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Month: October 2002

Of wakes and flag-waving

So, was the Wellstone memorial too political?

In my tradition, one of the things you do at wakes is vow to carry on the work of the deceased. It’s OK to be really emotional about that; emotion is part of what a wake is for. Emotion represents respect for the dead. It shows you cared about him, or about her. I would expect that, at a politician’s wake, his close friends would want to make strong statements; that they would exhort the attendees to “keep his legacy alive.”

On the other hand, if some random Senator from Iowa showed up and started making campaign speeches, that might be kind of tacky. You don’t really want strangers at your memorial. (I may be too hard on Tom Harkin, here. Perhaps he was a close friend of Wellstone.)

The New York Times says that “the crowd put away any pretense of the nonpolitical.” Maybe so, but if there’s one thing that’s obvious about Wellstone it’s that politics were his passion. He cared about doing good. How could those eulogizing him not talk about something he cared so much about? To ignore politics would be to ignore an important aspect of his life.

That makes it hard to tell those who were sincere from those who were abusing the event. I suspect there were some of each. As always, we live in a flawed world full of flawed people.

Live at Leeds

I can’t ever resist a good discussion of online identity. This one seems to me to assume that pseudonyms must by nature be fragmentary. I think that this is true if you assume that our online identities are discrete units, without overlap, but I also think that such an assumption would be false.

I can’t speak for the law bloggers whom TPH discusses, but for me, a pseudonym shares many aspects of the “real” me. Alice, at least, seems to agree with that. I speak English; so do my theoretical pseudonyms. I’m sarcastic; so, generally, are they. On the occasions when I’ve had reason to construct a shield around my identity, it’s been a matter of thinking about what I want to change rather than building a persona from scratch.

(Once I went so far as to deliberately change my punctuation habits, since my semi-colons are fairly distinctive to those who know me. I suspect most law bloggers don’t go as far. Should they? Would your professor recognize your writing style? Ah well; I digress.)

So, in any case, I have to disagree. Pseudonyms don’t diminish, because they aren’t necessarily limited.

TPH also says that he wants the “psychological benefit that comes from identifying myself with the things that I say…” which is an understandable desire. I don’t write for publication under a pseudonym because I want people to know that’s me. However, I’d suggest that you can also gain psychological benefits from constructing a well-known persona. Specifically, it can be proof that your ideas stand up even when separated from any biases people may have regarding you specifically.

Also, in time, your pseudonym may well gain the same sort of respect that you have — and then it’s just a matter of whether or not you identify with that pseudonym. My online chat nickname is Garrett, and it’s not a separate personality, but I do have somewhat different habits when I’m speaking under that name. This is no different than the salaryman who behaves one way at the office and another at home. Does he find his workplace achievements less meaningful because they’re attached to a somewhat different persona? No, and I don’t find praise directed to Garrett to be much different than praise directed to Bryant. It’s all me at the core.

I think, finally, that the concept of writing anonymously as opposed to pseudonomously is a bit of a straw man. At the very worst, in the blog world, you’re identified by your URL. On Usenet, your email address is an identifier. I don’t know many (if any) who have chosen to write each individual packet of words with absolutely no identifying information whatsoever.

This meandering brought to you courtesy of the aforementioned Alice, whose links are of superior quality.

Come on and

One of the things I’ve come to terms with is my gadget habit. It’s there, I can control it, it’s fun giving into it once in a while. Right now was not the optimal time to do that, but I did anyhow. Thanks to EBay, I got myself a nifty analog video converter. What will I use this for? I have no idea. It just offends me that there’s a type of media in my apartment which I can’t convert to digital form. I can scan books and pictures, I can rip my CDs to disk, but I can’t turn a stupid videotape into Quicktime? Totally unacceptable.

However, now that I’m about to have it, I’m seriously tempted to put together a little video with Aimee Mann’s “Save Me” for the soundtrack and clips of tag team wrestlers breaking up pinfalls for the video.

Wizards uber alles

I’ve thought to myself, from time to time, that J. K. Rowling’s world is just a little bit on the bigoted side. The Washington Post has an nice editorial on the subject. Mind you, the tendency isn’t reserved for fantasy — it might have been interesting to cross reference Slan for an example of the same thing with a scientific spin. (Hey, that review was written by Tasha Robinson. She used to be a housemate.) When it gets right down to it, the distaste of technology we find in the Harry Potter books is just another avenue through which we express our desire to be different.

Link ripped from the pages of Tapped, which is worth reading.

Bang bang

One more quickie… people have observed that the University of Arizona campus was a weapons-free zone, and that this didn’t prevent the recent shootings. This is about as significant as pointing out that the UIowa student shootings didn’t take place in a weapons-free zone. If you don’t know how many people decided not to go on a rampage due to the policies in either case, you don’t know anything.

I’m anti-gun control as a matter of policy. I’m just tired of stupid people who obsessively twist every tragedy in the world to suit their political agenda.

Rack 'em up

I got a magazine rack for the bathroom the other week, continuing my headlong rush into domesticity. (Today I got rugs. There’s no end to it.) Right now, it’s a very sad magazine rack; it’s populated with a handful of Sports Illustrateds, and a Macworld. They’re pretty limp, since it’s a sizable rack. I’m kind of fascinated by the process of populating the rack. I hadn’t really thought about it, but it’s going to look pretty pathetic until I get it around half-full. I bet Martha Stewart has a way around that.

Fortunately, it will populate pretty quickly. When I moved, the Post Office kindly let me know that there was a service which would do all my magazine address changes for free. I called ‘em, and they knew about Dragon Magazine, so that seemed like an excellent deal. After they got a list of my magazine subscriptions, they took advantage of my generosity by asking me if I wanted to subscribe to two magazines for a low low price.

I had been wanting Analog and Asimov’s again, so I said sure. This apparently earned me a couple more magazines. Um. Sports Illustrated and Macworld, sure. This earned me more magazines. Quite the unexpected little bonanza. I think I wound up with two or three more magazine subscriptions (all for the same low, low single price!) and I’ll be damned if I can remember what they all are.

But they do keep coming. So I have faith that the sad little rack will fill up.

Mirror mirror

Referrer log spam has to be the best kind of spam ever. For $1,000, they’ll add your URL as a referrer in the httpd logs of thousands of weblogs. (They’ve hit me twice.) Right now, the user agent is “Mastadonte Referrer Advertising”, which is pretty easy to filter out; I assume they’ll change that to something that doesn’t give away the game.

The great thing about this spam is that it’s so easy to nullify it. All we have to do is stop obsessively poring over our referrer logs. If we stop caring who links to us, we won’t ever be suckered into hitting one of their URLs. If we stop building those automated referrer display widgets then the spammers get less advertising.

(Yeah, I know, we shouldn’t have to constrain our behavior to avoid spam. It still amuses me that they’re taking advantage of our harmless narcisissm.)

Update: More on this here.