Blurried Musings (a Kafkaesquí blog joint)
"If you can't annoy somebody, there is little point in writing."    Kingsley Amis
May 18, 2002
Sentences I Never Want to Hear (Again)

  • "Why do you think we should hire you?"

  • "I know I wasn't supposed to do this, but..."

  • "You're the kind of guy I'd date, if I was single."

  • "Are you questioning my authority?"

  • "Hey, that's not a Tic Tac!"

  • "I bet you've thought about hair transplantation."

  • "Why don't you call more often?"

  • "It's fixed, but it cost a lot more then we estimated."

  • "The unemployment office is that way."

  • "We've run out of funds for your department."

  • "Do you have enough life insurance?"

  • "That wasn't very funny."

May 17, 2002
A Conversation With Orley

O: "I have a gift for you Kaf."

K: "What? It's -- it's not my birthday or anything."

O: "No, and it isn't a birthday kind of gift."

K: "Well thanks, Orley. That's real nice. I don't think you've ever given me anything before."

O: "No? Well, now I can say I have."

K: "What is it?"

O: "It's a gift I give out of a deep appreciation. For the gift, that is. It's a thing everyone will someday have given to them, and I'm honored to be the first to give it. That it's you is a very small part of my interest in the act."

K: "...And the gift is?"

O: "I've got you anticipating, don't I? That's good, because it's a gift that stands at a caliber demanding anticipation. One might even say..."

K: "Orley!"

O: "It's a philosophy. That is, it's the beginnings of one. And it's yours. I give it to you."

K: "Really?"

O: "Yes."

K: "Really."

O: "It's quite true. No need to thank me, though you may."

K: "Orley, I'm not sure where to begin."

O: "You're overcome. I expected that."

K: "I'm definitely over something, but not what you think."

O: "Now I get the feeling you don't want it."

K: "I wouldn't... No, never mind. What's the name of this philosophy you're giving me?"

O: "Well you see Kaf, it's not exactly a philosophy I can name for you."

K: "Say again?"

O: "It doesn't have a name. It does exist, but it's not narrowly defined by some academic label."

K: "Ah. And how exactly do I come to know this philosophy if I don't have a name for it?"

O: "That's an overly pedantic stance for someone like you to take, Kaf."

K: "Maybe."

O: "No need to be defensive. Let me explain: it's an open-ended philosophy, designed to allow for growth and change, and even it's own removal and replacement if need be. I realized one of the ongoing problems with any mode of intellectual inquiry and discourse is they're all narrowly defined to fulfill certain tenets. They build in rules and posit moral and other kinds of strictures based on some doctrine. Why, even refusing a moral code is a form of defining oneself. I wanted a philosophy that could avoid being cubby holed."

K: "Orley, this is sounding less like a philosophy and more like a lack of one."

O: "No, it is a philosophy. You know Plato's version of Socrates' name for a true absence? The 'unexamined life'. I can't say if such a life truly isn't worth living, as it's a serious lock-in my new philosophy steps around entirely."

K: "Look Orley, I'm not sure what the point of this is?"

O: "It's to give you something that fulfills a promise all great philosophies throughout the ages have claimed for themselves but failed to provide."

K: "And that is?"

O: "To know the underlying principles of the universe, of course."

K: "Of course. And your philosophy does this thing all others have previously failed at."

O: "Yes."

K: "How?"

O: "By transparency."

K: "Transparency. Orley, you do know what that word means, right? Your philosophy is see-through."

O: "Funny, Kaf. What I mean by transparency is a lack of purposeful or accidental obfuscation."

K: "Right."

O: "To tie oneself into a particular method of thought is to chance looking past the real truths, because they might not fit into the boxed categories you've set up for them."

K: "Right."

O: "That's why I say it works by transparency. Try to think of it as a window, in that it's there only to let you see out of it. Or in through it. But remember, it's not a window."

K: "Right. Well, I must say Orley, this is the biggest gift load anyone has ever dumped on me."

O: "Yes?"

K: "For sure. But I hope you don't mind when I fail to thank you properly."

O: "Not at all. It's pretty much the way my philosophy is supposed to work."

May 16, 2002
Weblog Proposals

I may be in the market soon for a new Weblog (an additional one, not to replace Blurried Musings), and towards figuring a nice blog project to take up, I scouted out some of the various categories of online journals which exist. I lack sufficient desire for a vertically scrolling log of my day -- I don't even keep a normal paper and pen diary, and am not attracted to the idea a publicly bared version. As for news and opinion link journals, there are quite enough floating about in the electronic pool; I see no need to throw in another inner tube. And though I have a lot of interests, I'm not keen to manage a special topic or knowledge blog. It's enough work just trying to think of things to post here.

