Blurried Musings (a Kafkaesquí blog joint)
"If you can't annoy somebody, there is little point in writing."    Kingsley Amis
May 04, 2002
Kafkaesquí's Take On Creation

If I believed in a God, and accepted the outlandish claim of how He created the world and everything else around us, here's why I would imagine He must have gone to all that trouble...

Before the beginning there was nothing but peace and quiet, which is the way God likes it. Take a look in the Old Testament at how He milks vengeance from any noisy community, which was the planet's entire population in one instance, and you see what I mean. Then one day -- or then having no calculated period partitioned by the movement of a luminous ball of gas in the sky, an amount of time's passage roughly a day in duration -- God turned His mind to a bit of tinkering, and finished up inventing the heavens and the earth. Now there's something to make Thomas Edison's output appear as little more than a quick stroll past the workshop.

Then God took on some poorly documented labors to cause things like grass, the seasons, baboons, iced tea, and AOL Time Warner to slip into existence. With all the stuff that had to be done, it's not hard to see why He chose to take some time off soon thereafter. Can't you just see God huddled on His bed under a big, cozy comforter, maybe reading through the Sports section of the New York Post? Doubtful the crossword ever challenged Him. But God, the original Mr. Work Ethic, quickly went back to taking care of business. I don't need much to recognize a fellow Type A personality with far too much on their to-do list. But considering the title and office location, I don't think anyone would refuse Him the chance to sleep in every now and then. To me it sounds like a great opportunity for offerings of an alarm clock with a snooze option.

Since that first week God, for reasons He's never really discussed, has tended to avoid the production of things for Himself out of thin air. So to come to where a snooze button exists, one needs to set things in motion, hence the necessity to create the earth with all the accouterment, then mold humans into life, and finally shoulder up a civilization that leads to an electronics market. Following this plan of action, in time you will get digital clocks with a multi-setting delay on the alarm. May be a very roundabout way to net such a small feature, but He seems to be filled with infinite patience when an issue doesn't involve who is praying to what god.

Now some may argue God had no need for an alarm clock before creating everything, including time, so my Purpose of Creation theory is seriously flawed; but I must indicate that God, who is always stipulated to be the omniscient force around here, knows what He'll need at any given point long before it's required He know it. Being all-knowing must be a major boon for whenever you need to plan ahead.

So the goal behind Creation is so God can enjoy that time between sleep and getting out of bed. Yes, I know it sounds absurd. At least it's somewhat practical.

May 03, 2002
Dweeb vs. Nerd

Most of us have stumbled into those long, drawn out theoretical to the death skirmish of words cooked up by the fan base of competing fictional beings or technologies: Superman vs. Batman; Star Wars vs. Star Trek; the Professor from Gilligan's Island vs. MacGyver. Some of you may even take part in them. I myself have done my best to stay out of these slugfests, though I'm certain the aliens from the Alien movies would kick ass over the aliens from the Predator movies. I mean, get real -- those guys bleed acid! In any case, I've decided to drop my defenses and list here who I believe would most likely come out on top in a few of the lesser considered dreamed-up Battle Royals.

Moby Dick vs. Jonah's Whale (from the Bible)

Though it's hard to go against God on something like this, I've got to be in Melville's corner this once. Biblical scholars still debate whether Jonah's catch of the day was truly a whale or just a really big tuna, and I'm not sure the ambiguity works in its favor. Also, its only engagement of note involved swallowing a bellyaching pessimist, whereas Moby goes about whacking ships and seaman to their doom while they try and kill it with the best whale slaughtering technology of their day. One could call Moby Dick the cetacean Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Olivier's Hamlet vs. Gibson's Hamlet

Avoiding arguments on the basis of acting caliber, I'm on Gibson's side for a Hamlet wrestling double-up. Olivier could certainly swing that blade, but his Hamlet was far too wispy and -- risking the bite of politically correct watchdogs everywhere -- effeminate to pull off a strong arm attack against his more powerful twin. Besides, I think Gibson might go into his Moe Howard crazy-talk stratagem to confuse Olivier long enough to where he could pick him up and toss him off the side of the castle.

