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Thursday, April 12, 2001  permanent URL for this entry

And here I thought I wasn't going to have much to talk about today. *8)

Yesterday's entry has gotten more feedback, and in particular more displeased feedback, than I'm used to here in my obscure corner of the web. Generally most of my email is neutral or laudatory, which means that I'm probably not revealing nearly enough of my real slimy self.

The largest and simplest thing I want to say is that nothing I wrote yesterday was intended as negative judgement, as criticism, as put-downs, of Jane Duvall, or the Nawa Shibari site, or the journal there. All of these things, these people, this content, please me greatly, and enrich the world.

I called this image "disturbing" because I find it disturbing; but that's not an insult. All the best art is disturbing in one way or another; because it draws us up out of the world, or immerses us deeply in the world, or makes us think about (or feel about) things we're not used to. Erotic bondage art is disturbing (by which I can only mean "disturbing to me") because it raises questions, feelings, about love and power, beauty and consent, and all that lovely messy stuff. But that's good, not bad.

I love being noticed. On the deeper issues of beauty and power and Sex Toys of the Patriarchy, Jane Duvall devotes a good section of yesterday's entry in her journal to a response to my poor thoughts on the subject (watch as I attempt to hide behind the potted plants). Thinking about what she said and burning an omlette this morning, I think I've managed to narrow down what the heck it is that I'm talking about, worrying about, with all this "sex toys of the patriarchy" stuff.

The basic principle is that people should be free to choose their lives and their selves. I will quote from Jane's journal entry; this is something with which I strongly agree:

I am a feminist. By that I mean that I feel I should be free to make my choices, regardless of what they may be, without bowing to pressure from men OR women to make different ones because of politics or sex or gender issues.

A corollary of that, one that I'm particularly concerned with, says that no woman should feel that her only choice in life, the only way she can come to be important or fulfilled, the only way she can be validated, is by making herself attractive or useful or sexually available or subservient to men (or to gynephiles in general; there are some complexities there we'll ignore for the moment).

I think it's uncontroversial among us enlightened types that for a long time (and still, in many places) women were (are) in exactly this position; if they are to succeed or prosper or be fulfilled, their only option (in reality, or at least in the world picture the culture urges upon them) is to please one or more men, to attract and become attached to a man, to look the way men like women to look, to wear the clothes and apply the lipstick and walk the walk. The culture demands it.

This was (is) uncontroversially a Bad Thing, I take it. On the other hand, a woman choosing to wear the clothes and walk the walk, to submit herself to a man in various ways, is fine, just as anyone freely choosing any life path that doesn't hurt anyone is fine.

There are people (Andrea Dworkin, for instance?), who would attribute false consciousness to these women; who would claim that these women aren't really following their true natures or their own wills or doing anything else admirable; that they are degrading both themselves and all other women by buckling under to the psychological demands of a patriarchal culture and lying to themselves about their true good.

I can speak that language, but I'm definitely not one of those people; it takes IMHO a heck of a lot of nerve to attribute false consciousness in any but the most blatant of situations (evil Martian hypnotists?). If someone says sincerely that they want something, that they've freely chosen something, you have to believe them (absent really compelling counterevidence), even if you don't think they should have chosen it, even if you wouldn't have chosen it yourself.

(So when I say "sex toys of the patriarchy", I'm using the phrase in a confusingly ironic way. It's a term in the language of those people who would not grant women the right to be submissive, or women who like short skirts the right to wear short skirts. But I don't mean it that way; I mean it, usually, to refer to people who don't, or feel that they don't, have any choice but to submit, to wear the lipstick, to get the implants. On the Web, no one can see your tongue poking into your cheek.)

So I have no moral qualms whatever about what Jane and Gwen do. I have some concerns about my own responses to it, but they're mostly aesthetic rather than moral (the two blend together in spots).

