Strange Loops Journal Archive: February 2003

Blog || Politics || Philosophy || Science || Fiction || Quotes

February 28, 2003 top

Note: My internet access was cut off for a couple days, so I was unable to upload the last few entries on time, but I've put them up now. Also, I updated the quotes page, adding new material and making it easier to navigate.

I read a couple really cool books this past week. First off, I finished Alan Moore's graphic novel V For Vendetta. It's a brilliant story about a vigilante 'terrorist' (a modern-day Guy Fawkes) rebelling against an Orwellian totalitarian regime in post-nuclear-war Britain. The protagonist seeks to undo the current system and open the peoples' minds to help them think for themselves and accept responsibility for themselves. In the place of the illusory and ever-teetering 'order' created through force, coercion and propaganda is proposed a society built on anarchic principles. True order is only possible in a world with freedom; one cannot force it. "Since mankind's dawn, a handful of oppressors have accepted the responsibility over our lives that we should have accepted for ourselves." At its heart, the book is about the importance of freedom, of creating stability in society not through government regulation (which boils down to brute force), but through free choice by the populace itself. They have to choose stability, not have it chosen for them. The protagonist seeks to open the peoples' minds, and in doing so Moore opens ours. It's an amazing book, and the intricate story is told masterfully, with writing and characterization that show the depth and intelligence of its author. Check it out if you ever get a chance.

The other book I just read through last night was Ants At Work by Deborah Gordon. It's a fascinating entomological treatise on the behavior of ants, a work which one wouldn't normally suspect to be connected to the above-mentioned graphic novel. But having just read V For Vendetta, it's not surprising my brain picked up on some interesting details in Ants which are rather related to the former work. Among the tidbits of insect knowledge I picked up is the fact that ant queens are misnamed, for they hold no position of authority in the colony. Interestingly enough, ant colonies operate without any central control at all. They manage to complete extremely complex tasks (from building and maintaining elaborate nests to establishing, navigating and adapting foraging domains to tending the young and storing food) without any form of hierarchy at all.

How do they manage it? Well, that is the main question which Gordon tackles, and it is still open to research. But the fact is, it is promising to note that a rather complex society such as ants live in can exist without leadership and management, and that is where the connection to V comes in. Maybe there is hope yet for us humans to find some way to create a society that isn't put in the hands of a small number of easily-corruptible leaders and bureaucrats. Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that ants are a microcosmic example of what we might become. The fact is individual ants are incredibly simple creatures with a very limited range of 'thought'. Surely we don't want to turn humans into simpletons participating in a gigantic ant colony. But there certainly seems to be a lesson to learn from our miniature friends - that getting complex tasks done doesn't necessarily require hierarchy and bureaucracy (as human history might have suggested). This hierarchy thing we humans have been using for millennia to get stuff done has certainly revealed its flaws; perhaps it is time for us to try something new.

Bierce-ism of the Day:
DISOBEY, v.t. To celebrate with an appropriate ceremony the maturity of a command.
-Ambrose Bierce, The Devil's Dictionary

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February 27, 2003 top
More scary news in the paper today, but I have a feeling I'm getting scared for a different reason than most of the people around here. It seems a student named Sami Omar Al-Hussayen at the nearby University of Idaho was arrested Wednesday by a terrorism task force. He was indicted on suspicion of making false statements on visa applications and other such paperwork. Specifically, he didn't mention his ties to the Islamic Assembly of North America, a charity dedicated to spreading the word of Islam. In fact, he created or managed websites for the IANA, "including some that 'promoted terrorism through suicide bombings and using airplanes as weapons,' the indictment alleges." They support this claim by pointing to an Arabic-language site which had an article years ago calling Mujahid (Jihad warriors) to use suicide tactics (such as bombing or bringing down an airplane) if it will help kill enemies.

Based on this, residents in the area are shocked and frightened that a person with terrorist ties was living so close, in such a small community. What scares me though is the fact that this poor guy is being labeled a terrorist or terrorist supporter on such flimsy little ties.

The fact is the site mentioned was looked at by a translator for the Spokesman Review who said that it appeared to be a normal news site with news, opinion and analysis. There were no stories immediately apparent that called for any sort of Muslim violence against America. One wonders if they won't soon be coming after the owners of just about every newspaper in the US for printing letters in the opinion section that called for violence back around September 12, 2001. As I recall, there were quite a few that called for Americans to commit vigilante violence against those they suspected to be terrorists, quite a few who called for nuking all 'ragheads' off the 'sand over there' once and for all. But you don't see the people that run those papers being investigated by terrorism task forces. Why? Because they aren't Muslims running Arabic papers. Because the opinions were calling for violence against other people, not us.

