Intriguingly -

Today's been an up and down cycle -

On the down side, I inadvertently made a friend's day worse when babbling about something of interest to me (game theory) and not noticing that I was treading on ground that was taken personally. No mater what my point is, or how good or bad it is, or whether or not it even exists, there's little or no excuse for callousness. After all, callousness is a painful, awful, horrid thing; it is self-importance personified, and speaks poorly of the one who sets it forth, regardless of reason.

So, I owe this person a genuine apology, but haven't had the guts to deliver it.

On the up side, a conversation that's been six months in the offing came out today: Tennessee DCS contacted me regarding an application for adoptive parenting, and we've begun the process. It'll take a year or so, give or take a month or two either direction /plus/ six months of foster-parenting before we're considered...

... but. But. We've started. I don't think I've ever been this nervous, save the day I asked my wife to marry me. We're /adopting/. In a bit, yes, but we made it official, we set the goal, we talked through everything - we agreed, and she's smiling. LIke the sun.


Now. Let's go fix the rest of it. :)


Politics! - or, Why I'm Voting Democrat This Year.

So. Let's talk politics for a minute.

That's right, politics.

Most of you know that I'm ultimately a political moderate, choosing no party affiliation (I used to say 'Libertarian' when pressed - but man, those guys have gone kooky in recent years) - I worked the Perot campaign in late high school during his first bid for the presidency, and I've been a volunteer on both sides of the political fence in our silly two party system off and on for a while, now. Though.. admittedly, not in recent days.

Up until Bush, Jr., I often voted GOP (though I did vote for Clinton in Clintion II, and I have yet to get enthused about Zack Wamp (our TN. representative from my district).

This year, in this upcoming presidental election, I'm voting for Barak Obama.

For me, political races always come down, in the end, to keystone issues - things that I view as important, and I often try to look at past the usual campaign rhetoric. Honestly, though? The biggest issue for me is Personal Freedom - the establishment of the Pursuit of Happyness - the notion that true freedom involves the core Libertarian concepts of Freedom from Interference, Freedom of Ownership, and Freedom of Choice. It's a pretty heady issue - but it's one I wish more Americans got interested in, as a whole. Most people gladly go on about saying 'how free they are' without paying any attention to what 'Free' means, and the responsibilities that come with it.

In the end, Freedom - in the notion of true, personal freedom, revolves around the simple idea that you should be free to participate in any activity or endeavor that does not harm the common good, that government should exist at the sufference of the people, not people at the sufference of the government. This is why principles like Habeas Corpus*, "Innocent until Proven Guilty", and even the second amendment are so important - something we forget, I think.

You should be free, in my mind, to read what you want. To talk about what you want. To go where you want, especially within your own country. You should have a right to expect that you are not treated as a criminal, and that you can defend yourself and your family - and even those around you - from attack, censure, or the destruction of property. You're free to earn what you can, and enjoy the fruits of your own labor, and you're free to believe what you like, to follow whatever notion of higher power (or not) floats your boat. You are free to do anything ... except impinge upon these freedoms as held by another.

That's what murder is, or theft. Fraud, even speeding - they're all encroachments on the freedom of other members of society.

But this government, and all governments, should not have the right or power to proffer legislation, ostensibly for the public good, that removes the freedom on which this country was founded. It is the risk of freedom - by being free, and assuming that others have the right to be free, you trade in a bit of your own personal security. You can't stop me from buying all the stuff I need to make a bomb, for instance - but our government, our country, is founded on the ideology that the average citizen must be trusted to pursue his existence, that you have a RIGHT to your own life. And, frankly, if that means you buy fertilizer and gasoline - well, a lot of people have good reason to do just that.

Government is not free to tell us what we must believe - and the GOP has become subject to those who earnestly feel that meddling in other people's morality is not only alright, but a Good Thing, good for society as a whole. But - organized religion is the antithesis of Freedom - it must be, by its very nature. Thomas Jefferson said it best: "The returning good sense of our country threatens abortion to their hopes, & they [the clergy] believe that any portion of power confided to me, will be exerted in opposition to their schemes. And they believe rightly; for I have sworn upon the altar of God, eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man. But this is all they have to fear from me: & enough too in their opinion, & this is the cause of their printing lying pamphlets against me. . ."**. Organized faith does a great deal of good, I freely admit -

- but those who would instill faith into our government, at the cost of the freedoms of those within it, are traitors to the very ideals upon which this country is founded.