The moral concerns that I do have here are about my own actions. What are all these pretty women doing in the margins of my log? In a just and rational world, there would be no problem: I'm a gynephile, pretty women are (essentially by definition) those that are aesthetically pleasing in a visual context, and the margins of my log are a visual context. So we'd be done.

But this isn't an entirely just and rational world. There are women in this world who feel that if they are not pretty, they are worthless. Who feel that it's better to have their bodies cut open and bags of fluid implanted, even if they hate it, than to be small-breasted. Who feel that they need to be thin, even if it means starving. Does a high concentration of pretty women in the margins of my log (and, for that matter, in the focus of my attention, in the content of my inner world) contribute to the way that these women feel, to the culture that leads them to feel that way? If it does, what moral obligation (if any) does that impose on me? On anyone? Or if not a moral obligation, what other possible obligations? Is there an aesthetic obligation, a supererogatory imperative?

(Supererogatory acts are those that go beyond duty; nice, but not required. If you just do your duty, you stay out of the brig; if you do the supererogatory stuff too, people will like you. You'll get invited to parties. You'll get to think well of yourself.)

So I dunno the answers to any of this stuff, but I'm grateful to my readers and Jane and Gwen (and their readers) for having brought it all up. And next week I'll try hard to talk about something else for awhile...   *8)

(Do keep those uplifting images coming...)

Wednesday, April 11, 2001  permanent URL for this entry

From LinkWatcher to One Dan's Opinion, to the Brother Jonathan Gazette, including the secret government space-warfare installation in Alaska, cunningly disguised as some kinda geeky egghead science project. It's a funny world.

And from abuddhas memes: more stuff to worry about:

Biological threats to the general population are numerous, diverse, and potentially devastating.

but we can comfort ourselves with the knowledge that

Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, which is funded by the U.S. Department of Energy, is poised to develop much better detection systems than are presently available.

And appropos of nothing (but also from a. memes), an interview with Spider Robinson, who sounds surprisingly much like you'd expect the author of all them "Callahan's" stories to sound.

A reader who, we are gratified to see, actually read the long animal stories from Monday, asks:

Did you get salmon or lakes for your bagels? Hmm?

Salmon. I have this vague impression that "lachs" ("Lachs") is German for "lox", although likely I'm spelling it wrong (maybe it's "lox" in German too?).

Once, while wandering around in Munich in search of some less greasy food, I stumbled across a great little health-food store, where I bought some salmon and vegetable salad and a loaf of bread and a bottle of some organic drink. The proprietor (who looked exactly like Jeff Smith, the Frugal Gourmet), apologized for his English, which I told him was better than my German, and when offering me the salad couldn't remember the English word for smoked salmon. He showed me some wrapped: "We call it Lachs," he said. "Ah," I said, "yes: lox".

And we smiled at each other.

Hm, virtually everything else I'm planning to talk about today has to do with sex. Well, heck; it's spring after all. Assume an ADULT CONTENT WARNING on all the rest of today's external links, just to save space.

sex toys?

Morally-uplifting image URLs are beginning to flow in, and should start to show up in the margin soon. On the other hand, a reader who apparently knows us all too well suggests a rather ambiguous image, and writes

Admit it, David Chess, you have always loved sex-toys of the patriarchy. Why apologize? Why the pretext? This is what you love, have loved, do love.

I do in fact love (among other things) the sex toys of the patriarchy. But do I love them, do I want to love them, do I love them only, as sex toys of the patriarchy? Mightn't they, mightn't some of them, mightn't most of them, be happier and better off (and equally beloved) if they weren't that, or spent less of their time being that, or felt less as though they were (only) that?

All these hard questions again! What if someone enjoys submission? What if hundreds of thousands of people practice, with apparent enjoyment or at least apparently of their own free will, a culture that seems to mistreat them? Consciousness-raising is all very well (and we could use more of it IMHO); but what about people who (as far as we can tell) have actually considered all the options, and (as far as we can tell) freely chosen one that seems suboptimal, seems to cede too much power to an external agency? What then?