Now, it may turn out that this guy did have some sort of ties to terrorism (he did handle money for the IANA which it might turn out went to support actual terrorist cells, e.g., though there is no evidence for that), but the fact is, no such information has been presented at all. All they have is the fact that he was tied to a news website which once ran an article in which another author opined that Jihad warriors should use suicide tactics. This does not a terrorist supporter make. The fact is, Al-Hussayen is a peace activist according to those on campus who know him. He marched for peace following September 11, vehemently denouncing the events as immoral attacks on innocent civilians.

It's true that Al-Hussayen didn't mention his connection to the IANA on his visa paperwork, and I see no reason why he shouldn't be held accountable for that; but I get the feeling that he will not be treated the same as a non-Muslim foreigner living in the US who made the same mistake. I get the feeling that because of what people are mis-portraying as "terrorist ties" he will be more harshly dealt with than is fair and just. And that's just another example of the willingness of Americans to go along with any breach of justice and liberty so long as it is in the name of safety from terrorism.

To paraphrase an old quote: "They came for the Muslims, but I did not say anything because I was not a Muslim. They came for the foreigners, but I did not say anything because I was not a foreigner. When finally they came for me, there was no one left to speak up for me." *sigh*

Bierce-ism of the Day:
LIBERTY, n. One of Imagination's most precious possessions.
The rising People, hot and out of breath,
Roared round the palace: "Liberty or death!"
"If death will do," the King said, "let me reign;
You'll have, I'm sure, no reason to complain."

-Ambrose Bierce, The Devil's Dictionary

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February 26, 2003 top
Yuck, I'm home from work for a couple days due to a sinus infection. Which, unfortunately, means I ended up seeing today's live Bush speech calling for war on Iraq. He seems to be getting more and more unreasonable: he's basically come out now and said that no matter how much Saddam complies with the UN (short of handing his country over to US control), Bush will still invade.

An article in the newspaper yesterday presented a British poll of 2,300 people (2.5% margin of error) which revealed that as many people found Bush a greater threat to world peace than Saddam as the other way around (45% each, with 10% undecided). It placed the US as the greatest threat to world peace (at 32%, above North Korea 26%, Iraq 25%, Isreal 8%, Palestine 2% and Iran 0%). It also revealed that as many people found Bush a greater threat to world peace than Saddam as the other way around (45% each, with 10% undecided). Honestly, the results don't surprise me. The US may see itself as an invulnerable super power and the world's leader, but the rest of the world doesn't necessarily agree.

It may be that in Iraq itself, Saddam is as great a threat to the citizens as Bush, but when looking at the world arena I have trouble imagining Saddam being able to threaten the world on the scale Bush does. I mean, one of Bush's main reasons to attack Iraq is the mere possibility of Saddam making a nuclear weapon because it might eventually be used for terrorism. The fact is, the United States is a country full of nukes, and we've already shown that we are perfectly willing to use them for terrorism. What else were the bombs dropped on Japan but acts of terrorism intending to send a political message to the world not to mess with the US? And don't think it was a singular incident that won't be repeated: the president has already proclaimed his willingness (and Congress given him the power) to use any and all means necessary - including nuclear weapons if it comes to it - in the "war on terror". And Bush is all too eager to tie (however thinly) any enemy in his sights to terrorism in order to give him a free pass to do as he wants. All he has to do is invoke the word "terrorism" and the people, still full of irrational fear from September 11, 2001, shut off their brains and give him free reign (whether it be to take away their freedoms and civil liberties at home, or bomb nameless innocents abroad).

How ironic that the biggest terrorist of them all is willing to use weapons of mass destruction in its campaign against terrorism. How ironic, and how dreadfully scary. If the events of the world today were written in a novel fifty years from now, what are the chances, really, that America would be seen as the hero?

