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Friday, 29 December 2006

A Little Bit of Venom

There is nothing cute, hip, or compelling about the reflexive or even considered use of the word “automagic1 (and its more common derivative, “automagically”). The use of that term is always at least partially based on a speaker’s narcissistic fascination with his or her own cluelessness, an ignorance so profound the speaker is moved to label a technology automagic!

Dolts. end of article

1 “Automatic” and “automagic” differ only in the residue of “magic” present in the second which is produced by the speaker’s/user’s awe at some pedestrian (or even extraordinary) implementation of automation.

Monday, 25 December 2006

Firefox 2.0 and SSL 2: A non-Christmas Carol

As suggested by the subtitle, this is as non-Christmasy a blog post you will find on the Internet today. The bleeding-edge developers of Firefox have made our world a safer place with Firefox 2.0 by not enabling by default people to access web pages which rely on SSL 2. The rest of us carry on with life as usual.

If you use Firefox 2.0 (a good choice in most cases) and you have need to access encrypted sites which rely on SSL 2 (mainly web sites that use encryption using self-signed/unverified certificates), follow these instructions.1

1. In a new tab type “about:config” (w/o quotations) in the address

bar and press RETURN

2. In the filter field enter "security.enable_ssl2" (w/o quotations)

3. Double click the entry so the value is true

4. Close the tab or the about:config editor

5. Quit Firefox

6. Restart Firefox

Avoid grinches while the surf's up. end of article

1 Any site that transmits truly sensitive information including Social Security numbers, bank account numbers, and pictures of naked jellyfish should use authenticated certificates and more robust forms of encryption. These instructions are meant to be used only to enable access to encrypted sites that transmit non-critical data.

Sunday, 17 December 2006

Pacific Coast Driver

I missed my 7:50 am flight Thursday despite waking at 4:30 that morning. I thought of Miss Weber, my Jr. high school English teacher, who admonished me any time I was tardy by telling me, “If you you’re late for the plane, John, that’s it. The plane will leave without you.” Of course, she’s right and it violates the spirit of her sage words to say that for US $25.00 you can take a later flight, but it’s true. The catch was three delirious hours spent in an iPod-assisted trance watching airport workers shuttle luggage and refuel planes on the tarmac. With my sunglasses on, I could have been watching a long-running video, I was that unmolested.

One of the things about California (north of Pismo Beach and south of Petaluma) is that everyone deals with people who do not look like themselves on a daily basis. I told my uncle (and Catherine and my mom) that this affects one’s understanding of self, of social embeddedness, of human value. I’m not saying California is a racial utopia. I am saying I like seeing lots of different people in lots of different contexts. I like not being the only person of mixed-race. I love that mixed-race doesn’t just mean African-American and Euro-American. Nothing personal against my white friends, but sometimes it’s disheartening to be amongst whites who seem to know nothing better than how to be white. I tire of being black instead of black and Korean.

On Friday morning while driving down Hwy 1 to Monterey, I nearly lost my mind because I drive, now, like an Ohioan. Californians seem all to have an genetic sense of the boundaries of their cars. One car will cross three lanes of traffic to pass a slower-moving car in one lane and wedge in front of a much faster-moving tightly-packed line of cars, on a curve, at speeds near 80 mph, and no one will so much as honk or tap brakes. The driver doing the passing will have silver hair, and she will be on a cell phone. Safe driving aside, I am a serious non in the Golden State.

Resolving to keep my birds perched upon the wheel, I cognized the facts of my low blood sugar and continued lack of sleep, slowly and with great concentration. When I walked into the Bagel Bakery on Alvarado, I saw on the overhead television a chop-socky video in Cantonese with subtitles in perfect American English idiom. The video transfer also seemed superb, with deep blacks, rich midtones, and few artifacts. The young Chinese Cambodian who helped me spoke barely a word of English, but he knew what “New Yorker on garlic” meant.

Once I saw the folds of smoked salmon, the tomato slices, and the slivers of red onion bordered by fluffy cream cheese clouds, when I started to make this Pacific translation of New York Jewishness a part of me, chop-socky Kung fu flick overhead beaming its perfect masculine ballet, I knew things were headed straight for all right. end of article

Tuesday, 12 December 2006


One path seems very familiar, an extension of emotional states familiar as breathing. There, desire is ever only idealized, enervated by the luxury of never having to become. This path leads to radical discontinuity, to existential fracture. Disruption and unpredictability guide this path.

The other path is less familiar except in the place where desire finds itself depleted, immaterial. Here, uncertainty manifests within structure rather than rending what structure exists. This path, less familiar, is continuous and integrated and, comparatively, predictable.

Late last evening, the fact of the day opened in front of me. The path was familiar. Trying to comprehend the source of its recognizability, I found fear hiding in the eaves, sulking in a corner. This fear has no discoverable cause, yet it captures absolutely.

