version 2 of the GNU General Public License the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License

Sidewalk to Nowhere

brian m. carlson


Writings, thoughts, opinions, and randomness, all from a peculiarly odd point of view.

Table of Contents

As a writer and a poet, language is important to me. It forms the basis for nearly all our communication and its written form is widely considered the most important development that human society has ever made.

I also work quite a bit with computers. Computers are relatively stupid: they only understand information in highly-specific and highly-restricted languages. I've noticed, though, that computers have given rise to some of the most interesting aspects of human language.

One case where computers are ever-present is cryptography (which, according to cryptographer Bruce Schneier, is the art and science of keeping messages secure). For simplicity's sake, we generally call the two people involved in some sort of cryptographic exchange Alice and Bob. This is easier than calling them Person A and Person B.

There have been attempts to prove the security of certain cryptographic systems. In order to do so, we need to talk about how humans act in certain situations and thus, Alice and Bob's states of mind. This leads to questions such as What does it mean that Alice believes something? Our answer must be very precise so that we can rigorously test our assumptions. The answer, in one set of thought, is that to say Alice believes X means that Alice acts as though X were true.

Now, this is really the best definition of belief that I've ever heard, regardless of context. It is clear and unambiguous. It's perfect as a way to model cryptographic proofs. It's also perfect as a way to describe one important action that pervades our society.

Another case where specificity is important is RDF. RDF is basically a method to describe metadata (data about data). We might want to use RDF to describe the relationships between people, or information about a book. There are specially created vocabularies to discuss almost anything, including biographical information about people. The data represented in these vocabularies must be exceptionally precise, since computers are once again going to manipulate it.

One of the interesting aspects is what it means to be born. According to one vocabulary of biographical information (linked above), birth is the event of a person entering into life. While this seems a simple description that is hard to quibble with, in MacBeth (sorry, theater geeks), the titular character is told that none of woman born/Shall harm MacBeth. Unfortunately for MacBeth, MacDuff was delivered in a Caesarian section, and thus was not considered born. Oops.

Computers and the language related to them inject a newfound sense of precision into English. Whether this is a good thing or not is, of course, a matter of what you believe.

This entry is more as a reminder to myself, but go ahead and read it if you like. I do a lot of work with DocBook 5, to the extent that I use it for pretty much everything except letter writing. I have a lot of XSLT stylesheets that I use on top of the DocBook XSL-NS set to customize things. And one set of these converts it to XSL-FO, which is then converted to PDF by Apache FOP.

PDF has a set of profiles for long-term data storage and FOP has long supported PDF/A-1b. One of the requirements is that every font be embedded, even the base 14 that are required by every PDF viewer. I keep running into problems with some old FO files where FOP complains that the Times-Roman font would be required but was not embedded, even though I've specified other fonts for the document. The sneaky part is that somewhere I've missed a font-family of serif, which of course FOP turns into Times-Roman. Changing this as well prevents FOP from complaining.

The things you and he did, I remember
when I went to bed
the middle of the street glowing like a sunset-red flare
the smell of gasoline and styrofoam plates was thick
and the smoke was angry chemicals.

Mrs. Sullivan thought the plant had exploded again—
though the air-raid sirens quietly napped—
and turned off her air conditioning: she slowly
baked until her shriveled body was still and all
we could smell was laced with decay.

He walked past the mural every day, never quite sure what its artistic screaming meant. He determined that its purpose was not noble: nobody would want orange and olive to symbolize peace or co-existence or anything at all good. Most likely, he decided, it was a disagreement between two rival gangs, each trying to outdo the other until there was no space left on the wall.

It made sense, he thought, that nobody cared about what was painted on the side of a chop shop.

I’ve long enjoyed implementing cryptographic algorithms. One of the easiest types to implement is a hash, or message digest. These functions take a variable-length input and produce a fixed-length output, and they’re commonly used in digital signatures.

Several years back, the US Government created an algorithm called SHA-1, which has a 160-bit (20-byte) output. Much analysis ensued, and due to some weaknesses, as well as concern about the length of SHA-1, four additional hashes collectively referred to as SHA-2 were produced. They are SHA-224, SHA-256, SHA-384, and SHA-512.

SHA-224 and SHA-256 are really quite the same, except for some different constants and a truncated output. Similar comments apply to SHA-384 and SHA-512. One important difference is that the former two operate on 32-bit variables, and the latter two operate on 64-bit variables. The two 32-bit algorithms process messages in 64-byte chunks, and the two 64-bit algorithms process message in 128-byte chunks.

I’ve tested out the algorithms on my laptop, which is a Core 2 Duo. In 64-bit mode, SHA-256 runs at 96 MiB/s, whereas SHA-512 runs at 147 MiB/s. SHA-512 operates on larger amounts of data, so given the same amount of data, it has to do fewer iterations to process it all.

However, in 32-bit mode, SHA-256 far outperforms SHA-512 (65 MiB/s vs. 28 MiB/s). These algorithms are both very register-intensive: their internal states both eight variables for processing; as a consequence, amd64 code (which has twice as many registers) has a significant performance advantage. Other than the size of the operands, the structure of all four algorithms is very, very similar. The interesting thing to consider, though, is that using a 64-bit machine makes using a more secure algorithm faster than a less secure one. That’s something I hadn’t considered before.

My work on yelp-xsl (and yelp) to add support for DocBook 5 has landed in the master branch. I'm still planning to support the code, as well as expand on some of the features (assuming Shaun approves).

DocBook 5 supports XLink, which means that typed links are supported. Also, since DocBook 5 uses a schema based on RELAX NG and Schematron, it's possible to add arbitrary XML in the info elements. Including, conveniently enough, RDF. The possibilities here are endless.

You pause, think of Vodka
and Reb, the ties of sick addiction to other
and self, wanting peace from footballs chucked
at heads, from being locked in small metal cages,
from constant poundings.

You breathe, blink, ask yourself about your best
friend, the one you drink beer and talk away
the afternoon with.

You are jealous that he is not your anchor,
the one you go to with your problems, the
one you destroy (yourself) with.  You miss
him: he sucks the life from you to feed you both; you need
him: he has no regrets; you drive
him: from word into action, from thought into deed.

You crave the thick redness as it
washes over your tongue, let music flow
through your eyeballs as they burn hot
and cold together, sip irritation steeped
into anger.  It wants you to intoxicate
yourself, never apologizing.

You breathe, steel yourself for another day
you must somehow survive.  You wonder
what you will do tomorrow.

The alarm went off just in time for NPR to inform me that it was seven o'clock. I sat up, and immediately could tell it was only a two-aspirin morning, which all in all, wasn't too terribly bad. As I sat up, I realized it'd been six months.

I stumbled down the hallway and toward the kitchen. For the first time in four days, I managed to avoid stubbing my toe on the mirror that was propped up against the wall. For some reason, I had taken it off the wall when I moved in, but had never done anything with it.

I decided that it was a cereal day. Then again, every day was a cereal day. Cereal is cheap, easy, and doesn't require a lot of thought. No eggs to avoid burning and no pots to clean. And it doesn't taste nasty with aspirin.

The house I lived in is two story. From the outside, it doesn't look that big, but it's actually quite large. It's been in my family for some time: it originally belonged to my great-aunt. Since she died, it's been occupied by several of my siblings. As each of us has gotten clean, we've moved into the first floor until we could get back on our feet. All that's on the second floor is just a lot of old stuff of my aunt's that no one really wants to sort through.

After work, I decided to head to an early meeting. I walked down past Canal and up Elm, which I like to joke is Church Row. There are probably at least a dozen of them there, I'm not really sure why. St. Michael's has a five-thirty AA meeting every Friday, and I usually meet Claire there. She's pretty good, as far as sisters go.

On my way home, I stopped by City Market. The grocery list was starting to get a little long and I knew Jake and I would need stuff for Sunday's dinner. Most nights, Jake would come over, and we'd cook and hang out, maybe play some Rummy or, on occasion, Monopoly. Over the past three months, we'd become pretty good friends, and he was teaching me the basics of cooking, things like how to boil water and sauté vegetables. And honestly, we had made some pretty good stuff. Fridays, though, were the day that Jake went out with some of his other friends, usually to some bar or another. I usually found something to do on my own.

But as I was walking up to the door, the bag tore and my blackberries landed all over the sidewalk. I've always loved blackberries, ever since I was a little kid. Neither of my sisters ever liked them, and so the only time I could ever eat them was when I went over to my grandparents'. My grandmother would give me a dish of fresh blackberries, and she'd make a wonderful blackberry cobbler for dessert.

Putting the bag down, I picked up the ones that didn't look particularly dirty and put them back into the container with the ones that hadn't fallen out. I couldn't throw away a pint of blackberries. I went inside and rinsed them off. I ate them as I put the groceries away. Since it was Friday, I ordered a pizza—green peppers and onions, of course—and put on the TV.

I figured that I'd probably better take a quick shower before the pizza arrived, so when the commercials came on, I headed to the bathroom, careful to avoid the mirror lurking in the hallway. I got out of the shower, put on some shorts and a t-shirt, and headed into the living room. By the time I got back to the TV, the killer had already been captured, so I changed the channel and waited for the pizza to be delivered. It ended up not being as good as I'd hoped, but I ate it anyway.

The next day was Saturday, so I figured I'd sleep in. It also happened to be my birthday, so I figured I could go one day without running and instead do some goofing off on the computer. Around two-thirty I heard a key in the lock, and I figured that it had to be Jake. It was, and he called down the hallway. Are you decent? he asked.

Yeah, I am. I'm in the computer room, I called back.

He came into the room. I was thinking that we might go to the park and play some frisbee golf. And what would you think about dinner afterward? he queried.

Sounds good. Where are we going for dinner? I asked.

Wherever you want, he replied.

Let's do that Italian place. You know which one, I said.

Yeah, I do, he said. I can never remember the name, either.

We headed out to Eyvan Park. It's not in a particularly good neighborhood, but since it's only one of two parks in the city with a disc golf course, and the only one with a half-pipe, it's of course quite popular. And it was cool and not too windy: a perfect day for frisbee golf. The parking lot ended up being full, of course, and we were forced to park some ways away in the nearby neighborhood. All in all, that was probably better, since it meant my car wouldn't get dinged.

One of the things that I've always liked doing is going fast. It doesn't really matter what the actual vehicle is as long as it's fast. So when I got out of rehab, I decided that I'd save up to get a used Toyota Celica and deck it out. I also discovered that running every day and driving a little faster than the speed limit (okay, almost twice as fast) helped stave off the intense, wracking cravings for crack.

When we got to the park, we played the course for a while. Jake was usually the better player, but I was beating him easily. I figured it probably had something to do with my birthday. When we finished hole twelve, Jake pointed out that it was starting to get dark and we needed to shower and change before dinner. On our way back to the car, Jake decided to stop at the bathroom. I told him that I'd bring the car around.

I pulled the car into the small U-shaped driveway, and then pulled off to the side, putting on my flashers. I rolled down the windows and turned off the engine. My head throbbed, and I was annoyed with myself for leaving the aspirin at home. I opened up the center console to see if I could at least find my can of Altoids, and to my surprise, there was a bottle of aspirin.

I figured I could take one dry, so I popped open the cap and shook a couple out into my hand. Along with the three aspirin, out came a rock. Things took a second to register. Crap, I thought. I so do not need this right now. But at the same time, I had this urge: there was suddenly nothing I wanted to do more right then but smoke it.

I saw Jake walking towards the car, so I put everything back in the bottle and shoved it back into the console. When he got in the car, Jake noticed I was a little frazzled.

Everything okay? he asked. You don't look so good.

Yeah, I said. I just got this killer headache. I'll take something when we get home.

Okay, he said. He seemed a little more at ease.

We got home and I told Jake he could shower first. Feel free to grab something from my closet, I said. I'll get the frisbees.

I put the frisbees in the garage, and took in the the bottle of aspirin. I turned on the faucet to get a glass of water, poured the contents of the bottle onto the counter, and stared.

I wanted it, the smell of it burning, the insane rush that I knew so well, the shivers of ecstasy. I needed it, had to have it. Nothing else was important. This was it: my life's purpose.

In one motion, I swept the pills off the counter and into the sink. I turned on the garbage disposal and listened to it crunching and grinding away. I took a deep breath and then a swallow of my water. My head was still pounding.

Jake stuck his head out of my bedroom. Next! he called. Then, after a second, Are you all right? You look really pale.

It's just the headache, I said. I think this is going to be one of those four-aspirin ones.

Jonas was a bit confused. Where shall I go? he asked.

The sepulchral voice did not reply. It only gasped and wheezed a little. At one point, it cleared its throat, like it was about to say something, but it only proceeded to spit out some phlegm.

Or at least that's what Jonas thought it did. Nobody could be sure, since it was just a voice.

I believe in index cards. I'm sure this sounds like a strange statement, but it's really not. I have a collection of index cards that I've used over the years for all sorts of things. It includes grocery lists, research notes, phone number (including some without names), to-do lists, and much more.

For example, I acquired a very old shortwave radio from my parents. I had planned to use it to acquire broadcasted time signals from the likes of WWV and WWVB. I have an index card listing all the frequencies on which time signals are broadcasted around the world.

I also have the phone number of someone I knew who lived in San Antonio. I had planned to call him and ask him about whatever happened to a mutual friend of ours that happened to have been born on the same day I was. For some reason, I never made the call and still don't know what happened to the guy.

I'm still not sure why I keep all these index cards, but I do. It's always pretty cool to end up looking through snippets of my life.

Among other projects that I’m working on right now, I have my own set of XSLT stylesheets that basically do some fixup on top of the DocBook XSL-NS stylesheets. One of the other things that these stylesheets do is turn DocBook 5 into Atom 1.0. As a good producer of Atom 1.0, I try to check the Atom output that I create with the Feed Validator. It produces some recommendations on occasion, and I try to make it happy.

One thing that it noticed is that my Atom ends up with an xmlns:xsi namespace attribute. This occurs because when the XHTML is XIncluded into the Atom feed, it dereferences all of the DTD, and this namespace node ends up being emitted. The postprocessing stylesheet drags this namespace node along with an xsl:copy tag.

I didn’t used to have this problem when I used tools built on libxslt1.1, but I have recently learned that the behavior of stripping unneeded namespace nodes is actually a bug. So now that I use Java tools, I actually get correct behavior. Which isn’t what I really want.

So I’m now trying to generate all the namespace nodes I’m going to need on the root element and then process out the excess nodes only on the elements that end up with them. Unfortunately, that means that all of the XHTML elements, since they all end up with that namespace node. Fortunately, this won’t occur in XHTML 5, since it doesn’t use a DTD, and therefore won’t pull in those extra namespace nodes.

Yesterday, I decided to go on a bike ride, which is something I haven't done in a long time. I had tons of fun and I'm planning to go out again to-morrow. It feels good to get back in the habit of cycling.

One thing that many people may not have noticed is that yelp, the GNOME help program, is actually a DocBook 4 viewer. One of the things that it does is render sections in pieces, which requires some specialized code. One thing that it does not do—yet—is render DocBook 5. And since I’d like it to, I’m working on it.

Since the current code base is going to disappear after GNOME 2.30, I’m working on the code for what will become the code for GNOME 3. This is not as difficult as it may seem, since most of the code that needs changing is actually XSLT 1.0.

There are two ways to handle DocBook 5 in stylesheets that are designed to handle DocBook 4. The first way is to use an extension function to strip the namespace that the former has but the latter does not, and then fix up the few cases where semantics or element names differ. This, however, requires processing the XML file twice: once to handle the namespaces and then once to process it normally. This is a problem because it’s slow. Speed is one of the reasons the DocBook XSL sheets weren’t used in the first place.

