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Monday, 17 December 2007


I've decided to index, as much as I can, comments I make as mistersquid on the Internet. I will eventually add a subdomain that keeps track of such items, sort of like "'type = "Internet postings"' AND 'author = "mistersquid"' NOT 'domain = "mistersquid.com"'".

Here's the first (and only) one I'll post here.

to #8: In the days of yore, people communicated with business employees by phone and, if you really wanted to get things done b2b or intracorporate, you or your proxy composed a physical artifact known by various names including "letter," "missive," "memo," and "fax."

That physical artifact would then make its way through a loosely connected series of automated machines, bureaucratic channels, and filing systems into what was called an "In Box," which had little resemblance to present day digital incarnations of the "In box" in email software both client- and web-based.

It is now anthropological consensus that such "In Boxes" were, in fact, instruments of torture designed to punish employees who actually used their vacation days (another unfamiliar concept which even Wikipedia has no concept of). Such "In Boxes" invariably filled with urgent messages in an employees' extended absence. The era during which such instruments were widely used is today variously referred to as "The Reagan era", "High Postmodernism," and "The good ol' days."


Mark this post and/or keep an eye on the sidebar (or use RSS already) to check for the subdomain once it's available. end of article

Sunday, 16 December 2007

Pleasures and Joys

One of the pleasures of being an academic (as distinct from an intellectual or smart person, etc.) is occasionally gathering with colleagues for an evening of conviviality and camaraderie.

December is a season of stress for many US academics. The weather east of the Rockies and north of 34º is intermittently terrible. As I mentioned to K. and a few others, ten years ago it was meaningful to say "this time of year the weather would normally be." A decade later, what the weather would normally be seems a memory from a bygone era. Fast like the Internet but faded as in dream.

Other stresses: research deadlines, job security, professional prestige, curriculum creation, holiday traveling, financial pressure (fueled by unnecessary gift exchange in a culture where consumption is practically an inherent evil for many, including me), etc. Combine with variable amounts of winter-enforced sedentariness and altered consciousness (sundry substances) and you can be in for an evening of fun!

I love my homies because, after all is said and done, they're my kind of crazy and my kind of sane.

My fondest wishes and softest kisses to you all. end of article

Thursday, 13 December 2007


Network Theory

Leopard is Incomplete

I lived with Leopard as my only operating system during 28 October - 8 December 2007. Yesterday, I spent a few hours reverting the data on which Apple's Mail and iCal depend into formats suitable for Mac OS X v. 10.4, aka Tiger.

In terms of the national steroid pastime, Leopard is a triple. Spotlight is an amazing paradigm shift and has the potential to make even partially implemented archival systems useful. For most people, I imagine it could even replace any need to organize anything at all. However, for top-level browsing, one will still need to have some kind of filing system in place. Also, the Mac OS file system has not evolved into a database model so one has to think through and implement a meaningful hierarchical structure for one's files.1

Cover Flow in the Finder combined with Quick Look makes directories that contain large amounts of data browsable. For example, I use software that captures images of all my screens several times a minute. I frequently retrace my computing activities, reconstruct the occasional lost document, and reload poorly-remembered web-accessible resources using the images that software captures. Cover Flow and Quick Look make browsing those files much easier than under Tiger, even with Photoshop to help me browse those files.

However, Leopard has a few fundamental problems and the one that prevents me from using it is that it will not let go of network volumes which contain data that has been used by Mail and (I suspect) iCal and Address Book. The only workaround seems to be logging out. While such a workaround is not a problem for a client machine, my main machines are Internet-facing servers, and a server that cannot unmount network volumes is unusable. My guess is this problem would manifest for third-party programs, but I don't have time or need to test other conditions. As far as I'm concerned, Leopard was born broken.2

Finally, with my particular passel of software and settings, Mac OS X v. 10.5.1 seems to be made of memory leaks. Within ten hours, the swap space balloons to over 5 GB.

When I finished reverting my data yesterday at about 11 pm I had this profound feeling of safety. Tiger as of 10.4.10 (the reports on 10.4.11 are not good) is solid. Mac OS X v. 10.4.10 easily achieves weeks of uptime, no log outs required. Third-party developers had achieved a deep rapport with the quirks and features of Tiger's APIs, so much so that even big-time no-nos (Unsanity, I'm looking at you) did not destabilize a machine to the point it could not be used. As a case in point, I run Unsanity's WindowShade alongside Final Cut Pro, DVD Studio Pro, Mail.app, Apache, and a moderately customized PERL installation. No problems.

So, I'll wait for 10.5.2 to hit. I think Leopard is great if you're doing nothing but wordprocessing surfing the web. But if you rely on your machine as a server of any kind, wait until Apple fixes what's broken. end of article

1 Or you could live like a digital slob like most people do, still partly stuck in a world of paper documents that cannot be found and periodically reproducing data in fits of wasted (because redundant) effort.
2 And continues to be so under 10.5.1.

Wednesday, 12 December 2007

A Few Words Regarding Amazon's Kindle

Can you feel the fizzle?

Sunday, 02 December 2007

Name Goes Here

November, last month, is the month where I write the least. Nothing intentional. It's just that my brooding character lends itself to contemplation in my month of nativity. All the big questions: who am I? Why are we here? Where is here? How will this end? At the end of my fourth decade, another question joined the cast, one I don't have a whole lot of answers to at the moment. What have I done?

