Saturday, November 8, 2008

uh-oh... bidding has begun, but...

I've got bids on brush art items 35 and 36 over at Kevin's Wares, but I've got a few problems. One problem, which I should have anticipated, is that when a new comment comes in, I see it on my Blogger "dashboard," but don't know which post it applies to. For the comment to be visibly associated with that post, it has to be published-- but that's what I was trying to avoid doing.

This leads to the next problem. I published the two bids I got, then immediately hid the comments to protect privacy. Having done that, however, I've now prevented anyone else from using the comment feature to leave higher bids. That's good for the first bidder, I suppose, but bad all around for the auction.

Possible solutions? Emailed bids? Open comments?


Friday, November 7, 2008

finally: the redesign

Well, I hope my commenter's happy: no more "Kevin's Wank."

I removed the hiker icon, which meant that I lost the Christian cross that had hovered over the hiker's heart. After some deliberation, I decided I needed to (1) keep the original "negative space" motif and (2) put the cross in a place where its presence wouldn't interrupt the flow of someone reading the text-- hence its new home inside the W.

You'll have noticed the new subtitle. It's not necessarily a replacement for the previous one; it's simply another slogan. The overall effect will be, I hope, to get a reader of the bumper sticker curious about a dude who appears to be walking across the country for some sort of religion-related purpose. The phrase "many religions" ought to alert the reader that this isn't a "religious quest" in the normal sense-- i.e., someone of a specific tradition engaging in a pilgrimage.

I struggled over whether to include the blog URL. To my mind, a person who's curious enough about a particular phrase will, in this day and age, automatically Google it. In the end, though, I decided to risk squeezing in the URL, just to make sure people were guided to the right place. After all, the search string "kevin's walk" leads to more than just my humble blog.

The new bumper stickers are already up at the Kevin's Walk section of my CafePress site. I hope you'll buy some. Heck, shop around at my CafePress store! Christmas is coming, and you know you need to buy some gifts!


mise à jour

1. I went to the bank and initiated a dispute procedure regarding the phantom $150 charge.

2. Our family got new toilets today, but they won't be installed for a bit. I still plan on using one of them tonight.



It took a few days, but I finally uploaded all the products currently on sale over at Kevin's Wares. Go check 'em out.

A note about the images:

Photobucket, the service at which I'm storing the brush art images, doesn't seem to have a proper thumbnail function, so the pics you see on the blog, which are huge, are also cut off. I'm going to see what I can do to improve the situation, but in the meantime, please just CLICK on the image to see it fully, then click again (if your browser allows you a "magnify" function) to see it full-size. Seeing the brush art at full size will allow you to read the little black panel that offers you information about the product in question.

So, a quick roundup of what's on sale over at the other blog:

1. Six copies of my book Water from a Skull, taken out of storage (where they'd been since the book signing last June), and perfectly new. $15 a copy, first come, first served.

2. Nine copies of my book Scary Spasms in Hairy Chasms, also taken out of storage and perfectly new. $10 a copy, first come, first served.

3. The D&D books have been sold!

4. 46 pieces of brush art ranging from abstract Chinese calligraphy to tigers to Kevin's self-portrait to the best dalma-do I've ever painted. These pieces are being auctioned.

OK... hope to see you at Kevin's Wares!


a buyer!

Just a few hours after I posted the Craigslist ad about my D&D books yesterday evening, I got a buyer! Many thanks, Pete. How can you beat the INSANE price of $20 (plus shipping) for eight vintage D&D books? I've removed the Craigslist ad and now need to change the blog entry at Kevin's Wares. Here's hoping the other items sell that fast...


Thursday, November 6, 2008

in case you're curious...

The Kevin's Wares blog is changing almost minute-by-minute as I add the brush art I'm hoping to sell. While the three sets of books are being sold on a no-frills, "first come, first served" basis, the brush art is being auctioned off in silent auction style.

