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October 16, 2K ... The Baxil Weekly Name-Drop: Nothing happened.

This is not to say that 48 hours passed by without such things as eating, breathing, and talking with friends (like Keh'tel, over the phone) and roommates (Erin, Myles, Misty, Walter, and Sarah were all present for most of the weekend). It was life, and life means things happening. But it also wasn't anything I haven't reported before. I'm not going to cross the line of reporting events that bore even myself.

The high point of my weekend was when I started getting tired on Saturday night, I thought it was Sunday, and I was kind of down about the weekend having passed so quickly. But then I realized that it was, indeed, Saturday, and I still had 24 hours left to fritter away in pursuit of de-stressing. That felt really good, in a weird sort of way. Sunday night, the same thing happened, except that it really was Sunday, and so I felt kind of blah.

On the other hand, I ate well. Friday night, Marsh and Dave (not the one who has a daughter named Korray; that's a different Dave who doesn't work at Wildtangent) and I went out to Thai Ginger, a really great Thai restaurant, and I got my fill of "Swimming Rama" (chicken and spinach in peanut sauce). Saturday, when Erin and Sarah returned from some errands, they brought back burgers from Kidd Valley, a local burger-joint-thing. The fries were among the better I've eaten. And Sunday night saw Erin and I walking down to The Ave for some sushi and katsu chicken (like teriyaki chicken, but the meat is breaded).

And that's about it.

Late-breaking news: On my way to work this morning, I was stuck in traffic behind a large green van with the license plate "NWMTHKR". New Moth Kar? Northwest Mountain Hiker? Nwimthakor? Can anyone make sense of this vanity plate? Please mail me ...

October 17, 2K ... From the useless trivia department: Mathematicians have long known many interesting facts about pi. (You know. 3.141592653589 ... etc.) The most obvious is that it's the circumference of a circle with unit diameter. Slightly less well known is that it's inspired a movie, a perfume, and caused thousands of mathematicians to whack their heads against the wall repeatedly over the ages as they tried futilely to "square the circle." Now I present to you yet another fact to go along with the rest of them: Pi is hip to the Internet age.

I stumbled upon the "Pi Search Page" this morning. Briefly, this is a nifty utility that lets you search through the first 50 million digits of pi to find any desired substring. (The date-string representing my birthday, f'rexample, starts at position 761346.) Don't ask me where I got the inspiration, but a burning question filled my mind: "Is pi eleet?"

So, naturally, I typed in a query string of "31337" (this is warez kiddie speek for "eleet", perhaps because it looks more eleet if you substitute numbers for the letters -- note the backwards "E" of the 3's, the pseudo-"T" of the 7). And, indeed, pi contains this string, first appearing at position 131423 after the decimal place. So pi is eleet after a mere 131,000 digits.

My next hopeful query was to see whether pi is the most rockin' number out there: "31337357." ("Eleetest.") Sadly, this one fails to turn up after even 50 million digits. So there could be some competition out there on the horizon ...

October 17, 2K part two ... Postscript: After finding a few million digits of other irrational numbers at http://antwrp.gsfc.nasa.gov/htmltest/rjn_dig.html, I naturally checked the eleet-ness of e and some common square roots. Sadly, I had no way of verifying the exact position of the first appearance of "31337" in these numbers -- only the general method of copying all digits before its first occurrence to a file, saving it, and checking the file size.

It turns out that e is "eleet" after about 78,000 digits (thus being comparatively more eleet than pi), but after 2 million digits is still not eleetest. Similarly, the square root of 2 is highly eleet, to the tune of only about 49,000 digits, but not eleetest. On the other hand, the square root of 10, while eleet, takes 322,000 digits to get there.

I have no life. *sob*

October 18, 2K ... As an addendum to yesterday's mathematical rambling: I'd like to point out one further page filled with all sorts of useful data: The first 500,000 digits of the square root of 4. I dare say that calculating it with such precision has never before been attempted.

Anyway ...

Disturbing discovery. My Sobe Power (still on my desk; to catch up on the story: parts one, two, and three) has started to separate. A blackish-red powder is precipitating out of the clear pink liquid. I don't think it's the caffeine; pure caffeine is white. (I'll withhold the coca jokes.) I suspect I'm looking at the elusive procreataurine. That, or impurities in the aronia juice. But it's black.

What was I thinking when I drank that stuff? My god. My god. I can't finish the bottle now. But I can't throw it away. I'm too curious as to what will happen to it next.