Are these pretty pictures evil? Am I pandering to myself by putting them up (for your titilation, perhaps; for my hit-counter) and pretending to think about them, rather than simply letting them fall onto the scrapheap of history, and putting up pictures that don't (that clearly and unambiguously don't, or that appear on the surface to not) come from a culture in which power relationships are so often damaging?

A reader writes:

women need man

Or perhaps "men need woman". (If this were an Onion headline, it'd be "Local women need local man".)

Silly sex words: Masturbation List Dot Com.

Utah now has a "porn czar". Nice to know there's a State official making sure that people don't produce, view, or read any pictures or words the State doesn't approve of, eh? Apparently some people aren't overjoyed about this (although that story is probably no truer than this one). Funny place, Utah.

(See also Bread is Dangerous!

Fully HALF of all children who grow up in bread-consuming households score average or below average on standardized intelligence tests.

but that isn't actually about sex.)

Sex and tech: from Boing Boing: Sex Author Has a Bright Idea. Will Susie Bright do any better selling erotic e-books on the Web than Steven King (wasn't that Steven King?) did selling whatever it was he was trying to sell?

And if you read Mary Anne Mohanraj's "Silence and the Word" (which you should), you can give her fifty cents via PayPal down at the bottom of the page. Look, Mom, micropayments! I did it, but I've already got a PayPal account so it was easy. I wonder how much of the fifty cents PayPal gets?

Sex and blogs: silly Jane Duvall has moved her journal, and she didn't mention it in the old journal until today. And here I thought she was risking the wrath of the eagles.

The Nawa Shibari site from which today's disturbing picture comes also hosts at least one journal of its own. But then doesn't everything?

(The latest Yahoo Internet Life (which we get for no known reason) has an article about weblogs that mentions various of the Usual Suspects. The cover (which doesn't seem to be on the Web yet) is another one of those images that's lovely in that difficult "sex toy of the patriarchy" way. So was the April cover, for that matter: is this woman powerful, or exploited? Or both? Why do I keep asking these questions?)

Tuesday, April 10, 2001  permanent URL for this entry

SOY! SOY! SOY! soy makes you strong! strength crushes enemies! SOY!

This memelet is currently only at stage one, but I think it has potential. It has that "not quite sane" sound to it, and also lots of room for in-jokes (geek one to geek two, sotto voce, during a meeting: "XML makes you strong!"; geek two giggles behind his hand; management looks annoyed). Currently confined largely to the (sometimes really slow) Everything2 site (another of those collaborative oddnesses, and worth a look in itself, sorta like a Wiki), but also sighted on at least one journal.   [Track the meme]

This isn't like a quotation from some insane war criminal or something, is it?

Is this fair? They want to censor it from the radio, but they can still print it in their official government documents:

I don't want to grow up, I'm a uterus guy. I want to spend a week or so right here between your thighs. Inhale your clam, with my head jammed by your quivering, crushing gams. No, I don't want to get up or get a towel to dry, cause I wouldn't be a uterus guy.

A Many-Minds Interpretation Of Quantum Theory.

From Jeremy Bornstein, the Sentient Property Crime Bureau:

"Congress shall establish an agency within the United States Department of Justice to uniformly enforce the criminal laws pertaining to all sentient property. Said agency shall be designated as the Sentient Property Crime Bureau."

See also Bangalore World University.


A reader writes:

This bits are turning rotten
But that's just what they do
One of these days your bits are gonna rot all over you.

I feel I must apologize for the fact that, not for the first time, many of the pictures in the margin over there lately seem, on the slightest of pretexts, to be of women more or less in "sex-toys of the patriarchy" mode. To partially atone for this, I hereby solicit from my readers the URLs of some more morally-uplifting images:

Depending on the quantity and degree of moral uplift of the submitted images, a selection will appear in future margins. Your country thanks you.

Another reason people love (and hate) Perl.

PERL! PERL! PERL! perl makes you strong! strength crushes enemies! PERL!

