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axiomatically 2005.04.28 
12 comments 
So lately I've been thinking about how everyone has to select (or they find have selected for them) the values that are "axiomatically good", things that are just spending our finite lifespans pursuing, and resist further justification, or make it irrelevant. I don't think most people will have just one.

For a lot of people, that's "kindness"--you can only push the "golden rule" so far, at some point you think you should do nice things even when you're not expecting to get similar treatment back. For other people it's "beauty", or "sports", or "God"--following religion even beyond the threat of hell or the hope of Paradise.

As I've mentioned before, one of my personal axiomatic goods is "interesting". It's more nebulous than some of these concepts, but its pretty definite for me, and a driving force. When I see art, it doesn't matter if it's beautiful and inspiring, more if it's clever or thought-provoking.

That's why I love the web so much, it's a great big cornucopia of stuff that meets my criteria of interesting. And this site is an attempt to capture that, and to post the stuff I find interesting, and sometimes make some of my own.

And things that I don't find interesting...sometimes I have trouble getting behind it. For instance, home ownership wasn't "interesting" to me, and so while I tried to live up to my responsibilities to Mo, and also show appreciation for the things I liked about having a nice comfortable house, some of my efforts were half-hearted, because the whole affair wasn't that "interesting". (And nowadays, I'm realizing that sometimes I resent things that siphon time during the week away from my pursuit of the "interesting".

So I've been mulling this idea for a while, and last night I had an epiphany of sorts...I think this concept of "interesting" is so ingrained in me, it might just explain why I'm so bad at remembering names but so good at remembering aspects of people's lives that they share with me, like jobs or anecdotes. Names usually aren't that "interesting", unless they're distinctive or have a cool backstory they're just tags applied to people, but a career or anecdote usually has details my brain will latch onto. So this whole "interesting" thing seems to be deeply mapped into the day to day functioning of my brain.

Anyway, that was the new thought. I don't think I've rambled about this before, but I'm not sure, it sounds familiar...anyway, what do you readers find to be the "axiomatically goods" of your life?

UKism of the Moment
Iraq War Legality Row 'A Damp Squib', Says Blair. Never heard the phrase "damp squib" before...turns out a squib is firecracker, and/or "A broken firecracker that burns but does not explode". So I guess it's something that seemed to have potential to be metaphorically explosive but will fizzle out instead. Now you know.

ordinary world 2005.02.23 
13 comments 
Lyrics and Ramble of the Moment
But I won't cry for yesterday
There's an ordinary world
Somehow I have to find
And as I try to make my way
To the ordinary world
I will learn to survive
--"Ordinary World", Duran Duran.

I got into this song lately because there's a decent "house" cover of it in a "Dance Dance Revolution" game I picked up recently. The lyrics have that nice melancholy vibe I'm so fond of. But when I finally thought about it... I dunno, somehow marriage seemed more like the "ordinary world", and now I'm in this kind of uncertain territory, with fewer constants to rely on.

It hit me yesterday when I was having tea out of one of these blue oversized mugs I have. (After a divorce, that whole "I don't remember how this item entered my life" mystery thing becomes a little more poignant.) They're really good to eat cereal out of, and I used to like doing that, and even drinking tea kind of reminded me of the sense-feel of it. I don't have cereal now though, I purposefully try not to keep a lot of food in the house, because either I like it and will eat a lot of it, or I dislike it and it'll spoil. But with married life, there was cereal and milk around, and it was ok.

Which brings me back to the whole time management thing...like I've already griped about here, it feels like I don't have any free time...specifically, it starts with not having much time to spend unwinding via random websurfing. That then generally leads to not having time to work on one of my backlog of "projects I want to get around to doing real soon now." Sure, I do have some time, but currently I have the theory that I'm not just lazy in these cases, that I do actually need some recharging time letting my brain play over the web or a decent book or a videogame, and only when that's done will I be able to get onto the "projects" horse.