Maybe if I'm lucky that black stuff will simply be a little bacterial colony (even though I've kept the bottle tightly sealed when not drinking it, and they pasteurize the liquid before shipping) and I'll have an excuse to drop it in the trash.

To end on a slightly more upbeat note ... I laughed my tuckus off yesterday at The Utah Baby Namer. The list of names they've got there is truly astounding. As best I can tell, the maintainers are themselves Mormon, so it doesn't seem spiteful ... worth a check.

October 19, 2K ... "You don't write enough journal entries about dragons," Jia told me last night. Well, she didn't, exactly. She said "I don't write enough journal entries about dragons." But at the time, she was talking from my point of view, and thus her "I" referred to me. (Sometimes reporting an individual's exact words takes a bax seat to preserving their meaning.)

But she's right, you know. Aside from a few references in my Baxil Weekly Name Drops, I've written only one entry about draconic issues. That seems like an awfully low percentage for something which occupies so much of my life.

Is it that I don't have anything to say about dragons? Hardly. You should see my paper journals (or, for that matter, items like The Draconity FAQ at my old site). Is it that I don't think about dragons every day? Again, hardly. I'm a regular reader of alt.fan.dragons and several dragon mailing lists. Is it a matter of dragons being a part of my "online life" instead of my "real life"? Bluntly, no.

I think I'm suffering from a two-pronged case of self-censorship here. This journal is, as I have previously mentioned, a product of my public persona. On the one paw, though I feel no special obligation to my readers, I want to be entertaining. I don't want to use this as an emotional dumping ground, or a lectern. How much is there for me to say about my own identity without slipping into ego or angst? How much is there to say about draconity without losing the ability to respect my readers' personal opinions on the matter? On the other paw, I want to be relevant. Getting into such an involved topic as my draconity would almost guarantee losing half my readers, either because I'd bore dragons by keeping it too simple, or I'd lose humans by skipping the basics. A less serial medium would be more ideal.

Yes, both those arguments are weak, but they're what's been holding me bax. Writing what you know is a lot harder than people give it credit for -- because you also know what's wrong with what you write. I can stumble around the philosophical landscape for weeks (cf. most of September's journal), and entertain myself by recording my discoveries, and only later discover that the positions I took have already been argued to death ... but I can't tell you a single fact about dragons without also being able to provide three pieces of counterpoint and five counter-counterarguments. Writing what you know means information overload, which means there's always a feeling of incompleteness when you set fingers to keyboard, a feeling of inadequacy, of not providing the best arguments one can make.

... Goddammit. I'm talking about my writing habits again. And here I am worrying that draconic posts would slip into "emotional dumping ground" territory. (sigh) Tell you what: I'll quit while I'm ahead, and tomorrow's post will definitely involve dragons.

October 20, 2K ... I'll start with the obvious preface: I am a dragon. Longtime readers of my site will be unfazed by this little revelation. The rest of you are free to explore the issue in further detail in the Draconity FAQ, if you wish. (How's this for synchronicity -- fellow journal-ist Rene/Halyn also chose today to explain her feelings on the subject, a lot more eloquently than I would have; check out The Fifth Wheel for another excellent introductory perspective.) If you really don't want to deal with the issue as more than a soundbite, an old friend of mine who goes by Feral once summed it up nicely: "Draconity is when you look for your inner child and find a hatchling." (I'm paraphrasing, but credit her with the quote.)

That's all you get for background information right now. I apologize for erring on the side of expertosis here, but I believe that most of my readers are already hip to the idea.

At any rate, I had a dream several nights ago. I was not in a dragon body in the dream. (This is usual for me; even in the dreams where I have flown and walked on all fours, my "dream-o-vision" has shown me as a human. Interestingly enough, in one of my more memorable dreams, someone took a few Polaroids of me over the course of the dream, and handed them to me at the end; in those photos I had a dragon body.) However, there also wasn't really any evidence of me "really" being in anything other than a human body; people treated me like a human, and I couldn't do anything a human couldn't do.

In this dream, I (and an unidentified female, who never really did anything during the dream) had been captured and held hostage by two vaguely redneck types. Both of those men, and I, had guns. At several points I tried to escape, but they threatened me with their guns and I backed down. At one particularly interesting moment, Redneck #2 tried to escape as well (apparently the partnership between the two men wasn't as strong as I'd suspected); I took this as a cue to try to run off, but Redneck #1 at this point entered the room; he drew his gun to stop #2, #2 drew his gun to stop me, and I saw #1 enter (before he saw me) and drew my gun to threaten him. The three of us stood there in what Westerns have popularized as a "Mexican standoff" for a minute or two.

