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August 4, 2012 / trident2k

How could I miss this?

Athena Andreadis is awesome.

August 2, 2012 / trident2k

This is my favourite Nasreddin story now…

… Found on Wikipedia, of all places, when I  was trying to look up how his name is traditionally spelt in English (it apparently doesn’t, so I’d go with Nasreddin Hodja.)

Nasreddin was walking in the bazaar with a large group of followers. Whatever Nasreddin did, his followers immediately copied. Every few steps Nasreddin would stop and shake his hands in the air, touch his feet and jump up yelling “Hu Hu Hu!”. So his followers would also stop and do exactly the same thing.
One of the merchants, who knew Nasreddin, quietly asked him: “What are you doing my old friend? Why are these people imitating you?”
“I have become a Sufi Sheikh,” replied Nasreddin. “These are my Murids (spiritual seekers); I am helping them reach enlightenment!”
“How do you know when they reach enlightenment?”
“That’s the easy part! Every morning I count them. The ones who have left – have reached enlightenment!”

Of course, it takes Hodja to do that “cult leader” thing so right and so wrong at the same time. But I certainly understand his followers. I looked for wisdom in many a wrong place, from door-to-door preacher’s booklets to pop psych to  Internet message boards. And it’s not as if some wisdom can’t be found there. But only if you know how to remain a seeker of wisdom, not a Hofferian True Believer who thinks he had found all the answers by blindly aping The Leaders.

July 31, 2012 / trident2k

A cat paradox.

Cats, Kitten

Cats, Kitten (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I absolutely love cats. I honestly believe that no kitten picture is ever too kitchy, that every story about them isn’t boring, no matter how often repeated, that every singly kitty is beauty embodied… You get the picture. Yet I would probably never keep one as a pet again.

I was spoiled by my rather rustic teen years, I think. I just can’t imagine a cat being happy in any place where it can’t come and go as it pleases, hunt, have as many kittens as Mother Nature intended and generally be its cat self. And so when it returns home loudly demanding food and attention, or she decides that my bed is the safest place to raise kittens, it’s because I was good to them, not because they haven’t got other options. Modern, becollared, scientifically-bred, pampered with packaged produce from a pet store and walked on a leash cat may be safer, less damaging to environment, and all around nicer to be around kind of animal, but… Is it even a cat?

And, come to think of it, isn’t that true of any love? How do you tell responsibility from possessiveness, trust from laziness, faithfulness from  “no other options?” Most people seemingly don’t even think of these things in these terms, – they just want to do what “everyone else” around them does, to keep the appearances. Yet appearances can be satisfied both by the genuine thing of beauty and a creepy, ugly, fake. Happy and faithful monogamy-by-choice and “traditional marriage” (which is usually neither really happy, nor really a choice) genuine poly and just “rules for me to screw around with minimum of guilt attached.” In fact, appearances usually are satisfied better by these fake versions. Genuine thing is way, way too subversive, it doesn’t want to follow any set of prescriptions, advice and received wisdom, it abhors lawyers and lawyering.

Looks are almost always deceiving.Following with the herd, no matter how “queer,” “feminist” and “radical” won’t set you free. Genuine love is in our hearts, not in any sets of rules, not in opinions of others. And so, it would probably remain a forbidden fruit.  Both a gift and a curse. A choice between your lover and everyone and everything else. No matter how many more civil rights we’ll win.

/*And who replaced my computer chair with a soapbox this time?*/

July 27, 2012 / trident2k

Why Sally Ride did the right thing.

What many are missing about that whole business is that she wasn’t just any old celebrity, – she was an astronaut. And, as such, her claim to fame was the strongest among the crowd that is

  • Predominantly either in or ex-military. Although most launch vehicles nowadays  aren’t just converted ICBMs and not all astronauts are former fighter pilots.
  • Either worked, is working or otherwise crucially dependent on the Big Aerospace. The modern movement isn’t, but they place their bets on a few tycoons with an agenda, John Galt style.
  • In the US, it’s predominantly Southern. Just think where most of the NASA and USAF space facilities are located.

This could’ve been tempered by the influence of the academia, but surprisingly few academics actually care about manned  space exploration or more ambitious projects.

So, that all adds up to a rather conservative and mostly boys-only culture as soon as we move past “watches old sci-fi reruns regularly” level of involvement. (To get a better feel for what I’m talking about, you may want to read this piece by Jeffrey F. Bell.) Back in my naive idealist days I was quite surprised and didn’t fully understand why all sorts of cranky right-wing agendas from general willingness to go along with company towns and indentured servitude IN SPAAAACE!!! to Ayn Rand worship all the way to climate change denial and inept potshots at evolution are so pervasive among serious space enthusiasts across the globe. Now I see this is only to be expected.

