Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Last Day of May

Slow beginning to this cooler than normal year...


Saturday, May 28, 2011

I've stalled out

My time, focus, attention (my wife would chisel in the much chillier word, "obsession") has stalled out on Fallout 3.  As usual, I can't figure this version out either.  It is filled with improbable mayhem in an post-apocalyptic Westworld sort of thing, where nothing can possibly go worng (sic, sic, sic).  In a world where everything has already gone about as wrong as it can get, maybe the one last thing to exclude from humanity's future is humanity.  The game is unrelentingly sarcastic on this point.

But it's fun.  You play with karma.  For example, too much thievery and nobody trusts you anymore.  Does the game include forgiveness?  Obsessive fun.

It does! Give purified water to the dying beggars (well, they say they're dying) who squat outside settlements like Megaton or Rivet City. Alternatively, you can donate to the sanctimonius clerical errors who preach to postacalyptic, but tiny, congregations. The going rate is 100 caps to redeem your own soul from pawn.


Thursday, May 26, 2011

Gary Snyder

Despite what Snyder expatiates upon here, I have always felt that the universe and all creatures in it are intrinsically in a state of imperfect wisdom, flawed love and improper license vis-a-vis compassion; acting in abusively criminal response and private isolation. Personal realization of one's own imperfections is impossible, hateful and unlikely; and in fact wisdom is nowhere cherished and a pariah only, because we universally prefer satire to comprehension.

Such, however, is not Snyder's view. He says:

Buddhism holds that the universe and all creatures in it are intrinsically in a state of complete wisdom, love and compassion; acting in natural response and mutual interdependence. The personal realization of this from-the-beginning state cannot be had for and by one-“self” — because it is not fully realized unless one has given the self up; and away.

In the Buddhist view, that which obstructs the effortless manifestation of this is Ignorance, which projects into fear and needless craving. Historically, Buddhist philosophers have failed to analyze out the degree to which ignorance and suffering are caused or encouraged by social factors, considering fear-and-desire to be given facts of the human condition. Consequently the major concern of Buddhist philosophy is epistemology and “psychology” with no attention paid to historical or sociological problems. Although Mahayana Buddhism has a grand vision of universal salvation, the actual achievement of Buddhism has been the development of practical systems of meditation toward the end of liberating a few dedicated individuals from psychological hangups and cultural conditionings. Institutional Buddhism has been conspicuously ready to accept or ignore the inequalities and tyrannies of whatever political system it found itself under. This can be death to Buddhism, because it is death to any meaningful function of compassion. Wisdom without compassion feels no pain.

No one today can afford to be innocent, or indulge himself in ignorance of the nature of contemporary governments, politics and social orders. The national polities of the modern world maintain their existence by deliberately fostered craving and fear: monstrous protection rackets. The “free world” has become economically dependent on a fantastic system of stimulation of greed which cannot be fulfilled, sexual desire which cannot be satiated and hatred which has no outlet except against oneself, the persons one is supposed to love, or the revolutionary aspirations of pitiful, poverty-stricken marginal societies like Cuba or Vietnam. The conditions of the Cold War have turned all modern societies — Communist included — into vicious distorters of man’s true potential. They create populations of “preta” — hungry ghosts, with giant appetites and throats no bigger than needles. The soil, the forests and all animal life are being consumed by these cancerous collectivities; the air and water of the planet is being fouled by them.

There is nothing in human nature or the requirements of human social organization which intrinsically requires that a culture be contradictory, repressive and productive of violent and frustrated personalities. Recent findings in anthropology and psychology make this more and more evident. One can prove it for himself by taking a good look at his own nature through meditation. Once a person has this much faith and insight, he must be led to a deep concern with the need for radical social change through a variety of hopefully non-violent means.

The joyous and voluntary poverty of Buddhism becomes a positive force. The traditional harmlessness and refusal to take life in any form has nation-shaking implications. The practice of meditation, for which one needs only “the ground beneath one’s feet,” wipes out mountains of junk being pumped into the mind by the mass media and supermarket universities. The belief in a serene and generous fulfillment of natural loving desires destroys ideologies which blind, maim and repress — and points the way to a kind of community which would amaze “moralists” and transform armies of men who are fighters because they cannot be lovers.