Hobbits vs. Smurfs

This is a hard contest to make a choice on. On the one hand, you have the blue Lilliputians with a brilliant Papa Smurf heading a well organized fighting team, but their only nemesis is the boorish Gargamel, and they could never figure out how to finish him for good. The big-footed Hobbits as a whole are far too much like Brits on a weekend holiday, though they fared pretty well in their match up against Ultimate Evil's right-hand man. I'll begrudgingly give this to the Hobbits, but I think they'd end with major losses on their side. Not necessarily a bad thing.

C vs. C++

Without a doubt, C++ would win. I'm not even sure C could make it past the first round, and not just because it's now little more than a subset of C++ these days. Nor is it an issue of C having to defer to C++ when it comes to programming power and extensibility. No, it's that C++ looks so much like an emoticon for working the weights. You've got to be one tough high-level language to pull that off for so long.

Mathematicians vs. Physicists

I'm going to give the upper hand to the mathematicians here. Much like the tension between dentists and "real" doctors, I think the long period with physicists look down upon them has taken it's toll, so they're ready for payback. And let's be honest, which group of brainiacs is going to have more time on their hands for taking stuff like kick boxing lessons, the ones keeping the particle accelerators running? No way.

(If I ever visit this topic again, I'll discuss at some length the well known Barney vs. H. R. Pufnstuf controversy.)

May 02, 2002
Religious Convulsion

Apparently religion has again hit a bad patch in the road. The Christian far right is demanding ever more control over everyone's moral compass, especially that of the non-Christian; a now notorious group of Muslim fundamentalists has discovered ways to make extremism appear even less attractive than it already was; and let's not forget the devilish and sickening sexual escapades of certain Catholic priests. Browsing through newspapers these days is like picking up an uncorrected proof of Bad Faith for Dummies. If I was a hardened believer, I'd be wondering when the righteous hand of God is going to leave the universal steering wheel and reach out to smack the lot of us.

Though most of the names have changed, none of the plot is new (and like any old Western serial, the locations are surprisingly familiar). Religion has had far more than its share of misapplication and scandal. Like any operation managed by hypothetically enlightened human beings, it's open wide to a great deal of abuse. But when mishandling happens in the name of the Ultimate Deity, it lends itself far more easily to both the absolute corruption of those in positions of power, and the horrific misdeeds mindlessly performed by all. It's interesting how when we assume something done in His name is just, we see no reason to sweat the moral stuff. Interesting because when words strictly forbidding such things are held as precepts to be followed without question, they're quickly tossed aside when the faithful are up against heathen barbarian infidels. When the fight is on against the outsider, all sacramental bets are off.

Can anyone else see a pattern of behavior here akin to the vast corporate bungling of recent times, such as with ENRON? Whatever it takes to expand the company's sphere of influence, get the stock price up, and keep the investors happy -- this is all it's about. I see little intrinsic difference between the two, except maybe the CEO of Belief Industries isn't as vocal about not knowing what the minions in His company were up to. Perhaps unlike most corporate heads, he actually takes responsibility. One could say He's a Harry S. Truman of the heavens. More the shame He doesn't speak out on this topic.

I wish someone would come up with an answer to all the nonsense, other than the standard one of creating yet another unvarying modus operandi of belief. One would think after all this time watching ourselves slice and shoot and blow up and screw our neighbors due only to how we differ in our religious sensibilities, we'd have started to look for something better, or at least less demanding of such an outrageous toll. Maybe it's because we're creatures of habit. William James said "habit" is society's most precious conservative agent. So perhaps religions aren't founded on spiritual revelation, but through an inherent command to retain the mode of an ancient mannerism, even as it's affected in new tongues. I wouldn't put it past us to have the originations of something so lofty be derived from an element of ourselves which is so base.

Anyway, I wonder if frontline atheists now prefer to sit around in bars getting drunk and throwing peanuts at each other, because during times like these, winning disputes with religious adherents must be so easy it's not worth bothering.