It was about this time that we learned of the dragon invasion.

Details are fuzzy. But apparently dragons had appeared and declared themselves in control. In the dream, the four of us were in the Bible Belt somewhere, and this terrified my captors, although I wasn't at all concerned. There was a clear implication that their rule was in fact tolerant, fair, and generally enlightened, but still these men felt threatened. Somewhere along the line (still during this Mexican standoff, mind), a deal was offered: I'd help them escape into the wilderness, away from this new dragon civilization, and in return they would no longer be my captors but my friends. The dragon landing had made their plans for hostages pretty irrelevant, anyway.

There was no sense of compulsion; there was no feeling of threat. And I said yes. I didn't agree with their irrational fear of the dragons, but I respected their need for freedom. (That was my reasoning in the dream, anyway.) I agreed, with the provision that once I'd gotten them out of Dodge, I'd head back to town and they'd be on their own.

The rest of the dream involved us laying low, slinking out of the city a little bit at a time, and grocery shopping. Not "buying provisions for our trip into the wilderness," but needless cruise-the-aisles grocery shopping. (Thereby demonstrating that my dream world, even at its most coherent and profound, is still fundamentally screwed up.) And then what little sleep I'd gotten came to an end.

The dream bugged me somewhat. I'm not normally much for dream interpretation, but the "moral" of this one seemed pretty clear: Sticking to my sense of fairness, even at the expense of aiding a cause I found reprehensible -- these people were bona fide reactionaries, shrinking back in panic from the proffered paradise of enlightened society -- meant more to me than: (A) returning to my kind [I may not have been in a dragon body, but I was still assuredly a dragon in the dream, in the sense that I am a dragon today, and this thought did pass through my dream-mind]; (B) joining an enlightened society, ostensibly one of the things my waking mind wants most out of Earth; (C) potentially, the principles of this enlightened society, since (it was never made explicit, but the chain of logic was painfully short) ultimately these men could regroup, rearm, and attack the dragons in an attempt to "bring back the status quo."

Knowing all of these, I chose to respect their desire for "freedom from enlightenment," and left my morals at the door to help them escape. Potentially making me a traitor in the process. Trying to think of what I'd do if this weird scenario came about in real life ... well, the dream me is me. I'd have to assume I'd do the same.

Have I sold out? Am I sticking to principles like personal honor at the cost of everything that is dear to me? Or am I indeed a better person for sticking to these principles, and trusting that from personal virtue and a strict idea of universal freedom, a better world will follow? It was never really made clear ... in the dream it was obvious that I was making a great difference in the lives of these men, that they were grateful to me for my superhuman empathy and forgiveness, but there was no way for me to tell if it was enough to "turn them around" -- whether if I went back to that dragon city, I wouldn't maybe be an unintentional target of their next car bomb.

Is it that I have too much faith in people? Is it wrong to think that kindness and principle are sufficient to conquer fear? That everybody can choose to be enlightened?

Are some people just too far gone to love the whole world?

October 21, 2K ... It's my sister's birthday today. Happy 17th, Sarah!

... It's late at night. Short post:

When I was growing up, my entire life in California was spent within walking distance of undeveloped space. The grassy, rolling hills of Livermore. The silent ocean-edge of "Campus Point" near the dorms at UC Santa Barbara. The unwanted expanses of the outskirts of Tracy. The grassy, rolling hills of Dublin.

Now I live in Washington, whose natural splendor puts most of California to shame. The entire state's one big forest. Seattle itself is nicknamed "The Emerald City." And yet ... There aren't any open areas I can just go hang out and commune with nature in. The nearest big patch o' land I know of is a city park, some 5 miles away and across I-5. And it's a park. It's not "just there." It's the only outlet of tens of thousands of nature-starved urbanites. So it's not enough.

What is? ... Well, back in Dublin, I used to wander over to the ridge by our apartment in the middle of the night. It was "city open space": they probably initially wanted to use it as a park, but it wasn't flat enough or something, and so they just bought up the land and let it sit there, barren and natural except for a big water tower for firefighting. Nobody ever went up there. It was quiet, ignored. And so it really felt like my space.

Once I went up there at night to stargaze. I walked off the path and over the crest of the hill, found a nice open spot, and lay down. I watched the stars for a while, and ultimately fell asleep. I was awakened some hours later by the distant howl of a wolf. It was ... well ... magical.

