I just read the State of the Union address. I prefer to read rather than watch because I get more out of reading — if I didn’t get something, I can go back and try again. If something sounds inconsistent, I can flip backwards and forwards and see if something is really out of kilter.

As with much that passes for public speaking, I had to separate everything into facts and appeals. I don’t have a full team of researchers to dig data for me, but frankly I think the actual state of the union is a worse picture than the one Obama painted with the facts he presented. Yes, we’re in two wars and one of them is ending. Yes, we still have torture-prisons where people who haven’t been convicted of anything are incarcerated, but we’re closing one of them and scaled way back on that torture thing.

Our educational system is still a wreck and nothing has happened with healthcare except a lot of screaming, and not much of that screaming has been about the actual problem: the feedback loop of insurance companies charging doctors high malpractice premiums — which then push the costs of those premiums back to patients, who then have to pay higher coverage premiums TO THE SAME COMPANIES. It’s as if they’ve found a secret tap for draining money out of everyone’s wallet and think if they only crank it open 10-15% more each year, they won’t get caught. The only way to stay out of that loop is to not buy insurance and not get sick. The only arguing I’ve heard about so far is the argument to make it illegal to not buy the insurance. That’s the wrong order, you twerps. Fix it first THEN make me buy it.

Unemployment is not depicted to be as bad as it actually is. Obama says one in ten people can’t find work. Technically true. Demographically it’s worse than that. Seventeen out of a hundred black males can’t find any work here in Georgia. But it’s worse than THAT, even, because that one-in-ten figure is just people who are still looking and haven’t given up. Also it doesn’t count people who have sucky jobs that don’t cover all the bills and who are still being dragged by spiraling debt towards default and foreclosure and bankruptcy. And God help them if they get sick.

So let’s say that REAL unemployment figure is a lot closer to one in five. If not, by now, one in four.

Obama discusses the broken, partisan nature of the House and Senate. He does say that some seem to be acting like it will take a clear sixty votes in Senate to get any bill through both houses. So he’s pretty accurate there. This is largely due to the unprecedented polarizations of the propaganda networks. The tea/douche-bagging phenomenon continues at an unslowed pace, for instance. This is unsurprising. Pardon me for some nearly unforgivable profiling here, but the stereotypical FOX News viewer is a bigoted white Christian fundamentalist who is frightened to the core of living in unprotected among people who are not much like them and, by now, nearly justified in setting fire to their backwards little enclaves simply because the smell of burning flesh and hair is better then the stench of unbridled fear.

I’ll just sit here for a minute while you go back and sort out the syntax of that last sentence. I know it’s a bit twisted, but it’s too close to exactly how I feel for me to try to rewrite it for simplicity’s sake.

These people are actually in favor of Armageddon, secretly rooting for it, even, because they think they’re still in charge somehow, or, if not, that their networks are tight enough to allow them to be the only survivors when shit comes down, that when Mad Max rolls into town, they’ll be the only ones with gasoline. To this I can only answer, I really hope you can survive on drinking gasoline.

I’ll skip the evaluation of the appeals. Those are easy to spot. More interesting are the tone of the appeals, backhanded as often as straightforward, revealing an immense amount of exasperation and frustration on the part of the President. This is unsurprising. Not meaning to talk bad about Obama here — I truly believe he’s enormously competent and even awe-inspiring — but he won an election that, in reality, could have been won by a deranged goat if it had stepped onto the Democrat party ticket. And considering the shape the nation was in after eight years of GWB, the only people who could have actually wanted the Presidency at that point would have had to be similarly deranged. There was nothing on the plate to be served to the President BUT exasperation and frustration and whatever it takes to get people to stop pointing their damn fingers and just clean up the mess before we all choke on it.

My principal worry about who to vote for in the Democratic primary was weighing the sanity of the person volunteering to jump on the grenade rolling around on the floor. The fear that we would get another crushing couple of years of GWB policies never really crossed my mind. McCain would have been a breath of fresh air even, but his sanity was even worse in doubt after conceding to the showboating that selected the big bucket of insanity that was Palin for a running mate. THAT, friends and neighbors, was an act of desperation that deserved to fail. TO THIS DAY Palin is right off the set of some SNL-inspired mockumentary and seems to be the only one who doesn’t get the joke.

I slipped a little bit off topic there.

Anyway, Obama’s exasperation is not surprising. The fact that there are no real rumors of him losing his temper is surprising. I don’t really have more I feel I need to say about that.

I would like to see what progress his appeals inspire. I saw a lot of pledged support for traditional situations, for the middle class that has absolutely taken a couple of shots below the waterline, for families and households with children. I’m not going to see it purely in terms of what he’s pledged for people like myself — no children in the household that would could toward the tax credits, living in the hinterlands that are handfuls of 1099s instead of a W2 or two per household and tax forms that have to be shipped to the IRS in a box because envelopes aren’t big enough.