Bierce-ism of the Day:
GUNPOWDER, n. An agency employed by civilized nations for the settlement of disputed which might becomes troublesome if left unadjusted.
-Ambrose Bierce, The Devil's Dictionary

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February 24, 2003 top
It's been a while now, but the space shuttle Columbia is still showing up on the front page of the newspaper with every inane new detail or speculation of the accident. From the very start, I've been surprised by the huge coverage this event received. I mean, it's terrible that those people died, just as it is when anyone dies from an on-the-job accident, but I find it curious that when the same number of people die in the Isreali/Palestinian conflict or under Mugabi's regime or in a drive-by shooting, it receives at best a couple paragraphs toward the back of the paper. The fact is, these astronauts signed up to take part in the space program, to leave the very planet their species has been stuck on for millions of years, and they knew from the start the danger inherent in their mission. What is amazing is not that these people died, but that so many before them have finished their missions safely. The fact that more accidents don't happen is quite impressive given the extreme dangers of having even the slightest invisible detail off by a miniscule amount.

It's too bad that these people lost their lives doing their job, but let's not over react and turn it into a spectacle. If it turns out that it was caused by an egregious error, then perhaps reasonable discipline is in order; but if it turns out that there were merely warnings about possible problems, we shouldn't take that to mean the space program is negligent. Rather, in a dangerous enterprise like human space travel, risks have to be reasonably assessed and sometimes things go ahead even with the possibility of failure. If they didn't, we would never get anywhere. So I say 'so what?' if it turns out that people knew before hand the possibility of problems - that's to be expected. It's only if there was a truly dangerous decision made knowingly that blame should be laid.

Either way, I hope the space program doesn't suffer too badly from this fiasco. Sure, a lot of their research and in-space experiments may seem banal compared to the more monumental task of simply getting into space in the first place, but that doesn't mean the program is a waste of money. Pure research is always of value, especially in a field as important as space exploration. Anything that gets us into space further and more often is important, because the fact is eventually our sun is going to burn out all its hydrogen and go nova, and the Earth won't be able to hang around after that, so if we don't go to the stars humanity and all its history will disappear. The Einsteins and the Shakespeares and the pyramids and the libraries full of books, and everything that is human will cease to be if we don't expand into space eventually.

For that matter, space has a beauty of its own which makes it worth exploring and discovering, as attested by these daily pictures from the Hubble Space Telescope.

Bierce-ism of the Day:
ACCIDENT, n. An inevitable occurrence due to the action of immutable natural laws.
-Ambrose Bierce, The Devil's Dictionary

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February 23, 2003 top
Well, it's been a busy week at work (hence the slow updates), and after a couple days of rest, I go back to start another similar week. I find myself working early hours which I'm not used to (I prefer evening work so that I can sleep days and exercise my vampiric tendencies by staying up all night reading and playing games), and that saps me of my creative energy.

Anyway, I was thinking today about the concept of working at a job. It seems to me that we humans have come a long way as far as developing new technologies and techniques for making production of both necessities and extras much more efficient than it was long ago. We can now produce much more much quicker. Why then do we find ourselves working more rather than less hours these days than in the past? Why aren't countless dull jobs that are currently unnecessarily filled with human laborers turned over to machine work?

Unemployment seems to be the simplest answer to that question. If machines takes over, sure the average hours worked by people would be lowered, but it would be lowered by having more and more people unemployed. And unfortunately, the way the system is set up right now, 'unemployed' equals not 'deserving of any products' (food, possessions, etc.), hence those people would starve (or leech off the government's tax-funds). But surely it is no better to continue down the path we are on now: more and more specialization so that every person can find some simple, unnecessary task to waste ever more and more hours on (often at incredibly low wages) so that they can bring in the products they need. If we keep up this course, we might soon find ourselves living in a future where everyone spends so much time working that "free time" is more rare and valuable than diamonds. As it is, right now even the most successful people often work long hours to hang on to their success, to increase their already bursting bank account.

In this technological age, we all seem to have lost sight of both the value of relaxing, of not working, and of the fact that technology/technique is supposed to be a tool to help free us from unnecessary or dull tasks and allow us to concentrate our energies on more interesting pursuits. Instead technology/technique has become the master and we the slaves, and "free time" becomes a fantasy (those who seek it out being labeled lazy). In an age of scientifically engineered mattresses and effective sleeping pills, people still find themselves sacrificing more and more sleep just to keep up with work and chores and raising their family. No wonder depression is at an all time high - no one can relax any more. And I think that comes pretty much from our screwed up system, where getting the same job done with less work is seen not as an improvement, but as a reason to work more. Rather than mechanize a process now done by a human and let him go home early (the same job being done, so there's no reason he couldn't get paid just as much, except for the machine expenses which could be covered by working slightly more than necessary but way less than would be done without the machine), we continue to force the human to waste his life on useless tasks. It probably all comes from a desire to maximize profits, a goal which comes well before that of freeing up time. Any freed up time could, after all, be used to increase production and make more profits (which the worker of course is unlikely to see - but he has to work the increased hours nonetheless because the wages are lowered down so that he doesn't reap the benefits of his extra work, but the people at the top do).