This is not to say that Washington is somehow inferior to California, or managed more haphazardly; I know that Seattle's relative lack of "unused space" is just symptomatic of it being a major urban area instead of a little suburban dot-on-the-map. But, still, I haven't just lain down in a field and watched the stars since I moved north. ... And I miss it.

October 22, 2K ... Out-of-Context Theatre:

My life has been a process of coming to terms with myself. Or, more accurately, of finding my strengths and repressing my weaknesses. I remember myself as a very volatile child, although as "low nerd on the totem pole" at school I tended to repress my anger. It just seemed so unfair that my enthusiasm toward the world was met with (often open) ridicule. That I had to defend myself. And that, unsuited for it as I am/was, when I tried I got stomped. It became a survival tactic to just take it all, find a way to deal with the anger later, ball it up and break down at home or ulcerate myself or kick around cardboard boxes.

I've been a pacifist since at least first grade. Rage has never been a problem. Armoring, however, has. Dammit, I hate how society mistreats its best and brightest ... but I feel helpless to do anything about it. I withdraw. I always have.

Relationships ... anger is a non-issue. Only the repression that I've developed over decades hurts me. I have trouble accepting that it's ever productive to be angry. Is that hurting me somehow? There are hints that it is, but if so, I'm not seeing it. Except for the stress of sublimating it.

October 23, 2K ... The Baxil Weekly Name-Drop: When did my weekends start passing by so quickly?

Friday night was another Marathon session. Err, I mean, another marathon Counter-Strike session. Every time I stay up until dawn shooting at people, I get flashbacks to the first FPS that addicted me so ... Counter-Strike needs Pfhor terrorists.

On Saturday, I walked down to The Ave for lunch. It was a sunny day, and all was right with the world. I gave a dollar to a man on the street asking for spare change. In return, he was grateful at me, and started talking about a philosophy that could change my life. More specifically, he talked about a way of living that had been developed by a Ph.D., who had something to do with DuPont (allegedly, anyway; please don't sue me). This way of living was revolutionary, he said. Without it, I would "flounder and die." With it, I would "have other choices." He gave me an URL -- www.neotech.com, or at least that's what I wrote down when I got home -- which I checked out this morning. Apparently the only philosophy that will save me from myself somehow involves car tracking. I personally suspect I (or he) just got the URL wrong.

I didn't have the heart to ask him, "If this philosophy you espouse is the only way to live a good life, how come you're on the street begging for change?" I don't think it would have done any good; it's one of those rhetorical questions best kept to oneself and used as a reality check. Besides which, I've been reading too much Robert Anton Wilson lately, and so the phrase "Without this philosophy, you will flounder and die" is basically a rock-solid guarantee that some philosopher is way too full of themselves. Not that I need Wilson to figure out that one. I've been ignoring fire-and-brimstone fundamentalists and uberrational materialists for years now.

Later that evening, Dave and Willie and I met up at Dave's house for a bit of role-playing. There were supposed to be four more players there, who cancelled for various reasons; as such, Willie and I created new 3rd Edition characters and started clearing out the Sunless Citadel. Three first-level characters -- Willie's thief, my sorceror, and an NPC cleric (who I found out spoke draconic, to my great embarrassment) -- cleared out an adventure designed for 4-6. And I didn't even have Magic Missile -- practically heresy for a first-level mage! We rock.

On Sunday, Erin and I shared a wonderful Chinese meal and went shopping for Halloween costume accessories. I played Diablo some. And did some reading. Now it's Monday, and I'm back at work, listening to a Primitive Radio Gods MP3. Life is weird.

But you knew that.

"Life is time, they teach you growing up /
The seconds ticking killed us all a million years before the fall /
We ride the waves, and don't ask where they go /
We swim like lions through the crest, and bathe ourselves in zebra flesh ..."

October 24, 2K ... The hardest part of my draconity is the double life I lead.

No, I'm not some sort of secret agent; no, I wouldn't be in danger if my "dragon identity" were revealed to my relatives -- they already know, actually; no, I'm not "a dragon online and a human in person." (Except for that first example, I do know dragons in those situations -- although they're less common than opponents of draconity would like you to think.) But the worst of it isn't the severity of the split. It's the fact that it exists at all, that it's a choice I feel I have to make.

Some dragons have gotten around this by discarding their human names entirely. I salute these brave souls; I personally can't solve my problem that way. I feel kinship with those who brought me into this life, and I will not dishonor their efforts by throwing away the names they gave me, and that bond of family. (From the horror stories I've heard from some other dragons regarding their fundamentalist parents, I can see why my reasoning isn't and shouldn't be universal.) And, frankly, although I'm proud of who I am, if there's one organization I don't want prying into my personal and spiritual affairs, it's the government -- so "Tad Ramspott" stays on my tax returns.