Avatamsaka (Kegon) Buddhist philosophy sees the world as a vast interrelated network in which all objects and creatures are necessary and illuminated. From one standpoint, governments, wars, or all that we consider “evil” are uncompromisingly contained in this totalistic realm. The hawk, the swoop and the hare are one. From the “human” standpoint we cannot live in those terms unless all beings see with the same enlightened eye. The Bodhisattva lives by the sufferer’s standard, and he must be effective in aiding those who suffer.

The mercy of the West has been social revolution; the mercy of the East has been individual insight into the basic self/void. We need both. They are both contained in the traditional three aspects of the Dharma path: wisdom (prajna), meditation (dhyana), and morality (sila). Wisdom is intuitive knowledge of the mind of love and clarity that lies beneath one’s ego-driven anxieties and aggressions. Meditation is going into the mind to see this for yourself — over and over again, until it becomes the mind you live in. Morality is bringing it back out in the way you live, through personal example and responsible action, ultimately toward the true community (sangha) of “all beings.”

This last aspect means, for me, supporting any cultural and economic revolution that moves clearly toward a free, international, classless world. It means using such means as civil disobedience, outspoken criticism, protest, pacifism, voluntary poverty and even gentle violence if it comes to a matter of restraining some impetuous redneck. It means affirming the widest possible spectrum of non-harmful individual behavior — defending the right of individuals to smoke hemp, eat peyote, be polygynous, polyandrous or homosexual. Worlds of behavior and custom long banned by the Judaeo-Capitalist-Christian-Marxist West. It means respecting intelligence and learning, but not as greed or means to personal power. Working on one’s own responsibility, but willing to work with a group. “Forming the new society within the shell of the old” — the IWW slogan of fifty years ago.

The traditional cultures are in any case doomed, and rather than cling to their good aspects hopelessly it should be remembered that whatever is or ever was in any other culture can be reconstructed from the unconscious, through meditation. In fact, it is my own view that the coming revolution will close the circle and link us in many ways with the most creative aspects of our archaic past. If we are lucky we may eventually arrive at a totally integrated world culture with matrilineal descent, free-form marriage, natural-credit communist economy, less industry, far less population and lots more national parks.



Monday, May 23, 2011


I gather The Rapture was supposed to happen on Sunday, but apparently the whole world missed it. I had a touch of rapture for my part: I found Rivet City (in Fallout 3). Dogmeat died in the Super Duper Mart, though. There are fantasies, and fantasies. The trick is telling them apart.

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Thursday, May 19, 2011

Stewed Snoodge

This is the kind of advice you typically get about kludgy videogames from the nerdboys who hang out on game forums. The advice can be summarized like this:

Noob: My R2 button doesn't work when the second wave of sludgeworms attack. Any suggestions?

Forumboy: What do you mean, your R2 button doesn't work. Your R2 always works!

Noob: Yes it works when I play [lists 20 other games in which R2 works perfectly]. When the sludgeworms attack in the second wave, R2 doesn't work. I die every single time.

Forumboy2: Your controller is broken. Sludgeworms are the dumbest, slowest, easiest-to-kill monster in the entire game. If R2 isn't working, maybe your reflexes are too slow.

Noob: I can kill the frogbats ok, they're twice as fast. I use slash/slash/L2 and it always works. R2 combos don't work against anything.

Kidsister: You might have jam in your buttons?

Admin: If you think you've discovered a bug, report it to the developers at SquareSqueez through normal channels. This forum is for game discussion ONLY.

Noob: Doesn't anybody know a workaround for the R2 bug?

Wiz: Prs A alwys wrks 4 m.

DevGirl: You've discovered the notorious R2 "rad feature." The second wave of sludgeworms glows in the dark, so it is radioactive. R2 lowers your rad level, if you have RadGloop. You need to back off for R2 to have its usual damaging effect on radioactive sludgeworms. If you don't retreat, they will eventually die of radiation poisoning anyway.

Noob: TY, DevGirl.

Forumboy9: This is soooo boring. You are obviously a troll.

[Thread Locked.]


