Saturday, February 14, 2009

it does exist

It might have been during a discussion with my buddy Charles-- or maybe it was someone else, like my mom-- that I mentioned the Konglish expression "han beon try haebosaeyo" ("Try it once!"). My interlocutor said he (or she) had never heard that before, which caused me to doubt myself.

Well, the memory of that conversation just burbled up, so I did a Google search on the expression "한번 try 해보세요" and, sure enough...


mail bag: BSG insights

Andy writes:

Hi Kevin,

A few thoughts.

#1: Love it or hate it.

I was kinda torn - the TV shows I love all die quickly, and this seems to be a case of it. Now that I'm interested, it's a dead-man walking.

As you said, tonight was a 'bridge' episode. Between Resolution and Important Things happening. And let's be honest, between the suicide and the Adama/Tigh fight.... all the other episodes are going to have a damn hard time garnering impact.

#2: About the Cylons copying Humans down to the molecular level.

I think my 3.89 year hiatus has left me out on something. When everyone was looking at the brainscan with the bullet in the skull... why didn't someone make a quip to the effect of, "And *that's* the part that makes you Cylon"?

As I understand it: physically, the only difference between Humans and Cylons is a silicon widget in the brain [ and yes, the undefined-method to upload to a resurrection ship when you die ]. The folks in the hospital made no note of the silicon widget-bits.... is the widget not visible? Or did I miss something through my extra-lax viewing habits?

#3: Dean Stockwell. During the run of "Quantum Leap", my Mom told me repeatedly that Dean Stockwell was quite the item in his prime. And watching tonight's repeated soliloquies, I'm starting to seeing more of the magic he projected. Not the physical attraction, mind you, but his intensity is engaging. And reminiscent of the 'Perry Mason' era of television. I respect his acting chops even more as time progresses.

#4: Starbuck. While in the hospital she made a comment to the effect, "I thought *I* was one of the 5!" You aren't, babe. But how the heck are things going to be resolved with your carcass being on Dead Earth, and still flying back to the fleet?

I know tonight they touched on the Relativistic Effects of travel... but they still haven't addressed her duality.

#..., nothing you raised directly.

Kevin: Do you remember when I wrote to you about about James P. Hogan's novel "The Gentle Giants of Ganymede"? I hope not. You've been busy.

Long story short: big ol' aliens (who are long gone) populated the planet that's now the Asteroid belt beyond Mars, in order to raise human-sized slaves. But the giants never came back to harvest their crop of slaves.

The slaves evolved over eons without supervision. After a time, they ended up with intra-solar-system space travel, and finally a war between factions of Mars and the 'other planet' left all but a few slaves dead. And a of those couple slaves managed to make it to Earth.

Those who made it to Earth became our "Missing Links", those millions of years ago.

My first impression from tonight's episode of BSG that talk of: the 5, the 7, the 8, Humans and Cylons, the 12 colonies, the Missing 13th Colony... was going to end in a paradigm like that. Or similar.

I only watched it once, though. But that was my first reaction.


Thanks for the email, man.

re: Cylons

Cylons are enfleshed organisms, but they're entirely artificial, simulating humans right down to the molecular level, but perhaps not down to the atomic or subatomic level (a case of functionalism in action?).

Baltar initially built a bogus Cylon detector, but he later went on to build the real thing early in the series. Through the real detector, he discovered that Boomer was a Cylon. Out of fear for his own life, he told Boomer that she had tested negative and was human. Baltar had been worried that, had he revealed his knowledge that Boomer was a Cylon, her hidden programming would have activated and she would have killed him on the spot. This cowardice set up a chain of events leading to Boomer's shooting of then-Commander Adama, who had no idea that Boomer was a Cylon sleeper agent. In true Lee Harvey Oswald fashion, Boomer is shot not long after.

A different copy of Sharon Valerii, stuck with Helo on the surface of post-holocaust Caprica, falls in love with Helo; their coupling leads to the first successful case of Cylon pregnancy. This seems to imply that Cylons can become pregnant, but not reliably so. To that extent, we might say that they're organic.