Unfortunately, that means I have to go by "Tad" on my workplace erythroadhesives. (... "Red tape." ];=8)) And so I'm "Tad" at work, as well. Then I come home, to a household who understands my draconity and a mate who shares that trait, and I'm "Baxil" again. Not to mention that online I'm nothing but "Baxil," and so the line blurs even in the office, when I'm answering e-mail from friends on lunch break.

Again, this isn't to say that the split in my "double life" is necessarily dire. The company president himself, at some of our barbecues, has commented on the fact that my e-mail return address says "Tad 'Baxil' Ramspott," and asked me about the name in that half-caring-and-looking-for-a-soundbite way. Explaining the idea of a "dragon name" hasn't had any repercussions, although I declined to monopolize his time with a full explanation. Mostly there was just the discomfort of trying to put a positive spin on it while being limited to a snap reply.

What bugs me is that I feel like "Baxil" is who I really am. That I'm somehow not being honest with people by giving them a name whose derivation is more socially acceptable. (This isn't an issue with my family; they know me well enough that names are irrelevant. But for coworkers who I've met only three months ago? I've been a dragon far longer than that. To deliberately withhold information about my draconity feels like lying.) And I feel especially cheated when I'm trading names with some person I'm destined to never see again, some visitor or party guest or fellow stander-in-line at a store, and have to go by "Tad" because explaining "Baxil" would take more time than we'll ever spend together. And so they walk away with a false impression of me, one I'll never get the chance to correct.

And nothing really compares to the embarrassment of being caught confusing the roles. At the brunch at Julian's I mentioned four BWNDs ago (have I really been brooding about this for that long?), a small group of us were playing cards, and decided that names would help us clear up the turn rotation a little easier. It came around to me, and still in "work mode" from the previous night, I said levelly, "Tad." One of the men thought for a moment, trying to resolve some inner cognitive dissonance, and said, "I could have sworn someone was calling you something else earlier on." D'oh.

And indeed, Erin had introduced me as Baxil (as I prefer, and as I encourage her to do) at the beginning of the party. I blushed and stammered out something about nicknames. Which it isn't, but it was the only thing I could really say after having committed the monumental gaffe of claiming that my real name wasn't.

I guess I'm just lucky that "Baxil" (or, more appropriately, the shortened form "Bax" that everyone uses) is so common-sounding, that I have a chance of telling someone "I'm Bax" without necessarily forcing the issue of spiritual beliefs. A name like "Flamescale" would practically guarantee the need to keep the "two lives" strictly separate -- and there would be no evading the questions in case of a slip.

October 25, 2K ... It seems that the "online journal" idea is a bigger trend than I at first gave it credit for. Even among the tiny corner of the 'Net known as the "dragon community," many fellow journal-ists spring quickly to mind. I am not, by any stretch of the imagination, the first to jump upon this idea. I am also not the last. And it is for those who follow after me that I write today's entry.

There are no hard and fast rules about baring your life to others. But there are ways which generally seem to work better, and there are things to say which don't seem to help either you or your audience. So ponder Baxil's List of Journal Do's and Dont's:

  • Don't bore yourself. "I got up this morning. I ate three eggs, sunny side up, then I walked to class. Dr. Fnord's lecture was long-winded as always. Then I went to the cafeteria and had lunchsnrxzzzzzzzz. <snore>." Everyone goes through the motions of life; we don't read journals to revel in the tedium, but to skip to the interesting parts. More importantly, if you re-read your own journal two months later, will you care how you cooked your eggs? Stick to the stuff worth reporting.
  • Don't be afraid of having nothing to say. Sheesh, it's not like you're getting paid for this; nobody should be expecting a new entry every 4 hours, least of all you. A very important corollary of this is: If you have nothing to say, don't say it. (A quick "My life's been boring" post will suffice.)
  • Don't worry out loud about your writing style or habits. When cartoon characters complain about how badly drawn they are, it's called "breaking the fourth wall," and it can be funny. When journalists apologize for the way they write, it's called "groveling to your audience," and it's embarassing to both you and the readers. It's a tough habit to break yourself of -- and the Tomorrowlands journal archives will illustrate just how hypocritical I am on this point -- but Good. Writers. Don't. Do. It. Did Jack London ever say, "Oh, sorry, I'm getting too technical here; I'll try to stick to the story"?
  • Talk about what's important to you, even if it's been done. This one's simple: Everything's been done. If your only criterion for subject matter is "pure originality," you'll post maybe once a month, tops. (Either that, or you don't do enough Web surfing.) Journals are there to give people insight into how you think, not to support patent applications.
  • Know your audience. Are you writing to entertain others, or to clear out your own mind? Because a journal is (A) autobiographical and (B) public, you will always be doing both -- but know which one's your focus. (And this doesn't have to be rock-solid; it can vary post by post. This journal is a good example of that.)
  • Speak to your audience. And to nobody else. If your journal is there for self-examination, don't address your readers. If you're giving a speech, you're not listening to yourself. Conversely, if you are writing to entertain or educate, don't go off on personal tangents of exploration; people will be expecting you to arrive at a conclusion you can adequately explain to them. Obviously, this is one of the more flexible "rules", but knowing its basic principles will take you far.
  • If you're committed to posting regularly, maintain a backlog. There will be days when you've got good ideas fighting each other to come out of your head first, and there will be days when you can't write a post to save your life. So getting the good ideas down while you have them will tremendously increase the average quality of your posts. Of course, there's no rule that says a journal has to be on a rigid schedule, and many (or most) people take the path of only updating when the good ideas are there to be had. It works either way. But a "Journal filler file" has at times been a lifesaver for Tomorrowlands and its once-per-day commitment.

To put some more ideas into your head about journal writing, I'd like to suggest "The Life Cycle of a Journal" and Why Web Journals Suck, both full of excellent reflections by a five-year journal keeper. Until then, keep writing, and keep yourself honest.

October 26, 2K ...

From: Tad 'Baxil' Ramspott
To: lfitzgerald@brunching.com
Subject: "Fur" feature

	Dear Mr. Sjoberg,

	As a "Furry Fan," I was a bit intrigued when I noticed the title
of your latest article at The Brunching Shuttlecocks.  Naturally, I read
it.  First impression:  "Oh, great, he's making fun of furries."  Second
impression:  "Yes, but he's being witty about it."

	Having read through "Fur" twice, I'm still not sure if I should
take it personally -- but I laughed a couple of times, and so there
wouldn't be much point to feeling offended, would there?  Plus you made
fun of everyone in the fandom equally.  I'm so used to the "targeted
attacks" of people like the Burned Furs that hearing an outside satire of
furry can be a breath of fresh air. (By the way, I must say your mention
of Burned Fur surprised me:  I'm way too familiar with the whole movement,
but had kind of figured it as one of those "internal politics" things that
wouldn't ever amount to much external attention.  Your conclusion that
they're undermining their own cause was oddly satisfying.)

	So, on balance, congratulations on a well-written and humorous
article.  I'd really prefer that non-furs recognize the depth of the
movement (and its spiritual aspects), but ridicule is inevitable in a
world as big as ours, and "Fur" is a shining example of the type of satire
I'd rather see.  :)

	Oh ... and should you receive any hate mail over the next few
days/weeks from furs who've had their sense of humor surgically removed, I
would like to apologize in advance on our community's behalf.

-- Baxil

October 27, 2K ... In the car yesterday, I heard Whitesnake's "Here I Go Again" on the radio, for the first time. This is mostly notable because I tuned in right as the chorus was starting, and so "Here I go again on my own / Going down the only road I've ever known" was the first thing I heard. I started to sing "I'm a hitchhiker ..." as they belted out "Like a drifter I was born to walk alone." I've been corrupted by the Dream Warriors. What can I say? "Twelve Sided Dice" is a classic. I'd just never known that particular line was a Whitesnake reference.

... In other news ... Townsend CTC has finally gotten their act together. (It only took them two weeks.) I wonder if their banner ads are still pathetic? If anyone sees one, please let me know.

... Cellan informs me that the link given to me by the panhandler was indeed inaccurate. I wanted to try http://www.neo-tech.com, with a dash. So this "uberphilosophy" does exist ... interesting.

Interesting, but definitely scary. And kind of pathetic at the same time. Their advertising for the $120.00, 1040-page "ten-second secret that will change your life" includes the following guarantees:

  • "Regardless of physical appearances, you will be having sex with beautiful women of your choice in one week or less."
  • "You will get an instant promotion."
  • "You will lose all your fat."
  • "You will become very smart very quickly. When you talk, everyone will listen."
I'm not kidding here. These are actual quotes from their site. Go see. Frankly, I don't care how life-affirming and revolutionary their philosophy is: if their own advertising is blatantly sexist, materialistic, and perpetuating current stereotypes (no matter how much they argue they're "free of the system" elsewhere), then the people who have gone through the program aren't enlightened in my book.

