12/24/08 04:57 - 46ºF - ID#47174
Anathem and The Long Now Foundation
I will not waste time giving you a plot summary, which you can find here on wikipedia, or by looking it up on Amazon. What interests me more about this book is the connection it has with The Long Now Foundation in San Francisco. I have been following the doings of this foundation for some time, because they have a wonderful monthly podcast where scientists and leading thinkers of our day are free to speculate about the next 10,000 years.
The book itself budded out of the continuation of Stephenson's involvements with the foundation on their most ambitious project of creating The Clock of the Long Now, or the 10,000 year clock - a sort of every lasting sign of human ingenuity and a inspiration for thinkers to think not towards short term horizons, but toward long term horizons measured in near geological timescales.
The chimes for the clock itself were developed by Brian Eno using algorithms to ensure that each time it chimes it will be different than the last.
Proceeds from the sale of books, and a number of other items related to the world of Anathem through the Long Now Foundation's website go towards the 10,000 year clock fund.
Location: Buffalo, NY
12/23/08 09:53 - 27ºF - ID#47161
The Internets & Me
Hard to tell where the bottom of the whole thing was, or is, but I have moved to south buffalo, ditched my car in favor of the bus system, and stopped drinking. The cherry on top of this cascade came when I was rushed to the Emergency Room back in November with heavy heart palpitations, numbness in my fingers, and pain shooting down my arm and up my neck. Thinking I was having a heart attack they took me in for monitoring and later took me out of work for two weeks.
So, out of work for two weeks killed me in the money department. No one is getting a gift from me this year, not even me. But the heart thing came to a relatively happy ending that could make a person laugh, or at least made me laugh after all of this. The chest pains, my cardiologist advised, were caused by elevated stress levels - Relax, he said, you're only Twenty-Five.
(My internet connection died in August, and I just got it back today.)
Location: Buffalo, NY
Category: nonfiction prose
08/29/07 05:24 - 88ºF - ID#40810
Snippit from - Notes from the Sprawl
Notes from the sprawl
Let me know what you think about the writing
My friends all want to be spooks. They're all digging deep into the criminal justice departments, playing their cards right, and planning the complex river stone jumps needed to reach spook country. It's like the only way to become a spook is to fist be enough of a spook to get in. Jogging the social networks, uncovering dirt to blackmail your representative for a letter of recommendation, and applying your face to enough ass and genitals to be noticed.
"It's big business" I say to him across our table at Starbucks, "these days the call for spooks is way up in both government and private companies. Do you know about Blackwater?"
"No, I'll look'em up"
"If you have a conscience don't bother, can't trust a company that makes it's business fighting to win peace. Their incentive is to win the battles, and prolong the war. Basic game theory there, that's how'd they make the most money."
"I've just always been interested in these sorts of things. The forces behind things pulling the strings, like in cyberpunk stories. Thought it would make a good career."
Like a lot of my friends he's addicted to cybergnosis, a sort of combination concept between Foucault's power-knowledge and the Japanese Otaku. The obscure knowledge about the world that any normal person would never want to know. A normal person suffering from either a complete lack of imagination or an overwhelming sense of their own powerlessness.
I'm an addict too, by the way. Though I am not so crazy as to start thinking spook country is a land I want to visit. Perhaps this is the real truth of my generation: All the past generations, the bohemians with their absinthe, the beats with their everything they could find, and the hippies with their pot; all of them looking for mystical visions and cosmic vibrations in the substances.
Our truth, our drug, is the media.
No, no, not Fox News. The media, like saying the info, we're all infohipsters, media addicts, and news junkies. Stealing away the rare and obscure knowledge and media that grants us social clout, and gnostic power. Fuck the supernatural, this is the information age. Enlightenment is the digital autodidacticism facilitated by the proliferation of the network.
Don't get me wrong you still need to wring the truth out of the world and data-stores with strong arms and mind, but anyone still trying to stare into astral space deserves to be the vegetable that they've become. They need to replace yoga and meditation with solid database building skills.
Sure, sure, we use substances too. Though lets be straight here, my caffeine addiction is just something I have to maintain my insomnia so I can take in more information, my love of whiskey is merely to loosen me up well enough to process my inputs.
I ask him what it is about cyberpunk stories he's lacking in his reality, because mine seems chalk full of it.
"It's just not as apparent as it is in the stories. The situation is blatant in the story. You know the world is messed. There is still room for doubt here."