The second way is to change every match attribute to match the namespaced element as well as the non-namespaced element, and then handle different cases differently. This is the method I’m attempting. Most of the changes in DocBook 5 are not very significant from a stylesheet point of view, and those that are, like ubiquitous linking, and the aforementioned namespace, are easy to handle.

So far, progress is good. Ubiquitous linking is almost ready, and most of the changes are minimally invasive. It’s even possible that the changes could be ready for GNOME 3.0. We’ll see.

Nickelback seems to be a little confused: We'll all stay skinny cause we just won't eat and So I can eat my meals for free. Eating is eating.

There are lots of things I really like about my bike.

I know my bike is a precision machine: I trust it. I know how it works: how it turns, how it grips, how it accelerates. I can make it move so smoothly that I can come within inches of a pedestrian—and miss every time.

I can drive a car, but cars are different; they are not trustworthy. You push the pedal, and it does not accelerate. It automatically determines how to direct the power. I cannot drive a car with inches to spare, because I don't know the machine inside and out; it will not always obey me. Thus a car is a useful tool, but it is not something that I can rely on at all times; it is not an extension of me.

There are some days that I am just ravenously hungry for no good reason. Today is one of those days.

Recently I’ve found myself feeling a lot less depressed. As bizarre as this sounds, for a long time I felt my depression was egosyntonic; that is, consistent with how I view myself. But now, I think I’m starting to actually enjoy being happy, which is quite new to me.

I've been doing some thinking about my life lately. I realize that whilst I've been getting better emotionally in my life, including even enjoying life, I still have some way to go. I know that I'm still not where I probably should be. For example, I still fantasize about suicide.

Now, I have no real intent to kill myself, and lots of things that are preventing me from doing so, including a wonderful boyfriend and a really great family of choice. But it still seems that I have this want, even need, to die. I think the underlying issue is that I need to feel important in some way that I don't already. My fantasy of death is that people will somehow wish that I were still alive, that I had not wasted the opportunity to do something great.

I think that realizing this is probably the key to not being quite so fucked up. I'm just not sure what the next step is from here.

So, to recap last time, I've been trying to build my website with ant. And finally, I've gotten it to work.

I gave up on ant 1.7 and moved to ant 1.8.0rc1. The difference with the latter is that it provides a very useful element called sysproperty. This element allows you to specify a Java system property. The useful aspect of this is that Xerces can have its XInclude behavior enabled by a system property. Consequently, this avoids all the other problems I've had with XInclude. It also means that I can also avoid having to have an XSLT 2.0 processor installed.

I've still encountered a few other problems, which are probably my fault, but overall everything has gone smoothly. Now the only things to do are generalize the behavior so that it works for the server's website as well, and then perhaps for other cases. However, I'm inclined to still use Makefiles for times when I just need to build a file or two. I often build PDF versions of my poems when I'm working on revising them, but I don't need a PDF version of every poem I've ever written in that case, just one or two. Makefiles seem like they handle that case better.

There was a time in my life where I was seriously suicidal pretty much every day. With medication and therapy, those times have mostly passed. But still, I continue to be interested in death. It fascinates me, and I wonder what it would be like to be dead. Obviously, there's no way of knowing. From what I've been told, people around me would be upset if I died; I'm not sure I believe them. I still don't think that I'm really that great or important: I haven't done or produced anything of significant value, and I feel like I should. I also feel like I'm not likely to anytime soon.


My website is built mostly from DocBook 5.0 XML files, and then converted into HTML, XHTML, Atom, and PDF (for some files). Currently, it involves a lot of XSLT stylesheets and is built by a set of makefiles for NetBSD make (Debian package pmake).

One problem that I have, though, is that it takes a long time, and it isn't very resilient. I'm using tools built on libxml2 and libxslt1.1. However, a few problems occur. Since I want to make sure all my XML validates, I validate my DocBook 5.0 source against the RELAX NG schema. libxml2's RELAX NG support is buggy, however, and it sometimes marks valid files as invalid. Because it also breaks on the Atom RELAX NG schema, I end up having to call some Java tools (like msv). But starting Java repeatedly is slow.

Java programs aren't in and of themselves slow, but starting the VM is very expensive. I happen to know that Java has a lot of really great XML support, and I was vaguely familiar with ant, so I figured that I'd try building my website with ant.

This has been a colossal disaster. Not specifically because of ant, but different pieces of the underlying infrastructure have had subtle breakage. One requirement for the project is that except for the actual upload of the finished product to the server, it cannot require Internet access. This generally requires that all the pieces have catalog support. It is quite fortitous, therefore, that networking is mostly broken in Debian's IcedTea packages. Another important requirement is that XInclude work properly, since my blog and writings use that to generate complete pages.

Today, my problem has been with XInclude. The strategy I originally took was to call xmllint, but that seems kind of dodgy, since my hope is to keep everything in Java. Another strategy I tried was to define a Java system property that would tell Xerces (the XML parser) to automatically XInclude when parsing. This strategy will work in Ant 1.8, but not in Ant 1.7.

The temporary strategy I've settled on is using an XSLT 2.0 stylesheet called xipr. xipr is basically an XInclude implementation in XSLT 2.0. Since it requires an XSLT 2.0 processor, that basically means that I'll be using Saxon-B 9. xipr works great, except that I found that it fails whilst trying to include portions of an XHTML file. This is because even with DTD validation turned off, Saxon-B's doc-available() function tries to parse the to-be-included file, including accessing the DTD. Since by default, Saxon-B does not use catalogs, this results in a failed lookup (because remember, IcedTea has broken networking at the moment), and Saxon-B reports that the document is not available. xipr, not knowing any better, gives up, and the build process is halted.

I'm looking into other methods of attack. Making my documents standalone does not seem to solve the problem.

I stand at the station to ride the train.  It moves in,
slowly, the wheels hidden but giving themselves away

with their slow hissing, like a cat and snake
at a stand-off.  Its horn is unapologetically digital

-ly false.  The bright fluorescent lights keep the cabin
painfully, unnaturally lit.  I sit down, slouch,

relieved of obligation, listen to the combination
of wheels and rails beating like drums, relax

into the grey building-shapes dappled with pinpricks of light,
read the Poetry in Motion signs in English and Spanish.

I’m not going anywhere: I’ll ride around this city
until the darkness sucks the train into some depot:

I’ll walk home, past all-night pizza parlors, steaming
drains, basketball courts, dumpsters smelling at once

of beer and stale piss.  I’ll ignore the people stealing
the Christmas lights off of City Hall, keep

my footsteps in rhythm with the ka-clack of train
wheels down thin rails as I make my way home, up

the freight elevator, through the door of the loft,
fall face forward onto the bed like Christ doing
a face-plant.

After Tracy K. Smith’s “I Killed You Because You Didn’t Go to School and Had No Future”.

Your footsteps clomped down the street, waking
us like the beeping of the garbage truck.

Inconsiderate prick.  When we saw you
running, we all wondered why you ran

and whether we should call the fire department.
Sociopath.  You couldn’t even find

an adult who would vouch for you.  Bitter
crystalline smoke flies out

of your mouth and follows you.  Today,
the fountains in the plaza shoot up

like an addict.  Your older brother
comes looking for you there,

only to discover that the river
has carried you off.

So my parents decided that they wanted to go on a cruise, and they wanted to take my brother Nathan and his girlfriend Mandy, and my boyfriend Danny and I. So we got up early on Sunday the 16th, and headed to the airport. We had a taxi pick us up, since it was cheaper to do that than spend the money on parking the car. The taxi that came had difficulty fitting the six of us and all of our luggage in the car, but we got it to work. We decided to eat breakfast at McDonald’s, since that was really the only choice we had (and, I would like to point out, my car did not stop there).

We got on the plane to Minneapolis/St. Paul, and the flight was mostly uneventful. The MSP airport is huge; it has only one terminal, but at least seven concourses, each with a large number of gates. The size of the place is so great that there are trams to take you between different concourses. We had a short amount of time before our next leg, from MSP to Anchorage, but we managed to find lunch anyway. We boarded the plane, which was supposed to depart at 11:50a (CST; 16:50 UTC), and as it was pulling away from the gate, it experienced a hydraulics problem.

The pilot said that we wouldn’t be able to continue with this problem; it would be unsafe, so we pulled up back to the gate, whilst they did repairs. When they did a test, they found that the problem was not fixed, so Northwest decided to put us on a different plane; we had to go from gate C6 to gate F14, which is a fairly significant distance, maybe .75km. Our plane left significantly later; we did not get off the ground until 19:45 UTC.

The concern that we had (along with several other passengers, we found out) was that the ship might leave without us. When we arrived in Anchorage, which is in the Alaska Time Zone, three hours earlier than Central, the passengers for the ship were supposed to disembark first. That really didn’t happen, but we quickly got routed to the baggage claim, where they picked up our luggage and got it loaded onto the motorcoach.

We all got on the motorcoach for the drive from Anchorage to Seward. Since the Port of Anchorage must be dredged every year, it has not yet been dredged deep enough to permit cruise ships to dock there. The drive was quite scenic.

The first thing I noticed about Alaska was that all the trees looked very similar and had very much the same shape. Almost all the trees had a conical shape, and even though they may have been different species, it was difficult to tell them apart from any distance. Also, the mountains were huge and very beautiful. It was possible to see mountainside homes that were covered in clouds.

We arrived in Seward and boarded the ship. The cruise terminal was, very simply, a large warehouse-like building that had a metal detector at one end. We checked in at the front desk, got our keycards for our door, and went to our rooms.

The rooms are fairly small: there is a king-sized bed, a two-person couch, a chair, a TV and DVD player, and a bathroom. It’s a little smaller than your average hotel room. Nevertheless, we have a one-way window that opens up to the side of the ship, so we can see out.

The food on board is quite good. At dinner, we went to the dining room, which is like a nice restaurant, except with no prices. We can each choose whatever we’d like from the menu. The only things that cost money are alcohol and soda. The food was good, but we decided that we’d only really want to eat in the dining room for dinner; otherwise, we’d eat in a more informal setting. The ship also has a restaurant called the Lido Restaurant.

The Lido Restaurant serves food all day, and it is basically like a combination cafeteria and buffet. Certain food items are self-serve: for breakfast, that includes fruit and dessert. Otherwise, you can go to one of several different stations, where you can get a variety of things prepared for you. For lunch, there were several different entrees and sides, as well as Asian, Italian, and sandwiches. It’s all unlimited; you can go back as much as you want.

The Lido does have one drawback: there isn’t a great deal of seating, so it’s necessary to share tables with other people. Also, if you have multiple people in your party, you really can’t all get up at once, lest your table be bussed and then other people in your place.

Overall, the experience is good. Right now we’re out on the open ocean, so it’s somewhat rough. It got bad enough that I had to take some Dramamine, and until that kicked in, I almost felt like throwing up. Still, we’ve passed by some truly beautiful sites, and I’m taking lots of pictures. Desktop backgrounds, anyone?


Sitting in the back of the bus
the roar of the air conditioner and engine
is deafening, swallowing, whole.

It consumes all thoughts, ideas, words.
Only gestures communicate:
Can I sit there?
Excuse me, you forgot your bag.

It is calming, soothing, equalizing.
There is neither dialect nor accent,
only raw suggestions, queries, aspirations.

The bus winds down streets, stops, corners;
the flow of people in and out of seats, leaning
against poles, is ephemeral
motion by bus and person
from place to place, thought to thought,
newspaper column to newspaper column.

Brief words remain in motion.

I got a call yesterday on my home phone from a woman who said that if I had a minute, she’d like to talk to me about the Lord Jesus Christ. I told her goodbye and hung up.

Although I will freely admit that in the past, I have been somewhat anti-Christian, I don’t feel that I am anymore. Mostly unsurprisingly, most of my friends are some flavor of Christian, and that’s fine with me. Due to my friend Jeffry, I have learned more about the Bible and Christian belief, and he and I discuss Christianity and how it can teach us (whether Christian or not) about living a morally good life.

So my objection to her calling was not because she was Christian, but because I feel that religion is very personal and I don’t wish for people to call me on the phone to solicit my belief. I also happen to know that most of the on-campus housing for the University of Houston uses the same exchange that I have, and so it is likely that they’re targeting all the students on campus.


I walk in, the brass
door slams behind me,
resounding in this concrete tomb.

The hum of the fluorescence is angry,
a Mac boot chime threatening and discordant.

The room is sterile;
I wish for even the drip of water on this cold floor:
the lines hint where the concrete was smoothed:
imperfect, original, untouched.

A lamp protrudes from the wall, illuminates
the staircase sinking further into depths unknown.
The handrail—simple, metal, black—
is the only nod to the needs of humanity.

Downstairs, neatly organized, parchment sits row
by row on metal shelves.  The gentle swirls of ink lean
down from pages peeking over, seeing how far it is
to the pool of grey concrete.

Quickly, I pick it up, carry it upstairs,
read it: prevent its escape.

So Danny and I went to this new (to me) restaurant last night, called Genghis Grill. It's a Mongolian Stir Fry place. You get a metal bowl and go through a buffet line and put meat (or tofu), seasoning, and vegetables in the bowl. You then select a sauce and a starch, and they stir-fry it and bring it to your table. You're allowed as many bowls as you desire. It's really good, and I recommend it.

So whilst we were there, I twittered that he and I were there. And today, guess who I had following me? That's a little creepy, but not completely unexpected. I expect that this is another follow-you-so-you'll-follow-me deal. I don't intend to bite.


Keep the other head, she said. It looks better on you, and it fits better too. But he didn't want to.

I like this one better, he whined. It has black hair. Black hair was all the rage, especially the jet-and-Model-T shade.

Ever the mother, she replied, Well, don't come to me when you start having really bad headaches because your brain's grown too big. And I don't want to hear about it when you dye your hair blond again and you look funny.

Two weeks later…

I've noticed that a lot of people use word processors in order to type documents. There was a time when I did that, too. Now I generally don't do that: I use groff for my poetry and DocBook 5.0 for everything else, including papers and my website.

My main complaint with word processors is that they are WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get). At first, this doesn't seem like a particular problem. But I've seen people write papers that use bulleted lists differently throughout the paper or that have some paragraphs indented whilst others aren't. This lack of consistency is annoying and looks unprofessional.

When I use DocBook, I don't have to tell the computer to produce italics. Instead, I tell it that some text is to be emphasized, or that it is the title of a book, or that is a word being used solely as a word (such as in The term for the brains of a computer is processor). The computer automatically determines that these things need to be italicized. In other words, I am making the computer do my work for me. I don't have to remember any of the rules. And if I decide that I'd like words used solely as words to be in bold instead, it requires one change in one place, and it will affect every document I generate from then on.

It's not just simple presentation, either. I can write a document in the same way whether I'm writing English or Spanish. The computer can automatically determine the proper headings (bibliography or bibliografía). If I decide to include a quotation in German that itself includes a quotation, I don't have to even think about what type of quotation marks to use. I can simply say that certain text is a quotation, and the software will automatically determine the symbols to use around the quotation.

I believe that computers are a powerful tool. Making the computer do the work for me saves me time, makes my product more consistent, and allows me to easily make changes if necessary.


Ever since I found the soda machine in front of the building where I have my Creative Writing class, I’ve faced a dilemma. If I buy a soda, should I buy a Diet Coke or a Coca-Cola Zero?