But is that really how it should work? I think this system sucks. Our goals are so out of order that we are needlessly working ourselves to death because we are so obsessed with some greedy capitalistic system whereby a rare few prosper - though they too end up working themselves crazy to stay in power - and the rest get to dream of their chance to join that elite crowd. We could have such higher quality of life if only we started to value our time as much as we do our chance to be rich (or at least as minimally poor as possible, in the case of the majority with no hopes for riches), as much as we value our silly capitalistic profit-maximizing system. Something's wrong, but we're all afraid to fix it because we refuse to question the sacred cow of Profit. And so we go on slowly dying. What a waste.

Bierce-ism of the Day:
LABOR, n. One of the processes by which A acquires property for B.
-Ambrose Bierce, The Devil's Dictionary

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February 17, 2003 top
Finished The Analects (sayings) of Confucious this morning. It was a thoroughly disappointing read. The vast majority goes on with worthless details about every possible disciple of Confucious and whatever minor details of character or history might have seemed worth reading a long time ago to people familiar with these figures, but which are now inanities. The few bits of genuine "wisdom" sprinkled throughout were either simple cliches by today's standards, or the same vague calls to be Virtuoustm found in just about every ancient philosopher's texts. Maybe the translation I read (William Soothill) was sub-par, or maybe I just don't have enough familiarity with ancient Chinese history to put it into proper context; but at any rate, I'm convinced the book holds little value for modern philosophy, government or day-to-day life, except as a piece of history.

Fortunately, I also had the pleasure to finish the first book of Alan Moore's graphic novel V For Vendetta tonight, and I'm blown away. This guy knows how to write a story! I loved his more well-known graphic novel Watchmen, and it looks like this earlier work of his won't disappoint. Moore is definitely to guy to go to to demonstrate that not all comics are mindless entertainment, nor are they all for children.

And since I'm going on about what I've been reading, here's a snippet from an Associated Press article (author not mentioned) printed in my local paper. A recent study by University of California psychologist Elizabeth Loftus showed how easy it is to implant false memories by convincing thirty-six percent of the test group that they remembered hugging Bugs Bunny (a non-Disney character) at Disneyland as a kid. She argues that adding sensory details ("hugged his furry body and stroked his velvety ears") disrupts the usual sensory-based memory process and allows such fantasies to suddenly seem like real memories. Truly the past is not sacred (even the imagined version we construct in our heads as time passes us by).

On a somewhat related note, this page claims that "in Western cultures, 1-5% of the population appears regularly to experience fantasies which seem as real as actual events, even though they are entirely fictional." Then again, who's really surprised that a bunch of people out there are easily deluded? We all delude ourselves about something. It's just that some people get stuck with delusions that don't fit the accepted paradigm of normality, and are unable to hide those delusions or keep them from intruding on normal functioning (which is to say, functioning as a "normal person", whatever that is).

A rare few delusions (that a police-state government secures us in this life and that organized religion secures us another one after) sneak by our credulity-meters and attain outright popularity.

Bierce-ism of the Day:
DELUSION, n. The father of a most respectable family, comprising Enthusiasm, Affection, Self-denial, Faith, Hope, Charity and many other goodly sons and daughters.
-Ambrose Bierce, The Devil's Dictionary

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February 15, 2003 top
I spent the night/morning at the house of a coworker friend playing computer games on a LAN. There were only four of us there, but it was still a total blast. We played a lot of Unreal Tournament 2003, which I did surprisingly well at for my first time playing it, and a few games of Starcraft (during the final game, my partner died right off the bat, but I still managed to hold out for about half an hour against two experienced enemies). Needless to say, we'll all be going back tomorrow. This much fun is well worth a couple nights on minimal sleep (who needs sleep when you're drinking a fountain of Mountain Dew all night?).

Before I hit the sack, I'll pass along this cool note from a recent update: American Culture Is Not Dominating The Globe. Thank goodness!