Comments are hidden for all the Kevin's Wares posts; bidders will be able to see the current highest bid so that they know whether to bid higher or to cede the prize to another. I plan to update assiduously, but I can't guarantee that I'll always be around to make the updates. A man has to sleep, eat, poop, and travel, after all. This means there may be times when a bidder leaves a bid that turns out to be lower than the curent highest bid. It may be prudent, therefore, for bidders to guess when bidding: "The current highest bid is lasted as $10. Is that really the highest bid? I was thinking of bidding $12, but maybe it'd be better to up that to $15."

I've decided to keep comments hidden at that blog (I'm doing this by enabling comment moderation) because potential buyers might feel uncomfortable about leaving their contact information out in an open comment thread. You can read all about How It Works by visiting the blog's inaugural post which is, of course, at the very bottom. Hope to see you visiting! I've slapped a Site Meter on that blog, so I'll know whether anyone's snopping around, looking for possible Christmas gifts.



I had no idea that my buddy Steve is video podcasting from his university! What a hoot!


Indian summer

It's way too warm here in northern Virginia. I blame the hot air constantly billowing out of Washington.

Bring back the COLD!


get 'em while they're cheap!

Extra copies of my book on religion, Water from a Skull, are on sale CHEAP by yours truly. I've got six copies lying around the house here, left over from last year's book signing, tucked away in a box kept by Mom and Dad since June of 2007.

I've created a new "product blog," Kevin's Wares, as a platform from which to sell possessions, original art, and whatever else I can think of. Go see the Water from a Skull entry, which includes a link to the Flickr slideshow where you can actually peruse the pages, Sort of.

It's only six copies at $15 a pop (plus shipping)... after they're gone, you'll have to pay the full $21.95 plus shipping at my normal CafePress site (see sidebar ad)!


Wednesday, November 5, 2008

"Now... I have... a bicycle. Ho... ho... ho."

My brother David brought over my other brother Sean's old mountain bike, so I took it for a brief spin this evening. Cool. I now have a low-impact solution to my exercise problem. I'll keep the bike set on its most difficult gear and chug around the neighborhood to the jeers and hoots of all the local high school students. I'm gonna rule.


well, well!

I appear to be the victim of identity theft. Someone has made about $150 worth of charges using my PNC check card's number. How they got hold of it, I'll never know.

Luckily, the damage isn't extensive-- my funds have been so low that not much could have been done with my check card. I still have the card, but PayPal confirms that "unusual activity" occurred with it, which matches the unusual activity I saw about a week ago when I reviewed my PNC bank account. So I have two issues to resolve: the PNC check card issue, and a PayPal "restricted access" issue-- a measure PayPal takes for their customers' safety, or so they say. I'm awaiting a document from PNC about the mystery charge; I'll have to dispute the charge and then work with PayPal.

In other news: more resumes have been sent out. My French student appears to be weaseling out on me, but that's why I have a "pay up front, no refunds" policy: it acts like a kill fee and keeps me from getting financially hurt by wishy-washy parties. I've already received money for three lessons; it feels like being paid to do nothing.

More on all this later.



So we wake up to the dawn of a new age.... and the untimely death of Michael Crichton.



Tuesday, November 4, 2008

congratulations, Mr. Obama!

Can I call him "Mr. President" now, or do we have to wait until January 20?

In the end, I voted for neither McCain nor Obama; I did, however, follow the dictates of my conscience by putting down the names of the people I did want to see as president and vice president.

I knew Obama was going to win, and I don't begrudge him his victory. Instead, I look forward to an immediate spike in the stock market as most of the world rejoices, a long period of conservative/GOP retrenchment, and a happy start to a new presidency. What happens after the honeymoon period is, of course, anyone's guess. For the moment, though, my hat is off to Mr. Obama, who's just been through a tough run, and who is about to enter a job that physically ages a person like no other job around. Good luck, sir. You're our real-life David Palmer.


a new age dawns

I occasionally name-drop one of my classmates from college: Dikembe Mutombo, a congolais (formerly a zaïrois) who came to America and made good, becoming a famous basketball player and doing so much for his beloved homeland in Africa. He graduated right in front of me in May of 1991; we were both there when Dick Cheney's wife, Lynne, gave the graduation speech for the Georgetown School of Languages and Linguistics.