Now, this seems simple, right? I should buy whichever one I prefer, whatever I want to drink. And the truth is, I prefer Diet Coke; I’ve been drinking diet sodas for quite some time, and I’ve just gotten used to Diet Coke, usually because it’s the only diet soda that most restaurants have.

Yet, I buy the Coca-Cola Zero. I am, for some reason, under the impression that if I get used to it, I’ll like it more. As far as I can remember, the Coke Zero tastes like regular Coke, and I don’t really like regular Coke either. (I do, however, like Cherry Coke Zero, and it is one of my preferred soft drinks.)

I’m not sure I really understand why I keep buying a beverage that I don’t like nearly as much over one that I like more. Maybe next week, if I buy a soda, I’ll buy the Diet Coke.


Today, in my Gay and Lesbian Literature class, we had group presentations on the books that each group chose. One group was reading Stone Butch Blues. This group gave out a handout describing many different labels and their meanings, as well as a blank name tag that you could fill out with a label or labels that fit you.

One of the most interesting labels I saw was Conservative Top, from one of my group members. I thought that was interesting because the focus of the presentation was on labels about gender and sexuality. This young man decided to go outside of the box and assert his political label as well.

Now, this person and I are acquaintances, and I happen to know that he is particularly interested in politics, so I wasn't surprised by his assertion. In fact, it seems totally consistent with what I know about him.

This got me thinking about how I would label myself. I think I'd probably go for queer, gay, and male. I specifically didn't choose any word that describes how I conform to gender sterotypes, since I don't think that gender stereotypes are particularly useful. I also didn't choose a description of my sexual preferences, since that isn't something that most people need or want to know about me (although I'm happy to answer if you ask).

I've also erased the blackboard in my apartment and put a new query on it: Describe yourself wrt [with respect to] gender and sexuality. Feel free to stop by and update it (please do call first, though).


Beams of light reach out from Alpha Centauri.

She and I run together, out to other worlds.
A friendship grows as we scream side by side
into the darkness, forging paths
constant yet unknown.

Still, we drift apart, ever so slowly,
on to different destinations, a few seconds of arc
become thousands of miles.

Then, from the other sun, he and i converge
toward the same point, different but similar,
growing closer.

I wish her luck, but i don't need it anymore:
he and i are friends in sync

Hard, tough firebrick
red plastic-coated metal table,
holes for children's fingers
to get stuck in.

Shady trees cool places
to sit, picnic, kiss,
as ants crawl around, always
busy, never stopping.

Nearby, a path, joggers'
feet slapping the ground as
bicycle spokes cut the air.

Small comments etched here
remind us of 2005:
Josh was here.

Anxiety is blue; failure, gray.

Judith Guest, Ordinary People

The sun sets,
reaching out with last tendrils
of pleasant-yellow warmth,
buttery and rich.

Still, as it moves toward slumber,
the goldenrod and cornflower
give way to cobalt, ultramarine, navy

and I sit under my desk,
mood gone with the sun,
tears tasting salty as they run down
my cheeks.

I do something—anything—
and don my hoodie, blending in with the night sky,
to walk.  I pass under streetlights trying, failing
to emulate the sun,
really only providing discontinuity
of the slate sidewalks.

I lie down next to the fountain,
letting its gurgling wash away my fears,
as the controlled randomness of the water
splashes together in happy laughter,
the granite cool against my cheek,
and wonder if I can sleep here, just tonight.

I pick up the sandwich, and bite
into it.  Hot yellow liquid flows
from the torn pocket-pustule down
my hands and wrists, thick, a sunshine lava.

I angle my hands so the yolk flows
off and onto the plate.
Droplets of honey mustard glob
together, forming small atolls in a vast sea.

I decide to be lazy: not get a napkin.

My tongue stops the viscous dripping
as I clean my hands.  And then another bite.

In-stroke, out-stroke, beating
heart like a four-stroke engine
out of tune.

A little heavy on the downstroke,
pain on the upstroke: worn-out,
needing rest.  Still it soldiers
on, moving in and out, marching
forward in time.

It being wintertime: a cold, unpopular
bridge sees few visitors.  Some do come,
to slide or skate on the ice.  An occasional
car dares to take a shortcut through.

Dings and imperfections testify
that some make it.

It reaches over the icy currents below,
connecting people to each other,
to the warmth of the general store
and hot chocolate.

Speak, mysterious ravens,
nothing sees you.  Your beaks and wings reflect
neither light nor soul.  The mornings change
to afternoons, to evenings,
but nought see you until twilight far has passed.

Your wingspan swallows buildings whole,
wind rushing sweeps crannies clean,
streetlights flicker in deference.

Stillness is abrupt, unnatural
as you fly by.

I think many evangelical Christians are going about their evangelism in the wrong way. What I hear from some of the most prominent evangelicals is that we are all going to Hell if we don't believe exactly as they believe and repent for all of our sins immediately.

Regardless of the truth or falsity of this, the technique is not very effective. A more effective approach would be to point out that there is a loving god who cares very much for you and wants you to behave in a certain way. In other words, scaring people is not nearly as good a way to convert people as demonstrating the benefits of conversion.

From my personal experience, I find that the deity that many evangelicals want me to believe in is hostile, angry, judgmental, capricious, and a whole host of other things that I don't want in my life. At least that's how they portray the Christian god. I refuse to believe in a god that embodies those qualities. Such a god would not be worthy of worship.

I also have experienced evangelical Christians telling me that if I do certain things I will be condemned to Hell. With these Christians telling me how to live my life (which I do not particularly appreciate), I don't need God. The evangelicals are replacing the personal relationship with God that they claim I need with a lot of didactic judgment. I needn't mention that the Bible that they claim is inerrant states, (Matthew 7:1).

What I'm saying is that in order for evangelicals to gain any significant ground, they have to speak a language of good news, not of doom and gloom.


The sands rush around him;
he is not worried.  He breathes
fresh, cool sips through his mask,
continues toward destinations
already planned.

The sound of the granules floating
by rests in his ears, calming
as pieces call to each other,
singing of long ago and forever more.

For some time, I've been working on a program called thwack. Thwack has the ambitious goal of being a full typesetter, but for now, it converts troff input into XML output. This is exciting because input to troff is much easier to type than XML.

Now, I've got it set up for blogging. Instead of writing a document in DocBook 5.0, I simply use troff syntax, and let thwack convert it into DocBook for me. Needless to say, I'm very happy, since it'll be easier to blog (and I will therefore do it more). It also means that I get the best of both worlds: easy input, and all the power and portability of XML tools.

I have heard many people use the phrase love the sinner, hate the sin, especially in reference to homosexuality. And as for the idea itself (not its application to homosexuality), I think it's a great idea. I also think many people are wholly unsuccessful in how they express it.

I agree with the Unitarian Universalist principle that all people have inherent worth and dignity. I also love the human race and each of its individual members. My love for all humans is not like my love for my friends or family, or a partner, or any other type of love. I think the human condition is a unique experience and I am always excited to see how it turns out.

Nevertheless, I condemn things that some people do. I condemn killing others, for example. I condemn child abuse. There are many things that I think are unsuitable for bettering humanity. Herein lies the problem: how do we express to others that we disapprove of their actions, yet still love them?

One way that many people use is a but statement. For example, I love you, but I think it's wrong to be gay. This, I believe, is the wrong way to go about it. A well-known TV personality once said, but means forget everything I just said. I agree. When I hear but, I tend to think about what's coming next, and not what was just said.

Also, many people forget the affirmation of love altogether, only condemning the behavior. I think that a better way to handle the situation is to express your love for the person, explain what behavior you don't like, and then explain why the behavior is harmful. If you explain why the behavior is harmful, it will show that you've really thought about the consequences of the behavior, as well as showing that you care about the person and others, thus reinforcing the message of love.

I think my idea is worth trying.


For several months, I've been on Geodon, which is probably the best medication I've ever taken. It controls the moods really well, and it causes weight loss, which is certainly a plus. And I've realized that sometimes I have bad days because of situational issues or other organic reasons (for example, not getting enough sleep).

But I'm still having some pretty annoying symptoms that I don't think are related to any of those things. Most evenings where I'm not depressed or manic, I still feel off. The feeling is hard to describe, but it is an internal discomfort, kinda like a very light seasickness. I don't feel nauseated, but I do feel that vomiting would somehow help. Obviously, I don't go and vomit every time I have this feeling; I haven't vomited since I was in high school. But internally, it seems like a really good idea.

Also, when I feel this way, I'm not really myself. I'm don't enjoy being around my friends and acquaintances as much, and I really suck at being empathic. The only thing I want to do is go and rot. And I know that seems weird. Why rot? you ask. I don't know, but that's all I want to do, just rot away.

I still think I'd rather be depressed than feeling off.


girl-boys have it hard.

boy-boys know what feels good,
how thinking works.  Testosterone
meets testosterone, and Boy and boy
flow through it easily.  The same
ideas and conjugations meld separate
minds as one.

nothing is perfect, but T is an asphalt
over gravel, malleable, it just works.

My god is a peaceful god
warming hilltops
and cooling rivers.

My god is a humble god
realizing potentials
and stoking fires.

My god is a thankful god
asking questions
and listening for answers.

My god is an honest god
begging thoughts
and fostering expressions.

My god is a caring god
wanting hopes
and fulfilling dreams.

My god isn't.

GCC 4.3 now errors out on certain situations in C++ where a given name may refer to more than one type or function. Within a scope, a given name can refer to only type or function. For example, in the following code, the name foo changes meaning:

class foo {};
class bar
		void do_silly(foo) {}
		void foo() {}

Note that on line 5, foo refers to class foo, whereas on line 6 and after, foo refers to void foo(). This isn't allowed because it changes the meaning of foo. The reason that this isn't allowed in C++ is because if in the definition of bar we write foo(), it is ambiguous whether we want to instantiate an object of type class foo or call this->foo().

Note that this can also happen with two different types. The solution in either case is either to move one of the names such that it is not in scope, or to rename one of the names. Note that in the case with the function, it is usually easier to rename the function. If you are a library developer, please do not forget to bump the SONAME if you change the ABI.

GCC 4.3 now gives errors on certain problems with variadic macros. First, it’s important to know what a variadic macro is. C has allowed macros as long as it’s been around. But C99 introduced a new feature called variadic macros. Like a variadic function, which takes a variable number of arguments (printf is a good example), a variadic macro can take a variable number of arguments. The standard form of this is:

#define varfunc(...) fprintf(stderr, __VA_ARGS__)

This takes whatever arguments are given to varfunc and replaces __VA_ARGS__ with them. There’s also a GCC extension that uses a named parameter instead:

#define varfunc(args...) fprintf(stderr, args)

In this case, whatever name is used before the ellipsis (in this case, args) is used instead of the __VA_ARGS__ macro.

Note that these macros may only work in C99 or C++0x, because they rely on newer features of the preprocessor. And since the latter is a GCC extension, the former is a better choice, unless you’re using an old version of GCC.

Recently, it was very cold out, in the 40s (which is very cold indeed for Houston), and, like most days, I went out for a bike ride. I went from my apartment in the Third Ward to Stude Park, and I sat down there and rested and had some water. Now, even though it was quite cold, I was warm because I had been exercising, and in fact had started to sweat. So when I had some water, I also went solved my Rubik’s cube a couple of times, and then started heading back home.

I quickly realized how cold it was. While I had been sweating, I had been warm, but now my sweaty jeans were cold, pulling the heat away from my legs. Thus comes Carlson’s First Rule of Cycling: When it is cold, don’t take a break; keep going.

Also, I tend to like to bike through areas that I am only vaguely familiar with, such as the Greater East End. I always remember that if I get lost, I can always come back the way that I came, even if that isn’t the most fun route. (It’s always more fun to go home a different way than you came.) Thus comes Carlson’s Second Rule of Cycling: Never take a one-way street unless you’re exactly sure where it goes.


A boy hangs from a jungle gym
with a noose around his throat,
choking slowly.

A child’s chair lies, tipped over, below flailing feet,
in a bright, eye-catching yellow,
a reminder of carefree days that are no more.

Still, his little boy’s haircut,
long in the back, bangs in the front,
flows around the slipknot.

His hands reach for the thick folds of rope
as he instinctively but futilely
tries to prevent his impending death.

Hating himself for trying to live,
he views his life in glimpses and images;
the times that ruined his existence
flow before him, keeping him company
until he stops moving.

I saw the movie Fight Club for the first time in my life tonight. It was a mindfuck movie, and I like mindfuck movies.

I also had an epiphany whilst watching the movie. This is the epiphany: I have to give up control. Tyler says to the Narrator that he has to give up control. I'm only wondering if letting go is the right thing to do. Where do I stop giving up control?

Jeremy turned off the light and laid back in bed. He put his hands behind his head and stared up at the ceiling, as he did every night. He closed his eyes and let the light show project onto his eyelids, showing him thick blades of grass against a pale sky, wildfire flames leaping forth in excitement, the stripes of a wolf cub.

His mind seethed in restlessness, boiling and bubbling like a cauldron. This was the way it was every night, and had been for a year. For a year, Jeremy's head screamed in activity, never shutting off. It had been that long since he had gotten a decent night's sleep.

And, like every night, he mumbled a prayer: God, let this suffering end. May I not have to live through another day of this. Then, he summoned all his strength, forced the light show down to a dull, quiescent grey and his brain to a mere simmer, and eventually drifted off to sleep.

Jeremy awoke at noon, only somewhat less tired than when he went to sleep. After stumbling back from the bathroom, he went to his closet, and started to pick out another day's clothes. He went through black shirt after black shirt, and passing up his sole grey shirt, he chose one bearing an Alice in Chains logo. Noticing that his jeans from the previous day were unsoiled, he put them on, too, and went downstairs.

It happened that it was a teacher in-service day, and since Jeremy's parents both worked, he had the house to himself. He went into the kitchen, and discovering that his mother had put a vase of flowers on the counter, found the box of Froot Loops. Pouring himself a bowlful and a glass of milk, Jeremy sat on one of the kitchen barstools and crunched his way through several hundred cereal rings in slightly different shades of grey. As he did so, Lucky, his black cat, came and rubbed up against his legs. He reached down to pet her; she purred.

Finished, Jeremy put his bowl in the sink and filled it with water, then went back upstairs. He got his sketchbook, turned on his boombox, and sat down to look out of his window at downtown. His hand deftly drew short strokes on the paper, catching every angle and dimension of the skyscrapers, as he listened to the mournful sounds floating from his stereo.

Suddenly, Jeremy heard the crash of glass shattering from downstairs. Damn it, he thought. That damn cat broke my mother's vase.

He trudged downstairs and into the kitchen. It was then that he noticed the vase was still there. Weird, he thought. It must have been something else she broke. He turned around and bumped into someone, knocking them both to the ground. As they fell, there was a loud gunshot, and Jeremy felt a sharp pain in his abdomen.

The stranger quickly extracted himself from under Jeremy, and ran out the back door. As Jeremy heard the sound of an older car starting and zooming away, he looked down and dipped his finger into the blood rushing from the bullet hole. For the first time in his life, he saw the vibrant redness of the life-giving fluid as it poured out of him.

Jeremy felt very sleepy, and as he closed his eyes, he spoke: Thank you.

The cold wind blows across the top of a hill
and dead brown grasses crunch beneath footsteps
as he walks down to the bayou.

The bayou that always has too much or not enough
as it wends its way through forbidding concrete walls,
walls that have been painted in pale blues and stark whites
by people claiming ownership of this place.

As he walks to the edge, he sees the water darting over stones,
making the light glance off them in speckled splendor.
He dips his hand in and feels the coolness of water in wintertime,
stones worn smooth by years of droplets dancing over them,
a reprieve from the warmth of the sun.