A social/romantic life cuts into that time pretty badly (and I think my yoga class moving to midweek and about half my Tuesday nights having UU activities doesn't help either.) I guess my daily routine involved mostly hanging around my PC in the evenings. But with that out of the way, it was easier to go out or have a video game night in with friends or to do stuff with Mo or to work on my own projects and not feel pressured for time.

And I say "do stuff with Mo" but I'm not sure if there was enough of that. She certainly ended up thinking that there wasn't, though she did a really poor job of explaining that to me at the time. One of the saddest things I remember her saying post facto was that sometimes she had had a weird dream of having a daughter so that she'd have someone to do stuff with. She mentioned that in context of the gardening she had been doing in the little plot at the side of the house, an idyllic mother-daughter scene/fantasia ...I had helped her a little, but I wasn't enthusiastic about it, and I might've griped a little. Not much, I did try to get into it, but it really wasn't my thing, and I didn't pretend that it was.

So....does that mean I was a lousy husband? Mo felt profoundly lonely. I didn't. I didn't really get that she did. And for those reasons, maybe she was right to split. I didn't even think about it at the time, but the relationship was molded to what I still think might be my "ideal", this idea of being a rewarding and valuable and giving foundation for all the other interesting stuff in life. A means as much as an end.

Heh. You know, Mo suggested (getting the idea from her mom, I think) this Khalil Gibran reading for our wedding:

But let there be spaces in your togetherness,
And let the winds of the heavens dance between you.
Love one another but make not a bond of love:
Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls.
Fill each other's cup but drink not from one cup.
Give one another of your bread but eat not from the same loaf.
Sing and dance together and be joyous, but let each one of you be alone.
Even as the strings of a lute are alone though they quiver with the same music.
Give your hearts, but not into each other's keeping
For only the hand of Life can contain your hearts.
And stand together, yet not too near together:
For the pillars of the temple stand apart,
And the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other's shadow

I voted against it at the time, it seemed a little too negative or nuanced for a wedding, but in retrospect, it really speaks to what I think marriage should be, and I guess I assumed Mo felt the same way.

Ah well. Live and learn. It's like what Richard Feynman wrote:
"I'll never make that mistake again, reading the experts' opinions. Of course, you only live one life, and you make all your mistakes, and learn what not to do, and that's the end of you."

ouch 2004.03.02 
14 comments 
Mo moves out today. The house is mine mine mine all mine!

Unfortuntely all the decorative tchotchkes were hers hers hers all hers. I need to do some decorating or something.

UPDATE: I actually wrote that last night. Doing so-so today; maybe it's a bit tougher than I expected.

Film Review of the Moment
"The Passion" strips Jesus of his message, ignores (for the most part) both his humanity and his spirituality, and reduces him to a suffering cipher. In Gibson's hands, Jesus becomes the central figure in a work of blood-soaked homosexual pornography. This film is a two-hour-long BDSM session, with Jesus playing "bottom" for a Jerusalem teeming with ruthless gay Doms. [...] Gibson has bragged about the fact that, on screen, his is the hand that drives the first nail. We are told that he made this gesture to emphasize his own sense of sin. Yes, Mel, we know. You've been a bad boy. You've been a VERY bad boy.
--Cruel Site of the Day linked to this insightful view of Gibson's "The Passion" from the newsgroup soc.subculture.bondage-bdsm.

Bemoaning of the Moment
So, like I said, Mo moved out today. She went out early to get some Dunkin' Donuts coffee and brought me back an iced coffee and one of those "Apple Pie" pastries they have which are really pretty good. You know, I was fine in an oblivious kind of way 'til she wanted to hug; then I dunno, maybe things started to hit me more.

Right before I was ready to head to work I asked for a goodbye kiss; she acquiesced and we kissed and then hugged again. She said I was going to be ok. I told her thanks for everything, and also "better luck next time". She gave me a kind of a funny look; yeah, the line had kind of occurred to me before the embrace, but it wasn't meant as just a stinger. There is a legitimate hope that she finds what she's looking for, and that maybe she can get to it without having to go through something like this again. But "next time", of course, is the troublesome bit; half a year ago I didn't think there was going to have to be a "next time" and right now I really don't think Mo put nearly enough effort into trying to make our relationship work, just emotionally cut bait when she figured it wasn't meeting her needs.