At the same time, humaniform Cylons are obviously programmable, and they can interact directly with machines, as the "good" Sharon does when she physically interfaces with Galactica's computer system and stops a Cylon assault. She does this in what appears to be a crude and bloody manner, jamming one of Galactica's data cords into her arm. The interface works perfectly.

The series is unclear, though, on how Cylons do what they do while possessing bodies that, when scanned in the typical manner, look perfectly human. An X-ray or MRI would not have revealed the way in which the "good" Sharon had interfaced with the Galactica's wiring. Reference has been made, on several occasions, to "silica pathways" used in Cylon neural structure, but these pathways are undetectable by colonial technology. Perhaps the genius of Cylon tech lies in something like "nanoswarm" technology: particles distributed throughout the body can temporarily come together; they self-assemble into a needed component, then fray apart when no longer needed.

Cylons have been inconsistently portrayed as alternately super-strong and of normal human strength. It seems they can do whatever the show's writers require of them at a given moment in the plot. Sam Anders was shown, at the beginning of Season 4.0, unconsciously sending out a burst of IFF signal to the aggressor Cylons, who responded by immediately halting their attack against the colonial fleet. How his body was capable of emitting such a signal is beyond me; the feature has been cleverly hidden, perhaps in a diffuse, distributed manner, throughout his body, much the way that cognitive functions are distributed throughout the human brain (e.g., a memory is not a single, distinct chunk of flesh, but is instead the result of electrical activity interacting with the evolving hard-wiring of the brain). Anders's eye might be another example of nanoswarms at work.

re: your theory about origins

My buddy Mike had a similar-sounding hypothesis. I hope I'm getting this right, but I think Mike's idea was that humans and Cylons arose from some third-party life form, something not seen yet. I think this theory is as plausible as any of the theories out there, given how little we still know, and how few episodes remain. The only reason I don't lean toward this theory is that, up to now, we've seen only humans and Cylons in an otherwise "empty" universe. In terms of dramatic structure, the sudden revelation of "the race behind the races" at the very end of the series would be something of a deus ex machina-- a Tolkien lover would appreciate such a move, but "hard sci-fi" David Brin acolytes would resent it forever. Then again, such a reveal would strike an almost religious note, which would be perfectly consistent with what the series has done so far, thematically speaking. Much of BSG is about a Creator-ward (or origins-ward) striving.

I'm still stuck on the fact that Ellen Tigh somehow came back to life aboard a second-generation Cylon vessel, and not aboard a Final Five-type vessel. Does this mean the Significant Seven/Eight had extra Ellen bodies lying around? How is that possible?

I'm also fascinated by the origins of Cylon monotheism, which according to that episode traces back to those boxy Cylon centurions on the colonies. I'm unclear on whether Ellen Tigh's own monotheism is the result of the centurions' religious insights, or a separate epiphany.

In any case, the thirteenth tribe appears to have begun as human; the holocaust on Earth was a nuclear war similar to what happened on the colonies, i.e., it was between humans and Cylons. The colony's temple on the algae planet may well have been in honor of a "one true God," who could not be named. Perhaps strains of that monotheism existed quietly elsewhere on the other twelve colonies, and were somehow passed on to the centurions developed on those colonies.

The whole chronology of what caused what is very confusing. One theory over at the Battlestar Wiki site is that Earth, not Kobol, is the original cradle of humanity, with everything, all history, blossoming outward-- and curdling-- from there. The evidence for this argument lies in the show's description of the ages of the various landmarks encountered on the path toward Earth: they seem to get progressively older as one gets closer to Earth. While I consider myself a BSG geek, I obviously didn't have the insane level of commitment needed to spot this fact. To do so would have required multiple viewings and probably a bit of note-taking. (Then again, blogging BSG episode commentary is a sort of note-taking.)

