Writer's Block: 9/11 Where were you?

See: http://www.livejournal.com/misc/latestqotd.bml?qid=2804

I was where I almost always am - in Chicago, going about my day. Regrettably, practically nobody else in the US has seemed to have found the sense to do that at any time in the last 11 years and change. It is a real shame what happened to the thousands of innocent bystanders, both in the air and on the ground, of course, and a real crime that this was made to happen to them by evil design, but that having been said, I'm tired of hearing about the incident. I'm tired of watching self-styled patriots use that one incident as a club to beat over the heads of anybody who would question anything those in power have done for years. Bin Ladin is dead, Qadaffi is dead, Saddam Hussein is dead. Al Quaeda is on the run. Yet, those taken captive on a broadly defined battlefield that seems to take in whole countries continue to be held in Guantanamo without charge or due process, where they are expected to wait until the cessation of an undeclared war on a largely undefined enemy, which would be determined ... how? We are not told and we are not supposed to ask. Torture has been used as a tool of interrogation, as if such techniques had not been discredited on both a moral and a practical, psychological level, and by simple common sense - make somebody hurt enough, and he'll say anything to make the pain stop. Did anybody really not know that?

There are thugs I worry about in the world, but none so much as the pack we're growing, right here at home, applauded and supported by a population of useful idiots who can't seem to bring themselves to answer one simple question: If you are killed by a storm trooper, are you any less dead than you would have been if you had been killed by a terrorist? How short these memories are, historically! Authoritarian regimes - and that's what the US has been slowly evolving into - as a group, do not have a history of placing a great value on human life. We've all seen the cops gone wild videos, and we've seen the legislative response - laws criminalizing the videotaping of police officers on duty. Look at Washington, and you see the makings of a bureaucratically run despotism. Look at those cops, and you see our version of the Sturm Abteilung, slowly developing. Put them together, and a good chunk of our population seems ready and eager to do that, and you have a tyranny with a long reach and a solid base of support, taking shape.

It is a weak minded fool who embraces the greater danger out of fear of the lesser, and a nation of fools has been doing just that. Two buildings and a few thousand lives lost. Far more lives are lost in traffic accidents every year than were lost on 911, and yet we're still expected to keep a straight face as these latter day fascists tell us that we shouldn't insist on our right to privacy or other civil liberties, any more, because "911 changed everything" - but it didn't. It just served as a handy excuse to do things that no decent person could defend, and I'm tired of it.

Writer's Block: How do you celebrate Independence Day in your country?

For real - they asked this. Somebody did, at any rate, and a fair number of non-Americans were amazed by this. Who can blame them? Does anybody ever ask how we celebrate Victoria Day (whatever that is) in the United States? Canada is just one country over, and who even knows what that day is? I will in a few seconds, because now I have to look that up ... Queen Victoria's birthday?! They celebrate that? I suppose they must have their reasons.

I live in Chicago, so Independence Day does apply to us, sort of, but really, there's not much to it. One watches a fireworks show, and that's nice, but it's over before one knows it, and the crowd is left with a lot of energy and nothing to do with it, as everybody goes home for the evening. Only, in Chicago, we don't even really have the fireworks, any more, because the previous mayor got rid of the city's third of July display. Yes, we celebrate the fourth on the third. That way, people could see the big show downtown, and then go see their neighborhood displays the next day. Now, we go out to the Suburbs, where towns one twentieth of the size of Chicago put on shows we can no longer seem to manage, ourselves.

As always, there is a lot of brassy, martial music played over loudspeakers, which I try to ignore, never having like Souza, and restless celebrants at the end of the night, clogging the streets, pouring around vehicles which aren't going anywhere for the next 20 minutes. It's an amusing bit of chaos, but one can be left feeling a little empty by it, because it's an impersonal sort of chaos, nobody really speaking with or interacting with anybody else. Whether that's America's way, in general, or just Chicago's, I don't know.

Part of the problem, I suppose, is the understanding that we all are suppose to deny, but nobody can really escape. The only time that being an American really means anything is when America wants something from one. There is barely the pretense, any more, that the government cares about the well being of its citizenry, or that the members of the citizenry care about each other. We're celebrating our membership in a community that hasn't existed in our lifetimes, if it ever did. The celebration is a lie, and almost everybody knows it, but it's a big, flashy, pretty lie, so we go watch the soulless lights in the sky, and do our best to say as little about the experience as there really is to be said.

If you want to call that a celebration, I suppose that nobody is stopping you.

  • Current Mood
    tired tired

Writer's Block: If you could visit anywhere in the solar system, where would it be?

I've heard good things about Earth, and figured - why not? I've been spending a lot of time there, ever since. The LJ staff might want to try it, some time.

The solar system just doesn't have that many good travel options, really. There is Mars, and the environment there is unthreatening enough that one could put a man in a spacesuit on its surface with a clear conscience, but most of this system is not so benign. Somebody wrote about visiting Saturn. Beautiful, yes, but the temperatures in the gaseous - liquid transition zone are so high that one would be incinerated, instantly, and the pressures would be enough to crush one so quickly that one wouldn't have time to know that one was dying. Jupiter is like that, only worse. Venus - pressures are lower, but still, being comparable to those found at the bottom of the ocean, more than high enough to kill, tearing through any suit we'll be making any time soon, temperatures are akin to that of a broiler, and the atmosphere is laced with sulfuric and sulfurous acid. Even the robots sent there lasted for only about 20 minutes before they were destroyed by the environment. What chance would a man have? Io - the innermost moon of Jupiter, is bathed in enough ionizing radiation that one would end up with radiation poisoning in under an hour, if exposed on the surface, while one busily hoped to not be taken out by a lava flow.