Bierce-ism of the Day:
PATRIOT, n. The dupe of statesmen and the tool of conquerors.
-Ambrose Bierce, The Devil's Dictionary

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February 14, 2003 top
Well, it's Valentines Day ([set cynicism="on"] you know, the day when everyone goes out of their way to show their love because they feel forced to or because they need to be told to act on their feelings - and of course, spending money is the best way to do that...[set cynicism="off"]), so I figured the theme of the day is love. Unfortunately, it's sometimes hard to take this love concept seriously when we humans are so good at applying it only to a select few members of our immediate circle of interaction, and so talented at merely feigning it for the rest of our species.

Well, if you ask me, we could learn a thing or two from another species out there: meet our cousins the bonobos. These amazing creatures maintain societies with more peace than we (or their larger cousins, the chimps) could ever attain. They fight less often than other large primates, and they are not known to kill members of their own species (unlike humans and other large primates). How do they do it?

One word: sex. And lots of it. Bonobos have been observed to have all sorts of sex - male-female, male-male and female-female - in all sorts of positions, and they do it fairly often. What's interesting though isn't just that they're 'pansexual'. What's interesting is that they use sex to solve conflicts and diffuse potentially violent situations. Some examples from this neat article:

There are two reasons to believe sexual activity is the bonobo's answer to avoiding conflict. First, anything, not just food, that arouses the interest of more than one bonobo at a time tends to result in sexual contact. If two bonobos approach a cardboard box thrown into their enclosure, they will briefly mount each other before playing with the box. Such situations lead to squabbles in most other species. But bonobos are quite tolerant, perhaps because they use sex to divert attention and to diffuse tension. Second, bonobo sex often occurs in aggressive contexts totally unrelated to food. A jealous male might chase another away from a female, after which the two males reunite and engage in scrotal rubbing. Or after a female hits a juvenile, the latter's mother may lunge at the aggressor, an action that is immediately followed by genital rubbing between the two adults.
During reconciliations, bonobos use the same sexual repertoire as they do during feeding time. Based on an analysis of many such incidents, my study yielded the first solid evidence for sexual behavior as a mechanism to overcome aggression. Not that this function is absent in other animals--or in humans, for that matter--but the art of sexual reconciliation may well have reached its evolutionary peak in the bonobo. For these animals, sexual behavior is indistinguishable from social behavior. Given its peacemaking and appeasement functions, it is not surprising that sex among bonobos occurs in so many different partner combinations, including between juveniles and adults. The need for peaceful coexistence is obviously not restricted to adult heterosexual pairs.

One wonders if we humans might avoid a few wars if the Bushs and Saddams of the world would just make sweet, sweet love any time international tensions ran high. Okay, maybe not. But there certainly is a lesson to be learned here. Perhaps it's that peace is possible among social lifeforms; sex may just be one way to reach that peace, with others yet to be discovered. Perhaps it's that we humans, for all our sound and fury of 'progress', aren't the peak when it comes to all aspects of society and civilization - a lesson in humility we would do well to learn. Or maybe, in honor of Valentines Day, I should just conclude some cheesy adage like "love makes the world go round".

Anyway, I hope these oh-so-cool endangered neighbors of ours, the bonobos, manage to survive the human war in the Congo region that is their home so that they can continue to provide their peaceful example to us for ages to come.

On a side note, check out John Varley's novella "Persistence of Vision" for a thoughtful exploration of a human attempt at pansexual life on a semi-utopian commune. It's got some mind-opening material and it's a fun read to boot.

Bierce-ism of the Day:
MAN, n. An animal so lost in rapturous contemplation of what he thinks he is as to overlook what he indubitably ought to be. His chief occupation is extermination of other animals and his own species, which, however, multiplies with such insistent rapidity as to infest the whole habitable earth and Canada.
-Ambrose Bierce, The Devil's Dictionary

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February 12, 2003 top
I've been thinking a lot lately about political dissent and revolution. I'm highly critical of the government, big business and media, basically of "the system", and I wonder how things could be made better. I know some people who think revolution is the answer, who think that it is important to put dissent into action, otherwise peaceniks and freethinkers risk becoming impotent. There's certainly some truth there, but at the same time I can't help but be skeptical about the effectiveness of that sort of strategy. What happens when the revolution is over, when the establishment is brought down? What goes up in its place? This detail is all too often missing (or at least left to vague idealism) from the call to revolution. Anyway, today I found an interesting passage from Robert Pirsig (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance) that I think hit the nail on the head. He's talking about rational systems and using motorcycle maintenance as a microcosmic example of the larger idea (e.g. a mechanic doesn't just see a collection of metal parts welded together; he sees an abstract conceptual system). He goes on to say this:

To speak of certain government and establishment institutions as "the system" is to speak correctly, since these organizations are founded upon the same structural conceptual relationships as a motorcycle. They are sustained by structural relationships even when they have lost all other meaning and purpose. People arrive at a factory and perform a totally meaningless task from eight to five without question because the structure demands that it be that way. There's no villian, no "mean guy" who wants them to live meaningless lives, it's just that the structure, the system demands it and on one is willing to take on the formidable task of changing the structure because it is meaningless.

But to tear down a factory or revolt against a government or avoid repair of a motorcycle because it is a system is to attack effects rather than causes; and as long as the attack is upon effects only, no change is possible. The true system, the real system, is our present construction of systematic thought itself, rationality itself, and if a factory is torn down but the rationality which produced it is left standing, then that rationality will simply produce another factory. If a revolution destroys a systematic government, but the systematic pattern of thought that produced that government are left intact, then those patterns will repeat themselves in the succeeding government. There's so much talk about the system. And so little understanding.

While I tend toward libertarian ideals and think of anarchy as a crucial tool for keeping the system in check, I still have trouble imagining a way that anarchic principles could ever overcome humanity's habitual impulses. I can't see how a working anarchic world could ever be built: destruction of the system would at best be a temporary solution, but it wouldn't be long before the old system crept back in because we humans are struck in the mindset of the system. We're still stuck in the old game-theory trap where a group of beings acting in their rational individual best interest end up settling for a crappy state of affairs because no one is willing to take a chance, to give up that rationality for just a split second and have some faith in the potential of working together. And even if a small group of people are in fact willing to give it a shot, the vast majority aren't. The vast majority are too deeply committed to the game they've been playing all their life; to suggest a change in rules, even a dissolution of the rules themselves, is blasphemy. And so life goes on as always, and revolution is doomed to failure. We may take down an oppressive regime here and a police state there, but it won't be long before the old structure propagates itself into power again.

I guess at best I can hold out hope that anarchy and libertarianism will act as checks to slow the ever-encroaching colossus that is "the system".

Bierce-ism of the Day:
REVOLUTION, n. In politics, an abrupt change in the form of misgovernment. Specifically, in American history, the substitution of the rule of an Administration for that of a Ministry, whereby the welfare and happiness of the people were advanced a full half-inch. Revolutions are usually accompanied by a considerable effusion of blood, but are accounted worth it - this appraisement being made by beneficiaries whose blood had not the mischance to be shed.
-Ambrose Bierce, The Devil's Dictionary

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February 10, 2003 top
Site Update: Welcome to the newest incarnation of my webpage (previously known as the Sylvan Glade). I had previously let it go after my last host (the atrocious started spamming visitors with a slew of popups. I now own this domain myself and pay for the host, so there will be no popups or banners at all.

Unfortunately, I'm also somewhat limited in my webspace now, so I ditched a couple of the old, superfluous picture sections and temporarily disabled the pictures for my big Ultima Online section. Among some other minor updates, I made all the background midi music optional so that pages will load faster. If you still want to listen to the music intended for that page, just left click on the file name at the top of the page and choose to open it from its current location (or else download the file and open it from your computer). I also updated the Academic History page with news of my changing to a different college. Until I start school again next Fall I'm just working and using the extra time to catch up on some reading. Finally, I went through and checked every link on the site to make sure they still work.

For now the page still has some old material, including some articles I may no longer agree with fully (or that simply could have been written better), so I hope to go through and update some of the old material soon. I'll also be adding some new material and hope to keep up with the page regularly now that it's out of its popup-induced hibernation.

Bierce-ism of the Day:
GOOSE, n. A bird that supplies quills for writing. These, by some occult process of nature, are penetrated and suffused with various degrees of the bird's intellectual energies and emotional character, so that when inked and drawn mechanically across paper by a person called an "author", there results a very fair and accurate transcript of the fowl's thought and feeling. The difference in geese, as discovered by this ingenious method, is considerable: many are found to have only trivial and insignificant powers, but some are seen to be very great geese indeed.
-Ambrose Bierce, The Devil's Dictionary

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