How many denominations of "Christian" are there, for instance? From Fred Phelps and his horrible Westboro Baptist Church to modern Anglicanism and every flavor in between - Unitarian and Church of God, Pentacostals and Baptists, Methodists and Catholics - no two denominations can even agree on fundamental principles of their faith, much less some sort of unified morality. Worse, each denomination believes it is firmly in the RIGHT, and everyone else is at least misguided, if not dangerously wrong.

The Islamic world is in the same boat - even Bhuddists politely disagree with each other on the finer points of principle.

But, ultimately, organized religion places strictures on personal freedom - outside limits voluntarily accepted by those that practice the faith. For a true Baptist, for instance, alcohol of any sort is supposedly sinful - but this isn't something held to be true by the Anglicans, by any stretch of the imagination.+ This is as it should be - faiths and religions are about codes of behavior and belief, and more power to you for following them, or even proselytizing your faith to others. That is freedom, after all! You have a right to believe anything you'd like, provided that (like, say, the Branch Davidians out in Waco) you're not directly assaulting the public good.

When, however, a faith steps up to have their particular subbrand of right and wrong legislated into laws that everyone else must follow? They are violating the rights, soveregnty, and liberty of everyone who does not ascribe to their belief system. Period. There's no middle ground.

Theology has very little place in government. It belongs among the people, and in their hands - but not in the books of law that govern the work and safety of society proper.

The Bush administration and the GOP have courted the religious right - the people who have arbitrarially decided, based on their belief system and their articles of faith that being homosexual is utterly wrong, that same-sex civil unions deserve no federal protection - and it is espoused by politicians that then go on to admit affairs, rendezvous in men's bathrooms...


But nevermind that.

Barak Obama is a gifted orator, an astute politican - and he stands on a platform of personal freedom, of the ability to make your own choices, and compromise. He is a break from the last eight years of theocratic, head-in-the-sand politics from a party that was once about responsibility and now seems to be about keeping the Great White Male in power, happy, and in denial.

I don't know when the Democratic Party became the party of real equality, fiscal responsibility, and personal freedom - but I'm glad for the ideological shift. And Obama? Obama I can stand behind - you do not speak with such simple fluency and inspirational candor without believing what you say.

So. I pick him. I pick a man devoted to a change in direction, devoted to freedom, devoted to the prospect that all people in this country deserve an equal opportunity for the pursuit of happiness.

That gets my vote.

* From Wikipedia: Habeas corpus (IPA: /ˈheɪbiəs ˈkɔɹpəs/) (Latin: [We command] that you have the body)[1] is the name of a legal action, or writ, through which a person can seek relief from unlawful detention of himself or another person. The writ of habeas corpus has historically been an important instrument for the safeguarding of individual freedom against arbitrary state action.

In other words - 'you cannot detain me without producing evidence that detaining me is within the public good.'

There is no greater guardian of civil liberty than a healthy writ of Habeas Corpus. Aren't you so glad we don't have them anymore?

** From Jefferson's letter to Benjamin Rush, 1800, re: the philadelphia clergy attacking Jefferson and declaring him an 'infidel'.

+ Personal Anectode: Every Anglican priest I know knows at least one very funny joke involving either sacrimental wine or whiskey. Go ask. I promise, every one has a drunk priest story somewhere.

  • Current Mood
    artistic artistic
Zin (Sinfest)

Comedy and Tragedy -

I MUSH. Now, not everybody - in fact, I suspect not most people - who read this little slice of the web has any clue what a MUSH is. It's an acronym. Multi-User Shared Hallucenation.

These were the first MMOs - text based (a-la Zork), open-world sandboxes; chatrooms with an OO model laid over them and this pseudolisp codebase. Technically, they're pretty impressive for a nearly twenty year old technology. But - that's not the point.

The point is, this is something I do as a hobby, and like any other hobby when dozens of people are involved, you run across the same sort of troubles over and over again. Powermongering, bad feelings, people who forget that, in the end, this thing is pretty much a game - people who put their lives in, people who have no sense of humor... add it up. It's a nice, very glorious slice of the Monkeysphere.

It's like a LARP, only more persistant - a little more sandboxy, a little less face-to-face, both things that magnify the troubles of the form. Collaborative storytelling, regardless.