"bah! That's just the isolation. Here in the decadent opulent center of the sprawl there only 'appears' to be room for doubt. You're not taking in enough of what's really going on out there." I took a deep breath as my mind gathered the ammo for a good cathartic rant. "We're already living in a cyberpunk dystopia, man. The question is not are we there, but what the hell does it mean to be there at all.
"You need to think about it this way: With maybe the exception of full emersion virtual reality, everything in cyberpunk novels already exists in our reality. Corporations with larger budgets than countries, government powers fairly impotent to act against them, people with cybernetic limbs, complex webs of information available online, dangerous hacker criminals, and more; these already exist.
"The doubt that you feel is part of this new problem I am noticing with people. It's sort of summed up in the statement "that only happens in the movies." Science and Technology are advancing so fast that they are out stripping the collective imagination of society. It creates a reality warp where world situations and objects that are in fact real are still considered impossible figments of science fiction entertainment. Hell, even science fiction authors are playing catch-up these days.
"The first cyborg had his nervous system hooked up to a computer on March 22, 2002, but if you asked anyone on the street about it they'd probably tell you that cyborgs are as real as Santa Claus."
He was somewhat dissatisfied. Was I implying that corporations have political autonomy, and are part of some conspiracy to control the worlds governments? Did I know that the Starbucks shift manager was staring at us?
They like to give you side long glances at this one. Especially after you've been sitting for a few hours without buying anything else.
"No," wrinkling my forehead, focusing, "conspiracy theory is an out dated method of geo-political analysis. Like a futurist using tarot cards to write his projections. Corporations will never totally exist as independent pseudo-governments as they appear in cyberpunk novels, because it is too impractical.
"There is a lot to be said for the importance of lobbyists in corporate power, it allows corporations to take turns dressing up and dancing around in Uncle Sam's skin suit. The accepted legitimacy of established governmental sovereignty would be too hard for any single corporation to establish for itself.
"The branding power of the established governments is just too strong for corporations to effectively compete with, so they just pay the governments to release the product they're selling under their brand line. Like The United Fruit Company getting the government of Guatemala toppled in 1954 by the CIA to stop the Arbenz administration from redistributing uncultivated land to the natives. Get me?"
We sat there quietly for a few minutes. I took a drag off my triple shot cinnamon latte, and crammed a piece of marble loaf into my mouth. This trip to Starbucks has cost me nearly eight dollars. I am suddenly aware of how much I need to cut back on the caffeine intake; the more I drink, the more I need, the more it costs. Luck for me I am in the caffeine pushing business, and have a key to a warehouse full of it.
"But that's not what you were talking about," The conversation had gone adrift, and I wanted to get back to his crisis of conscience.
Our vision of the world has come to be dominated by the monolithic figures of the north and south towers of the world trade center blasting fireballs, pluming smoke, and piled as rubble in lower-Manhattan. These moments, witnessed by most of us through the media, have greatly effected the life choices of many of my would-be spook friends.
They were unceremoniously made aware of the harsh realities of geo-political threats, or rather the threats made themselves painfully present in their otherwise comfortably isolated lives. Now in early adulthood their mind is full of a single question replicating itself over and over again: What the hell are you going to do about it?
"I'm looking for a way to do something interesting, and productive without..."
"Standing on the backs of the innocent?"
"Me too." It's true. I'd been going to business school for years, for my undergraduate degree, before I finally opened my eyes to the fact that the school is designed to produce responsive corporate soldiers, not free thinking business people with consciences.
"What are you doing about it?"
"Slamming hard on the brakes until I can figure out what the hell I am doing. Last thing I want is a grey suited job in a grey cubical waiting for a gold watch retirement. I'm afraid of getting space monkey syndrome." As defined by Chuck Palahniuk in Fightclub: The space monkey pushes buttons, pulls levers, never understands a thing about the purpose of his life, and then dies. "Those prospects scare the shit out of me."
I am starting to understand by the look on his face that it scares the shit out of him too, and I can't blame him. Space monkey syndrome is even more frightening when used in the context of the intelligence industry. You might flip a switch or push a button that lands the whole country in another Vietnam or Iraq.
This is the dissonance between the power mechanics of the world and the information age. The mechanics of the world doesn't work with our drug of choice. Governments, Corporations, and the rest of the power structures require the space monkeys to move forward. The info-hipster addiction to cybergnostics has placed us in a situation where we have to choose between our professional survival, and what we know to be true. All of this before we get the first job in our field of choice.
Location: Buffalo, NY
01/16/07 11:32 - 14ºF - ID#37733
Take this blog post, from a little over a year ago, that I put on the myspace blog that I had.