As I was left empty-handed in my investigations, I thought up some possible matters of subject that may be viable as fodder for a Weblog. Try not to assume you'll see me publish any of these -- I'm just brainstorming. And if you find a topic worth pinching, then have at it. But do give a shout out when it's up and running.

Stalker Weblog

Don't mean to sound ominous, but couldn't think of a better name. A Stalker Weblog would encompass a constant reference and referral to someone else's blog. When a post shows on theirs, I post right after, commenting on what they wrote. They see a movie and post a review, I review their impressions. They provide a link, I link to that section. I guess it would take a deep, abiding fascination in the Weblog or its author to keep this going. Or just an unsound mind. It could also freak out the individual or group behind the blog being monitored, once it's known. Something tells me getting an OK from them first is a smart move, but that would kind of ruin the fun for me.

Out the Window Weblog

I find this a great Weblog concept. Think of it as the blogging equivalent of a Web cam: I look out the window, and post what I see. I live in a downtown environment, so I'd hardly be starved for activities going on past my windows, and never at a loss for something to post. I might even dig into a readership niche only tapped by your standard type of online diary: the voyeur. The only issue arising from this I can see is how I'd risk leaving an impression of being a shut-in, or in serious need of a life.

Plagiarism Weblog

The name should say it all: I go out on the Net, find absorbing entries in other blogs, and borrow them. This one is similar to "Out the Window", in how it's a desperate attempt to avoid writer's block. In fact, it misses on all the problems of writing in one fell swoop. If I'm smart about it, I'd bookmark a bevy of regularly updated but obscure blogs, unknown to any search engine. Not as hard to collect as one might think. Even so, all that extraneous digging through Weblogs for a usable tidbit seems like work, and that's an activity I'd be trying to avoid with a racket like this.


This would be a blog that refers only to itself and the little problems of writing an online journal... On second thought, most of them already do this. Forget it.

May 15, 2002
When You Said I Couldn't...

...Did you mean I won't be allowed to? Because really, I don't see where the limitations lie, not really. And I've looked hard; but I'm quite happy missing them, since I rattle against boundaries. Lines are drawn to circumscribe a standard way of thinking or behaving. Stepping over that line is an act. Sometimes one of courage, more often one of pure stupidity that's liable to get me in deep. But testing the boundaries is useful, even when I fail and screw myself in the process. Yes, it sucks when it comes to that, but there's a lot of stuff in life that does -- including the things I can do that I'm actually allowed to. So tell me, how is this any different? How is it better?

...Did you mean I don't have the ability? Well sorry, but I refuse to stick close only to those things I know or was told I have a talent for. I prefer to play, to experiment, to go out on a limb and reach for that sweeter fruit; much of my best works and experiences come from taking the side road I previously avoided. I like the feeling of jumping right in instead of waiting to be picked. I enjoy the rush of demanding more of myself than I thought I could accomplish. Scary? Most definitely. Hurts when I fall? More than I can say. I can end up worse off than if I took the well mapped road. No one was ever fired buying IBM, right? Well, that was true, once upon a time. Things don't stay the same.

...Did you mean it's not worth trying? Please tell me that's not what you meant. I've never been good at psychic prediction, and so I could never peer into the future to deign what was and what wasn't the right path to travel. When did you pick up the talent? Maybe your experience puts you in a better place to make judgments about this. I can't say. But if I stop here, it's for sure I'll learn nothing, and that to me is more terrible than getting to the end and finding nothing there. And you know, sometimes I'm all about the trip, not the destination. It's amazing what advantage I gain paying attention to the playing field, instead of simply focusing on the goal. I want the experience as well as the accomplishments. Otherwise it all tastes flat.

...Did you mean something would come along and bite me in the ass? Well, that's always been a given.

May 14, 2002
Street Signs of Aging

As I get older, it's become impossible for me to fail noticing those slight but ongoing modifications to mind and body, especially in what I think about, or the tasks I can or can't perform, or the ever larger maneuvering room I require to negotiate a walking turn. Thankfully it's not bent spine, Ben Gay, and rocking chairs for me yet, but it's no longer a very long trip to the orthopedic aisle of the local drug store. Yet, this getting old part doesn't interest me all that much; what does is the comparison between how I see the world now, and how I used to, which time being what it is, is not all that long ago.

For example, what I look for (and at) in a woman has changed. Not a whole lot if one makes a summary examination, hitting on my tastes in hair color (auburn), or body type (medium build), or brains (yes). Nonetheless, the bend in this road is noticeable to me. For one thing, many of the characteristics that attract me to a woman have been downgraded. Umm, I assume that doesn't read how I meant it, so let me expand: Every woman who turns my head doesn't have to be jelled from a supermodel mold. It's not that they did before, but juxtaposing the version of me at age twenty and the version of me now, the percentage of women who I become smitten for has dipped quite a bit in the hot sex goddess column.

