each memory at the top of the recall list, all quite unlike the murky quagmire of poor results and invalid links it typically generates.

Some of these collectible recollections are from quite early on. I've mentioned to my family how I can see myself at some point continually crying and crying (and crying), really getting into it for a lengthy period, barely stopping for breath through it all. Now good old Mom says the only time she knows of that describes something like this is, when I was nearly six months of age, we had taken a trip by plane to see her family, and I bawled nearly the entire two hours it took. Wonderfully fascinating to know I was that child everyone despises having along on an inland flight. And I couldn't shake away if I wanted to a picture of this meandering chasm of a crack in a plaster wall of the bedroom my brother and I shared before I reached the age of three. Why would I remember with clarity a mere crack in a wall? Why not.

Fortunately most remembrances are a bit further along in the birth to death timeline and provide stronger points of reference. I can fully picture the moment when on my own, I learned how to tie a bow, as one does with shoelaces. The whole scene still stands out clear: It's night and I'm on a dirt mound in our backyard in early spring, the bright beam of the porch light signaling out over the new grass. There's a group of fellow kids around me playing kickball (or one of a number of neighborhood variations). I'm acting goalie for my team, but as is typical for our versions of the game, there's a long period where I have no real involvement. So I begin lazily tugging the pull strings to the hood on my jacket, and before I realize what I'm doing, I've tied them! I know this has to be a mistake, so I untie and try again... and it works! So I tie my shoes! And I grab a friend (nearly ripping his feet from him) and tie his shoes! Then I go in the house and tie my dad's shoes! Few moments in my life have equaled the level of joy I felt then. Even sex has trouble reaching that height, though I give it every opportunity.

And there are instances which, though they appear critical enough to leave hard afterimages on my memory's retina, aren't appropriate for storage under anything but the Strange/Misc. file. One that's long intrigued me, and shows a little of what lengths memory will go to remain way to the side of normality, is this: I'm standing near an alley, not too far from where I picked up the skill of tying, and watch for thirty seconds as rain comes down in sheets, but on the other side and half-way across the gravel of the back street. It literally fails to move beyond the exact middle of that alley for a full half-a-minute, and then one second later the rain is all around and drenching me.

I was in awe of that image as it happened. I still am. And it will stay up in my head somewhere, next to the laces and the cracks and the crying, and all the other little firefly moments, all mixed up together yet easily navigable. Seems to be a lot of room up there.

April 07, 2002
Fortune Cookie Local #213

Discovered in a recent fortune cookie:

We, the writers of Chinese fortune cookie fortunes like the one you now hold, find it appalling that our generous wishes, tidings of joy, and forecasts for future love and well-being go mainly unheeded. We do not spend our days composing these documents with the intention they be tossed ... continued on back

... into ashtrays and trashbins at the completion of your meal. These are important proclamations, affecting your lives and livelihoods, and you avoid them at your peril. Please be aware of this in the future. A kind heart is a gift to all. Lucky Numbers - 10, 22, 23, 26, 38, 40

Fortune Cookie Writers Union


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