Alone - November 20, 2005
Recently I have been struck by how alone I feel. Now to clarify, I do not feel sad - I feel alone. If I were the lone guard in an outpost on the furthest reach of the Great Wall of China, I do not believe I would feel much different. Though I am hardly the first person to feel as I do; I am still alone in my location and have never experienced what it is like to relax in the presence of complete understanding.
Sometimes what I long for most in life is to not require every statement I make to require explanation. I wish to learn to play Go from a person who can discuss its complex nature in the context of the Art of War by Sun Tzu. I wish to walk through the city streets with someone and ask what they see here and be enriched by their perception of now.
Though the Internet allows me to connect to people of similar minds to my own it is not the same as actual human contact, it is little more than a faster correspondence to my lone outpost. The best this correspondence can offer me is when I write something that another understands. They do not feel the need to write at length to elaborate on what I have written because what I have said was all that was required. It is then that I am comforted by the fact that on this Great Wall there are others like myself.
Yet I am still alone, here.
Similarly the emotional need to write about my life has arisen once again. This time I am writing to say that for perhaps the first time in my life I no longer feel as alone as I felt when I wrote the above post. I just spent the last week with a girl who did not require me to explain everything I was talking about; she could hold up her end of the conversation very well. She is perhaps the most delectable girl I have ever been with, and my heart pounds for her (among other things that require blood to pound). Though she had to get back to where she lives in Vancouver, BC, Canada - some 3000 miles away - I have many reasons to hope that with some work this will turn into a great relationship.
Thats all, this was mostly for me, but if you have something to say - go for it.
Location: Buffalo, NY
01/09/07 04:46 - 31ºF - ID#37601
Buffalo and Global Warming
In previous conversations with people they expressed concern about Buffalo's survivability because of our close proximity to the lakes. I attempted to point out to them that the lake we sit on dumps its water over a cliff we like to call Niagara Falls, but they seemed quite sure we would all be underwater regardless.
So I have looked into the issue, as part of my long term planning thoughts for how Buffalo fits in my life. So some facts:
1.) Buffalo is situated at its lowest point (down by the coast guard station) some 177 meters above sea level (thats 580 feet for the SI disinclined).
2.) In the worst of the worst case scenarios that I could find about rising sea levels, the sea only rises about 100 meters. For an idea of what that would look like please go here.
In that pic you can see that though every major city on the east coast becomes Atlantis, we are high, dry, and still a long way from beach front property.
3.) For a more dynamic and less dramatic look at what is considered a more likely rise in sea level you can go here and play around with the maps. Still again the rise is only about 14 meters max, leaving about 163 meters to go before we start to think about rolling our trousers in the lowest part of our area.
4.) This is really just a joke on my part. I do not think that anyone should consider investing in the city just because they are looking for good post-warming property. However, if you are looking for another reason to see Buffalo as a stable place in the long term environment projections, this is one more reason.
Location: Buffalo, NY
12/31/06 04:11 - 31ºF - ID#37473
Opportunity Costs and God
The liberal states of the north are quite burdensome in their taxation and tendency towards socialist practices. To any business person thinking of building himself in those places, keeping a hold of the money you make is becoming increasingly harder with each passing year.
On the other hand the conservative states of the south are becoming quite burdensome in their religious fervor and tendency towards fundamentalist ideals. To any atheist person thinking of living his life generally free of an oppressive regime of people who believe in a white bearded man in the sky, keeping a hold of ones sanity in those places is becoming increasingly harder with each passing year.
For me, an atheist business person, this is just a great chance to apply a bit of socio-economic theory. It seems that once I manage to answer the the question of where I want to live for the rest of my life, I will have inadvertently also answered the questions
How much of my money am I willing to pay to keep my sanity? And How much sanity am I willing to pay to keep my money?
Location: Buffalo, NY
12/29/06 07:30 - 31ºF - ID#22053
Human beings have a funny way of drawing lines in the sand. We do it all the time; all over the place in fact. It is so ubiquitous that we have come to accept some of these lines as metaphysical facts, because we never even think to question them, we do not realize the ways in which they imped our ability to envision places to draw newer, better lines.
Now, perhaps my view of lines is slightly skewed. I have lived my whole life being made very aware of the lines I lived near, on, and between. Take the basic boarder between Buffalo, and Cheektowaga for example. It is common practice for insurance agencies to keep track of information, and people locations by zip codes. I live in zip code 14211, if you run that on almost any insurance agency computer the answer you arrive at is that that is a City of Buffalo zip code. However, if you look on a map you will see that a portion of Cheektowaga is also included in that zip code. As such it has been very hard to get some insurance agencies to realize that we are not technically the city.