Which kind of invalidates their guarantee, doesn't it? The person who wrote that ad ostensibly uses his own product; he "quickly became smart" and "everyone listens to his words" -- but having read through the entire referenced page, I'm now ignoring him.

My recommendation: Leave Neo-Tech to panhandlers and venture capitalists with mid-life crises. You want enlightenment, go read something genuinely intellectually stimulating, like the Punk Manifesto (about halfway down the linked page). To sum up: Neo-Tech "religion" bad. "Bad Religion" good.

October 29, 2K ... Good gods. Frank McConnell is dead. This is not exactly news: I'm just a year and a half behind the times. And it will probably mean nothing to anyone, except a few scattered alums of UC Santa Barbara. But it's occasion to mourn.

I knew him, briefly, as a student. At UCSB, bax in early 1998, I took an English Department class titled "Science Fiction" -- a once-a-year lecture-hall-packing extravaganza, the seats always hotly contested and snapped up by a lucky handful of upperclassmen. Only a handful of teachers actually were willing to consider that sci-fi really counts as "literature." Of these few, Frank was the only teacher to consistently teach a class on the subject. Nobody else had the balls.

I say this because, if he were alive, that's how he'd put it. You always knew where you stood with Frank; he was as blunt, open and irascible as a bull charging around the arena. His speech, both in class and out, was eloquently decorated with profanity. And he plowed through other taboos with equal ease: I remember his direct comparison of the Boy Scouts with the Hitler Youth on the podium one day (man, I wish I could still find my notes; that was an inspiring lecture). This was a man to whom self-censorship was anathema.

And yet he wasn't cruel, just outspoken. He recognized his "faults." On the first day of class, he told 700 students (as I'm sure he had for many years) that he wasn't going to hold back with his language, and that those who couldn't deal with it would be better off leaving. And despite his demonstrated willingness to say "This is shit" when the topic demanded it, I don't remember him ever laying into students directly (except for the times when someone tried to leave the lecture early -- which he specifically warned us was one of his sore points). He worked to build up a rapport with his audience, and gave us his respect. I think that's why he commanded such dedication.

That, and the man knew his shit. He was a brilliant lecturer. Extremely funny and engaging, and in touch with the issues of the students he was addressing. And his connections! -- As an English professor who taught science fiction courses, and a writer himself, the man had so much pull it wasn't funny. He brought Neil Gaiman to campus as a guest lecturer, to talk about his then-new graphic novel series "Stardust". They had to block off the auditorium so that only students of McConnell's class could get in.

Anyway, McConnell's been gone for over a year, so campus has probably stabilized without him. Not replaced him -- nobody could fill his shoes -- but adjusted to life without him. The English Department probably scrambled for a while to fill its void; the library shanghaied some other teacher for its steering committee; the students are going back to reading "War of the Worlds" in their free time instead of for homework.

And somewhere up in the clouds, back in January of '99, I'm sure that if we had been listening hard enough, we could have faintly heard: "Look, just let me know if you're going to open the fuckin' gates."

They'd fuckin' better have.

October 30, 2K ... The Baxil Weekly Name-Drop: It was a weekend. You know the drill: Counter-Strike, AD&D, catching up on sleep ... wait a second. What am I saying? This weekend was fantastically novel. And entertaining. And not very restful. <slaps self in face> Guh. I will be brain-dead weekend-describing zombie now.

Friday night was one long scramble to get organized: Cellan was visiting Seattle on spur-of-the-moment plans. His transportation was provided by roommate Van, who, amusingly enough, drove a truck. And due to the fact that Cellan actually was arriving on Friday night, I forewent my usual CS game so that I could get home in time to greet him.

When he arrived at 2 AM, the night was still young. We shared some Taco Bell pseudo-food, talked a lot, compared laptops, and rearranged my room so he'd have a place to sleep. We had fun pronouncing each other's names (say it with me: SELL-un and bakh-HEEL). I tried fruitlessly to explain warding. I showed off my glow-in-the-dark surroundings: the stars on my ceiling, and Keh'tel's T-shirt (which ended up glowy by accident; he'd just meant it to be green paint).

On Saturday, Kiala and Wyvern arrived, and the three of us took off for The Ave. We ate lunch at some random teriyaki joint that Wyvern recommended. Cellan bravely volunteered to pay. Kiala showed off his amazing non-appetite. The restaurant's gyoza (Japanese potstickers) were okay. The walls were plastered with movie and play posters. That seems inordinately common among ethnic resturants on The Ave, a fact which I cannot adequately explain, since when I went to college at UC Santa Barbara, I never noticed anything of the sort.