I feel a bit like a loser and also like so much in our wedding has been made into a lie.

Last week Dylan sidebar'd about how some of the problems of our wedding and how maybe in retrospect they seem like omens. Here's what I wrote about the near-wedding disasters on loveblender a year and a half ago on our first anniversary. Back then I ended it "And at the end of it all I have Mo, so how can I be anything but happy?" and that's no longer true.

Game of the Moment
LAN3 pointed out that to promote the new (and highly regarded) Prince of Persia game, they've released a Flash version of the original. (Though with the SNES graphics, not the original PC's, which had the main character dressed up in a white tunic ala Luke Skywalker in a New Hope...I remember playing that game along with an excellent port of Ironman Ivan Stewart's Super Off Road on a PC during my trip to Portugal.)
a musing: my self 2005.03.21 
5 comments 
Musing of the Moment
My current favorite self-hypothesis is that I'm a kind of weird hybrid, an attention-seeking introvert. After bouncing around some ideas with my mom I see that it runs in the family a bit although maybe it's rude to use such stark terms for other people. But among my Aunt, my Mom, and myself I think there are some similarities: we definitely like having our own times and our own spaces, but we also enjoy socializing, and we also like performing, from my mom's theater work to my own tendency to make with the funny at the dev group's daily lunch.

So, assuming people agree that "introversion" is a reasonable simplification/diagnosis to make...one part of it that I've already mentioned is my need to recharge on my own, just a little zoning out with a book, or tv, or most often these days the web. Sometimes, after a full day, immersing myself in the websites I frequent, catching up with email and the message boards I participate in, is the mental equivalent of sinking into a nice warm bath. Heh...and like a bath, it's possible to overdo it...the web equivalent of letting my fingers get all pruney is when I'm actively procrastinating using the web, and Pavlov-ishly keep returning to the same sites that I know haven't had a chance to "refresh" yet.

One little bit of "bubble bath" in this increasingly pressed metaphor is IMDB; I love going out with people, seeing an older video, and the pleasure of returning home, unwinding a bit, and looking up the quotes and trivia for the title.

"mass exodus" 2005.04.17 
20 comments 
It feels like nearly all my close friends are thinking about leaving this 'burg, and it's bothering me a lot.

Dylan went to San Diego years ago.

Sarah went back to California, wound up in Florida.

My freshman roommate Rob, I was in touch with him for a while, forget where he headed off to.

ErinMaru is in filmschool in one of them Carolina states.

Lupschada went home to Baltimore, though that friendship is a casualty of the divorce.

And now...Sawers is heading to Florida in a few months, my umm-cousin Llara just got a job in DC, Evil B and wife are thinking Seattle might be a more reasonable place to settle down and setup home base, and Andy has even more immediate plans to go back to his college gang who have hung around Atlanta.

There's all kind of reasons. Moving for a romance, heading home to refortify during a terrible job market, heading away to a new job opportunity, getting out of the rent and career pressure cooker of Boston...Andy thinks that people from here who go down south and say "I can't believe how friendly people are!" have it backwards; the disbelief should be for what self-centered jerks people are around here.

And there is that weather...perhaps Andy's observation is explained by self-described "Swamp Yankee" buddy Gowen's thought that "People in New England will generally scowl when you walk through the door because you probably also let in a gush of freezing air."

But today is absolutely insanely gorgeous. But maybe Boston is like a redneck wifebeater, all gentleness and warmth after such a beating of a winter.

Still, after a decent decade run, maybe people are finally escaping the post-college Boston gravity well.

And Andy...heh, he was supposed to be one of the...well, not the replacements, but at least a refutation of the idea that you it's so difficult to make good friends after college.

But he says when he visits Georgia he feels like it's going home. Me, for the longest time I felt pretty hometownless. I do feel ties to Cleveland still, but 6 years of adolescence there isn't the same as really coming from someplace. And now I'm worried that someday I'll move somewhere only to find Boston has managed to take that role. But I dunno. Just like I see a home as a place to keep your stuff, maybe a hometown is just a place to keep your home.