Saturday, May 14, 2011

Words have their place...

Chatoyancy, e.g., is a buzz word used by rockhounds and other high-class geomantics to imbue certain kinds of worthless dirt with expensiveness.  Google it if you don't believe me.


Friday, May 13, 2011

Light Drizzle 2

Rub out all the "game" elements, like four or five simultaneous buttons pressed to walk through stupid electric arcs in an abandoned power substation (who has money enough to stage that?), and watch the remaining movie, and you might have something worth seeing — once.

The "mature" story (i.e., Ethan Mars or Madison Paige naked in the shower, whichever trips your trigger) sucks though.  Reminds me of a young Quentin Tarantino, say age 11, gluing the wings back onto flies.  I sold this luser back to the shop and bought a used Gong Li UMD Video with the proceeds.

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Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Parable of the Bad Samaritan

As Jesus said, "Be as passers-by." — Robert Crumb

Crumb is quoting from the gnostic Gospel of Thomas, of course, and no part of the New Testament. Mentioned this evening in Boing Boing, but fuggedabowdit. I hate it when libertines get their sticky hands on the Bible.

The Gospel of Thomas advances the trite (and sophomoric) canard that we are spirits trapped in flesh, and not really part of the general muck around us.

Even Buddhists take a pass on that one. The Dharma makes no distinction whatever between mind and matter, and teaches that such a viewpoint is heretical — in other words, anyone who teaches non-involvement with the world, instead of compassion for it, will be reborn as a nest of foxes.

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Tuesday, May 10, 2011


Ubuntu's "Natty Narwhale" release (11.04) foisted a new look-and-feel called, laughingly, "Unity" on users last April 28th. Ubuntu users are writhing and fainting in coils.

To be sure, the screwball Ubuntu nerds profess to like it ginormously, but those of us who need to explain to our families why they need to spend a couple of hours retraining... Ah, yes. You see the problem.

No, I will NOT sideslide to Natty Narwhal, or any other whale carried on a gnome's back. I'm turning off my Abbie Normal update setting, and sticking with Ubuntu 10.10 for the nonce. To infinity. And beyond.

My next "update" will probably be a Macintosh, if Oneiric Ocelot fails as obliviously as 11.04.


Monday, May 09, 2011

Scorpiotistic's Resonant Chamber

Unpopular Memes

No man is an island entire of itself; every man
is a piece of the continent, a part of the main;
if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe
is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as
well as a manor of thy friends or of thine
own were; any man's death diminishes me,
because I am involved in mankind.
And therefore never send to know for whom
the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.
                        — John Donne, from "Meditation 17"


Sunday, May 08, 2011

Aquarium Blunders

That is some serious fish-fu, dude!

I tried to keep tropical fish for more than five years, and failed. Here are some lessons I learned the hard way:
  • All home aquaria are too small. Mine was 20 gallons and should have been 55, long and narrow to give active fish like Buenos Aires tetras room to scoot and zoom in.

  • Use a bottom filtration system with a curtain of bubbles. Filters that hang on the side of the tank are a noisy joke. THINK AHEAD. You will regret your choices far less.

  • Your heater will do its job far too well, in a home that is not air conditioned. When it's 95° F. outside, it's over 100° in a south facing room. Your water warms well past the 86° your tropicals are comfortable with.

  • Be prepared to deal with nitrate buildup. This natural result of living stuff in a closed tank not connected to anything natural kills fish slowly by blinding them and eating away their sides and fins. The usual thing to do is change water frequently, and suction out the mulm on the bottom.

  • Algae are a worse problem than you can imagine, especially in tanks placed near bright sunlight. Don't trust "algae eaters." They don't eat algae. Little algae eating fish become huge, aggressive tank bullies.

  • Snails do eat algae, and anything else they can catch, but they make a nasty mess. They also smear egg patches on glass walls which have to be peeled off with razor blades, but the glass is never clean again, or not as clean as it was.

  • All plants die, except for unattractive junk like Elodea (aka Anacharis), which turns long-jointed and ghastly yellow in incandescent room light, then dies anyway. Duckweed may take over koi ponds outdoors, but it dies from bad pH balances in indoor tanks. Amazon swords become algae infested. Etc.