Pulling off his beat-up Converse, he walks in bare feet
downstream, to where some artful engineer discovered
how to make a bayou babble as it rushes in and out of divots.

Unimpressed, he sits on the bank, and washes his feet in the bliss
of the water, drops rushing up to kiss the cuffs of his jeans,
listening to the endless chatter, wondering.

Very much in the vein of coffeeghost’s post titled “What One Atheist Believes”, I will discuss what I believe. Here I use the verb to believe with the meaning to act as if something were true.

I believe that no gods exist.

I believe that it is impossible to know whether one or more gods exist.

I believe that people have a natural tendency to be good.

I believe that not everyone makes use of that tendency.

I believe that our society has too many failed marriages that could have succeeded.

I believe that we should judge people on the content of their character, as Martin Luther King would have us do, and not on their race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, or gender identity.

I believe that judging people solely on the content of their character is very hard to do.

I believe that our society encourages emotional neediness from females and emotional numbness from males.

I believe that nobody is perfect.

I believe that some people seem perfect, but most of those people are actually very far from it.

I believe that the purpose of language is to communicate.

I believe that bicycles are an almost ideal form of transportation.

I believe that the artistic and scientific fields are not intrinsically opposed.

I believe that many things get done solely because someone is passionate about them.

I believe that Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance is a terrific book, even though I haven't finished reading it yet.

I believe that all religions have the same good values.

I believe that I am tired and will stop here.


Deftly maneuvering across the endlessness and terrified of her mother, she realized that she had to do something: if she did not, existence itself would be lost.

The goat, however, was not impressed with this analysis, and told her as much.

She’s your mother, the goat said to her. You can’t harm her, even if life itself is at stake.

Not just life, she said, but existence. This planet won’t even exist as a cold, barren chunk of rock if we don’t do something. I am quite certain you don’t want that.

Well, no, said the goat, but isn’t there some way we can preserve existence without doing your mother in?

Not without doing you in, she said.

I withdraw my objections, said the goat.

We were having dinner, pizza in fact. His half was Hawaiian; mine, just pineapple.

Do I look Jewish? he queried.

I can’t answer that, I replied.

Why not? he asked.

It’d be like you asked me, Do I look gay? I answered.

You think I look gay? he said incredulously. Because of the pink. Pink is my favorite color.

No, I said, because your shirt is ribbed. It’s something a gay man would wear.

But I’m not gay, he objected.

Exactly, I said.

I’ve been feeling unwell the past few days. Unlike last time, I’m pretty sure that I know what it is: my new medication. First, a brief history.

I was off medication for some time; between June 2005 and April 2007, I wasn’t taking any medication for my bipolar disorder. Come April, I decided that I should probably take something, and went to the doctor.

First, I tried Lamictal. Lamictal is supposed to be a wonder drug: it front-loads all the side effects, so if you don’t get them within the first six months, you won’t get any at all. Unfortunately, Lamictal made me quite manic, and is therefore unsuitable.

Then, I tried Abilify. I’ve been on Abilify before, and it worked fairly well, except that it gave me terrible akathisia. The same thing happened when I tried it in May. The akathisia was so bad that I had to stop taking it.

I am now on Abilify again, except that I’m taking Benadryl, which is a cure for akathisia.

So, when I took Abilify in May, I was quite lethargic and maladroit for the first week or so. Now that I am starting it again, I am once again lethargic, but still quite dexterous. It’s quite annoying, because I feel like doing absolutely squat. This blog entry itself is taking quite some effort. I am tremendously tired all the time, and I find it difficult to hang out with friends because I’m so tired.

Fortunately, if the past is any indication, I’ll be back to my normal self in about four days.


Jeffry, I think a better question to ask is not whether anyone is interested in something meaningful, but whether anyone is interested in working toward something meaningful.

Relationships are hard work, and some people are not willing to put in the work that is required for a relationship to be successful. If what these people want is only to satisfy their sexual urges, why should we deny them? At least these people have the self-insight to realize that they are not ready for a relationship, or that they really do not want one.

We should discourage, not encourage, people getting into relationships if they are not ready or do not desire one. Your attitude is that relationships are the only right way; raw, unattached sex is wrong in your opinion.

I disagree. Personally, I would be unwilling to have raw, unattached sex, because it does not fit with who I am. Nevertheless, I am open to a friends-with-benefits situation, because for me, sex should imply some level of trust, although it need not imply a relationship.

Furthermore, I think that the sort of in-your-face sexuality that you decry can be either positive or negative. If cultural attitudes about sexuality encourage sexuality as a natural part of life instead of something of which to be ashamed, then these attitudes are assuredly positive. If, though, attitudes abound which harm human dignity and objectify people, then they are simply negative.

Gay culture has aspects of both attitudes, and like most things in life, is neither completely good nor completely bad. I cannot emphasize enough, however, that it is impossible to dictate one way of living, as you seem to want to do, Jeffry. By this, I mean to proclaim that only one way is right or desirable, and that others are wrong or undesirable. Or rather it is possible, but silly: nobody will listen.

Heterosexual culture has these same issues, and so does lesbian culture; the issues just manifest themselves differently. I am unapologetic about the culture that I belong to, because it is no better nor worse than any other: it just is.


Last week, I had two flat tires. The first was on Monday, whilst biking through the warehouse district on Cullen between Polk and Leeland. I was cruising along and heard a pop. It turns out that there was some metal shard that got caught up in my tire and popped it.

Since I knew I didn't have the materials to repair it with me, I walked home and fixed it. I never realized how far two and a half miles is to walk. So I replaced the tube, pumped it up, and went on my way.

On Friday, I went to the Houston Critical Mass Ride. As we were about to start, my tire decided to deflate; it turns out there was a small tack in it that I hadn't noticed. I had a patch kit, but didn't know how to use it, so several people helped out, including a guy named Sebastian and some other guy whose name I don't know, and my bike was working just as we were leaving.

May I take this opportunity to sit on my high horse and say how much I love being a bicyclist; with motorists, you never have this kind of camaraderie.


To seethe
    is a fine art.

It requires skill,
    much like bottling a fine champagne.

When the cork goes pop,
    it shoots out,
        until finally
            it only dribbles.

Then it is drunk
        and it wreaks its revenge
in a belch.

Recently, I was watching television, as I do on very rare occasions, and happened to see a commercial with an attractive young man and woman. In this commercial, which is selling an anti-herpes medication, the claim is made that the product is proven only in heterosexual couples.

I wonder if they meant to say opposite-sex couples. It is perfectly conceivable that two bisexual people of differing sexes might form a couple, but that would not be a heterosexual couple.

Did the company mean penile-vaginal intercourse? That seems to be a fairly rigid definition of sex, and one that excludes numerous heterosexuals.

Even assuming that the company really meant heterosexual, did they investigate heterosexual transsexuals? The company’s definition also excludes orgies where all parties are heterosexual.

If this medication is supposed to prevent outbreaks of genital herpes, why does the sexual orientation of the partners matter? Did it occur to the company that

  • their definition is probably incorrect;

  • such an incorrect definition is misleading and dangerous; and finally,

  • sexual practices are more important than sexual orientation?

Apparently not.


I am pleased to announce a new community art project. The project will involve numerous people each placing a single sentence on some provided medium, most likely a chalkboard. Each sentence will be transcribed, and two poems will be created from this work: a raw work, containing each sentence in order; and an arranged work, in which I will re-order the sentences and their typography.

Anyone who likes may participate in this project. If you're a friend of mine who stops by my apartment, then please use the chalkboard. Otherwise, you may email a single sentence to . If you provide multiple sentences in the body, only the first will be used, so if you have a comment, please put it after the sentence.

The only requirement for participation in the project is that you must dedicate your sentence to the public domain; thus, it must either be your own work, or exempt from copyright for some other reason. You will be given credit for the sentence you provide, but I feel that copyright would hamper the idea of art, which is to provide a gift.

Any sentence which meets the above criterion is satisfactory, regardless of language, statement, grammar, dialect, or anything else. Do note, though, that if the sentence is not in English, Spanish, or German, it may be useful to provide an English translation for me so that I can arrange it appropriately.



This is an early draft. It is likely to change, so consider this alpha quality.

I am only taking pictures of you.

I am watching you only to harass you, just as you are watching me only to harass me.

How does it feel?

You’re used to being on top, in charge, in power. How does it feel to be watched like a common criminal?

How do you like the implication that you are a liar: untrustworthy, corrupt, immoral, unethical. Wrong.

How do you like the pretense that I give you? I like your pretense just as much.

When you die, I will not lose a wink of sleep.

How does it feel to know that?

How does it feel to know that I am not watching your back? How does it feel to know that I am waiting for you to fuck up just like you wait for me?

Every time you have done wrong, every time you have rubbed it in, every time you have smirked, you have sunk farther. It is all against you.

You are losing the war all on your own, and you’re doing a damned fine job of it, too.

Don’t bother fighting: even if I lose the battle, you will lose the war that much faster.

Even if I lose, even if I die fighting, I will take pleasure in knowing that you will lose. A sick, twisted pleasure, but pleasure nonetheless.

When you lose, you may not die.

But there are things worse than death. You and your families will be scared. Your children will cry themselves to sleep.

The fear will permeate you, it will permeate your children, it will permeate your life, until you are fear. The fear will absorb you and slowly dissolve you into nothingness. You will be but a shadow, a fragment of humanity.

Your children will have nightmares far exceeding any horror movie. They will scream and cry out in the middle of the night. Their fear will utterly destroy them. They will be shells: fragile and empty. Nothing will help them.

Say cheese.

Is it wrong to like Green Day’s “Ha Ha You’re Dead” and to sing along gleefully? Especially the titular phrase and the one that goes in loving memory of your demise?

I’m slightly worried. Hmmm.


A friend and I discussed the following example of the fallacy of accident (from Wikipedia):

  1. Cutting people with a knife is a crime.

  2. Surgeons cut people with knives.

  3. Surgeons are criminals.

This statement is valid, but obviously, there are cases in which cutting people with a knife is not a crime, surgeons being an example of that case. However, defining exactly in which cases cutting people with knives is legal is not easy.

I therefore proposed the ideas that it is a crime to cut non-consenting people with a knife and it is a crime to cut another person with a knife with the intent to harm that person. However, it was pointed out to me that some people might not interpret to kill as part of to harm, specifically in the case of assisted suicide.

In such a case, there is consent, so that portion of the argument is not relevant. One could also argue that to assist another’s suicide is actually a help, not harm. However, the law does not consider what is right, only what is legal. Therefore, we can safely eliminate this case because the law unequivocally condemns killing another outside of its legal structure, and assisted suicide by knife is not approved of in our current legal structure.

I will concede that intent is relevant in matters of homicide, but this only matters as to degree. Regardless of the degree, killing another by knife is a crime.

Thus, we can rephrase the first premise as Cutting people with a knife is a crime, if and only if the person does not consent or the act is done with intent to harm another. We could rephrase the second premise as Surgeons cut consenting people with knives in an effort to help them. Thus, the assertion that surgeons are criminals is no longer valid.


A Primer on Probability for the Meteorologist in You

I find it interesting that meteorologists sometimes forecast a 100% chance of precipitation for the next day. This is interesting because a 100% chance is certainty; in other words, the even will happen.

I will admit that I can’t predict the future, and so I don’t know for certain that any given event will happen for certain. In fact, I can’t even be sure that there will be a tomorrow. It is possible that a huge asteroid could come and utterly destroy Earth. It is, however, unlikely, but there is still a non-zero probability that it will occur.

Perhaps the meteorologists know something I don’t, though.


I am actually on break for the week of Spring Break. This means that unless you already have something scheduled with me, I am not available. I am not scheduling any sort of get-togethers, hanging out, meetings, presentations, work, or anything else. If you already have a date with me, great; it’s still on. Otherwise, I’m not available for any reason short of an emergency. If you’re human, this means you.

Some people might be wondering why I’m doing this. The reason is that I am so tired, overworked, and busy that I just need some down time. This past week I have often had at least two wildly disparate things to do each day, and I simply cannot continue this way. It would be hard enough with a bicycle, but I have none. I must schedule my plans around the bus, and I have no way to get out my frustrations.


On Language and Romance; or, a Phrase Book for the Rest of You

Tonight, I had something rather disappointing happen. I was going to ask a guy (who we’ll refer to as Person N) out on a date, should he show up at GLOBAL. He did not. I found out, after discussing this with other GLOBAL members, that the reason Person N has not been showing up is because he was asked (by another officer) to discontinue a particular activity of questionable legality on GLOBAL time. Consequently, he chose not to return.

I totally understand why the officer in question did what she did, and I totally agree with her decision. And in light of this information, I have decided that I probably do not want to date Person N.

My general policy is that I do not care what illegal activities you engage in, but I refuse to let you do it on my time or in my space. Therefore, I have decided that I do not want to date a drug dealer. I was informed by Person N that he was in recovery, but I am disinclined to believe that as well. People, places, and things, and all that.

One of the most interesting parts of this episode was the reaction of Person K, to whom I had expressed a week ago that I liked Person N. Person K apparently had said nothing because he thought I just “liked” Person N. So, for the record, let’s examine the terms I use when describing potential romantic interests. I’ll go through them in level of interest, from least to most.


A guy who is attractive solely physically. This assessment could imply a lack of requisite personality or intelligence in order to qualify as interesting, or it could imply a lack of knowledge sufficient to make that assessment.


A guy who is attractive in other than solely physical ways; a potential romantic interest, who will probably be considered for a month or two. This assessment implies having the requisite personality, intelligence, wisdom, trustworthiness and other essential qualities.


To observe and form opinions about; possibly also to crush over or to flirt with. This action usually occurs for a month or two before an interesting guy qualifies as being liked.

liked (romantically)

A guy who is felt to be date material. Outside information may modify this assessment.


To engage in romantic activity which would normally be considered a date by the standards of my peers. This does not imply any sort of commitment or obligation (other than the financial ones involved in the dating activity); most notably, it is considered acceptable to date several people at once.


To date more than once, often repeatedly.


A guy who has been seen repeatedly, and who has concurred with my assessment that this label fits our relationship. Unlike dating, this is an exclusive relationship and is monogamous unless otherwise explicitly negotiated.

significant other

A guy who fits at least the level of boyfriend.

So, let there be no more misunderstandings.


I just wanted to say that Thursday night with GLOBAL was the time of my life. I enjoyed it thoroughly with no regrets.

Thank you.


Do you have enough morbidity in your life? Are you sure? Okay, so you need some more morbidity. I think we can handle that.

How about mortality? Do you have enough of that? No, I did not mean morality; I meant exactly what I said. Well, in case you change your mind (after all, you are mortal), take a look at the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

It’s chock full of morbid and mortal things, and it comes to us free from everyone’s friend, the U.S. government! Enjoy!


I was at church this Sunday, and as I was having brunch, I was talking to a woman who was about my mother’s age. We discussed several topics, and during the conversation, she asked me what high school I went to. I was flattered that she thought I was still in high school; I didn’t think I looked that young. I haven’t been in high school in over four years, and I told her as much.

We were also discussing something about relationships; I don’t remember exactly what. She said something about finding the right girl. Or guy, she added parenthetically. I smiled and said, guy. I never stopped and thought long enough to realize that I still know people (outside of my extended family) who don’t know I’m gay. I don’t think about it, since I am no longer in the closet. I just see it as normal, which it is.