Maybe making new friends isn't that hard. Maybe it's just getting out there, doing stuff, joining interest groups like darts teams or looking for gaming buddies on Craig's List, then really making the effort, asking someone to dinner or to hang out even when it feels a little awkward. A friend of mine, then officemate Habib did that, and in retrospect I really appreciate it, though of course now he's back in Morocco.

And just like I've been questioning "what do I want out of romance?" after the divorce, this wave of friends heading off makes me ask the same thing for friendship. I think there are two sides of that: you want friends who will take your side, will watch out for you, generally offer support and companionship and concern. That's probably harder to generate than the other side, which is shared activities. My friendship with Andy had its roots in bad movies (we were introduced at our mutual friend Jim's "bad movie nights") and video games. And you know, it's not the bad movies and the video games that matter; it's the snarky comments and the trash talking.

Thought it would be unfair to think of it as only an activity-based kind of friendship; I really appreciate how when I need to recruit some volunteers to help with the Salvation Army coat drive, Andy, Jim, and his wife Sam answered the call, and together we joined with a force to move and sort 20,000 coats for the needy.

Ah well. I don't know. I think about moving someplace warm. And I need someplace with a good tech industry. Andy thinks I should give Atlanta a try. Heh, and I could get an insta-social-group made of his buddies...and San Diego is tempting. But it's impossible for me to grok how many people I do know in this damn neck of the woods, how alone I might be even with a small group of people I know, how far away I'd be from my family. You know, that's one plus marriage has: you can bring the person you most care about with you. (On the other hand, a marriage might also make you more stuck to your hometown with two sets of extend families and friendgroups to consider, or maybe even drawn to someplace that's their hometown, not yours.)

Sigh. I dunno, but the prospect of all these people moving is really painful. Not sharp and cutting like a divorce, but a great big dull ache.

whispercream 2005.05.20 
13 comments 
So Ksenia's English still has rough patches, but sometimes it's cute...last Monday she asked me to pick up some whipped cream in a can for her grandmother's birthday dinner, except she called it "whisper cream". Which given the Shhhhhhh sound it makes when you spray it, and the general light texture it's supposed to have, is actually a much better expression than "whipped cream". Less violent at any rate.

Anyway, I don't know when was the last time I bought whipped cream, but when I jostled one of the cans they had available at the supermarket, the contents seemed (to me) to be suspiciously "liquidy". Then I tried a few more cans, and realized they all made a similar sound, and so that it was probably just what they were supposed to do untill well-shaken, and that no one would be mad at me for not getting the right stuff. And then it hit me--is it normal to be less concerned about, say, how well the party gets on with the whipped cream I bring then to not have people think I'm a bozo who doesn't know how to buy whipped cream properly? Such a strange thing to be insecure about! But I think too much of my life is like that...I'm more concerned about it being my fault and respnsibility if something goes wrong than I am about the thing going wrong itself.

Issues, issues.

In other news, I did see "Revenge of the Sith" with Ksenia, Evil B., and his wife after a Sushi dinner. It was good, but dragged in the early middle a bit. If I see it again I want to get a score card for how many light-saber-welding limbs get chopped...good thing those laser swords cauterize the wounds instantly! Our seats were pretty high up...I almost would have rather gone for the back of the front section (one of those stadium seating setups at Fenway) but that got nixed by the women in the group...they just don't understand that to really feel a spaceship battle the spaceships need to be REALLY big relative to your field of vision. I think I would like to get the trilogy on DVD when it comes out, this film has retroactively made the other prequels better.

In other other news, when did Google stop directly linking to sites and send you through a redirect? Seems kind of sketchy to me. I mean, I've been tempted to setup something similar on this site, but then I don't have a "Don't Be Evil" policy to adhere to. And it's definately a negative in the sense that a link to a site that you've been to through (found via other means) won't show up as clicked in the Google search results.

noodle noodle noodle 2005.09.30 
14 comments 
I found out that my company's parent company offers some free mental health counseling sessions. You call an 800 number for an assessment and then you have the option of setting up sessions with a local counselor or even scheduling further phone appointments. Since by the end of the assessment I had already rambled at the guy and it seemed easier to not have to travel to some office and back, I went with the phone option.