So, Sally Ride was up against enormous challenge. Basically, she had to prove that no, girls aren’t up there merely for “crew morale,” as  child-producers for shiny new libertopias and kitchen appliance operators. Public advocacy for LGBT issues would’ve diverted much force from that argument, at least in the conservative minds she had to change. An argument along the lines of “Sure, you could do it, but no, it doesn’t count, you’re a lesbian.” is of course, a load of nonsense but it would’ve been put up against her, among other, even more hostile ones.

P.S. There are more than 500 people who had been in space by now. Do the math. She isn’t the only one. Where are other  gay astronauts hiding? Would her posthumous coming out be merely one small step for one woman?

update: And here’s an angle I missed completely. Even though she wasn’t military, she still had to get her security clearance… With all the consequences that entailed back then.

July 25, 2012 / trident2k

Why Kinsey haven’t thought of that?

I’ve finally found where I fit on the Kinsey scale! It’s 3√2(cos(π/4)+i*sin(π/4))! It’s perfect! It explains everything! And in  one neat number too! Real part of 3 for easy conversion to the old Kinsey, attraction to non-binary gender along the Im axis, suggestion of sexual fluidity, – it’s in polar form, suggesting waves and oscillations. Ain’t I a genius? Aren’t complex numbers sexy? Oh wait… If I’m attracted to complex numbers, the whole scheme falls apart. Back to the drawing board.

But, seriously, I always liked the concept of other numbers that are  outside the line of the “real” ones. Even if actual calculations with complex numbers made my head ache back in my student days.

Update: Well, I really need to brush up my math… Of course, absolute value is 3√2, and 3 is that number’s real part.

July 23, 2012 / trident2k

Let us eat cake!

XKCD has only half a point here.

Yes, we all felt that. We all also are no strangers to something quite different,- “no, don’t let anyone see this. It’s too controversial, and too frank. Pick your battles, link to XKCD #386 and feel how wise you are.” Only, this is, of course, fake wisdom, and fake above-it-allness. Real wisdom is in knowing when to be quixotic, as well as in when not to be.

So, yes, someone is persistently wrong on the Internet. Every Pride season we hear that dispersed grumbling about “it’s just a pointless picnic now.” Well, by that logic, US and UK should declare war on each other every 4th of July… “It’s commercialized” yes, and as someone fairly left-wing by any standard I feel your pain, but seriously, – it’s stupid to assume that every single queer-identified person must also share your political views just because they’re queer. Arguing with conservatives is essential, but gay-shaming them and using their queerness to attempt to blackmail them into agreement may not be the most ethically clean or even pragmatically productive tactics… “It scares straight people” Cry me a river. And so on and so forth.

What is lost on those arguing this way is that Pride, warts and all, does. I didn’t understand it too, until I actually went. The event itself might be kinda boring, all the flag-waving  kinda silly,and all the agitprop sort of annoying, but that doesn’t matter. What matters is the day after. A day when you realize that yesterday was probably the only day in your life without a second of straight assumption or all those closet-induced self-repressions. That “normal life” isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be and that, heck, I can chance an occasional dangerous bully, periodic discrimination and even that background disapproval of “homosexual lifestyle,”  if it gets me closer to being real me.

So, yes, let us follow Rousseau’s advice  to take that French princess words at face value and eat cake, even if the rest of the dinner has to be stolen.

July 22, 2012 / trident2k

[review] How Not to Write a Novel: 200 Classic Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

How Not to Write a Novel: 200 Classic Mistakes and How to Avoid Them--A Misstep-by-Misstep GuideHow Not to Write a Novel: 200 Classic Mistakes and How to Avoid Them–A Misstep-by-Misstep Guide by Howard Mittelmark and Sandra Newman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Whether you’re an aspiring writer or not, this book is a blast to read. Examples of bad writing authors did are so over-the-top funny, their observations so to-the-point you won’t put it down until you finish it.

As a writing guide it’s geared towards “genre” fiction writers, not that it would be completely useless to more literary crowd, but it’s absolutely clear the authors really, really don’t want to go there, and just note that many standard tricks of literary fiction are much, much harder to do well than they may seem and congratulate anyone who pulls it off.

So, I may congratulate them on just that, – yes, they wrote humorous and self-referential book and filled it with genuine humour and insight. Even if it’s not exactly a novel. Although I still want to know how the eternal battle for ergodraulics turned out, and who was really behind professor Nefaro.