On that note, I have terrible trouble with using relationship terms that differ between genders, such as husband/wife, brother/sister, aunt/uncle, and the like. I just seem to intrinsically use the pronoun of the same sex as the person related to, which all too often ends up with an embarrassing situation of referring to a person by their wrong gender. Therefore, I generally simply use SO (significant other), sibling, or a name, respectively.



I wish to correct a misinterpretation of a piece of writing that I have done, specifically the piece entitled “Some Thoughts on Suicide and Advice”. My intent with that piece was to point out some unstated assumptions in certain advice given on the matter of suicide, much like I would point out unstated assumptions on any other form of advice, or on any general argument. I chose to write on the issue of suicide because it is often seen as taboo by society and therefore few are likely to question the predominant view.

I was informed by a personal friend that it appears that I am pro-suicide, which is false. In fact, I am pro-choice on the matter of suicide (and also on abortion); to wit, I am in favor of a person having the right to make an intelligent, rational, and careful decision on whether to continue living.

Those who know me may wonder whether this attitude is compatible with my stated attitudes on non-violence and pacifism. I feel it is. Since I adopted those beliefs and practices on June 11, 2001, I have consistently maintained the opinion that one has the right to manipulate one’s body as one wishes. Furthermore, I feel that right is a natural right that is guaranteed to all humans and therefore trumps any moral imperatives, which by their nature are not natural rights. Therefore, this exception allows one to choose whether to participate in suicide, self-harm, or sadomasochistic activities, among others.

I hope that this clarification has been informative and corrects any misinterpretations that might have occurred.


As many computer geeks know, the Intel i387 is the name for the math coprocessor that was originally designed for use with the i386. Nowadays, the i387’s instruction set is built into the main processor. While the i387 may have been terrific at the time, it is rapidly showing its age now.

In the C programming language, there are three sizes of floating-point (real) numbers: float, double, and long double, from smallest to largest. On 32- and 64-bit processors, these are usually 32 bits, 64 bits, and the largest floating-point size supported, respectively. On some machines, long double is the same size as double, because double is the largest floating-point size.

The i387 really only supports one type for computation: long double. All the other types are converted to that size when computation is necessary. Unfortunately, they are converted back once the computation is done. This is unfortunate because it results in a loss of precision.

This is also unfortunate because GCC, the GNU Compiler Collection, doesn’t care. It is happy to generate code that results in so much precision loss that the computed result doesn’t even approximate the actual one, let alone to the precision required. Granted, it would be extremely inefficient to support sensible float and double semantics, since it would basically have to be done in software, but GCC doesn’t even try. The tradeoff between correctness and speed should be a choice, which it is not. GCC offers several other knobs, and they even use -fstrict-aliasing by default, which breaks a lot of (broken) code. The GCC maintainers seem not to consider generating incorrect floating-point code to be a bug. I do.

Even when -mieee-fp is specified, the IEEE 754 (binary floating-point standard) behavior is not present. Yes, this is documented, and I am aware that the behavior specified by that option is merely relevant to unordered comparisons. The option name is misleading, though.

And back to Intel: shame on Intel for intentionally designing and producing chips that don’t even resemble an IEEE floating-point implementation. It’s not like the IEEE standard is unreasonable: it was specifically designed to be flexible enough to implement in hardware, and hell, Digital managed to do it for the Alpha.

I know that the workaround is simply to use only long double, but nobody who wants cross-platform compatibility can do that, since Microsoft cleverly decided not to support long double in its printf implementation. Fortunately, I write for standards-compliance. If Microsoft chooses not to comply, then I am not writing for Microsoft platforms.

Consequently, I do not consider it a bug if my code fails to work on an i386/i387, since by definition they are not compliant with IEEE-754. I also have no way of knowing what else Intel buggered. AMD seems to have gotten their collective head out of their derriere and required the use of SSE2 for floating-point. Good for them.


Happy $HOLIDAY to the two or three of you that read this. Peace be with you, hopefully including a marked reduction in family drama.


I don’t use Flash on my computer.

Apparently, several people I know, both the geeky and the technically incompetent, seem to think it is a good idea. I don’t. Besides the fact that having Flash installed generally subjects one to huge, ugly ads much more than interesting movies, Flash doesn’t work on my computer.

My main computer runs Linux on an amd64 (Athlon 64 X2) processor. Adobe, to the best of my knowledge, provides no binaries for amd64 processors, but they do for i386 (standard 32-bit PC) processors. These binaries are very out-of-date and would trigger a large number of warnings from sites. amd64 processors are backwards compatible with normal i386 processors; however, one cannot mix native amd64 (64-bit) code and i386 code in the same program for numerous reasons.

This means that if I want to use those plugins, I have to set up an environment on my machine with a 32-bit version of my browser and all of its dependencies, and then install the plugin there. This means that I have to keep what essentially amounts to two machines more or less in sync, plus manage a number of things by hand, plus wait several seconds for the environment to initialize itself every time I want to surf the web. This ignores two important facts. First, since the binary plugins are completely out of date, I am required to install software that has been superseded since 2004, and second, native amd64 support provides tremendous speed and security advantages over 32-bit emulation for almost all software.

There are no third-party solutions that work on my machine; most notably, the most promising currently crashes the browser, which makes it completely unusable and forces me to remove it. Therefore, I am obligated to install the Adobe plugin (and the 32-bit environment mentioned above) if I want to use Flash.

Besides the error-prone and annoying nature of the required setup, I am unwilling to install arbitrary binary packages from untrusted sources such as Adobe. Adobe has no particular interest in the stability or functionality of my system and is unlikely to fix (or appear to fix) bugs that I might report. Additionally, binary-only software does not come with source, and it tends to be very, very buggy; as an (non-Adobe) example, Google for nvidia tls crash and look at all the programs that are unrelated to graphics (such as xmms, a WinAmp clone) that randomly crash and break. Consider the time wasted on bugs in software that is unfixable by anyone outside of Nvidia.

In other words, I have better things to do with my time and disk space than fixing random bugs. Certain sites provide me the ability to download the underlying video, which I can view without hassle, but for those which don’t, I don’t really care. If it matters to you that much, I’ll set the Flash stuff up on my machine if you’ll pay me $200 (my base consulting rate) in cash for every hour I deal with relevant stuff on my machine due to it; alternately, convince Adobe and friends to release source under the GPLv2, LGPLv2, or MIT Licenses. Unfortunately, the former is probably easier and less of a hassle.


I seem to have no end of interesting things happening to me.

Today, at about 5:45 pm, I was biking eastbound on West Alabama through the intersection at Kirby. The light had just changed from protected left to green circle, so I proceeded through the light. I was in the mainlanes, next to the right-hand curb, as required by law. There was a Jeep turning left across my path; the driver had been stopped for someone making a right turn, I think.

Unfortunately, she turned left directly into my path. So we collided.

I hit the right front hood of her Jeep with my left upper arm. After a brief second, I got up and moved my bike out of the road into a Chevron station’s parking lot, and she pulled over into the same parking lot. We exchanged information and I called the police, since my bike’s brakes were jammed, and the wheels wouldn’t turn (since they were being braked, constantly). The law requires that the police be called if anybody is physically injured, any vehicle is immovable, or property damage exceeds $500.

I also called my parents, and they agreed to come pick me up. A woman pulled over into the parking lot and asked if we were okay, which we were. I seem to be physically fine, but a little sore, which is to be expected. It’s nothing a little ibuprofen won’t handle, as far as I can tell.

The woman is fine, too, although her Jeep has a dent in the right side of its hood. A quick bang with a hammer will fix that. The police officer asked what hit her hood, and when I told him that it was my left upper arm, he looked at me funny and asked again whether I needed an ambulance. I assured him I did not.

So my parents took me to dinner down the street at the House of Guys (House of Pies) and they’re going to take my bike in to the shop to-morrow. The woman has offered to pay for the repairs, which probably will not exceed $100.

So, to recap, no injuries except some minor soreness, and the bike’s brakes are jammed. The Jeep has a dent the shape of a football that is about as wide as my hand span.

Also, see if you can STR in the title.


Lately I find myself thinking about reality and what it means. I find myself disbelieving things that I know are true; that is, I know that something is the case objectively, but I have great trouble subjectively believing that it is actually the case. For example, I know children are created by an egg and a sperm, but I find it so implausible. What is the likelihood of it actually working? It just seems so unlikely that two microscopic particles produce a human being.

I also know that this world is reality, that I exist and that all my interactions are actually happening spontaneously. Sometimes, though, I have a hard time believing it. For some reason, it’s easier to think that I am basically an unwitting actor in a dramatic production, that every interaction and feeling I have is scripted. In other words, a lot like The Truman Show.

In some way, I’m also not feeling; it’s kinda weird. And this time, I think it’s not feeling, just going through the motions, instead of just trying to crush the feelings. I’m not sure whether I like it. I’ll admit that it’s a new experience, and there’s a lot to be said for not feeling like shit. I just don’t know if I like it. I don’t know if I care, seeing as that it’s hard to care when you aren’t feeling anything.

I always wondered what it would be like not to feel, and I thought I knew. I guess I didn’t. I think I prefer feeling like shit. There’s something somewhat seductively satisfying in feeling bad. Perhaps it’s the same thing masochists get out of physical pain.

Maybe I’ll get up to-morrow, hopefully a lot better rested than now, and feel again. Maybe I won’t.


I’m considering not going to any more parties where the primary attraction is booze. Since I don’t drink, I don’t really get anything out of it, other than an occasional flirt with a drunk guy who can barely stand (and once, second base, but that’s another story). The drunks are loud and obnoxious and they can’t have a fucking conversation because they’re plastered.

Maybe I’m just a bit grumpy. We’ll see.


A Letter to the Gulf Coast Regional Blood Center

November 29, 2006

Brian G. Gannon, President
Gulf Coast Regional Blood Center
1400 La Concha Lane
HoustonTexas 77054

Dear Mr. Gannon:

I am writing to you today to request that you remove my name from your list of donors for both the Blood and Marrow Donor programs. I feel that your policy on donations by men who have sex with men (MSMs) is prejudicial, discriminatory, unfounded, and financially irresponsible, and I cannot support an organization which promotes them.

Your policies explicitly prohibit any MSMs from donating blood; that is, they are deferred indefinitely. It is my understanding that this is intended to reduce the number of HIV-positive people who donate. However, that policy is redundant, since to the best of my knowledge, you screen blood for HIV, HBV, and HCV (among others) anyway. Unless you are willing to admit that your screening is inadequate, and by extension, that the Blood Center is a public health threat, you are wasting funds by testing for something twice.

This policy also reinforces the mistaken impression among the population at large that HIV is a gay disease. As someone who has done HIV prevention work, I do not thank you for that; you have made my job much harder and possibly cost hundreds or thousands of lives by perpetuating that myth, intentionally or unintentionally.

I am aware that this policy comes from the FDA; while that excuses you legally, it does not excuse you morally or ethically. The same associations of blood banks discouraged testing for HBV in 1984, even though that test would have eliminated up to eighty percent of the HIV-infected donors, claiming that the test would have cost too much. You cannot claim that you only have the best interests of the blood supply and the public at heart, when you have already demonstrated that you do not.

This matter only compounds that gross lack of morals, because in this case, you are discriminating against a group of people the vast majority of whom do not have HIV and do not pose a risk to the blood supply. On top of it all, this policy provides no tangible benefits at a significant cost both financially and in goodwill.

I strongly condemn this policy and I do not intend to donate further until there are no restrictions on donations from MSMs; likewise, I do not intend to encourage or even condone others donating. I realize that this may have a negative effect on the blood supply; for this, I am sorry. I am equally sorry that many thousands of people will likely die due to the direct and indirect consequences of your policy.


Brian M. Carlson

My bicycle was stolen tonight, between 7:45 and 11:30 pm localtime. I was at Jesse’s for an unofficial GLOBAL party celebrating the end of semester, and I had locked my bike to a stop sign approximately 20 meters (60 feet) from Jesse’s apartment.

The thieves cut the cable lock and took the bike. I normally have a U-bolt, but it had fallen off somewhere in Alabama and I was relegated to an older lock of my brother’s. So now, I am out a fairly expensive bicycle (which I thought was reasonable since it is much less than a functional car) into which I—not two months ago—put $200 in repairs and equipment.

I called the Houston Police Department, who sent out an officer to take a report. I don’t expect to have it recovered; HPD is much busier dealing with rapes and murders to care about a Class B misdemeanor theft. I do expect to bug HPD about it until the statute of limitations expires in two years.

Needless to say, I’m rather irked. My bicycle is my main source of exercise, as well as my main source of transportation. This means that I am going to have to take the bus everywhere. Those who know me know that I tend to swear greatly at the excessive tardiness (or lack of appearance) of METRO buses.

Oh, well.


I don’t think of myself as a gay man.

Before y’all get all up in arms about that, let me qualify: I don’t think my homosexuality is a defining characteristic. Yes, I am gay, but it is just a part of who I am; it’s not everything I am. I feel similarly about numerous other labels that could accurately be applied to me; for those grammar weenies out there, I think of them as nonrestrictive clauses instead of restrictive ones. For those people who aren’t, suffice to say that I think of them as adjectives that can accurately be applied to me, but I don’t think of them as essential to who I am; I would be the same person without them.

I am aware that my social values are influenced by my friends and acquaintances; as such, I do enjoy teasing straight people (or lesbians) when they kiss by jokingly saying, Ewwww! Straight people! [Lesbians!] And I will admit that I do not have many straight friends; those that I have had mostly moved away and we usually don’t talk that much, as happens from time to time. But nor do I have a problem per se with straight people, assuming they’re fairly open-minded and reasonably intelligent and aware. Those are the same criteria I have for all my friends.


As a bicyclist, I often ride down back streets and through neighborhoods, not only because they have less traffic, but because they are scenic. After the recent incident with two dogs attacking and killing a boy, I thought I’d recount some of my experiences with dogs.

Usually, over short distances, dogs can go very, very fast, well over twenty miles per hour. Therefore, when I hear a dog start barking and chasing me, I always attempt to find out where it is, shift up, and immediately get out of there. My concern is not just that the dog is chasing me, but that it might attack my legs or tires. If it should attack my tires, they would go flat, and then I’d have some crazy dog after me with no way to leave. It would also probably kill the dog as it hit the frame.

So please, dog owners, keep your dogs restrained. I don’t want to have to call BARC, but if your dogs continue to chase me, I will call them and have your dog impounded and you fined or arrested. Lest anyone accuse me of being anti-dog: my parents have an Australian cattle dog that I love very much and she is appropriately restrained. And cats don’t come down the street, loudly chasing me. Thank you for your co-operation.


I’ve taken a class required for a Certified Prevention Specialist certification, although I am not so certified. The woman who taught the class informed me that certain personalities tend to prefer certain types of drugs.

I’ve asked a former user what she thought my drug of choice would be, and she said that she guessed it would be crystal methamphetamine. I wonder at times if she’s right. I am pretty amped a lot of the time, but I much prefer a mild sort of depression. I don’t think I’d like downers, though, since they’d make me stupid, and I’d hate that. I’d also hate being amped due to crystal or crack use.

I know that there’s only really one way to know, and I’m not into drugs, nor do I really want to be. They are pretty tempting, though, and if they were free and legal, I’d probably do them. I know that people who know me will probably scratch their heads at this, but they don’t know that I would love it if I could just bury the real world under heaps of dopamine and serotonin. It would make life so much easier if I didn’t actually have to live it.

I know that sounds stupid, but there are about ten really off days for each one that’s good. I think the reason I don’t do drugs is because I couldn’t live with myself if I screwed my friends over, which I certainly would do if I used.