May 01, 2002
Why My Dreams Suck (Now)

I can remember some seriously loopy dreams from when I was young. My unconscious certainly played around with many of the standard Jungian plot twists, such as flying, or invincibility, or having sex in weird places. Thanks to the psychological effect growing up in the tornado waistcoat of the Midwestern US, I had to deal with twisters roaring down on our house at least once a month (fortunately it was only in my sleep). And I had my share of the more universal fears take shape in my nightmares, like losing a loved one, or enduring a nuclear attack, or discovering oneself naked in school. That last one never bothered me as much as it does others. But as I said, more than a few of my dreams took routes somewhat further off the beaten path.

A recurring one involved having my family abducted by extraterrestrials, and my furtive attempts to reach them on the alien spacecraft. The story line changed slightly for each rendering, so in one only my parents were taken, in another I was somehow aided by law-enforcement officials. The only constant feature throughout these serially replayed dreams is how they'd slowly work towards but never reach a successful movie-ish conclusion, where I, the Hero, get to rescue my kidnapped relations, escape from the craft, and narrowly avoid being caught in it's destruction -- which I'd have been responsible for, though there's no exposition on how I came by explosives. This series of dreams is less evidence my household experienced visitations of a nature Whitley Strieber drums on about, and more a release of childhood angst strained through an overdose on Hollywood SciFi Movies.

There are other, much stranger ones, some so disjointed and disconnected from any reality on Earth or in my head they evade any method of description. The complication in this for me is not that I experienced such dreams, but that I've lost the ability somewhere along the way to adulthood to generate these unusual nighttime narratives (with or without a trailable plot).

Grownup dreams can be deep, interesting, scenic, electric, all-consuming, generously pornographic, and occasionally worthy of contemplation. But the issues I deal with and the adventures I end up on have become far too grounded on the boring side of the reality marker. I'm not sought after to battle aliens or required to run from monsters. Instead I stumble across challenges not much larger than a typical work ethic or critical family matter. Locations may sometimes be unique or previously unknown to me, long dead relatives can return to life and start walking and talking with unusual vigor, and my hairline may magically revert to a pre-deforested state; but I no longer wake from a dream and find myself saying in complete bemusement "what in Hell was that all about?" I might worry over the meaning behind some nonsensical event, or that my ex-wife was living with me (never sure if this represents a nightmare, or something altogether else), but the fantastical and truly weird have vacated my sleeping self. I can think it, but I don't desire to dream it, and I miss that.

However, there is one good thing about my dreams now: I don't wake up from the bad ones having pissed my pants. Strange how our adult fears seem that scary only while we're awake.

April 30, 2002
Technological Apathy from the Other Side

I'm visiting Google for a fourth time since setting up Blurried Musings just over two months ago, to convince them to list me. Each time I submit my URL I'm in essence requesting the honor of a visit, annoying them to do a quick seek-crawl through my site and gather whatever data they require so they'll list me. Each time I do this seven to ten days will pass before it appears under queries on the Google site, which I notice because of the referral hits I start to get from there. But a few days later, maybe a week's worth, it vanishes from their index, and I'm off again handing in my link. This is starting to feel like begging.

I can't say why I drop out of favor with Google on a regular basis. It could be that the site remains hosted on blog*spot. There's literally hundreds of thousands of individual blogs squatting here, and perhaps the good folk in Google middle-management feel avoiding a permanent knowledge of them is a good thing. I know some search engines do this with huge free hosting sites like Geocities.

Certainly many of the "family values" inspired Web filtering companies prefer to block access to entire online communities like Geocities or Tripod en masse. Presumedly it's too much and too frequently changing to try and keep track of it all. That it smacks of discriminatory bias obviously doesn't faze them a bit. It's a rule of returns: if you have a vast menagerie of morally questionable Web pages (I defer the point that many remove all doubt) buried in an even greater collection of sites, you either go broke hiring the gargantuan staff required to sort through them all and verify those allowed under your guidelines, or you just stop listing their entire virtual city on your maps. I understand the motivation, but a prejudiced snubbing is no worse when the reasons behind it are purely dispassionate, technical ones.