Monday, April 9, 2001  permanent URL for this entry

Numerous readers wrote in support of Opera, so I installed it on the server and played with it there a bit, and when it seemed to be working just fine I installed it on the laptop here. It's very nice: starts up quick, doesn't reach ghasty slimy fingers into all parts of the system, doesn't interfere, renders fast and nicely. It wasn't displaying this here log quite right (the "Log" at the top was shifted over to the left), so I twiddled that (still looks just the same in NS and IE).

It crashes on (some?) pages that use Java; I downloaded the non-Java version, and probably it's trying (and failing) to use whatever random JVM's already installed on the machine. I should fix that. But on the whole it's very nice; I'm getting used to the quirks quickly and (assuming I can fix the Java problem and nothing else comes up) I think it might replace Netscape as my browser of choice.

It'd be nice to have a standards-compliant V5 browser without having to use IE! (To be fair, I should try NS6 at some point also. But I'm not willing to spend all that much time fiddling with this stuff.)

(What does it mean that a simple websearch for "opera" turns up the browser above the art-form? What geeks we are!)

Animal stories this weekend. To celebrate spring, the little daughter decided we should camp out in the back yard, so we set up the tent and spent Friday night out there.

The cat came in and walked around on people for awhile and then settled down in the corner to sleep. At midnight or so he got restless and started walking on us again and woke me up, so I urged him outside. He showed up again around 05:30, meowing outside the door, so I let him in and he walked around on people a bit and then settled back in the corner. Around 07:30 we all (including the cat) woke up, and I went off to get bagels and lox (lachs). The great thing about cats is that they let you make them happy. I like cats.

Yesterday I came home with the kids from the various houses they'd been playing at, and next to the driveway we noticed lots of feathers, including one bunch that looked like it'd recently been a significant part of a wing. We were speculating about what might have happened, when I noticed this very quiet still grey bird sitting at the very top of the driveway. It blinked at me and tried to be invisible.

We talked about what to do; it might go crazy if we take it inside, it might get eaten by whatever it was fighting with if we leave it outside. M and the kids got a shoebox with some cloth and paper towels and birdseed in it, and we thought if the bird would lie in that, we could put it up on the back roof, above the cats. I bent down to pick it up and put it in, but it jumped up and flapped away, around the corner of the house. So it can move, but not well.

I sat and watched it in the gathering dark and the chilly fog for half an hour, while the kids had a bath. Then I went down into the basement and got the big corrogated cardboard box that the kids used to play Rocketship Rides in (back when they fit into it better), and I opened up both ends and carefully put it over the bird. I put the shoebox next to it, and sprinkled in some more birdseed. It flapped a bit, but then settled down again, and I went inside.

This morning it was still there, but it'd moved to a different part of the box, and it looked livelier. When I picked up the box, it flew around the corner and sat behind the garage, and when I came back after putting the box away it was gone.

So I suppose now it has as good a chance at life as any other bird with a damaged wing. I wonder if we helped it by keeping the cats away for a night, or if we just kept it penned up for no good reason?

I tried at one point to think like one of our ancestors, more in tune with the Natural World. But it occurred to me that that ancestor probably would have thought "ah, dinner!" and wrung its neck.

From geegaw: talk to Klaus:

A bottle is a type of carp that makes a nice big cherry pie, indeed! I will schedule brushing my teeth and sharpen my tongue.

Latest annoyanceware to watch out for: Webhancer.

Something I read on the Intranet at work this morning urged me to tell my external friends and colleagues about this site, so here you go: IBM Governmental Programs. An interesting study in the psychology of collective entites. In a scary sort of way.

A Perl Hacker in the Land of Python. I ought to learn Python sometime. In my copious free time.

And speaking of geekiness, is wxPerl the way I should be writing GUI stuff in Perl?

Should governments get an effective copyright on their names and the names of their departments?

At stake in the dispute are 32 domain names registered by Bedford -- not the least of which are GovernmentOfCanada.com, TheGovernmentOfCanada.com and DominionOfCanada.com.