You get the idea. Aside from the Moon and Mars, what is there that won't kill the hapless visitor? There are asteroids, I suppose, but how scenic is a big, airless rock, with minimal geology? We can go, but it won't be a pleasure cruise in space. No, until we have starships, or human idiocy does enough damage to Earth that Mars and the Moon look like attractive alternatives, I'll stay here.

It's nice knowing where your next gulp of air is coming from, and the cultural opportunities are a lot more interesting.

  • Current Mood
    tired tired

My Main Blog and Tabulas are in Limbo

If you know somebody who blogs on Tabulas, and he has been away from the computer for a few months, you might want to send him a message, because a nasty surprise is waiting for him. The story shared on the company homepage seems a little confused. The "current owner" of Tabulas is spoken of in the third person, but who else would be posting to the homepage of what the person posting there speaks of as being a "one man show"? What is not in doubt is that all of the blogs hosted there vanished, quite suddenly, and there is reason to doubt that they will be back.

One can hope, and the man who I believe is the founder of Tabulas will encourage some measure of hope. He has indicated that all material posted since December is beyond recovery, the aforementioned "current owner" having allegedly purged the site before the founder could do a needed backup. He says that he thinks that he'll be able to get the older material restored, but the data loss is said to have happened on March 17 and here we are, on the first day of May. I find myself reminded of the Ma.gnolia data loss incident, with one important difference. Larry Halff, as almost everybody will agree, meant well and tried very hard, but he made a layman's mistake and his data was corrupted. If we are to take the story we are give on the Tabulas homepage at face value, somebody deleted user data because he got tired of running Tabulas, and gave the founder only a few hours notice before he did so. I don't know the people involved, and can't vouch for anything that is being said, from two thousand miles away and sitting at my computer, but the story being told on the company homepage, at present, is not a story of people who tried hard and meant well. This, if anything, leaves me even more pessimistic than I was when I correctly guessed that Ma.gnolia's data would not be recovered. No technical expertise of my own comes into play on this one, just an instinctual sense of things going irretrievably wrong.

"It can't hurt to be optimistic, can it?", somebody will ask. Actually, it can. Some of the content misplaced on Tabulas is still recoverable from Google caches of the pages that were hosted there, but this is over a month, now, and caches are refreshed, eventually. If you or one of your friends had content over there, there is no time to waste. If you see this post, drop everything and start recovering content now, or you might miss an opportunity that won't come back. If, for once, the optimists are right - and I hope they are - you or your friend will have a backup (or additional backup) of the content that was at risk, and that's a good thing, so either way, it's time well spent.

As for myself - I was in relatively good shape. This sort of thing is why I mirror my blogs, whenever I can, and this one was mirrored at the apparently far more stable Tumblr. This is a good practice in general, I think, and I did sort of have the feeling that Tabulas was the one man operation it is currently being claimed to be, from the very beginning. I didn't picture somebody just suddenly deciding to kill an entire host because he no longer felt personally fulfilled by running the company, but I didn't have any trouble picturing a one man company going away. There are so many ways that can happen, most of them fairly depressing to think about, but life, as we all know all too well, is uncertain. One should try to be prepared.

I'll think about where the new copy of the main blog will be some time over the next month or two, if I decide to create a new copy, at all. Maybe Tabulas will come back, in which case, there I am, so why move? Maybe it won't, but to be honest, if not blunt, I'm starting to run out of patience with the high level of flakery to be found in this industry. I get the serious impression that as a group, people working in IT don't feel that writing is real work, and don't respect their users or their efforts. Listen to the tone of the response heard from Support at so many companies, when a complaint is made about terrible service. "What are you complaining about? The service is free!" Really? The point being that we aren't paying for these services? But we are. We're paying for it with the loan of our content, on which the provider posts advertising, and without which the provider would have no business. In order to maintain that a free blogging host is a charity, one has to maintain that barter, which is what these working relationships are based on, isn't a real economic exchange, and that's nonsense.

No matter - that seems to be the standard IT attitude. What bloggers and other writers do isn't real work, and it doesn't deserve respect. It's just so much goofing around, as far as most of these companies seem to be concerned. Look at how lightly so many of them will delete years of work, in many cases, in order to recover a few pennies worth of diskspace. Does that show respect? Then there is the whole process of wading through user agreements that run for dozens of pages, in which unconscionable clauses are usually to be found, stretching out the process of finding a suitable replacement host into one that can take days or weeks. Going through that, each time, is work, work that eats into my day, gets in the way of other, more interesting efforts, or even just in the way of getting out and enjoying some nice weather, the whole process waiting to be repeated all over again, the next time somebody, in one way or another, flakes out.

I'm not sure I want to bother, any more. I've literally spent more time dealing with one absurdity or another, than I've been able to spend writing and doing that which I came online to do, and I resent that, as I should. At the moment, I've giving seriously thought to the possibility of just letting the process of attrition whittle down my presence online - saving what I write, of course, but either posting it to some of my other sites instead of going to the trouble of finding new homes for the sites of mine that vanish, or just taking the content offline altogether, and maybe permanently. Maybe the Internet, as unstable a working environment as it is, just isn't a good place to publish?

Or is it? I'll let events answer that question, but as for the days of my jumping through hoops just to keep everything going, those are pretty much over. There's something fundamentally crazy about a situation in which I find myself the only one taking on any of the responsibility for making a business relationship of sorts work, and I'm the only one who isn't being paid for his time, in any way. This doesn't make sense, and something has to change.

  • Current Mood
    annoyed annoyed

Why this blog exists

I am starting a book centered blog at a small site called Tabulas, one which I will be posting a free form discussion of some of the books I've been reading. As I write that, I will sometimes wander onto other blogs, of similar or related subject matter, where I will post comments or finding something more to write about. On this side blog, I will discuss what I've found on those blogs, and maybe a few of the discussions that followed.