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December 2003 archives

December 23, 2003

sin city survives

we fought fiercely. we struggled bravely. there we stood, five berekely grads, and an affiliated sphere of loyola law schoolistas, and for three days and two nights gave it our all, with zanshin unrivaled.

we battled vegas, and she won. we return triumphantly defeated, further plans postponed. tahoe will have to wait for another (none-too-distant) day.

we attempted to make up for a steady decline in chips by an accelerated intake of free drinks. it should be noted, if not already obvious, that this strategy has difficulty finding an equilibrium, and will never, no matter how much AC/DC is pouring out of the ceiling speakers, put you back in black. it does, however, lead to all sorts of great stories that, given the varied audience of this blog, will be saved for more intimate environs.

despite our passing, we must still give thanks to all the fun and friendly dealers who journeyed with us (many of whom are quite a bit richer for having engaged our generosity). so cheers to cynthia, vicki, dave, nava, mark, and the other D's who double downed their way into our hearts as well as our pocketbooks. we still love you, and we'll be back... but when we do, keep your own hand the hell away from the number 21.

Posted by jheer at 05:31 PM | Comments (1)

December 18, 2003

context switching

as of last friday, school is over. as of today, my research paper is complete and submitted. as of tomorrow, the adventure begins... los angeles awaits our arrival tomorrow night, followed by a pilgrimage to las vegas, land of all that is unholy. whether exhausted and broke or alive and enriched, we then sojourn to tahoe, to hurtle down mountains at high velocity. and to top it all off, i will be home in time for christmas.

so happy holidays to you all. i trust i will have some stories for y'all upon my return.

Posted by jheer at 07:10 PM | Comments (1)

December 17, 2003


saddam.jpgThis image has been getting under my skin for days now. Saddam, Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin... dictators have such iconic public personas, but when you see them in a state such as Saddam's, haggard and weary, the aura evaporates and it becomes all too clear that this thing, this monster, is human.

At one level this sets off a "Darth Vader" reaction in me, at once both terrifying and pitying. What path did this person's life take, both through external molding and personal decision, to become an embodied harbinger of death, destruction, and misery? And what good still remains? It certainly puts Christian notions of humanity and forgiveness to an extreme test.

At another level, there is a greater hope in that image. No matter what evil men might unleash, they are ultimately still merely men, with all the trappings and weaknesses that entails... and can be defeated, made accountable, and, unlikely as it may be, can still repent.

That being said, the real reasons for releasing these particular images of Saddam seem pretty straightforward - (a) attempt to weaken his image and hold on the Iraqi people by showing him as a defeated fugitive, (b) the visual similarity between a haggard Saddam and Osama bin Laden may quite well be the closest the administration will ever get to proving a link between Iraq and al-Qaeda.

Posted by jheer at 12:41 PM | Comments (0)

December 11, 2003


(via curtis)

Posted by jheer at 09:49 PM | Comments (0)

December 09, 2003

no sex for you

i want to be an engineer, sex can wait!

encouraging abstinence is one thing, but discouraging people from the engineering profession altogether is another. (thanks to lederer for the pic)

Posted by jheer at 05:18 PM | Comments (1)

December 08, 2003

gore on the campaign

Things just got a bit more interesting... Lieberman's gotta be pissed...

Gore to Endorse Howard Dean for '04 Presidential Nomination

Posted by jheer at 03:03 PM | Comments (0)

forward to the future

Main Entry: pro.cras.ti.nate
Etymology: Latin procrastinatus, past participle of procrastinare, from pro- forward + crastinus of tomorrow, from cras tomorrow
Date: 1588
transitive senses : to put off intentionally and habitually
intransitive senses : to put off intentionally the doing of something that should be done
(via m-w)

Funny how procrastination pushes you into new heights of (misdirected) productivity. If only I could create self-convincing artificial deadlines for equally artificial projects, I could turn my normal work into the pure joy of procrastinatory excursions. Incidentally, I am now caught up on hours of reading back-log and am managing just about my entire website using MovableType, including my publications and other assorted drivel (speaking of which, I have a new poem up).

But the clock is ticking. Tomorrow (today?) that abstract, temporal tyrant we call a deadline looms ever nearer... better get some more done.