Dealing with crap like this is all the harder for me, as I've worked behind the scenes in an environment where a paramount task was finding ways to handle the hordes of Netizens. At those times when something tilts a large network with a larger user base, you need the when and the where (and the how; always the how), and it comes down to knowing where users were when the problem occurred, and what they were doing that screwed it up. An important question for businesses with a modicum of concern over privacy issues, as well as the demands in housing all that data, is how to track someone's comings and goings without actually keeping track. The optimal point between managing too much information and too little is -- to understate it -- not an easy one to locate.

And it can't be done with just people. Actually, it probably can't be done with us at all. We've come to rely on computers to perform the horribly nitty-gritty in our everyday workloads, whether or not they do it well. That they do it fast is all that matters, because it comes down to the fact that we have way too much information floating around for us to take in and manipulate successfully without unbelievably fast and nimble minds. Computers are now the nearly permanent subs for us in that capacity. Not in all areas; not yet. But when they are slipped in, by default they are expected to take over much of the critical thinking involved in wielding that information as well. As long as the work gets done, right? At least we have more free time.

Some folks worry over a future time when computers will run the world. I'm stuck trying to convince them that time is already here. They just happen to be as indifferent and stupid about it as we were. In a way, it's comforting to know that.

April 29, 2002
Seldom Used Debate Methods

  • "I'm right because God said it in the Bible."

  • "That's not what your girlfriend told me in bed last night."

  • "I'd refute the speaker's statement if she wasn't such a butthead."

  • "How much will it cost to beat the other team?"

  • "A numerological examination of your point says..."

  • "If I don't win I'm leaving, and the podium goes with me!"

  • "Pick a card."

  • "Pretend I just said a bunch of very well reasoned stuff."

  • "I will now fart my rebuttal."

  • "My Dad, who works at a thinktank, says my opponent's points are stupid."

  • "The gun in my pocket should make my argument crystal clear."

  • "Logic schmogic."

April 28, 2002
Getting Old(er)

I am on a cusp in my personal chronology. I've been here for a while now, and likely won't pass beyond it for a few more years. It's a strange place: it doesn't put me quite at the point I can claim as middle age; it refuses to offer much that could ready a passage from the remnant mindset of those youthful ideals; it's sometimes painful, both from a psychological concern and in the creaks and aches my body is taking on; and it's a period I've had discussed with me very little. Would have been nice if it had been well provided for by a full library of reference works to read up on. However, there's some markers I've stumbled upon that delineate this territory, in case you're in search of a boundary.

I recently cracked a molar to the point where a small piece broke away. The cause was not from slipping off a bike, or having a player of the opposing team run an elbow into my jaw, or even a case of falling flat on my face while reaching for the television remote. No, it was from chewing on a slice of bread. That's right, a cracked tooth due to biting into a baked good. That it was French bread is not a helpful addendum to the story. When I look at the section that snapped off, it's not a blackened and rot-worn segment. I apparently lost a filling, and the tooth just decided to break around the remaining gap. Not a young person tale, nor an aged one. Hard to explain to most dentists as well, I assume.

At this longetivity crossing, I find it simple to recall what it was like to be a kid, yet look with grim, patronizing amazement over all the things they don't seem to know or care about. And (if you're Christian and celebrate the holidays) remember the way you used to react waking Christmas morning to the anticipation of presents? Maybe you still get this way, but then you should have stopped reading this a while back. People my age wake on December 25, and after the first twenty minutes spent regaining consciousness, tend only to desire it come to an end quickly. Another possible signal light is that I'm getting used to the crackling noise generated by flexing my joints. Or maybe I'm just learning to ignore the fact that hip replacement is in my future.

This... thing I'm balancing on. Is it a place, or a passage? I can't say, but it totters at the center of a seesaw of aging, from where I locate myself as the young, still-working-the-whole-mess-out adult I was, and the further along, sometimes nap-inclined and crotchety fellow I now am. Somewhere on the way to here the two mixed into an undefinable and partly edible broth. There's a warm and subtle equilibrium that works upon this soup, which I've come to vaguely appreciate.

It's starting to feel like I'm becoming an old person, but I don't seem to mind. In fact, I kind of enjoy it. I'm guessing that impression doesn't last long.


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