Dikembe and I were both in a French Theater class back during the 1988-89 academic year and Dikembe, being as tall as he was, was given the role of "The Angel" who appears in the third and final act of Paul Claudel's La Ville, a play that's supposed to be an allegory for Claudel's conversion to Catholicism in his early twenties. When Dikembe appeared stage center, dressed in little more than a simple white robe, the effect was, as you might imagine, awesome. No one would have dared to view him as a hyperthyroid fugitive from an elementary school Christmas pageant. He was an angel, dammit-- THE angel! Resplendent in his robe, Dikembe commanded attention; all eyes were riveted upon him. He was also gifted with a booming voice, which served him well when he made his grand appearance in the ruins of the city and intoned his first cosmic utterance early in the third act:

O vous!
O camp des hommes malheureux!
Je viens,
et non pas la nuit
mais LE JOUR
est dans le milieu de la ville!

Frisson. Electrifying stuff. An enormous angel appears and promises redemption to the smoldering city. This isn't deus ex machina-- it's deus ex terra, an apocalyptic vision, the divinity rising as if from out of the earth. The angel is a messenger; he brings news of salvation for all people.

A lot of talk about Barack Obama has centered on his magnetism, his ability to draw and inspire crowds through oratory. The more satirical sectors of American society style Obama "The One" or "The Messiah" or "The Savior." Somehow, as we sit on the cusp of a long-expected Obama victory, I'm reminded of those seven performances of La Ville I did with our theater troupe at the French Embassy, right across the street from the back of Georgetown's campus. Barack Obama: the obsidian angel in alabaster robes.

I come...
and it is not night, but DAY
that is in the midst of the city!

This is, apparently, the promise that Obama brings. I hope it's a promise sincerely meant.

Meantime, I'll enjoy the national euphoria while it lasts. The conservatives will sulk a bit, but they've known this moment was coming; very few of them will be in denial. They might shake themselves free of their years-long torpor, refocus on the virtues of classical conservatism, and be about the task of healing themselves before they once again attempt the White House. Liberal Democrats will, at least for the moment, enjoy a nearly unprecedented level of control of government. Let's hope they employ the reins wisely: Americans are oft-unruly steeds.

George W. Bush, in his second inaugural address, spoke of "the angel in the whirlwind." I wonder if he had any idea what sort of angel the whirlwind was bringing.


I do believe they had a cell phone jammer in the school gym!

Sent via BlackBerry by AT&T

your morning sausage links

It's Erection Day! So get out there and show your love to the candidates of your choice! I'm walking over to the local elementary school in a couple hours to go cast my vote for the first time ever on American soil. I've been told that things get crowded both before and after work hours, so I'm waiting until after 10AM before strolling over.

Meantime, some links passed to me by my buddy Tom:

1. How far would you go for bigger breastuses?

2. This one's been making the rounds, so I saw it already, but in case you haven't: praying before a "golden calf" to improve the economy. After you read that, go read my recent post on the problems with petitionary prayer.

I'm not going to encourage you to vote; there's plenty of hortatory rhetoric going around already. If you choose not to vote, however, I ask that you do so for the right reason: make sure you're informed of your choices, then follow your conscience. Unlike many fruit loops who tell you that "If you don't vote, you have no right to complain," I consider non-voting a legitimate part of the political process, and you have every right to complain about what happens after the election. If you look at the menu and all you see are shit sandwiches, you're lucky to live in a country that allows you to walk out of the restaurant (quite unlike certain "democracies" that legally oblige you to vote, which is nonsense). I've voted only once before, and in most cases I was sitting out the election for reasons of conscience; I understand the conscientious non-voter's perspective. This time around, I feel moved to vote, but who knows what I'll do during the next election cycle?

Whatever you do, do it mindfully.