I find myself so fucking close to the edge that it’s not funny. My sense of humor gets darker and more morbid each day. In fact, I don’t really enjoy the highs anymore. They used to be fun and vibrant; now they’re just angry and disgusting.

In fact, I find myself more and more disgusted with myself after each time I become manic: I just (think I) act like a fool, and then I beat myself up afterward. I am so hesitant to share too much with my therapist, because he might really know who I am. He might know more about me than I do, and that’s damn scary. It’s so scary that I could give him basically the ultimate control over me. I don’t know if I can do that.

I think that’s part of the problem. I can’t give up control to someone else, lest they abuse that, but I can’t deal with that until I give up control. I can’t do that. I just can’t. If it were abused, I don’t know what I’d do. I really don’t know.

As much as I hate it, I find it easier to let me destroy myself this way than to let someone else have even the possibility of destroying me.

And I don’t know why I feel this way. Why can’t I just be me, without all the crap? I know practically that it’s not possible, not only because I can’t control my life like that, but because I am who I am because of the crap.

Lately, I’ve been lying in bed at night, just thinking how much I want to be beaten: just beaten and whipped, how much I deserve it, how satisfying it would be. The thing is that I’m not a masochist and I really don’t enjoy pain. But I think it would be so worth it to just have a good beating. I think it would reflect in reality the way I see myself.

It’s not like I’m unaware of pain. I’ve only admitted it to a few people, but I cut. I self-injure, because it helps. It helps because I can express on my body how I feel about myself, how I hate myself and want to destroy the only thing that really is mine. It hurts like fuck, and I don’t enjoy the pain. But I feel I deserve it, and it wouldn’t help if I liked it.

When I was younger and my parents and I would have a fight, I would storm off to my room and fume. One of two things would happen. Sometimes, I would start to feel bad, and I would hide under my covers and think about what a shitty person I was. I would think about how I would just eat very little and not do anything. I would become invisible, in a way.

The rest of the time, I would be furious with them. I would be so angry that words cannot describe the rage. And I would want to forgive them more than anything, but I couldn’t. I couldn’t bring myself to do it.

I haven’t done either in a while, exactly. I haven’t done the first one quite so obviously, but the bad self-talk is still there. The second one hasn’t happened since probably my sophomore year of high school, except for a couple times within the past six months.

I was at a friend’s party a couple months ago, and this guy wanted to get me to drink, knowing explicitly that I don’t do that. He kept pressuring me, and I got a little irritated. Finally, the friend came up and told the guy, Would you do that to an alcoholic? The guy looked sheepish and said he wouldn’t. My friend said, okay, in that final way. I wonder how much she can tell.

I wouldn’t wish this on my worst enemy. I wouldn’t wish this on Hitler. It’s bad enough to have stress from the outside, but it’s perfect hell to have it from the inside.

Please don’t leave your things at my apartment, particularly your drugs, even if they are 500 mg acetaminophen (Tylenol). If you leave substances at my apartment, then I have to check my Physician’s Desk Reference in order to decide whether I want to invite you back over or not.

So, I’d appreciate it if you didn’t waste my time trying to identify substances that it turns out aren’t scheduled. Thank you for you co-operation.


I am quite sick and tired of websites that claim that they require one or more of the following:

  • Microsoft Internet Explorer

  • Flash

  • Javascript

  • Cookies

  • Java

No site requires any of that, unless the authors of that site are terminally stupid. Microsoft Internet Explorer only works on Windows, unless you want some ancient version that is riddled with security bugs. Flash has no reasonable Free implementations, and it duplicates functionality that would in most cases be better done with Theora or even MPEG.

And Java, Javascript, and Flash are all Turing-complete languages. For those readers who are not computer programmers, it suffices to say that Turing-complete languages are the most powerful in existence, and that any program in one Turing-complete language can in theory be written in any other such language. I don't want to trust the competence of some random twit who is still in middle school.

In addition, Java is lacking a reasonable Free implementation as well. Reasonable in this case means having a working security manager. And yes, I know that Sun just released Java under the GPL, but not all of it yet. And it still doesn't ameliorate the fact that I still want to be able to view websites on my iBook G3, which is not as powerful as my desktop.

And cookies. I am not particularly inclined to allow cookies, since they allow trivial tracking of my browsing and viewing. Here's my suggestion if you need an authentication solution: use Kerberos 5. If you did that, I could authenticate myself trivially, using cross-realm authentication. I also wouldn't need to save my password in my browser, since my password would never leave the local machine.

And also, realize that HTTP is not designed as a stateful protocol, period. If you want stateful protocols, there are many better choices. HTTP isn't it. Trying to add a hack, as popular as it might be, is a poor choice.

So I'd like to request that web developers stop being terminally stupid. I know that Web 2.0 crap like AJAX is popular, but it's stupid. Just because everyone does something stupid does not make it less stupid. If you insist upon being terminally stupid, I will be happy to treat you accordingly, and I can be extremely insulting. Don't make me do that.


I just want to say that Canadian musicians rock. As evidence of this, I point to Simple Plan, Sum 41, Nickelback, Barenaked Ladies, Billy Talent, and Gob, although these are not the only excellent musicians from Canada. The United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland have a lot of terrific musicians as well.

I also want to point out that it was the United States that produced Britney Spears. Shame on us. We should learn something from Canada and its ilk.


Intelligence Isn’t Everything


Intelligence Isn’t Everything” is part of the Mummer Series. For more of the Mummer Series, see An Orange in Flight.

Hey—whoa! What happened?


Nick, a shiner like that isn’t nothing.

I said it’s nothing, okay? Just let it go.

Mark put his hand on Nick’s shoulder. Come on, we’re going to lunch. I’ll buy. Mark made it clear that his invitation was not optional.

When they were seated in the corner at the luncheonette, Mark said, We’ve known each other for a while now. We’re both intelligent guys, so I know that you know I don’t believe that ‘nothing’ explanation. So, care to spill it?

Well, I’m a little, uh, kinky, Nick replied uneasily.

Good for you, but that still doesn’t explain your eye. Any dom worth his salt knows exactly where the blow will land, and even the worst ones won’t leave marks where they can be seen, Mark informed him.

I guess I must have walked into a door, then, Nick said quietly.

Mark couldn’t help but smile. Gee, Nick, you sound so convincing. First of all, I don’t believe I’ve ever seen anyone actually walk into a door, nor do I understand how it’s possible in the first place. And you guess? Yeah, I’ve gotten a few small scars that I can’t remember where they came from, but that black eye is huge and it’s fresh.

Would you just shut up and let it go? Nick hissed.

Sorry, can’t do that, Mark replied evenly. Nick, I only asked because I give a damn. And I’m not going to let you weasel out of telling me. But I’ll make it easier: I’ll guess, and you tell me if I’m right, okay?

Nick thought a moment, and then nodded resignedly.

Okay, here’s my guess: Steve got pissed off over some little thing and he smacked you. And—

That’s not how— Nick tried to interrupt.

Wait, let me finish. And then he tried to blame it on you: if you hadn’t done such-and-such, then he wouldn’t have had to hit you. So, how close am I?

Mark, you make it sound so different from how it is. He didn’t try to blame it on me: it was my fault, Nick explained.

What was your fault?

Well, I was tired and I didn’t get all the dishes done before I went to bed. Steve got mad.

Okay, so you didn’t get all of the dishes done. So what? They’ll get done sometime. And why, if he doesn’t like dirty dishes, doesn’t he do them? You’re one of the top-billing associates at Monk, Monk, and Hassler, and he doesn’t even have a job. Mark was exasperated. He realized, though, that Nick was up against the issue, and couldn’t be expected to look at it objectively.

It’s my job; I’m supposed to do them.

Okay, so forget about the dishes. What gives him the right to hit you, for any reason? Mark queried.

Well, he just wanted to teach me to be responsible.

You’re not responsible? Mark was incredulous. You wouldn’t have the job you do if you weren’t responsible!

You’re just twisting what I’m saying! Nick protested.

I don’t think so, and even if I am, what you’re saying is nonsensical. What I’m saying it’s that it’s not okay to smack someone, especially not because they didn’t fulfill some wholly unreasonable expectation down to minutiae one single time.

And Nick, you don’t deserve that. Nobody does, but you especially: you’re a really nice guy who works hard. Everyone enjoys hanging out with you, and except for Jerry Falwell and this Steve character, everyone respects you.

Now, I’ve been putting off some stuff around the house, so here’s what we’ll do: you come and hang with me for the weekend, and we’ll paint the walls, fix the toilet, grill some burgers, and then go from there, okay?

Nick seemed relieved. Okay.

In music, not all songs are alike.

Some songs leave you wondering how you survived: they’re that bad. I am not simply talking about a bad performance, but terrible composing. These songs are obnoxious and a detriment to music in all its forms, whether amateur or professional.

Other songs leave you wanting more. Often they leave you with an insatiable craving for more; in those cases, you are usually stuck just hearing the same song over and over, and it sticks in your mind for days.

But, in my opinion, the best songs are those at which the end comes at just the right time, and then, every once in a while, you remember how much you liked them. These songs are the pinnacle of music: they stick with you, even years later, and you don’t have to rediscover them once you’ve forgotten them.

One of these songs I used to sing back in my early adolescent years when my voice was still unchanged. The piece ends with six notes in a beautiful duet between the soprano and alto sections. This final phrase is a simple Amen, but it is wonderfully rendered. There are not words to describe it, and to say that it gives me goosebumps is woefully inadequate.



I saw both Bobby and Filup post this, so I thought I’d give in.

  • List ten things you want to say to 10 people but know you never will.

  • Don’t say who they are.

  • Feel free to comment, but I may or may not confirm or answer anything.

  • Never discuss it again.

  1. I think I understand.

  2. I will be there for you for as long as you want me to be.

  3. You will succeed only when you figure out what held you back in the first place.

  4. I’m head over heels for you; I think it’s because we’re so alike.

  5. Go get help.

  6. You’re enabling him.

  7. I didn’t bother pursuing the date because it became irrelevant; I figured out that I didn’t want a relationship with you.

  8. I hope you’re not really as slutty as you make yourself appear.

  9. Treat me like my age, not my shoe size.

  10. I love you, and I’m sorry.


Christmas Lights; or, Attention K-Mart Shoppers

On my parents’ block, there is a couple which, every year, puts up Christmas lights (or, I suppose in their case, Hannukah lights, since the lights form the shape of a menorah) both in their windows and on the roof of their house. Other than the lights in the menorah itself (which are orange), all of the lights are blue.

I am aware that blue is often used in decorating for Hannukah; that’s fine. But every year, my mother makes snarky comments that it looks like a funeral parlor. And quite honestly, it does. There are ways of using blue lights that make it seem like the house of the conservative people that it is, and not a sepulchral building or a K-Mart; the blue is not what makes it look bad, since I could achieve a similarly offensive look using red lights instead (except it would look like a whorehouse instead).

I just thought I’d share.


For those of you that don’t know, I really don’t like little kids. They’re fine if they’re someone else’s and I only have to stick around for a while. But I don’t really like being around them full time, and I certainly don’t want any of my own.

I don’t like little kids not only because they remind me of myself at that age, but because they embody so much that I dislike about humanity: not knowing when to just fuck off and leave something (or someone) alone. They are also terribly cruel to each other. This is not just my experience; I have seen this when I am merely a passive observer.

I know that at some point, I was a little kid; now I realize the error of my ways. To reiterate, I don’t hate kids, I just don’t like them very much. People have tried everything to make me like kids, and I still don’t. Short of giving me a lobotomy (which will happen over my dead body), I doubt anyone will succeed, so don’t waste your time trying.

And as a point of clarification, little kids are those that are not yet in high school; that is, younger than fourteen.


I am terribly disappointed. This is the first week, since I got my bike back on October 21st, that I have not increased my weekly distance. Unfortunately, it was hot this week, and I procrastinated, neither of which is an excuse.

For those that are interested, my weekly distances, from earliest to most recent, are:

  • 162.32 km (100.86 mi)

  • 185.99 km (115.57 mi)

  • 179.83 km (111.74 mi)

My short-term goal is 200 km (124.27 mi); my long-term goal is to be able to bike the Elysian Viaduct (Google is your friend) and honestly claim it was easy.

So, I'm off to go and put about 30 km on my bike.

That is all.

I’m starting a new section called Writings, which will have miscellaneous short pieces of writing. Shortly after appearing in that section, they will be copied into An Orange in Flight.

And in case you hadn’t noticed, there’s another section that I’ve just added (with this post) called Meta. Meta is for news about this blog.

Also, I’m planning on updating the stylesheet to better match the rest of the site. That will require some infrastructural changes behind the scenes, so it may take some time.

That is all.

I was discussing Life, the Universe, and Everything with Jeffry today—I still am, at this moment—and we started discussing the death penalty.

I am of the opinion that violence is déclassé; it is in extremely poor taste. I think civil disobedience is a much better tactic. Basically, instead of attacking and hurting the oppressors, I need not exert myself to any extent. Instead, I force the oppressors to engage in oppressive behavior in front of the general populace; I bring the behavior in public view where its existence cannot be denied.

Whilst the general populace might not agree with me, they cannot help but object to the violence and oppression that will invariably occur whilst I am being arrested. Plus, I feel that it is be much more productive in both the short and long terms to use civil disobedience rather than violence: I am viewed as the good person I am, rather than an evil, harmful person which I am not.

That is all.

I’ve never particularly liked being called Mr. Carlson. I think of Mr. Carlson as either my father or my grandfather, both of whom are men I love very much, but who I am not. Consequently, I will outline how I prefer to be addressed, to avoid this situation.

Generally, if it’s not a formal situation, I am Brian. If that’s ambiguous, it’s Brian with Sandals, or if I’m not wearing sandals at that time, you can use Brian without Sandals. Note that the preposition with is not capitalized; this is not only consistent with English grammar rules for titles, but it mirrors usages like van Beethoven and de Santa Anna.

If it’s a formal situation, Brian M. Carlson (note the middle initial; it’s mandatory) is appropriate for the third person. If you insist in using a title, it should be the Right Honourable Brian M. Carlson, or the Right Honourable Mr. Carlson. Please note that the title contains the letter u, and that it is properly abbreviated Rt. Hon. I do not intend to imply that I have a grandiose self-image, merely that this is so outlandish that I hope any sensible person will avoid using the title altogether.

I also allow Mr. with Sandals (again, note the capitalization) or Mr. Waif, if the context involves my writings. My dislike is of Mr. Carlson, not the word mister in general. As a side note, it is the Barefoot Waif, much like the Artist Formerly Known as Prince, so Mr. Barefoot Waif is appropriate if you want to use a title instead.

If you have no idea what my name is, then don’t bother using a meaningless platitude such as sir or ma’am. I am male, thank you, so ma’am is not appropriate. And if you’re a close friend, you’ll know why sir is not particularly appropriate, either.

If you have a nickname that you generally call me, then that’s fine. Just don’t use someone else’s nickname for me. And above all, certainly don’t call me Bri, unless you wish to make an enemy.

And let me leave you with this thought: my high school physics teacher, Mr. Sload, imparted on me that you should always address someone as they wish to be addressed, even if they prefer a lower title (say, Mr.) over their actual one (Dr.).

That is all.

Oh, in case anyone didn’t know, I got elected as GLOBAL’s Webmaster. Compared to being Treasurer, I think this is kinda like Officer Lite: all the biting wit you love, but now with half the screaming!

Now, all that has to happen is for Jesse to give me the info to upload it. So, Jesse dear, if you’re reading this, whenever’s a good time for you.

That is all.