It's been interesting. Something Kevin (the counselor guy) has picked up on is how I subject almost everything I feel to an intense bit of rational inspection. He put it in terms of "shaping and hammering at an emotion until it becomes a thought"...an oddly poetic idea, the possibility of one being transmorgified into the other.

To be fair, I've been able to wield logic like a weapon since I was 9 or so, I have memories of mounting an argument about the immaculate conception vs Mary and Joseph just fooling around, deliberatly forcing the woman into a high stakes all-or-nothing position when it comes to traditional Christian faith. I remember her saying I had won her over by the end of it.

Kevin had another neat insight...I was talking about one not-useful behavior I'd been getting a handle on lately: endlessly returning to the same 2 or 3 websites--frequently-updated websites, but not as frequently as I'd been bouncing back to them--as a way of avoiding tasks that I didn't have confidence in solving. I had been labeling this behavior "noodling" after the musical "noodling" I've heard at Johnny D's jazz brunch, where some guy on xylophone and another on guitar just kind of sloppily and casually jazz around, noodle noodle noodle, no hooks, barely a rhythm.

Drawing the parallel between my negative behavior and that jazz stuff had been helping me to mend my ways, but Kevin was more interested in my disdain for free, light jazz improvisation. Based on other things I've discussed with him, he sees insisting on structure and order in many aspects of life. (Now, this might amuse some people who know me, because the first thing that comes to mind when seeing my desk at work, or (often) my living room is NOT "structure and order", but still...I think that might be an issue of "things whose structures matter, really matter, and things whose don't, really don't"--and that time and energy can "better" be devoted to other pursuits.)

This could also tie into the way I get really angry at some things that aren't the way they "should be"...traffic jams, computer hardware or complex system failures, or even some broken computer code that is resistant to analysis and repair. I've learned how to real this rage in, sometimes even surfing it and laughing at myself, like when I work to channel my aggression into a big continuous stream of non-repeating swear words. Overall, though, it's not one of my favorite things about myself.

Going further out on a limb, I wonder if the desire for logical order is tied into my intermitent problems with pointlessly exaggerated anxiety. My thinking might be that if this contains some new unexpected problems, who knows what kind of further unexpected problems might be waiting in the wings to blindside us? And who knows if we'll be able to cope. Could this have its roots in a childhood full of moving around every year or two, a certain instability? Or the death of my dad when I was 14? I don't know...though like I said, there's evidence that the "rationality" predates the loss of my father.

Of course the ability to analyze and think about emotions isn't all negative...it lets one isolate causes and effect and make specific positive changes. The question is figuring out when it becomes negative, creating a feedback loop where emotion becomes thought which then bends back and squelches or warps the emotion. Actually, there's even the question if a deliberate (and rational) effort can do much to change that loop, or if it's too ingrained than that.

Hmmm! Sorry this got so long! I'll try to get back to your regular scheduled kisraeling tomorrow.

Quote and Article of the Moment
But the critics are missing the beauty of this new theory. Because the really great thing about intelligent design is that it takes all the awkward uncertainty out of science. It says, "You know those damn theoretical gaps and conundrums that send microbiology graduate students into dank basement laboratories at 3 a.m.? They don't need to be resolved at all. Go back to bed, sleepy little grad students. God fills those gaps."
--Dahlia Lithwick, Mind the Gap, a pretty scathing attack on ID, Intelligent Design. Also in Slate, William Saletan wrote a more relaxed piece on how "there's no there"...ID is just a negative response to Darwnism, it only pretends to explain anything.

more longwinded angst, delivered right to your door! 2006.12.05 
12 comments 
Last night I had another small introspective break through. Lately I've been thinking about two central and separate concerns:

One is that I employ several non-helpful, fretful and angsty avoidance strategies to put off work that I feel even remotely insecure about. For a while I've been working with the assumption that this springs from a need to protect a weirdly inflated subconscious image I have of myself of being the smartest guy in the room.... that it seems better to not try and have something fail than to give it my best, still fail, and then be "dangerously aware" of my personal limitations.