Monday, November 3, 2008

Honey, I shrunk the Doberman

Sent via BlackBerry by AT&T

the deck begins to form in earnest

Sent via BlackBerry by AT&T

election haiku

strange to see them fight
ebony and ivory
normally such friends

donkey? elephant?
in the end, they both produce
massive piles of shit

Tommy Lee? Will Smith?
Old and busted? New hotness?
Man in Black will win


...and so it begins again

Another week of renovation lies before us. I'm as curious as you are as to what'll get done over the next five days.


Sunday, November 2, 2008

Facebook status updates

Kevin is...

...sick of the number of calls and door-knocks coming from the Obama campaign.

It borders on an assault against one's privacy: five or six recorded and live calls per day, and sometimes two or three actual visits. Don't these canvassers talk to each other? Don't they say, "Hey, don't dial Number X or visit Home Y; they already told us to fuck off"? How the hell many times do I have to tell an Obama staffer on the phone that I'm an independent voter, and am not willing to help them with their canvassing?

The problem, at least in my case, is that my recent registration was performed by an Obama campaigner canvassing our neighborhood. The Obama campaign got my personal contact information, which apparently means I'm on their call list. I've been polite with these people up to now, but my patience is wearing thin.

...happy he finally saw the half-season "finale" of "Battlestar Galactica," which ends on a rather Asimovian note.

The BSG episode ends with an uneasy human/Cylon reconciliation, and is reminiscent of Asimov's Foundation series, especially the novel Foundation and Earth, in which questors discover that the earth, a supposedly legendary planet, does indeed exist, but is too radioactive to be habitable. The crew of the Galactica makes the same discovery when the ragtag fugitive fleet arrives at the BSG universe's version of earth: the wreckage of civilization is all around them, and the soil is highly radioactive (but at least the atmosphere remains breathable!).

...looking into ESL work through Craigslist ads.

The problem here is that, while plenty of places are advertising, many of them want a longer commitment than I can give (this is also true of other jobs I've been looking into, many of which say they seek long-term employees). Also, my French student's lessons are at 2PM, which narrows down the number of ESL-teaching choices I have. This also affects what's available through temp agencies. True: I could lie and say I'll commit to one or two years, then suddenly bag at the end of February. But that subterfuge might cause its own set of problems.

...impatient to sign up to work for that essay-grading service.

Ever since Alan mentioned it way back when, I've been wanting to sign on. A few hitches, though: until this past Friday, we've had a low-speed Verizon DSL service, and had been awaiting the upgrade to FiOS. As Alan told me, an online essay grader must, for security reasons, have a stable connection, i.e., no WiFi, no changing from computer to computer, etc. A sudden change in the nature of one's online service might be seen as a problem. That's one reason why I haven't signed up for the service yet.

Another problem has been that I want to do the essay grading on my laptop, which is currently out of commission and in need of repair. That takes funds, but I don't have enough funds right now to effect the repair. My French student will be paying me a few hundred dollars pretty soon, but that's going toward my monthly scholastic debt. When your income is low, it's kind of a vicious cycle, which makes me wish I were back in Korea with a steady, and significantly larger, income. Add to this the fact that I'm currently disputing some mysterious $150 charge applied to my PNC bank account through my check card, and you might say things have been a wee bit stressful. Not to worry, though; things'll work out, my credit rating be damned. I remain of good cheer.

Oh, yes: why the laptop and not Dad's computer? I need to use my own computer for this job because poor Dad needs access to his own computer, which I've been hogging (he's out shopping with Mom now, so it's not an issue). Dad's been very accommodating, but I'm starting to feel warm, steaming masses of guilt piling up on my shoulders. Ultimately, I need to get a splitter so that I can feed off Dad's Verizon service; whether this will cost Dad extra money is something I need to find out. I seem to remember cable TV being that way back in the 80s and 90s. The Verizon guy is coming back on Monday; I'll ask him then.

...becoming a veteran camper despite himself.