  • Speaking of pH, a little baking soda may improve your water, if needed. But anything sour, like vinegar, will kill your fish — all your fish, within minutes. Don't do that!

  • You must love this hobby passionately, or the problems will make you hate it passionately. You are not Herbert R. Axelrod. You must learn nurture the hard way.

  • It hurts when your aquarium dies. It will haunt you like Banquo's ghost. There's a period of mourning. You'll want to start over, try again, but at that point, the voices start up: "No, Dad! It's my turn! I want a kitten. In a bubble!" And my favorite, the 17 degrees colder in here, "Oh, really...?"

  • Getting rid of a problem tank and stand is easy. Just clean it up and put it on the curb with a sign that says FREE — ours was gone inside two hours.

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Friday, May 06, 2011

You're arousing suspicion!

The PSP console controls for this really, really aggravating puzzle are worse than normal. You can tell by the unusually large number of snarky fanboys who'll gleefully tell you they beat it the first time they tried. Yeah, right.

I'm ready to give it a rest. Found all the dealers, all the security cameras, all the blue swirls, and made my second million euros, but I can't beat this grumble. Maybe I'll be back around Christmas...

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Thursday, May 05, 2011

The Geronimo Post-mortem

Considering how "we" (heh) got bin Laden, isn't it just conceivable that when Dubya said he wasn't too concerned about finding UBL anymore, that the Al Qaeda mastermind had become marginalized and uninvolved with day to day ops, that he was speaking STRA-TE-GI-CALLY (ten years ago!) as part of a developing black op that nailed UBL over the weekend in an utterly different administration?

We Americans are dumb; we think miniature thoughts crafted for us by Barbie Dolls and Transformers, and we are utterly unfamiliar with the long term. We don't play chess (let alone go). Precious few of us play golf, "the thinking man's game." And almost none of us play with the tools of indirection, patience and foresight except J.R.R. Tolkien, Ian Fleming, Agatha Christie, Homer...

Obama worries me, frankly. Didn't he read the sequel? Ulysses is not famous for stuffing a Greek Trojan into a horse. He's famous for a cheap trick that, against all expectations, destroyed a world power — and then, not too clever by half, going through Hell to get home again.

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Wednesday, May 04, 2011


Al Qaeda is pledging nuclear retaliation if UBL is really dead. Guess he must be really dead, huh?


Monday, May 02, 2011

Osama bin Laden is Dead

Funny thing....  Like Sun Tzu, it turns out we knew what we were doing after all. 
  • Nobody assassinated  David Letterman (we pretended to be incompetent stumblebums who couldn't find a barn from the inside).
  • We flooded Waziristan and rural countrysides with killer drones (we regretted killing civilians and avoided cities).
  • We cowered meekly when Pakistan told us to keep U.S. troops out of their country (engendering that uncanny sixth sense of invulnerability bin Laden so enjoyed).

Flipped, faked or photoshopped photo
alleged to be Osama bin Laden
dead after Abbottabad Raid is NSW;
"China Military" appears here instead
of the photo Reuters says is fake.
In other words, for four years we played Osama bin Laden like Herbert Hoover fly fishing in the Rapidan River. We forced his every move, we backed him into a corner, we took him out.   And the time invested in this game of cat and mouse, from the beginning to the final silent pounce seemed almost to balance out 9-11.


Sunday, May 01, 2011

Me, a culprit?

Fig. 1 - Hyphessobrycon anisitsi
Sadly, yes.  I set up a 20 gallon fish tank in 2006, and watched in tiny wavelets of mounting horror as I slowly recognized my inability to keep tropical fish.  They died in tiny droves, abetted, I dare say, by my nearly infinite capacity for procrastination.  I can ignore a pressing duty with the dash and aplomb of a travelling boulder of glacial granite.  Even self-deprecating wit will not let me off that hook.

My last corydoras died yesterday.  My last tattered Buenos Aires tetra made a few feeble darts and attempts to avoid the green net of doom, then gave up and accepted its fate among the daffodils by the back door.

The drudgery of tearing down a fish tank flogs my recriminations.  I much prefer cats.  Tropical fish are difficult to keep alive.

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