Sam Anders's account of events still doesn't explain why the Cylons of the thirteenth colony had a culture that exactly mirrors the culture of the twelve colonies. The twelve colonies and the Earthbound colony should have diverged a great deal in terms of language, culture, etc. Again, the best explanation for such rigid consistency over time and space is the Everyone's a Cylon theory. But we'll see.


Friday, February 13, 2009

BSG: "No Exit"

[NB: Check this post for updates and revisions. I'm watching the episode again, as it was a concentrated dose of BSG mythology.]

What we now know:

1. Ellen Tigh is indeed one of the Final Five; there's no more ambiguity on that point. Not only that, but she and the other four Fivers were apparently the creators of the Significant Seven Cylons.

2. There are actually eight "Significant" models, but the missing Number 7 is an artistic type named Daniel, who seems to be a Cylon we have never seen before (or, hey, maybe we have). So I was wrong about Starbuck's status; who and what she is remains a mystery.

3. Sam Anders's bullet to the brain seems to have released a flood of memories related to Cylon history. I'm going to watch the show again, because I'm fuzzy on the details. It seems that the Final Five were developed by humans on Kobol, and the Five developed the remaining Eight. Lucky Thirteen, eh?

4. The Cylon conversations in this episode constantly refer to the humans, the humans, the humans. Brother Cavil gets a series of passionate monologues-- including an Agent Smith moment in which he rails against his enfleshment-- and vents his resentment of humanity and all things human. This seems to be strong evidence against the hypothesis that, at this point in history, there are no humans left-- only Cylons.

5. Cylon base ships can produce fresh apples and brie cheese at need. If only the beleaguered humans knew how close at hand a decent food supply was! This does, however, bring up the question of whether base ships are stocked with gardens, or if their fresh produce is the result of some combination of genetic engineering and the force-growing of organic entities (how else to produce enough food for beings that are churned out in amniotic assembly lines?).

6. Greek mythology alert! Ellen Tigh is a theist, and Brother Cavil, whose "real" name is apparently John, is a Cylon she considers to be a son. Given that they had repeated sex on New Caprica, the creator and her firstborn, I couldn't help thinking this mirrored the Ouranos-Gaia relationship. Ouranos (a.k.a. Uranus) is both son and lover/husband of Gaia, the Earth, the All-mother.

7. All of this answers the question of why the Significant Seven (or Eight) might hold the Final Five in reverence or feel the need to forbid any thoughts about them. Mystery demystified.

8. Still no resolution on several fronts: the significance of the music that "activated" the Final Five, the question of whether the BSG universe really is theistic, the ontological status of Head-Six and Kara Thrace, etc.

9. Adama's chest pains continue, and Laura Roslin coughs in front of Lee Adama, to whom she is passing the torch.

10. Some mention was made of near-lightspeed travel and relativistic effects, which may be part of the explanation for the similarities between Earth's culture and language and those of the Twelve Colonies. Then again, I recall hearing something in the dialogue about false memories. I'm confused on these points.

11. Adama seems resigned to the presence of friendly Cylons, and even asks Tyrol to use Cylon tech to "heal" the Galactica, which is literally falling apart.

12. Where was Baltar, dammit?

13. It appears that Cylon monotheism originated with the old Cylon centurions, and that monotheism was transferred to the Significant Seven/Eight when the Final Five came back to the colonies to help the centurions engineer the enfleshed, humaniform models.

14. It seems that the Significant Seven/Eight ended up being the result of a joint effort between the Cylon centurions, who had been developed by the human colonials as part of their ongoing project to create artificial life, and the later efforts of the Final Five, who had a hand in stopping the First Cylon War, forty-some years previously.