Lately, I've been a bit run down on the whole MUSHing thing - see, I staff one. I've decided that any time you let yourself see behind the curtain, you're by default letting yourself in for a definite change in the value system. It's like the theatre - once you've seen how the sets go together, and once you've been on stage looking out? Your appreciation of it changes. You.. lose something, and you gain something. It's not as easy to suspend disbelief, perhaps, but you can see more. You know more.

It's its own kind of enlightenment, really. You can't ever go back - you just keep growing, changing, learning on a new level.

That said, being staff is glorious... when things go well. Players take your story seeds and make them flower into vast vistas of idea that you never knew could exist. they see things from so many angles- man. Proactive players are just a joy. On the other hand? When it goes bad, it goes bad hardcore. Hurt feelings escalate into vendettas which segue into painful experiences that drive players away.

That's the part I hate. When players have no clue how what they're doing affects the grid, how the selfishness of one or two can actually damage and twist and destroy the collaborative story of the many. As of yet, there's no good solution - the players that do this insist over and over again that they're not doing anything wrong, it's just how their characters would act, that they really LOVE the game (they don't - they love /themselves/. They're so pleased with their own cleverness that they let no one else shine, most of the time.) - so how do you enlighten the ignorant? How do you show them the damage they do when they simply, patently refuse to see it?

Worse, how can you tell patent, planned ignorance from a willful attempt to destroy the experience, and how do you act to stem the damage?

Tough calls, all the way around. Ones I wish I didn't have to make. They just suck all the fun right out of running a game.

So - here's the point of all this: I have a challenge for you. If you're a player in a LARP or a MUSH, stop and think about your character, and the things you do. Are you making things more or less fun for other people? Are you tearing down, or building up your game?

What is fun for you may not be fun at all for others - but where is the line drawn, and what are the expectations? It behooves everyone to know, I think.

If you can't answer that - go ask staff. They'll tell you, if you're earnest. And take their advice to heart. Sometimes, it's really worth doing. If nothing else? Become proactive. Don't wait on staff to give you story - go make some. Give it to other people. Share. See what happens - you won't be dissapointed.

Me? I'm going to concentrate on throwing out more Fun Stuff.

Dum dum dadadadadadum da dum...

Today, I had to go by one of the facilities I help to tech-manage and make sure the building was down so an electrician could cut power for a bit and move all the incoming power lines to a single panel. Which is not terribly exciting.

But. Upstairs from that panel, in this building, hiding in a back corner where a group of asipiring Senior Thespians meet? There is a black Yamaha baby grand. It's a beautiful instrument - high F has a fraying string. E above middle C rattles - probably needs a tuner to come take a poke at it and see if the dampers are engaging like they should, or if that's another string that needs replacing. It's common in older, heavy-use pianos to have the dampers - which are not complex, but heavily articulated - do some odd things when they haven't been adjusted in a while.

I knew I'd be stuck there after work. So, in a quiet moment earlier in the day, I went looking for something. I had to know.

I started taking piano when I was about seven, and played until about twenty-two, religiously until I was, oh, what, nineteen? It was my first job - I used to teach very little ones how to play. Chopin? Bergmueller? Debussy? Mozart? They went in through the eyes and came out through the fingers.

Then? I met Erica. We ended up dating, we lasted quite a while; we went through college in part - and that's a whole other story.

Anyway - she'd been playing as long as I had; she had the same love but less burnout. You see, I /knew/, when I sat down to play, that something was missing. I'd known for years, and just never could put my finger on it. It wasn't dedication - though I was sloppy about practicing, I admit. It was.. something else. Something /she/ had.

See? She had /talent/.

People who play music know - anyone can learn how to play anything. You can learn to read music, you can get the mechanics right; rote muscle-memory will eventually ingrain how your fingers sit, how you breathe, how you move, how this motion in this way with this inflection will create this sound. But that's only half of it. You can be the best technical player in the state, in the country, and.. it doesn't matter. It's just technique.

If you can't make the art, if you can't somehow connect past the technique to the right side of your brain and put emotion into those motions, to understand intiuitively that you can emote through the instrument at hand? You aren't playing. You're playing simon says with a guy who died a couple hundred years ago (at.. least.. if you're a classical pianist. If you're a saxophonist or something, they're probably not all dead yet. But you get the idea.)

She had that. HAS that. She reached out past all of that technique and she could make that piano sing. And .. I never could. I had all the technique in the world - I could do any scale by rote, in even timbre; I could voice any note in a chord you could name. I could feel my way through the composer's work thematically - but she could make you get goosebumps.