Since I’m feeling particularly generous and nice tonight, I will grant a single insight each to anyone I know. By granting an insight, I mean that you can ask me a single question, about me, and I will answer it truthfully. This does not mean that you can ask:

  • my passwords, as those are about my computer, not me;

  • about something I can’t answer, for whatever reason (obviously!); or

  • about other people, unless the question involves (and primarily focuses on) me as well, since I won’t share other people’s secrets.

If your question is unsuitable for some reason, I’ll tell you so, and you can ask a different question. However, most questions are suitable.

You have twenty-four hours to ask, or you lose this grant.

That is all.

Several of the songs I like (and listen to) most are on albums with Explicit Lyrics warnings. In fact, some of the songs I listen to would probably be cause for these warnings by themselves. Unfortunately, many stores will not sell albums with these warnings to minors.

I think this is ridiculous.

The Devil, er, RIAA, has developed this label in order to help parents decide what their kids should listen to, yet these are the same people who claim that their Gestapo-like tactics are to help the artists. So let’s help the artists preserve their artistic integrity: don’t brand the music with a meaningless, overbroad label that only serves to discourage artists from expressing themselves openly and honestly.

In many of the songs I listen to, the explicit lyrics express anger, frustration, disappointment, or other important emotions. It would be difficult to express these emotions effectively without the use of those explicit lyrics, since most popular songs have the length of poetry (and are, in some sense). As someone who has both created and performed artistic pieces, I agree with my friend Patrick that art is a gift of emotion. I do not think we should be looking gift horses in the mouth.

Also, I’m not saying that some lyrics may not be appropriate for certain age groups; I can testify that there are things that may be appropriate for a sixteen- or seventeen-year-old that may not be appropriate for a thirteen-year-old. But this label does nothing to help parents decide what is appropriate for their kids; it only serves to restrict age-appropriate material and angers the people like me who might actually want to buy the music. Additionally, it encourages people to download the music instead of buying it.

Parents are ultimately responsible for controlling what their kids do and do not see and hear. I understand that there is a fine line between giving kids their space and protecting them from unsavory things, and I realize that it’s a difficult line to find, even assuming the parent is reasonable and neither a pushover nor a dictator. But it is nearly impossible to find a third party that can do better: neither filtering software nor any of television, movie, video game, and music ratings can do it for parents.

The bottom line is that parents must do their jobs; technology cannot do it for them, nor should it.

That is all.

I do a lot of biking on the University of Houston campus: it’s a nice, scenic place, and the paths are well-maintained. And when I say a lot, I mean a lot: each of the past two weeks, I have biked over 100 miles (not just on campus, but in total).

In the process of biking on campus, I tend to scare a lot of pedestrians. This is not intentional; it’s just a side-effect of biking on campus. I’ll explain why I really don’t have any alternative, by listing what choices I have, in order of preference (most preferred first):

  • In certain cases, I can just dart around the pedestrian. With a sufficiently wide berth, I can avoid startling the pedestrian in most cases.

  • If the pedestrian is walking to one side of the path, and the path is wide enough, I can announce Passing left! or Passing right! (as the case may be), and pass without incident. The problem is that—especially at night—the pedestrian may be startled anyway.

  • If the pedestrian is walking in the middle of the path, or weaving all over it (as pedestrians on cellular phones are wont to do), I have to judge on which side of the path to pass, and then announce that. Unfortunately, sometimes this startles the pedestrian, and sometimes there is no good side on which to pass. In that case, I have to choose another course of action.

  • If there is no good way to pass on the path, I can sometimes pass on the grass, if there are no obstacles in the way, there are no ruts between the grass and the sidewalk, there actually is grass in the location in question, and a whole host of other conditions. In this case, regardless of whether I announce myself or not, the pedestrian can still be startled.

  • If no other case applies, I am generally forced to brake hard and hope I don’t hit the pedestrian. This is extremely scary for both the pedestrian and I, and I don’t really like doing it.

The best case is where the pedestrians walk to the right side of the path and don’t take up more than half of it. This not only allows other pedestrians to pass, it allows bicyclists and those godawful Cushman carts to pass as well. Since this almost never happens on campus, I don’t really feel too bad about scaring the pedestrians. When they can share the path, I’ll automatically stop scaring them.

That is all.

I am in the process of unsubscribing from all of the Debian lists on which non-subscribers are permitted to post. That is, I am waiting for murphy to finish sending me the unsubscribe requests.

I discovered that of the 1081 pieces of spam in my Actual Spam folder (that is, this does not include Mr. d’Itri and his ilk), 383 of them are from murphy. That’s over 35%. And I really can’t justify providing a longer greet-pause, since that won’t do anything to help it, except maybe get the listmasters off their collective ass to close the lists. Right.

This does not mean that I will decrease murphy’s greet-pause (which is already my standard 30 seconds) nor its connection settings (set to one at a time), but murphy will be less of a problem. It does mean that I will start making spam complaints to if I get any more spam from murphy, since by definition only developers can post to the relevant lists.

Therefore, starting at 00:00 UTC, November 5, 2006, I will reject messages with the relevant VERP headers from murphy.

I constantly get asked why I don’t drink. (And just to clarify, I don’t drink, sip, smoke, chug, or use in any way, shape, or form, excluding caffeine.) There are several reasons, and I’ll elaborate on some of them here.

  • I have a family history of alcoholism.

  • I don’t feel it is right for me personally to use substances to alter my consciousness.

  • I have in the past (and probably will in the future) taken medication for my bipolar disorder; these meds don’t mix well with alcohol.

  • People that are bipolar tend to have much a higher risk of addiction.

  • Being the perfectionist that I am (and if you don’t think I am, you’ve just proven my point), I am afraid that I would either lose control, of which I am terrified, or abuse the alcohol in order to bury my problems.

  • I can’t afford it.

So I am quite happy to babysit the drunks when I go to a party, or hold the keys, or whatever. Just please don’t offer me booze; I don’t want it, and even if I do, I shouldn’t have it.

Thank you.

That is all.

Table of Contents

Perhaps you’ve played a simple ice-breaking game called Two Truths and a Lie. It basically involves making three statements, two of which are true, and one which is false. Then others try to guess which is the lie.

This is the same thing, except that here we'll have two falsehoods and one true statement. It is up to you to figure out which is the case; I'm not going to tell.

Exercise 1

  • The United States does not torture prisoners.

  • The United States does not ship persons to other countries to be tortured.

  • I breathe.

Exercise 2

  • The Taliban, and not NATO, is responsible for today's deaths in Afghanistan.

  • Michael J. Fox was acting to make his disease worse than it was.

  • The Supreme Court of the United States has permanently enjoined the states of Delaware and New Jersey from disputing certain parts of the boundary between the two states.

I’ve long felt that arguing over issues (other people usually call this debating) is a good way to clarify what one’s opinion is on issues. Hence, I would like to join a group of friends once a week to argue on a different topic each week.

So, if you think that’s a good idea, give me a call and tell me when’s good for you. My thinking is that we could do this at a coffeehouse or something, preferably outside, in order to minimize the disturbance of any screaming that might occur.

Also, for those that might be interested, I’ve got a fairly new collection of writings on my web page called Lacking Serious Literary, Artistic, Political or Scientific Value. It’s all non-fiction, unlike my other collection An Orange in Flight. I encourage potential readers to first read the section (which is present in both collections) entitled A Prefatory Note to the Reader.

That is all.

Andrew McMahon has something to say:

I put on the same clothes I wore yesterday.
When did society decide that we had to change
And wash a tee shirt after every individual use:
If it’s not dirty, I’m gonna wear it.

Amen, brother. Sing it.

That is all.

I alternate between KDE and GNOME with significant frequency, because I cannot find one that does everything I want. Here's what I like about GNOME:

  • It has many auxiliary programs; it is a common development platform.

  • It has a square, minimalistic look.

  • It uses libpoppler for documents, which generally (ab)uses less X memory.

  • It has gaim, which provides multi-line messages.

  • It has more regular releases, and the tarballs are smaller and more specific, which helps when authors screw up a release, which happens on occasion.

  • It is more portable on Unix. For example, it would be a significant bug if parts of GNOME did not work on non-Linux kernels.

  • It uses Gecko for web browsing, which has support for XHTML, a standard which has been around since 1999.

  • It is very easy to use.

Here’s what I like about KDE:

  • It uses less memory.

  • It feels faster, it is more responsive, and it has fewer pathologically slow cases in typical use.

  • It has vastly better integration. For example, I can view a PDF in my browser, and generating valid PDFs is easy.

  • It is easy to set up for widely varying systems. For example, it works as well on my dual-core amd64 desktop with 1GB of RAM as it does on my 2002 iBook G3 with 640MB of RAM, albeit with less eye candy in the latter case.

  • It looks to support Windows and Mac OS X in version 4.

  • It supports many more protocols through VFS. For example, I can use my download manager (KGet) to copy files over SSH without the annoying popups.

  • It uses Konqueror, which has many fewer (reported) security bugs, as well as vastly superior CSS support (it passes ACID 2 now).

  • It has more configuration options, but they all come with sensible defaults, and most programs come with useful documentation; it is more powerful.

As you can see, neither side has got it all. I realize that some of these items are extremely specific and nitpicky, but the details matter, especially to me. If either side can please me to the point I no longer use their competitor, I will pay USD 100 (by check, drawn on a bank in the State of Texas) to the appropriate non-profit (the GNOME Foundation or KDE e.V., as appropriate). Good luck.

That is all.

Some things will never change, at least in my mind. For example:

  • It isn’t Lakewood Church or the Compaq Center, it’s the Summit.

  • The Astrodome is still an architectural marvel, and everyone knows that’s where Astroturf comes from.

  • Astroworld is still open, and it’s still a totally cool place to spend a hot summer day.

  • Texas still votes with the punch card machines, and they work just fine.

  • And kids and first time voters can try a sample ballot including such important matters as whether or not we should serve hot dogs at sporting events.

  • National Night Out is still around, and people still show up to meet their neighbors.

  • It’s World News Tonight with Peter Jennings.

  • * It’s Good Morning America, with Joan Lunden and Charles Gibson.

  • And it’s still Charles Gibson, not Charlie Gibson.

  • Dan Rather is still thought of fondly.

  • Every edition of 60 Minutes still opens with the lines:

    I’m Mike Wallace.

    I’m Morely Safer.

    I’m Ed Bradley.

    I’m Steve Kroft.

    I’m Lesley Stahl. Those stories and Andy Rooney, tonight on 60 Minutes.

  • State inspections stickers in Texas are still the size of a postage stamp, and they still go on the back license plate.

  • And finally, people still think of the ACLU as the noble, impartial, all-American institution it is.

That is all.

I have had an amusing set of experiences this past week.

On Friday, I was showering in preparation for the HATCH Youth Awards Banquet, to which Deb graciously invited me as her guest, and I was cleaning my septum piercing. It just so happened that I was not paying an appropriate amount of attention to what I was doing and I sprayed some of the soap too far up my nose. It went up into my sinuses and down into my throat, whereupon I immediately doubled over and started choking and gagging. I had to force myself to calm down and actually breathe. Had I not done so, I probably would have passed out, hit my head on some fixture, and promptly drowned.

On Monday, I was out biking on campus and I found that my left pedal seemed to be very loose. Upon closer inspection, I discovered that it was not the pedal, but the crankshaft where it attaches to the crankaxle. I tightened it, but it loosened again very quickly. So since I had to make a 10-mile bike ride today for an appointment (5 miles each way), I had to stop five times. The problem is either that the connection came loose and I simply cannot apply enough torque by hand to tighten it, or something is broken.

And today, as I was heating up some fish sticks for dinner (yes, I like them because they’re cheap and good, and I don’t particularly care to hear about your trauma from the school cafeteria), I noticed that they were sizzling, which usually indicates that the food is done. However, upon opening the door (there were ten seconds left out of 3:30), the plate (or rather, saucer) promptly shattered. For a while, I was nonplussed; after all, the bag said two to four fish sticks, three to four minutes, and I put it on for 3:30, since my microwave is pretty powerful. Then, I happened to notice that it said >on medium power. Oops.

So, what’s life like now? Well, I have no permanent damage from the soap, my bike is going into the shop today, and well, Oma, if you’re reading this (which I seriously doubt), your dish set is missing a saucer. Sorry.

That is all.

I remember some years ago when I was in a group, probably for a writing project, I was asked to explain what I thought the most attractive or notable part of the body was.

I felt at the time (and still do) that the most attractive parts of the body are the hands. The hands are so powerful and useful: they can play the piano, write letters, type, and sculpt, among myriad others. The hands are some of the only pieces of art that can create other art.

There is nothing that makes me wonder like watching someone play the piano, guitar, or drums. The skill and precision is simply awe-inspiring.

That is all.

I had the somewhat distubring experience of watching a portion of Sesame Street (ostensibly from some time ago) which had the Goo Goo Dolls and Elmo singing a song about pride, except that it was to the music of “Slide”.

Now, I have no objection to the Goo Goo Dolls, or the lyrics or music of “Slide” (it’s what I’m listening to now). What I think is disturbing is the contrast between the apparent meaning of“Slide” (SongMeanings may help here) and the audience of Sesame Street, which is mostly children. It’s just morbid.

Then again, I don’t really think the kids understand the lyrics, and the parents probably don’t listen to the Goo Goo Dolls. Oh, well.

That is all.

I was reading Swa Frantzen’s ISC diary on spam, and she was talking about greylisting. Well, more like complaining, but given that she’s just had to deal with the massive DDOS that she has, I’ll give her a break. She was saying that people should stop greylisting, as this transfers the burden onto others. Unfortunately, this is not only incorrect, it is totally backwards.

Greylisting generally consists of considering a triplet of the sending IP address, the recipient’s address, and the sender’s address. When the recipient MTA receives the RCPT command, it examines its database and checks if the triplet is present; if so, it allows the message. Otherwise, it sends a 4xx (temporary failure) code, and stores the triplet into its database. A properly-designed MTA will retry after a short time, and the message will get through with a brief delay.

As a consequence, the sending MTA cannot attempt to brute-force anything, and resending generally requires more co-ordination than zombies typically have. Additionally, some (probably most) people choose to use a short timeout between first storing the triplet and allowing the retry, usually somewhere between 5 seconds and 30 minutes. This provides the sending MTA time to get listed in a DNSBL or the DCC if it is sending spam.

The only real problems that occur with greylisting are broken servers: some servers never retry, in violation of standards, and therefore do not get through. I do not consider this a problem.

Furthermore, although I can understand Swa’s frustration at this moment, if somebody wants to send me email, the burden should be placed on them. One of the major problems with email that spam exploits is that the recipient has to bear the burden of the spam attack. Greylisting puts the burden on spammers.

Just so I cannot be accused of being unclear, proper greylisting does not burden anybody but the sender, and only for a very short period of time.

What I wrote yesterday was very wishful and unrealistic, for the most part, so today I’ll focus on something much more pragmatic: politics. If you don’t want to hear it, please go somewhere else.

Let us review just a few of the reasons why the United States is going down the tubes:

  • As of October 3, 2006, 2933 US military personnel are dead. As many people who may know me know, I am not a big fan of the military, because their sole purpose is to kill people (their underlying reason for that killing is irrelevant; I have never been a fan of the idea that the ends justify the means). However, I do not relish the loss of human life.

  • A former member of the US House of Representatives at the very least engaged in a terribly inappropriate relationship with a page, and it now appears that some of the House Leadership’s staff knew this, and did nothing.

  • Eight marines are charged with murdering an Iraqi civilian.

Note that none of these have to do with so-called moral values, as long as you accept some pretty basic principles that I expect everyone reading has. (If you don’t, please go somewhere else.)