General remarks:

1. I think BSG fans will be divided into those who love this episode (titled "No Exit," possibly after the Sartrean play, in which a vanishingly small number of participants are trapped in hell together, constantly shifting in their relationships with each other, then renewing the cycle at the end of the play) and those who hate it. It's very, very late in the game, and the revelation of this much important information in a single episode means the episode serves as little more than a vehicle for exposition. Some will love this, because all that info provides a bit of relief and release for the viewers' pent-up frustrations after 3.75 seasons of ignorance. But others are guaranteed to hate the episode because it's essentially a talkfest punctuated by scenes of brain surgery performed by the dude who says "I'm a PC!" in those Mac commercials. "Show, don't tell!" is supposed to be the rule in writing, including screenwriting. Tonight's episode included a lot of telling.

2. Ellen Tigh's conversation with John/Cavil demystifies such phenomena as the Temple of Five and the mandala (another Matrix trope, prophecy as control, appears in this episode, at least by implication), which makes me wonder whether the series is leaning toward an objective atheism.

[NB: An anonymous commenter-- whose comment is unpublished, alas, because it was anonymous-- pointed out that, in reference to the Temple of Five, Ellen disavowed involvement in what had transpired there, ascribing the 3's vision of the Final Five to an act of God. In that sense, yes, the events surrounding that temple and the ensuing supernova remain a mystery, but Ellen did reveal that that temple was originally called the Temple of Hopes, built 3000 years ago by the thirteenth tribe after the tribe had left Kobol. I think we already knew the algae planet was an outpost of the thirteenth colony, but the name "Temple of Hopes" is new to us. Not a demystification, then, but we do get some new information.]

3. I'm still holding out re: whether everyone's a Cylon, despite all the talk of humans, because it's still not obvious to me that we've heard the most fundamental revelations about Cylon nature. As I mentioned before, the faithful repetition of history is more likely when history's participants are sentient machines than if they're humans.

4. I enjoyed the way the episode opened with a sweeping recap, though I still don't understand how Ellen "resurrected." I gather it happened several months ago, before the hub was destroyed, which may mean that Ellen was around even before the fleet began its beeline for Earth.

UPDATE: Ellen's resurrection occurred 18 months previously, immediately after Saul Tigh had killed her. I should have followed the time captions more closely; I noticed them more clearly upon second viewing.

5. It was good to see Dean Stockwell have his Shakespearean moments, railing against his resemblance to humans. These scenes are what will most likely redeem the episode in the eyes of those BSG fans who would otherwise dismiss the episode as a mere expository device.

6. I'm beginning to think the series is going to end on a bittersweet "and the cycle continues!" note. It might not. It might end up like "The Matrix Revolutions," in which the humans and machines arrive at a type of truce not seen before, a truce that could be permanent, but that still leaves open the possibility of future human-machine war, plunging everyone back into the old cycle of violence. However the series will end, it's a safe bet that not everything will be resolved. I'm pretty sure Adama and Roslin will die, though. Humanity might survive, though I suspect that that survival will be tied to Cylon tech, especially their work in genetics.

6a. This brings up a subsidiary question, though: why the hell were the Cylons able to copy humans down to the molecular level, but have been unable reliably to produce versions of themselves that can procreate? And how susceptible are artificial genes to mutation? How organic are the Cylons? The science on this is suspiciously fuzzy.

7. One thing I'm curious about: we found out that Tyrol and Tory were apparently an item back on Earth. But what is Tyrol going to do if/when he discovers that Tory killed Cally? Will the Final Five experience a schism, or will Tyrol quietly accept that Tory was acting according to the dictates of her nature?

8. Wild thought: Baltar was missing from this episode. Could he be Daniel? Or is Daniel as gone as Cavil seems to think he is?


BSG liveblog

Aha-- see? See? They're saying there are eight Cylon models besides the Final Five!


values question 2

I was shocked, but then fascinated, by the game Grand Theft Auto when I first saw a version of it being played by a Korean cousin of mine. The game's freewheeling violence, its anarchic subtext, and the player's ability to do almost anything he or she wanted gave GTA its evil charm. I've never actually played the game, but I'm sure I'd be hooked if I tried it. What red-blooded male driver hasn't shouted "200 points!" when passing a pedestrian and fantasizing about mowing him down? That primal urge is what GTA plays on, and why it sells so well. Ever thought about running through the streets with a baseball bat and a sack full of bricks, just breaking store windows? Yeah-- me, too. Violent fantasies are part of the male psyche, especially in an age of milquetoast modernity. (Ladies, if you're shocked by this aspect of maleness, you obviously don't know your guy, or guys in general. And, guys, if you're shouting "200 points!" in front of your woman, you obviously don't know your woman, or women in general. Unless they're into that kind of thing, of course. And some of them are.)