I've been camping for weeks in the back yard. While it might be nice to take up my buddy Mike's standing invitation to lodge with him and his family in Fredericksburg, the problem is that I'm needed here for things like heavy lifting and meal prep. Mike lives about an hour away from me, which would make commuting home every day a major pain. So I camp. We won't have functioning bedrooms for many weeks, which gives me a chance to get acquainted with winter camping, something I haven't really done before. I've done hot, warm, cool, cold, windy, sunny, cloudy, dry, humid, and rainy, in various combinations, but I haven't done wintry.

...itching to walk a lot more.

I haven't had the chance to walk long distances on a consistent basis, and my five-pound gain is worrisome. I can control my intake, but that's still not the same as doing the requisite exercise. If I were able to do some sort of intense cardio work instead of walking, I might be able to exercise within a shorter time frame. Possible solutions:

1. Wake up way early and get the walking done then. This is probably the best solution, but I've never been much of a morning person. That was an issue during the walk as well: I heard many people say that it's better to start early in the morning, before the sun is at its worst, then finish the 10- or 20-mile hike before things get truly hot. My own feeling was that this advice was rarely worth the trouble: if, for example, I hike 17-20 miles starting at 5AM, I'll still be ending around noon, when the sun is at its highest. There's no escaping the sun that way.

2. Get a bike and sprint with it. My brother David has my other brother Sean's old mountain bike with him; David told me he'd give it to me. That would certainly solve the high-impact issue; biking wouldn't be nearly as punishing on my knee.

3. Skip out on renovation-related activities to walk six hours a day. Possible, but not likely.

And that's about all the updates that're fit to print. My personal financial crunch makes me think I should reconsider that career in porn, but I see that that idea's already been taken.


interconnection and environmentalism

An interesting discussion with a commenter named Green Buddhist began in the comments thread of my environmentalism post from a week-and-a-half ago. It was two-pronged, dealing with (1) nondualism and (2) the ethical implications of interconnectedness. I'm going to drop the nondualism prong for now because it's a fruitless pursuit, and will instead concentrate on the question of interconnectedness and what that state of affairs may or may not imply, ethically speaking.

One theme of Green Buddhist's response to me was that, because all phenomena are interconnected, our actions affect the environment and vice versa. S/he also seems to think that my attitude toward human development of the land-- and the environmental damage such development causes-- is to shrug my shoulders and say "Oh, well." No, no, no.

Let's take it as given that it's a bad idea to live in your own toilet (pity the poor goldfish). To that extent, I agree we need to keep the environment clean, but what I've been trying to hammer at is that "clean" is usually conceived anthropocentrically. Ask rats and cockroaches whether urban overdevelopment and decay are bad ideas. My point all along has been that it's perfectly fine to engage in the environmentalist project, but we need to be open about why we're doing what we're doing: it's to preserve ourselves. In the end, it isn't, as Green Buddhist and others would have it, about respecting the earth; it can't be. We don't know enough about the earth to know how to respect it. Let's look at a current topic: global warming.

As has been repeatedly noted in the endless debate over climate change, some areas of the earth are heating up, but other areas are cooling down. The relentless, exclusive focus on the heating-up indicates a blindness brought about by ideology. A recognition of the actual state of affairs would be better, and the actual state of affairs is not-good, not-bad: climate change happens with human intervention or not; it's simply a given. We need to worry about climate change only to the extent that it affects humanity-- we can't be so arrogant as to think it's our job to preserve all extant species. What a ridiculous project that would be! Species die out all the time, and in terms of geologic history, they often disappear completely after a major natural-- not anthropogenic-- cataclysm. Is the environment thrown out of whack thereby?

The planet is not a balanced, harmonious, "self-correcting" system (pace George Carlin); there isn't much evidence to support such a notion, especially when it comes to large timescales. The planet simply is what it is, and we're still discovering what that means. People who see the world in terms of the interplay of yin and yang would do well to note that the yin-yang symbol, depicted as a swirl, indicates a constant dynamism, i.e., a universe that's always a little off-kilter. I'm not sure this should be read as "balance" or "equilibrium," which are the terms in which many environmentalists view humanity's current problems. The earth isn't off-balance: it was never balanced to begin with. That one or another species might become dominant on the surface of the earth is simply how things are; even at this point, it'd be hard to say which form of life is truly the dominant form. I would, in fact, contend that humanity's probably not it.