Two is an abject fear of being helpless, and also being unable to help someone else who is helpless. I've always though this might have sprung from seeing my dad get sick and die when I was a young teenager. It's almost a little trite to blame the death of a parent, but still that was a very harsh lesson that things don't always work out for the best.

But...what if the self-limiting behaviors of the first point spring less from this inflated ego thing -- because I know I'm at least consciously able to have a realistic idea of my place under the bell curve, despite being an only child -- and are actually just a response to the fears of the second? Could there be this element that I'm afraid a given tactical situation, like at work, might be "the one", the intractable problem that just can't be solved by me, or the group, within the parameters of time and resources of the assignment? That I'm not seeking to avoid knowledge of my own limitations, but of the fact that the universe has no obligation to seem "fair" to me?

I guess the negative behaviors probably spring from both concepts, protection of an inflated ego, and from knowledge of an callously indifferent world. But the thought of a "fear of helplessness" might have reverberations even in my day-to-day worklife was a wake-up.

I guess that's an advantage people with faith in an Activist kind of God have: a fallback position that no matter how craptacular any given situation seems, someones got their back, or failing that, it's a negative part of some positive master plan, or failing that, it doesn't have too much of an impact on the only thing that really matters, which is one's eternal fate.

Icons of the Moment
So I'm heading to Delaware tonight. I'll be staying again at the Brandywine Suites, near the trainstation there. I just have to say, I enjoyed this big mass of icons that shows up on their "Check Availability" page, even though there are some repeats. It's just such a nice study in minimalist iconography.... each icon is on a little 13x13 canvas, and I know from experience that that's not a lot to work with.

high hobby horse 2007.01.29 
8 comments 
Decluttering. It's kind of stalled and I no longer have the excuse of job interviews and stuff like that. It had been going so well though! Must willpower my way through this.

Next target: a milk crate full of neglected Atari 2600 games that I generally have emulated as well. The only thing I want to keep around are multiplayer games (admittedly a bit optimistic, but I hope that retro vibe can hit now and then among some of my gaming buddies) and the hardware itself.

On a video game message board, one that's prone to over-analyzing and sometimes pretentious pondering, "Nana Komatsu" wrote (in a thread on looking for "spiritual uplift" in games)
I've found that we sometimes outgrow our hobbies and yet because we feel attachment to them we try to find things that are not there.
Boy. Ain't that the truth. Like Arlo of "Arlo and Janis" said:
As I get older, I don't enjoy the same things I once enjoyed.
But I enjoy new and different things!

I just don't enjoy them as much as I used to
enjoy the things I no longer enjoy.
I think that can be part of a defensive mechanism as well. Hobbies help form our identity; unlike family and job and even friends, a hobby is a deliberate choice, a specific and focused decision to divert attention and resources into an idiosyncratic pursuit.

Sometimes I feel as if turning my back on old hobby is a rejection of the "old me".

Sometimes I feel like rejecting the "old me" is more difficult than it should be, that it forces me to admit I'm fallible in ways I'm not entirely comfortable dealing with. Which is a pathologically off-kilter way of being, but I don't know if a force of will could shake that, and I'm afraid of what kind of external event it would take to put me on sounder footing.

(Which is crazy, right? I mean I admit that I'm wrong all the time, but I think it's some kind of subconscious effort to lose the battles and win the war, of some sort of insane superlative pedestal my self-image tries to insist on.)

Any of you know what I'm talking about there? Is it that unusual? Some sort of horrific side-effect of being an only child growing up in neighborhoods without a lot of kids?


best of kisrael.com
creations digital art | comics | animations | projects | virtual toys
writing personal history | essays | technology | creative writing | introspection
other photography | snapshots | convos | videogames | misc