What makes me so afraid? end of article

Monday, 11 December 2006

Embodied Threat

Analyzing Billy Idol’s “Cyberpunk” video, Thomas Foster notes

After Idol’s character stands and begins to move, following [his] transformation [into a cyborg], the police open fire on him, apparently interpreting his merely standing in front of them in this newly embodied form as a threat, in the same way that the police and their lawyers justified the beating of Rodney King by attributing a threatening intentionality to his mere visible presence before them as a black man[. . . .] (180)

The circumstances which led to the murder of 23 year-old Sean Bell on Saturday, 25 November, just outside Club Kalua in Jamaica Queens, New York, are superficially different than the Rodney King beating (3 March 1991) and the murder of Amadou Diallo (4 February 1999). For one, the latter instances of police brutality against lone, unarmed black men involved face-to-face confrontations, though Diallo was murdered with range weapons (guns) just as Bell. 1

What intrigues and terrifies me about these cases (Bell’s and King’s especially) is the idea that vulnerable (black) men can be (and have been) perceived by experienced law enforcement officers as threatening. In “50 Bullets, One Dead, and Many Questions,” William K. Rashbaum and Al Baker note

Mr. Bell, mortally wounded and not speaking, and Joseph Guzman, despite wounds from his head to his feet, were put in handcuffs after the gunfire ceased.

Police officers handcuffing a mortally wounded human being is a scene from the realm of psychoanalytic gothic. I’m thinking in particular of Freud’s “‘A Child is Being Beaten’,” wherein the observer of an act of violence becomes, first, the object of that violence and, subsequently, perpetrator of that violence.

The moment before Bell is handcuffed, his wounded body presents to his murderers a mirror of the violence it has received, capable of anything except continuing on. end of article

1 Another important difference is that some of the officers present at the scene of Bell’s murder were not white.
Works Cited
Foster, Thomas. The Souls of Cyberfolk: Posthumanism as Vernacular Theory. Minneapolis, MN: U of Minnesota P, 2005.
Freud, Sigmund. “‘A child is being beaten’: A Contribution to the Study of the Origin of Sexual Perversions.” (1919) London: Hogarth Press 1975; SE 17:179-204.
Rashbaum, William K., and Al Baker. “50 Bullets, One Dead, and Many Questions." New York Times. 11 December 2006.

Sunday, 10 December 2006

Bottoms Up

Recent evidence of convergent evolution in humans1 in the form of a gene which enables adult humans to digest lactose

shows that the mutations conferred an enormous selective advantage on their owners, enabling them to leave almost 10 times as many descendants as people without them. The mutations have created “one of the strongest genetic signatures of natural selection yet reported in humans,” the researchers write.

It’s stunning to think of how technē, biology, and environment come together to manifest “selective pressure” on living organisms and their descendants. Pastoralism among African populations provides an evolutionary incentive for genes which preserve lactose digestion into adulthood and confers reproductive advantage to people who inherit those genes.

However, when it comes to humans, the force of “natural” selection is subject to deformation by human agency. In this case, “natural” selection of lactose-tolerant humans who live in pastoral cultures presumes (for example) that the historical abundance of lactose-rich foods did not come at the expense of grain (to feed milk-producing cattle). It is entirely possible (nearly to the point of certainty) that those in a position to trade for lactose-rich foods and those who bred dairy cattle (read wealthy people in pastoral cultures) not only possessed the mutation which enabled them to digest milk into adulthood, but these people also may have had a deciding influence on the economies of their regions.

Excuse me while I finish my latté. end of article

1 Should the link to the New York Times article expire, an archived copy may be consulted.

Friday, 08 December 2006


Writing in my blog does not count.

Wednesday, 06 December 2006

A Game of Love

I was reminded of Freud’s observations of a well-behaved eighteen-month-old child 1 who

had an occasional disturbing habit of taking any small objects he could get hold of and throwing them away from him into a corner, under the bed, and so on, so that hunting for his toys and picking them up was often quite a business. As he did this he gave vent to a loud, long-drawn-out “o-o-o-o,” accompanied by an expression of interest and satisfaction. (8)

Freud and the child's mother (Freud's sister) both agree that the “long-drawn-out ‘o-o-o-o’” is the child’s verbalization of the German word fort which means “gone” in English.

On one occasion, Freud observes a variation of the game in which the child uses “a wooden reel with a piece of string tied round it” (9). In this variation the child holds

the reel by the string and very skillfully throw[s] it over the edge of his curtained cot, so that it disappear[s] into it, at the same time uttering his expressive “o-o-o-o.” He then pull[s] the reel out of the cot again by the string and hail[s] its reappearance with a joyful “da”. (9)

Da is German for “here.”