So, when it comes down to it - other than the occasional poking at an instrument here and there, after playing piano for nearly fifteen years, I haven't touched it for .. what. Another ten-ish? Something like.

But that piano's been taunting me. I could sit down at it - touch the keys; I have a couple times. Put fingers to ivories and sent something out that was sloppier than I remembered.. but it was music. And it - surprised the hell out of me.

Today, I downloaded a very simple, modern, expressive piece - the kind of thing that I could sight read, back in the day. Knowing I had thirty minutes, an hour, maybe longer? I sat down and started playing. And.. I lost myself. Note after note - as the rust started to flake off, I could hear it, behind my eyes - how it should sound. I worked out the simple mistakes you make in learning phrases, repeated some again and again - slowly reminded my fingers that moving like this makes this sound ...

Two hours went past, before I noticed.

And .. just before I got up, I played through it. There's still a passage I don't have yet - three pages. Four minutes. And the.. technique is still there. I know how it sounds, and I'm up to tempo, my mistakes are being overcome; that one tricky transition is all that's keeping me from saying 'I know this one'. But it doesn't matter -

For the first time in years, I made a piano sing. I could hear it, coming back from the cinderblock walls - I could adjust it. I could put my heart into the piece and have it come back with the intonations I wanted to hear.

I'll never be a virtuoso. But after ten years, I finally discovered that maybe what I needed to do was put it aside for a while and just live, for a bit. And now? Now, I don't think I can stop playing. At least. I don't want to.

See.. it sang.


More Thinking -

I've always thought better typing.

Just sort of the nature of the beast - for me, it's very easy to get behind a screen and simply tap away, letting my thoughts flow at 90 WPM or so. Easier than paper - pen and ink feels slow; it is craftsmanship. Writing is something that should be savored, taken in, rolled out slowly and with attention to detail.

Digital ink is for wasting. Pens should be experential.

Of course, that could be just me being lazy.


I have come to believe in something very simple, over the last few days. It's so very easy - but something that I think none of us really give any consideration to, or just nod a lot at and go 'yup' without realizing the real meaning of the notion:

You are in control of your life.

It's your decision. Every step on the way. Every moment culminating in another moment - and while your control is certainly not complete, there's just no excuse for feeling as though you cannot affect your own destiny. We have grand plans, and we lay them aside. We have amazing dreams, and we talk about them without ever reaching for them.

Success or failure has little bearing - only the striving counts. And we control that, from top to bottom, from beginning to end.

And yes - I've said it before. It's just on my mind lately. So there.

Stormy Skies

Outside, if you were living in Chattanooga and decided to look outside, you'd notice it's thunderstorming right this minute. Huge sheets of rain pour down loud enough to be heard over the air conditioning system even in the middle of the building, and the sky lights up with white light every once in a while... but without the corresponding boom and shake of thunder.

Yet, it's a summer storm. Ultimately, it will pass as quickly as it blew up, moving on to vent its fury somewhere else in the valley.

In its wake, though, is evidence of its passage - the wet streets and dripping leaves will be the first to dry up and fade. Then, the ground will slowly dry more; people will come outside to clean up whatever it blew about the streets, and where buildings are missing a shingle or two.. well, give it a few days and you likely won't even notice. But it's those buildings that interest me - the slow erosion of their roofs and sides, some parts faster than others. Eventually, it will have to be repaired, or the next storm may cause rooms to flood. The storm after that may cause a section of ceiling to collapse or a server to fail... without maintenance, the things we build slowly come apart as the storms smash into them, again and again.

A building left alone and forgotten will eventually succumb; one that is not cared for will fall apart slower, to be sure, but it's only mended once the damage is catastrophic. But some buildings are kept up - the storm's damage is repaired nearly as soon as it passes - and those buildings can last for centuries.

I think I'm going to go call my wife.

Every Journey Begins with a First Step

And so it begins. Again.

Every day's a new beginning, a new chance to set forth a life that you want instead of the life you have; or, rather, a chance to make a difference with the life you have.

Mmm. Confusing, but I like it. It'll stay.

I'm not happy with what I've become - but I am happy with where I'm standing right now. That, too is another sort of beginning, an opportunity to sally forth and do something, to figure out new priorities and let a bit of sunshine in.

I wonder, sometimes, if I've become the antihero in my own life.