So men generally respond to and indulge in fantasy violence-- wreckage, killing, and mayhem. My question is this: is it therefore inconsistent of me to react with revulsion and horror to the existence of a video game that promotes gang rape and forced abortions? Just a few minutes ago, I had a "holy fucking shit!" reaction when I learned of a game called "Rapelay" (I guess that's a lame combination of "rape" and "play"), which you can read about here (not to worry: it's just a news article, not a sample of the game, which I think Amazon was right to ban from its cyber-shelves). Whatever imaginative silliness I might engage in, I never have fantasies on the order of what this game portrays. I suppose what I'm fishing around for, though, is something that may require some uncomfortable introspection: what makes running over a video granny funny, while video game portrayals of rape are over the line? Is there a double standard at work here, or is there one single, consistent standard that accounts for both the fun of GTA-style violence (which I'm pretty sure doesn't include rape... or does it?) and the repulsiveness of Rapelay-style violence?

We could talk about the consistency of the pacifist's perspective: the dude or chick whose stomach churns at the thought of any violence, and who therefore shies away from all such video games. But this perspective is boring, and judging by the success of the GTA franchise (which must be doing well outside of America, given my Korean cousin's love of the game), it isn't the perspective of the majority. No: instead, I'd rather talk about the rest of us, the normal folks who don't think twice about playing a video game like GTA or Crazy Taxi (which also involves running over pedestrians and engaging in other forms of hazardous driving), but who, as I was, would be revolted by the mere thought of a game like Rapelay. It seems that most of us draw a line somewhere, but what is that line? How do we put it into words? Is it a legitimate line? Does it express a self-consistent morality, or are we just going to have tolerate a certain level of hypocrisy in ourselves if we refuse to become total pacifists? Color me curious.

Your thoughts are welcome.


the dismal science

I have a feeling that the economy's going to improve at some point, stimulus package or not, because that is The Way of Things-- the Way of the Force. It's a bit like global warming, really: a massive cyclical phenomenon might be helped or hindered by human activity, but the overall cycle won't be fundamentally affected.*

That said, I think Republican John Boehner was right to call the Dems out for the hypocrisy of drafting a package that's over 1000 pages in length, then insisting on voting on it (a) before the public has had a chance to digest and debate it, per President Obama's promise of a 48-hour public review of legislation; and (b) before the legislators themselves have had a chance truly to digest and debate the package.

At the same time, I think the GOP expended its credibility, apropos of fiscal discipline, over the past eight years (and, as many have pointed out, GOP hero Ronald Reagan wasn't exactly known for small deficits, making one wonder how the GOP ever became associated with fiscal discipline), which makes it rich for them to be harping on the Dems' spendthrift ways. Oh, sure: the GOP has the right to harp on that issue (we don't want to commit the genetic fallacy here), and they may even have some valid points, but can the public be blamed for not wanting to hear their side of the story?

Because the economy is subject to cycles, I think it's simply a matter of time before attitudes and outlooks become more positive, which will affect perceptions and thereby affect the stock market and other aspects of the economy. You might scoff at this admittedly glib and unscholarly assessment of a dire situation, but judging by the discord I see and read about in economic and political circles, no one else seems to have a better lock on things than I do.

*You might respond by noting that, unlike climate, economic reality is entirely a function of human activity. That's true, but it's also true that the global economy is no less a massively cyclical phenomenon for this reason. US attempts to change the tide may prove fruitless simply because of the sheer momentum inherent in the concerted activities of nearly 7 billion people.


values question

I just read this line:

See, I’m not the kind to tie myself to a tree and defy a lumberjack to chop me down from a limb.