It's great fun to talk about random dragon stuff in public places. For some reason, if it had been just me and a friend, I would have been terribly self-conscious; double the group size, and suddenly anything goes. I remember consciously noting that our conversation was both loud and weird; I caught myself looking around a few times to see what kind of stares we were getting from fellow patrons. But I just didn't care. It wouldn't have stopped me anyway. We were having fun.

We subsequently went to the campus bookstore, where I picked up an M.C. Escher poster (the one with the little alligator lizards crawling out of their drawing) for cheap, and much purchasing of O'Reilly books was accomplished. Wyvern took some stairs wrong and twisted his ankle. I read him "Story Minute" from the bax page of the Seattle Weekly to cheer him up. We hobbled home and played a few rounds of cards. Despite the trio's frenzied protests, I got them to play a round or two of "Give Me The Brain." Before they convulsed and died in seizures from the mind-altering drugs I had to feed them to finally get them to agree to play, they agreed it was indeed fun.

Then followed a frenzied hour of costume preparation, and it was off to the company Halloween party! I went as a white-haired wizard, complete with robes and staff (photos may be forthcoming); Erin dressed up as a black cat. I introduced myself during the party as her familiar -- a few people expressed cognitive dissonance at this idea, and I explained, "If you only had four hit points and were faced with a six-foot cat, would you argue?" This idea was found to be sensible.

During this gather, poor Cellan and Kiala and Wyvern got left at home. I invited them to write a Tomorrowlands journal "guest post." Apparently the idea got killed in committee, which is why yesterday's post was so (A) late and (B) random. Ah well.

On Sunday, I beat Spyro: Year of the Dragon. Now, if you clear out Spyro 2, the game gives you a "super powerflame" gate that lets you start a new game with powerflame breath; YotD doesn't seem to do anything similar. Which is vaguely disappointing. On the other hand, maybe you need to get all the skill points, which I haven't done ... so it's bax to the Playstation for a few more nights to take on all of the game's real challenges. Sigh.

And ... uhm ... I'm working on a pathfinding routine at work. A real joy, that.

I'll leave you with a random name drop: John Smith. A search for his name on Alta Vista turns up, as its first result, a Scottish bookstore. Go figure.

October 31, 2K ... I acknowledge that today is Halloween. That having been said: <sarcasm> Hurrah. </sarcasm>

It's a holiday I'd like to find meaningful -- a celebration of the human imagination, a time of community, a tip of the hat to our pagan forebears. There are a number of things that make me bitter about it, though. Commercialism is the major one: Halloween is second only to Christmas as the holiday Americans spend the most to celebrate. (I suspect that the figures only take into account consumer spending -- the Fourth of July has got to be right up there; fireworks aren't cheap.) File this in your "Bah, humbug" department if you wish; just remember that having "officially sanctioned" times to spend money and have fun means that there's an implicit ban on doing so during "normal" days, and a lot of peer pressure to celebrate during these periods. Nationwide holidays are a two-edged sword.

Then there's the fact that Halloween is a time of horrendous stereotyping. Pointy-nosed witches, white-sheet ghosts, etc. It's a time to caricaturize and file under the "eek, scary things" column many of the elements dear to my life. As a practicing pagan and mage, I should probably be offended. On the other hand, I'm jaded. I've never found it in me to hate the holiday on these grounds, although I definitely agree that it would be better without the stereotypes. Perhaps I just enjoyed Halloween too much as a kid to care.

And, of course, now that I'm in Seattle, it becomes hard to forget that Halloween is an outdoor holiday during a miserable time of year. July 4, for example, is a great outdoor holiday -- middle of the summer, warm, sunny. The last day of October (or more specifically, the last night) is more likely than not freezing cold. With a good chance of rain. Being a California child, with little tolerance for either, I pity the kids who grew up this far north and spent their formative years trick-or-treating in sleet. Perhaps they habitually dressed up as Eskimos.

On the other hand ... I enjoy dressing up in costume, being able to slip into a foreign role, being able to let myself loose. I enjoy the eye candy of watching other people wander around in outfits that dozens of hours of work have gone into. I appreciate the collective sense of wonder that filters through people's mental shields, if only for one night. The holiday's got potential. It sucks only because we're a society whose business it is to make things suck. So, despite all its flaws, happy Day of the Dead.

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