The fact of interconnectedness-- that we affect and are affected by our environment-- isn't enough of a foundation on which to build a strongly "green" argument. Acknowledging our "interbeing" (to use Thich Nhat Hahn's trendy term) isn't the same as knowing what the fruits of our actions will be, or whether those fruits will be "bad" or "good." Environmentalists are on solid ground when they posit that pollution is generally harmful to humans and to certain other living elements of the food chain, but when they begin recommending specific pollution-fighting strategies, they truly have no idea what the consequences of those measures will be. What I resent is that they act as though they do know.

I agree with Green Buddhist that it's not a stark either-or situation. We don't have to choose between preserving nature "in its pristine purity" (thereby forcing humanity to suffer) or doing nothing (thereby forcing nature to suffer). I think the best we can do is to take measures that we know will be beneficial to us, then worry about the consequences to the rest of the environment as the effects of our actions become obvious to us. Right now, many of those effects simply aren't obvious enough for people to adopt alarmist stances. We don't know the extent to which current warming trends on some parts of the planet are anthropogenic in origin. There's good evidence that those trends may in fact be part of a natural cycle, in which case we find ourselves in the position of having to fight the natural cycle to preserve certain swaths of human civilization.

Another reason to relax is that people have already proven themselves capable of living in extreme conditions. There are folks who live in regions of months-long daylight and darkness; who live in constant cold and wind; who live in arid desert; who live in cacophonous jungle. People adapt. This is part of who we are. If certain regions become too hot for humanity to live in, people will move, or they'll learn to deal with that heat. This sort of thing has been part of human history from the beginning: the volcano erupts; the locals flee if they can and start up new lives elsewhere. That, or they come back and stubbornly rebuild.

Extreme conditions include human-created extremes. Seoul is the kind of place that could drive some people nuts: the press of the population, the traffic, the vehicle exhaust, the tainted rain, the constant noise, the sewage stench, the light pollution that prevents one from seeing the panoply of stars at night. But twelve million people seem to be doing just fine there, and the same could be said as we move across the globe to places like Mexico City or Shanghai or Tokyo or Paris. As I said, people adapt.

So I remain unconvinced that the mere fact of interbeing is enough to spur us to heroic efforts on behalf of an environment that, truth be told, doesn't really need our help (hell, it might breathe a sigh of relief when we finally disappear and stop "helping" it!). If we broom and groom the place, it's for our own benefit, not because we're preserving some sort of sacred equilibrium. It's not obvious that we need every single element of the global ecosystem to survive; people in different, "extreme" parts of the world seem to get along fine without some of those elements (no verdure for the researchers camped out in Antarctica, for example). What is obvious is that we not only multiply and build, but we also adapt. As a result, the actual environmental picture is more complex than the one being painted by alarmists and romantics.

Part of Michael Crichton's point, in the speech to which I linked in my previous post on environmentalism, is that humanity has never existed in total harmony with nature. Nature has done violence to humanity, and vice versa; this conflict has always been a major theme of humanity's existence. Which brings us to a crucial metaphysical point: interconnection is not always harmonious, and people who try to portray interconnection that way are doing a dangerous disservice to the rest of us. This is why I part company with folks like Benjamin Hoff, whose bestselling The Tao of Pooh presents the reader with only the happy face of the Tao-- harmony, tranquility, balance. But anyone who's taken time to study even a little philosophical Taoism can tell you that the Tao is also disharmony, disturbance, and imbalance: water can be a calm, limpid, life-giving pool, or it can crash down like a monster, eradicating entire cities. Nature is red in tooth and claw and tidal wave, and that fact is just as important as nature's calmer, more beatific face.