In this case when political lines are combined with zip code lines, it turns a small chunk of land from a suburb into a lost zone. I run into the same problem with the Department of Motor Vehicles and almost every other zip code based computer system a government or other such entity owns. Growing up on this odd piece of land starting me wondering about other lines we have around here that might not make any sense, and others that do.
Political boarders are very important, they determine what police and fire departments are assigned to your house, they determine who you pay your taxes to, they determine what public schools you can attend, and they determine where you vote and who you can vote for; but when you get right down to it thats about as far as it goes. The municipal and state political boarders do not determine where you shop, or where you can go to have a good time, or what friends you are allowed to make. International boarders do have restrictions on shopping, but not on where you can have a good time, or who you can be friends with.
The reason that I bring this up is that here in Buffalo we often don't think outside the municipal lines. Most of the town, village, city, and hamlet entities are very introspective in their views of our area. Each area concerned only about its personal well being instead of seeing how they fit into the whole economic ecology. This municipal level view translates to a county level view that ignores most surrounding counties.
Just a though experiment, but lets presume that major economic activity causes development. That development means buildings, roads, homes, and street lights. Then you might say that you could map major economic activity and common interests with satellite maps of our area at night. If you look below you see that we would have overlooked our very close neighbors to the north otherwise.
I assure you that they come here very often to shop in our malls, drink in our bars, enjoy our jazz and arts, and then go back home across the river. Remember most people in Buffalo live closer to a Canadian than they do to people in Rochester.
These lines that we create in the sand are only good so far as they are useful to us in defining and understanding our world better. However, when they begin to become arbitrary reasons to ignore each other, then they become a problem and a burden.
One such bothersome line that I have noticed in the Greater Buffalo area cannot be found on any map. It is rather a slight cultural line between the urban area and suburban areas. This divide is often exacerbated when partisan politics rages in our county. More conservative suburbanites look down at new urbanite liberals, and new urbanite liberals look down at conservative suburbanites. I have seen this spark all sorts of crazy exchanges, one such exchange was over which was a more aesthetically pleasing alternative, A strip plaza or the elmwood strip. Without going into it much, the new urbanite liberal had said that the development around the galleria mall was horrible looking, and the conservative suburbanite said that he didn't care so long as he could find a place to park his car.
It is my proposition that the above divides are of little use to our community at large. Be it, continued political fictionalization of our area, urbanite "greater than thou" elitism, or simply a failure to see that common economic interest is a good reason to talk to one another; We need to create greater social bonds between these areas.
How? I'll get back to you on that.
Location: Buffalo, NY
12/28/06 12:02 - 38ºF - ID#22052
EJTower Reading Don Quixote Is Dead
Location: Buffalo, NY
12/27/06 11:36 - 38ºF - ID#22051
EJTower Reading The Hollow Men
T.S. Eliot is a poet from the world war one era whose poems sum up the general feelings of the people after the war, which was in fact the horrific birth of modern warfare practices (machine guns and everything we know today). The Hollow Men is one such poem, and here I am reading it to Patrick Cassidy's Lament.
Location: Buffalo, NY
12/18/06 08:38 - 38ºF - ID#22050
So get this...I can draw?
I'm currently downtown at SPoT thinking about the various new options that have opened up to me since I realized that I seem to be capable of drawing. Many years ago (about ten) I stopped drawing, and started focusing on my writing abilities rather intently.
In the years in between I have not drawn much of anything at all. In fact I began to believe that it had almost left me entirely. About six months ago I started thinking about trying to write a graphic novel or a comic strip, as a thing to try. So I tried my hand at attempting to draw some cartoons, got discouraged by my complete failure and started trying to outsource the job of illustrating to other people.
Unable to find a single person who was interested in illustrating a comic strip with me, I eventually gave up entirely on the project idea, and sent it over to "The Pile" to ferment until another day.
About a week ago though, someone I know challenged me to attempt to draw a portrait of someone from a picture. Always open to random creative challenges, I jumped on it. Swept away the ten years of dust from my drawing pencils, now found buried deep in a closet, and set about the task. As I went along, I was surprised as it all began to come back. A little bit at a time, shading, lines, illusions to create lines. I churned out a halfway decent looking portrait, the sort of piece that impresses most people but you keep thinking is slightly off in the nose or eyebrow.
Happy with this realization, that I have a new resource to tap, I set about thinking of ways to implement it. Oh yeah, I realized, I have that thing on "The Pile". So here is yet another project idea on the queue. ha ha.
Location: Buffalo, NY
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