This whole self-publication on the blog is also, well, getting boring. Not that I don't think the same kinds of ideas (though some of the threads in my blog make me want to barf). I don't know. Part of it is that my self-editor is on way high overdrive. He silences me. Sometimes I want to post a little stupid thing about a cute YouTube video I saw, or I want to quote a single sentence or phrase from a book I'm reading, unadorned, or I just want to plop in a picture and write an ungrammatical caption. Because this blog has virtually become my online identity (another issue I'm going to blather about in a second or so), I don't want to write those things up. The HTML lies dormant. The doorman snoozes.

My fix for the problem was to find the right domain name, one that would allow me to express myself with greater liberty, less restriction. I wouldn't need to have a point or coherence or even words. I might even cuss. So, I amassed domain after unused domain: obviousdecoy.net, woov.net, metonym.net, deathanddesire.net, wilcoxnet.net, luuv.net. All hideous domains, I know. Then I'd think what a tangle of topics this site is, the cloud of topics intricated like the ganglion of an ancient seadwelling creature, and I'd despair of fixing the problem. The site I want and have wanted since 1998 is glyph.net. A dictionary word, enigmatic, sign-bearing, evocative. Something about dreaming cast in the imperative mood comes to mind.

Oh, and I don't exactly like mistersquid. Not really. He was fun for maybe fifteen minutes on a T-shirt. I always have to tell phone tech support ". . . 'Mister' all spelled out, squid dot com." LIke a hand drill to the head. Self-applied.

I don't know how I recognized he was my totem animal, but the clearest and earliest memory has to do with a bunch of kids on a cul-de-sac in Marina, CA. Dark-haired, dark-skinned Filipino American and leader of the group, Jeff, was poking small fun at Josh, Euro-Japanese buzz cut Osh-Kosh wearing wannabe whom we liked even if he had a clunker bike. Jeff mirrored his hands at the wrist, curling and extending his fingers in sharp bursts and propelling his hands in jerks through the air as if the thing were swimming.

"Squid pak! You're a squid pak."

The literally manually produced model affected me for life. Squid. I liked squid. Eating them, anyhow. And in 1978 or whenever I saw the flying squid pak, I had never seen a photorealistic image of a squid swimming. The next thing I remember about squid is the 1987 Monterey Squid Festival. At the time, my mind was reeling because I'm cursed with a terribly sensitive nervous system, reality revealed itself as the tissue it was, so I replaced it with the fantasy of my own choosing without realizing I had done.2

Later that summer, I went to the Monterey Squid Festival convinced the present was a past future, and the delusion that the woman I was with (and with whom I thought I had been in love since I'd first seen her in my 9th grade English class) was in love with me allowed her to become an accessory of my apotheosis. Ten years later, I discovered a fuller meaning of squid which, by the way, is mostly tasteless.

Squid takes on the flavors of whatever you use to cook it. In nature, the squid is a chameleon. Most importantly, the squid is not me, just someone I sometimes like. He doesn't even accede to trickster figure. He just sort of is, partially formed, potentiated.

So the problem of naming is one that sticks with me. Even my given name (as opposed to my paternal ancestor's slave name) is a familiar, in addition to being too familiar for many people when they first meet me. They unwittingly make a diminutive out of my name by calling me "John" because my given name invites you to be my friend, even if I don't want you to be.

So, i'm still divesting myself of all those domains and have decided that soon I will choose a subdomain to take on the random bits. bits.mistersquid.com, glyph.numbskull.us, detritus.metonym.net. Keep an eye on "On the Side" if you're interested.

Yesterday, the flu I contracted after submitting the final revision for "Black Power: Minstrelsy and Electricity in Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man" peaked. In those four fever-fueled days, my love for written expression (obsession really) came very clear. I've explored this topic endlessly in my journal, so I won't repeat the details here except to say that it has always been about words and naming those words correctly, creating the right names by conjuring the right words.

Like feeling too-cooped up and going to Borders with Kathee to browse physical print artifacts and finding in Part One of The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2007 among the "Best American First Sentences of Novels Published in 2006"

Colson Whitehead, Aphex Hides the Hurt

He came up with the names. (6)

I, of course, tried to find the book in store but no go. I googled Barnes and Noble, and the woman who answered said that she would hold a copy of the book for me. When I picked up the book and opened it to the title page, Kathee noticed that it was Apex Hides the Hurt. I decided to purchase Whitehead's book anyway because it not only brought me back to the problem of naming through its narrative which is about a "nomenclature consultant" who comes up with names for products, brands, and places, but also because it contained the following paragraph.

Roger Tipple did not have a weak chin so much as a very aggressive neck. When he answered Roger's phone call, it was the first thing he remembered. He had always imagined it is a simple allocation problem from back in the womb. After the wide plain of Roger's forehead and his portobello nose, there wasn't much left for the lower half of his face. Even Roger's lips were deprived; they were thin little worms that wiggled around the hole of his mouth. He thought, Ridochin for the lantern-jawed. Easy enough, but at the moment he couldn't come up with what its opposite might be. He was concentrating on what Roger was saying. The assignment was strange. (5-6)

If it hadn't been for my deep familiarity with the name "Aphex" I would never have noted the title of Whitehead's book (which, technically speaking, I did not until K. brought it to my attention). Without my ongoing naming problem, I would not have identified with Whitehead's unnamed character which I'm thinking must be a near reference to another unnamed character in American literature.

What's (in) a name? end of article

1 Do not try this at home.
Works Cited
Eggers, Dave. The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2007. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2007.
Whitehead, Colson. Apex Hides the Hurt: A Novel. New York: Anchor, 2007.
Wilcox, Johnnie. "Black Power: Minstrelsy and Electricity in Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man." Callaloo. Forthcoming.

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