Let's imagine just such a scenario. A radical environmentalist of the tree-hugging variety (don't get me wrong: I don't harbor enmity toward environmentalists as a whole, but I have little patience for extremists of any stripe) chains himself to the limb of a tree scheduled to be cut down. He's done this in the knowledge that the loggers need their livelihood, and that people somewhere need some sort of housing. He's chosen the tree over a certain subset of people.

Question: from that environmentalist's point of view, what would be the problem with the logger cutting the limb down and allowing the man to plummet toward possible injury or death? If the environmentalist is self-consistent, shouldn't he see the logger as a kindred spirit, i.e., as someone who is also willing to devalue a certain subset of humanity (a subset with only one member: the tree-hugger)?

If this isn't the environmentalist's point of view, what is his point of view? I can only imagine something hypocritical: he's playing on the idea that the logger will value human life more than he [i.e., the logger] values the tree; at the same time, the tree-hugger embraces the tree in such a way that he demonstrates his own preference for the tree over people.

The way I see it, self-consistency demands that the environmentalist harbor no resentment toward the logger at all. He and the logger each value the tree, though in different ways, but both are prepared to devalue each other. Right before the saw bites into that limb, the logger and tree-hugger should exchange a stoic look, each acknowledging the other's solemn commitment to his respective duty. They should then give each other a barely perceptible nod of mutual assent, and that's when the cutting begins. The tree-hugger has forfeited his right to cry, "I'm going to fall! Where is your compassion for people?" Because the logger can ask in return: "Where's yours?"


Thursday, February 12, 2009


Where do "Battlestar Galactica" characters go as the series draws to a close? Why, they head over to "Burn Notice," of course! Tonight's episode of BN featured everybody's favorite BSG lawyer, Romo Lampkin (played by actor Mark Sheppard). BN has also hosted BSG big-shots Tricia Helfer, who has a recurring role, and Lucy Lawless, whose BN character threw herself off a building (instead of stranding herself on a radioactive Earth) after making reference to "another life." Pretty soon, secret agent Michael Weston's going to be inhabiting a Miami full of Cylons.

I've started to think of the migration of BSG actors to "Burn Notice" as a sort of running joke, and I hope it continues. The series finale should feature Edward James Olmos. Bringing Olmos onto the show would pretty much shatter the fabric of reality, since he not only has BSG ties but is famous for his role on that 80s classic, "Miami Vice." Hollywood is nothing if not recursive and intertextual: familiar actors (and storylines) pop up everywhere.

All this has happened before; all this will happen again...


and how will you be spending your Valentine's Day?

I'll be transcribing again this weekend. I managed to squeeze in a few hours last weekend, and hope to make more progress over the next few days. The conversation I'm transcribing is around 90 minutes long, which entails about 21 hours of work (I transcribe at a rate of roughly 7 hours per 30 minutes of dialogue).

I also hope to see "Doubt" and "Gran Torino" before they leave theaters. Will I have a female companion with me? Alas, no. Then again, I'm not sure that either of those films qualifies as a date movie, so this might be for the best.


Wednesday, February 11, 2009

one man's interreligious position

From a Spiegel interview with controversial Bishop Richard Williamson, one of the priests being brought back into the Roman Catholic fold despite his history of Holocaust denial (or Holocaust minimizing):

SPIEGEL: Your position on Judaism is consistently anti-Semitic.

Williamson: St. Paul put it this way: The Jews are beloved for the sake of Our Father, but our enemies for the sake of the gospel.

SPIEGEL: Do you seriously intend to use Catholic tradition and the Bible to justify your anti-Semitism?