Freud reads the child’s game as an act of compensation for “allowing his mother to go away without protesting” (9). In response to the pain and discomfort the child experiences upon his mother’s departures (and when Freud observes the child playing this game), the child attempts to gain control of the situation by symbolizing his experience in enactments of the Fort/Da game in which he controls (rather than passively endures) the "departure" and "return" of the objects he plaintively sends away (fort, "o-o-o-o") and joyfully reels back (da).2

The game structurally resembles the child's mother's departure and her joyful return. One of the paradoxes is that the joyful return cannot be had without the painful departure.

The “sending away” and “reeling back” of the Fort/Da game many of us experience in relationships (of all sorts and from/on either end) are often attempts at coping with feelings of helplessness brought on by the departure of those we love, even as we wish we could joyously call those loved ones back. While playing such a “game” in a relationship may signal an attempt to deal with feelings of helplessness and love, as part of a larger strategy of establishing emotional satisfaction the Fort/Da game is often an ineffective mechanism that in fact undermines the possibility for future harmony. Still, the power of the “joyful ‘da” should never be underestimated.3

By the time Saturn returned for me, I stopped being so interested in Fort/Da, though I recognize some people never tire of this game (despite predictable and spectacularly bad results).4

I love you, Sarah O-O-O-O. Da. end of article

1 My memory says it was Freud's nephew though at least one web site identifies it as Freud's "grandson" which, well, is just wrong. (I think.)
2 Freud’s description indicates that the child would initiate an object’s term of exile with “an expression of interest and satisfaction,” so a more proper term (if I were respecting origins) than “plaintively” would be “sadistically” or “assertively.” Clearly, I am thinking of a different emotional motive for exiling an object of love.
3 Especially if it involves strobe lights.
4 The term “repetition-compulsion” comes to mind.
Work Cited
Freud, Sigmund. Beyond the Pleasure Principle. Ed. James Strachey. New York: Norton, 1961.

Friday, 01 December 2006

Symbolic Links in the GUI via AppleScript, PLUS

Members of the MacOSXHints community have commented and provided some improvements to my original code and the editor of MacOSXHints.com, Rob Griffiths, has posted a brief webography of related scripts and utilities in the editor’s comments of my hint submission.

First, a much improved version written by jonn8n which has (drag and drop) batch functionality. As before, paste into a new AppleScript Editor window and save it as an application, with or without startup screen.

on run

 open {choose file with prompt "Choose a file to create a symbolic link:" without invisibles}

end run

on open the_files

 repeat with i from 1 to (count the_files)


   set posixpath to POSIX path of (item i of the_files)

   if posixpath ends with "/" then set posixpath to text 1 thru -2 of posixpath

   do shell script "ln -s " & quoted form of posixpath & " " & quoted form of (posixpath & ".sym")

  end try

 end repeat

end open

I think jonn8n’s version is different enough to warrant a new name. That is, I don’t consider it to be my program, and I decided to name my local copy “symbolic.app”.

Second, apparently an oldie-but-not-quite-forgotten (2002!) shell script to convert aliases to symlinks replaces command line-troublesome aliases with symbolic links.1


if [ $# -eq 0 ]; then

 echo "Usage: alias2ln alias1 alias2 alias3..."

 echo " where alias1, alias2, etc are alias files."

 echo " Each alias file will be converted into a symlink."


while [ $# -gt 0 ]; do

 if [ -f "$1" -a ! -L "$1" ]; then

  item_name=`basename "$1"`

  item_parent=`dirname "$1"`

  item_parent="`cd \"${item_parent}\" 2>/dev/null && pwd || echo \"${item_parent}\"`"



tell app "Finder"

 set theItem to (POSIX file "${item_path}") as alias

 if the kind of theItem is "alias" then

  get the posix path of (original item of theItem as text)

 end if

end tell


  if [ $? -eq 0 ]; then

   if [ ! -z "$linksource" ]; then

   ln -fs "${linksource}" "${item_path}"

   echo "\"${1}\" -> \"${linksource}\""






Paste that code 2 into a text editor and save it as (I did) “alias2sym”. Make the script executable using, for example, “chmod 755 alias2sym”. Put the code somewhere in your $PATH, perhaps (as I did, and if you have administrator privileges) /usr/local/bin/.3

Finally, In an update to my last post regarding this topic, I provided a link to a hint which explains how to add system alias navigability to the command line. That hint requires the presence of Apple’s Developer Tools. Before embarking on adding such functionality, n00bs should be aware that in Mac OS 10.4.8 the bash function “cd” should be articulated in “.bash_profile” as its presence in “.bashrc” does nothing.

That is all. end of article

1 As tbdavis, the author of “Enable 'cd' into directory aliases from the Terminal,” notes, system aliases have features (such as labels) which symbolic links do not. So instead of replacing system aliases with symbolic links, you may want to give yourself the ability to follow aliases from the command line, which the next part of this PLUS entry (after this note) explains how to do.
2 This code is a modification of tbdavis’s original according to suggestions made by ClarkGoble.
3 Yes, it is not, technically, a binary.

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