Young cynics would claim I've become less discriminating, and for good reason; I'm hardly the best catch flopping around in the boat, and the reality of that must have worn out the dials in my mating Geiger counter. To that charge I only answer in the affirmative. But it hasn't increased the number of entries in my to-date checklist, only what goes into it. I'll avoid a definitive statement on whether I want more or less from a woman, but I know what I look for is more in-depth, more sure of my needs, than the categories I devised previous. If one is willing to learn, then living through almost half a lifetime, one marriage, and a fair share of dating experiences give plenty of helpful indices and footnotes on what makes for better items in that list.

In an area less focused on the rutting drive (though ironically, it does lead into this), I also see how I've mutated when it comes to interacting with young people. That I actually use the phrase "young people" and think of them as "other" is a good demonstration of that change. I may hold my tongue towards their behavior, or habits, or questionable music tastes, but the thoughts still reel in my mind. This is all the more strange to me when it comes to my aging alterations, as I've never lost the memory of what it's like to be young, as so many adults seem to. I'm still one in many ways, but then what guy isn't?

What probably alienates me from today's youth is that I slip too easily into knowing teacher mode, which is a hard act to pull off with kids of any age. They think they know everything. We did too. So did our parents. Some of us get caught in this mode and move on to politics. I know both intellectually and empirically there's no fundamental difference between a kid now and what I used to be. Youth, teens, the young: all the same under the skin -- or historical period, even if their surroundings demanded more of them. The dividing line drawn between us is a mere few decades in width, but is no more passable than a walnut-sized kidney stone. They are reckless brats and aimless reprobates, and we are narrow-minded, opinionated jackasses. Their views sure bring back a lot of memories.

Being old is not being aged, though it can be, while everything old is new again. Don't tell the kids that.

May 13, 2002
A Brief Story Interlude (The Taciturn Terrier)

There is a village so small and so far off the routes people take, that most maps fail to list it. This doesn't bother the citizens of the village, as they're proud all the same. Among those things the citizens take pride in, such as their ability to do the fairest day's work in their fields, or how the sun glimmers off the village pond, the two they are most proud of are these: the crops they grow, and the terriers they breed.

Among the special breed of terrier only raised in the village, there's one that goes by the name of Swat. Swat is as proud of being a terrier as the citizens are proud of their village. He's proud not just for the breed of terrier he is, which as the citizens assure him is a best kind to be, but how everyone says that among terriers, he's unique. What is it about Swat that makes him so unusual for a terrier? It's that he's never made a sound.

The citizens like to put on friendly contests between each other, such as what day the crops will reach harvest, or who can throw a beer bottle the farthest. But by far the most popular contest, since it includes everyone, is who among them will finally hear Swat bark, or whelp, or whine, or growl, or rumble down deep in his stomach. Thanks in large part to the contest, a major hobby of the village is to try and make Swat bark, or whelp, or whine, or growl, or get indigestion, doing just about anything that will elicit a sound.

For this reason Swat is the most popular terrier in the village. Every day for him is a near endless one of chase, and play, and belly scratches, and amusement as he watches the citizens trying to get him to bark, and of course lots and lots of tasty morsels to eat. If it wasn't for all the chasing and play, he would no doubt be a very fat dog.

So it was chance that put Swat out in the fields so late that one fateful day, when normally he'd be chasing or playing with the children as they left school. Instead, he was the only terrier in the fields when the locusts flew in. At first there were but a few, but over a matter of minutes there were dozens, then hundreds, then seemingly thousands. The citizens in the fields were racked by a horrible fear for their crops. This was an infestation of such magnitude they knew only the help of every citizen from the village would rid them of it.

One of the citizens sat next to Swat. "Run as fast as you can," he said to the terrier, "and get all the citizens, every last one, to come back here as quick as possible." Then he realized who he was talking to. "I know you don't make sounds Swat, but please, you must, just this once. It's the only way you'll get everyone's attention so they'll come out and save the crops!" Even though Swat was unsure of himself, he nuzzled up to the citizen to assure him he was the dog to do this, then darted off towards the village.

When Swat arrived in the village square, he attempted something he wasn't sure he could do. But as the fear of the locusts and loss of their crops grew in his mind, he knew he must do it. And so Swat did do it. He began to bark. Then he started to whelp. Soon the whining came of its own accord, while the growling emerged without warning. And even from somewhere low in his belly, a strange droning noise rolled out of him. He was doing it!