Williamson: Anti-Semitism means many things today, for instance, when one criticizes the Israeli actions in the Gaza Strip. The Church has always understood the definition of anti-Semitism to be the rejection of Jews because of their Jewish roots. This is condemned by the Church. Incidentally, this is self-evident in a religion whose founders and all important individuals in its early history were Jews. But it was also clear, because of the large number of Jewish Christians in early Christianity, that all men need Christ for their salvation -- all men, including the Jews.

SPIEGEL: The pope will travel to Israel soon, where he plans to visit the Holocaust Memorial. Are you also opposed to this?

Williamson: Making a pilgrimage to the Holy Land is a great joy for Christians. I wish the Holy Father all the best on his journey. What troubles me about Yad Vashem is that Pope Pius XII is attacked there, even though no one saved more Jews during the Nazi period than he did. For instance, he had baptismal certificates issued for persecuted Jews to protect them against arrest. These facts have been distorted to mean exactly the opposite. Otherwise, I hope that the pope will also have an eye and a heart for the women and children who were injured in the Gaza Strip, and that he will speak out in support of the Christian population in Bethlehem, which is now walled in.

SPIEGEL: Your statements have caused great injury and outrage in the Jewish world. Why don't you apologize?

Williamson: If I realize that I have made an error, I will apologize. I ask every human being to believe me when I say that I did not deliberately say anything untrue. I was convinced that my comments were accurate, based on my research in the 1980s. Now I must review everything again and look at the evidence.


final inspection

We're scheduled to have the house's final inspection tomorrow, and I've got two proofing assignments to do as well, so today is fairly busy. Much cleaning, rearranging, and proofing to do. More later.


father-daughter dialogue

In this post, my buddy Mike relates an exchange between him and his eldest daughter.


Tuesday, February 10, 2009

he does it again

Justin Yoshida always finds the cool links. Check out his blog, and watch a video on Chinese food which, as the presenter cheerfully argues, is more American than apple pie.


painful knees

Well, folks, it looks as though 600 miles was enough to curse me with painful knees. I did that 3-miler with Dad yesterday, got back home, and was in some pain an hour later. I couldn't help thinking that the pain felt like a precursor to arthritis. It's been with me since late September, when I left Walla Walla: an ache that's hard to ignore, in both knees. I'm pretty sure I can manage it with painkillers (I've been off the meds for months, and didn't take any yesterday when the pain flared anew), but it's going to be a reality as I start up again.

Unlike the MCL strain, which was a very different, rather acute sort of agony, this pain is distributed through the entirety of both knee joints. It doesn't prevent me from walking, but it does motivate me to stay seated as long as possible. Dad asked me whether I'd be able to continue walking, given my condition, and I told him it'll be no problem. I'm hoping I'm right. As things stand, the pain subsides-- or even disappears-- when I get moving, but it's those initial moments of movement after a sedentary period that are the worst. I'm sure I can live with it; there are worse pains. It's just disappointing that the rest of the walk is going to be colored by this problem.


Monday, February 9, 2009

who's the real main character, here?

Tonight's episode of "24" introduced an interesting wrinkle: are Jack Bauer and FBI Special Agent Moss fighting for Agent Renee Walker's soul? Moss and Walker were an item before the day began, though we still don't know just how close they were/are. Moss is almost stereotypically by-the-book in his approach to crisis situations, and it galls him that Agent Walker has been so easily seduced by Jack Bauer's brutal pragmatism. A conversation between Bauer and Moss in front of the Capitol Reflection Pool brings out the central issue: Moss tells Jack flat-out that he won't stand for Walker becoming like Jack.

I like this dynamic, which is new and unusual for "24": it's like a sick version of a love triangle, but with weaponry instead of genitals. I get the impression that Moss is basically a good, stand-up guy, which is why I noted before that he's probably going to suffer an unpleasant end (the sacrificial lamb is a ubiquitous "24" trope). And if he truly cares for Walker, as seems to be the case, he's justified in his concern for her.