"One good thing about fictional characters is that you get to know all their secrets."

From abuddhas memes, a fun Alan Watts interview:

How would you describe the universe?

The universe is fundamentally a system which creeps up on itself and then says BOO! and then it laughs at itself for jumping and you see everytime it does it it forgets that it did it before so it never becomes a bore.

That's important; don't forget that!

Incredible important new invention of the day! What does it do? Well:

Within a very short time the first MI-Tech driven applications will emerge for the average user; applications that are stable, usable, and will allow you to finally get on with the business at hand rather than the complex and unreliable software of today.

Cool! How does it work?

The technology, Machine Intelligence Technology, or MI-Tech for short, is the first implementation of a completely self-directing, self-assembling, learning executable logic to be created on standard computer platforms.

Whoa! This would sound a bit suspicious, but the inventor has impeccable credentials:

For my own part I have been involved within the computer industry since its beginnings, in fact the first microcomputers were designed at Intel and Zilog in direct response to products I was designing at the time

Still not convinced? Try the demo!

Seriously considering... (links mine)

toad sucking

... standing on one toe beneath an icy waterfall, considering the plight of thousands upon thousands of hen's eggs as they make their way, by truck, by car, by satchel, into the ravenous maws of suburban husbands on Saturday morning, displaced creatures all, not having the thought, nay, the chance at the thought, of life, of pecking at the grain, of playing, and winning, at tic-tac-toe, of having, perhaps, or aspiring to have, a small opening book, perhaps only knowing the Ruy Lopez, but knowing it well enough to call it R. Lo, no, not even that, and the stock broker (former stock broker) who cracks their delicate protective layer and drops them, uncaring, into the killing fat, thinks (does he think?) "I should have sold".

three cheers for the left libertarians of this world!

Adrienne Rich

Yellow order. Standard volume. Circularity going negative.

Moo of Doom

products of late 20th-century semetic engineering.

going to bed

oh, yeah, and moving hundreds of miles to a Different city so that the kids can go to a private middle school and thus have a better shot at a Good Life.

"I Dream of Bleemies"

For in the spew of little kings it's hard to find meaning or be retrenched.

Like guys to idle toys are we to the Gods: they fill our shoes with port.

Friday, April 6, 2001  permanent URL for this entry

M drove down at noon and we went out to lunch at the local Indian buffet place. So now I'm all replete, and real real sleepy. Is there like extra tryptophan in Indian food or somat?

What shall I tell you about? I shall tell you about the ongoing computer transition activity. But first, a word from our sponsor.

"I had this dream," she said, "and in the dream I was trying to figure out how to get someone into a position where they couldn't move around much, and then I'd flick little sparks onto the back of their neck."


"Well, you, actually."

So this new computer is very nice. The two main things I can't get working at the moment are the webcam, and GIF-generation.

I can't get the Webcam working for typical Windowsy reasons. I download the Win2K drivers for it from the Web page, run setup.exe, it claims that it's installed everything and I should reboot and plug in the camera, I reboot and plug in the camera, nothing happens, I run the utility software, and it claims the camera isn't connected. So does WebCam32.

Good old Device Manager says that there's an unknown USB device attached, and do I want to install drivers for it. Sure I do! I point it at the directory where the drivers got installed: "no drivers there!" it says, "where else should I look?" I have no clue.

That's the trouble with a system where everything's wizard-driven and "easy to use". When the wizard can't figure out what to do, us mere humans are powerless. Now if it was a matter of adding a line to config.sys...

Industry Standard Test Pattern

The GIF problem is because the old computer has an old version of Perl and an old version of GD that I use to process GIFs. The new laptop has a new version of Perl, and no version of GD at all. I'm not makefile-savvy enough to extract the old version of GD from the old laptop and install it on the new one (I know; I tried), and of course the modern PPMable version of GD no longer supports the (evil) GIF format.