All through the noise, the citizens came out. Such a commotion had never been heard in the quiet of the village square before, and to have such a ruckus coming from a normally silent little dog was more than they could have expected. They ran to Swat and patted him on his head, while several started to fight over who actually heard him first. Meanwhile, Swat went on howling and moaning and making any and every noise he could.

Soon the square was filled with every citizen, hooting and throwing themselves in the air. Swat chased them back and forth, nipping at their heels, doing what he hoped would get the citizens to go into the fields, but the more he ran the more noise he made, and the more noise he made the more the citizens whooped it up. He chewed at someone's legs, but they just reached down and scratched him behind his ears. He grabbed at another's shirt tail, desperate to drag him to the fields if he had to, but being a terrier he could no more move the citizen than a mouse could move Swat. And all the while there were those Godforsaken sounds!

On it went, Swat running about and doing what he could to get the citizens' attention, but getting the kind of attention he didn't want or need. Finally after what felt like ages to Swat, now nearly hoarse from the barking, one of the citizens from the fields made it to the square. Sweating and breathing so heavy it was obvious he'd ran all the way, he got out through gasping breaths that the locusts were now everywhere, and the crops were surely lost. And slowly but surely, as his words sunk in, everyone in the square, all the citizens of the village, began to wail.

Through it all, Swat could be heard uncontrollably yapping and snarling and baying. But as he did, Swat thought of only one thing: when he finally was able to stop, he would never, ever again make another sound.

May 12, 2002
Robot Toilets

Wait a minute, what's the date? It's the year 2002 Anno Domini by the old Gregorian calendar, correct? That would put us far enough into the Twenty-First Century for me to start wondering. Not in general, but about why we are so far behind schedule with those fantastic bits of technology we were told to expect round about this time. Popular Mechanics and other slick, forward looking publications used to slather on about these things to get us anxious for someone to invent, build, and sell them on the open market. It's what I used to get a metaphorical hard-on about long before I knew what a literal one was meant for.

Where are the robots? I mean the real ones: where is the highly-motivated, self-actualized machine that washes your car, takes your dog for a walk, and prepares a tasty pasta dinner for five, all while it calculates your income tax payments for the next seven years? It was explained these electronic wonders would by the start of the century walk and talk and react to our every whim with nary a complaint. It's possible the futurists got it a little wrong, and a robot's mobility will be based on wheels, or tracks, or four instead of two legs, much as the pet-like Sony Aibo has. But the Aibo can't take out the trash, nor will it any time soon -- though it probably looks very determined as it watches you do it. In any case, it doesn't meet the criteria for a real robot, so we'll consider it a crude and ineffectual prototype, albeit a cute one.

And what about the jet pack? Everyone should remember the film of a guy in a business suit strapping this to his back and popping off for a jaunty hover. Jet packs were going to revolutionize personal travel, and make bumper to bumper traffic a thing of the past. Never mind that they'd cause a different, air-based, more dangerous version of congestion. No one said progress was going to be safe. I'm quite aware of how fuel consumption never made them all that feasible, and that they burn off propellent so fast you can't get further than the curb without sputtering to a halt. The point is, no one ever mentioned how big a task creating a real-world product would turn out to be, but they spent lots of time promising individual jet transport would be a reality. So dammit, I want one!

Speaking of ways to travel, the automated automobile was supposed to have shown up, as well. If we can't have a jet pack, the least they can do is make sure our car can do the driving. There's nothing down the street at the Chrysler distributor that mentions these. I checked. And what about Maglevs? Our trains were supposed to travel on a magnetized cushion of air at speeds exceeding two hundred and fifty kilometers an hour. Now that's something I'd give up car travel for. They're only now talking about high-speed train service being made available in my area, but using old-fashioned, stuck-to-the-track trains. And high-speed to them means in the neighborhood of 120 kph. How very nice...

Another scientific marvel I've been waiting on is the two-way television phone. That never advanced far from the version I saw in a technology museum when I was nine. Trying to hook up a high-bandwidth communications tool that a TV monitor with camera becomes, and not having a good plan for replacing the current network of aging and inadequate phone lines, turned out to be a fairly idiotic move on the part of the phone company (remember when they were capitalized as The Phone Company?). You can argue that a computer with an Internet connection and a Web cam does a pretty good job of impersonating it. So I'll give them that one, but they only get partial credit.

There's a number of hurdles, not just of a technological nature, that need to be overcome before we find these things at the local Wal-Mart, car dealer, or train station. I'm willing to cut the developers some slack when it comes to the particulars and time frame. The real world is nothing like what we saw in magazines. But I do wish they'd get the robots out. And soon!


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