Walker's internal conflict was a major element of tonight's episode. Jack had asked her to threaten the wife and infant child of a dirty Secret Service agent named Vossler. She did what Jack asked, agreeing with Jack about the necessity of her actions (Jack was trying to force Vossler to tell him where the president's husband was being held), but obviously hating herself for what she was doing. Tonight, it seemed that Walker was the main character. Good for her!

I'll be curious to see how all this plays out. If it follows the template from a couple seasons ago, when Audrey Raines found herself torn between Jack and her estranged husband (a man she still loved), it's not going to turn out well for Special Agent Larry Moss.



I obviously need to learn more about real-time searching, which is apparently the new wave. Here's an example of what real-time searching does (I know other bloggers have talked about this, but this was the first time I'd read a clear example of how such a search engine trumps conventional search engines):

A few weeks later I was on a call with Dave Winer and the Switchabit team — one member of the team (Jay) all of a sudden said there was an explosion outside. He jumped off the conference call to figure out what had happened. Dave asked the rest of us where Jay lived — within seconds he had Tweeted out “Explosion in Falls Church, VA?” Over the next hour and a half the Tweets flowed in and around the issue (for details see & click on the picture above). What emerged was a minor earthquake had taken place in Falls Church, Virginia. All of this came out of a blend of Dave’s tweet and a real time search platform. The conversations took a while to zero in on the facts — it was messy and rough on the edges but it all happened hours before main stream news, the USGS or any “official” body picked it up the story. Something new was emerging — was it search, news — or a blend of the two. By the time Twitter acquired Summize in July of ‘08 it was clear that Now Web Search was an important new development.

Read the article.


a walk with Pop

I did a three-miler with my dad this morning, just a loop around the neighborhood. It was the perfect antidote to a nightmare I'd been having before I woke up around 5:45AM. The nightmare revolved around my growing an extra leg, which was slowly beginning to appear out of my left calf: the foot was fully out and nestled next to my natural left foot, and part of the new calf was emerging, diagonally, from the old one. Nasty.

It sucks that the dreams I tend to remember are the bad ones. For the most part, I don't remember any dreams, though I often recall their emotional tenor. I do remember a few great dreams, almost always involving the power of flight, but such memories are few and far between. This morning's nightmare was truly disturbing, though not as bad as some that I've had over the years. I think most of us are freaked out by the prospect of something alien inside us, either growing out of us or violating us through unnatural penetration (watch the movie "The Ruins" if you're into deadly ivy crawling into open wounds and orifices).

OK... I have no idea how I went from describing a happy morning walk with my father to a discussion of unnatural bodily penetration, so before this veers off into something even more perverse, I think I'll stop here.

Hope you enjoyed my take on Hugo Chavez yesterday, which was a test run of my Photoshop Elements 6 software. Lightsabers. Can't get enough of 'em.


Sunday, February 8, 2009

nuestro héroe

¡Viva la revolución!


Charles on prayer

My buddy Charles has written an excellent piece on prayer over at his site, Liminality. His conclusions about the nature and significance of prayer overlap a great deal with my father's views on the subject.

I, personally, am not a particularly prayerful or churchy person; prayer isn't a large part of my life, especially since I stopped being a classical theist all those years ago, but I respect the sort of prayer that Charles is talking about, which is consonant with John Hick's basic insight into good religion, i.e., that it is a turn away from self-centeredness toward Reality-centeredness.

Give Charles a read, and though it's not really my place to say this, feel free to leave him some comments.



You're more sensitive to tragedy when it strikes people you know. Living in Korea gave me the privilege of meeting, among others, plenty of Canucks, Brits, Aussies, and Kiwis, and right now, perhaps as a function of the friendships I've made, I find the blazes in Australia to be very worrisome.

Hang in there, Oz!

ADDENDUM: I know a Korean woman who spent several years studying English in Australia, but who had no idea what I was talking about when I asked if she'd ever gone into the Outback. "What's Outback?" she asked. This is what happens when "learning about a country" means "hanging in one big city." Foreigners who spend their days in the Itaewon district of Seoul should take note.