I'm starting to believe that a mid-life crisis isn't a crisis. Instead, it's a point where you realize that all the things you once believed are important are ultimately hollow, and you have to make the choice whether to cling to them or to forge something new from the lessons you've learned. Those who cling by corvettes and trophy wives, armani suits and expensive watches have chosen one path - an attempt to hang on to the simple materialism of youth, a realization that you never did get the Stuff you wanted, and should probably get moving on retrieving it.

Stuff, I guess, is a good enough goal. Perhaps it lacks something fulfilling, but who am I to say it's not the right path to become the person you always wanted to be?

But for other people, it's not glamour. It's realizing that the things important to you are vastly different than what you ever expected they would be, and suddenly you find yourself floundering around staring at what your life is and realizing that it isn't quite what you were expecting when you were a kid. You fall into searching for meaning, and come up with scattered, shotgun hopes and dreams that don't quite fit any real pattern.

How do you build something lasting out of tinkertoys and chewing gum? Remnants of old ideas, and nothing /quite/ coming together.

But lasting is a lightning bolt. Forever is a function of need. And - I think it's not important that you build something permanant, only that you /Build Something/. That you find a place out in the world to make it that much better, and you do it. You make that subtle difference, you connect people in a new way, you make someone's life easier.

Changing the world isn't done with a bang. It's done from hundreds of individuals taking small steps in the right direction on their own initiative.

So. Much. Updating...

Wow. Been a while, huh? Well, what with the move, the new jobs, the getting settled, the crazy emergency stuff... well. It took a bit of work.

So, in the spirit of having too much to note and too little time, today will be a Bullet Point Entry(tm) instead of the usual blathering on and on about what may or may not have any real meaning. 'ere we go!

The Move:

  • Moving is always a pain, and always far too expensive. This move total? $1836.90. NOT counting deposits for the new place. Graar. Of this sum, $735 is /GAS/. Gasolina. Dinosaur juice. If you're moving in the near future, it doesn't pay NOT to factor that in. Keerist.

  • Remember: Gas pumps only let you pump $75 at a time.

  • I think we can get by on one car. Here's hoping. *fingers crossed*

    The Scooters

  • No go with financing - my credit is too much in the toilet after the tail end of Gulf Shores. SO! We do this the old-fashioned way, which is probably better anyway - we /save/. Hallelujah! May buy elcheapo to get Mindy wheels.

  • Have been offered a vintage RS350 in prime shape for $500. Am taking individual up on offer. Will make a decent commuter bike, depending on where I can leave important objects, or whether I can get butt cargo container for it. Research continues.


  • Budget for 2008 is done. If we can stick to it, we'll be down to car and one credit card by december, with good money in the bank. Who knew?

  • With the cards gone, at the end of one year, we'll have enough money to adopt. At the end of eighteen months, we'll have enough money for a down payment on a home. By 24? We'll have the investment fund restarted.

  • Remember goals: Kill the debt. Build the savings. NO MORE DEBT. Raar. Adopt.


  • Having trouble getting back online consistentlyf for gaming there. This is the suck.

  • Bought DND 4e books. Am very, very very very impressed. Am starting game soonest. (Brian, Tony - y'all in?)


  • Bike is fixed and rolling. have tubes, will travel.

  • Need better hydration system desperately. Hrrrml.

  • Goal: 150 by end of year. Which one? When? Who knows.

    .... continued after lunch!

  • Need new glasses. Will find cheap pair. :)


  • Looks like a dive trip next weekend to the quarry in Athens. RAWK!

  • MUST CLEAN GEAR TODAY. Have been lax. Lax is /bad/.

  • Need to get the ladyfaire into the pool - reweight + skills testing = GOOD.

  • NEEED storage unit @ apartment. BUT!...

    Stuff Reduction

  • Have TONS of stuff in storage that needs to get on Craigslist post-haste! (Washer, Dryer, bedframe, bedside tables, antique writing desk (1960's vintage), and god-knows-what-else. The longer it sits, the more we pay expensive storage fees.

  • Must go pay expensive storage fee.

  • Need to look into storage unit @ apartment building for bike, SCUBA, and craft stuff. Oi. half the price, convenient location, will have to rent/borrow truck. Grumblemutter.


  • New job rocks. Good folks, good cause, great people - hard to go wrong here. Now if I can just avoid getting run off for a weird sense of humor.

    And... that's it! Yaaar.