There are plenty of people scheduled to fall between the gaps in the appeals due to nonstandard employment and nonstandard family life, and that’s all unfortunately because it’s prettier, and more emotionally appealing, to talk in terms of supporting jobs and families than in terms of basic human rights that apply to everyone, regardless of age or race or situation, that we’re afraid to admit we’re on the wrong side of the curve on.

In any case, that was an excellent speech, Mr. President. It covered all the emotional bases and many of the factual ones. It offered a carefully described majority some hope that change was still in progress. The rest of us will continue to hope that someone will get around to us eventually.


January 28, 2010 · Posted in reviews  

Papa Legba, show me the way to Titanyen

Baron Kriminel kicked the island, shoved the buildings down, slaughtered the children and old people and beautiful people in their prime, for Titanyen is lonely

Baron Cimetière open the gate to Titanyen

Baron Samedi, laugh, Baron Samedi and Maman Brigitte welcome all with open arms

Baron La Croix tap friends on shoulder, take coats and hats and show dancers to their places

Maman Brigitte, give everyone their cross

Inside sits Papa Ghede, playing cards with Ghede Bábáco, pick up your spades and dig

Baron Cimitière, hug all the little children and hold them close

Ghede Nibo, sing with the voices of the dead, sing all their names and all the names of all their fathers and mothers, sing as you dig

Baron Cimitière, hug all the grandpas and grandmas and hold them close

Ghede Masaka, tuck your bag in your belt and dig

Baron Cimitière, hug all the mothers and fathers and hold them close

Ghede Oussou, put down your bottle and dig

Baron Cimitière, hug all the brothers and sisters and hold them close

Ghede L’Oraille, straighten your dress and dig

Baron Cimitière, hug my cousin, my aunt, my uncle, hold them close

Ghede Plumaj, dust off your hat and dig

Baron Cimitière, hug my wife, my husband, hold them close

Ghede Ti Malis, wake up your lazy ass and dig

Baron Cimitière, hug all my good friends and hold them close

Ghede Zaranye, dig and dig and dig and dig and dig and dig and dig and dig

Baron Kriminel kicked the island, knocked the buildings down, slaughtered the children and old people and beautiful people in their prime, for Titanyen is lonely

Baron Samedi laugh, Baron Samedi and Maman Brigitte, welcome all with open arms

Baron La Croix, tap friends on shoulder, take coats and hats and show dancers to their places

Maman Brigitte, give everyone their cross

Baron Cimetière, close the gate to Titanyen

Papa Legba, bring me home


January 19, 2010 · Posted in Everything Else  

When I sit down to write it’s not exactly as if I intend to write the unreadable. It’s all these levels of abstraction I can’t ignore anymore. An example:

Physics –> Materials –> Voltage switching –> BIOS –> Operating system –> Application –> These words being written & fine-tuned & sent

(and realize this is leaving out a couple to keep things simple)

But then here I am, just sitting here thinking:

Physics –> Molecular chemistry –> Organic Chemistry –> Biological Chemistry –> Cellular abstractions –> Multicellular abstractions –> Organism –> Sensory BIOS –> Consciousness/attention –> Logical & Linguistic abstractions –> Some words in my head

(again it’s not just simple and linear layers, but a network of interlocking abstractions)

It’s not the layers that are the important parts, but the interfaces between layers. Those interfaces allow for abstractions. Abstractions make applications portable. With the right abstraction, any application ought to be able to run on any layer. Yes, even consciousness (and everything above it) on bare-metal condensed matter physics. If we create the necessary abstractions for human sensory input and communication output — write the BIOS, as it were — we should be able to move right in.

Partially, completely, aggregately.

It can go the other direction as well.

… Consciousness/attention –> Logical & Linguistic abstractions –> Communication –> Organizational behavior –> Societal tissue abstractions –> Social organism –> Social sensory BIOS –> Social organism consciousness/attention –> Social organism logical & linguistic abstractions –> … not a new idea, certainly. Really, it’s at least a couple thousand years old, bare minimum. And it’s such a natural progression.

Any application you can think of — and that’s anything that does anything — can be ported from one level of existence to another by the deliberate design and construction of an abstracted interface layer and careful duplication of inputs and outputs.


January 12, 2010 · Posted in Everything Else  

“It just hasn’t been an evening out for you unless there was blood dripping from the ceiling, right?”

“Once you’ve broken one physical law of the universe, it’s like the rest just mill about, looking at their feet, wondering which is going to be next.”

“When your only source of reliable information is a giant frog in a space suit that no one else can see, you tend to keep a lot of stuff to yourself.”

“You sank them by dropping an ox a hundred feet onto their boat? AHAHAHAHA!” “Don’t laugh! That ox was like a member of the family!” “Which one? Your wife? HAHAHAHAHA!” “If you must know, Harold, I named him after you! And I thought about you anytime I stuck anything up his arse.

“What is your fascination with grafting spare tongues into random orifices in the serving girls, anyway? It’s their duty to hold their tongues most of the time, regardless.” “Yes, dear, but it never said where.”

Bonus points if you know my projects well enough to know which lines go with which novels in progress.


January 7, 2010 · Posted in Everything Else