Posted by jheer at 12:44 AM | Comments (0)

December 04, 2003

the star

After a discussion of the space race, interplanetary travel, and the like, lederer pointed me towards this short story from Arthur C. Clarke (of 2001 fame): The Star.

The extended entry comes close to spoiling The Star's surprise ending, so read the story before reading more here...

The story hits on things almost all people I know in science and technology have thought about at some point in their intellectual development -- where is the place for God in the scientific worldview, especially when contrasting the anthropocentric religions of Earth against the seemingly endless possibilities of the universe? A worthwhile inquiry, certainly, and one that has been discussed for centuries now.

Something bothers me about Clarke's conclusions, though, which seems to ignore a potent aspect of human nature. Clarke paints his protagonist as despondent, at a crisis of faith for what he has discovered. Being an intellectual and scientist as well as a Jesuit, perhaps this is a realistic reaction. What bothers me, however, is the thought of his findings reaching Earth. It would not, I presume, be the death blow to Christianity that Clarke makes it out to be. Rather I see it being taken up as fodder for fundamentalists, reinforcing the anthropocentric view of the cosmos -- proof that God likes us best, that other forms of life can be sacrificied at the altar of humanity.

People regularly impart their own meaning and interpretations on cosmic coincidence, reinforcing their own pre-existing convictions in the process. If Clarke were to sit down and write a sequel, say "Return from the Star", I wonder what he'd have to say to that. In any world, I imagine it wouldn't be pretty.

Posted by jheer at 02:10 PM | Comments (1)

December 03, 2003

bad job portland po', good job nokia

Police in Portland, OR are doing some disgusting things and getting caught on camera phones. (via collision detection).

In most respects it's a beautiful city... saddening that this kind of crap is still being played out.

Posted by jheer at 01:56 AM | Comments (1)


Scott's musings on life and learning (rather orthogonally) point to a somewhat mind-warping piece from 2000 by virtual reality pioneer Jaron Lanier. The content of the article was also the subject of a somewhat more substantive talk given by Lanier at Berkeley last year, in which the reliance of current computing and information theory paradigms on shared, predetermined protocols is attacked. The notion of pattern matching and spatial organization and processing of information to establish successful communication or "discover" protocols in situ is advanced.

The paper is ultra-speculative, and imho a bit unfair to the fathers of computing, but thought-provoking none the less, as are the reader responses... though Dylan Evans, once again, misses the point. I'm left wondering though, if some level of base protocol is not only desirable but unavoidable. In our world, at the lowest level (gotta be careful with statements like this, but I'll do it anyway), isn't this the laws of physics and chemistry? And we certainly use protocols (language, social protocol, etc) to navigate daily life, though clearly of a much more flexible form than current computing interfaces, and more importantly, they aren't necessary engrained but learned. Lanier's thesis might then be interpreted as the claim that "soft" methods can give rise to protocols but not vice-versa. I'm not sure I would accept that (though to be fair, I'm not sure that's what's being advanced either). Without some base level, fundamental established protocol (even if very low-level) it seems it's turtles all the way down.

Posted by jheer at 01:55 AM | Comments (2)

December 02, 2003


If you were a lying politician (or aide thereof) don't you think you'd pick better battles? Consider Bush cronies' "mile-high lies?" These particular incidents target the Bush administration, but my sentiment knows no party bounds.

Posted by jheer at 01:32 PM | Comments (0)

what is the meatrix?

The Meatrix: A Tale of Leo and Moopheus, and a whole lot excrement -- environmentalism with character... or is that characters?

Posted by jheer at 01:00 PM | Comments (1)

google growing pains?

Fortune discusses the state of everyone's favorite web search superhero, including the looming search war between Google, Yahoo!, and MSN.

Fortune.com - Technology - Can Google Grow Up? (via echi)

Google's foes have a much firmer hold on customers, argues Seth Godin, a well-known Internet consultant and editor of last summer's widely distributed online book What Should Google Do? Competitors have troves of personal information about users that they draw on to customize products, ads, and services—consider the way My Yahoo brings you information on everything from your portfolio to fixing your house. They will probably use that same information to tailor search results. Google, meanwhile, knows little more about you than what you are currently searching for.

An observation made even more interesting considering that Google has an impressive arsenal of personalization technology acquired from former start-ups Kaltix and Outride.

Posted by jheer at 12:44 AM | Comments (1)