So, instead of causing more death, let’s withdraw from Iraq and Afghanistan, and hopefully cause fewer future deaths. And then, let’s actually get the US back on track with education, health care, privacy, and a bunch fewer politicians and lawyers.

That is all.

It seems that the more I think about it, the more wrong I think society is today. My view is that we are missing the point. It is not very important how much money we make, or what we have, or even whether we are right.

What is important is to live life. And not just going through the motions, but really living. As an example, I absolutely love riding in the back of someone’s car or jeep, especially with the top down, but certainly with the windows open, and just cruising around town aimlessly. It’s wonderful. And I feel so alive.

I’ll guarantee you one thing, though: doing taxes does not make me feel alive. Taxes are morbid and useless. Governments are morbid and useless. Therefore, I propose (only half-seriously, unfortunately) that we abolish taxes and governments, and instead encourage living life. I think life would rock a bunch more and suck a bunch less if we did.

That is all.

There are some things that I haven’t told people, or might have hinted at, but not explicitly said:

  • I’m bipolar. So when you comment on my sleep schedule, my moodiness, or their effects, remember that.

  • I actually like my piercings; if you don’t, keep it to yourself, since I don’t care. It’s my face, not yours. If you—for some reason—want to hire me, the piercings come with me.

  • I can remember the most inane and useless things. But for your information, I suck at Trivial Pursuit-type games. I also suck at remembering people’s names.

  • I can pick up on what people say and how they say it, as well as their actions. I am particularly observant, and so I can often tell what people think but don’t say. I might even be able to tell things about you that you don’t know. Part of this comes from observations about myself and my friends, and some of it is just instinctual.

    Having said this, I’m not a therapist or otherwise qualified professional, and I don’t tell someone my observations about them, because people should discover themselves at their own pace.

  • Very little shocks me; people can (and do) tell me anything. On occasion, it kinda surprises me that a particular situation applies to a particular person, but not usually: nobody’s perfect.

  • I’m very much a night owl; in the uncommon case that I am up at sunrise, it’s only because I haven’t slept.

  • I actually like wearing long-sleeved shirts and long pants; however, this is Houston, and I don’t like sweating, so the vast majority of the time, I wear t-shirts and shorts.

  • Similarly, even though my nickname is Brian with Sandals, I actually prefer wearing my Converse, if I don’t have to do any walking. If I have to walk, my feet will hurt because the shoes are too narrow and hurt my arch; my alternative is a whole size larger, but these are already a little large in length. As a side note, when I was very young (8-12), I actually had to wear girls’ dress shoes, because my feet were too narrow for the guys’ shoes.

  • Sometimes I’m not particularly thrilled about what I post here after I’ve done so. However, I have a strong policy of not editing my blog, even for typos or thinkos. Therefore, be gentle when commenting on it.

I cried tonight, for the first time in over two years. It wasn’t nearly enough; I’m still terribly unsatisfied. But it’s a start.

Blue October, I cannot thank you enough.

That is all.

Just so you all know, I quit my job, effective at 6:00 PM Central Time today. This means that I am officially poor, so even though I wasn't planning to before, I will certainly not be covering your bills at GLOBAL after-events. Those of you who were expecting that (you know who you are) can wash dishes.

And yes, I quit; I was not fired. The timetable was my idea, not theirs, and this was not a quit-before-you-get-fired move; for personal and ethical reasons, I simply quit.

That is all.

I’m really tired, and I don’t mean just because I haven’t slept in twenty-four hours. I’m just emotionally exhausted, and it doesn’t seem to be getting any better. The good news is that I’ve finally found a way to stop the depression: read the newspaper. Then I find some example of idiocy or moral bankruptcy and I get mad. Maybe not the best for me, but I at least prefer it to feeling drained.

I got some doxylamine succinate (an over-the-counter sleep aid), so hopefully I’ll be able to function on a semi-normal schedule, although my life will still be far from normal, far even from semi-normal.

I’ve also picked up my new glasses, so if you notice that I’m a little maladroit for a few days, that’s why. This is my first new pair in three years, and that’s only because I haven’t gotten an eye exam in three years. And for the record, astigmatism sucks.

Anyway, in good news, it’s 77 degrees Fahrenheit, cloudy, gray, not too humid, and breezy. It’s a perfect day. Too bad I’m probably going to sleep through it, or at least be inside most of the day.

I’m still breathing.

Last night (Saturday) I went out on a bike ride from my apartment, through Hermann Park and the Texas Medical Center, and back home. Except that when I was in the Medical Center, I was crossing Holcombe with the green light, and this white Mazda MPV turns right from Holcombe onto Bertner. Right in front of me.

This twit doesn’t even bother to turn into the right lane; he turns into the left lane. Of course, I had to swerve onto the other side of the road to avoid being hit, and even then, I came perilously close to making contact. And the worst part was that the cop who was sitting in the left turn lane at Holcombe didn’t even notice. Then, on my way home, this pickup truck sits right behind me and honks loudly as he passes me, as if I’m not already skittish enough.

I am seriously considering calling the police on the next motorist who honks at, screams at, or tries to collide with me. I am tired of doing my part to help traffic, conserve energy, and save money, while getting tortured in return. For those motorists who do not realize that I am legally required to bicycle in the street and that my bicycle is a vehicle, please find the nearest shredder, and deposit your driver’s license in it. Thank you. That is all.

Jeffry, you are wrong. I agree that the GLBT community could do more to advocate for its own rights, but your assertion that we have thumbed out noses at equality is, quite frankly, asinine.

One of the core values in the United States is freedom as liberty. That means that as long as I am not harming you, either intentionally or through gross negligence (in the case that I have an obligation to act), I am free to do as I please. You are claiming that because we do not all act in a certain manner, that we are the real enemy; the implicit (and in some cases, explicit) theme in your argument is that we should act respectably. What gall! I have the right to act however I want, and who the fuck are you to tell me otherwise?

I am not a robot or a computer; I am a human. I don’t have to sell myself into the prostitution of public relations. I don’t have to care what other people think. That’s my right. The fact that I happen to act respectably much of the time comes from a combination of my personal values and my mistaken (and psychologically unhealthy) view that what other people think matters. It doesn’t, and I’m working on that.

You are correct that equality does not explicitly include the freedom to fuck everything. But it does include the premise that I have the same rights as everybody else, and currently, straight people can fuck anyone they want, any time they want. I only ask that—if I choose—I have that same right.

I shouldn’t have to show anyone that I deserve equal rights; I deserve them by virtue of being human. If you want to prostitute yourself for some unrealistic PR image, then go right ahead. Just don’t assume that I am foolish enough to go along with you.

The judge you mentioned is correct that some, maybe even many, gay men have completely unstable, short-term relationships. However, quite honestly, so do many heterosexuals. Have you watched Next on MTV? Have you heard of Britney Spears, strip clubs, swingers, or prostitution? These are either completely or mostly heterosexual phenomena.

And your assertion that gay men who have monogamous long term [sic] relationships…are so few and far between, that they are almost not worth mentioning is absurd. I do not honestly know how you can make that assertion. You know many of the gay couples that I do, and you were sitting in the same room as I when we were informed that 40% (that’s two out of every five) foster homes in Texas have gay men as the heads of household. Either heterosexuals are blithely caught up in their lives and too busy to be foster parents, or there are a large number of gay men who are in committed, long-term relationships, or both.

And furthermore, your implicit assumption that all people who use methamphetamine make a deliberate and arrogant choice to do so is simply more poppycock. I agree that there is some element of choice. But I also feel that society has a tendency to ignore emotional and mental health issues until it is too late.

For example, imagine if half the time you felt like shit, and the other half you were so amped you couldn’t control yourself. If you had grown up with good coping skills, good insurance, a good support system, and a shit-load of luck, you might get diagnosed as bipolar early enough and live a semi-normal life. Fortunately, that’s pretty close to what happened to me. But if you were missing even one of those things, you might decide that meth was a really good choice: it amplifies those intoxicating highs and helps you avoid those terrible lows. I know your life may not be perfect, but not everybody is even as lucky as you.

That is part of the reason I do meth prevention: I hope that people who might otherwise use will think about it, and maybe decide to hold off until life becomes attractive enough that it outshines the potentials of meth.

But back to the topic of GLBT issues. People who try to enact public policy based on the claim that GLBT people are immoral are un-American. They want to push their morality on other people, to force people to do as commanded. They don’t have that right. In fact, should any of them read this, I encourage them either

  • to acquire a major change of perspective; or

  • to off themselves

forthwith. I don’t care which, as long as they implement their choice now.

It is not the GLBT community’s fault that bigots are trying to annihilate freedom. That is the bigots’ fault. The amendment banning same-sex marriages only shows how wrong they are: instead of encouraging same-sex couples to marry and form good relationships, they are encouraging poor, ephemeral relationships.

Also, I am offended by your claim that the members of the GLBT commmunity have shown the world that we are fags and pussies. The word fag comes from faggot, originally meaning a bundle of sticks of the kind used to burn witches and gay men. The word pussy is a diminutive of puss, which refers to a cat and was used as an affectionate term for a young woman. These words are only offensive in their association with gay men; nobody uses the phrases bundle of sticks, cat, or young woman as insults. Your use of these words in a hateful manner merely gives credence to the absurd belief that gay men are inherently evil or wrong.

And for the record, Jeffry, I voted, and you’re still my friend, even if you are wrong.

And what I forgot was to change sis0 to eth1 when I changed castro back from GNU/kFreeBSD to GNU/Linux. I remembered to copy the config files for ez-ipupdate over, but I neglected to change the old interface name to the new one.

Consequently, the name has not been resolving to a working machine for some time now, at least a couple hours. And the TTL is over 3 hours. Oh, well, I’m glad I upped the connection limit for sendmail; otherwise, murphy would slaughter my server with a huge number of connections for one mail each. And I just found out exim doesn’t support sending multiple mails per connection. Oops.

It appears that the public works personnel near Cardiff, Wales, have bought some Welsh phrasebooks from the same guy who brought you the Hungarian Phrasebook. Apparently, these workers translated a sign that says Cyclists dismount in English into a grammatically-butchered version of Bladder disease has returned in Welsh.

It appears that the public works department needs a refund.

This good laugh brought to you thanks to MJ Ray.

A Message from Your Friend, the Solidus

Hi, I’m the Solidus, although my friends know me better by my nickname, the Slash. Brian has graciously let me write one of my own rants here today.

I just wanted to point out that I am written like this: /. Many people, especially Windows users, confuse me with my cousin, the Reverse Solidus (\), who is better known as the Backslash. Let me assure you, we are two very different punctuation marks, and neither likes to be confused with the other.

How do you remember which is which? Well, just remember that I’m the one that you use when writing fractions, the percent sign, the abbreviations for without and care-of, and most everything else, including URLs (web addresses). My cousin, well, you can forget about him unless you’re talking about an actual Windows file or network share.

Please, get it right. If you don’t, I’ll have to send my friends, the Interrobang () and the Bullets (, , , , , , , , , , and ) after you. You really don’t want a whole bunch of Bullets flying towards you, do you?

I’ve never really considered myself an artist before.

I was just looking through some postcards and notes that I got when I participated in Turned Up Volume a few years ago. I cried. I haven’t felt this good in years. I don’t worry right now that life will be shitty again. It will, but I don’t worry about it.

One particular note is what did it for me. The author said of my personality, A great combo for an artist. And he meant it. That note is one of the most meaningful pieces of paper I’ve ever touched in my life.

I’ve considered myself a singer and a musician, but never an artist. For some reason, although I’ve always loved the arts, I’ve always been an objective scientist. Now, though, I realize that emotions, feelings, and passion are not simply chemical reactions in the brain. They are magic. Believing in that magic is what makes me an artist.

I love the doublespeak which conservative Christian organizations use. All these different organizations are The Family This and the The Family That: Focus on the Family, Illinois Family Institute, the American Family Association, and the Family Research Council, just to name a few. These organizations claim that they are out to protect the family.

What a crock. Many, if not all, of these organizations would have approximately 40% of the foster families in Texas disqualified because the foster parents are GLBT. These pro-family organizations are basically saying that those children should just suck it up because, well, it’s better that you live in an abusive household or on the street than with those gays.

Further demonstration of this allegedly pro-family attitude comes from the condemnation of a woman who had an abortion. Specifically, this woman aborted a fetus which would have been born without skin. Had this fetus been born into a child, it would not have lived more than a few days and would have spent every minute in excruciating pain.

Then, there are the fights against gay marriage. These sanctimonious organizations would have you believe that same-sex marriage is unholy, and that same-sex couples can get the same benefits through contracts. They are wrong; only a tiny few of those benefits are available with contracts, which cost many thousands of dollars to create. There are benefits that cannot be created through contracts. For example, if a company offers the same insurance and health benefits to domestic partners that it offers to married people, the married employee does not need to pay taxes on those benefits, but the GLBT employee does.

I think that when these so-called pro-family organizations are willing to take in several foster kids each, care for a terminally ill child, provide counseling to traumatized parents, and pay my taxes, then they can complain. Put up or shut up.

I am not taking classes this semester. I am taking some time off to get my personal life and the issues therein together. So don’t bother asking me what my class schedule is.

However, I am continuing to live in the same location, and unless something changes drastically, I am still almost certainly unavailable before noon.

Questions, comments, cares, or concerns, please pick up the courtesy phone. You should have my number.

What if there were a library which would allow you to create a program for any graphical interface, including:

  • text interfaces with readline-style support;

  • text interfaces with curses-style support;

  • text interfaces with ANSI-style terminal support;

  • graphical interfaces with Tk;

  • graphical interfaces with Lesstif (or Motif);

  • graphical interfaces with GTK+ 2 or GNOME 2;

  • graphical interfaces with Qt 3 or KDE 3;

  • graphical interfaces with Qt 4 or the upcoming KDE 4;

  • graphical interfaces with Microsoft Windows.

Then, the programmer doesn’t have to make the hard choice of which interface to use, and the user can configure the program to act identically whether she wants to use a curses-style GUI (maybe her laptop isn’t that powerful) or a beautiful graphical interface on Linux. And additionally, the system would automatically adapt to whatever VFS system existed, and the user could configure keyboard shortcuts with ease (like mutt).

The reason I suggest this is that I’d like to be able to run the same program on my rapidly-aging iBook G3 and on my much faster desktop, with different graphical interfaces, but the same configuration. Since I switch between GNOME and KDE fairly frequently (once or twice a year) because neither has everything I want, I would like to not have to relearn all the programs and their quirks.

I also want stuff that is configurable. For example, mutt allows you to configure almost anything. And although most GNOME programs use Ctrl-Q to quit, Firefox, even with GNOME support, doesn’t. I want an interface that is not just pretty, but powerful. And that’s what we’re missing with Linux desktop support.

Those people that know me well know I don’t watch a lot of TV, and it’s really not that important in my life.

However, that said, I’ve found the only television show that I watch religiously: Intervention. I watch every new episode the night it comes on. This is one of the few things in life that can make me want to bawl. It’s just so powerful.

Now, I know what you’re asking yourself: Why does he watch the show if it makes him want to cry? Well, it’s sort of like watching a train wreck, except that you hope like mad that everyone’s okay. Plus, since I work in drug prevention, I have no idea if I’ve actually helped anyone, since if I have, they don’t use. As silly as it sounds, the show spurs me to keep going in the hope that I can prevent those kinds of situations.

So, if you’re interested, you can watch it on A&E at 9:00 PM Central Time on Sunday. They have a rerun of the same show at 2:00 AM on Monday (five hours later).