So on those occasions when I'm doing the weblog from the new laptop, I'm considering using PNG format. Can y'all see inline images in PNG format okay? I've included an Industry Standard Test Pattern over to the left there, as a PNG. Is it correctly visible?

Azathoth: He's everywhere you want to be. I'm not sure why I find that so hysterically funny; probably the tryptophan.

Hans writes:

I beat you to the "God Hates Books" story but you got a better version of it than me... better quotes. Freaks. Also, what do you think of Noam Chomsky?

It probably helps that I made up the "God hates books" line myself. Seemed appropriate, though.

Noam Chomsky. I actually had lunch with Noam Chomsky once, along with half a dozen other young pale Princeton students, in the faux-hippie ambience of Terrace Club ("Rich, but ashamed of it"). (Do I mean Noam Chomsky? Or am I thinking of that linguistics guy? Oh, right, that's also Noam Chomsky.)

The thing I remember most from the lunch was Chomsky's insistence that not only is the human brain limited in lots of ways, but that we were actually approaching some of those limits. He opined that in the field of music, for instance, we were basically Done; all the kinds of music that the brain was wired to enjoy had been explored, and now all we can do is make up strange formal things that no one would ever actually want to listen to.

This struck me, and I think others at the table, as patently silly. I suspect he was maybe just trying out some wild ideas on us callow youths, to see how they would fly.

From what little I know about Chomsky's linguistic theories, I have the impression that most of them (at least the ones that he originally got famous for) are turning out to be wrong. I think his ideas about politics and culture, the ways that structures of power tend to reinforce themselves and each other, the way that people in power tend to act so as to stay that way, are interesting and worthwhile. I'm a little nervous about how often he seems to be associated with the clueless radical Left (as opposed to the deep and reasonable Left).

How's that?

The meme goes really mainstream.

Three classic stories from the strange world of security clearances.

The lesson was clear: if you want a clearance in a hurry, put something on your history form that will make the investigators suspicious but that is not damning. They get so many dull backgrounds to check that they relish the possibility of actually nailing someone. By being a bit provocative, you draw priority attention and quicker service.

Speaking of education as we were doing yesterday, a reader points us without comment at The Cedarwood Sudbury School-Home.

Imagine a school where:

Students always make their own decisions about what to do -- whether to build something, read, play, talk to a friend, or whatever.

A ten-year-old student can spend as much time as she wants with a thirteen-year-old, a seven-year-old, or an adult.

People of every age vote on the rules.

That's a good example of a kind of schooling that would probably be Just Right for a lot of kids, but that's too expensive for the vast majority of them just now. (Of course there are probably also lots of kids whose ideal educational environment wouldn't be an anarcho-syndicalist commune; we'd want to have other places for them.)

One counterargument to the whole "every kid should be schooled (or otherwise raised) in the way that's best for that kid's spirit, personality, needs" is something like:

But life isn't like that; an important part of education is learning how to get along in a system that requires everyone to be, or to act, the same in lots of important ways.

A counter-counter argument is that if our schools weren't so much little boxes made of ticky-tacky, then the rest of society probably wouldn't be, either.

Speaking of insecure browsers (probably), a reader writes:

IE stinks. That's why you should use Opera. It's much better, faster, and standards compliant. It's the only way to surf.

I've heard that from a number of folks. Will installing Opera mess up my existing NS and/or IE installs? Maybe I'll install it over there on the server first, just to make sure. Does Opera support inline PNGs?

To be fair (since I just posted yet another bit of Microsoft-bashing), I have to say that Command Completion Rules OK! Win2K manages to save lots and lots of typing for us command-line folks; I'm glad someone Over There remembered that we exist. (I know Unix probably had this feature in 1927, and no doubt some third-party DOS shell had it in 1982, but it's really nice to have it in the command-line shell that I actually use...)

Many other readers have said noteworthy things as well, and lots of other noteworthy things have happened. We'll be covering those in future exciting issues!


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